Imagination & Medicine

The future in healing in an age of Neuroscience
Stephen Aizenstat and Robert Bosnak
altImagine the Pacific Ocean, late spring, sun against pale blue sky - welcome to Imagination & Medicine Conference of 250 people, the outcome of which is this elegant new book offering “Imagination & Medicine”. By chance I came across this book in preparing for a future review by Ginette Paris who shares a faculty position at the Pacifica Graduate Institute along with the author of this book Stephen Aizenstat.  The stated purpose of this book “ we realized that it was time to expand the conversation between doctors fighting illness and those focused on the creative abilities of the body to heal itself. Hence, Imagination and Medicine - first the conference now the book”.
In the opening preface we are given a taste of things to come “in this volume you will hear how advanced contemporary science finds overwhelming proof, in studies of the placebo effect and research in gene behavior, of imaginations much greater role in the healing process that one might have expected in the era of rational scientific methods.” The crux of this book is from a number of prophetic voices in that it is a call to “rekindle classical medicine, when imagination and technology walked hand-in-hand”. Clearly this is not a call to look backwards, but to integrate the wisdom that has prevailed for thousands of years in every culture and in so doing is sharing aspects of that wisdom into today’s healing therapies along with new advancements in medicine. 
We find Michael Kearney presentation, a pioneer of the Hospice movement started in Dublin. Kearney’s chapter is reminding us of death’s role holistically in healing and its shadowy side of fear. He states “Healing therapies that address the object of healing as not simply to stay alive. The object of healing is to become more whole, that sees death as the final healing. Through a healing when we are no longer afraid of death, once unafraid of death a deep invitation for inviting archetypes in their powers to come marching into our lives”. This then is clearly an invitation of the imagination. It furthers living by having a prescription for dying “it is a prescription for healing, it is encouragement to embrace more deeply our one wild and precious life”. These prescriptions as we well know are prescriptions found in ancient healing traditions. The encounter with death is being countered with life. Much of this book looks at the essential and vital relationship between ancient wisdom tradition and the implications regarding how our cultures universally dance with illness, death, disease and which are all to often intertwined in fear against a contemporary backdrop in the new sciences. 

Sacred Illness
I found myself surprised by this concept of “sacred illness”. A concept I encourage you to experience. This small fragment is a taste “ don’t give yourself to being healed until you know the story of the disease”- poetic and profound. 
Beyond this book’s imaginative perspective it is rounded and grounded in science. Judith Harris a Jungian Analyst discusses the subject “We are dealing at a much more complex level in ever before in bringing together aspects of biology, neuroscience, physics, medicine, and symbolic language. In simpler language, we are bringing together a concrete physical world and the body with the metaphorical imagination and connecting them at the unified field of quantum physics”. Don’t think this is another “What the Bleep”. The key and entire subtext is the deeper side of healing and tilling the surface of imagination to allow for greater inquiry and approaches to healing. Ernest Rossi’s chapter drills into much of the current discussions regarding his greatest passion gene expression is his “How the mind and the brain co–create each other” is in itself worth reading this book. 
A fitting final chapter a bookend is by Anthony Lawlor, a former student of Christopher Alexander a champion of humanistic architecture at UC Berkeley  (see my blog article) in his Re-imagining the architecture of healing”. It is a perfect metaphor for many of the complementary alternative medicines and therapies that are gaining support within many of our institutions. He states, “Knowledge of healing forces can be uncovered by perceiving the process of imagination arising within spaciousness. Though spaciousness cannot be seen, heard or touched, it pervades every aspect of design and construction.
In hospitals, a passage through vitality, disease, and renewal occurs against a background of spaciousness. From seeds of imagination, rays of perception project into spaciousness. Eyes search for light. Ear’s seeks sound. Fingers reach toward form. As rays of perception extend into spaciousness, seeds of imagination discover varied characteristics of energy and matter. A new healing architecture must acknowledge that its foundations rest not on solid ground but on ever shifting currents of being and becoming. It must find innovative ways to guide seemingly opposing forces of confusion and order, unknown and known into channels of integrated healing. Ultimately, centers of genuine healing must arrange their walls and windows, doors and passages into frames of perception that point beyond themselves toward revitalizing energies ready to be born from the stillness just beyond our grasp”. 
I find Imagination & Medicine an exciting new addition to the literature of Spirit mind-body and therapy framed around imagination. The guided imagery collective is based on these principles of imagination and medicine and will continue to review them as we find them. This book is more than ideas and potential and healing – It is about creative imagination in a therapeutic and institutional sense!

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