As far back as the 1970s there were M.D.s working to integrate medicine and metaphysics. Forty years ago I attended talks and workshops by M.D.s like Irving Oyle, Brugh Joy, Deepak Chopra, Bernie Siegel and others, who were adamant that the American medical model was, at the very least, inadequate.

These outliers all included mental and spiritual considerations in their practices. In dealing with any health issue, including depression and related psychological issues, they considered the importance of the entire person. (This was before the term “wholistic” was coined.) And they generally agreed with classic Buddhism and western metaphysics, including the New Thought religions, that all physical reality begins in thought. That’s what I think, too.

At least some of the thousands of Buddhist sects use prayer and ritual for healing body and mind. Traditional Christianity offers many stories of saints and miraculous healing as a result of prayer or meditation. The New Thought religions teach healing through focused attention and prayer work.

Some 19th century philosophers and Transcendentalists, including Emerson and Thoreau, brought the idea of spirituality and metaphysics into American philosophical thinking which resulted in the New Thought movement and religions. (Even earlier Americans of the Navajo tribe lived a complex, sacred wellness philosophy of Hozo within which one’s thoughts and attentions created one’s ability to “walk in health, harmony and beauty”.)

My own practice began by studying New Thought philosophies and religions (and later becoming a minister). I found that common to many cultures was a belief in healing the body and the mind with mental work or prayer. The question of just what that work or prayer should look like offers a kaleidoscope of possibilities from all cultures, and from thousands of years ago and up to the present.

In a workshop I attended in about 1980, Dr. Oyle talked about studying more than sixty different medical models from all over the world. Amazingly, all these models worked. Some of them contradicted others; if one model works, then it would seem another model should not work. But, paradoxically, that wasn’t the case; within their own social or tribal contexts, they all worked. He concluded this could only be true because of belief, that what works works because of the belief that it works.