The Spiritual Aspects of Health Jack D. Osman, PhD Robert D. Russell, EdD The final sentence in Rene Dubos’ Mirage of Health (1959) is “TO grow in the midst of dangers is the fate of
the human race, because it is the law of the spirit.” During the past 20 years, the conviction that the “spiritual” is a legitimate and important dimension of health has been slowly evolving. We are now suggesting that the American School Health Association: 1). Recognize this development and encourage a future Study Committee on the Spiritual Aspects of Health, and 2). Grant an Independent Study Session at the San Diego Convention on the Spiritual Aspects of Health. Going back in history, part of the impetus of the Renaissance was the opposition to the Church as the power over most important areas of life. Science developed as an alternative way of knowing and began to define reality as that which could be quantified and measured. Modern medicine developed as essentially scientific (though never entirely); and causes for illness, disability, and death came to be seen as natural rather than supernatural, physical rather than spiritual. “Health” came to be identified as a by-product of medicine; so health education generally has accepted the medical model, which tends to be limited to the naturalscientific. Oh, there has been a progression from health as just physical to health as also mental well-being. More concern is being shown for the social dimension, too. But partly (and perhaps largely) this is because the behavioral sciences contributing to these dimensions are quite committed to quantifiability. With some creativity, the spiritual aspects of health can be researched - if research is seen as systematic, careful study. Many of the principles of research can be applied, as long as it is comfortably admitted that what is being studied can probably not be definitively defined. Also, much of the data is likely to come from descriptions of people’s personal experience, which is impossible or at best difficult to objectively verify. Study of the spiritual aspects of health will add an interesting dimension to our profession because some JUNE 1979
will deny vigorously that it exists at all. Others will not be quite sure . . . but will not reject the idea. Then, there will be some who testify that it is by far the most important dimension to the quality of their total functioning . . . their “health.” There will be no concerted attempt to convince skeptics of the reality of spiritual health, nor will there be any move to have everyone see spiritual health in the same way. Some of those professionals interested in this demension will be committed Christians; yet among these, there will be differences. Other folks will acknowIedge God in alternative traditional ways, while still others may be quite nontraditional - perhaps interested in spiritual healing or Eastern thought. Some will acknowledge only spiritual forces, and some may be concerned only about the spirit within themselves. Sharing of expepiences.and convictions shades rather naturally into proselytizing, and there probably will be some of that. Hopefully it will not be more blatant than the convictions some now have about certain statistical techniques or particular computer programs as the way to develop knowledge. At any rate, it appears to us that the time now has come to accept the spiritual as an important aspect of individual and corporate life and a legitimate dimension of well-being. More than 2,000 years ago the Buddha commented: Just as a candle cannot burn without a fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. The spirit dwells in all men, but not all men are aware of this. Happy is the life of him who knows this . .
And a 20th century religious leader gave us this impetus: Spiritual fitness implies integration and adjustment of the total personality where there is stability, inner calm and tranquility resulting from conviction, activity, prayer, devotion, and dedication.
We’re likely to be a strange, diverse group. But it could be one of the great experiences of our professional careers. Join us if it seems right. THE JOURNAL
OF SCHOOL HEALTH