Insight to Heal: Co-Creating Beauty amidst Human Suffering

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9781620321379: Insight to Heal: Co-Creating Beauty amidst Human Suffering

What does healing mean for Christians and others in an age of science?
How can a person relate scientific findings about one's body, philosophical understanding of one's mind, and theological investigations about one's spirit into a coherent and unified model of the person capable of leading one deeper into one's soul?
How does God continue creating through nature and direct one's wandering toward becoming created co-creators capable of ministering to others?

The reality of human suffering demands that theology and science mutually inform each other in a shared understanding of nature, humanity, and paths to healing. Mark Graves draws upon systems theory, pragmatic philosophy, and biological and cognitive sciences to distinguish wounds that limit who a person may become, and uses information theory, emergence, and Christian theology to define healing as distinct from a return to a prior state of being and rather instead as creating real possibility in who the person may become.

Table of Contents:
Part I Religious Experience of Nature
1 Awakening Experience
2 Theological Reflection
3 Experience and Nature
4 Nature s Mind
Part II Human Systems of Spirituality
5 Discerning Experience
6 Spiritual Communities
7 Human Systems
8 Nature s Emergence
Part III Real Possibility of Beautiful Healing
9 Experience of Beauty
10 Theology of Beauy
11 Forms of Nature
12 Nature s Healing

My personal experience of healing gave me insight into human suffering and a way God continues to create and heal through nature. In wandering through a variety of healing experiences, I learned to identify patterns in how that healing became present to me and to others. Over time, I learned to work with that healing and gain insight into other ways God s continued creating could unfold in my life. As I sought to understand my experience in terms of the theology I studied, I recognized a principle of immanent creativity in nature, which continues God s creating and orients my co-creating with God toward healing.

Academically, I believe the important, timely, and understudied topic of healing can benefit from theological reflection and systems analysis. Philosophically, the reality of suffering resists easy reduction of the human person to scientifically analyzed properties of a physical body and thwarts easy dualistic isolation of human spirituality into individualistic and disembodied (Cartesian) minds. Theologically, I draw upon the American pragmatic philosophy of C. S. Peirce and Josiah Royce as interpreted in the theological anthropology of Donald Gelpi, SJ, the theological aesthetics and cosmology of Alejandro García-Rivera, and the emergent dynamics of Terrence Deacon to develop a panentheistic understanding of continuing Creation in places of human suffering. Scientifically, I situate human systems within nature by drawing upon findings from six areas in science and the humanities: (i) modern physics and cosmology to define a foundation for material existence; (ii) classical physics and chemistry to describe the physical world; (iii) biology and neuroscience to characterize the human body with a brain; (iv) cognitive science to examine the mind s decision making and learning; (v) a historical-linguistic understanding of culture to situate religious community; and (vi) a semiotic understanding of spirituality to ground religious experience in human existence.

Somewhat surprisingly, healing as co-creating at places of suffering not only integrates ongoing Creation and human presence, but an investigation of healing also yields insight into nature s unfolding. Suffering indicates places humans can continue the unfolding of creation, and compassionate healing not only has religious value but also appears scientifically fruitful and a relevant orientation to explain nature s development. Human tendencies

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About the Author:

Mark Graves has twenty-five years' experience researching and modeling cognitive, biological, and religious dimensions of the person and has published forty technical and scholarly works in those areas, including Mind, Brain, and the Elusive Soul (2008). He taught at Baylor College of Medicine; the University of California, Berkeley; Santa Clara University; and the Graduate Theological Union, including on healing and science at the Pacific School of Religion.


Mark Graves' new book is a marvel of creative synthesis. He brings together the latest scientific research on suffering and combines it with a deeply sensitive understanding of Christian theology to produce a powerful guide to healing at all levels--physical, mental, spiritual, and cultural. The emphasis on beauty is especially valuable as a reminder that true healing involves a transformative reorientation of the person toward life, nature, and experience. This book offers wonderful resources for therapists, ministers, chaplains, doctors, nurses, and anyone involved in health care. Beyond those practical benefits, Graves has given us a thought-provoking meditation on the twenty-first-century relationship between science and theology.
--Kelly Bulkeley
Visiting Scholar
Graduate Theological Union

This book reads like a contemporary version of Augustine's Confessions. It is grounded in a religious conversion that resulted over time in a remarkable change of life for the individual. Likewise, it incorporates a surprising amount of contemporary philosophy, theology, and natural science (in this case, neuroscience) into a hierarchical system based on the notion of creativity and emergence of new forms. Finally, like the Confessions it takes time to think through and digest.
--Joseph Bracken, SJ
Professor Emeritus of Theology
Xavier University --Wipf and Stock Publishers

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