Dossey, Larry 1940-

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DOSSEY, Larry 1940-

PERSONAL: Born 1940; married Barbara Montgomery (a nurse and associate professor), 1972. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: University of Texas—Austin, B.A.; Southwestern Medical School (Dallas, TX), M.D., 1967.

ADDRESSES: Home—Santa Fe, NM. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Medical doctor and author of books on spirituality and medicine. Dallas Diagnostic Association, Dallas, TX, physician, 1974-88, director of biofeedback department, 1976-88; Medical City Dallas Hospital, Dallas, TX, chief of staff, 1982; Isthmus Institute of Dallas, president; National Institutes of Health, Office of Alternative Medicine, Panel on Mind/Body Interventions, cochair. Military service: Battalion surgeon in Vietnam; awarded Medal of Valor and Bronze Star.

AWARDS, HONORS: Health Professional of the Year award, Texas Nurses' Association, 1984; Delivered the annual Mahatma Gandhi Lecture, New Delhi, India, 1988; Gardner Murphy Prize, American Society for Psychical Research, 1995; Gardner Murphy Prize, Visionary Award, Utne Reader, 1997; Pioneering Spirit Award, American Association of Critical Care Nursing, 1999; Maggie Award for best signed editorial, Western Publications Association, 2000, for "War: A Vietnam Memoir"; Art, Soul, and Science Healing Award, California Pacific Medical Center Institute for Health and Healing, 2000; J. G. Gallimore Award for Excellence in Alternative Health Education, U.S. Psychotronics Association, 2001; Alyce and Elmer Green Award for Innovation, institute for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine, 2001; Hall of Fame Award for outstanding contributions for thirty years, Natural Health magazine, 2001; Founder's Award for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Foundation for Alternative Medicine, 2002; Archon Award, Sigma Theta Tau International, 2003.


Space, Time, and Medicine, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1982.

Consciousness and Health, Aspen Systems Corporation (Gaithersburg, MD), 1982.

Beyond Illness: Discovering the Experience of Health, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 1984.

Non-Violence in Medical Science: Lectures Delivered at the Gujarat Vidvapith, Ahmedabad, India on 18th and 19th January 1988, Gujarat Vidvapith (Ahmedabad, India), 1988.

Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.

Meaning and Medicine: Lessons from a Doctor's Tales of Breakthrough and Healing, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, HarperCollins (San Francisco, CA), 1993.

Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

Be Careful What You Pray for . . . You Just Might Get It: What We Can Do about the Unintentional Effects of Our Thoughts, Prayers, and Wishes, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Michael Toms) The Power of Meditation and Prayer, Hay House (Carlsbad, CA), 1997.

Scientific and Pastoral Perspectives on Intercessory Prayer: An Exchange between Larry Dossey, M.D. and Health Care Chaplains, edited by Larry VandeCreek, Haworth Pastoral Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Wayne B. Jonas and Jennifer Jacobs) Healing with Homeopathy: The Doctor's Guide, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Georg Feuerstein) The Mystery of Light: The Life and Teaching of Oraam Mikhael Aivanhov, Integral Publishing, 1998.

Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

Prayer for Healing: 365 Blessings, Poems, and Meditations from Around the World, edited by Maggie Oman, introduction by Dalai Lama, Conari Press, 2000.

Healing beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind, Shambala (Boston, MA), 2001.

(With Jeff Kane, M.D.) The Healing Companion: Simple and Effective Ways Your Presence Can Help People Heal, Harper San Francisco (San Francisco, CA), 2001.

Contributor to Are You Getting Enlightened or Losing Your Mind?: A Spiritual Program for Mental Fitness, by Dennis Gersten, M.D., Random House (New York, NY), 1997. Contributor of articles to periodicals. Executive editor, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 1995. Author of foreword to Kenneth S. Cohen's The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1997, and, with Barbara Montgomery Dossey, Jean Watson's Postmodern Nursing and Beyond, Churchill Livingstone (Edinburgh, NY), 1999.

SIDELIGHTS: Larry Dossey combines science and prayer to advance the cause of healing the sick. Dossey was reared in a fundamentalist, farming community near Waco, Texas. As a teenager he played the piano at his church and toured with a revival preacher. He believed that he himself was called to the ministry, but during his tenure in college, his beliefs changed dramatically and he became an agnostic. While attending medical school, he became interested in Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism. Severe, recurring migraines prompted him to study biofeedback and meditation in hopes of finding a means of controlling the headaches. He began to practice meditation regularly, while remaining skeptical about the type of praying he had learned in his youth. After graduation, Dossey went on to a distinguished medical career, which included service in Vietnam as a battalion surgeon and residencies at the Veterans Administration Hospital and Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Dossey's curiosity about the connections between science and religion prompted him to begin researching medical studies focused on the power of prayer to aid healing. In the 1980s, Dossey began writing books to document and explain his findings.

Dossey's 1993 book, Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, made it to the New York Times bestseller list and sold close to 150,000 copies in the first three years after its publication. In it, Dossey cites double-blind studies that, he claims, show that prayer is effective, even when patients are not aware that someone is praying for them. He cites studies that support the effectiveness of prayer in affecting the behavior of white blood cells, yeast colonies, and germinating seeds. Richard A. Nenneman, a contributor to the Christian Science Monitor, noted: "Dossey thinks there are as many approaches to prayer as there are personality types. But he seems to favor the kind of praying in which the individual tries to learn God's will, to draw closer to whatever he defines as this power outside himself—rather than a prayer of giving the Almighty specific instructions." A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the book for "rais[ing] new questions . . . about an old but little-studied phenomenon."

Many of Dossey's books explore similar themes. Space, Time, and Medicine examines the role the human mind plays in combating illness. A PublishersWeekly reviewer called it "a lively book that sparkles with ideas." Bruce Hepburn, reviewing the book for New Statesman, warned readers to prepare "against this audacious onslaught by the disturbing ideas of an author who, if short on proof, is as strong as they come on stimulating speculation." A Library Journal critic referred to Space, Time, and Medicine as a "quietly revolutionary book." In Beyond Illness: Discovering the Experience of Health, Dossey collected essays that discuss polarities such as health and illness, life and death, and doctor and patient. In Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, Dossey studied human consciousness and the probable existence of a Universal Mind, while in his 1991 book, Meaning and Medicine: Lessons from a Doctor's Tales of Breakthrough and Healing, he looks at how a person's mindset can affect the outcome of an illness.

Dossey followed up Healing Words with Prayer Is Good Medicine: How to Reap the Healing Benefits of Prayer. In this book, the author tries to build a bridge between scientific critics on one side and religious critics on the other. As he had done in his previous book, Dossey cites the latest studies on the healing power of prayer. He lays out his arguments in the first two parts of the book "The Evidence" and "The Controversy," and he concludes that both medicine and prayer have a place in the healing regimen. The book's other two sections, "What Is Prayer?" and "How to Pray," act together as a how-to manual for praying. Prayer Is Good Medicine answers the questions of those who doubt the power of prayer, noted Dr. Cindy L. A. Jones in the Bloomsbury Review. "It helps to pave the way for spiritual healing, not only among religious traditions, but between science and religions. Dossey reminds us that the life of prayer is not necessarily an easy one, but by learning the lessons of simplicity and tolerance we can hope to find peace." Ray Olson, writing for Booklist, found Prayer Is Good Medicine to be a "comforting, sometimes eye-opening little book," but he faulted the author for "repeat[ing] some points too often for so short a book."

Dossey looks at the dark side of the prayer phenomenon in his 1997 book, Be Careful What You Pray for . . . You Just Might Get It: What We Can Do about the Unintentional Effects of Our Thoughts, Prayers, and Wishes. Studying prayer practices in a variety of cultures, Dossey muses that prayer may not always be benevolent, that it can even be harmful if the person doing the praying has an evil intention. He even includes advice on how to protect oneself from evil prayer. In a review of the book for National Catholic Reporter, Clarence Thomson wrote, "You can search far and wide among New Age spiritual writings and find little or nothing on sin, repentance or evil—themes embedded in the liturgy and spirituality of the Christian tradition. Dossey takes evil seriously." Thomson further praised the author: "Dossey is a good scientist, a thoroughly holistic doctor and even a good writer. . . . He faces the problem of evil, embedded everywhere in ambiguity and malice. And as he does, he inadvertently makes a great case for the need for spiritual direction." A Publishers Weekly reviewer lauded the book as well, calling it an "intelligent and passionate work" that will help convince "readers . . . that their personal interventions into the divine order are effective."

Dossey defined the newest trends in integrative medicine in his 1999 publication, Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing. Using simple language and many illustrative anecdotes and scientific evidence, he demonstrates the dawning of an era in which people will use their consciousness to effect healing, even healing people in distant places. Prayer, dreams, and other states of consciousness are discussed, and the author "offers moving examples of human healing that seem inexplicable by other means. He is at his most eloquent in his concluding chapter on 'Eternity Medicine,' or the compassionate treatment of the dying." Andy Wickens, a Library Journal reviewer, noted that Dossey "challenges" physicians and lay people to embrace "nonlocal" medicine and the idea of the consciousness as a healing agent. It is an interesting and unusual approach, stated Wickens.

In an interview with Tikkun magazine, Dossey was asked why prayer sometimes fails to work. He replied: "Nothing works all the time in medicine. When we use penicillin for strep throat, it fails 40 percent of the time. When it doesn't work we don't blame penicillin. Why blame prayer because it isn't 100 percent effective? Why erect a double standard in which we demand more of prayer than we do of drugs and surgery? The miracle is that prayer works at all. Even the slimmest effect of prayer shows that love, compassion, and intention matter—in which case the universe is utterly different from the blind, mechanistic machine of classical science." Commenting on the acceptance of the spiritual aspects of healing within the scientific community, he told Dennis Hughes of Share Guide: "I think the sense of sacredness can be reclaimed in medicine. And I think medicine can remain scientific as this process develops. If you go back in history, you see that early scientists were deeply spiritual, and believed that science could be a spiritual pursuit. For example, the 17th century scientist, Robert Boyle, who gave us Boyle's Law—he recommended that scientists do their experiments on Sundays, as part of their Sabbath worship. You see the sense of sacredness coming out in studies in distant healing and intercessory prayer."



Bloomsbury Review, November-December, 1996, p. 13.

Booklist, October 15, 1991, p. 391; June 1, 1996, p. 1638.

Buffalo News, March 1, 2003, review of Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, p. D1.

Capital Times (Madison, WI), May 7, 1999, "Mind-Body Connection Is Focus of Workshop," p. 1D; May 14, 1999, Mary Bergin, "Prayer Has Power to Heal, Doc Says Statistics Prove It Helps, Lecturer Tells Local Forum," p. 1A.

Christian Century, April 27, 1994, Arthur W. Frank, review of Healing Words, p. 450.

Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 1994, p. 19.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 22, 1999, "Doctor Says Prayer Gaining Wider Acceptance as a Healing Power."

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1993, p. 1113.

Library Journal, May 15, 1982, p. 1002; October 1, 1984, p. 1853; September 1, 1991, p. 254; November 1, 1991, p. 124; September 15, 1999, Andy Wickens, review of Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing, p. 106; October 1, 2001, Andy Wickens, review of Healing beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind, p. 135.

National Catholic Reporter, December 12, 1997, p. 17.

News & Record (Piedmont Triad, NC), November 23, 1997, Lex Alexander, "An Intriguing Exploration of the Power of Prayer," p. F5.

New Statesman, September 10, 1982, p. 23.

New York Times, December, 1993.

Providence Journal-Bulletin, September 24, 1997, "Author Issues Warning about the Impact of Negative Prayer."

Publishers Weekly, April 2, 1982, p. 77; September 21, 1984, p. 80; October 11, 1991, p. 56; June 10, 1996, p. 92; September 29, 1997, p. 82; September 20, 1999, review of Reinventing Medicine, p. 63; October 1, 2001, review of Healing beyond the Body, p. 53.

Skeptical Inquirer, summer, 1994, Gary P. Posner, review of Healing Words, p. 408.

Star-Ledger, September 22, 1996, Tom Depoto, review of Prayer Is Good Medicine, p. 8.

Tikkun, March, 2000, interview with Larry Dossey, p. 11.

Washington Times, November 1, 1997, Larry Witham, "Can Your Prayers Pack a Real Punch?" p. 4.

Wisconsin State Journal, April 10, 1999, William R. Wineke, "Science and Spirit to Meet," p. 1C; May 15, 1999, William R. Wineke, "Physician Touts the Healing Power of Prayer," p. 1C.


Dr. Larry Dossey's Home Page, (July 15, 2003).

Share Guide, (July 15, 2003), interview with Larry Dossey.