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Excerpted from Healing Words by Larry Dossey. Copyright 1993 by Larry Dossey. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"By the time I eventually finished my training in internal medicine and began private practice, I had begun to regrow my spiritual roots."

Larry Dossey, Healing Words, Part 2

I grew up in a world that no longer exists--the sharecropper, cotton-growing culture of central Texas. Prayer and Protestantism permeated those bleak prairies and, with few exceptions, everyone living on them. The one-room country church, situated forlornly amid cotton fields at a crossroads, was the hub around which life revolved. Alongside the church was the "tabernacle," a shingle-roofed, open-air structure used in the steamy, sultry summers for outdoor revival meetings. People gathered at the church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday nights to sing, pray, testify, and hear the preacher--usually a young ministerial student from Baylor University in nearby Waco--spew forth sermons flavored with hideous and terrifying descriptions of hellfire, damnation, and eternal punishment (sermons about heaven were far less frequent).

As a child I never doubted the truth of what I heard. I took it all seriously. By age fourteen I was the pianist for the tiny church and an eager participant in "youth revivals." By age sixteen I was touring as pianist with a traveling gospel quartet, and I played gospel piano as well for an itinerant tent evangelist known all over the state for his fiery earnestness. I planned to become a minister, but aborted at the last moment my plans to attend Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist school. My twin brother, who is today a retired dentist and a nature mystic, was for some reason blessedly unaffected by all this religious fervor and took a nonchalant attitude toward it. 

When it came time to leave the farm for college, he convinced me that the wiser course was to enroll in "the University"--of Texas, in Austin. Looking back, there were strong omens that this was the right choice. By the time we left for college, the frail, one-room church had begun to lean precariously toward the south, as if pointing the way toward Austin. The tabernacle was actually falling down; the gospel quartet had broken up; and the tent evangelist had been killed in a plane crash.

The university proved my religious undoing. Protestant fundamentalists have always had trouble with scientific materialism, and I was no exception. Under its withering influence, and aided by my discovery of Bertrand Russell, Aldous Huxley, and other intellectual giants, my religious fervor wilted like a central Texas cotton field in September. I became an agnostic.

Medical school followed college, then a stint in the Army as a battalion surgeon in Vietnam. By the time I eventually finished my training in internal medicine and began private practice, I had begun to regrow my spiritual roots.

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