Chair’s Column March 2012

In Honor of a Dear Friend, visionary and healer, Jeannie Achterberg—in memoriam

J. Lake and C. Veizer

Jeannie Achterberg PhD, a dear friend and colleague passed away on March 7, 2012.

Jeannie was a renowned researcher, a scholar of mind and spirit, and a pathfinder who helped to create a new model for understanding and alleviating human suffering at its deepest psychological and spiritual roots. The images Jeannie invoked in spoken and written words helped millions of people find a path to the alleviation of suffering. Jeannie was also passionate about teaching. Her students at Saybrook will attest that she placed a higher priority on mentoring them—discussing an exciting idea—than on the numerous academic titles and administrative responsibilities she bore over the years.

Those of us who were blessed to know Jeannie personally will always regard her foremost as a healer for this was her most valuable gift to the world and her true calling. Exploring the myriad paths of healing carried Jeannie on profound journeys, both in the world and spiritually. She was fascinated by the power of ritual in healing and her writing on this subject helped to cast new light on sacred ways of Shamanic healing. In the first decades of her life Jeannie’s work was centered on bringing healing to others through her books and lectures. In her final years as she struggled with cancer Jeannie reflected her gifts inwardly through prayer and inviting healing intentions of those who loved her. A pioneering brain imaging study on the power of human intention in healing will be Jeannie’s greatest legacy to science and humanity. That study revealed, for the first time, that the intentions of healers are related to brain activity of patients when there is a deeply felt sense of caring and connection between healer and patient. In the decades to come the critical importance of this work to the scientific study of healing will become apparent.

Jeannie was all at once a mentor, a wise elder, a seer, and a seeker. She was tough when speaking out for ideas that mattered deeply to her, and always gentle when caring mattered most. Jeannie paved the path for uses of imagery in healing. Jeannie was a champion for countless students and an advocate for many self-identified “renegades” among whom she openly counted herself and her writings. A contemporary Shaman, Jeannie’s vision penetrated the veils between this world and the next. With her passing Jeannie is now free to be a muse to all of us who seek the purity of her intentions as a healer and the vivid colors of her sparkling intellect, wit and imagination.

Jeannie’s final years were filled with impassioned conversations about transforming modern medicine into a more compassionate system of healthcare. Many who knew and loved Jeannie would like to believe that toward the end she was gratified by the knowledge that her inspired vision was slowly becoming a reality.

Jeannie, your wisdom will always have a voice in our hearts, and we will strive to pay forward all that you shared and all that you taught. Dear friend, you will be deeply missed. Your wisdom and friendship shall always influence how we strive to heal with compassion, how we approach new ideas and complex questions, and perhaps most of all how we live. The world seems somehow smaller and less interesting without you in it.