Abstracts – 2020s

Jeff Levin. (2022). “The Epidemiology of Love: Historical Perspectives and Implications for Population-Health.” Journal of Positive Psychology (online publication).

Since the 1990s, research studies and theoretical work have made the case for altruistic and compassionate love as a psychosocial determinant of physical and mental health and well-being. Empirical findings and the deliberations of various conferences, working groups, and think-tank
initiatives have laid the groundwork for a field that has been referred to as the epidemiology of love. This article provides a narrative history of this field, beginning with early work in psychology and in sociology. These precursors include decades of psychological studies of romantic, sexual,
affectional, and interpersonal bonds, preceded by the work of sociologist Pitirim Sorokin in the 1950s detailing his taxonomy of the multiple aspects and dimensions of altruism and love. More recently, research at the intersection of altruism, love, spirituality, and human flourishing has
emerged, including studies of physical and mental health. Currently, funded initiatives are developing applications of this research to global population health.


Jeff Levin. (2022). “Human Flourishing in the Era of COVID-19: How Spirituality and the Faith Sector Help and Hinder Our Collective Response.” Challenges 13(1), 12.

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, religious people and institutions have played a significant role in responding to the challenges that we all have faced. In some instances, religion has been a source of great harm, hindering the global response. Many religious leaders have promoted misinformation and disinformation; others have promulgated messages of hatred and blame, especially hindering efforts to prevent infection and community transmission and to promote immunization. This has occurred throughout the world, across cultures, religions, and nations. In many other instances, however, the faith sector has been a source of great help, ministering to the lives of suffering and fearful people both emotionally and tangibly. People of faith, including clergy and faith-based organizations, have contributed positively to the global response effort by fulfilling the pastoral, ethical, and prophetic roles of religion. Expressions of spirituality, both personal and institutional, have thus contributed to great flourishing in the midst of a terrible public health emergency.


Jeff Levin, Ellen L. Idler, and Tyler J. VanderWeele. (2022). “Faith-Based Organizations and SARS-COV-2 Vaccination: Challenges and Recommendations.” Public Health Reports 131:11-16.

(Commentary.)


Jeff Levin. (2021). “Human Flourishing: A New Concept for Preventive Medicine.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 61:761-764.

(Commentary.)


Jeff Levin and Ellen L. Idler. (2021). “Religion, Aging, and Health.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190632366.013.273.

Religion, in both its personal and institutional forms, is a significant force influencing the health of populations across the life course. Decades of research have documented that expressions of faith and the practice of spiritual pursuits exhibit significantly protective effects for physical and mental health, psychological well-being, and population rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability. This finding has been observed across sociodemographic categories, across nations and cultures, across specific disease outcomes, and regardless of one’s religious affiliation. A salutary religious effect on health and well-being is especially apparent among older adults, but is also observed across generations and age cohorts. Moreover, this association has been persistently found for various religious indicators, including attendance at worship services, prayer and other private practices, subjective feelings of religiosity, and numerous measures of religious behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. Finally, a protective or primary preventive effect of religion has been observed in clinical, epidemiologic, social, and behavioral studies, regardless of research design or methodology.

Faith-based organizations also have contributed to the health of populations, in partnerships or alliances with medical institutions and public health agencies, many of these dating back many decades. Examples include congregational health promotion and disease prevention programs and community-wide interventions, especially targeting the health and well-being of older congregants and those in less well-resourced communities, as well as faith–health partnerships in healthcare delivery, public health policymaking, and legislative advocacy for healthcare reform. Religious denominations and institutions also play a substantial role in global health development throughout the world, individually and in partnership with national health ministries, transnational medical mission organizations, and established nongovernmental agencies. These efforts focus on a wide range of goals and objectives, including building public health infrastructure, addressing ongoing environmental health needs, and responding to acute public health challenges and crises, such as infectious disease outbreaks. Constituencies include at-risk populations and cohorts throughout the life course, and programming ranges from perinatal care to maternal and child healthcare to geriatric medicine.


Jeff Levin. (2021). “Western Esoteric Healing II: A Taxonomy of Sources of Therapeutic Knowledge.” EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing 17:153-161.

This article, the second in a two-part series, continues an exploration of Western esoteric healing, with special reference to its sources of therapeutic knowledge. First, the taxonomy introduced in the first paper is applied to a selection of representative esoteric healing systems, traditions, or organizations. These include respective groups whose therapeutic knowledge originates in and is transmitted via channeling, initiation, or empirical observation or validation, as well as groups whose knowledge comes through a combination of sources. Discussion is provided of Western esoteric traditions with substantial therapeutic and/or diagnostic teachings exemplifying these sources of knowledge. This entails a detailed unpacking of a wide range of medical and health-related information originating in historical and primary-source material on more than a dozen healing traditions. Recommendations are offered for follow-up investigation, including historical and social-historical, ethnographic, and medical and health-related research.


Jeff Levin. (2021). “Western Esoteric Healing I: Conceptual Background and Therapeutic Knowledge.” EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing 17:148-152.

This article, the first of a two-part series, explores the subject of Western esoteric healing. First, conceptual background is offered on Western esotericism and traditions of esoteric healing. Second, the concept of therapeutic knowledge, which emerged from the philosophy of medicine and medical anthropology, is introduced and described in detail, including its application to the study of esoteric healing. Third, a taxonomy is proposed for sources of such knowledge in respective esoteric healing systems, traditions, or organizations. These sources are channeling, initiation, and empirical observation or validation. In the second article, examples will be given for each category of the taxonomy, followed by recommendations for further study.


Jeff Levin. (2020). “Human Flourishing and Population Health: Meaning, Measurement, and Implications.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 63:401-419.

Human flourishing has recently emerged as a construct of interest
in clinical and population-health studies. Its origins as a focus of research are rooted in philosophical writing dating to Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia, in the work of contemporary psychologists, and in studies by epidemiologists, physicians, and social and behavioral scientists who have investigated religious influences on physical and mental health since the 1980s. Inasmuch as human flourishing has been characterized as multidimensional or multifaceted, with hypothetically broad antecedents and significant outcomes, it may be an especially valuable construct for researchers. For one, it would seem to tap something deeper and more meaningful than the superficial single-item measures that often characterize such studies. This article surveys the rich history of the
concept of human flourishing in its multiple meanings and contexts across disciplines, proposes a conceptual model for assessing the construct, and lays out an agenda for clinical and population-health research.


Jeff Levin. (2020). “The Faith Community and the SARS-CoV-2 Outbreak: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?” Journal of Religion and Health 59:2215-2228.

The current outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is a critical moment in time for institutional religion in the U.S. and throughout the world. Individual clergy and congregations, across faith traditions, have been sources of misinformation and disinformation, promoting messages and actions that engender fear, animosity toward others, and unnecessary risk-taking. But there is a positive role for religion and faith-based institutions here, and many examples of leaders and organizations stepping up to contribute to the collective recovery. Personal faith and spirituality may be a source of host resistance and resilience. Religiously sponsored medical care institutions are vital to healthcare response efforts. Ministries and faith-based organizations are source of religious health assets that can help to meet community-wide needs. There is a pastoral role for clergy and laypeople who are instrumental in providing comfort and strength to the suffering and fearful in their midst. The outbreak presents an ethical challenge to all of us to step outside of our own preoccupations and to be present and of service for others. This includes having the courage to represent the highest values of our faith in speaking out against religiously motivated foolishness and hatred and in calling for political and public health leaders to be truthful and transparent in their messages to us.


Jeff Levin.  (2020).  “Hacking the Akashic Records: The Next Domain for Military Intelligence Operations?”  World Futures 76:102-117.

This paper outlines a hypothetical six-dimension doctrine for military intelligence-gathering in the Akashic domain. The Akashic records are described by esotericists and mystics as a permanent record of all thoughts, feelings, and actions, stored in a kind of cosmic memory bank outside of space and time. Psychics, clairvoyants, and other intuitives purport to read the records, suggesting that development of an operational strategy for accessing such information may be possible. Command oversight, however, would present significant moral challenges, as “hacking” into this information would be a personally intrusive invasion of privacy with serious repercussions for the operators and state sponsors.