The Institute for Spirituality and Health
Exploring the connections between spirituality and health.


Spirited Words

See below for a collection of reflections, writings, essays, poems, and other contributions that the ISH community has submitted over the years. We hope you enjoy.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to our blog, please contact Anyang Anyang <>. We publish writing that relates to our mission of enhancing well-being by exploring the relationship between spirituality and health.


Smelling Auschwitz

By Bob Hesse

January 10th, 2014


Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling suffering! Sensing the presence of tormented souls cannot be fully expressed in words only shared inadequately by tears.

The first stop was Nuremberg in Germany, which started a journey in the reverse order that marked the Holocaust. The famous Nuremberg trials may have been held here but they were too late to reverse the horror.

The second stop was Flossenburg Concentration Camp in Germany, which is only one concentration camp of over 300 established by the Nazis in Europe, as shown by a map there. Flossenburg is where the SS interrogated and tortured prisoners. Most of the over 100,000 men, women, and children taken here are identified in a large registry book. The towns’ people were complicit in utilizing free labor from the prisoners.

The third stop was Auschwitz in Poland, the most notorious of the camps, which led to the deaths of over 1.1 million souls, over 90% of whom were Jewish. The cyanide gas chambers were directly adjacent to the crematorium.

Rows of building blocks housed unfathomable horrors. Women were used as human guinea pigs for sterilization experiments conducted by Prof. Dr. Carl Clauberg, a German medical gynecologist. Some died from the treatment and others murdered so that autopsies could be performed. Other SS medical doctors conducted many other experiments.

Over the main gate at Auschwitz the sign reads: “Arbeit Macht Frei” i.e. “Work Makes One Free.” To what extent is a state prepared to go to lie? Not only did humans lose their freedom but their lives. Holocaust survivor Vittore Bocchetta said: “Not only did we lose our clothing here, but our souls.”

Though my father fought against the Nazis in the European theater it doesn’t eliminate my sense of collective conscience and consciousness embedded in my personal history. My last name is Hesse. My ancestors were German. My faith is Catholic, which together with Protestantism, were the main sources of Nazi soldiers. I share in this horror.


So where is the final stop on this journey? There can be no stopping in the search for truth and acts of love. Even with advanced degrees in medicine and science my generation is just as capable of allowing the government to take away peoples’ freedom. Changing the world can only start with me as Blessed Mother Teresa said: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Tomorrow is Christmas!

-December 2013


Bob Hesse is an ordained Catholic deacon and Co-founder and President of Contemplative Network, Inc. (CN) dedicated to interdenominational Christian contemplative prayer.  Bob is Vice Chairman and Faculty member, Institute for Spirituality and Health (ISH) and Instructor, Rice University. Bob Hesse holds a B.Th. in theology from UST and a B.S. in Chemistry and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from St. Louis University.   He is President/Founder of energy consulting company HEI having traveled to 60 countries often establishing international consortia. 

Sara Moore