"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Where are we going wrong in Western Medicine? Has it lost its soul?

I can always rely on the local branches of the Scientific and Medical Network to organize stimulating and refreshingly different meetings which push the boundaries of our understanding of the nature of reality – within their overall mission objective of exploring and expanding the frontiers of science, medicine and spirituality.

(why not go across to their website to see their mission, aims and values for yourself – it is a very worthy organization for all who think that there must be something beyond the totally materialistic and reductionist world which we have created for ourselves in the West.)

Sea of Galilee
Last night certainly didn’t disappoint our expectations, as many members and non members gathered to hear the medical anthropologist Dr Natalie Tobert speak to us about Alternative Psychiatry, based on her fieldwork in India on bio-medical, religious and spiritual strategies for mental health. Natalie Tobert is course director of the educational programme, Medicine Beyond Materialism, education director of Aethos and has run workshops worldwide as well as publishing many articles and two books.

She showed us how in India there is no dominant medical paradigm for ill health, and the practitioner draws on social factors, cultural and religious beliefs which are all critical determinants of health and well being. The discussion which followed concentrated on how we can bring these ideas into the Western medical health system, not only for the benefit of the ethnic minorities who are quite clearly not well served by our allopathic medicine but also for the benefit of us all.


Now this is something I have been really interested in promoting for several years. I believe firmly that in the context of medicine we need to de-mechanize our bodies, to consider the healing needs of soul and spirit alongside the modern and often wonderful scientific advances, to develop a truly holistic healing opportunity for the patient, so I am very much on the same wave length as Natalie here.

Very early on in its history Western medicine lost its soul to scientific advances and we can learn so much from the Eastern traditions of which Natalie spoke so eloquently. There are glimmers of hope. Slowly but surely we are beginning to realize the importance of the whole person again in our healthcare systems, but progress is slow, although as with many things the USA are ahead of the UK and the rest of Europe in this regard.

For earliest man physical illness was inextricably linked with the mind, with spirituality and with religion. The original belief was that disease came from the gods as punishment for invoking their displeasure in some way. Amulets found alongside the remains of Paleolithic man were almost certainly used as charms for healing purposes, a recognition at that time of the importance of the mind to the cause of illness, a precursor of modern psychology long before it was known as such! Later, but still long before the birth of medical science, man called on his religion to heal his pain and suffering. He sought wholeness of the body, a holistic approach to healing.

Now I'm not saying that all of these beliefs stand the test of time and education, but I am saying that we ignore the lessons we can learn from indigenous wisdom at our peril.  

Western medicine largely lost this holistic wisdom with the advancement of medical science, and it was not to be rediscovered until the second half of the last century. In this new millennium I believe that in time we will come to marvel at how we could have ignored this sense of the soul’s healing significance for so long. Over the next few weeks I am going to trace the history of Western medicine and see how and why the importance of the soul, spirit and mind was lost sight of in the enthusiasm of technological and pharmacological advance and how we are now beginning to rediscover this vital element in our health and well being. And I will be discussing why I think that this has enormous social consequences for us all.

Tomorrow I’ll start with Hippocrates, Asklepios and Galen…

Thank you Natalie for helping us spread the debate...

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