I am presenting the following article because it is one that I wish I could
say I had written, but the author got there before me,
doing an excellent and eloquent job, and expressing a perception of modern medicine which closely matches my own opinion.
Modern Medicine: The New World Religion
By Olivier Clerc, France
When the Christian missionaries of the last three or four centuries were evangelizing populations around the globe, they believed that they had only to destroy or burn the various cult objects of these people in order to eradicate their religions, superstitions and customs. Centuries after the conquistadors tried to stamp out the Inca culture or the Inquisition tried to eliminate the protestant heresies¹, we know that this approach does not work. We know that all beliefs still continue to exist, sometimes under different guises, long after the objects of worship associated with them have been destroyed.
This lesson from history is not only valid for primitive people and their religions. It can equally be applied if not more so to aspects of our own modern society. Indeed, even a superficial study of contemporary culture will reveal that the supposed secularization of present day society is just an illusion. Even though most people do not conform to the traditional religious customs and practice mostly Judeo-Christian in Western culture the beliefs and superstitions remain deeply embedded in their subconscious, influencing many aspects of their daily lives, without their realizing it.
And as several sociology studies have shown, the superstitious beliefs that used to be attached to the formal religions have in many cases simply been transferred to other objects, persons or events. The daily evening television news bulletins, watched by millions worldwide in their respective countries, the stars of show business and sport, humanitarian associations, cults and all such aspects of modern life have now become the new gods we venerate or fear, the shrines at which we worship or curse, and where we still experience religious urges and feelings, where we can believe without necessarily having to think or rationalize.
However, it is in the field of medicine that this unconscious transposition of the religious experience - and more specifically the Judeo-Christian ideology, myths, beliefs, expectations and hopes - seems to have had the greatest impact. The facts clearly show - for anyone taking the time to study them - that medicine today enjoys an astonishing degree of respect that is well out of proportion when compared to the actual results it achieves or promises. The true state of people's health continues to deteriorate, whilst great medical "miracles" such as vaccines and antibiotics are now clearly showing their limitations. Limitations that some had foreseen and warned us about right from the start. This undeserved respect arises mainly from the fact that Christian symbolism has found in medicine an alternative support that is astonishingly appropriate.
Almost imperceptibly, medicine has taken on a saving or messianic role, the characteristics of which we must examine. Medicine can be said to display features that have characterized the Roman Catholic Church throughout history: dogmatism, alliance with the governing power (or even seizure of it), depriving people of their autonomy, the control and manipulation of people, the hunting of heretics, etc. All this, of course, is being done in the name of public health and the general good, just as the church acted for mankind¹s salvation.
Let me make my position clear. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe that doctors, scientists and governments are intentionally and corruptly conspiring together, abusing their power in pursuit of wealth with "Big Brother" and "Brave New World" just a step away. But I do believe we are faced with a largely unconscious phenomenon.
I consider people, whether within the medico-pharmaceutical industry or outside it, to be subconsciously influenced by deep-rooted myths, fears and superstitions which are now being projected onto the new screens of science and medicine, because they lack the appropriate religious support that they need.
This process produces a remarkable paradox. Although medicine sees itself as exclusively scientific and rational, with no room for spiritual or human dimensions (such as psychic healers or shamans who are dismissed as charlatans), it organizes itself and functions in a way that can be described as intrinsically religious. This paradox is really only apparent when, by rejecting the spiritual dimension, medicine in fact becomes the toy of the forces and myths it is attempting to ignore and cannot control. Mere denial of a thing¹s existence has never made it disappear, except perhaps in our consciousness. Instead, it is banished to our subconscious mind, where it can roam free and wield even greater power.
It therefore becomes clear that even though our society considers itself to be secular, it has in fact remained as Christian as it was a century ago, but with two major differences.
‚ Firstly, our society is not aware of it. It believes itself to be rational, scientific, and free of superstition. It fails to recognize under what guises the same old religious rituals are still being observed. This includes the new aspects that the various religious hopes and expectations have now taken.
‚ Secondly, our society now lives its religious experiences through secular forms - medical ones, in particular - and has at the same time transferred its hopes and aspirations from the spiritual world to the material.
This substitution of medicine for religion has many unfortunate consequences.
‚ In medical research, it influences what should be looked for and what can be discovered. Any discovery or theory that is at odds with the over-arching orthodoxy is rejected, and its authors called heretics. Entire areas of research, as well as promising new lines of approach, are thus disqualified.
‚ Furthermore, the unconscious need of the medical world to correspond to the old "religious" structures and beliefs frequently leads to (involuntary) falsifications of results, as with Pasteur's discoveries, for instance, as we shall see later. The medical credo takes precedence over reality, which scientists refuse to see as it is, when it does not correspond with their preconceived ideas.
‚ And lastly, the hidden religious dimension of modern medicine inhibits the free debating of already fixed ideas, and prevents them from being properly re-examined and criticized. Indeed, dogmatism, irrationality and passions - all characteristics of the religious experience - take precedence over any calm and carefully thought out argument, even over the most tenuous facts. The same vehemence that led Galileo to be condemned by the Church for his theories, in spite of the scientifically demonstrable facts, is now being used by medicine to reject any thesis that is contrary to its own dogmas.
My aims in writing and lecturing on this topic have therefore been manifold.
1. Firstly, I wanted to bring to the fore this phenomenon of projection and transfer of religious content, which occurs in the medical field. In recognizing this phenomenon, we should then dissociate from medical practice the spiritual aspirations that quite logically can only be satisfied in the spiritual dimension. It is dangerous to confuse eternal life with physical immortality, or to think we can achieve collective salvation through science and genetic engineering, instead of individual salvation through transformation and personal achievements.
2. I also hope that by bringing to the fore the influence of religious beliefs in medicine, which is but one example of a very widespread phenomenon today, readers will start thinking about how their own beliefs filter their perceptions, biasing and distorting them. Every time an object, a person, a social group or an event becomes the target of religious projections, there is danger. Their real characteristics fade in the eyes of those who color them with their beliefs. These targets then become the objects of religious urges, impervious to any rationalization, whether they are expressed through fear, hatred, ³diabolizing² and the search for scapegoats, or through deification, idealization and unconditional devotion. From Princess Diana to Waco (Texas), and from Mother Teresa to Saddam Hussein, there are numerous examples of the kind of consequences brought about by this transfer of religious expression to real persons or situations.
3. Beyond this dissociation of medicine and religion, I would like to encourage an increased awareness of the fears found in the depths of our consciousness, which remain the hidden determining factors of most of our actions. As shown in later chapters, these fundamental fears - fear of death, mostly, but also fear of evil, fear of suffering, fear of separation, fear of solitude, and even fear of life - have led humanity, at all times throughout history, to make up all kinds of beliefs, in an effort to exorcise these fears. Then, with the development of science and the rise of intellectualism, mankind has tried to rationally justify these beliefs, from now on hidden under the cloak of medicine and life sciences. In other words, there are three layers superimposed inside us:
‚ a core of fears, from which we have learned to protect ourselves by covering it with
‚ a layer of beliefs, which make us feel safe (even though those fears have not disappeared), this layer being itself dissimulated under
‚ an intellectual varnish, a rational facade, which gives us the illusion of having transcended superstitions and beliefs, and which shelters us from our fears, keeping us barricaded behind intellectual knowledge. But in reality, as soon as any unexpected event scratches this varnish, our underlying beliefs and fears reveal their presence and their indirect influence.
As long as these fears are not acknowledged, accepted and transformed, they will feed on every area of human endeavor. The intellect cannot think freely and the heart may not love fully, as long as both of them are hamstrung by the permanent task of appeasing our deepest anxieties, which continually try to re-surface into our consciousness. No technological innovation, no scientific discovery, no external knowledge will ever enable us to avoid this confrontation with ourselves and - more specifically - with our shadow. It is quite instructive to see to what degree the intellectual and technical knowledge of this century - often quite remarkable - remains captive to the fears that haunt society. We only have to look at the poor state of our planet, at the multiplicity of wars and at the emergence of new diseases, to see how unproductive is this way of using our inner capacities.
4. Finally, through this increasing awareness and consciousness to which I invite my readers, I hope to encourage greater individual responsibility, be it on the medical or on the spiritual level. It seems inexplicable to me that we should give away our power to whatever external authority (priests, physicians, experts) and then blame them for abusing us with it. Very few people are capable of being totally impartial and disinterested, especially when money and power are at stake. And especially when psychological studies show that the noblest motivations often go hand in hand with more dubious unconscious intentions. Therefore, taking personal responsibility for our own health, our own inner evolution, and our own life at every level, without rejecting any available help or advice, remains the safest and most rewarding attitude. The obscurantism that endures under new forms will not so much be fought by the lights of science than by the sparks of our own self-awareness, that each one may awaken in himself. At least, such is my conviction.
A few more words to make it clear what I do NOT intend to say, so as to avoid any ambiguity:
‚ The point of what follows is not to put medicine “on trial”. The criticisms I raise, and perhaps even harsher reproaches that I bring up in the course of this book, have their purpose solely in pointing out the unconscious religious underpinnings of the current practice of medicine, and the consequences that may follow from this situation; that is to say, from people’s remaining unconscious of the fact. Thus, for example, my remarks with regard to vaccination are not intended to determine one way or another their utility or their dangers in a medical or epidemiological sense, but merely to highlight the dogmatic and ritualistic aspect that directs their use. I therefore encourage readers to go beyond this intellectual sorting process and (if the reader will allow me the metaphor) to go on to dig deeper into the ideas that underlie the book.
‚ By the same token, I am no more putting traditional medicine on trial than I am writing an unconditional apology for alternative medicines, natural therapies, and homeopathy, etc. In fact, these forms can be considered as some of the chameleon-like ways the quasi-religious foundation manages to express itself, a process that occurs more often than we think, in other forms of medicine as well. It won¹t do to simply replace traditional, chemical-based medicines with natural remedies to become apostates from the Church of the Medical Religion. It is above all in the relationship between the patient and the doctor and in the way that a treatment is implemented that one may distinguish which therapeutic techniques are influenced or not by unconscious religious elements.
‚In other words, the point of my discourse is neither to be “for” nor “against” anything, but merely to comment on a situation, with the intent of shedding some light on it. I have no intention of tearing down one kind of medicine, or of incensing another, but rather to better understand how and why each has developed as it has, and therefore to better manage how they will develop in the future. That having been said, I don¹t claim to have been entirely successful in avoiding certain Manicheistic faults that are inherent in the predominant mode of thought and even in the very structure of our Indo-European languages.
‚ Lastly, and it should be obvious from the above, I am not putting religion on trial either. My aim, in this book, is to shed light on how unconscious fears may influence and bias our beliefs and our thoughts, a process I am suggesting in the last chapter that may already have affected early Christianity, just as it is presently affecting modern medicine.
A few words on my writing style to bring this introduction to a close: laying claim to no academic affiliation whatsoever, I have opted to write a text devoid of any scholarly jargon. What is more, as my goal is not to “prove” anything a symbolic interpretation of medical dynamics does not lend itself to proof or disproof, it either seems valid to a given reader or it does not I have kept to the bare essentials. Thus I have refrained from burdening the text with references and justifications which to my mind needlessly shackle the mind. Thus, I prefer to be concise, laying out certain ideas and principles, illustrated by a few examples, so that the reader can develop their application (if they suit him) than to develop them myself at great lengths. I am not attempting in any way to make an exhaustive scholarly study on the various aspects of this fear-based superposition of religion and medicine. I would be satisfied if the reflections on the following pages manage to pique the curiosity of the reader in such a way as to furnish the guideposts that he can follow to blaze a trail of his own; a broader road of awareness, with a horizon wide enough to permit the view of that which is beyond the mere appearance of things.
Olivier Clerc, France, 2003
Olivier Clerc's Web-site (English Version)
Olivier Clerc's Web-site (French Version)
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