The past few decades have seen remarkable technological growth in the delivery of modern medicine. Pharmaceutical, diagnostic, and surgical interventions have transformed the way in which health is perceived and medicine is practiced. The modern patient has become so dependent upon these therapies and interventions that they take a passive interest in their health. For author Dr. Mark W. Hatcher, this is a symptom of a culture in crisis-doctors treat disease instead of fostering health.
Using real-life examples from a busy emergency room, he investigates this health-care crisis and reevaluates what it means to be healthy. In Beyond Desire: Rediscovering Health and Wellness, Hatcher examines the assumptions upon which the modern medical world is founded, explores the healing methods that have been practiced for centuries by healers around the world, and proposes a strategy for health that focuses on the importance of the mind and spirit in achieving and maintaining health.
Beyond Desire shows how the practices of meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, proper eating, and selfless service are the true pathways to healing and rediscovering health and wellness.
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Beyond DESIRErediscovering health and wellness
By Mark W. Hatcher
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Mark W. Hatcher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDisease: Modern Presumptions and Misdirections
The greatest obstacle to progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. Daniel Boorstin
Beyond a given point man is not helped by more "knowing" but only by living and doing in a partly self-forgetful way. Ernest Becker
We currently exist in a culture that is floundering amidst the modern idols of the body and its pleasures and the mind and its distractions. Despite the amazing advances in scientific thought in the past centuries, we are possibly the most perplexed era of people in the history of human discourse. What is one supposed to be doing in this life? Unhappiness pervades the modern world, a deep underlying discontent with the world and the self. How can this be? Leisure time is in abundance, the opportunities for pleasure and comfort abound, and the mysteries of our external world have been tamed.
However, despite a plethora of modern distractions, our world is experiencing an epidemic of ennui. If you are reluctant to admit that our modern disease is despair, then I encourage you to watch any news program, drive through any urban neighborhood, look at the prevalence of modern addictions, engage the diversions of the modern media, or perhaps most revealingly, spend a shift with any ER doctor. Ours is an empty culture, devoid of meaningful dialogue and unwilling to face the realities of the human condition. Most of us are content to be, in the words of T. S. Eliot, "distracted from distraction by distraction."
Let us examine the modern myths that have allowed this modern wasteland to flourish. I will consider four topics that have gradually become ensconced into the modern dialectic:
(1) The predominant worldview is now a materialistic one based on the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.
(2) The gradual destruction of societal institutions of authority has elevated the reality interpretations of the individual to become definitive.
(3) Scientism has achieved supremacy in the realm of truth declarations so that there is a complete reliance upon science to give ultimate verification and revelation of truth.
(4) Individuals seek, above all, pleasure and distraction; suffering is seen as anomalous and unnatural.
It is my contention that these beliefs are at best incomplete and at worst incorrect. Modern man needs to rediscover and apply the wisdom of the ages as revealed by some of its wisest teachers.
(1) The Triumph of Materialism
E = mc2
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Paul of Tarsus
Throughout the history of mankind there was thought to be a mysterious unity of body, spirit, and mind that was coordinated in a mysterious labyrinth by supernatural means that was referred to as God, YHWH, Brahmin, and Allah, to name a few titles of the great IS. Then came the age of enlightenment and rationalism. "I think therefore I am" was Descartes's rallying cry to a new birth of intellectual freedom for the human condition. The mind was given reign over the interpretation of reality. Through the means of rational inquiry the mysteries of the universe could be explained and conquered. Mind and body are not mysteriously connected but separate. The course of the last few hundred years has proven this to be a prescient insight. Think of the progress! In every area of science great understanding has been achieved regarding physical reality, leading to inventions that have revolutionized human life. To this era of progress we owe much gratitude and appreciation. Material comforts and relative ease of living have never been at a higher level in those parts of the world that have embraced materialism and capitalism.
The philosophy of materialism maintains that the natural world is composed of measurable, quantifiable substances that can be finitely deconstructed into their ultimately irreducible components. The body is composed of organ systems that can be reduced to tissues that can be reduced to cells that can be reduced to organelles that can be reduced to biochemical substrates and ultimately atoms. The same analysis can be given to anything in existence. The assumption of science is that complex structures can be reduced into simple substrates. These substrates can be measured to give us information about the self and the world.
Biotechnologies have been developed so that the human body can be imaged very precisely and give very accurate information regarding the status of a body system or organ. Tissues and cellular components can be isolated, extracted, and analyzed to reveal subsequent health or disease that is present. Hematology can isolate and measure blood components that reflect certain disease states. The sequencing of the human genome is revealing the substrates from which cells and organs derive. Subsequently, much disease and suffering has been treated and alleviated. Genetic manipulation harbors a limitless potential of health benefits.
This data can be relied upon to make treatment decisions because this information is thought to accurately reflect the condition of the thing being measured. This is the basis of our modern world of scientific inquiry. We are what our measurements tell us we are. However, these disease processes are the results of causes that remain elusive. Let us not forget that science cannot nor has it claimed to give ultimate answers. There are many theories as to the causative factors of certain diseases. Some theories are highly probable. If you smoke cigarettes, then you have a much higher risk of getting cancer than nonsmokers. But many smokers do not get cancer. Why the difference? Science does not know. We do not know why some people get certain diseases and others do not; there are only theories. Certainly there must be other factors involved that are either unrecognizable or immeasurable. Why do the diagnostic tools of the modern physician often fail to give satisfactory clinical answers to many patients' symptoms?
We also stand in the wake of Darwinism, the topic of much modern debate and confusion. Simply stated, Darwin claimed that the macroscopic world changed over the millennia from simpler to more complex in organization as a functional adaptation to the respective organisms' environmental stressors. Modern science has verified Darwin's presumptions (Darwin himself had no knowledge of cellular functions). Genes can mutate or be inserted into existing gene structures, thus creating a new variant of an existing species. This mutation would benefit the organism in a way to increase its chances of survival. This would occur gradually over the course of many years and generations. (Interestingly, no transitional species have been definitively isolated. Therefore, interspecies mutation is still theoretical, while intraspecies mutation is definitive.) The simply stated fact is that species change over time to adapt to environmental stressors. This is incontrovertible.
This is all well and good and has been verified by science. In reality, however, this type of analysis tells us little about who we are, from where we came, or what we are supposed to be doing. It cannot explain the intellect, creativity, or the consciousness present in Homo sapiens. It cannot give adequate explanations of first causes. It cannot explain the irreducible complexity of living organisms. It is misleading to claim that Darwinism as a philosophy gives ultimate answers. To claim the philosophy of Darwin as a refutation of a Divine will is irresponsible. To claim a Darwinian worldview is intellectually impoverished. Scientific inquiry is no further along in understanding the human condition than it was before Darwin.
Despite the success of rationalism over the past several hundred years, modern man finds himself adrift in a desperate spiritual wasteland. The quest for meaning for the individual has never been more acute. There seems to be no higher purpose when an ideology of materialism is adopted. According to the evolutionary biologist, our purpose in life is to survive and reproduce. The age of reason and evolution has seen more atrocities perpetrated by man upon other men than any other time in history. The twentieth century is arguably the zenith of man's ability to destroy himself, his cultures, and his world.
If man is allowed to make his own truths based upon rationalism, this seems to be the outcome: a desperate quest for control of the world through conflict, control, and destruction. The ultimate human quest is survival of the particular tribe with which one asserts membership. One needs only to look at the atomic age to argue against materialism, both for the power to destroy and the insight to reveal.
We can dispatch materialism as a worldview quite readily with the coming of modern physics. Because of its abstract complexity it has been avoided by the masses of modern men. Most simply do not believe that an understanding of modern physics is relevant to their daily lives. Perhaps in the egocentrism of our modern, superficial, distracted culture there is no room for this discussion. It is thought to be esoteric and restricted to academia. Actually, it is the basic scientific insight that describes our reality and ultimately explains consciousness, awareness, and the phenomenal world. To better understand man's present quagmire and to facilitate release from false worldview assumptions, this discussion needs to occur in the public arena.
This author does not pretend to be able to discuss modern physics other than in very simple summary statements. To explore the nuclear world is to be quickly enmeshed in abstraction and confusion. Einstein declared the world to be quite different from what Newton described. Newtonian physics remains the foundation of science education and adequately describes physical interactions on the scales in which the majority of our lives are spent. This is the scientific understanding that most people have been given in their public educations. Masses interact in predictable fashions, energy and force are conserved and measurable, and the macroscopic world is ordered. Equations can be utilized to predict and describe interactions between objects in the microscopic world. In short, Newton describes a "clockwork world."
Einstein agreed with Newton when these actions take place on these large scales of measurement. However, scientists in the nineteenth century found phenomena on a much smaller scale that could not be explained by using Newtonian explanations. These perplexities occurred in the subatomic world, the world of electrons, protons, quarks, and neutrinos. The atom, actually, is not the least reducible substance our physical world.
In particular, electrons seemed to behave unpredictably at times. At times the electron could be measured as matter and at other times as energy. These behaviors could not be reconciled with Newtonian physics. Einstein's genius was to propose new theories for the behavior of subatomic particles. Mass and energy are actually involved in an intricate dance in which much is uncertain.
Likewise, the presumed constants of space and time are related to the speed of the relative objects (assuming that speed remains constant). Gravity, always poorly understood, was found to represent the changing of space-time by masses upon other masses. The great insights of Einstein forever changed the Newtonian worldview. Newton's science gives a misleading interpretation of our reality. Quite simply, there is more than meets the eye when one is trying to explain phenomena.
Scientists such as Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, and Heisenberg found the atom to be composed of a mysterious unity of particles and waveforms, an intricate, unknowable dance of energy and mass. They travel throughout the atom in tiny packets called quanta. Heisenberg stated that we have to ultimately accept uncertainty when asking questions about the atom. His experiments revealed that one cannot simultaneously know both the momentum and the position of a subatomic particle. Even more astounding is the fact that whatever an observer looks for—particle or wave—is what will be found. The observer directly influences the result of an experiment. The implications of these revelations are profound.
It can be concluded that the philosophy of materialism as a worldview must be discarded. The material worldview does not reveal an ultimate reality. My patients in the ER who are not in a state of bodily crisis have real pain, despair, and anguish, even though all of the information modern science can give me reveals no abnormality. Something else is going on that we cannot measure.
(2) The Triumph of Individualism
Whosever shall save his life will lose his life. Jesus of Nazareth
If a man lives, then he must have faith in something. Tolstoy
Wretched man that I am! Paul of Tarsus
Two events occurred in the age of enlightenment that severely disrupted the balance of nature and man's perception of his place in the universe. One of these has been discussed—rationalism: the belief that ultimate truths can be reasoned by the intellect. The other occurred through the actions of a German monk, Martin Luther. His rationale was quite reasonable. He saw a corrupt church and wanted to right it. For fifteen hundred years the Catholic Church had dictated and directed daily lives with a combination of "mystery, authority, and magic" as Dostoevsky rightly posits. Holy scriptures were only studied and interpreted by church designees. Truth was revealed through faith, holy scripture, spirit-inspired church leaders, and tradition. The purpose of the individual life was to serve a higher law; thus one's earthly works were of paramount importance in achieving salvation. Subsequent actions and beliefs were subject to review and approval by church canon and priestly authority.
Luther saw this authority suffer from abuses as priests required the payment of indulgences for prayer as the ugliness of the Inquisition swept through Europe. Individual salvation was dependent upon a lifetime of church-sanctioned faith and works. Luther declared that rightness with God occurred with a statement of faith alone. For Luther it was scripture, the grace of God, and faith that gave truth to the individual, not a worldly authority. Individual interpretation of scripture was encouraged.
When the Bible became available to the masses with the advent of the printing press, church authority disintegrated. Modern history is testament to the ensuing chaos. The Western world has been in moral decline ever since the individual was entrusted with scriptural interpretation. As ultimate authority could be discovered and declared by the individual, institutional intervention was no longer necessary.
That has left the individual in a very precarious position. Where does one turn for truth? To science? To scripture? To self? Quantum physics tells us that the world is ultimately unknowable and is subjected to significant bias from individual interpretations of reality. Christian scripture has been removed from the auspices of the church to be placed in the eyes of the beholder and has, through recent scholarship, been found wanting regarding literal reading and interpretation. The self has been found to be a muddied water of self-interest (sin), leaving more questions than answers concerning the purpose of life. How does the modern person define himself?
Excerpted from Beyond DESIRE by Mark W. Hatcher Copyright © 2011 by Mark W. Hatcher. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Prologue: Lost in America....................5
Part I: Disease: Modern Presumptions and Misdirections....................15
Part II: The Pursuit of Self-Knowledge....................39
Part III: Spirit and Energy....................51
Part IV: Healing: Esoteric and Exoteric....................61
Epilogue: Practicing Wellness....................91