Mind-Body-Soul in Medicine
As a student of philosophy I subscribe to the interconnectedness of all things. Interconnectedness has been dubbed the ‘perennial philosophy’ by Aldous Huxley in his book1 of the same name. This idea is certainly at the heart of the ancient Vedic philosophy.
The observable, ‘objective’ world has been illustrated by chaos theory2 and quantum physics.3 In addition, modern physics began to debate the role of the observer and how consciousness factors into everything. So while the interconnectedness of mind-body-soul is increasingly accepted, can we apply it to the realm of medicine and ask whether the healer is a neutral agent.
If we accept the concept of unity, then the healer is also integrally part of the equation and should recognise and experience herself as profoundly part of the healing process with her patients and allow her authority to play a role. But this is an inner authority. Allow me to explain.
Here is a practical example in a simple story: Once an old lady went to seek help from a holy man to advise her child to refrain from eating sweets. The holy man asked the old lady to come back after a week. When the lady appeared at the appointed time, the holy man simply asked the child to give up the habit of eating sweets, and the boy agreed. The lady was surprised — if this was the only advice he had to offer he could very well have done it the first time. She asked the holy man for his reason. The holy man said that at that time he himself was eating sweets. Since then he had given up eating sweets so that his advice could be fruitful.4
This example perhaps seems so superficial, but there is a deep underlying basis. The holy man, having solved the problem within himself, had the authority to speak to the boy in such a way as to solve the problem ‘out there’. The concept of authority extends to the ‘inner world’, not just the external sensual world, and this inner or causal world is unified, without separation or disconnected parts.
It’s important for the healer to develop a certain authority within herself — and this authority is very different to the arrogant and ego-centered approach of some general practitioners. Authority should come with the knowledge of training and experience, and not the authority of ‘I know’. This is the worst sort of authority for it leads to a closed mind. Real authority is born of ‘being’, which is accessed by the work done on oneself.
- Huxley A. The Perennial Philosophy. London: Harper Collins. 1945.
- Waldrop MM. Complexity. Landon: Viking. 1992.
- Penrose R. The Emperor’s New Mind. London: Vintage. 1990.
- Conversations with Sri Shantananda Saraswati. Private collection. 1980
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