Mechanical Medicine

September 15, 2010 by
Filed under: Spinewave Bulletin 

Avoiding death is not the purpose of life. It is to nurture the soul.

In a book I’m reading on the exploration of consciousness through hallucinogenic substances that the native Indian shamans used to use, like mushrooms and peyote, there were some wonderful references to the nature of healing which I thought were very relevant (and no, I’m not using it as a manual, exactly).

Shamans had the difficult task of seeking the connectedness of all things and protecting the sick and dying. For simple problems – the aches and pains of being alive – nature had provided most solutions in the form of willow bark or some such malarkey. Even the mechanical manoeuvrings of the human frame have been practised for thousands of years: From rudimentary brain surgery with careful removal of bony material, to extraction of offending bodies like arrows, bullets (damn cavalry!), tumours, and ingrown toe nails. The Egyptians were even amongst the first to perform brain surgery. All that’s required is a steady hand, a good eye and a clue – but a philosophical nature is optional.

We see this still in hospitals. A woman goes into labour. The process is not on the doctor’s schedule and is forcibly moved along. There’s a complication. She receives a fear based epidural. She isn’t given the choice of a normal birth and receives a Cesarean section. The infant is extracted by suction cup and pulled away from the mother for hours to receive its first barrage of unnecessary injections. She’s wheeled into a separate room and the medical staff break for lunch. She’s left alone. The doctor returns some time later with a check list: Mental status, check. Vital signs, check. Cesarean wound, check. Woman OK. And leaves.

The mother just went through one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. Who is left to piece the person back together? Mechanical medicine, like plumbing and electronics, depends on knowledge of the circuitry but not necessarily an appreciation for how the toilet, radio or human fits into the cosmos. What its purpose is, how it feels, its motives, beliefs and how all these things fit together in a cultural context. Once the arrow is removed, who examines the context of the person and guides them emotionally into a sense of community within themselves, their family, their work and their life? The shaman’s duty of nurturing the soul is much harder work than simple mechanical medicine.

The shaman has to have knowledge and function in multiple healing roles. In those days it was unthinkable to go to a “bone setter” who was not also a shaman who could be asked how to live life. Or to ask for an interpretation of the dis-ease in a cultural setting, i.e. what does this mean, and begin removing the layers of causation. What is the definition of holism and who is really providing this service nowadays? A few years ago I had a debate with someone from Southern Cross insurance who stated that their clients wanted more high-end technological services, some in the stratosphere of $100,000+. My logic inquired wouldn’t it make sense to address the cultural context of that individual a few years prior in a shamanic approach?

Quack.

Most doctors wanted to become such because they had an inherent interest in the body. It’s important to remember though that a person comes with that body.

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