Review of The Aum of All Things, by Ruzbeh N. Bharucha

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Ruzbeh N. Bharucha is the author of a number of books, foremost among them the Fakir series, in which Rudra, a drifter/seeker in despair of life meets the Fakir: Shirdi Sai Baba. Shirdi Sai Baba was a Muslim holy man and ascetic who combined the wisdom of Hinduism, Islam and Sufism and was revered by both Hindus and Muslims alike. In the Fakir books, Rudra goes through an experience of despair of life to become a disciple of Shirdi Sai Baba and it demonstrates the principles of bhakti (devotion to God) and the Guru (surrender to a Master and spiritual teacher). The books are narrative stories filled with wisdom sayings and Rudra’s irreverent humour. These books have been very popular and have been translated into many languages.

The Aum of All Things was published in 2013. Instead of Rudra (who one guesses bears some similarity to Ruzbeh, at least as an alter-ego), Ruzbeh, himself, is the protagonist. So, presumably this is a work of non-fiction, whereas the Fakir series was a spiritual and inspirational fiction which is also true (much like Richard Bach’s Illusion series, in which Richard meets the reluctant messiah, Donald Shimoda). The majority of the book is taken up by Ruzbeh’s interviews with Bapuji, along with input by Mataji and a few others at Bapuji’s ashram.

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I started out loving Mataji, who first welcomes Ruzbeh to the ashram and first tells of her spiritual search for God:

“When the heart aches, that is when the search begins. If the heart is pleased and satisfied, why will one venture out or set out on a search? When the heart is sad that’s when it seeks,” (Aum, 18).

Mataji starts her quest as a householder and mother, searches out various teachers and philosophies, eventually she meets Bapuji and settles in as his disciple, leaves her family and renounces the world. She describes coming to a state of “Vairāgya, which means disenchantment from worldly matters,” and she quotes a saying, “destroyed all attachments to discover spiritual progress; divine knowledge thy sole quest,” (Aum, 20).

However, Mataji isn’t developed much after the initial pages. Bapuji gives many detailed teachings, but we don’t get much of a sense of him as a person and the teachings are very technical. Ruzbeh gives some good lightening of the mood during all the heavy enlightenment, constantly thinking to himself, in the midst of these profound teachings, how much he needs a cigarette. However, unfortunately, there is not as much of a narrative story in Aum, even though there are brief asides in which Ruzbeh gets peppered by questions (including spiritual ones) and also fields requests for toys, by his daughter, Meher. These are brief vignettes and while they humanize Ruzbeh, they don’t really advance a plot or illustrate the teachings of the book.

What is helpful are Ruzbeh’s asides in which he disagrees with or clarifies aspects of Bapuji’s teachings. Thus there are two teachings going on simultaneously, those of Bapuji and those of Ruzbeh, who is quite spiritually developed, although his comments and jokes about women seem sexist and don’t seem to humanize him as much as his need for nicotine or his tendency to refer to God as “the Great Rock Star.”

Now, to the teachings of Bapuji Dashrathbhai Patel.

They are very technical. Ruzbeh says that this is a book about jñān, spiritual knowledge or wisdom. He says that this takes him out of his comfort zone which lies in “love, faith and surrender to your Master,” (7). Bapuji’s detailed teachings at times seem like some kind of spiritual accounting exercise. Consider the following:

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“Now the 8th Celestial Degree was almost 38,400 Arab light years from the earth, with 80 to 99 per cent of Paam Taŧvas and one to 20 percent of Gross or General Taŧvas or elements. The per cent of the gross Taŧva means composition of three elements, Ether, Air and Fire. In this also, as we gradually fall due to the increasing Sañkalps, the percentage of the other wo elements, which gradually increase in percentage thus bringing about heaviness, and leaving us getting more and more occupied in thoughts and creation,” (173), (there is, thankfully, a glossary at the end of the book).

There are a number of Bapuji’s teachings on YouTube, but not all have English translations. This one does have translations and also shows the cosmic diagram of creation, which is essentially what the teachings expound upon.

Here is a kind of guided imagery of a teaching without all the percentages and terminologies:

“Now listen carefully: whenever you close your eyes, imagine your inner body and external body to be made of light, and believe yourself to be made of light and one day you will actually see yourself filled with light, that’s when you will have a body of light. Keep increasing the light; keep imagining yourself glowing more and more with this light. This is the way you go about becoming light. Everything is in the Sañkalp or thought, intention. The world was made out of thoughts. It’s all about the power of thought. Believe something and you will slowly become that thing,” (39).

I found myself considering several other systems of cosmogony while I was reading this. The Śiva Sūtras and the Vijñānabhairava translated by Jaideva Singh provide similar lists of the states or levels of creation (yet here, Śakti, the feminine principle is Śiva’s power to manifest and create – which seems more neutral than Bapuji’s explanation about what happens after the split of masculine and feminine). Suhrawardi’s The Shape of Light also follows the various forms of light following the emanation of sacred Light from the spiritual to the material realms. There are many different cosmogonies that describe Creation – but the real question, the real bit of jñana or gnosis is not about the spiritual accounting of percentages and various states and levels, but why was creation created in the first place? The science cosmogony is that there was a state before time and space and matter, then there was a “big bang,” at first there existed only the light weight atoms of hydrogen and helium, and those stars lived out their lives. With progressive lives and deaths of stars, gradually the heavier elements were created in nuclear supernovas, until present day when we have a wide array of dense atoms that make up our physical world. This narrative is similar to that of Bapuji, that there is at first a formless “Almighty Authority” created a “Supreme Creation” (Paam Rachnā) which he named the “Supreme Father of the Infinite” (Paam Pitā) and then various levels of formless creation assuming greater form, then a split into masculine and feminine, and then ever greater more dense, less spiritual forms were created. Two questions arise at this point: what is the purpose of creation; and is matter inherently less spiritual?

I found myself hearing Joseph Campbell’s words regarding religious cosmogonies, or “myths” as he called them – he said that they are metaphors, not literal truth, but metaphorical truth. Campbell studied many, many religious systems and teachings and searched for the underlying truth of them all, but the way he did this was to move away from the religious to a more secular view – that these are stories that tell us important things about being human, being in the world, and being oriented to the spiritual – they tell us how to live in this world. Psychiatrist Carl Jung also studied numerous world religions and systems of transformation. He maintained a somewhat conservative stance saying that if someone could stay within the religious tradition in which they were brought up, their psychological and spiritual work would be much easier (which he, Jung, definitely did not do). In some ways, Campbell takes the standpoint of immanence – don’t worry about God “out there” worry about how you can bring the stories of God into your life in a meaningful way in the secular world. Jung was more of a mystic and had a strong transcendence perspective, in which the goal of the individual was to move toward the spiritual (although Jung also believed in the principle of wholeness, not rejecting human essences, but harmonizing them). We can look at these two viewpoints of immanence (God/Spirit descending into matter and humanity for a Divine purpose on earth – Jesus’ saying, “the Kingdom of God is all around [or ‘within you’]”) and transcendence (matter is either defiled, or de-spiritualized and the soul must forsake worldly pleasures/desires and move ever more toward God/Spirit). Materialism is pure immanence (there is no divine or spiritual). Bapuji’s (from my very limited understanding) teaching is very much a spiritualism (matter is “bad,” dense, limited in the pure light of God) and his teaching is that we need to move away from the physical desires/pleasures toward ever higher levels of Light. Christianity has both elements of this-worldliness and other-worldliness, the expansion of the West through colonialism and economics into the rest of the world has been very material, and yet Christian teachings often view matter and the body as inherently sinful and tainted.

While spiritual teachings often focus on how we can become more spiritual and more enlightened, the question of why we find ourselves in physical form is often not satisfactorily answered. The Christian answer is that God created Adam and Eve and then they sinned and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – this is called “the fall” where sinful humanity was banished and exiled from the Garden of Eden and from a closer relationship with God. There is a logical inconsistency in many of these “fall” stories (and Bapuji’s story is very much one of the evilness of matter falling away from the lighter, more spiritual Light – in fact, there is a logic that the reason that matter becomes more dense and less full of Light is that the percentage of Light gradually diminishes through more and more creation being done by the createds, thus it seems in this narrative that God’s Light is not strong enough to maintain Creation and it kind of starts to run down in the outer limits from the Source). How can an omniscient, all-powerful, infinite being have so much trouble with the createds? Matthew Fox takes the concept of “original sin” of humans and the concept of “the fall” to task in his book, Original Blessing. He argues for a Creator whose Creation is a Blessing and not a curse. Fox calls for a Creation Spirituality, one that is consistent with indigenous views, in which the role of the feminine is divine (as in the divine Sophia, or Gaia, Mother Earth, rather than sinful Eve or in Bapuji’s cosmology the idea that the creation of the feminine led to more competition amongst the masculine and led to a creation arms race of sorts that depleted the available Light in creation). The orientation of a people, culture and religion toward women is very much the same as the orientation toward the natural world and Matthew Fox follows this association in his book. Many of the more transcendent spiritual teachings are in the context of a masculine patriarchy in which women and matter are evil or tempting. In Hinduism, this reality, itself, is said to be Maya, and Maya is characterized as feminine, thus leading to the sense that the spiritual is Truth and is masculine. In contrast, more Creation-based spiritual teachings have a more feminine divine energy in which the feminine and the natural world are a source of divine expression rather than divine absence.

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Thus we can ask, are we sacred and divine or are we defiled, bad, evil, sinful? Is the earth and physical form a blessing or a curse? In the religious cosmogonies, we ask: why did God Create and what are we to do with that Creation? To me, the saving grace of Bharucha’s book, The Aum of All Things, lies in his open-minded and open-hearted seeking of God. After pages and pages of stages, levels, percentages, and permutations of more and more creation leading to denser and denser (and thus less and less light) beings and essences, Ruzbeh says the following:

“According to me the more you get into the technicalities of spirituality the more you realize that heaven and hell are within each of us; the blossoming of one’s true self and the destruction of all that is true; all within oneself. The power to discriminate between right and wrong and the power to choose between the Light or the chaos within, all in our own within. For me liberation means being free from one’s own clutches of darkness and desires and shedding the false self and letting one’s true self shine through. And it is not easy…But you just keep at it. Fall. Rise. Fall. Rise…The Light within is elusive; it’s playful; it’s a lover who wants to be possessed but won’t ever surrender till you are worthy, so keep at it and someday, may be lifetimes later, you and I…will be worthy of Her and be filled with Her and radiate Her essence and then become One with Her…keep trying and trying. That is the only true purpose of life,” (212-213).

Ruzbeh seems far more accepting of our humanity and yet still asks us to strive toward something. He also uses the feminine pronoun and thus brings in a softness to the masculine striving of spirit to free itself from matter. A few pages later he continues:

“What is most important is that you believe that you are loved and your Master [in his case, his guru is Shirdi Sai Baba] is with you…Life is fair and God is within…If we are the Spirit in the body, then that Spirit has come through the Creator and the Spirit is the Creator. If nothing can be created or destroyed in the cosmos and it only changes form, so believe, you and I have just changed forms, but our essence truly comes from the Source and thus we too are the Source,” (220-221).

“Life is about exhaling,” Ruzbeh says, “Not about holding one’s breath,” (221). Maybe that is a simple way of making sense of creation, of being created, of having a Source (whether Creator or Big Bang) – all of this is one big exhalation (again from either Creator or Big Bang) and soon enough, the big inhalation will take place and we will all go back from where we came. From a religious or spiritual perspective, matter and humanity are created out of Love and Joy, true matter is far from the etheric Light of Pure Spirit, yet it is not evil, it is just dense and moves slowly – we can still feel the “Divine Creative Pulsation” (Spanda-Kārikās) within us as within all of Creation and even in the background of Creation. Suhrawardi explains the reason for Creation in this hadith of Allah:

“I was a hidden treasure;

I loved to be known,

so I created creation.”

(Suhrawardi, The Shape of Light, 57)

 

This little saying is more profound than an explication of layer upon layer of spiritual accounting – Creation is made out of Love, and out of a desire to be known. This leads us to aspire to Love, and to aspire to seek out what is our True Source, our own True Inner Light, to know our Creator. This can be taken in a religious sense as worship of God, or in a secular sense of self-discovery, or in a Jungian psychological sense of individuation (unfolding into Self), or a Campbellian sense of ananda, “follow your bliss” to find out who you are. Maybe creation is all just one big exhalation and inhalation, Ruzbeh would probably approve of this spiritual summation, particularly if he was having a cigarette at the time.

Re-humanizing Imagination and Humanity

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Reflections and a Review of Tom Cheetham’s Imaginal Love: The Meaning of Imagination in Henry Corbin and James Hillman

In the year that I moved back to the United States from New Zealand, I turned to a study of Henry Corbin. I read through his available books in English translation and I found myself drawn to his work and concepts. I knew it was important in some way to my current passage and path in life, but whenever I would try and explain why I would end up spinning in circles around the Arabic word, ‘alam al-mithal, and would keep repeating, it is the place where “matter is spiritualized and spirit is materialized.” The earth-shaking importance of this did not seem to be as immediately obvious to others as it seemed to be for me.

In my course of reading Corbin (who I had come to through reading Carl Jung and later James Hillman) I came across Tom Cheetham’s books: The World Turned Inside Out: Henry Corbin and Islamic Mysticism; All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings; After Prophecy: Imagination, Incarnation, and the Unity of the Prophetic Tradition; and Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World. In his most recent book, Imaginal Love: The Meaning of Imagination in Henry Corbin and James Hillman, Cheetham says he has spent over 20 years working to understand Corbin and his book are a wonderful resource, not just on Corbin, Hillman and Jung, but also in documenting an individual’s quest and spiritual path.

In reading Cheetham’s Imaginal Love, I found myself being able to clarify why Corbin is so important to me, why I had to take a year-long study of his work, and how I will use his concepts going forward in my own life, work and writing. Below you will find the text of the Amazon review I wrote of his book, but I will add some additional, more personal reflections first.

Corbin, Cheetham, Hillman and Jung all have worked toward a reorientation of our consciousness. The problems and solutions that they grapple with are similar to the problems that I grapple with: dehumanization through objectification and excessive focus on materialism and re-humanization through the quest to get back in touch with the Source. Corbin’s intermediate realm of the ‘alam al-mithal, where matter is spiritualized and spirit materialized, provides a conceptual understanding of a state of being that is necessary to understand visions and dreams in spiritual and psychological context. When we open ourselves up to this imaginal realm, it transforms us. Not just peak experiences of visions, dreams and spiritual experiences, but our everyday lives and our very state of being can become instances of Creation and living as spirit infused matter and matter incased spirit.

On the surface, my reading of Corbin and Cheetham are about my working toward being able to write on a project comparing the visions of Carl G. Jung and Philip K. Dick, with a study toward their personal journals that were published posthumously (The Red Book and The Exegesis) and the necessity of understanding their personal visions (quasi-psychotic experiences depending on your frame of reference) in their lives and their later, mature works. Their visions laid the groundwork for their later lives, in essence they were a kind of gift or compulsive vocation that they then strove to fulfill, revolving around central themes that their visions illuminate. This is the practical need I have for better understanding visions.

Both CGJ and PKD had their visions around mid-life and they served an orienting function for their later work, as well as had a clarifying effect in understanding their earlier work. I am also in the mid-life passage and I find these two men’s visions and subsequent exegeses of these visions helpful in my own life. And I find Corbin and Cheetham’s work helpful as well. The mid-life passage moves between youth and old age and it, perhaps, is symbolic of the work of the mundus imaginalis or the ‘alam al-mithal in connecting matter and spirit. It fits Jung’s conception that the work of human beings is more externally and materially oriented in the first half of life and more internally and spiritually oriented in the second half of life. The work of the Corbin, Cheetham, Jung, Hillman, and PKD thus can help in understanding a third realm that connects the first half of life with the second half of life in a way that is similar to connecting matter and spirit.

Another reason that I find the work of Corbin and Cheetham invaluable at this time in my life is that I have undertaken a friendship and book project with the Native American visionary, Joseph Rael – Beautiful Painted Arrow. This work with Joseph (or Joseph-ing, as he says we should consider ourselves as verbs, not as object nouns) challenges me to move my writing and understanding in a more spiritual way. He is teaching me how to be in an interpretative and experiential state of being in which vision and visions are routine ways of being.

This year, 2015, I have been doing many speaking engagements on my first book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. This book spans 9 different dimensions of human experience: body, emotions, mind, heart, creativity, intuition, spirit, context and time. It seeks to provide a framework or pathway that clinicians can use to re-humanize, or stay human, in clinical work and in our lives. It does this by placing equal emphasis on each of these dimensions. It is a book of balance and practicality.

As I was finishing my book, I found myself wondering whether one dimension is more important or a source of the others or if each one is a source in its own right. My motivation in writing it was to try to counter-balance the current primacy of the body and materialism in health care. I had to struggle not to fall into a dualism of over-emphasizing another dimension in an effort to counter-balance medical materialism. Dimensions which are tempting to use to counter-balance medical materialism are the dimension of the heart (basing all health care on compassion and love) or the dimension of spirit (the typical dualism to matter). Obviously, health care today requires a great deal of technical knowledge, yet I also argue that we need to attend to these other dimensions, otherwise we end up with good technical health care that is also dehumanizing, which is a wound in and of itself. But can it be said that, along with the Beatles, that “all you need is love?” Contemporary health care seems to require good technical skills and love & compassion.

Reading Cheetham’s book, I appreciated how he worked with Corbin and Hillman’s root orientations. Corbin views spirit and Light as primary, this is the view of reality and being having its source in the transcendent. Hillman continually is uncomfortable with Jung and Corbin’s focus on wholeness and unity, and instead developed a form of psychospiritual polytheism, in which all the component parts are of equal importance and that we need to resist the temptation of valuing matter over spirit or spirit over matter, but he tends more toward the view of immanence, of spirit being enshrined in matter. Personally, I appreciate Hillman’s work at maintaining the equality of dimensions and experiences, yet I also see him as potentially throwing the baby out with the bath water as his polytheism sometimes seems to me like a post-modernist view in which all things are equal. It is beyond me to be able to say if one or the other of these views is “more correct.” I know that by temperament, I tend to have the unifying tendency of Jung and Corbin.

Is there one Reality or are there many realities? As human beings, should we be oriented toward matter, toward spirit, toward a middle realm, or toward all things equally? Is the imaginal, the ‘alam al-mithal important because it points beyond matter to the Divine, or is it important because it orients us toward the continually renewing Divine within the matter of ourselves? These are theological and metaphysical questions which could be endlessly debated. I think for the purpose of re-humanizing ourselves, it is enough to recognize that we must have some relationship with the realm of imagination, the imaginal place where spirit is materialized and matter is spiritualized, and that there is a value to opening our eyes to the visions that arise both without and within.

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Review of Tom Cheetham’s Imaginal Love: The Meaning of Imagination in Henry Corbin and James Hillman (Kindle version)

This is an important little book. It is Cheetham’s 5th book on Henry Corbin, as well as on his influences on and similarities and differences from James Hillman and Carl Jung. This current book provides an easy entry into Corbin’s work and why he was so influential in the fields of spirituality, psychology and poetry. The book is informative, providing summaries of Corbin, Hillman and Jung’s work, while also being a work of beauty, poetry, and I dare say, even theophany and gnosis – as it helps us understand to see and understand the role of the imagination in Creation and how we are creators and participators as well as createds.

The book also achieves a good balance of a conversational tone in which Cheetham is present and works alongside Corbin and Hillman and shares of himself as well as engaging in scholarly work. Perhaps it is no coincidence as Cheetham is releasing his first book of poetry, Boundary Violations, this year.

The primary focus of Imaginal Love is on the central or at least integral role of imagination in spirituality, poetry, and humanity. Corbin wrote of a tripartite model of reality, with the typical dualism of matter and spirit being linked by a third realm, which he referred to with various concepts, such as the mundus imaginalis, the Imaginal, or the ‘alam al-mithal. Those familiar with Hillman and Jung’s work will see the influence of these concepts in the methods of Active Imagination and the emphasis on the imaginal and mythopoetic. Regardless of what he called this realm, its importance was that it was here that matter was spiritualized and spirit materialized. This third realm connects and orients matter toward spirit. Corbin traced the loss of this realm to the 12th century with the beginning of philosophical systems that separated spirit from matter.

Awareness of or connection to this intermediate realm creates a different state of being, it engenders a different mode of seeing, being and experiencing the world. This state, the Sufis called ta’wil, is a state of interpretation of texts, world and being with continuous reference to the Divine or the secular could say the numinous. This state of being is crucial to understand visions and dreams, whether they are from indigenous traditions (which did not develop the matter-spirit division) or of modern experiencers of visions, such as Carl Jung or Philip K. Dick. The Imaginal is thus not only crucial to understanding mysticism, poetry and visionary consciousness, but it is also a way of life or a path in which an individual can strive to be open to states of being that come from the imaginative connections between spirit and matter.

Orientation toward the Imaginal, Love of it, or connection to the Love that it is a source of, re-spiritualizes and re-humanizes. Corbin writes that one is human only in relation to God, or God’s intermediary, the angel of one’s being (the ‘alam al-mithal is also the angelic realm, the intermediaries between Spirit and matter). His work is thus a therapeutic endeavour in which an individual moves from a state of disconnected matter (an object) toward a state of spirit and matter in constant back and forth creation, in which the object can move toward becoming a subject, or a Person. Thus we are fully human only when we let go of our views of ourselves as egos and material, physical objects. We become human or re-humanized through letting go of our insistence on ourselves as separate matter and egos and open our hearts to Relationship.

This is a wonderful and beautiful book, important for establishing Cheetham as a Person as well as in illuminating the importance of the imaginal and the works of Corbin and Hillman.

We Need a New Holistic Paradigm – “Re-humanizing Medicine” Review

Please check out the Courage & Renewal Blog post, “We Need a New Holistic Paradigm – Re-humanizing Medicine Review,” by Sandra Carter, of the Center for Physician Leadership Coaching.

Here is a quote from the review:

“If ever a path was needed, the time is now! Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.’ In this case, a must read for physicians is Re-humanizing Medicine by David Kopacz, M.D., who shines a ray of light on a positive path forward.”

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Thanks Sandra for your kind words and thanks Courage & Renewal for your support!

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Some Photos from the Book Talk at University of Washington Bookstore, January 8, 2015

Photos courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

 

 

 

 

 

Doctor appeals to colleagues: Do more than problem-solve

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Dave Kopacz at book reading at University of Washington Bookstore

HSNewsBeat article on Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine.

http://hsnewsbeat.uw.edu/story/doctor-appeals-colleagues-do-more-problem-solve

“The push toward evidence-based medicine can blind physicians to other aspects of human interaction, Kopacz suggests.”

 

 

 

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Re-humanizing Medicine: On the Radio and Book Reading!

 

Rehumanizing Medicine Book on Exam Table

Follow this link for an 8:30 minute interview with Dave Kopacz on KUOW public radio: “Doctor’s Push To Get People Talking About Health”

Join me for a book reading and signing

Thursday, 1/8/15 at 7 PM

University of Washington Book Store on the main campus

Address & Phone

4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Phone: 206.634.3400

Book Reading: University of Washington Bookstore!

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University of  Washington Book Store
U District store
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

THURSDAY • January 8, 2015 • 7:00PM

Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine (AYNI BOOKS)

Throughout the field of medicine, science and data reign supreme. In his new book, David R. Kopacz, MD, argues that this has resulted in a predominantly dehumanized profession. If medicine is to be effective, claims Kopacz, doctors must integrate a more holistic and human framework into their training, their practice, and their own personal understanding and self-care. To learn more about Kopacz’s impassioned challenge to the field of medicine and his map for individual and systematic transformation that has implications far beyond the medical field, join us at this special reading and signing with the author.

 

Review of Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World, by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate

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Reverend Dr. Karen Tate’s book Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World, brings together interviews from her, “Voices of the Sacred Feminine Radio Show.” It includes transcripts from such notables as Jean Shinoda Bolen, Noam Chomsky, Riane Eisler, Matthew Fox, and Starhawk. The book includes 41 interviews, divided into five parts, so there is something for everyone in this book as it includes a broad range of scholars, activists, thinkers, creators and writers.

Part I is “Sacred Feminine. Deity, Archetype and Ideal.” This section examines devotional practices with specific goddesses, such as Persephone, Kali, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary.

Part II is “Embracing the Sacred Feminine. Ritual and Healing.” This section looks at themes such as altered consciousness, multiculturalism, equality and healing.

Part III is called “Sacred Feminine Values – Alternatives to Patriarchy. Politics and Social Change.” This section is quite interesting with Noam Chomsky’s discussion of “Feminism, Patriarchy and Religion;” Riane Eisler’s “The Essence of Good Business: Companies that Care;” and Jean Shinoda Bolen’s “Antidote to Terrorism.”

Part IV is “Rebirthing the Sacred Feminine. Sacred Activism,” which takes on topics like women in the role of the priesthood, changing the masculine pronoun language of religion’s talk of God, and Matthew Fox’s “Cosmic Christ and the New Humanity.”

Part V is a memorial to the late Layne Redmond.

In the introduction, Reverend Dr. Tate points out the imbalance in the United States that 52% of the population are women, but less than 20% of leadership positions in politics, academia, business and religious institutions are held by women. This creates a gender-biased imbalance, not only in terms of individuals, but also in a lack of representation of the feminine in the creation of cultural values and society. She writes that the dominant patriarchy “stands on four legs of a stool: racism, sexism, environmental and cultural exploitation,” (9) and she sees the Divine Feminine as a “great equalizer” to correct these imbalances.

There are a number of reasons why I chose to review this book. My own work my book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine, draws on a re-valuing of many of the traditional feminine values in medicine, connection, compassion, caring, healing, nurturance, and strengthening relationships. I call for a compassion revolution and a counter-curriculum. The compassion revolution is similar to what Riane Eisler speaks her new book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economy in her talk, “The Essence of Good Business: Companies that Care.”

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She says that “Ultimately, the real wealth of a nation lies in the quality of its human and natural capital. I should add here that an investment in human capital is an investment in human beings,” (224). A large part of the argument for why contemporary medicine is so dehumanizing is the economic argument, but Eisler argues that caring businesses create healthier, more committed and more productive employees – so the compassion revolution in health care may result not just in better, more human care, but also in more economically viable and sustainable care (sustainably economically, but also emotionally for staff). Paul Spiegelman and Britt Berrett make this argument in their book, Patients Come Second: Leading Change by Changing the Way You Lead.

Rev. Dr. Tate writes that we “start by taking responsibility for our own educations,” (10). This is echoes my call for a counter-curriculum within medicine in health care, that in addition to learning the technical aspects of our trades, we must also take ethical and moral responsibility for maintaining and growing our humanity in the difficult setting in which we practice. While much of health care reform calls for external mandates and incentives, I call for individuals to take responsibility for their Continuing Human Education (CHE) as well as their Continuing Medical Education (CME).

Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen has written such influential books as, The Tao of Psychology, Goddesses in Everywoman and Gods in Everyman, and her contribution to anthology is called, “Antidote to Terrorism.” I found this quite interesting given my recent work with Veterans that I discuss in a companion blog post to this one. She says that “the feminine principle expressed in circles and the masculine principle of hierarchy must come into balance,” (226). Just as the hero’s or heroine’s journey can be viewed as a circle, the “intention to be in a circle with a spiritual center invites the invisible world of spirit or soul to be in the center of the circle and in the center of the psyche of each person in the circle,” (228). She states that a “soldier is taught to kill, which is also what a terrorist is taught. These are not lessons maternal women want their sons to learn,” (228). Furthermore, she points out that the “Mother’s Day Proclamation, written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870, was a call to mothers to gather together to end wars, so that their sons will not be taught to main or kill the sons of other mothers,” (228). I find these observations particularly relevant in regards to the step of the hero’s journey, the inner and outer union of masculine and feminine, as they show the imbalance of a lack of feminine values and influence within the military, within the individual returning Veteran, as well as, it could be argued, within the society that the Veterans return to.

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Let’s now look at Matthew Fox’s “Cosmic Christ and the New Humanity.” He describes the Cosmic Christ (a term that goes back to Teilhard de Chardin) as divine presence and the holiness of all being. The “New Humanity” is the creation of the capacity for mysticism, which he defines as “multiple experiences of unity,” “our unitive experiences – when you feel at one with being, one with others, one with yourself, one with God,” (312). Fox says that a healthy community for New Humanity does two things: “it turns out lovers – it turns out mystics, the mystic in every person,” and “secondly, it turns out prophets – that is to say spiritual warriors. The mystic says yes, the prophet says no. The prophet…interferes with that which is interfering with the glory, the sacredness of life,” (315). This focus on mysticism and the ability to say yes to the human and no to the dehumanizing also has relevance for my book, which seeks to develop the spiritual capability of health care providers in order to care for the whole person of the patient, which includes the spiritual dimension.

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In closing, there are a lot of different perspectives in Rev. Dr. Karen Tate’s Voices of the Sacred Feminine and there are many topical discussions not just for women, but for all human beings. The book aims to correct the imbalance in our culture and society of the domination of masculine values and the lack of equal representation of feminine values. What we worship and honor in religion and spirituality is a reflection of our behaviors and actions in our mundane lives. In attending to the Sacred Feminine, Rev. Dr. Tate does present many ideas that make us think about our current societal structures and values and these conversations do have the power to re-shape our world.