Spiritually ‘Correct’–Forgiveness?

In almost any writings  on spirituality there will be discussions of the unquestioned correctness of forgiveness.  It seems to be a favorite topic of Buddhist, Hindu and Christian religious writing.  Multiple quotes are available from each tradition extolling the virtues of forgiving one’s enemy, regardless of the level of atrocities they may have committed.

Actions that damage another in any way will automatically create two offended parties, God and man.  Forgiveness can be requested and/or it can be offered spontaneously. Requesting forgiveness is by itself a spiritually enlightening act since it acknowledges a wrongdoing and seeks reconciliation and repair.  Forgiveness, however, in the absence of the perpetrator’s acknowledgment offers particular spiritual challenges.

Christianity often associates requests for forgiveness with the act of confession.  The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the metaphor as well as the currency by which man can attain God’s forgiveness.  The New Testament is filled with examples of Jesus and the apostles offering forgiveness in the face of their own suffering.

Buddhism and Hindu doctrines understand that forgiveness should be naturally and automatically offered since the law of karma [cause and effect] will deal with any misconduct on the part of the perpetrator of evil.  There is a powerful understanding that until forgiveness is offered, the anger and desire to avenge a perceived wrongdoing will, itself, generate bad karma for the original victim. The pair, perpetrator and victim will remain locked in a vicious cycle which is spiritually damaging.

Even Islam seems to offer words from the Koran regarding the value of forgiveness.  The exception, of course, is in the defense of the faith.  It is not unusual in the history of any of the world’s religions to offer compassion, love, kindness and forgiveness for members of one’s own religion while offering contempt or worse to the nonbeliever.  This is one of the greatest examples of rampant tribalism, one that modifies the Golden Rule to serve their purposes.

Judaism insists that forgiveness from wrongful acts committed can be requested from God during Yom Kippur.  Forgiveness from others can only be obtained from the individual one has wronged. God does not absolve misconduct between human beings. Man remains responsible for his actions.

Some readers will recall the reaction Buddhist Richard Gere received when he spoke of forgiveness after 9/11.  It was not a pretty sight. I, too, have a ‘problem’ with the terminology ‘forgiveness’ when applied to perpetrators of horrific acts of evil. 

I, too, believe that we are ultimately all responsible for our actions.  Karma will indeed reward or punish through our soul’s understanding of the suffering it inflicted on other beings.  I also totally understand how anger and revenge can ensnare our minds and souls, trapping them in a vicious cycle of spiritual degradation.

Perhaps I would feel more comfortable with another term or word in place of forgiveness.  To me it suggests a passive acceptance of any act of evil without a strong implication that  this is an unacceptable mode of human behavior. It is not in the interest of anyone’s spiritual growth and development to quietly forgive any being who will purposefully and without justification attempt to destroy another being.

Perhaps I can live with the term ‘understanding’ as an alternative to forgiveness’. I can attempt to ‘understand’ the spiritual depravity of someone capable of perpetrating evil.  Perhaps I can almost feel sorry for their terribly distorted and disturbed sense of moral behavior.  Perhaps I can even feel compassion for the pathetic spiritual state, their debased and terrible misguided sense of right and wrong.  But I don’t feel obligated to ‘forgive’ them.  That is not my job here.  Call me spiritually ‘incorrect’.  Offer me some alternative language.  I am open to revisit this topic.

Metaphysical Credibility Quotient

By Steven Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

As many of my readers already know, I am completely and unequivocally enamoured with the term ‘metaphysics’. It seems to completely and concisely explain my own quest–to understand the nature of reality.

Some have complained that the term is too ‘esoteric’ or ‘confusing’ or may tend to ‘turn off’ potential readers.I can accept those comments as being well-intentioned and perhaps accurate. Still I defend the term as, once explained, easily usable.

I have to say that there is one usage of the word I am going to reconsider, and that is “Metaphysical Postulate,”a term I coined. It may be too confusing and unhelpful.

I do strongly support the meaning behind the term–an understanding of the credibility of individuals who report personal paranormal/spiritual experiences. This refers to the ‘drop-off’ in credibility that occurs the further anyone is from the actual experience itself. Vaguely analagous to the inverse law of gravity in which the power of gravity between two bodies drops off precipitously the further one body is from the other.

To the actual individual who has had a deeply personal, highly subjective experience, there is no doubt to its reality. This phenomenon has been studied by many over the centuries. William James wrote about it in his VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES. Raymond Moody also described the phenomenon in his landmark book on the near-death experience, LIFE AFTER LIFE. Both referred to the inability of the subject to adequately convey the experience to others in words. In fact the word ineffable. means just that. (A bit of an oxymoron perhaps).

Strangely, I could find no term in any previous readings which was applied to this entire phenomenon. Hence I came up with “metaphysical postulate”.

If one is speaking directly to an individual who has had such an experience [or had one personally] and in particular if one knows that individual to be sincere, honest and without motivation to fabricate, a great deal of the feeling/credibility behind the experience can then be ‘transfered’ to the second individual. If, however, that second person then repeats the experience of the first individual to a third party–much of the ‘credibility’ is diminished. The process continues to dilute the power of the experience itself. Finally, to read about a stranger’s experience in a book leaves the reader with a small particle of the initial ‘energy’ of the incident itself.

Such is the nature of phenomenon which are not personally experienced. Language is, itself, a weak communicator of these experiences. Usually, however, if one speaks to another about a beautful sunset or an exqusite member of the opposite sex, that second individual can tap into their own memory banks of subjective experience and relate to the story they have just heard. That brings credibility to the experience of the other.

Does this truth make the entire process of describing in writing or lecturing on the paranormal/spiritual experiences of others entirely worthless? Not at all. It accurately describes the nature of the process. It may alert anyone interested in the phenomena to be aware of their own reactions when they are listening to or reading about the experiences of others. And, further, it may motivate interested parties to pursue their own direct encounters with individuals they know and trust who have had experiences.

That possibility is far more likely than most people realize. It is a truth that I can speak about–once I made it known to those around me that I was open-minded and genuinely interested, I found that individuals I had known personally for years came forward with previously undiscussed paranormal/spiritual experiences. Their genuine reluctance to share these experiences out of fear of ridicule only increased their power.

So finally, the time has come to change the terminology for this phenomenon. What was formerly known as the “Metaphysical Postulate” will henceforth be known as the “Credibility Quotient.” Hopefully, this change will be make the concept more easily accepted and understood.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

The Metaphysics of Terrorism and Fear

By Steven Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

We living under a Grand Illusion, and the illusion of our fear-based culture is making us sick.

Our news and media outlets stridently blare the poundings of guns, rockets, explosions, crumbling buildings, lifeless bodies, torn limbs, shattered hearts. Another paroxysm of hatred, unleased upon the world has spent itself, temporarily. It is all about fear and it is the source of our existential dis-ease. Is it not obvious that we literally feel sick when we experience such overwhelming destruction?

Why do they hate you? What did you do to them? You exist– and that is sufficient. Their sense of inner emptiness, of desolation, of unworthiness leads them to seek out others , leaders, dictators, immans who offer them salvation, a sense of their own worth. Such doctrines require YOU to be the source of their fear and sense of inferiority. It is the classic, pathetic but dangerous capacity of mankind to create a ‘scapegoat’ upon which to lay the blame for all fear.

They fear your very existence, you are the cause of their suffering. Out of their own sense of worthlessness and fear they have created a culture of hatred that inevitably leaves them with no other choice than to seek your death. They risk losing their soul to eliminate you. The grand delusion of killing is to believe that this will free them from fear, to bring them a sense of joy or peace.

Peace, joy and inner equanimity can never result from hatred. It is as simple and basic an understanding of the nature of reality as the force of gravity. To deny it is to continue to live a delusion. Certainly the paroxysm of war, the bravado of claims of victory offer a rush of satisfaction somewhat akin to a rush of glucose after a sugar load. But this is always followed by the hypoglycemic collapse. Like any addiction which denies the underlying source of pain, fear returns even more powerfully. This leads to the need to continue the process of destruction of the perceived source of fear–the ‘other’. It is like drinking salt water when one is desperately thirsty. The first rush of wetness may seem to revive, only to be understood that this is poison.

Joy and a sense of equaninity can never come from outside of oneself. It can only emanate outwards from a peaceful heart to others. Those who love are those who are free from crippling fear. Those who recognize this are enlightened.

There is a Buddhist legend about a great warrior emperor Ashoka who lived more than two thousand years ago in northern India. Known as vicious and blood-thirsty he walked the battlefied after a successful campaign against his enemy. Stepping over the dead and decaying bodies of man and beast he felt nothing but emptiness and great sadness. Shocked by his own feelings he came upon a simple Buddhist monk who was walking through the battlefield with an expression of peaceful equanimity. Inquiring as to why the monk looked at peace he was suddenly and acutely struck by his own grand delusion. Acccording to the legend he abandoned his lust for war, power and fame and followed a path of peace and compassion. His reputation for kindness and consideration for those he ruled became his legacy.

Is this fable any more than a grand delusion itself? Is there hope for any of us whether as a citizen of a nation or as an individual tripping through our own mundane existence to find inner peace? Does it even make sense to seek a path of lovingkindness for all beings in the face of those who desire our immediate extinction?

There are brief, cherished moments when I can meditate on the power of love to heal the emptiness of fear. There are these fleeting glimpses of a higher level of reality in which the blue sky of joy peak through the dark clouds of hatred and animosisty.

I know that the practice of lovingkindness, of seeing every living being, even Hamas, of Hezbollah, of the most hate-filled Islamist as an extension of myself is the ultimate path to peace. When will my enemies recognize that my slain brother is their brother, my son their son, my mother, their mother? When will man recognze that war is fratricide, matricide, ultimately suicide? What is more pathetic than the delusion that destruction will ever eliminate the underlying fear which robs us all of peace.

My soul knows this to be true. Yet, in this incarnation I must honor the physical being that I am. I feel stronger attachments to those close to me. I cannot help but seek to eliminate the source of my own fear–the enemy who threatens me and all that I hold dear.

This is the vicious cycle of fear–hate that can only be broken by a higher awareness that only love will being ultimate peace and joy. When will such an awareness be recognized and by one and all? This is my question to the Universe. It is the only prayer which seems of value to me. When will this truth dissove the grand delusion under which we presently exist?

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

The Metaphysics of Suffering and Healing

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering.

-The Buddha

Metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality.

Buddha as well as all seekers of wisdom struggled with the same basic questions of existence. How can we possibly reconcile the pain and suffering we see around us with a higher or deeper spiritual purpose? Why not accept the inherent absurdity of life? Why bother to do anything, feel anything, attempt to better the world? Can we possibly reconcile manifest evil with any reason for hope, any motivation for existence itself? Should the religious doctrine that human sin justifies suffering be acknowledged as valid?

I personally find that particular notion unacceptable. Suffering is not punishment for human sin. Rather, it represents the human mind’s assessment of pain which is inherent in the physical world. This is the distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is universal, suffering varies considerably from one person to another. Pain is isolation, failure, rejection, the knowledge of the mortality of everyone we love. How we process this pain, how we can use our awareness of the nature of reality to accept what we have no power to change, affects our degree of suffering.

This impermanent nature of all things is a universal truth and Buddhists in particular immerse themselves in this knowledge from an early age. This is not meant to depress the individual or impair their enjoyment in life. On the contrary, our typical Western approach which is to deny the reality of death, to relegate the elderly and dying to hidden facilities produces a deeper psychological distruption and cataclysm when the death of a loved-one inevitably finds us. Suppression of emotions and fears only intensify their power.

To totally face and accept the inevitability of the death of all mortal beings, including our loved-ones and ourselves, allows us to move past this hidden fear and embrace life fully. The awareness, the understanding that no one escapes this life without pain allows one to accept what comes their way with peace, equanimity and understanding. Some students of spirituality [Michael Newton, Phd and Caroline Myss, Phd for example] believe that our souls agree to certain contracts before birth which will lead them into painful life situations. Although most of us could neither confirm nor deny this assertion, all we do know is that we possess the free will by which to deal with them. Sickness and death are not options. When we understand this truth, deeply and resolutely we are able to move through life with less suffering.

Evil acts are a powerful cause of pain and suffering in this world, yet they do not argue necessarily against the existence of God or a higher spiritual reality. Just perhaps the universe does operate according to the doctrine of free will. It is the only reasonable assumption that seems right to me. If everything is pre-ordained, pre-planned, pre-determined then why bother with the charade? If free will does operate, however, than evil must be allowed to exist. Why? Because without total free will, our acts of compassion, of kindness, of love would have no meaning either. Evil and good must freely flow from our own soul’s choice. To limit evil would defy the concept of total free will. That is not to say that I would not choose to see evil severly curtailed and eliminated. It just would not be the universe we inhabit.

We will be confronted by fear from the moment we attain human consciousness. We will understand that we have to face life’s slings and arrows essentially alone and we are frightened by this. To the extent that we are capable of loving that which is impermanent, we will suffer. To the extent that we are mortal, we will be fragmented. To the extent that we are alive in this world we will find ourselves with anxiety and a lack of peaceful equanimity.

It seems to me that we can find meaning in life by understanding metaphysical reality. Buddhism offers the knowledge of the nature of reality as a means to overcome fear. By understanding that all things are impermanent, that all beings will experience pain, that we should not be surprised when we experience these same traumas in our own lives. If we were unique in such painful experiences, perhaps then we would be justified in lamenting our fates or blaming our sins. Perhaps we are truly victims of a cruel hoax. Yet the knowledge that this is universal should reduce our suffering. The wise individual, therefore, will not be defeated by pain, but accept its reality and find redemption in sharing this knowledge with others who are suffering.

Rather than seeing life’s tragedies as punishment for sin, the understanding of karma seems more reasonable to me. Acts of treachery, of insult, of murder, of failure to love, of destruction of another being should engender in the universe a call for balance. Freely exercised evil does not go unpunished. Karmic justice is the most appropriate and fair. It may not be in this lifetime, however, that such acts are addressed.

Perhaps our souls are here to learn from our past mistakes. Our journey in any one lifetime may be like ‘survival weekend’ anyway. While it seems as if loving thy neighbor, extending compassion and lovingkindness to one another are clear paths towards spiritual growth, the absolute scarcity of such behavior in our world points to the difficulty in translating them into action.

Evil causes suffering. And suffering diminshes joy. Suffering unbalances us. Suffering fragments us. Suffering leaves us fearful and feeling unloved. Our delicate equilibrium of mind/body/spirit desperately seeks to repair itself. We become ill. We become sick physically, emotionally, spiritually. In Kabbalistic terms we see the universe as purposefully shattered, seeking meaning in our attempts to heal the breaks, to co-create reality through our thoughts and deeds. We are all physicians here. Compassion and acts of lovingkindess are our Rx.

Perhaps suffering is our gift. It challenges us to understand its nature, to accept its universality and to defy its propensity of suffocate us, to defeat us. Perhaps we find the ultimate meaning of existence for ourselves as fixers, as healers .

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

Healing Work Out – Exercise Your Mind

By Steven Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

You can exercise the mind and get a good healing work out by exorcising reactive behavior.

We are immersed in a society which extols the virtue of physical exercise–the ‘work-out’ is an important aspect of the lives of many individuals. Eight-pack abs, a miniscule percent of body fat, the most time per week drowning in our own sweat–these are societal virtues these days.

What is less well considered? A work-out of our minds. Without consciously thinking about our lives, the choices we make on a daily basis, the people we call our friends, the attitudes we have towards the world and those around us, we increase our propensity to exhibit ‘reactive behavior’. What is ‘reactive behavior’? This is simply our immediate feelings that arise when faced with circumstances in our lives or the actions of others. The feelings that arise immediately are from a deep place within our psyches which frequently represent responses conditioned from our past. Most of these originate from fear. Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of being unloved, fear of being alone and others.

Many of these reactions have layered themselves over our lifetimes as emotional responses to all of these situations. Many occurred when we were quite young and vulnerable emotionally. Our immediate reactions to what we perceive as insults or attacks is to either shrink back into ourselves or more likely, attack back.

These are not responses that we can or should suppress. They represent real feelings and should be examined by us with a dispassionate approach. They represent aspects of ourselves in need of healing. An obvious, often discussed form of such behavior is ‘road rage’. Individuals become so incredibly angry when someone cuts in front of them, or does not respond to their driving maneuvers that they are willing to literally kill them. From what deep childhood assault to our sense of being could such a reaction arise? In order to ponder, even for a milisecond, killing someone over a perceived insult or assault must reflect some immensely deep pain or fear.

A form of self-analysis may be useful to try to uncover why we are so ‘reactive’. To uncover the source of these reactive feelings may enlighten us as to other emotional responses that we exhibit on a more subtle level every day. Perhaps we were a bit quick to criticize our spouses, children or employees. Our ‘bad moods’ may reflect our displeasure over some statement or deed of another individual which has touched us in some deeply repressed emotionally vulnerable place.

Now, these statements do not imply that we are wrong to feel strong reactions to the words or deeds of others. We may very well have been insulted or abused and such actions do deserve appropriate responses. However, it is the powerful emotional content of our responses which should be allowed to settle down. When vitriole follows insult, emotional responses may obscure the valid source of our offense. There are some individuals who can become incredibly coherent and cogent during such times. For most of us, however, strong emotion makes us less rational and much less articulate than we need to be at these times.

But, how do we deal with these feelings? Through the thoughtful process of analysis and evaluation of how we create states of consciousness for ourselves. Just being aware that our responses may be ‘over-reactive’ and produce more conflict and aggression than originally intended may allow us to take a deep breath before responding to any perceived attack.

Just be aware that our responses are clues to our mind’s own wounds in need of healing. It never hurts to step away from the emotions churning within us to evaluate whether our initial response may be:

1. Excessive. Resulting in an emotional rebuttal from the other.

2. Irrational. Perhaps the individual did not realize how their statement could be taken as an insult.

3. Inappropriate. We might discover that the individual has their own burden of emotional pain and is unable to deal with it maturely, while we are more equipped to do so.

We might decide that not responding or perhaps cutting a relationship off is the appropriate response anyway. We might actually feel compassion for their state of mind which leaves them perpetually angry, fearful and in pain. Living within that individual’s state of mind is far more punishment than any response we might offer.

The point is this: There is always time to ponder the risk and benefit of responding. Not reacting immediately does not give the assailant the ‘upper hand’. With some time to ponder and analyze the situation, the response may be: none at all; a decision not to deal with that individual again; time for a dispassionte, cogent and rational response which might have much more impact than an emotional response. If you take the appropriate amount of time to step back, there may even be an impression left upon the perpetrator that they have been ‘found out’ as someone who may be in pain, or unkind, or foolish. When confronted with a rational observation, they may actually apologize for their action, rather than become reactive themselves.

Such reasoned and measured responses can only have a chance of being utilized if one has pondered such issues in advance. As with meditation, a trained-mind is more in control of itself. It is also capable of choosing how it wants to view the world. A trained-mind might have already pondered the choice between optimism and pessimism, for example.

When confronted with the inevitable pain in life, the trained-mind might realize that all mortal beings are inevitably confronted with difficulties. Such a trained-mind is less likely to see themselves as victims of life’s viscissitudes and more aware of the universal nature of pain and suffering. A trained-mind realizes that how we choose to react to life’s pains can exacerbate or ameliorate our suffering.

In truth, we would all be happier when we can become ‘healed’ or made whole. Such an achievement requires a ‘tight’ mind as well as a ‘tight’ body.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

Healing – What Does It Really Mean?

By Steven Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

“Healing is not the same as curing, after all; healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but allowing what is now to move closer to God.”

-Ram Dass

“Kabbalah’s notion is that all life is in need of healing and fixing, not just those who are ill.”

-Estelle Frankel

I use the term healing in ways that may challenge some of the traditional notions.

To heal means to ‘make whole’. Therefore, healing is a process by which an individual, or any entity which is presumably less than ‘whole’: fragmented, dis-eased or incomplete undergoes a positive improvement in their status. The emphasis on the term ‘process’ is important since one does not ever truly reach complete and perfect ‘health’ and since none of us are completely ‘whole’ in mind/body/spirit. Although a human being is an amazingly complex and capable self-healing organism, assistance from others is often required in this process.

The act of healing or attempting to heal another being is a recognition of the state of isolation that all beings inherently experience. This is the source of our primal emotional state of fear. Healing on this deep level represent the triumph of love over fear as manifested by the act of compassion. It has powerfully spiritual ramifications for both healer and healee. This attempt to repair or correct oneself or another serves as a worthy metaphysical goal for all beings. In Kabbalistic terms, the act of tikkun or repair/healing is the purpose of our existence on this physical plane. It allows the soul to grow and develop.

Often, dis-eased states are the consequence of genetic propensities, plus behavioral choices. For example: smoking, eating unhealthy foods, excessive alcholol, drugs, chronic emotional disturbances all have a well known impact on the body’s immune response to infectious process and developing malignancies. Then there are the unknown karmic factors, such as past-life choices and this life’s contracts.

Although healing is most commonly regarded as relating to the physical body, it is clearly a concept which is applicable to aspects of mind and spirit as well. This understanding that body/mind/spirit are inexplicably linked one to the other greatly broadens any notion of healing. Treating or attempting to cure a physical aliment must take into account the emotional, mental and spiritual factors that affect any one individual. This is truly a wholistic perspective.

This notion includes an broad acceptance of traditional Western scientific accomplishments in terms of pharmaceutical advances and technological accomplishment. There should not be any rejection of technological breakthroughs. They are not any less the product of a higher Intelligence than so-called ‘natural’ therapies. Therefore, ‘wholistic’ approaches should not disregard the benefits of pacemakers, defibrillators, endoscopic treatments of bleeding and premaligant colon polyps. Any physician would be foolish not to utilize the great achievements in the reduction of blood pressure, cholesterol levels, antibiotic usage and others in the assistance of the body’s own reparative processes. In this sense, modern technology is an extension of the human mind’s ability to create.

On the other hand, the present societal attitude towards technology is to view this approach as superior to more natural therapies. The point to be emphasized is that one is not superior to the other. They are both needed in the total concept of healing. Technology alone cannot address issues of mind and soul which are crucial to the process itself. Technology does not heal but assists the natural processes which are in continuous motion.

Complementary and alternative healing approaches have introduced energetic healing, acupuncture and a variety of herbal and spiritual modalities to the general public and their widespread interest speaks volumes about what is missing in traditional/technology based medicine. However, such approaches should not be embraced just because they are deemed ‘natural’. It would be extremely naive and dangerous to do so. Although conspiracy theories abound regarding the Big Drug companies (they do have much to explain regarding their profit-driven practices at the expense of safety issues) it should be emphasized that the vast majority of pharaceutically derived drugs are based on naturally occurring compounds. Yet a drug which can save lives at appropriate doses can kill lives when not properly administered.

The world of alternative and complementary medicines including ‘naturally’ derived herbal and energy therapies must be evaluated by studies which examine their effectiveness while being aware of possible side effects and risks. The same open-minded skeptical approach should apply to ALL proposed healing treatments–traditional as well as wholistic. Utilizing a risk/benefit paradigm is also useful. There are several useful websites which have studies the effectiveness of such therapies and they should be consulted before embarking on ‘natural’ therapies. Unfortunately, there are as many unscrupulous, profit-driven individuals on the ‘wholistic’ front as in any other business.

Healing means becoming more at peace with the emotional and physical battles that rage within us. The Taoist notion of Yin/Yang acknowledge the balanced flow between opposites that characterize the nature of reality. Too much of any activity, including therapeutic medicines and herbs are potentially lethal. The notion of balance, peace and joy are important in the process of healing. Happiness and sadness, rest and activity, eating in moderation all acknowledge that a balance in everything produces a state of healing.

Healing requires the courage to face our own responsibility in this process. We cannot turn our bodies over to a physician and expect to be ‘fixed’ as one would a car. We are required to do ‘work’. It is our inherent in a ‘successful’ life that we make a sincere effort to learn, grow, love and help others. These are all healing activities. Even loss and pain are experiences that our soul requires to grow.

Participating and assisting others in their own journey is healing. Offering a shoulder to cry on, a kind word, a smile as you hold the door for someone: all these are examples of healing. Not so strange, but the process affects both parties since healing is always mutual.

Learning something, anything for the first time is healing since it reduces our ignorance, makes us more aware and therefore more whole. When we are less than whole, we are discontent, unhappy, we feel badly. This feeling occurs on all three levels of mind/body/spirit.

Millions of our cells die each second, millions are there to replace them. The appearance of a stable physical form is merely an illusion. Our organs, themselves, are continuously being replaced. Our very lives are a silent battlefield. Yet ultimately with aging our bodies ability to repair and replace worn parts diminshes. We begin to suffer from what have been described as degenerative processes. Athersclerosis, arthritis, diminished immune responses, deterioration in mental function as well as every other organ characterizes what may be seen as normal aging. Ultimately we all die, even those who work out and watch their diets. This process is known as senescence. It is natural to all living creatures.

This does not mean that we passively allow these processes to march unchallenged. There are extremely effective treatments for a multitude of disease states which can temporarily halt the processes of deterioration and offer us healing interludes. The point to understand is that even though our bodies may be slipping away from wholeness, or health, our mind and spirit can continue to seek healing. When understood from a larger context, healing can occur even during the process of dying.

This concept is quite different, much more expansive then is usually understood. It sees these issues as much more than about disease and cure of physical ailments. I see my own personal journey as still in its early states, yet as a physician, a meta-physician I have come to understand that healing is a powerfully useful metaphor for coming to terms with the nature of reality.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

Dr. Steve’s Favorite Quotes

From Steven E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

There is a universal human quest to make sense of the nature of reality. The journey to do so brings not only wisdom but a philosophy of life. We ar not merely seeking facts about how the universe works, but a deeper metaphysical understanding, a framework or paradigm to explain, if possible, our purpose for existence. Poets, mystics, philosopher, scientists and the rest of us all share this ‘unquenchable desire’ to uncover ultimate truth. Here is how some of them have it expressed this over time.

“The more we learn, the more–or ought to be dumbfounded…..Our proper business is to learn more and more and thereby separate our mere ignorance from genuine mystery.”

-Lewis Thomas, MD, philosopher

“True delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.”

-Isaac Asimov,science and science fiction writer

“Lead us from darkness to light;
Lead us from illusion to wisdom
Lead us from death to deathlessness.
Lead us from conflict and suffering to harmony, peace and happiness.”

-Upanishads, Hindu scripture, 900BC

“Do not believe what you have heard.
Do not believe in tradition because it is handed down many generations.
Do not believe in anything that has been spoken of many times.
Do not believe because the written statements come from some old sage.
Do not believe in conjecture.
Do not believe in the authority of teacher or elders.
But after careful observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and it will benefit one and all, then accept it and live by it.”


It is good to be a seeker,
But sooner or later you have to be a finder.
And then it is well to give what you have found,
A gift into the world for whoever will accept it.”

-Richard Bach, author Jonathan Livingston Seagull

“From all these discoveries, each of which plunges him a little deeper into the ocean of energy, the mystic derives an unalloyed delight, and his thirst for them is unquenchable.”

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest /paleontologist

“There may be no such thing as the ‘glittering central mechanisn of the universe’…..Not machinery but magic may be the better descripton of the treasure that is waiting.”

–John Wheeler, physicist

“Why is it that we and the universe exist? If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason–for then we would truly know the mind of God.”

–Stephen Hawkings, physicist

“When the doors of perception are cleansed, man will see reality for what it is, infinite.”

-William Blake, poet, artist, philosopher,mystic

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion and embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

–Albert Einstein, physicist, philosopher<

Discover Your Inner Metaphysician

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

On some level we are all metaphysicians. Although we usually live our lives from day to day, from stress to stress, there are times when we step back from the mundane and ask ‘Is there any purpose to existence?’ Frequently such questioning occurs at times of traumatic transition–birth, death, separations, divorce, firings and other highly significant, deeply emotional events.

Herwith I share some of insights I teach in my Contemporary Metaphysics courses:

*Acknowledge the innate desire of all of us to make sense of reality. Perhaps this arises from some primal fear of death and suffering. Traditionally religion has filled this role–science, as well, has arisen to uncover the mysteries of the physical universe.

*Acknowledge the value of skepticism versus blind faith. Seek evidence for your beliefs whenever possible. Don’t believe everything you read or hear, but don’t deny the possibility of extraordinary experiences of those you know to be reliable and sincere.

* View specific religious dogmas and doctrines from a historical/cultural and political perspective. Regard them as choices rather than ultimate truth–see religions as languages–suited to those who choose them but not as mandatory beliefs than can or should be imposed on others.

*Consider the healing aspects of religion. Understand the value of ritual and community that religion offers to allay human suffering and fear.

*Familiarize your self with some of the literature regarding the paranormal. Do not reject them without personally exploring the evidence for NDE [near-death experience], psychic abilities, the parapsychological literature, clairvoyance/remote-viewing [CIA and espionage funding], ADC [after-death communication], reincarnation, medium experience.

*Read the most reputable. Seek literature on these and related subjects as described by rational, highly-educated individuals who offer their own experiences and evidence for the validity of otherwise dubious subjects. Many of these began their investigations from the position of deep skepticism and have applied a rational ‘scientific’ approach to these subjects.

*Consider the Physical Brain and Concious Mind. Explore notions of the nature of mind/consciousness and its relationship to the possibility that it can exist separate from the physical brain. Consider the proposal that consciousness is a primary constituent of the universe itself.

*Take a soulful approach. Consider the notion of the soul and its relationship to the mind.

*See an expansive universe. Consider the notion of a Cosmic Intelligence or Mind which finds its description in a variety of terms including God.

*Be aware that there will be those highly critical and intolerant of such exploration. They are usually those who are deeply, blindly religious, or committed atheists, and closed-minded skeptics.

*Explore the findings of contemporary science. Biology, physics, cosmology which are leading many scholars and scientists to view the universe as living, interactive and organic rather than inert and machine-like.

*Examine your own unusual experiences. Explore those that have paranormal or spiritual elements. Find similar examples in the writings of others–share these topics with trusted friends and associates

*Encourage others to reveal their own private experiences. Give them a safe, non-judgemental opportunity to share. They may have supressed out of fear of the negative reaction of others.

*Find the metaphysical balance. Understand that the Metaphysical Postulate will limit your understanding of paranormal/spiritual phenomenon. It states that the further away you are from such an unusual experience, the less likely you are to believe it to be true. It applies to the lack of credibility of some TV shows, books and public speakers. It emphasizes the need for personal exploration and discussion with those who have not bias towards fabricating any experience.

*Consider Meditation and Prayer. Explore meditation and prayer as vehicles for touching your intuitive nature.

*Understand death as a transition. Begin to view death as a transition to another realm of consciousness and gradually lose fear.

*Explore the concept of karma and reincarnation. Consider them as explanations for the nature of reality, of the moral imperative, of the Golden Rule for behavior

*See the lessons in life. Regard life’s difficulties as challenges your soul undertook for the purpose of spiritual growth and evolution.

*Understand that evolution is the nature of the universe. It applies equally to spiritual and physical processes.

*Understand that life’s tragedies are not punishment for sin.. They are extraordinary opportunities for overcoming–seek the gifts of joy and beauty that replenish our soul.

*Admit we live in a broken world. Regard the universe as incomplete, broken and in need of human intention and completion. See yourself as a co-creator with Divinity.

*Let in God in human form. Understand that in the midst of suffering, others offer their love as Divine representatives.

*Understand healing as a metaphor for the human experience. Healing can be seen as a description of both the process and goal of all life. Healing becomes a perfecting of our souls as well as maintaining our physical bodies. Healing means viewing ourselves as part of the universe. It transcends the traditional notion of the physical body and must incorporate the mind and soul as well.

*Be open to explore alternative or complementary approaches to healing. Check things out, while maintaining the skeptics view to unsubstantited or unstudied claims.

*Honor medicine for all it’s good. Do not reject the tremendous achievements of science and technology in the relief of physical suffering. Rather, integrate them within a broader context which includes a holistic perspective.

*Embrace the role of metaphysician. It is a gift of human awareness. Enjoy the process of uncovering the nature of reality.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

The Metaphysics of Intelligent Design

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

The present dispute between proponents of teaching ‘science’ versus ‘Intelligent Design’ may actually be solvable.

What makes each side so passionate about their positions is quite simply that we are dealing with an individual’s metaphysical platform of beliefs. Nothing is more personally sacred than this platform upon which we build our models of reality.

Primal fear is a quality inherent to our species and we deal with this chaos by anchoring ourselves to basic belief systems. [Whether these systems are firmly planted or merely floating is another issue.] Religion serves that function for many. Science does so for others. We guard these basic postulates with our very lives because to upset them, to challenge them opens up the flood gates of confusion, chaos and fear.

Even a belief in no belief, atheism, is a metaphysical position upon which some build their models of reality. We can see quite easily how religious crusades, jihads emerge from such passionate defense against primal fear. Present day realities provide proof that we are supremely willing to martyr ourselves as individuals in the defense of such tribal beliefs.

It is important to understand and appreciate science as it functions at its highest level. The scientific method of examination, experimentation, publishing, open discourse and the need to confirm through subsequent studies has and will continue to bring tremendous knowledge about he universe in which we live. Science always keeps the door open to falsifiability, the possibility of being proven wrong. And this is a powerful, open-minded approach to knowledge.

Of course when scientists begin to extend their views beyond what they have demonstrated by their own methods, they are entering the universe of metaphysics.

One example is to conclude that their is no spiritual reality because science has not uncovered it. The fallacy with that argument is simply that science may not be the appropriate venue for exploring this different conception of reality. Likewise, the argument from Intelligent Design that our universe reveal evidence of a higher Intelligence at work is likewise a metaphysical conclusion. It may or may not be true but it is not science.

The present scientific model of the ‘big bang’ theory of the creation of the universe often calls forward metaphysical interpretations by both scientists and theologians. Whether this represents a divine creation or a quantum singularity remains speculative at present. The majority of cosmologists seems to conclude that the ‘big bang’ did occur. [Although some believe it was one of many prior cycles of creation and destruction]. The rest is metaphysics.

The need to answer metaphysical questions is an innate quality of human consciousness and nothing will deter mankind and womankind from doing so. Throughout history scientists have ventured into metaphysics. Albert Einstein was one of many.

I enjoy discussing the pros and cons of ‘Intelligent Design’ as much as anyone. My point is that such discussions should be expunged from the science classroom and undertaken under a different venue–namely a class on metaphysics and philosophy. That is extremely important because such debates and discussions are essential to any educational process and I believe crucial to the development of independent thought.

Remove this from the science classes and perhaps the debate can continue where it belongs. To me that would be evidence of ‘intelligent design’.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

Metaphysics of the Placebo Response

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

Through the fog of distant memory I recall my first clinical exposure to the concept of the placebo.

From the Latin I shall please , it was introduced during my medical school rotation in internal medicine. A ‘sugar pill’ which was labeled Obecalp [placebo spelled backward] was offered to patients in an attempt to demonstrate how often they fantasized or fabricated their symptoms.

When a patient ‘responded’ to a placebo pill, or an injection of saline, as opposed to an opiate for pain, the immediate assumption from the medical staff was ‘that the patient wasn’t really sick, or in pain, or just wanted to ‘get high.’

There was a definte consensus opinion among the medical establishment that ‘real’ pain or ‘real’ symptoms would only respond to an active chemical agent. Subsequently, it has become clear that this assessment was incorrect.

The emerging realityof the mind-body relationship has led many medical professionals to recognize that all symptoms as well as all physiological responses are the result of this totally integrated, sublimely complex matrix. Associated with this is how we perceive what is occurring to our bodies and how we react to those internal machinations.

Candace Pert and other researchers have demonstrated that nearly all human cells contain receptor sites for peptides released by our neuro-endocrine organs, endorphins which are natural pain killers and mood elevators. Our immune response cells, as well, can be activated or inhibited by our emotional state of being as well as our attitudes and beliefs about what is occurring to us. The expectation that a substance will relieve a symptom or complaint leads to improvement in those symptoms.

This result has been demonstrated to be so powerful that the FDA insists that drug companies demonstrate that their products are more efficacious than placebo before they will receive their approval. It may be surprising to the public that in a variety of ‘double-blind’ randomized studies [in which neither the patient or the people conducting the experiement know which is the placebo and which the active drug] the placebo produces from 35 to 45% improvemnt in the patient’s symptoms. The actual drug tested, which may have been the result of years of expensive research and development may offer only marginal improvement over these ‘sugar pills’.

These are not merely relegated to the relief of pain, which is itself impressive, but improvements in bowel function, heartburn, chest pain, joint discomfort, headaches and a whole host of symptoms are reported. What is also quite fascinating are the negative symptoms that patients in studies report as being secondary to placebos. Such a response is described as a nocebo result.

When issues of ‘cost-effectiveness’ are considered, it may very well be that the placebo, or obecalp would be hailed as the greatest breakthrough in medical science. Again, they demonstrate that a great deal of our body’s functional abilitity to maintain or establish a state of health or the process of healing may be influenced by our mind’s expectation or anticipation.

Physicians have long observed a vast range of ‘pain’ or symptom tolerance. There are patients of mine who have complained, for example, of severe heartburn symptoms. Upon observing their esophageal linings during endoscopy, however, I may find very little evidence of damage. On the other hand, I have scoped others whose complaints are barely discernible yet whose esophageal mucosa is horrendously ulcerated and inflamed.

My patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can nearly always associate an exacerbation of their symptoms with stress in their lives. The irritable bowel symdrome is a completely subjective account of abdominal pain, bloating and altered bowel function. One of the documented features of this syndrome is known as ‘visceral hypersensitivity’. These patients literally ‘feel’ physiological alterations that may remain below the level of awareness of a ‘normal’ patient.

More fascinating are the subconscious stresses which lurk below the level of awareness, yet still can ravage the neural complexes which line the gut. It is clear to me that the patient’s response to my recommendations also strongly depend upon how I approach their complaints, how carefully I pay attention to what these symptoms are revealing about their psycho-social and emotional lives and how positive I am about their eventual improvement.

The role of the physician or any other health care provider becomes a crucial component in the healing paradigm. The placebo reponse, rather than a sign of a patient’s misrepresenting or exaggerating their complaints provides support the contention that medicine is far from an exact science and that the mind-body relationsip is more potent than any of us can imagine.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006

Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com