The Cosmic Mind – Are We All Connected?

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.


Physician to Meta-Physician


“Human intelligence is a reflection of the intelligence that produces everything…We minic the mind of God. Knowing and being are identical.” – Houston Smith

Does the universe operate according to a higher intelligence?

This is the underlying basis of all religion. Yet as a skeptical metaphysician I am entitled to question everything! Where is the evidence? Where is the sign that some grand Being put all of this together and directs the way it unfolds and why believe that mind/consciousness/intelligence is anything more than a human invention?

There are several aspects to this issue and they have been debated since the dawn of mankind. Regarding the nature of intelligence or consciousness: it seems to me that Houston Smith, professor of religious studies and author of scores of book is correct. But first we need to understand that there are several different terms which need to be ‘fused’ in order to appreciate the concept of ‘mind’. I am using this term in conjunction with that of ‘intelligence’, ‘information’, and ‘consciousness’. Hopefully this will shed more light than darkness.

Hard-core neuroscientists regard our self-awareness as the ’emergent’ property of the neural process itself. In other words, our concept of ourselves, our thinking aware belief that we are unique and have a mind is an accidental product of neuro-chemical reactions in our physical brain–nothing more.

But, as neuroscientsts Kafatos and Nadeu have noted, If consciousness is an emergent property of the universe, in the case of human beings, would not this imply, given the underlying wholeness of the cosmos, that the universe is itself conscious?

Perhaps human consciousness reflects an inherent property of the universe. Physicist Freeman Dyson believes that ‘mind’ exists to a degree within the entire universe. After all, how does a subatomic particle ‘know’ how to behave, to exhibit characteristics that define it as such? How does a carbon atom which exists in an identical form throughout the universe retain its properties so precisely? Each represents ‘information’, if you will, and ‘information’ is a form of ‘mind’. Its own existence is evidence of its own ‘informational content’ and why not see this as a form of consciousness.

Consciousness or mind does not have to be as ‘self-aware’ as our own to represent a part of a continuum. On some level, are rocks and trees conscious? Are one-celled creatures ‘aware’ at all? Do they posses mind/consciousness? And if so, what is the source of this? Israeli scientists have isolated a peptide, a bio-protein that is secreted by amebas into their enviornment when they are struggling to divide in two! This peptide attracts other amebas to assist in the ‘delivery’. It is astounding, is it not to ponder the level of intelligence that exists within such a ‘simple’ blob of protoplasm. But of course the point is just that–there are no simple, unintelligent cells. Molecular biologists stand in awe at the complexity of all aspects of cellular existence. The degree of biochemical sophistication that occurs at the cell membrane of every cell in every living organism at every milisecond is beyond comprehension. We are the product of trillions of cells, all coordinating efforts that merely magnify what can be demonstrated in the most primitive forms of life.

Plants are capable of signalling each other via root born and air born signals during an attack of insect preditors or fire. Perhaps these ‘miracles’ are merely the chance production of blind evolutionary forces. Yet are we even capable of understand how this arose?

Man often likes to regard his own mind as unique and special. But is it even logical to regard human intelligence as the only form that has manifested within this universe? Not to me, I must add. To see the continuum of mind as beginning in the subatomic realm and ending in mankind seems severely near-sighted and self-indulgent. It seems much more reasonable to understand that perhaps mind/consciousness is a basic constituent of this universe, as much an integral part as, say gravity or other physical constants. That is opinion of philosopher David Chalmers. In truth, physicists cannot explain the origin of the basic physical forces in nature. They just exist and are regarded as so by physicists. Consciousness/mind may very well be understood on the same level.

Of course such discussions only raise bigger questions: is this continuum of consciousness/mind leading us to accept the reality of ultimate Cosmic Mind or a notion of God? Is this a logical or rational approach to spirituality? But, of course, even more profoundly confounding questions immediately arise: if there is a Cosmic Mind, then why are we surrounded by suffering and evil?

Can mankind even attempt to fathom this mystery? We shall ponder these mysteries together in upcoming posts.

© 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

Meta-Physician’s Vaccine

By Steve E. Hodes, M.D.


Physician to Meta-physician

The concept of a vaccine is actually quite simple: expose a living organism to a safe form of a potentially lethal virus and it will generate its own immune response which will then protect it against the native pathogen [‘bug’].

There are various types of vaccines and degrees of effectiveness. There are significant controversies as well regarding the efficacy and saftey of vaccines. My purpose here is to draw analogies to the healing process in all its broad ramifications.

In the natural setting our bodies are exposed to offending bacteria and viral insults throughout our lives. Although we may experience temporary illnesses, in the presesnce of an intact immune system, we recover with a newly minted defense against subsequent exposures. This is a form of ‘natural’ vaccination.

Our body-minds react in a similar fashion. Reality becomes our vaccine. Stress is the term we apply to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual ‘insults’. We all understand how physical exertion, exercise, ‘working-out’ strengthens our bodies. Without these physical challenges our muscles and endurance would never increase. Twentieth century physician and endocrinologist Hans Selye described various concepts of stress. ‘Distress’ was seen as a potentially toxic degree and exposure to psychological and emotional trauma. ‘Eustress’, on the other hand, was viewed as encouraging the evolution and development of the personality and mind. The similarity between ‘dis-stress’ and ‘dis-ease’ is no coincidence.

Cleary, the distinction between these two concepts of stress also rests in the individual’s reaction, interpretation and response to them. What becomes exceedingly clear to me is that all human experience incorporates enormous subjective elements. Someone is fired from a job. They immediately sink into a state of extreme sadness and depression. This event may confirm their own deep-seated insecurities and self-doubt. From childhood they may have received messages that they were not competent individuals and the firing only confirms this. To this individual the firing cannot function as a vaccine. Rather it is experienced as a full-fledged plague! Hopefully, this subjective interpretation can eventually be transformed.

Another individual who is similarly fired may experience a temporary emotional shock as well. Yet they soon decide that this jolt to their system is teaching them something extremely important. Perhaps they may even come to realize that the firing did reflect some element of incompetence or inexperience on their part. Yet they decide that this event will not diminish their notion of their intrinsic ability or self-worth. Instead they may feel spurred-on to explore how they can rise to their full potential. They may even see the firing as a wake-up call, an important life lesson, an opportunity to make a change and grow. They may even ‘spin’ the event, viewing it as a gift to them, one that will make them stronger and ultimately more successful in life. Furthermore they are encouraged by seeing their own ability to deal with this trauma and move through it. They may even look back at this event when subsequent disappointments in life arise. For such an individual, life’s temporary set-backs function as vaccines.

A child’s pet dies. They suffer the stages of mourning for this loss [as enumerated by the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross]. When they move through this process they begin to understand the nature of loss and death. This experience becomes a vaccine for later experiences of the death of friends and relatives. Pain will always be present as long as we have human consciousness. The degree of suffering, however, may be altered or reduced because we have had the experience previously.

We live in a culture that denies the reality of aging and death. We worship youth and turn away from the frail, confused and elderly. We fear our own abilities to deal with intense emotional losses and this fear wounds us further. Nursing homes become the repository for the dysfunctional elderly who in previous generations lived and died within the context of multi-generational enviornment. In such societies, children come to understand that decline, deterioration and death is natural and expected. They received their exposure to the reality of death at home.

The vaccine of life’s experience allows us to move through the pain with a level of suffering that allows us to heal and move on in our lives. This does not imply that we can or should become unfeeling and withdrawn from human interaction. The vast majority of us will experience loss of love, employment, companionship and even our own health with powerful and potentially incapacitating emotional reactions. We need to learn that our reactions are not only normal but necessary to experience for long term healing. We need to understand that we can and will survive them and move forward.

Psychotherapist Miriam Greenspan in her book, HEALING THROUGH THE DARK EMOTIONS, discusses the necessity of facing grief, fear and despair and allowing ourselves to move through them to the otherside of healing. Because we live in a society which is itself ’emotion-phobic’ we may feel the need to deny or suppress our own reactions. According to Greenspan this only delays ultimate healing and may result in other long-term psychological disorders including phobias. Numbing ourselves with drugs, alcohol, sex or denial is self-defeating.

From this perspective, it would seem to me that only by acknowledging and facing our dark emotions can they function as a vaccine for future ‘exposures’. This is not to imply that such an approach is easy or should be attempted without professional help. Sharing these feelings with loved-ones is enormously healing as well.

The universality of suffering should alert us to its inescapable reality. We often vicariously share the loss of their own loved-ones with friends, family and even our entire society. This experience becomes a vaccine for us as well. Buddhism wisely emphasizes the need to face the reality of death and ,once understood, move on towards joy and happiness. One of the often repeated stories about the Buddha involves a distraught mother’s plea to restore the life of her dead child. The Buddha actually agrees to do so but under one condition: that she return to him with a tamarind seed from the home of any family who has not experienced a similar loss. Of course she is unable to do so–every family had experienced their own version of tragedy and suffering.

This was Buddha’s lesson, not only to this woman but to all his followers. Try to gain awareness of this reality even before we experience it. Awareness, then, becomes a vaccine for life’s pain.

© 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 the Divide Between Heart and Mind

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.


Physician to Meta-Physician

Are we creatures who possess two opposing aspects of consciousness–thinking and feeling? And is this divide the source of much human suffering?

According to Buddhist teaching, the elimination of suffering and ultimately finding peace and contentment involves an awareness of the nature of reality, the impermanence of all physical existence. This allows the mind to take charge of the heart, for thought to reign in the wild excesses of emotional reactions.

Poet Theodore Roethke in THE WAKING writes we think by feeling, what is there to know? So are thinking and feeling so intertwined that they cannot be separated at all? It seems that human consciousness represented the first true expression of that divide between thought and instinctive behavior. Animals clearly experience emotion but rarely what we would deem pre-meditated thought. Adult humans are credited with the ability to plan their subsequent activities which is the basis for our legal system’s assignment of guilt or innocence.

On the other hand, how much of our thoughts are laden with emotional content? Much more than we might acknowledge, I submit. Our visual perceptions, seemingly free of emotional aspects, are, in fact, the result of inputs from our memories and our emotional centers of the brain.

Kabbalistic interpretations of the nature of reality includes the ETZ CHAIM or TREE OF LIFE which contains ten centers or sephirot. The highest three include Keter, the crown which is the source of Divine energy and also Divine will followed by Chochma or wisdom and Binah, understanding. Although this is not the place for a full discussion of such a fascinating description of metaphysical reality, I wanted to point out that this upper triad of the TREE OF LIFE precede the next three aspects which include Chesed, lovingkindness, Gevurah, restraint and Tiferet, compassion which are clearly related to the emotions, the heart centers. There is another sephira [singular of sephirot] known as Daat or knowledge which is seen as the ‘eleventh’ or silent one. It is known to make the connection between mind and heart. But it is clear that mind or consciousness is considered closer to the Divine Essence known as EIN SOF than the emotional aspects of the cosmos.

Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions balance their chakras from crown through heart into the more basic physical and emotional drives as well.

The much expressed but often vague notion of AWARENESS is described in many esoteric and spiritual writings. This is felt to be essentially a cognitive, or mind quality of consciousness which allows us to examine our lives as well as our feelings. It is seen as the mechanism by which the emotional roller-coaster of life which brings such extremes of joy and despair, can be tamed a bit. Once again, understanding and wisdom will allow [in theory] us to step back from our lives and our feelings for a moment in order to place them in context.

Buddhists believe that the cause of suffering is our desire of attachments to this physical universe. We are doomed to despair because we delude ourselves into believing that we will be happy when we obtain certain objectives such as wealth, prestige or fame which themselves are impermanent. The awareness of this truth should set us free. The understanding that our lives are fluid, changing processes should allow us to make better choices about where to expend our energies.

While taking note of the primacy of mind or consciousness, Kabbalistic writings do not demean the importance of our emotions. They describe the presence of Divinity in the midst of turmoil and Its proximity to a ‘broken heart’. Knowing that we are not alone in our misery is an antidote to suffering. Knowing that our lives are temporary schools for learning and spiritual growth should help us endure suffering as well. A strong belief in the ultimate survival of the soul after physical death is a powerful source of comfort as well.

This leads us back to healing. Healing is rectification of a broken heart as well as the broken nature of creation. The notion that God allowed his creation to fracture in order for man to participate in its repair or tikkun is considered a gift. This awareness of divine love and concern allows us to transform pain into joy. Although pain is our human response to emotional stress, we can reduce our suffering through our mind’s awareness that this is not divine punishment.

Buddhists might emphasize that past karma is exerting its influence upon our life’s traumas and our emotional pain. But such is not punishment either. It is a balancing and healing opportunity as well. Transforming the heart’s pain into a healing lesson require the mind to be present and aware. Perhaps by doing so suffering can be reduced. By allowing the mind and heart to interact and experiencing a sense of peace and joy is the ultimate goal.

The Kabbalist sees Divine will, wisdom, understanding and knowledge as gifts of the human consciousness which enable us to exist in a dynamic balance with our emotional aspects. It sees this balance as the source of equanimity and joy. Individuals who are ‘too much’ in their ‘minds’ will try to rationalize everything in their lives and cut themselves off from their hearts. Their necks are seen as strictures that reduce their ability to experience their emotions. Likewise, other individuals can be ‘too much’ in their ‘hearts’, overwhelmed by feeling and unable to rationally navigate through the labyrinths of their lives.

Mystics of all spiritual traditions have found that the discipline of prayer and/or meditation to be a vehicle by which mind or consciousness can exert some influence on the wild and often debilitating gyrations of the heart and emotions. Going inward becomes a way of gaining access to Divine guidance and compassion. Going inward allows one to find peace in the midst of chaos.

Be aware of how pain is a universal human experience and to recognize that no one escapes it. None of this is easy. Why would we expect our lives to me so? Yet hope is an equally valuable gift of the mind and the heart. Suffering can be transformed into acceptance, acceptance into peaceful equanimity, equanimity into joy. This awareness, a gift from the mind of the Divine, is itself a valuable healing lesson.

© 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 Power of Gratitude

By Steven Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

Many of us are dissatisfied with our lives–many are frustrated, bored, depressed, anxious. We are discontent, unhappy–but what are we all looking for? We live in a society and culture which offers us easy access to material goods. We appreciate very little because we live in a world of such abundance. We are told that our cars are not good enough, our spouses are not sexy enough, our clothes are behind the times, our homes are inadequate, our careers mediocre, our erections less than magnificent.

At times we are exposed to overwhelming pictures of poverty, usually on TV commercials. We turn our heads from such sadness and degradation. We notice how precious even simple toys, clothes, a morsel of food are to such children and we are rightfully embarrassed by our own abundance. We are grateful for very little. Instead we want more. We demand more and believe that what will satisfy us is more of what we already have. It is never about the intangibles: love, relationships, families, friends, health, contentment, a sense of peace. We have all forgotten one of life’s most obvious lessons–cultivating a state of mind in which gratitude is present is ultimately healing. It can offer us much of what we are seeking–a sense of peace and contentment.

Money, career, properties, vacations, net worth, cars, the colleges and even our children’s careers: enumerating a list of our wants becomes a list of demands. If other people can have them then why can’t we obtain them as well. We are competitive. Life seems to be a contest in which the winner has more of everything than anyone else. Yet this aggressive aspect rarely brings a sense of wholeness or contentment. How can it? We are so driven by the process of acquiring that we can barely enjoy what we do have. Even love and friendship is seen as a commodity. How many dear friends do you have? How many calls or emails did you receive? How many birthday cards?

We have all but forgotten the simple, satisfying beauty of gratitude. It is a way of acknowledging the wonder of existence. Cultivating a mind of gratitude forces us to look at what we value in our lives and step outside of our cultural and societal patterns. If we have a family then we can be grateful for who they are even if we have conflicts at times with them. We can choose to be grateful for the opportunity or challenge of dealing with them. Difficulties can be seen as opportunities, as spiritual ‘advanced placement courses’.

Several years ago I noticed that I would become emotionally drained by the many patients I saw in my office on any given day. At times I would resent their demands or attitudes, or the fees that insurance companies would pay me for my time and effort. I wasn’t having much fun or enjoyment either. Then I learned about the Kabbalistic lesson that beggars in Jerusalem understood. They knew that their presence, their outstretched hand would offer another individual an opportunity to perform a mitzvah, an act of charity which brought spiritual benefits to them. I began to see that the patients who entered my examination room were offering me an opportunity to do good deeds or mitzvot. I became grateful for their presence and my energy levels swelled concomitantly. No longer drained by the patient-doctor encounter, I actually was energized by virtue of my gratitude.

Being grateful for the morning, for an opportunity to live another day, for a chance to help someone else get through their own lives with an act of kindness, a smile, allowing them into a line of traffic–calling your parent or child or friend and just telling them you are grateful for having them in your life is ultimately an act of love that heals both of you. It costs nothing yet it is priceless. And it leads to contentment and joy.

Gratitude requires us to freeze the frenetic pace of your life–to stop in our tracks and to live in the moment. Only if we stop time can we acknowledge that we appreciate anything. A sunset, a flower, a bird, bee, a beautiful face, observing a tender moment between mother and child–the list is endless. Yet it is not the same kind of list I mentioned before.

Gratitude requires that we explore the good and fulfilling aspects of our life and allow the negative and painful elements to stand back for a while. Clearly, we have not forgotten that we live imperfect lives. In fact, we usually are SO focused on what is missing, what is incomplete, our loses and frustrations, that we spoil what is truly amazing about our lives.

Gratitude takes us out of our own sadness for a moment. It shakes us out of our victim mentality which pulls us down inwardly, in despair. It breaks our egocentric perspective on life. Gratitude forces us to be grateful for something or someone–outside of ourselves. It forces us to look around–to focus less on how we ‘feel’ as isolated beings and to see ourselves as an essentially component in a network of relationships. Gratitude forces us to see that we are connected to others, that there are people who care about us, will be there for us even in our darkest moments. It may let us re-consider behavior which may ultimately hurt us–because we realize that it will hurt those we love. It speaks to something far greater than ourselves. It forces us to see ourselves within a larger context. We are allowed to feel small in the face of gratitude but not meaningless. We are allowed to find a spiritual sense of ourselves, to be grateful for being alive, no matter how bad our lives seem. Gratitude does not acknowledge failure, only a detour away from success. Gratitude sees mistakes as natural and forgivable. It sees them as opportunities for self-correction, not punishment. Gratitude is about opportunities to change and grow. Gratitude is optimistic in that it allows for anything to happen in the next moment. Gratitude is about being open to transformation.

Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Victor Frankl in his seminal work MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING correlated survival in concentration camps with an individual’s ability to find meaning in the smallest piece of existence. Even the sight of a new bud on a spring branch became a joyous reason to keep living. He was writing about gratitude. Gratitude provides meaning. To ‘stop and smell the roses’ is an act of gratitude. It is about the awareness of the special quality of being alive.

Being grateful may not come naturally to many of us. It requires an act of will, a choice. This is a step in demonstrating the ability we have to train our minds, to become less reactive to life’s events and to access more of our human potential.

As I have previously outlined in prior postings, this summer was clearly one of the most difficult and painful in my entire life. At my lowest moments I kept reminding myself to be grateful for what I had–all those years with my Mother as a caring and loving part of my life, her peaceful passing, my remaining family and how we supported each other during those dark times. Close associates, patients and well-wishers who sent their thoughts and prayers. I knew that I had to remain physically, emotionally and spiritually strong during those difficult times. I can only believe that this attitude of gratitude helped me get through those dark days.

I lost my Mother but my Father pulled through two hospitalizations, a horrendous case of pneumonia, a broken hip and a broken heart–but he is one the mend. I am grateful for his presence, and I for what I have learned from this summer. If I can remain mindful of the value of close friends, family and to appreciate every moment, then I will have experienced an enormous healing. In that sense I can be grateful for having learned to be grateful.

Steven E. Hodes, M.D., 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 http://www.meta-md.com.

The Metaphysics of Change

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.


Physician-to-Metaphysician

Understanding the nature of reality is the goal of all metaphysical speculation. We seek knowledge, gnosis in the belief that it will confer some power or influence over the chaos that seem to be our lives. Perhaps, we secretly dream, it may offer us tools by which to understand, accept or transform our lives from suffering into a more meaningful, joyous existence.

By ‘the metaphysics of change’ I mean the notion that nothing remains the same.

The entire universe is ‘in process’. First articulated by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus around 500 BC this may or may not seem intuitively correct to any reader. It was and remains a profound metaphysical position. Many modern humans still see their daily lives as essentially stable and unchanging. We actually feel uncomfortable with any notion of an empty space in our lives, an interval, an ‘in between’ time. Of course, we have no choice but to recognize profound transitions such as birth, death, graduations etc as change. Still, we live our lives on a daily basis as if change was an unessential aspect of our lives.

Heraclitus offered the supreme analogy of the flowing river. It offers an almost mystical degree of paradox. One never steps in the same river twice, and yet the river is the same river. Change and existence are not incompatible. He pre-dated the philosophers who understood the nature of reality to be continuous process. Alfred North Whitehead was the 20th century’s major proponent of such an outlook.

When we consider ourselves as living beings we can readily understand the paradox between change and identity. That baby picture of us may not resemble the llatest reflection of our visage in the mirror. How is it possible that we are the same? Yet we recognize the paradox between our physical bodies and our self. Biologically speaking, our cells are continuously dying and regenerating. Ultimately they die and can’t perform the reparative functions quite so well. This is known as senescence. It is the medical term to explain why all of us do die. It explains why infections and cancer are more prevelant with age as well. Our intrinsic defense and reparative mechanisms sooner or later will fail.

Even more fascinating was Heraclitus’ recognition that we what appears to be continuous may contain discontinuous aspects of itself. This metaphysical position has been supported by quantum physics. What appears to be continuous flow is, in reality, a series of quantum segments. The notion of ‘quantum leaps’ occur when electron move from one energy level to another and release a photon of energy. No one knows where the electron ‘is’ in between its manifestation at another energy level. It may literally ‘not exist’ or enter the cosmic vacuum which is itself not well understood. Planck space, planck time are unfathomably miniscule yet discrete and measurable units. Planck units seem to be the smallest units of matter and time and cannot be reduced to zero. These units are ‘breaks’ in the continuity of reality. The best analogy would be a movie. What appears as continuous flow is composed of individual frames.

Like breathing out and breathing in, there is a moment of neither which contains the promise of both. Are these spaces between ‘in’ and ‘out’, between the ‘frames’ of quantum theory a place for Divine will to manifest itself?

There is a mystical concept of the ’empty vessel’ which may represent another perspective on the same concept. According to Kabbalistic thought God withdrew ‘himself’ in order for the physical universe to come into being. The empty uterus is a place for new life to blossom. A mind emptied of all thought is the goal of much Eastern [Buddhist/Hindu] meditation. Only when there is an empty place can creativity manifest.

In our own lives we seem to abhore a vacuum. We need to fill every moment with thought, activity, entertainment. We fear the empty space, the place between events and speech. Yet this may be not only a valuable place of new ideas and creative opportunity, but represent the nature of reality itself.

© 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 through Generations

By Steven Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

Which was the greatest generation? We of post WWII vintage have been told it was our parent’s. Didn’t they survive the Great Depression and fight the last ‘just’ war? Perhaps, but then again, I will maintain that fighting an unjust war [Viet Nam] is even more difficult. Our generation lived through assasinations, the threat of thermonuclear annihilation, race riots and the sexual revolution. But I have tremendous respect for every generation–each has unique traumas for which they can claim ownership. It then becomes their personal and collective challenge to overcome.

Many of my fellow Boomers find ourselves sandwiched between two generations each embroiled in their own chaotic turmoil. Our adult children are seeking to define themselves within a surreal context of extended adolescence. While those of us fortunate enough to have our parents alive are unfortunate enough to witness their progressive deterioration and decline. The remainder of our generation must face the existential truth that we are ‘next in line’ for oblivion. Our role is continuously evolving, constantly on the edge of chaos, bringing alternately understanding and confusion.

Like the Roman god Janus who possessed two faces staring in opposite directions, we, too, find ourselves staring quizzically at each of these generations in need of healing. By this term I mean the ‘whole package’–mind/body/spirit. Does the term ‘spirit’ dismay or annoy the reader? Perhaps you are a hard-core skeptic who rejects any discussion of the spiritual as yesterday’s New Age drivel. Or are you on the opposite side of the spectrum, a born-again believer who trembles with righteous indignation at any thoughts which deviate from your prescribed script?

Perhaps, like me, you came of edge in the 60’s and 70’s admist the termoil of Viet Nam, race riots, assassinations, drugs and the sexual revolution. There was little room for old time religion. Popular news magazines trumpted the ‘death of God’ as the inevitable outcome of rational thought. Even the beginning of the Age of Aquarius, the Hari Krishna movement the their ilk seemed silly and irrelevant to me. After all, science supplied all the answers. Didn’t it?

My schooling and career propelled me along the path of science. I became a physician which confirmed the correctness of all my prior thinking. Still, I carried a fragment of discontinuity within–that religious study degree. Some individuals thought it strange that an atheist would be interested in religion. But I found no such inconsistencey at all. Religion was a universal phenomeon, after all. Even if its premise was misguided.

My subsequent path has led me to re-evaluate everything. I find the universe far more complex yet interconnected than I could have every predicted. Science, rather than disproving spirit, is open to its metaphysical implications of a higher intelligence.

Healing becomes more than merely one’s particular occupation. It can be seen as both a spiritual and practical path for living, perhaps the purpose for existence itself. Correct the imperfections within ourselves, strive to help others along their own path. It becomes the manifestation of the Golden Rule of ‘do unto others’. When we believe we can heal, we live our lives with that consciousness. We become God-like but from a position of humility, not from ego. We are co-creating reality and it is filled with caring and compassion. We find our roles between the generations as a spiritual gift and not a burden at all, for it offers us the opportunity to heal not only our children and parents but ourselves as well.

© 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 daily Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com

Metaphysics and Weight Loss

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.


Physician to Meta-Physcian

The news is replete with statistics demonstrating the ‘epidemic’ of obesity in our nation. Our obsession with this topic reflects various aspects of our own attitude towards mind/body/spirit. Clearly obesity does represent an enormous risk to one’s health and in this regard it reflects upon not only the individual involved but the financial burden to our health care system. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke are undisputed complications of this condition. Apparently there is new data to implicate obesity as a potent risk for cancer as well. Obese individuals suffer from sudden death as a consequence of cardiac arrhythmias and pulmonary embolism at a rate that far exceeds the general population.

Of course the obesity problem cannot be removed from our culture’s obsession with the perfection of the human form. Media, TV, film, magazines, the internet bombard us constantly with the plastic surgical fix for physical beauty [which assumes a status of ‘unhealthy’ when it becomes obsessional]. The proliferation of gastric bypass procedudres, known as bariatric surgery is astounding as well. What is disturbing is the extent to which we view ourselves as primarily physical beings [ie bodies ] without the mental and spiritual aspects considered as well. Despite our private conversations regarding the ‘beauty’ of someone’s personality or soul it is extremely difficult not to get caught up with society’s obsession with faces and bodies.

Now I am not so naive as to dismiss the power of physical beauty. Personally speaking I am as fascinated by the esthetics of a beautiful individual as anyone. One must be aware, however, at how culturally based this notion can be. One can observe how powerfully the media can influence, both consciously and subconciously one’s attitude regarding art or fashion. The same clearly applies to our attitudes about physical beauty. I am quite sure that contemporaries of the 17th century Dutch artist Peter Paul Reubens, who delighted in painting full- figured women, would find contemporary female obsession with being extremely thin to be both unappealng and rather amusing.

Physical beauty need not be dismissed by the spiritually enlightened. Many spiritual traditions acknowledge any form of beauty as a gift from God and there is a Hebrew prayer that can be said upon viewing such an individual. It is the failure to see past the outer veneer of face and form, it is the obsession with the physical at the expense of all else that is so damaging to our sense of being.

Healing is the process by which we attempt to become whole. I have discussed in the blog on the Myth of Healing why this is not totally possible. Still, I applaud the process itself. It may reflect our very purpose for being here in the first place. The challenge of obesity should be seen within this context of the healing process. There may be a multitude number of reasons why someone becomes obese: genetics and metabolic processes certainly cannot be discounted. Yet far and away the cause is excessive caloric intake.

This is not the forum in which to discuss the various diets and dietary fads that exist. Those that ‘work’ for any period of time, however, are based upon behavior modification. Essentially weight gain and loss is astonishingly simple: if calories consumed exceed calories expended there is weight gain. If reduced below caloric expenditure there is weight loss. There are many ways to achieve this state of being. Exercise is clearly beneficial but far and away it is the consumption of calories that is the perpetrator of obesity.

Clearly there are many who are benefiting from bariatric surgery and I do not intend to demean any one individual who is incapable of losing weight by any other means. But in effect, it accomplishes through mechanical means that which the individual cannot or will not do by an act of free will: reduce caloric intake. What has disturbed me greatly, however, is the attitude and comments that I have personally witnessed which actually encourage further caloric intake in order to ‘qualify’ for gastric bypass surgery. Although this is clearly a distortion of rational thought, it does occur.

Now I am by no means an advocate of an ascetic life style. I do not believe it is beneficial on any level of mind/body/spirit to deprive ourselves totally of the pleasures of physical existence. Kabbalistic writings describe man as God’s ‘taste buds in the world’ and, therefore, to deny physical pleasures is to deny God’s access to his own creation.

Obsessive compulsion in any form: from eating, to exercise to any other addictive behaviors are ultimately contrary to healing. The Asian notion of Yin and Yang reflect a balanced approach to existence. The Buddha discovered this 2500 years ago after he abandoned the lifestyle of the extreme ascetic and advocated the ‘middle way’ to Enlightenment.

Our bodies, our sensory pleasures are gifts from Spirit. Still, by having the option to choose our behavior we are challenged to opt for a healthy approach to all aspects of it. To band our stomachs or by-pass them surgically is to regard ourselves as primarily a machine. Alter the anatomy and resolve the problem. The healing approach is to see ourselves as complete only when our minds and emotions as well as our spiritual legacy is taken into account.

Perhaps obesity, like other perceived misfortunes or difficulties in our lives are obstacles for which our souls contracted prior to this incarnation. Our goal, therefore, is not to bemoan our fates or to slip into the role of the victim. This is the road to despiar and probably more ‘comfort’ eating. Neither should we feel overwhelmed by this or any other task. We have the gift of seeing each moment as an opportunity for a new beginning.

In stead, transform our consciousness and observe the healing process unfold. The phrase self-awareness precedes self-repair is well applied to the problem of obesity.

© 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 Truth About the Metaphysical Journey

By Steve E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Metaphysician

The metaphysical journey is never simple or straightforward.

Life leads us into seemingly blind cul-de-sacs, endless featureless vistas, unrecognizable terrain. We often feel that we are eternally lost, even hopelessly so. Why are we here? Is this the result of blind, mindless wanderings? Could there be a purpose to these diversions, these dead-ends? Can we actually learn by being lost? Can we transform fear into an adventure in learning? Can these side excursions actually be opportunities for exploration and growth?

Perhaps we need to be aware of these possibilities. I return to the notion that self-awareness precedes self-repair. We need to appreciate the possibilities of choosing how we feel about our lives, our situations.

We can choose to view life’s difficulties, vicissitudes as challenges for which our souls may have contracted prior to this incarnation. (Of course this raises the question of reincarnation, to be explored in a future blog). But IF we can choose to recognize the probability or at least possibility that there is a higher purpose to our lives, we can proceed with an entirely different attitude about the events in which we are players.

We may even be able to view life as necessarily requiring our rising to and overcoming various assaults to our sense of fairness or peace. If we have incarnated in this ‘vale of tears’ than perhaps our souls accepted these challenges, however irrational they now appear to us, as advanced courses in overcoming adversity for the eventual purpose of spiritual advancement.

Such an approach to life is actually a choice. I would have never believed that statement in the past.

In fact I clearly recall my first exposure to Kabbalistic thought in 1995 during a series of lectures at a private home in Monmouth Country New Jersey. The speaker was a young bearded rabbi , Rabbi Stern of the Orthodox Lubavither sect. His very presence among less observant Jews was rather suprising in the first place. This was actually in the pre-Madonna publicity days when Kabbalah was still regarded as highly secretive and reserved for middle-aged males of advanced spiritual study and development.

There was an obvious agenda in his very presence. It was not to convince us to become more observant. It was, however, to reveal Kabbalistic concepts. The ‘time’ was right, he stated rather clearly, to reveal the wisdom of Kabbalah to the entire world. One of his stories involved his relationship to an older rabbi who was his mentor.

He recalled how Rabbi Jacobson ‘floated’ into the library one evening when he was struggling with the esoteric doctrines of Kabbalah and asked him if ‘he wanted to reach his highest destiny’. ‘Of course’, he replied, ‘who wouldn’t want that?’ Rabbi Jacobson then proceeded to state that we all have the free will to ‘choose what we want to believe’. His analogy was a gallery of paintings in which we all could choose to take home a painting and live with it for a while to see how we liked it. Reality was like that, a choice.

Now I was rather confused and frankly annoyed by this entire story. What could this nonsense possibly mean? How could one ‘choose’ what they wanted to believe? To me there was either reality or there was illusion. My skepticism was powerfully influenced by the school of ‘seeing is believing’. Reality was determined by our sensory experience of the universe, nothing more. We were passive players in the chaos of existence. Random events assaulted our fragile sense of security. Any sense or notion otherwise was strictly delusional. It was understandable that we live in fear of the next assault on our very being. Evil ruled the world. Besides, I thought, why would a Rabbi be involved in such ‘New Age’ relativistic thinking anyway?

Fortunately I did not lose my tapes of Rabbi Stern’s classes. A few years later, after my metaphysical journey began in earnest, I revisited those tapes and found them to be quite profound and meaningful. I have come to absolutely believe that we are capable of choosing our picture of reality, our paradigm, if you will. This is not an act of delusion at all. Free will is our greatest gift. It is the only power we have in the face of adversity. We can choose how we view our lives. As long as it does not lead us into vulerability or do us harm, as long as we retain our underlying open-minded pragmatic skepticism, we will come to understand the power of that image.

Wasn’t it true that different people viewed their own lives with varying degrees of peace and joy? Why could some perservere despite obvious tragedy and not seem depressed while others existed in a constant state of worry, confusion and illness despite what appeared to be much less difficult lives?

I began to see that very paradox in my patient’s attitudes toward their own lives and diseases. I saw it among personal contacts and family members as well. We do have the power, the free will, to choose to see our lives as having a higher purpose. We may choose to see adversity as a challenge and opportunity rather than a punishment. We may choose to never give up on the struggle to overcome our darkest fears. We may choose to find meaning within the context of adversity.

Such an attitude is the necessary first step towards joy and healing.

© 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 daily Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com.

Healing through Happiness

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.


Physician to Meta-Physician

If sadness can be the source of enlightened healing, then surely happiness can.

In STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS by Daniel Gilbert, a popular professor of psychology at Harvard , Gilbert describes a plethora of ways and means by which the average person creates their own sense of reality from amongst the fragments of their lives.

This form of ‘spinning’ can take a series of circumstances which might appear to an outsider as extremely negative and demoralizing. Yet the affected individual might just choose to regard these events as temporary road blocks which may very well serve to inspire them to 1] re-empower their skills, 2] direct them along a somewhat different path, 3] totally alter their life’s journey. Any one of these options can leave the individual full of energy and hope for the future. A similar set of circumstances, however, could totally depress and demoralize a different individual.

Tailoring our reaction to life’s events is a theme of the NLP [neurolinquistic programming] group. Although I am far from an expert on their positions and methods, I do know that they also emphasize changing the language by which we characterize events in our lives. Words and phrases are powerful signals to our conscious as well as unconscious minds. Seeing ourselves as failures, victims, or losers in life’s game merely reinforces and exacerbates the negative energy which can only cripple us further. It is unproductive, to say the least.

Depressives may believe that their reaction to life’s events are more ‘rational’ than the deluded optimist. Yet ultimately, who is correct? It may very well be that all personal impressions of ourselves and our lives are fabricated anyway. Have you met individuals who regard themselves as unattractive or uninteresting yet who you have found to be the opposite? Even more common are those who project an impression of self-confidence that may seem disproportionate or even unwarranted. You may have noticed that the self-confident individual usually attains their goals more often than the ‘underachiever’.

Also be cognizant of the fact that we may or may not share the goals and aspirations of our fellow man. A series of life circumstances might be regarded as an abject failure to someone driven to accumulate money and fame. To another, these same set of circumstances perhaps associated with a loving family and friends but with less material success may be viewed as highly successful and joyous.

I have noted previously that self-awareness precedes self-repair . And by that statement I mean that we have to become familiar with the nature of reality and our role within the spiritual universe before we can assist in our own healing. In the context of this particular blog it should become obvious that a joyous, positive self-awareness will be far more effective in healing than the opposite. Joy is a positive stimulant of our body’s inherent healing properties. We will likewise attract more enriching human emotional responses from others as well.

Is there a point, however, where self-delusion is harmful and counterproductive to healing? Clearly, someone who has outrageous, irrational and unwarranted opinions of themselves will be regarded as a fool by those around them. Declaring oneself a candidate for the Olympic games with no reasonable chance of success is clearly a waste of time. Declaring oneself on the path to a Nobel Prize in physics for a high school dropout may be equally delusional. Reality checks and periodic feedback from others is crucial in order to validate our highest opinions of ourselves. This does not mean that we rely soley on the opinion of others. Obviously, that contradicts the strong self-reliance and self-awareness concept.

So perhaps the most reasonable approach to life is this: seek the highest level of optimism which allows us to heal our wounds. Choose happiness whenever possible since this is clearly the state of being which fills our hearts and minds with healing energy. Be aware of our chosen path and if there is a persistent lack of progress towards whatever our self-proclaimed goals, be willing to modify and re-visit those goals. Altering or re-directing our energies does not have to be seen as failure.

Gilbert seems to regard unhappy people as having ‘a more accurate view of reality’. I disagree. Afterall, whose opinion is that anyway? Yours, mine or his?

© 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 daily Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com.

Healing Through Sadness

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

Sadness seems to defy the very notion of healing. Rather, all spiritual traditions point to a state of joy as essential in order to approach the Divine. Enlightenment is always pictured as a smiling Buddha, an ecstatic Saint. Kabbalistic and Hindu writings share similar notions that one should not leave one’s abode without donning a smile. To do so is to impose your negative energy on others as well as to doubt the ultimate goodness of the creation. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism noted that the transmission of joy through the act of smiling is such a profound spiritual act as to justify one’s entire incarnation in this lifetime.

Healing means, ‘to make whole’ and sadness seems to render one fragmented and frustrated. Sadness seems to weaken us, as if someone has tapped our vital energy and allowed it to dissipate. So, one may justly ask, how can healing occur through sadness? Precisely, I maintain, because sadness offers an enormous challenge to our sense of self. Precisely because it threatens to jolt us from a state of joyous equililbrium. Precisely because it forces us to explore our inner fears and to repair them. That is why healing through sadness is so powerful.

It is easy to smile when the sun is shining, all our plans seem blessed and we feel loved and protected. When we fear failure, disappointment, lonelieness we pull back within a shell known in Kabbalistic terms as klippot. Of course, the irony is that this act only further isolates us from the love of others as well as the self-love which can liberate us from sadness and fear. Our mission, therefore, is to tear open these restraints, to ‘raise Holy Sparks’ in the parlance of the Kabbalist. What greater challenge is there than to find light bound under layers of protecting darkness.

Recognize that these challenges are necessary and ultimately redemptive. Healing or tikkun becomes our soul’s mission in this world. It is a challenge to find joy, to liberate ourselves from behind self-imposed shells of protection.

Rejecting sadness becomes, therefore, an act of choice, of pure will, not of reasoned logic. To do so may seem to some as an act of delusion, or irrational ‘spinning’ of one’s life’s events. Yet the ultimate purpose is to recast reality in a manner that will allow us to break out of these chains of despair and to heal. How could Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl create a philosophy of psychotherapy, logotherapy in which the most horrendous of human degredation could be overcome through the act of will. How could such an individual ever smile, ever find one ounce of joy in existence? The fact that he chose to defy extermination through love and joy was Frankl’s response.

Spiritual thinkers have always acknowledged that the greatest achievement is to achieve holiness from the depths of darkness. Overcoming sadness recognizes this transformation. It is the ultimate form of healing.

© 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.