HOLOCAUST STUDIES— Again ? or Never Again !

It is a painful, difficult subject and some say "enough already". 

 There are Holocaust films, Holocaust Centers, Holocaust Studies at a multitude of universities. What about Holocaust tours to Concentration Camps and Crematoria in Eastern Europe?  Is it all about the Jews?  What about the many other genocides that have occurred and continue to occur around the world.  What about the claims that "there's no business like Shoah business,"  that the meaning has been subordinated to an entire industry.

On the other hand there are many who say we can NEVER study the Holocaust enough.  It is the only hope we have of preventing future genocides.

I believe the balance should be in favor of continued Holocaust studies. They must be placed in the context of the history of genocides past and present.  We need to list them all, to name them, to honor their dead, to not miss any! The  goal is not to revel in the atrocities of the past but to  to prevent those of the future.

Every genocide is unique.  Each had unique historical, religious, racial antecedents.  Each soul who perished must be remembered and mourned.  It should not be a numbers game. 

 But the numbers do have an enormous impact on us.  The Nazi's "final solution" lead to the extermination of around 6 million Jews.  That was one-third of the entire Jewish population in the world.  What is mind boggling and can never be forgotten–over one million innocent children were a part of this ultimate evil.

By placing the Holocaust in the context of other genocides we demonstrate that this was not merely a "German" problem.   ALL human beings are capable of participating in such horrors.

We need to study this.

We need to teach our children about what can happen when hatred and demonization of other human beings which begins  in the cradle and is not challenged is allowed to fester. 

 We need to show them what can happen when perfectly sane but morally corrupt individuals follow the will of those in authority who are determined to perpetrate crimes against innocent human beings they deem different or inferior.

We need to study the work of Stanley Milgram the psychologist who explored the concept of  obedience to authority figures in which ordinary individuals were capable of torturing another (they were unaware that no one was really hurt) because they were instructed to do so.

We need to read the writings of Hannah Arendt who took note of the "banality of evil", describing how Adoph Eichmann, the bureaucrat and   architect of the Holocaust  performed his tasks without any overt animosity.

We need to teach our children that they are personally, morally responsible for their choices in life. 

 We need to teach our police officers that, unlike the German police during the Nazi onslaught,  it is a moral imperative to refuse an unethical order.

We need to seek out groups that preach hatred towards others.

They may not personally be capable of creating genocides but their poisoning of human minds are the fertilized ground for them.

No one can convince me otherwise–2000 years of Christian anti-semitism was the toxic substance upon which the Nazi Jew-hatred flourished and manifested in the willingness of collaborators from Baltic and Slavic countries to enthusiastically perform their "duties". 

We need to study the righteous among us who refused to give in. 

 We need to honor them, to study their bravery in the face of threats to their own lives and those of their families. 

 We need to honor their committment to moral good when those around them succumbed to evil.

So Holocaust studies? 

 I say yes.

However difficult they may be. 

However uncomfortable they make us. 

 However upset our children may become when they learn about our dark side. 

It is truly our only hope

–that our past does not inevitably become our future.

A METAPHYSICAL DILEMMA–AS SCIENCE ADVANCES–SO DOES THE MYSTERY

There is most likely a public conception that as science advances, the underlying nature of the universe becomes better understood.  in other words as science advances, mystery should dissipate. 

But in truth, the opposite has occurred.  At the beginning of the twentieth century physicists were convinced that there would be no new breakthroughs in scientific thought.  The universe was regarded as a giant machine.  All the laws of nature were felt to have been discovered and mystery had all but vanished.l

The brilliant minds of physicists including Planck,  Bohr, Heisenberg, Einstein, and a host of others radically upset that fantasy.

Relativity theory and quantum theory proved to be scientifically and mathematically true.  But the nature of reality they described were incredibly complex and counter intuitive.

We are faced with a universe in which scientific advances have brought more mystery, not less! 

An interview with physicist Leonard Susskind in July's issue of Scientific American confirms this paradox.

The desire to understand the nature of reality is the metaphysician's quest.  Yet the most brilliant of theoretic physicists such as Susskind are backing off any attempt to explain what that reality is.  They have declined the attempt to make sense of what they know.

As three dimensional creatures (four if you include time) how can we possibly wrap our minds about 10 or 11 dimensions of String Theory's multiple universes?

Susskind is quoted as stating that we are "….prisoners of our own neural architecture."  Perhaps we will never be able to "understand" where the mathematics of advanced physics takes us.

But perhaps someday we will.  Who can say?

Mystery remains.  So let us continue the quest.  Perhaps this acknowledgment that it persists will allow us to continue our serious investigation of the nature of the spiritual and paranormal. 

We need to be rational and critical of what is offered up as  paranormal truth.  But even science is forced to come to terms with the mystery that cannot be explained. 

I suspect that much of what we term the spiritual universe may someday be explained as a mysterious dimension of unusual vibrational energy. 

 I cannot prove that contention.  But for the time being no one can dissprove it either.

LOSE THE NEWS — Tune Out For Serenity

Ever wonder why we seem more stressed out than previous generations?  Is it actually so or merely a perception? 

I believe it is real.  And a great deal of it  can be blamed on the 24hr news cycle, tv, internet, twitter, cell phones, Ipads, computers etc.

The entire information revolution has inundated us with news on a continuous basis.  And much of it is negative!! 

Wars, terrorism, murder trials, atrocities, economic disaster, tsunamis, tornadoes–pain and suffering are constantly inundating our minds, our consciousness.

The dark side is what makes news!  And we are continuously being bathed in it.

How can we possible feel good when we perceive a world which is constantly on the verge of self-destruction?

Well, the world may not actually be any worse now than at any other time in human history.  But now technology so good at providing it to us on a continuous basis.

And in truth the numerous moments when loved is shared, genosity shown, kindness and charity offered are never considered newsworthy.

In the "old days" people would receive their info from a daily newspaper or evening news.  In between they could deal with their own personal problems and leave the world behind.

Now we have to juggle the personal with the world at large.  It is overwhelming and ultimately destructive to our mental as well as physical health.

I'm not advocating a total ban on world news.  That would be foolish.  We are all entitled to keep up with what is happening on our planet.  But we need to back off from our obsessive preoccupation with the suffering that surrounds us.

The negative energy beats us down and frankly there is little we can do as individuals to help. This is not to disuade well-meaning individuals from supporting organizations which strive to combat world suffering.  Noble causes clearly need our personal and financial support.

I'm referring to the continuous deluge of sadness, grief and violence, distilled from the four corners of the globe and funnelled into our consciousness. 

So let's give ourselves a break.  Turn off the information highway for a while.  Give it all a rest.

Go outside, sit and meditate, engage in physical activities, make love, watch a movie……anything to break the pattern of being constantly and continuously hooked into the world stage of negative events.

The serenity this will bring will go a long way towards personal healing.

The Metaphysical Mission–Altered Traits vs Altered States

What is it like to have a near-death experience? What and how do mediums communicate with disembodied souls? What is the inner experience of the mystic? Where does a deep meditator go when they reach higher consciousness?   What is a psychedelic, Shamanic experience and what are these drug-induced experiences anyway?  When the term "ineffable" is used it means no words can describe these experiences. Yet they refer  to an altered states of consciousness which reflect the inner experience of some of us.

It is interesting that most spiritual traditions, from Hindu, Buddhist, Christian mystic and Kabbalistic describe these altered states with considerable caution and definite warning.  They are not only "dangerous" in that they can lead one to a place from which they cannot return, but psychological damage can ensue.

Perhaps it is just that mystery which surrounds them which attracts metaphysical seekers.  The danger, according to the teachers and gurus, is that these states become the goal rather than the effect of deep spiritual work and years of study and commitment.

The goal, as described by professor of religion Huston Smith is the altered traits which all spiritual traditions promote–compassion, charity, kindness, balancing the physical world of objects and possessions with spiritual goals, love of Spirit and all beings.

In fact the altered states can be regarded as traps.  The seeker can become attached to them and lose sight of the true goal of the spiritual journey. They appeal to the ego's sense of mastery and therefore are misguided.

When the seeker becomes obsessed with these states and/or the paranormal abilities that may come with them they often lose their way. They will never progress towards their goal of spiritual evolution unless they regard these abilities as secondary and a curious by-product of their journey.

The altered traits are goals which we can all seek and actually attain…..regardless of how much we desire altered states.

 

EVIL 101– Morality ? Religion? Biology? Empathy?– Borat’s Cousin Speaks Out

An illustrious British family produces two interesting offspring-Sacha Baron Cohen, eccentric film maker and bizarre comedian, and Simon Baron-Cohen, psychologist.

Simon is interested in the nature of evil acts, as am I.  His bhttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/science/14scibks.html?ref=science book "The Science of Evil" is reviewed in the NYTImes.

Is evil a biologic imperative or a free will act?  What motivated Holocaust prison guards to prod Jewish children and babies into gas chambers while fondly tucking their own children into bed at night?  What state of mind allows warring African tribes to bash in the heads of babies, rape the women of their neighboring tribe?

This remains the ultimate question.  Who are we? 

 Baron-Cohen writes about levels of empathy.  He prefers this term over "evil". I can understand his perspective.  The term "evil" has religious implications as well as the possibility of interpretation.  After all didn't the Nazis justify their actions as "only following orders"?.  They very likely did not consider themselves to be evil, merely eliminating those they had already demonized and de-humanized. 

War has been used to justify many acts of brutality and there have always been the gray zone in which atrocities have been excused by those who perpetrate them.  But…..there are those which cross the line. 

When self-defense becomes brutal annihilation of innocents, we are entitled to use the term "evil".

 

  I believe we all possess a  gene.  It is the tribal gene.  It reflects the ability create a "us" versus "them" attitude.  It allows us to de-humaize other human beings and therefore perform atrocities upon them.

 What triggers this gene to express itself is the powerful emotion– FEAR.  Fear produces two opposite responses in human beings–withdrawal and escape, or attack and destroy.  Attack is the more acceptable and satisfying of the two. 

FEAR is the emotion which drains empathy for those who threaten us.

As a species capable of suspending empathy based on fear of the other we need to study how and why this occurs.

Perhaps the definition of evil is the propensity to lose empathy for another living being.

But evil it remains and referring to it as a lack of empathy somehow lessens its  horrific destructive potential.

SUICIDE — A Metaphysical Perspective

The tragedy of suicide was brought home to me recently when we learned of the death of a niece of a close friend.

I didn't know the young woman who took her life.  I had heard she was in her early twenties and a college student at Columbia University.  She may have been treated for depression.

I've read that over one million people a year commit suicide.  Their reasons may vary but for the vast majority they are most likely mentally disturbed, unbalanced at the time.

I say this because I do believe that whatever the circumstances of their particular lives, whether they have been diagnosed with manic-depression or any other biologic condition, at the actual moment that they do kill themselves, they are not "in their right minds".

I do not discount the possibility that someone can be completely clear thinking, that they weighed the pluses and minuses of continuing existence, planned their deaths in an unemotional state of being and then performed the deed. 

 I do believe this is a very small percentage of the total.  I could also argue that their lack of emotion signifies some deep abnormal emotional state.  No one would otherwise contemplate ending their own life unless they were suffering intensely.

I also believe that unremitting physical pain, end of life existence where palliative care is unsuccessful (unusual by the way) may be a different category.  There is nothing noble about unremitting suffering. 

I  do not believe that all suicides are doomed to eternal damnation.  But I do believe that our souls do not incarnate with the intention of ending our lives prematurely.

I do believe that some souls choose extremely difficult and challenging lives, even in a brain with biochemical imbalances, with the possibility, the intention of overcoming such circumstances.  Hopefully they will succeed.  Sometimes they do not.

"Evidence" seems to point to the following scenario after a suicide.  

 The soul quickly regains consciousness after death.  It is devastated to find that all its awareness and suffering persist.  It has not escaped its mental state of being.  Worse, it comprehends the suffering it has caused its loved-ones. 

The already disturbed soul suffers greatly.  This is a self-induced "hell".  There is no imposition of punishment from higher spiritual levels.  Our souls are the harshest judges in the universe.

 Most mediums including George Anderson a self-proclaimed Catholic describe the loving attention and care that suicides receive.

My dialogue with a gifted psychic/medium was extremely helpful.  She said that she had contacted the son of her mother's friend who had killed himself.  He expressed his severe anguish over what he did and the consequences for his remaining family.  He believed himself to be punished and banished to "hell".

Later she tried unsuccessfully to contact him.  Then, on a third attempt she was successful.  This time his soul energy was completely different.  He seemed serene and joyous.  When she questioned his transition he responded, "I forgave myself".

I found that exchange powerfully revealing.  Our most severe critics are ourselves, in this life and the next.

The punishment for suicide is our own soul's awareness that it was not able to overcome the state of mind or body it faced and chose to exit the physical plane by its own actions.

If we were suffering some end stage physical deterioration and chose to bypass some of this torment,  it would be unlikely that our soul would punish itself further with a sense of guilt.

So suicide is an unfortunate step in the soul's evolution.  But it does not mean eternal damnation or suffering. 

 Learning to move through suffering both in and out of life is the soul journey we are destined to travel.

 

END OF LIFE DISCUSSIONS — Is a Law The Way to Deal With It?

A recent NYTimes article by Jane Brody http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/health/07brody.html?scp=1&sq=law%20end-of-life&st=cse addresses the important but controversial topic of end of life and the doctor/patient discussion with an added twist–should it be mandated by law?

I am certainly a physician who feels strongly that end of life / palliative care issues continue to be inadequately discussed and debated.  But this is an issue/problem not just for the medical establishment but for society as a whole.

I am ambivalent about how the issue should be handled. 

 What upsets me and most of my colleagues is the mandatory nature of the law.  We are already feeling besieged by insurance and governmental interference in our private practices and how it has negatively impacted on the doctor/patient experience. We are overburdened by paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense.  We are threatened by legal action if we fail to conform. 

With presumably good intentions the government mandated HIPPA laws to protect patient confidentiality have often gone to excess.  If I have a sick patient and his/her spouse is the only person officially listed, in theory I can't discuss their status with a child or parent–even if it is perfectly clear to me that they should be able to hear my opinion.   I worry about similar unforseen consequences with this new legislative mandate.

On the other hand I do concur that my medical colleagues are woefully derelict in their duties to discuss palliative care and end of life issues with their patients.

The causes for their lack of attention is numerous.  Some are just ignorant/unaware of the need to be a part of the discussion. Others have their own ethical/religious opinions which may lead them to avoid or reject such discussions completely.  Still others may find economic reward by continuing aggressive medical therapies.  I believe this last category represents a small percentage of physicians, but they are to be roundly condemned for their tactics.

The issue is how to deal with the discussion. 

My preference is for an aggressive educational process–one that is directed to both my medical colleagues and more importantly, to the public. 

The mass media which revels in scandal and voyeuristic exposures of the distorted and disturbed lives of would-be celebrities should be opening the public's mind to the importance of end of life issues.

Oprah should have done more.  Hopefully Dr. Oz will do so.  Other media outlets need to contribute to the public discussion.  Awareness is key.

I would like to encourage the public to raise these issues with their physicians and other health care providers. 

My patients do not take their health care passively.  Nor should they. 

 I would rather see this discussion continue to expand and grow……but without the imposition of more regulations and laws.

WHAT IS A META-PHYSICIAN ANYWAY ?

It struck me recently that readers of this blog may not realize why I call it Physician to MetaPhysician in the first place.

What is metaphysics?  What is the difference between a metaphysician and a meta-physician? 

Although I tried to explain these terms in my book and in an early blog posting (December 16, 2006) I believe that an explanation is in order.

In brief the term metaphysics is a branch of philosophy whose origins are from Aristotle.  His writings on the nature of reality, of spirit, of the soul and the like were discovered after his death after (meta) his works on the physical (physica) world.  Ergo–metaphysics.

Traditional concepts of metaphysics involved strictly intellectual arguments for or against the existence of God, the soul, the nature of morality, of knowledge and ultimate meaning.  It was not considered to be empirical or based on scientific observations.

Over the centuries, however, the insights of science and psychology as well as other fields have broadened the concept.

As I see it, any field which touches on the nature of ultimate reality  has metaphysical implications.  So not only science but religion, spirituality even the arts reflect the human desire to seek wisdom and understanding.

Now there is a less academic and more popular connotation of metaphysics as well–New Age, mystical, paranormal, occult, mediumship practices and writings are lumped together under this topic.

A seeker of wisdom, as I see it, whether formally schooled or just curious about the nature of reality  is a metaphysician as I see it.

A metaphysician is merely a similarly afflicted physician and as such I have attempted to bring my deep desire to understand the universe and the human beings who inhabit it to the practice of medicine.

It has been and will, I'm sure, continue to be a great challenge.  But it is one I enjoy pursuing.

 

Renamed — THE WEINER SYNDROME (formerly The King David Syndrome)

On July 29, 2009 I posted a piece regarding the King David Syndrome.  It specifically referred to Sanford, Spitzer, Clinton and Patterson who were in the news at the time.  Along with John Edwards ( who is still a current item of interest) they represented some apparently newsworthy philanderers from the world of politics. 

Of course King David was their Biblical forefather.  But I confess.  I cannot resist renaming this the Weiner Syndrome.  It may be juvenile and obvious, but so fitting. 

 Another public figure risking his/their entire political career for some sexual encounter, real or virtual.  The internet appears to be a trap for those foolish enough not to understand its power. (sexting appears to be epidemic these days). 

Now a days we notice some foreign monikers–Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger. The names may be different, the impulse remains unchanged.

  So once again I ponder the nature of human nature.  Once again smart, ambitious, hard-working politicians are brought low by  impulsive, sex-driven desires. 

Is it the thrill of possibly getting caught? Of gambling that they will not?  Is there a rush of adrenaline? dopamine infusing their brains? the ultimate high? 

 It is fascinating to consider that these men have often meticulously, intentionally, with great attention to detail and strategy helped create their own successful careers.  Yet with seeming reckless abandon fall victim to what is clearly a stronger impulse.

Is it conceivable that the same individual who does achieve success in the highly competitive, aggressive world of politics are the same men who are so vulnerable to what seems to be self-destructive, highly risky behavior?

We speak metaphorically of the "other head" which seems to be in control. 

 It is the one that seems to do all the "thinking" these days.

Hmmm.  I guess the "Weiner Syndrome" does fit the bill. 

 

Can I Do Anything About It Now ?— If Not……Let It Go

We seek order out of chaos. 

We seek to relieve our suffering and that of those we love.  We hope for happiness.  We despise illness, disease and death.  We abhor war, killing and torture.  We seek success and peace. We worry about the past–the mistakes we made, the poor choices, the people we trusted who disappointed us. 

 We miss the life we had dreamed of, the loved ones who have passed away.  We worry that those we love will have misfortune befall them, will make poor choices, will suffer.

 We can't get over it. We suffer

 Problems arise because we CAN control some of our fate.  

We know that we can perform certain tasks which will make our lives easier, more fulfilling.  We can live a healthy life style, we can plan for our futures, we can plan trips, we can arrange for meetings, we can study hard, we can devise strategies which will hopefully bring our lives personal and professional fulfillment.

But what happens when our well-devised plans fail us?  What happens when the "good" person dies tragically?  What happens when we face enormous adversity from which there seems no relief or release?

But what about the unknown?  What about the truth that life offers us uncertainty in place of predictability?  What about unforeseen events over which no one, especially us, have control?

It is fascinating that quantum physics describes a universe whose basis is often unpredictable.  There is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, there are the effects of the observer on the outcome of scientific experiments.  Even the nature of light, be  it a particle or a wave, will be different depending on the experiment and observations we set up.  Relativity implies that ultimate reality is not something objective, removed from the observer.  We all creators whether we realize it or not.

 That can be rather disconcerting. We would like to believe that there is some underlying order.  We would like to believe that good behavior leads to a blessed and joyous life.  This is not true.  The Book of Job in the Bible speaks to this issue.

Have we made poor decisions in our past?  Of course we have.  Can we change what has occurred?  Of course not….then we we need to let go.

Have we made errors?  Have we hurt people we should not have?  Can we do anything to change or effect those errors?  If so, do so.  If not…..let it go.

Has someone we cherish hurt us in anyway?  Can we do anything to change what they have done?  Were their intentions to hurt us?  Or were they self-centered, foolish, unthinking?  Either way, we have no ability to change anything….let it go.

Can we do anything to change what has occurred?  If not….we must let if go.

Has someone we loved left us?  Have they failed to return our love? Have they died?   This is the past that cannot be altered…..let it go.

Have those we cherish made bad choices?  Can we alter what they have done?  Can we intervene and assist them in growing through their errors?  If so, do so, if not….let it go.

What can be changed is how we think about our lives.  We can learn to process negativity so that it is transformed into a learning experience.  We can see adversity not as punishment but as opportunity.  We can take our own suffering and become a compassionate advocate for others who suffer.

And in any case, whether we learn from our suffering, grow and help others or simply deal with it on a personal level…..we need to let it go.