Science is a good thing, a very good thing. It has provided a means for evolving an ever correcting and increasingly accurate picture of the truth about the world we live in. I have mixed feelings about saying the same for religion. Many positive human acts have come out of religion. The compassionate ministry of Mother Theresa comes to mind. Yes, and the Ten Commandments. But so many terrible human acts have been performed in the name of religion. Even shy of those, religions tend to be tied up with bureaucracies, orthodoxies, and divisiveness in ways that can stifle the human spirit and destroy love.
Something needs to change to achieve the potential for greater good inherent in religion. What seems to be missing could be summed up in the term spirituality. By this I am pointing to that which lies beyond the four dimensional space-time phenomena that seem to fill our lives and constitute our perceived world. My experiences have taught me the realm of the spiritual exists and meaningfully interfaces with our physical world. There is a universal, common quality to that which is spiritual, in contrast to the highly divisive separations of one religion from another. There is value in transitioning our restrictive structures and concepts of religion to the universal oneness encountered in spirituality. It is fine to keep the uniqueness of each religion, as the differences among religions allow for richness and diversity in human experience and expression. But we should never lose sight of the fact that each religion is a path to awakening to and experiencing the spiritual, and the spiritual is universal and common for all.
Medicine, too, has produced so much that is positive, from antibiotics to life saving surgeries, to anesthesia and pain relieving medications. I have spent my career in medicine, helping bring the best medicine has to offer to as many people as possible. But something needs to change to achieve the potential for greater good in medicine. In Doctor Confidential: Secrets Behind the Veil, I attempted to show, through the true stories of my patient encounters, what that change needs to be. We have become so enamored of the latest (and most expensive) technologies that we have lost the necessary focus on healing. We need to temper the march of technological innovation with the most potent tool we have for healing, the human heart. We need to resist efforts by allopathic medicine to enforce hegemony over all healing practices, instead embracing integrative medicine that joins the best of conventional medicine with the best of complementary and alternative medicine. In short, we need to make our focus not the practice of medicine but true healing.
Science done well can help achieve the greater potential in both religion and medicine. As I share in Joyfully Shattered: A Physician’s Awakening at the Crossroads of Science and Spirituality, science has begun and will continue to prove the truth of spirituality, a truth that breaks out of all orthodoxies into that which is universal. Science done well (and without prejudice, but that is a topic for another day) will also help us identify the best of conventional, complementary, and alternative medicine, pointing the way to truly integrative medicine that achieves healing in its greatest manifestation.
So this is our challenge: To build a bridge from the science, religion, and medicine of today to the science, spirituality, and healing of tomorrow. As has been said, “The task if not yours to complete. Neither may you refrain from beginning it.” Let us begin.