About the Author
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TRADITIONAL JEWISH RIDDLE, CITED IN NATHAN AUSUBEL, A TREASURY OF JEWISH FOLKLORE--
RIDDLE: A man dreamt that he was on a ship at sea with his father and mother, when the ship began to sink. It was possible to save only himself and one other person--either his father or mother--not both. What should he do?
ANSWER: He should wake up!
I'LL never forget the first time I met Joan, a patient who had come to me after being diagnosed with an advanced form of breast cancer. Joan was a shy, quiet woman in her early fifties, dressed in a light gray suit and dark blue blouse. The only touch of color in her outfit was a small yellow enamel pin in the shape of a daffodil, pinned to her lapel. There was something about the image of the little flower, alone against the expanse of pale gray cloth, that I found both moving and painful.
Like many of my patients, Joan had been to a number of other doctors before she'd come to me. She'd already had a double mastectomy and subsequent treatments of chemotherapy. But, as sometimes happens, the cancer had come back. Joan had heard about my efforts to integrate a spiritual perspective with the latest in medical care, and she thought such an approach might help her defeat the disease that seemed so determined to remain with her.
As we spoke, I was struck by the way every aspect of Joan's life seemed to come down to two unpleasant choices. As a young woman, she'd had the chance to take an exciting job in another city. But she worried that such a choice might disrupt her relationship with her fiance, who was just getting started in his own career, so she turned the job down. Later, after she'd gone back to college to become a social worker, she decided that she wanted to get further training in psychoanalysis and become a private therapist. By the time I met her, she had successfully completed her training and established her career--but now she was haunted by the worry that her demanding practice was depriving her three children of her time, energy, and attention.
So when Joan asked me to tell her how Matrix Healing might apply to her situation, I found myself telling her the story of the man and his dream. "That's the perspective that Matrix Healing can offer," I explained. "Most of us have an outlook on life that is far too limited. But Matrix Healing can help us wake up to all sorts of new possibilities."
Joan was intrigued by the concept of the Matrix--the parallel reality that each of us can access right here and now. A rational person with a strong faith in science, she was drawn to this vision of science and spirituality coming together, supported by the latest research in quantum physics, neurology, psychology, and medicine. She began to see that this research all pointed in the same direction: to the notion that we human beings have far more control over our bodies, our health, and our lives than most of us ever suspected.
NEW FRONTIERS IN SCIENCE AND HEALTH
Although quantum physics supplanted classical physics a century ago, the implications of the quantum revolution have yet to penetrate biology and in particular, neuroscience.
--JEFFREY SCHWARTZ, M.D., AND SHARON BEGLEY, THE MIND AND THE BRAIN
When I was in medical school, all my professors agreed absolutely: there was the human body, and then there was the reality "out there." Things from "out there"--germs, bacteria, viruses--invaded our individual bodies, causing illness. More things from "out there"--drugs, medicine, surgery--could penetrate us "in here," curing illness. Both getting sick and getting well were seen as purely objective processes that could be measured, quantified, and, eventually, controlled.
Although doctors might disagree on this or that cure, they all agreed on one thing: the patient's own consciousness was irrelevant. What mattered was the doctor's ability to manipulate drugs and body parts, much as a mechanic manipulates the parts of a car. It would be a foolish mechanic, indeed, who believed that his or her feelings--let alone the car's feelings!--had anything to do with getting the vehicle back on the road. We doctors were considered equally foolish to believe that either our own or the patient's consciousness played any role in the healing process. Yet, as we saw in the Introduction, this vision of the body as machine was based on a long-outdated model of the physical world, grounded in the seventeenth-century classical physics proposed by Sir Isaac Newton and supplemented by the mechanistic views of RenoŽ Descartes.
Ironically, there is some evidence that Newton studied Kabbalah and that, on a personal level, he had a spiritual, almost mystical, view of the universe. Certainly, he was a great scientist, the founder of modern physics, discoverer of the laws of motion, the force of gravity, and the basic principles of thermodynamics.
Yet almost despite himself, Newton's scientific approach introduced into Western thought a problematic, even destructive tendency. Particularly as taken up by Descartes, Newton's genius inadvertently led Europeans to the gradual adoption of a mechanistic worldview.
Before Newton and Descartes, the world seemed to be full of mysterious forces--some spiritual, some physical, and all poorly understood. The new science they stood for offered another view of the world--as a vast machine, operating according to the natural laws of gravity and magnetism. In this world, material forces were responsible for everything that happened. If we used the scientific method to conduct well-organized experiments, we could observe and measure those forces. If the experiments were conducted properly, they would always come out the same way, no matter which scientist was in charge--and no matter what the individual scientist felt, believed, or expected.
The separation of consciousness from the material world was central to this new idea of science. What an individual scientist believed wasn't supposed to matter: well-run experiments should always produce the same results. You might be Christian while I was Jewish; you might be an atheist while I was a believer; you might agree with Newton while I disagreed--no matter. Our consciousness was irrelevant. Only the physical world was important.
Medical science adapted this model for the human body. During the Middle Ages, humans were seen as a mysterious mixture of physical and spiritual, body and soul, animal and divine. But as the so-called scientific approach caught on, doctors started to view human beings in purely physical forms. An individual doctor might believe in God or in some spiritual principle--that was his or her own business. But such opinions had nothing to do with the pure science of medicine.
This approach led to an entirely new way of viewing the human body. Traditional medicine had seen the heart, for instance, as a place where spiritual and physical functions joined, and doctors as well as poets had spoken of the heart as the seat of love. But in the spirit of the new science, the pioneering British anatomist Thomas Harvey argued that the heart was simply a mechanical device, a pump whose primary function was to distribute blood throughout the body. To Harvey and his followers, the poets were silly dreamers, while the new doctors were practical men of science.
To be fair, a great deal of good came out of this mechanistic view. Scientists who saw the heart as a pump went on to invent new types of heart medicine, open-heart surgery, pacemakers, and all sorts of other technological wonders. I'll be the first to admit that modern medical technology has saved thousands, if not millions, of lives. Certainly, I myself rely on modern technology in countless ways as I treat my patients.
Nevertheless, an overreliance on technology and the mechanistic worldview that created it has led to a medical science that is simply incorrect. Harvey's important discoveries notwithstanding, we now have access to scientific data of a very different kind. We know that anger, worry, and anxiety are bad for the heart. And recent research has shown that whenever we experience love, caring, and compassion, the heart's electromagnetic coherence increases and its health improves. Apparently, the ancients were right: we do indeed love with our hearts. (For more specific information on these ideas, see Chapters 4 and 7.)
Another limitation in medical science comes from the tradition of basing all medical knowledge on studies of the corpse. Again, dissecting cadavers has led to enormous advances in medical science. But it has also limited our understanding in crucial ways. After all, the human body is not a corpse. The effects of life--electromagnetic impulses, the impact of muscle movement on our mood, and a thousand other vital signs--simply cannot be understood by studying dead bodies. I vividly recall my own discomfort when I met my first cadaver in medical school. I wasn't put off by the formaldehyde or the rigor mortis but rather by my growing realization that here was where modern medicine was looking for its answers--in bodies that literally lacked thoughts, emotions, and souls. The logical outcome of this approach was succinctly stated by the 1965 Nobel Prize-winning biologist Jacques Monod: "Anything can be reduced to simple, obvious, mechanical interactions."
As the noted scholar Rabbi Elimelech reached the end of his life, he grew ill and was unable to eat. One day his son, Rabbi Elazar, begged him to take a little nourishment. "Oh," said Rabbi Elimelech, "I remember once I was in a little village, staying in the local inn. I had the most marvelous soup--it tasted delicious, like paradise! Never in my life have I had a soup like that."
Rabbi Elimelech died at his appointed time--but many years later, his son happened to be in the same village, staying at the same inn. Remembering what his father had told him, he asked the hostess for some of her s...