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Thursday, December 2, 2010

A little mystery

In an age where science is king, we've become gobblers of scientific sound bites, snippets of information fed to us by experts.  This is reductionism -  the reducing of complex systems to the interaction of their parts.   The standard scientific method of objective, peer-reviewed experimentation is reductionism at its best, and it's the bedrock of modern science and medicine.  Reductionism is a great tool.  Using it has rocketed us to the moon, wiped out deadly diseases,  and transplanted a baboon heart into a human.  In fact, it's working so well, it's the only tool we're using.  This is a mistake.   Many doctors working in alternative medicine end up there because they see this mistake first hand.  They come to understand that people are more than a collection of organs, bones and muscles wrapped around a personality.  They reach into their traditional western medicine tool box for help and come up empty-handed.

Thomas Moore, in is book Dark Nights of the Soul spends some time exploring the edges of the known and describes it as  "... the pulling apart of meaning to reveal the mystery."   Mystery.  Isn't this exactly what reductionist science is out to eliminate?  As a practitioner in alternative healing modalities, I see that much of what my clients experience during treatment falls into this category of mystery.  They describe physical sensations like tingling, swirling, pulling or vibration.  They report relief from pain, nausea, headache, tremors, and depression.   When viewed only through the lens of reductionism there is no explanation for these experiences, so it is concluded that the treatment is a sham, and the resulting benefits are just the placebo effect.  (It's interesting and somewhat ironic to note that scientists are currently using reductionism to validate and measure the placebo effect.)

I'm not suggesting we go back to a time when there was nothing but mystery and superstition.  Reductionism has served us well, and will continue to do so.   But it needs to scootch over just a bit , and make room for something else in our collective consciousness.  What should that something else be?  I think, as Thomas Moore suggests, we should all adopt a style of awareness that includes the mysterious and the unexplained.  How about you?  Do you have space for a little mystery in your life?

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Laurie for sharing your views and bringing Thomas Moore's work to readers' attention. Moore recently wrote Care of the Soul in Medicine that further explores his understandings of the whole person and the role of mystery in healing. You may enjoy reading it. Also, a blog dedicated to Moore is at barque.blogspot.com. Please visit it for updates about Moore's writings.

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  2. Thanks for the information and the link. I look forward to learning more.

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