Richard G. Petty, MD

Science and Spirituality

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“The deepest intelligence of philosophy and science are inseparable from a religious view of the world.”   

–Rudjer Boskovic (Dubrovnik-born Jesuit Physicist, Mathematician, Astronomer and Philosopher, 1711-1787)   

Science and Religion

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“How could science be an enemy of religion when God commanded man to be a scientist the day He told him to rule the earth and subject it?”

–Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (American Roman Catholic Clergyman and Broadcaster, 1895-1979)

The Life of All Living

Doctors, Integrated Health, Faith and Spirituality

I am often asked if there is any conflict between being a Catholic and a physician teaching holistic health. That always seems to me a slightly odd question: for me they fit together seamlessly.

Some time ago I was asked to see the son of two pastors from an evangelical church. They, their family, and congregation had been praying for him for three years, and they felt guilty about coming to see me. They only came because of the insistence of one of the congregation who had seen an article about my work, and thought that I looked as if I had a nice face. You, gentle reader can be the judge of that.

It was soon clear what was wrong with the son, but the family told me that they did not really believe in medication and felt that their prayers should have been enough.

My response was to ask them if they thought it possible that the Lord had led their parishioner to read the article? Is it not said that, “God works in mysterious ways?” “Is it possible that my team, and the pharmaceutical companies that make the medicines that I am recommending, could all be the answer to your prayers?” I do not know the answer, but they decided that was the case, agreed to the treatment, and the young man was back on track in a few weeks.

It is inevitably controversial whenever I talk about this kind of issue, but I think that it is important.

I would also like to share something that I had not read since I was a teenager. It came along yesterday, seemingly by chance. Except that I don’t really believe in change or coincidence.

“Honor the doctor with the honor that is his due in return for his services; for he too has been created by the Lord.”

“Healing itself comes from the Most High, like a gift from a king.”

“The doctor’s learning keeps his head high, he is regarded with awe by potentates.”

“The Lord has brought medicines into existence from the earth, and the sensible man will not despise them.”

“Did not a piece of wood once sweeten the water, thus giving proof of its virtue?”

“He has also given men learning so that they may glory in his mighty works.”

“He uses them to heal and to relieve pain, the chemist makes up a mixture from them.”

“Thus there is no end to his activities and through him health extends across the world.”

“My son, when you are ill, do not be depressed, but pray to the Lord and he will heal you.”

“Renounce your faults, keep you hands unsoiled ad cleanse your heart from all sin.”

“Offer incense and a memorial of fine flour and make as rich an offering as you can afford.”

“Then let the doctor take over – the Lord created him too – and do not let him leave you for your need him.”

“Sometimes success is in their hands, since they in turn will beseech the Lord to grant them the grace to relieve and to heal, that life may be saved.”

“If a man sins in the eyes of his Maker, may he fall under the care of the doctor.”

The Jerusalem Bible, Ecclesiasticus 38:1-15

Sexuality and Spirituality

The talk shows and multiple Internet sites have picked up on a story about a controversial website  that is pulling a great many people to a progressive church in Granger, Indiana. Some people have been getting very hot under the collar, and saying that there’s no place for frank advertising and for discussions of sex in a church, or a church-based website.

To be honest, I fail to see what all the fuss is about. It is self- evident that no two people are ever going to agree about everything to do with religion. And just as obvious that there are some clearly different schools of psychological and spiritual development. Some are by their very nature sexually repressive while others, and I am thinking here primarily of Tantric and Taoist traditions, have actively used sex for spiritual enlightenment. But there has also been an important study that has shown that many people who are not following any particular spiritual tradition have spiritual, mystical or transcendent experiences during sex. This is reported in a very fine book by developmental psychologist Jenny Wade.

In the introduction to Jenny’s book, the philosopher Ken Wilber makes an important point, that leads us straight back to the controversy over the website. He asks why so many people laugh at or snigger about sex? And his answer is superficially astonishing, but, I think, quite correct. He says that we laugh at sex because it can kill us.

Many psychologists and philosophers have examined the basis of laughter, and have all, in their different ways come to the conclusion that it has something to do with an event that we find unnervingly significant. I think that is was Freud who pointed out that laughing when someone slips on banana peel causes laughter because it is a reminder that anybody can fall victim to the same thing.

So what does Ken mean by that statement? He means that sex can kill the “everyday you,” your normal personal ego, and sometimes enable people to experience the depths of their own spirituality. And that can be very scary. Clinicians still see a great many people who have developed problems because of conflicts over their own sexuality and their beliefs; In particular their religious beliefs. Yet here is the paradox: sex may not be conducive to religious belief but it can be highly conducive to spiritual experience. Yet Jenny Wade’s study also showed that 80% of the people who had these experiences never told a single person about them. Presumably because they fear that they will be laughed at.

For the people who felt upset about the Church in Indiana, I think that it’s important to realize that sex is not going to go away. Everybody knows that sex sells, and if people are drawn into hearing a balanced message to help them re-establish their moral compass, isn’t that a good thing?

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