Let’s Not Polarize Into The Science Camp and the Anti-Science Camp: I Stand For The Camp Of No Camps

Sometimes we get sick, and conventional medicine can cure us lickety-split. And thank God for those cures and for the doctors who deliver them. I was once one of those doctors, and it felt so satisfying when one of those medical cures could ease the suffering of someone in distress. But if you practice medicine long enough, you wind up treating lots of patients with illnesses conventional medicine simply doesn’t know how to adequately treat. Sure, we can keep some diseases at bay with daily medication or intervene surgically to improve symptoms that may come back. But there are also millions of people with mystery illnesses, who elude diagnosis and respond to none of our treatments, often getting worse instead of getting better.

Doctors tend to throw up their hands with these folks because doctors don’t like feeling helpless, powerless, useless, ineffective, or wrong. It tends to activate all their core childhood wounds, and they may act out those wounds on the patients, rather than expressing the empathy, compassion, and nurturing that helps suffering patients heal. This is why we started the Whole Health Medicine Institute eight years ago, to help doctors and other health care providers heal themselves- and so they can learn cutting-edge healing tools to help patients conventional medicine has failed to heal. (We’re enrolling for the Class of 2022 now. Apply here.)

This is also why I wrote my book Sacred Medicine: A Doctor’s Quest To Unravel The Mysteries of Healing– to scour the globe for anything from the world’s medicine bag that might help those who conventional medicine and alternative medicine have failed to cure. And I found some real gems out there, healing tools I collected to teach to patients in need and those who dedicate their lives to help treat them, in case they might bring some relief from the suffering so many people endure.

But please, pretty please- do not do what people did after I wrote Mind Over Medicine and hijack this book to make me the poster child to reject conventional medicine treatments likely to help you. Those of you who have been following me during the pandemic know that I straddle the worlds and hold lightly what I call the “paradoxes of healing.” It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. 

Also, please don’t see receiving potentially life-saving conventional medical treatments as any sort of failure on your part. Part of the shadow of the New Age is the misguided notion that needing to use pharmaceuticals, have surgery, or receive other mainstream medical treatments means you’ve failed to manifest your cure or be a good self-healer or your vibe isn’t high enough or you’re not favored enough by God. With all due respect, that’s nonsense- and it’s utterly lacking in empathy- and anyone who tells you otherwise is not a healer.

Whether you’re someone who tends to religiously follow your doctor’s orders or someone who avoids doctors at all costs, please resist the tendency to go all or nothing in this way. All or nothing thinking tends to be a trauma symptom resulting from developmental trauma- and it’s a treatable symptom, one I discuss at length in Sacred Medicine. All or nothing thinking could cost you your health- or even your life. Whenever inquiries stray in the direction of phenomena that scientists can’t explain or understand, people tend to split into two polarized camps- the rational, skeptical, debunking-of-all-things paranormal, materialist scientist camp and the gung ho “woo woo” “science can’t keep up with us” New Age spirituality and anti-science camp. 

There are good and bad actors in science and there are good and bad actors in spiritual circles, alternative medicine, Indigenous shamanism, and energy healing. There are miracles on both sides and there are traumatizing ethics breaches and corruption on both sides. Conventional medicine can perform medical wonders- and, until Covid, it was also the #3 cause of death in this country. Natural healing is wonderful but it was also natural to die at forty and have a huge infant mortality rate until relatively recently in human history. We’d be wise to neither idealize nor demonize anyone on either side of this divide. There are gifts and burdens on both sides, which is why if we truly desire optimal health, we may have to walk back and forth between the two camps to sample the right medicines at the right time, and to weave them together into a very personalized, individual healing brew.

In both camps, there are people with integrity and people without it, because at the end of the day, like it or not, we’re all human, even the doctors, even the gurus, even the people who can cure cancer with their hands. And humans are traumatized, vulnerable, tribal creatures who do brilliant and creative things and also do their best to destroy each other. To glorify anyone or categorically write anyone off as a monster will not serve you if your goal is to get healthy.

As former New Age teacher- turned scientist, Karla McLaren writes about her attempt to find balanced middle ground to validate New Age teachings scientifically, “Let me tell you now (if you don’t already know) that the skeptical community and the New Age community are like oil and water: They don’t mix. As I thought back to those tedious, one-sided library books that I had discarded as unimportant, I realized that they contained either full-on New Age faith, or full-on skeptical dismissal, with no middle ground whatsoever. Those tiresome books separated the world into two warring camps of believers and skeptics, with each camp slyly or not so slyly maligning the intelligence, the character, and the worth of the members of the other camp.”

Let me state clearly here that my work- and this Sacred Medicine book- fall into neither camp. As a voraciously curious radical empiricist who is also a mystic, I do my best (at the expense of belonging, mind you, because people in both camps tend to bond over having contempt for the other side) to travel the bridge between the camps and appreciate the points of view both camps offer. But I don’t believe we need to choose sides. Doing so could actually hurt you.

So it is with an open heart and a generous intention that I invite you to consider that we don’t have to choose between objective conventional science, reason, evidence-based data, and logic and less mainstream and more subjective intuition, emotional intelligence, somatic ways of knowing, and energetic, spiritual, or trauma healing methods that might make you miracle-prone when conventional medicine fails to cure you. These two camps can meet in the middle and amplify each other, rather than splitting into skeptics and mystics who fight for dominance regarding who’s right and who’s wrong. If your goal is an optimal health outcome, why would you want to ignore any of the world’s many medicines? Unless you care more about being right than about getting better, why would you limit yourself? What if the possibilities are limitless when we open ourselves to a weaving of the world’s medicines, based on our four Whole Health Intelligences- mental intelligence (of course!) but also intuitive intelligence, somatic intelligence, and emotional intelligence?

In Sacred Medicine, I unpack these paradoxes of healing and also how to develop and learn to trust your four Whole Health Intelligences- not just your mental intelligence, but also your emotional intelligence, intuitive intelligence, and somatic intelligence. For example, consider these paradoxes:

You can heal yourself AND you can’t do it alone.

Keep an open mind AND don’t be so open your brains fall out.

Trust your intuition AND follow the science and apply critical thinking.

Believe in magic and miracles AND avoid indulging in magical thinking and denial.

Your disease is not your fault AND your healing journey is your responsibility.

Follow spiritual guidance AND never be too certain you’ve got the direct line to God.

Your thoughts influence reality AND your thoughts cannot control reality.

If you preorder Sacred Medicine before April 4, you’ll get additional bonus material aimed at unpacking the paradoxes of healing and helping you facilitate the four Whole Health Intelligences, as well as an invitation to the Sacred Medicine Pilgrimage live book launch event with me, IFS founder Dick Schwartz, Eden Energy Medicine founder Donna Eden, and Intentional Creativity founder Shiloh Sophia (there are chapters about each of them in Sacred Medicine!) 



Standing firmly between the two camps,


Lissa Rankin


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