The Hidden Influence of Beliefs and Fears
by Olivier Clerc, France
the Christian missionaries of the last three or four centuries
were evangelizing so-called "primitive people, they
believed that they had only to destroy or burn the various cult
objects of these people in order to eradicate their religions,
superstitions, and customs.
Centuries after the conquistadors tried to stamp out the Inca
culture, or the Inquisition tried to stamp out the protestant
heresies, or the similar attempts to annihilate the
Voodoo, or the many African and Asian religions, we know that
such arrogant high-handedness does not work. These beliefs still
continue today, sometimes under different guises, long after the
objects of worship associated with them have been destroyed.
This lesson from history is not only valid for primitive people
and their religions. It can equally be applied if not more
so to aspects of our own modern society. Indeed, even a
superficial study of contemporary culture will reveal that the
supposed secularization of present day society is just an illusion.
Even though most people do not conform to the outward show of
religious custom and practice mostly Judeo-Christian in
western culture the beliefs and superstitions remain deeply
embedded in their subconscious, influencing many aspects of their
daily lives without them realizing it.
And as several sociology studies have shown, the superstitious
beliefs that used to be attached to the formal religions have
in many cases simply been transferred to other objects, persons
or events. The daily evening television news bulletins, watched
by millions worldwide in their respective countries, the stars
of show business and sport, humanitarian associations, cults and
all sorts of other things in modern life, these have now become
the new gods we venerate or fear, or the shrines at which we worship
or curse, and where we still experience those primitive religious
urges and feelings, where we can believe without necessarily having
to think or rationalize.
However, it is in the field of medicine that this unconscious
transposition of the religious experience - and more specifically
the Judeo-Christian ideology, myths, beliefs, expectations and
hopes - seems to have had the greatest impact. The facts show
clearly - for anyone taking the time to study them - that medicine
enjoys today an astonishing degree of undeserved credit that is
out of all proportion to its actual results or promises. Real
health keeps regressing, while the great medical "miracles,
such as vaccines and antibiotics, are now clearly showing their
limitations, which some had foreseen and warned of right from
the start. This undeserved credit comes mostly from the fact that
medicine and science have replaced religion as the only certain
belief in an uncertain world. And the doctors and scientists are
seen as the priests of the new religion, delivering through the
certainties of science what the old discredited gods were not
able to deliver. If we can no longer believe in the miracles,
the cures, and the curses of the old religions, we can certainly
believe in the miracles, the cures and the destructive powers
of the new science.
Almost imperceptibly, medicine has taken on a saving, or messianic
role, the characteristics of which we must examine. Looking back
through history, there is a sense in which medicine can be said
to have displayed characteristics that have at various times characterised
the Roman Catholic Church: autocracy, centralization, the control
and manipulation of people, censorship, propaganda, total obedience,
infallibility, the destruction of heretics, the stamping out of
individuality. All this, of course, has been done in the name
of public health and the general good, just as the church acted
for mankinds salvation.
Let me make my position clear. I am not a conspiracy theorist.
I do not believe that doctors, scientists and governments are
intentionally and corruptly conspiring together, abusing their
powers in pursuit of wealth, "Big Brother and "Brave
New World just a step away. But rather, I do believe we
are faced with a phenomenon that is largely of the unconscious
What I believe is happening is that people, whether within the
medico-pharmaceutical industry or outside it, are being subconsciously
influenced by their deeply rooted myths, fears and superstitions
which are now being projected onto the new screens of science
and medicine. This produces an amazing paradox.
Although medicine sees itself as exclusively scientific and rational,
with no room for spiritual or human dimensions (such as psychic
healers, or shamans, who are dismissed as charlatans), it organizes
itself and functions in a way that can be described as intrinsically
religious. The paradox is that by rejecting any spiritual dimension
medicine in fact becomes the toy of the forces and myths it tries
to ignore and cannot control. Mere denial of somethings
existence has never made it disappear, except perhaps in our consciousness,
but instead, it is banished to our subconscious mind, where, beyond
our control, it can roam free, wreak havoc, and wield even greater
We can see, then, that even though our society considers itself
to be secular, it has remained as Christian as it was a century
ago, but with two major differences. Firstly, our society is not
aware of it. It believes itself to be rational, scientific, and
free of superstition. It fails to recognise that it is still,
in effect, observing the old religious rituals, but under a new
guise. Secondly, our society now lives its religious experiences
through secular forms - medical ones, in particular - and has
at the same time transferred its hopes and aspirations from the
spiritual world to the material.
Medicine, then, has become the new world religion. The specific
myths, beliefs and rites of Christianity have been unconsciously
projected over medicine since Pasteur. As I explain in detail
in my book, we can establish a very close parallelism between
the catholic religion and modern medicine, although, for lack
of space, I cannot go into all the details of each comparison
in this article. In brief:
- physicians have taken the place of priests;
- vaccination plays the same initiatory role as baptism, and is
accompanied by the same threats and fears;
- the search for health has replaced the quest for salvation;
- the fight against disease has replaced the fight against sin;
- eradication of viruses has taken the place of exorcising demons;
- the hope of physical immortality (cloning, genetic engineering)
has been substituted for the hope of eternal life;
- pills have replaced the sacrament of bread and wine;
- donations to cancer research take precedence over donations
to the church;
- a hypothetical universal vaccine could save humanity from all
its illnesses, as the Saviour has saved the world from all its
- the medical power has become the governments ally, as
was the Catholic Church in the past;
- "charlatans are persecuted today as "heretics
- dogmatism rules out promising alternative medical theories;
- the same absence of individual responsibility is now found in
medicine, as previously in the Christian religion;
- patients are alienated from their bodies, as sinners used to
be from their souls.
People are still being manipulated by their fears and childish
hopes. They are still told that the source of their problems is
outside them, and that the solution can only come from the outside.
They are not allowed to do anything by themselves and they must
have the mediation of priest-physicians, the administration of
drug-hosts, and the protection of vaccine-absolutions.
Just as the magnetic field of a magnet placed under a sheet of
paper controls the way iron filings fall on its surface, revealing
the invisible lines of force between the two poles of the magnet,
a "religious field likewise imperceptibly structures
and organises the development of modern medicine. Invisible, impalpable,
this "religious field is made up of all the beliefs,
myths and values of the Christian - and more specifically the
Catholic - religion. In other words, the secularisation of society
happened only on the surface. We took away the "iron filings,
the specific religious forms, but we did not change the "current
of thoughts, the underlying "religious field,
which continued to exert the same influence, but through medicine.
That is the reason why behind the different structures of medicine
and the Church of Rome we find the same fundamental concepts,
the same relationships, the same characteristics, the same fears,
the same hopes and expectations.
This substitution of medicine for religion has had many unfortunate
consequences. In medical research, it influences what should be
looked for and what can be discovered. Any discovery or theory
that is at odds with the over-arching orthodoxy is rejected, and
its authors called heretics. Entire areas of research, as well
as promising new lines of approach, are thus disqualified.
Furthermore, the unconscious need to bring the medical world into
"religious obedience frequently leads to (involuntary)
falsifications of results, as became clear with Pasteur's discoveries.
The medical credo takes precedence over reality, something that
scientists refuse to acknowledge when it does not correspond with
their preconceived ideas.
And lastly, the hidden religious dimension of modern medicine
inhibits the free debating of already fixed beliefs, and preventing
them from being properly re-examined and criticised. Indeed, dogmatism,
irrationality and passions - all characteristic of the religious
experience - take precedence over any calm and carefully thought
out argument, even over the most tenuous facts. The same vehemence
that led Galileo to be condemned by the Church for his theories,
in spite of the scientifically demonstrable facts, is now being
used by medicine to reject any thesis that is contrary to its
own dogmas. Science has learnt its lessons from the Church.
My aims in writing and lecturing on this topic have therefore
been several. Firstly, I wanted to bring to the fore this phenomenon
of projection and transfer of religious content, which takes place
in the medical field. In recognizing this phenomenon, we should
then dissociate from medical practice the spiritual aspirations
that quite logically can only be satisfied in the spiritual dimension.
It is dangerous to mistake eternal life with physical immortality,
or to think we can achieve collective salvation through science
and genetic engineering instead of individual salvation through
transformation and personal achievements.
I also hope that by bringing to the fore the influence of religious
beliefs in medicine, which is but one example of a very widespread
phenomenon today, readers will start thinking about how their
beliefs filter their perceptions, biasing and distorting them.
Every time an object, a person, a social group or an event becomes
the target of religious projections, there is danger. Their real
characteristics fade in the eyes of those who colour them with
their beliefs. These targets then become the objects of religious
urges, impervious to any rationalisation, whether they are expressed
through fear, hatred, "devilisation and search for
scapegoats, or through deification, idealisation and unconditional
devotion. From Princess Diana to Wacco, and from Mother Teresa
to Saddam Hussein, there are numerous examples of the kind of
consequences brought about by this transfer of religious expression
to real persons or situations.
Beyond this dissociation of medicine and religion, I would like
to encourage an increased awareness of the fears found in the
depths of our consciousness, which remain the hidden determining
factors of most of our actions. As shown in my book, these fundamental
fears - fear of death, mostly, but also fear of evil, fear of
suffering, fear of separation, fear of solitude - have lead humanity,
at all times throughout history, to make up all kinds of beliefs,
in an effort to exorcise these fears. Then, with the development
of science and the rise of intellectualism, mankind has tried
to justify rationally these beliefs, hidden under the cloak of
medicine and life sciences.
In other words, there are three layers superimposed inside us:
1) a core of fears, from which we
have learned to protect ourselves by covering it with
2) a layer of beliefs, which make
us feel safe (even though those fears have not disappeared), this
layer being itself dissimulated under
3) an intellectual varnish, a rational
facade, which give us the illusion of having transcended superstitions
and beliefs, and which shelters us from our fears, keeping us
barricaded behind intellectual knowledge.
But in reality, as soon as any unexpected event scratches this
varnish, our underlying beliefs and fears reveal their presence
and their indirect influence.
As long as they are not acknowledged, accepted and transformed,
these fears will feed on every area of human endeavour. The intellect
cannot think freely and the heart may not love fully, as long
as both of them are hamstrung by the permanent task of appeasing
our deepest anxieties, which keep trying to re-surface in our
consciousness. No technological innovation, no scientific discovery,
no external knowledge will ever enable us to avoid this confrontation
with ourselves, and - more specifically - with our shadow. It
is quite instructive to see to what degree the intellectual and
technical knowledge of this century - often quite remarkable -
remains captive to the fears that haunt society. We only have
to look at the poor state of our planet, at the multiplicity of
wars and at the emergence of new diseases, to see how this way
of using our inner capacities is unproductive.
Finally, through this increasing awareness and consciousness to
which I invite my readers, I hope to encourage greater individual
responsibility, be it on the medical or on the spiritual level.
It seems inexplicable to me that we should give away our power
to whatever external authority (priests, physicians, experts)
and then blame them for abusing us with it. Very few people are
capable of being totally impartial and disinterested, especially
when money and power are at stake. And especially when psychological
studies show that the noblest motivations often go hand in hand
with more dubious unconscious intentions.
Therefore, taking personal responsibility for our own health,
our own inner evolution, and our own life at every level, without
rejecting any available help or advice, remains the safest and
most rewarding attitude. The obscurantism that endures under new
forms will not so much be fought by the lights of science than
by the sparks of our own self-awareness, that each one may awaken
in himself. At least, such is my conviction.
text first appeared in CONTINUUM Magazine
and is the introduction to the book "Médecine,
Religion et Peur; linfluence cachée des croyances
by Olivier Clerc The book has been published with Editions Jouvence,
1999. France. Olivier Clerc has been working for 20 years in the
field of alternative medicine, spirituality and personal development,
as author, translator, journalist and publisher. Beside his book
on medicine and religion, he has written a book on lucid dreaming
("Vivre ses r๊ves", Helios, 1983) and another about isolation
tanks ("Loc้an int้rieur", Soleil, 1985), and was chief editor
of a French magazine dedicated to health, ecology and social issues.
He was editorial director of Editions Jouvence, Switzerland, until
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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