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Lessons From Medicine Men, Hippocrates and Ancient Medicine

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When Medicine Men Were the Only "Doctors"



The prevailing thought behind ancient medicine in most nations of the past was that sickness and disease were caused by evil spirits who had invaded the body of the ill victim. Medicine men would attempt to heal their patients by practicing magic. That ancient "medicine" involved reciting "prayers," incantations, ritualistic dances, and sometimes prescribing some awful-smelling concoction that was to be eaten by the patient in an attempt to disgust the evil spirits enough that they would go away. Medicine men would often paint their face or wear masks as they danced and shouted to frighten away the devils causing the sickness. It must have been a dreaded experience in those days to lie suffering from a disease and know nothing else to do but call on medicine men. However, should the thought that the affliction and possession of evil spirits can cause physical and mental illness be totally dismissed as superstition? No, not necessarily.

Ancient Medicine Influenced by Hippocrates



Hippocrates, known as "the father of medicine," didn't embrace the belief that medicine men held about the cause of sickness and disease. He also rejected the idea that physical and mental illness were sent by the gods as forms of punishment, explaining why he didn't believe in calling on the gods for healing, health and wellness for his patients nor taught these things to his students. Instead, he issued some of the same warnings as modern medicine does. He taught that obese people usually didn't live as long as those who were slender, that minor illnesses such as colds were more prevalent in the winter season, and that the brain was the most important organ of the body. However, should some of Hippocrates' beliefs also be questioned when seeking healing, health and wellness? Yes, they should because many fail to enjoy health after seeking help from the best modern doctors who hold the same beliefs as Hippocrates.

Biblical Light on the beliefs of Medicine Men and Hippocrates



The biblical scripture of Matthew 9:32-33 reads, "As they went out, behold, they brought to him (Jesus) a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake and the multitudes marveled, saying,'It was never so seen in Israel.'"

While this particular scripture speaks of an abnormal condition being the direct result of demonic possession, it is only one of many revealing that sickness, disease, and abnormal conditions can indeed be the work of evil spirits. Just as it is harmful to associate every ailment with demonic possession as some fanatics do, it is equally harmful to refuse to believe that there are often invisible and mysterious causes of some mental and physical conditions--conditions which no doctor can cure with modern medicine and psychology. Although the actual practices of medicine men are prohibited in scripture, their suspicion of demonic possession in illness was not entirely off. What is off is to believe that a devil lurks behind every illness all of the time in all cases.

Hippocrates rejected the idea that the gods could send sickness and disease as forms of punishment. However, biblical scripture speaks clearly and in great detail on the subject of sickness and disease as consequences of sin. The 28th chapter of Deuteronomy speaks of blessings and curses that are God-ordained. Every area of a person's life is covered in these wonderful promises and solemn warnings, including physical and mental health and wellness, sickness and disease. Finally, the passage of James 5:15 teaches, "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." This is in sharp disagreement with Hippocrates who didn't believe in divine healing.

Neither the beliefs of the medicine men nor those of Hippocrates are in total agreement with God's word which has much to say about the spiritual danger in the practices of medicine men, ancient medicine, modern medicine; mental and physical health and wellness, mysterious sicknesses and diseases, exercise, healthy and unhealthy forms of meditation, self-esteem, and diet. There is even a real recipe for how to make bread in the book of Ezekiel that is still being followed today!
©2010 Ana Kirk


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