4)    Modern Western Medicine (MWM)

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


Renaissance—500 years old

Misappropriating the Caduceus—Asclepius & Hippocrates

Allopathic versus Palliative

MWM versus TCM

The end of MWM?



Some medical historians claim that Modern Western Medicine stretches back to the era of Hippocrates (5th Century BC) and that of Galen (2nd Century AD).

This is rather tenuous, however. MWM really kicked off during the Renaissance (1400s-1600s AD) when scientists and physicians began to question the Greek writings on medicine. They had the audacity to challenge the Christian church's teachings on the soul & body, and they started to dissect human bodies for the first time.

These first anatomists found that their discoveries were very different from Galen's descriptions in Roman times. It was this move away from the function of the human body (as in TCM) to structure of the human body that clearly marks the birth of Modern Western Medicine as a separate system.

Other historians assert that Modern Western Medicine mimicked Oriental Medicine until the invention of microscope in 1673 by van Leeuwenhoek. With the advent of the microscope and the discovery of the cell, MWM became very materialistic in its approach to the human body. Medical research since the 19th Century appears to have conformed to the 'Gospel of Specific Etiology' i.e.
" if we can understand the causative agent of a disease, or the specific molecular events of the pathological process, then we can totally understand and control the disease."

Modern Western Medicine became very creative and wed itself firmly to technology. Discoveries such as the thermometer, stethoscope, x-rays, microscope, penicillin, insulin, kidney transplants and the iron lung show the imaginative nature of MWM.

This MWM desire for 'conquest of disease', commendable as it may sound, has at least one inherent flaw—it does not allow for the non-physical cause of physical events in the body. Modern Western Medicine is totally materialist in its approach and falls short for this same reason as with Capitalism, Marxism and Darwinism. More later.


Misappropriating the Caduceus

The two big names of Greek medicine were Asclepius and Hippocrates, who very much represented the two sides of Greek tradition.

Asclepius was a physician who practiced in Greece in about 1200BC. Not a great deal is known about him except that many temples and shrines—called Asclepions—were dedicated to him. In time he became the Greek God of Healing, and his daughter, Hygiea, gave her name to the word hygienic.

The Asclepion became very important in Greece. Patients would visit and often stay overnight, they offered gifts and sacrifices to the Gods, and were treated by priest healers using ointments and other technologies. In many ways these appear to be a continuation of the 'Sleep Temples' of Ancient Egypt. One common therapy that both Egypt and Greece had a far better understanding of is hypnosis, which Modern Western Medicine has still not been able to come to terms with 5,000 years later!

Medical schools later developed alongside these temples, and Asclepius's symbol—the serpent wrapped around a staff, or caduceus—became the symbol for healing.

Hippocrates (c.460-377BC) appeared over seven hundred years later, and worked as a doctor on the Greek island of Kos where he founded a medical school. He wrote over 60 medical books ranging from diseases to head wounds and gynaecology.

The new 'rational' approach that Hippocrates pioneered was that he refused to use gods to explain illness, and moved away from the spiritual & religious side of medicine. He developed the theory of the four humours, which was probably based on Ayurveda's three dosas. Hippocrates also stressed the importance of a good diet, plenty of fresh air, and exercise—all of which were commonplace in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

Hippocrates's students were made to follow a strict ethical code of behaviour, and swore to maintain patient confidentiality. This 'Hippocratic Oath' is still in use by the Modern Western Medical Profession who view Hippocrates as the 'Father of Medicine' because of his break with the spiritual and emphasis on the rational. How ironic, then, that they should misappropriate the symbol of Asclepius—the Caduceus—for their profession. For a profession that eschews the spiritual in favour of the materialistic this smacks of.......hypocrisy!