On Hippocrates, Galen and the Nature of Ancient Medicine

ms-snk“First do no harm.”

~ Aphorism attributed to the Hippocratic Oath

We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population [via abortion racism]. And the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”                       

~ 1938 letter by Margaret Sanger to friend, Dr. Clarence Gamble (founder of the Procter  & Gamble Corp.)

Prologue to Hippocrates and Galen: legislators of ancient medicine

Our understanding of the historical Hippocrates (460–370 B.C.) is nearly entirely dependent upon Plato.  In Plato’s works like the Protagoras and the Phaedrus we learn that Hippocrates and Socrates were of the same generation, that he was a native of Cos, and an Asclepiad, a follower, that is, of a family or guild that traced its origin to this Greek god of Healing.  Hippocrates was popular both as an expert and a professor of medicine, and he professed that awareness of the body is contingent on the understanding of the whole man—body, mind, soul (nature), spirit.  There is also the association in Plato’s arguments that Hippocrates travelled throughout the Greek city-states and that, like the great sophists and rhetoricians who were his contemporaries, he came to Athens to practice and teach his art.

The Alexandrian narratives of the life and times of Hippocrates are full of fascinating stories.  He was born in the year 460 B.C., descended from Hercules as well as from Aesculaius.  He studied medicine and philosophy from eminent tutors and journeyed over the entire Greek world, healing a Macedonian dictator of the disorder of love, purging the plague from Athens by setting conspicuous fires in the public squares, refused to give medical treatment to the King Persia, and dying at a seasoned old age—the dates range from 375 to 351 B.C.—at Larissa in Thessaly, where his tomb could still be seen in the second century, A.D.  Legend holds that the honey of the bees that swarmed at his tomb would provide healing to the mouth, an honor to the man who, according to Celsus, was as renowned for expressiveness as for wisdom and knowledge.

For subsequent generations Hippocrates has been, as he was for Galen (A.D. 129-200), the father and the legislator of medicine for the Romans, the superlative physician “who with purity and with holiness lived his life and practiced his art.”

First do no harm

Hippocrates, in addition to being the Father of ancient medicine, wrote the Hippocratic Oath which doctors for thousands of years were required to swear to uphold in order to  receive their medical license. Here is an excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath:

I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves.

Note how inseparable medicine is from religion, morality, ethics, “purity,” even “holiness” and Hippocrates was a pagan Greek and Galen a pagan Roman, yet their singular, transcendent level of righteousness for their “art” has descended down through the ages.

Hippocrates and Galen in Classical History

Medicine, according to the article in the Great Books of the Western World, “is the name of an art, of a science or group of sciences, and of a learned profession whose members are proficient in these sciences and experienced in the practice of the art.” By origin it applies to a litany of healing drugs, physics, or other medicines recommended by the doctor.  The antiquated but apt tradition of the English word “physic” as the definition for the art, practice, and profession of what in modern times is referred to as “medicine” implies that the Greek root word indicates, specifically, that the physician, in the same manner as the physicist, is an apprentice of nature.

Another historic usage of “medicine” specifies its possibility and contacts in the western tradition.  When feudal institutions originated the university in the Middle Ages, the basic divisions of learning then exemplified in its organization revealed diverse methods of learning as well as differences in subject matter.  The trilogy disciplines of medicine, law, and theology not only ordered their students in diverse divisions of knowledge, but also taught them for separate applications of knowledge to practice.

The Roman father of medicine, Galen often repeats this wise aphorism—that “nothing is done by Nature in vain,”— which provides a principle for physiological research, in addition to the procedures of medical art. Nature, according to Galen, works not by the outside influence of part upon part, but by its talents or powers for the presentation of natural purposes, meanings, and the creation of natural effects.  Galen’s polemic contrary to the mechanistic means, directs him to the contrary conclusion of his initial saying—“nothing is done by Nature in vain.”   Here’s the distinction, as Hippocrates views nature as the model for art (e.g. medicine) to follow, Galen refers to Nature as an artist, for the purpose of drawing a sharp distinction against all mechanical formations and ideas.

From Hippocratic Oath to Darwin’s evolution racism to Nazi death camps

How has the moral ethics of ancient medicine devolved in modern times? In a 1938 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, foreshadowed pseudo-science like evolution and eugenics, which Hitler and the Nazis would later exploit using science and medical justification of the natural inferiority of “undesirables” to create radical policies to eradicate the Jews during World War II and the Holocaust.  One year before Hitler’s blitzkrieg roared into Poland thus unleashing World War II, Sanger wrote, “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. And the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

Tragically, the academy for centuries has used pseudo-science, superstition, and perverted scientism as demonstrated in the Sanger letter to Gamble above to not only to establish, but to force a “consensus” science and “accepted” medical theories to justify proscribed racists ideas even to this day. The Nazis called this tactic, “Gleichschaltung” (e.g. consensus or forcing into line). For example, pseudo-science, racialism, scientism and specious medical policy played a leading role in solidifying the historical line from the French Revolution (1789-99) which was a leftist revolution leading directly to the near eradication of Christianity and Judaism in France, but also led to the genocide against clergy, nuns and those who Robespierre universally condemned as “criminals,” to Darwin’s evolution atheism of the 1860s, to Nietzsche’s polemic of Christianity as a “slave morality” and his “God is dead” philosophy of the 1880s-1900, to Hitler’s contention in Mein Kampf (1925): “If I can accept a divine Commandment, it’s this one: Thou shalt preserve the species” put into medical practice by Hitler’s “Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele.  These few historical examples demonstrate the deification and propagation of scientism and politically-contrived medicine to promote a perverse, socialist, atheistic worldview (what the Nazis called “Weltanschauung”) which continues in modern times under pseudo-scientific consensus of “global warming,” legalization of marijuana and other strong psychiatric drugs to “treat” ADHD which critics contend simply is the far end of a normal range of behavior, not an underlying genetic condition, and of course, Obamacare (socialism in medicine).

Epilogue: The Nature of ancient medicine = LIFE

A secondary leitmotiv of this essay is this: If children studied the Classics and adults obeyed the rational logic of the Classics, Obamacare (socialism) wouldn’t exist, at least not as a dominating political, economic policy.

You must look at the history of medicine to understand the necessity of why communists, socialists, liberals, and progressives have worked so hard since the French Revolution to remove or pervert every vestige of America’s Judeo-Christian traditions. Looking at ancient sources, we see the unbreakable connection between the medical nature Hippocrates and Galen embraced as both having overtly biblical derivation. For example, Numbers 21:7 reads—So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole.  Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. I don’t know how Hippocrates and Galen up to our current medical profession adopted the biblical symbolism of Moses’ bronze snake on a pole as a universal symbol of healing. To me this demonstrates that the medical profession from its ancient beginnings always linked medicine to morality, religion and to the prolonging of life. This leitmotiv of ancient medicine mandates a synthesis between God and healing, life over death, healing over disease, natural medicine over poison pills.

Another example in the Bible, we read in Ecclesiasticus: “Honor the physician for the need thou hast of him: for the most High hath created him. For all healing is from God…” The Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of “the washing of hands” usually in the context of priestly service to God through animal sacrifice, however, that ritual perhaps saved the lives of European Jewry during the Black Death of the Late Middle Ages (1340-1400) from suffering nearly the same causalities from the Bubonic plague as their gentile neighbors (one third of Europe or between 100-125 million) died because they didn’t know about how germs could be carried on fleas and rats, nor did they understand how germs can be transmitted to others by not washing your hands. Orthodox Jews were scrupulous in cleanliness regarding food preparation and ancient medicine. Gentiles in contrast, well into the 1800s the doctor, doubling as a barber or butcher and wouldn’t wash his hands before performing invasive medical procedures. This was a major cause why life expectancy was so low before 1900.

The current Veterans Administration healthcare scandal with Obama and Secretary Shinseki which has to date allowed over 100 U.S. veterans in 26 VA facilities to die waiting on healthcare treatment is only a prelude to the living hell all Americans will be subjected to under Obamacare, which the overwhelming majority of the medical profession willingly endorsed. For those who study the Classics, who understand history, pragmatism, and how politics, careerism, cowardice, and human nature are conflated together, will deduce that the medical Marxism of Obamacare is only the next step for these Democrat Socialists to establish a Novus ordo seclorum (New World Order), a “Final Solution” against America our Judeo-Christian traditions, to deconstruct Western civilization… brick-by-brick… institution-by-institution.

America, to which medical worldview will you side with? To which natural view of medicine will you embrace and promote? — Hippocrates and Galen’s First do no harm or Margaret Sanger’s We want to exterminate…?

*N.B.: This essay is based in part on ideas from Great Books of the Western World, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor-in-Chief (1952), Vol. 3, chap. 55—Medicine and Vol. 10 – Hippocrates and Galen 

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