Merigian Studios


Lighting Candles

Lighting Candles

I had a new patient come into the office this past week who had a number of medical maladies. She came with a friend to help her remember the bits and pieces of our conversation about her physiological disturbances that seemed obscure or disconnected at the time in which she heard them.

Her friend is also a patient and had gone through a similar adventure several months ago. However her friend had so much brain fog at the time of her first evaluation, she was unable to recall much of her first evaluation or my thoughts about what was out of accord and why they needed to be addressed. She was much more clear headed now.

It took three hours to decipher the historical and clinical data. It is always a difficult and arduous task to examine every small piece of clinical data and bring them all together into one cohesive group of disturbances, showing how one factor effects another and another and another.

At the end of the session, the patient sat quietly for a moment. She looked at me and said, "In your health questionnaire, you asked a lot about our personal religious beliefs. Why is that?" I looked at her calmly, "Because there are so many flavors of religious worldviews in Memphis and the Mid-south. I'm not here to offend anyone. I'm sensitive to people who believe differently. I don't want to insult people by saying the wrong thing or dismissing something important to them." She then courageously asked, "What do you believe?"

Fear overcomes most people who are asked to take their clothes off in front of a perfect stranger, especially when one does not know how the other person will respond to their naked authenticity. I remember an episode many years ago when I explained my beliefs about God and religion to a patient, she quickly called me a Demon Healer and stormed out of the office as if I were the Devil incarnate. A strange and interesting feeling overcame me when the patient called me a Demon Healer. It did not bother me since I do not believe in such poppy cock. None-the-less it affected me in some mysterious way. And when people ask me about my personal beliefs about the Universe, order of the life on Earth and organized religion, I always wonder if at that moment, I am there to help someone else look beyond their personal worldview if ours are different or am I actually revealing to them that I am a Demon Healer.

I smiled at her before I spoke, "I don't believe in a personal God. So if your belief is that a theist is someone who believes in a personal God, I think you would label me an atheist."

She did not blink an eye. She asked, "What does that mean?" We were way past the time allotted for a new patient visit, another patient was waiting to be seen. But I realized it was very important for her to understand what I believed and perhaps how I got there. This is what I tried to tell her.

When I was a young child, I lived for a brief three or four years with my mother after she and my dad divorced. She was not skilled in the art of childcare in the very least. She churched hopped. I was baptized in the Presbyterian Church, then later in the Methodist Church. I did not know what any of the ceremonial water washings meant, but I was baptized none the less.

When my mother placed me and my siblings in foster care, church was absent from our lives. I just hoped that each day would render me food to eat, a chance to go to school and return home unharmed. God was never a part of my worldview. In one home, the father of the family was extremely abusive. He had beaten me with a black rubber hose numerous times. I do not recall ever challenging God's will during these episodes of physical trauma. I just thought that the world had evil in it and I was unfortunate enough to be living where evil resided also.

Fate ultimately stepped in and my father got custody of me, my younger brother and my older sister. From that moment on, we were reared by my traditional loving Armenian grandmother. She made sure we went to church every Sunday at the Armenian Apostolic Church in Detroit. We had bible study classes and attended the four hour mass on occasion. The sermon was always given by the priest in an Armenian dialect that even my grandmother could not understand. But none-the-less, we went to church.

I was bullied at church by a group of kids, one young boy in particular. When I was eleven years old, during a Sunday school session, this kid continuously kicked me under our classroom tables in the class room. Being kicked in the shins is not a fun and wonderful experience. I asked the teacher to tell him to stop, but she ignored me. As he kicked harder and harder, I finally could not ignore his violent attacks any more. I told him that if he kicked me one more time, he would have hell to pay. He did it and uttered "What cha gonna do about it." I leaped out of my chair, grabbed him by the throat, threw him down on to floor and punched him about six or seven times square in his face. His nose was bloodied, his eyes were swollen and he was crying like a small newborn baby in the nursery of a hospital. The female teacher grabbed me and I got off of him. She told me that fighting was not allowed in Sunday school. I told her that the bible had hundreds of passages about war and fighting. That comment got me sent to the Deacon's office. The teacher consoled the bully as I left the classroom. Several young girls made fun of me on my way out. The deacon looked at me and asked me why I had so much blood on my white shirt. When I told him what happened he immediately expelled me from Sunday school, telling me that I needed to turn the other cheek. I did not grasp his metaphor at the time. I was sent to the church hall to join my grandmother as mass was occurring.

When I sat down, she looked at me and asked what happened. I told her the same story I told the deacon. She asked if I started the fight. I told her no. She then asked if I finished the fight. I told her yes. She just gave me a hug and said, "You can come to church with me, the heck with Sunday school."

At sixteen years of age, my father asked me if I wanted to continue to go to church. My answer was a resounding NO. He honored my desire and I stopped going to church.

In College, I fell in love with an evangelical Christian girl who followed the teachings of Francis Schaeffer. Long story short, I traveled to Europe to study in Germany. During the seven month adventure, I read the entire bible. At the end of my educational journey, I spent a week in Francis Schaeffer's commune in the Alps in Switzerland. Of course I was visiting my girl friend. She had convinced me that she had seen the light and that I too could have salvation if I just stayed with her in the commune, not returning to the US. My younger brother who was atheist at that time, showed up out of nowhere and asked me if he could talk to Debbie and me together. We hiked to a meadow in the mountains and sat in a beautiful field full of blooming wild flowers. He proceeded to ask Debbie questions about her religious world view. He essentially reduced her world view to a pile of ash in a very short time. Then he looked at me and said, "You've got twenty four hours to get to Rome to catch your flight home. Whatever you do, get the hell out of here” I left that mountain that day with my brother and never looked back.

From that moment forward, I immersed myself in several versions of the bible and read it completely through a second time. I attended a number of churches in different denominations and listened to scholars interpret famous passages of the Bible differently. I studied Islam, Taoism, Hindu, Buddhism and several other less known religions. I studied Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse, and Egyptian mythology. It was all very confusing until I freed myself from the shackles of traditional teachings and applied my usual investigative mind in trying to understand all that could be understood.

Years of study have lead me to a place where I believe the Divine Power is impersonal. It is sublime. It does not have a plan for us as a whole or individually. They are what I call Angels who are emissaries of the Divine. They seem to have some sense of what should be although they are void of emotional disturbances that we humans bare. These Angelic beings or energies live beyond the veil or perhaps in a place called Heaven. The Divine exists, it is not an image of us and we are not an image of it. I do not pray to the Divine but I admire people who pray for the greater good of mankind. I believe we should do our best to stay in accord with the nature of Earth, and stop trying to elevate and control what nature does or does not do. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the separation of Nature from the Divine. We are one with the Divine, an impersonal one. We can never be separate, being in accord with nature is not evil.

I am by no means a scholar or authority on the Religious practices or Spiritual teachings or Holy worldviews. I just know what works for me and helps me get through each day.
Recently I have run into several people who believe they are authorities in the Understanding of a Personal God. They have closed their minds to anything else, any possibility that whatever another believes could be correct. Some have gone so far as to demonize all that is not in accord with their beliefs, citing personal Divine knowledge from their interpretation of their version of the Bible. But in the end, all human understanding of the Divine has unfolded as a result of the oral tradition, storytelling. Medicine is essentially in the same boat. I remain open to individual choice and practices that allow people to find their way through the chaos, tragedies and suffering that living in accord with nature brings with it. We cannot escape nature, we cannot conquer nature, we cannot fool nature and we cannot ignore nature.

So what do I believe? I believe that lighting candles brings more Divine Enlightenment and Tolerance into the world. And that's something all of us could use more of.

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 11:08 AM
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