by Eunice J Minford MBChB MA FRCS Ed, Consultant Surgeon, N Ireland
I used to think that complementary medicine and alternative medicine were the same thing. I have come across others who speak of them as one and the same thing as well. The words are used interchangeably by many, and both often get tied together in the abbreviation ‘CAM’ – to refer to all things complementary and alternative in the world of medicine.
I was also very dismissive of anything that was in any way alternative/complementary and basically anything that was not mainstream medicine, and which had not been verified scientifically as I understood it. I viewed them, as many medical doctors do, with contempt and considered them all to be a waste of time and potentially dangerous if they prevented people getting access to ‘real medicine’. I had heard stories of people refusing medical treatment and who insisted on the ‘alternative’ path – only to end up dead when their cancer was of course not cured by the ‘alternative’ treatment. So it would be fair to say I was pretty staunchly against anything that had the label of complementary or alternative, as to me they were all in the same bag!
At that time I was of course very much in the arrogance of the medical/scientific consciousness, which thinks that doctors and scientists are the only ones who understand the body, illness and disease and treatment, and that unless people have been through the rigors of a bona fide medical and scientific training, then they basically have no right to make any claims as to the workings of the body – even their own.
The fact that everyone has a body and therefore has the lived experiences of their own bodies and the things that affect them was irrelevant. Unless people are medically trained, they do not know how to interpret their own bodies – or so the thinking goes. Also included in this type of thinking is the desire to own knowledge – to be the ones that know – to be the ones that tell others how it is, what they can and cannot do, tied up with a belief about being special and of course super-intelligent. The arrogance and supremacy are very tangible, even obvious, in this form of thinking – and whilst it may be a common form of thinking, it is one that is deeply harming and defies who we are as human beings.
I was deeply immersed in this form of thinking, so I know it well! The ‘need to know’ can be never-ending, the desire to know more than another, to be superior, more intelligent, and to have the power that comes from being in possession of such knowledge that others do not have or know – all exists to cover up the deeply buried emptiness, insecurity and lack of true knowing. Yes, a good dose of ignorance goes into the mix with the arrogance and the supremacy.
So rather than take the time to find out what complementary and alternative medicine were, it was easier to just clump them together and arrogantly claim they were all unscientific, unproven rubbish at best, a waste of time and money, and even potentially dangerous and life threatening if they prevented people from accessing ‘real medicine’.
I have since taken the time to find out more about them and have significantly changed my views in the process with regards to complementary medicine. The crucial difference then between complementary and alternative medicine is in fact in the name – one is complementary to and supportive of conventional medicine and the other is alternative to it. In other words in alternative medicine, a client or patient refuses all other forms of conventional medical treatment and uses only ‘alternative’ forms of treatment. As a surgeon, I therefore do not personally support the ‘alternative medicine’ approach. It can be potentially dangerous to always avoid conventional medical treatment, and I am not an advocate for alternative medicine.
However, this is quite different to how I now understand complementary medicine – which is a form of medicine that works side by side with medicine and is in fact in no way alternative to it. It embraces conventional medicine and knows that the latter is well needed in the world today. So a true complementary medicine practitioner works hand in hand with conventional medicine and would never advise a client or patient to not see their doctor for a medical condition and is supportive of medical treatments.
A complementary medicine practitioner can help the patient to go deeper, in terms of evaluating their life choices and how those choices may have contributed to the illness or disease. They take a holistic perspective that understands that all aspects of an individual are important in both illness and disease manifestation and in healing. They can address the spheres of a person’s life that conventional medicine neither has the time nor the training to address, but which are crucially important to health and wellbeing, in particular issues pertaining to the spiritual and emotional domains of life. Whilst alternative medicine practitioners may say they do likewise, I do not support it due to its anti-medicine stance.
Esoteric Medicine is a form of complementary medicine (and is in no way alternative) – but in fact it is even more than that. It is a truly holistic form of medicine that is supportive of and works with conventional medicine (hence complementary) and it takes the WHOLE being into consideration. It is encompassing of all aspects of the human person – body, mind, heart, spirit and soul. It is an aspect of Universal Medicine – which is an even grander form of medicine that encompasses not just the whole of the person, but the whole of life as we know it esoterically and energetically – and that includes God, the whole of humanity, the whole planet, the whole Universe – nothing and no-one is left out when the fullness of Universal Medicine is understood.
Therefore esoteric medicine, whilst seemingly fitting in to the category of complementary medicine, is in fact much grander and broader. As a way into understanding Universal Medicine its potential is huge. It raises the bar further and brings understandings to the whole of medicine that in my opinion are well needed and currently unsurpassed by any other form of medicine.
ps – whilst we’re talking differences – did you know that there is a difference between complementary and complimentary?
Complementary(with an e) is what we use in referring to complementary medicine as described above, and as something that goes along with, or complements medicine, and can also be where two things combine in such a way that as to enhance or emphasise the qualities of the other – ‘the colour of your coat really complements or brings out the colour of your eyes.’ Whereas complimentary (with an i) is when we get given something for free e.g. tickets to an event. It also refers to when someone pays us a compliment, expressing appreciation, praise, adoration etc and so may be very complimentary regarding our appearance e.g. ‘you are looking very beautiful today’.