Published with kind permission of Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway
Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies. In addition to his medical practice, he has devoted himself to speaking and writing about metaphysics and healing, with an eye toward helping people regain their health, strength and the ability to explore life’s challenges from as more spiritual perspective.
An emerging leader in the field of mind-body-spirit medicine and healing, his articles have been published in dozens of healing-oriented magazines. This fall, he begins his fourth year of teaching at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey. This year his Contemporary Metaphysics I will be followed by a new course, Contemporary Metaphysics II which will delve into various aspects of healing. You can visit him at his blog, Physician to Meta-Physician, at www.meta-md.com.
As a medical doctor, was it hard for you to reconcile science with the science of the unseen?
Actually, at first it was. Science was my paradigm for reality. It was the basis upon which I invested my belief system. My exploration into the paranormal/spiritual began when I was exposed to ordinary/sane/rational individuals who had personal experiences which defied my scientific background. Still, they offered me a form of ‘evidence’ that was compelling and stimulated my curiosity to investigate more.
Many people think of Metaphysics as being ‘out there’. How do you think it affects our every day life?
The term ‘metaphysics is often confused with its popular connotation of the magical/occult/paranormal. Metaphysical sections of book stores contribute to this misunderstanding. In actuality, the term refers to a branch of philosophy, derived by the students of Aristotle. It refers to the exploration of the nature of reality. My understanding/interpretation of the term allows for exploration of both science and spirituality as well as philosophy in that they seek to understand the nature of existence itself. There are subdivisions of metaphysics as well. I also believe all human beings, consciously or subconsciously seek answers to the great metaphysical questions of existence.
Can people get along well in life without this kind of spiritual understanding? Or do you think it is imperative that we awaken to it?
I do believe that people can function fairly well as atheists/agnostics. They can be compassionate and moral beings based on their humanistic approach to life. Yet when it comes to the issues of a higher purpose to life’s events — whether people come into our lives for a reason, dealing with the suffering that surrounds us, the notion of a soul and its persistence after death, dealing with the death of loved– those who have a deeper spiritual belief system may be able to find a more profound peace and equanimity during their lives.
Do you think metaphysics make heartache and suffering any easier to understand?
Perhaps when we really allow ourselves to ponder the great questions of existence and seek evidence for their answers, we will find that there is a greater purpose to suffering. Perhaps we will cherish our lives as opportunities to overcome the inevitable pain we find. Perhaps we can convince ourselves that this is one of innumerable lifetimes. This understanding may allow us to experience the pain, not as victims, but as participants in our soul’s spiritual journey. Such an attitude will transform the pain of any one lifetime and reduce our individual suffering.
Does it demystify the universe?
That’s a great question. Metaphysics actually allows me to ‘tolerate’ mystery better than I thought I could. We all desire to have our questions answered neatly and understandably. This is unlikely to happen. Albert Einstein wrote about embracing the grand mystery of the universe. He found it to be a great source of energy by which to stimulate his own journey to understanding. Mystics and scientists share this desire to explore mystery while understanding that this will never be accomplished.
Is metaphysics fun?
It is for me. It completely captures my innate curiosity about the nature of reality. It is intellectually as well as emotionally challenging. It takes me to the limits of ideas and concepts and taunts me to go further. It challenges me to be fearless and leaves me invigorated, wanting more.
Please elaborate a little on some of the topics explored in your class.
Contemporary Metaphysics I explores the relationship between the scientific paradigm for reality which has been in existence since the time of Newton, Galileo and Descartes with the changes that Quantum and Relativity Theory have introduced. The general belief that science and spirituality are incompatible is challenged by an examination of various topics such as the near-death experience, after-death communication, psychic abilities, the medium experience. The emphasis is on ‘evidence’ provided by an examination of the material. Skepticism is always welcomed as long as it remains open-minded as regards the evidence presented. A medium attends one class and offers short personal readings. Open and frank sharing of deeply held personal paranormal and spiritual experiences are encouraged.
The new course Contemporary Metaphysics II will examine the issues of alternative/complementary healing. The mind/body/spirit approach to disease and treatment will be explored as well. Energy and spiritual healing as well as acupuncture will be introduced. A Reiki healer will be invited to the course for discussion and demonstration.
How do you interpret Blind Faith?
I personally have a problem with the term ‘blind’ faith. Although it is true that all of us, scientists included, need to accept certain postulates as the basis of our understanding, I am not able to accept my beliefs without at least some appeal to rational evidence. So we will explore that dichotomy.
What makes you believe in the near-death experience?
There is actually a large body of literature with extensive research into the Near Death Experience (NDE). I have personally interviewed individuals who have had them as well. There is something extraordinary and deeply spiritual about them and they serve as a focal point for my courses. They lead into discussions of the nature of human consciousness/mind as well as issues of the soul and its persistence after death.
Can a past life contribute to a current medical condition?
Once again, there is a large body of scientifically conducted, rational and sober research into this exact topic. Dr. Ian Stevenson has devoted his life to the topic of reincarnation and their effect on physical conditions in a present life. There is fascinating evidence to support this claim. Other hypno-therapists such as Brian Weiss, MD, Michael Newton, MD and others have noted psychological ‘carry-over’ from past lives as well.
What’s the difference between a psychic and a medium?
A good question. A psychic claims to be capable of understanding thoughts or events that defy the usual sensory apparatus we all possess. There are a variety of psychic abilities that we discuss in the class and evidence exists that point to the reality of psychic ability in certain individuals. A medium is someone who claims to be able to communicate with souls who have died and crossed-over. As outrageous as this claim seems, I have personally explored this topic and find powerful evidence for its reality. Many psychics possess medium-type abilities and vice versa but this does not always occur.
Do we all have the ability to tune into our metaphysical universe?
I believe that we all have this ability to some degree. As in any other talent such as sports, music, intellect, there is a wide range of natural ability. I do believe, however, that we can all increase our abilities through training and intention. The more we learn and explore, the more we can enhance our lives. That’s true of any quest for knowledge or experience.
Where does God fit in?
This question could fill an entire course by itself. It is one of the most powerful and complex of all metaphysical questions. It engenders enormous emotional responses from individuals who have strong religious backgrounds. From my perspective, I do believe that there is evidence for a Higher Intelligence in the universe. The term ‘God’ can be applied to that Intelligence and in the course we discuss various notions of what individuals mean by that concept. If you ask 20 people the same question you will likely have 20 answers. I think, for explorers of metaphysics, it is a question we must live in.
Do you consider yourself a student of metaphysics as well as a teacher?
Without question. I consider myself to be a perpetual seeker of wisdom and feel privileged to share my experiences and thoughts with others. I feel that I learn much more from my interaction with my students than from my readings and studies alone. I question the humility of some who offer themselves up as experts or gurus but I am anxious to learn from everyone.
For more information on Dr. Hodes visit www.meta-md.com
Rev. Laurie Sue BrockwayWedding Officiant, columnist andauthor, Wedding Goddesswww.WeddingGoddess.comCorrespondent, New York Woman, www.NYWomannewspaper.com Contributing Editor, Wedlok, www.Wedlok.comSpirituality Editor, Hitch NY www.HitchNY.comRelationship Columnist, Club Mom, www.ClubMom.com