#77 – The Poison of Belief

Nearly all men die of their remedies and not their illnesses.
    – Moliere in The Imaginary Invalid

Even a century after Moliere wrote his insight into the relationship between illness and belief Americans were still killing themselves with their remedies. Take, for example the doctors treating George Washington. “Superstitions and traditions die hard, especially when they take the disguise of reason. Medicine justified the practice of bleeding by adopting the popular belief that blood was the carrier of the impurities and poisons of disease, and that by the removal of ‘bad’ blood, the formation of new healthy blood would be engendered.” (1)

The object of this rite was either to let the bad demons escape with the flowing blood, or to appease the spirits and gods by the sacrificial blood.” (1)  Religious superstitions are still with us today and although they may have changed their specific “form” we have our own way of describing what causes our modern-day maladies. After all, don’t forget that Roman Catholic priests still perform exorcisms.

We will continue to discover pills and mental health palliatives, remedies, if you will, that will only make matters worse. We are still “bleeding” each other to death. For example: “Today’s opioid crisis has its roots in the 1990s, when prescriptions for painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin started to become common. Companies like Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, aggressively peddled the idea that these drugs were not addictive with the help of dubious or misinterpreted research. One short 1980 letter to The New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Hershel Jick and Jane Porter said the risk of addiction was less than one percent, based on an analysis of nearly 12,000 hospital patients who were given opioid painkillers. That letter was widely—and incorrectly—cited as evidence that opioids were safe.” (2)

Our species, despite having health care systems replete with remedies, is not improving in fundamental physical or mental health. Big Pharma and psychiatry have much to “sell” us but it is not better overall health.

We have yet to take a hard look at the sources of our pain and suffering. Many sages over time have identified our self-destructive pursuit of material wealth, unsatisfying pseudo-pleasures, and power as desperate behaviors to distract us from or to mask the reality of our delusional experience.

What direction do we take now? Perhaps we are trying too hard! First we need to become more sophisticated in our search for the causes of human pain and suffering. Join us in that search by clicking on the link below.

Insight # 77:    Il dolce far niente.   (How sweet it is to do nothing.)



  1. Marx, Dr. Rudolph. “A Medical Profile of George Washington.” American Heritage. August 1955, page 44.
  2. New York Times, The. “The Opioid Crisis Foretold.” April 22, 2018, page 10.

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