by Eunice J Minford, MBChB MA FRCS Ed. Glenarm, N. Ireland
I have submitted a short ‘letter to the editor’ through the online system, but I feel to write to you personally to expand on that letter in regards to the article written by Josh Robertson and Liam Walsh entitled “New age ‘medicine’ of Serge Benhayon leaves trail of broken families”.
The interesting thing about this story and the aspect which the journalists have seemingly failed to explore and report is: why are ‘mainstream medical’ doctors referring clients to a clinic where the healing practices were established by a man who freely admits he has no medical qualifications whatsoever?
Does that not make you at least a little curious to know why highly qualified and intelligent mainstream doctors would be referring clients to this clinic?
Do you not think your readers would be a little curious to know the same?
Surely it should be part of your service to explore this aspect in more detail, to get to the truth of the matter from the doctors themselves?
Could it be possible that Serge Benhayon actually has some sensible things to say about life and how to live it, about health, well-being and illness and disease, that even has some mainstream medical doctors sitting up and taking notice?
Is it possible that these mainstream medical doctors have discerned, even though Serge Benhayon is not medically qualified, that his understandings make sense to them in light of their medical knowledge and scientific training?
Furthermore, is it possible that these medical doctors find that what Serge Benhayon presents does not just make sense theoretically or philosophically and is supported by their scientific understandings, but makes a practical difference in their own health and well-being to the extent that they know it will benefit others who choose to apply the same simple lifestyle choices – considering that it is based, not on a belief as is implied in this article, but on what is ACTUALLY a healthy and harmonious way to live that bears its own fruits?
Not only are these things possible – they are in fact true. A very different picture to the one portrayed in this article, is it not?
I work as a Consultant general surgeon in a busy district general hospital in Northern Ireland. I used to think that people who talked about ‘energy’ with regards to health were all talking nonsense, and I completely dismissed all forms of complementary healing as ‘woo-woo’ unscientific garbage that possibly did more harm than good. So I understand people who think likewise – and why journalists who know no better may use a derogatory, demeaning and dismissive tone when referring to such practices. However, it has been a humbling experience for me to come to realise and accept that the views that I held were simply based on a combination of arrogance and ignorance.
I have through my own life journey come to know and appreciate there is much more to us as human beings and much more to health, illness and disease than Western Medicine currently perceives or understands. I have searched high and low and across the world for the answers to human suffering and illness and disease as part of my own quest for answers to these dilemmas, as I am confronted with human suffering on a daily basis. I have undertaken additional training to explore beyond the boundaries of my medical training, which as an institution is slow to change its major paradigms of understanding.
What I have found is that even though Serge Benhayon has no medical training, he does have a deep understanding of the human being, the human condition, health, illness and disease… and much more besides.
We have to expand our understanding of the human being to realise that there are ways of knowing about life without having read a book, taken a course or exam, or obtained qualifications. I appreciate that is how we in society tend to label, categorise and pigeon-hole people by their qualifications, or lack of them – yet down through time there have always been people who have delivered deep and profound understandings of life who have not learned it out of a book, or through sitting courses and degrees. Indeed that in itself is another worthy topic for exploration – how does Serge Benhayon know what he knows such that even ‘mainstream medical’ doctors are listening to what he has to say?
Furthermore, in addition to working as a general surgeon with a deep interest in the health and well-being of humanity, I am firstly a woman. Thus I also care about the portrayal of women in the media, and women’s issues. Whether deliberate or not, this article is offensive to all women everywhere – not just those who attend Universal Medicine. The implication is that women have neither the intelligence nor the ability to discern for themselves whether Serge Benhayon is a ‘new age quack’ and ‘charlatan’, or a man with a message about how to live life in a way that is healthy and harmonious. It is also implied that because women attend Universal Medicine it is thus more likely to be a cult – as only women would be dumb enough, stupid enough, weak-willed and mindless enough to fall under the spell of a ‘cult leader’ and become a ‘follower’, rather than the implied more intelligent, discerning and superior gender of the species – men. How ridiculous is this? For the record, the majority of students entering medical school are also women – how does that get explained in this misogynistic system?
It is also extremely irresponsible and potentially very damaging for the journalists in this article to convey the message that it is not ok for a woman to say ‘no’ to being touched. Consent is part and parcel of consensual and responsible human relationships, and to suggest otherwise is opening the doors to more episodes of sexual molestation, abuse and rape within relationships, never mind outside consensual relationships. A proper journalistic investigation into those attending Universal Medicine would find stories of women who have experienced sexual molestation and abuse of varying degrees, and who have taken steps to not just heal these experiences, but to live in a way that honours who they are as women, to know that it is ok to say ‘no’, that they don’t just have to ‘lie back and think of England’, and to know that their body belongs to them and no-one else. The denigration of women in the media is rife, and this article is just another example of the entrenched patriarchal and misogynistic views that perpetuate the abuse against women….. women who could be your partner, your daughter, your sister, your mother, your work colleague.
Self-empowerment, feeling what is true for oneself and making choices accordingly, is at the very heart of everything Serge Benhayon presents – empowering people to know how to make choices that are wholesome and healthy, that engender wellbeing, harmony and personal responsibility for health. Thus it is totally contra to a cult, where disempowerment is the key. There are many highly intelligent, well-qualified, articulate and discerning women (and men) from all walks of life – medicine, law, corporate, finance etc., who attend Universal Medicine presentations. So here again is another topic that your journalists could have explored and endeavoured to understand as why that is – rather than perpetuating an out-dated stereotype that only serves to lower their own credibility.
However, instead of taking on any of these more interesting, challenging and worthy topics for discussion that could serve and educate many, I find this article to be representative of ‘all that is bad’ about print press media and journalism in general. It is the deep lack of journalistic integrity and responsibility that I find so appalling, and which only serves to reduce the credibility of this paper and the profession of journalism per se – which hardly needs another nail in its coffin. It is also astounding that there seems to be no way to hold journalists to account for printing misleading, misrepresentative and factually inaccurate stories with seemingly no-one within the profession prepared to stand up and do it differently.
How refreshing would it be to read an article and know by the tone, the style, the writing and the feel of the whole article that it was the truth – instead of a rehashed mish-mash of falsities, hyperbole and sensationalism as demonstrated in this article. By continuing in this vein the print press media is surely digging its own grave ever deeper as an increasingly discerning public realise that print press stories are just tissues of lies, and stop buying them. The decline in the quality of journalism has not gone unnoticed as demonstrated in this report – An allegory of journalistic decline… and as being demonstrated through the Leveson Enquiry. Perhaps it’s time to return to honest, factual and balanced reporting without the need to sensationalise each story, and which has responsibility, respect and integrity as its guiding principles in order that faith in the accuracy of journalistic reports may be restored. I am all for exposing con men and charlatans and cults, and I do appreciate the job that journalists do in reporting such stories – however, in this case, you have been seriously led astray.
As a medical professional and a human being, I care deeply about the suffering of humanity and I have made it part of my life’s journey in recent years to ask and find answers to some of the bigger questions in life. I know for myself that what Serge Benhayon presents could benefit people everywhere, for his presentations are based on the understanding of what love is, and is not. It is clear to me that the world and people everywhere could do with more love, care and tenderness in their lives, and this is exactly what Serge Benhayon presents –both how to live in a way that is more caring and loving and respectful of our bodies; and also what stops us from choosing those ways.
It is the deep lack of true love that is at the heart of our ills – something that has been known and presented by sages and wisdom traditions for aeons. It is the lack of true love that is responsible for man’s inhumanity to man on a macro-cosmic and a micro-cosmic scale, from world wars to one-to-one relationship breakdowns – not the fault of Serge Benhayon (in the latter example). Relationship breakdowns occur every day, and sometimes people will look to blame someone or something else rather than look at their own lives and take personal responsibility for their choices. Serge Benhayon empowers and inspires people to be more loving, more caring and more responsible in how they live their lives and express themselves, and there are many examples of relationships that have been deepened and enhanced through this – yet the journalists have made no attempt to report on those. Why is this?
It is thus disheartening to see how the Chinese whispers and ‘copy and paste’ journalistic approach has led to this man being vilified in the press as a result of a deliberate smear campaign, with no attempt to actually get to the truth about Serge Benhayon/Universal Medicine, or the people who attend it; nor to engage with the medical professionals who could explain medically how it can serve the health of humanity. I am willing to provide an article for publication that would endeavour to explain how the understandings of esoteric healing that Serge Benhayon presents could assist people to engender greater well-being and vitality – however, I have to say that my trust in the ability of the press to deliver an unbiased and unadulterated factual report on this matter is severely waning.
As a consequence of this article, a petition has been established to submit to the Leveson Enquiry regarding the denigration of women in the media, and to call for a means to regulate this type of disrespectful and demeaning journalism. For too long we have allowed the media to get away with this sort of disrespectful and demeaning reporting of women in the media – our silence only serves to perpetuate this behaviour. If we don’t respect ourselves, why should others? The time has come to hold journalists to account for the perpetual denigration of women in the media.