Afterwards, You're a Genius: Faith, Medicine, and the Metaphysics of Healing

Afterwards, You're a Genius: Faith, Medicine, and the Metaphysics of Healing

By Chip Brown
New York: Riverhead, 1998. Hardcover, 398 pages.

This book, with its odd title, is nevertheless an entertaining excursion into alternative medical practices by a journalist who apparently started out as a hard-headed and skeptical investigator of the subject but ended up convinced that there is much that conventional medicine does not know and that spirituality and healing go together in ways that we can hardly grasp.

As Brown entered into his exploration of healing techniques on the fringe of conventional medicine, he focused on those approaches that fall under the rubric "energy medicine." He was curious about the concept: of the "ghost in the machine," the idea of an animating soul or spirit in the body that is crucial to healing.

One could certainly conclude that Brown is very much persuaded of the truth of Voltaire's remark that "the art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease." And amuse Chip Brown does, as he describes his explorations into psychism, aura balancing, subtle energies, healing prayer, hands-on healing, and other alternatives to conventional medicine.

A former staff writer for the Washington Post, the author has also written for a number of national magazines including the New YorkerHarper's, and Esquire. He starts out skeptical, finds himself frequently puzzled at how he gets drawn into the peculiar ways of unconventional healing, and finally concludes, "Maybe there is also real magic in magical thinking."

He learns "not to clutch too tightly this idea that there is an intrinsic meaning in all events .... And yet the idea of intrinsic meaningfulness is central to the metaphysics of healing. At times nothing seems more powerful than the Willful disavowing of chance precisely because it does turn every misfortune into a lesson; it does render meaning; it docs ask you to search the flux of events for your complicity. Maybe the very effort to live by such a code creates its own meaning. You learn to pretend that everything happens for a reason and you are astonished to find that meaning appears.”


May/June 2001