CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Learning to Love the Law

Attitudes toward the law range from reverence to cynicism. This was most recently evidenced during a talk I gave at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine on legal rules and advice pertinent to establishing a complementary and integrative medicine center.

Of course, legal scholars have always been divided between positivists -- who think "natural law" derives from a divine blueprint, and realists, who think the law, to quote O. W. Holmes, is "what the judges say it is - nothing less and nothing more."

To be honest, I strayed somewhat into the skeptical camp, moving deeply into spirituality as a means for finding the "higher law"--the guidance within from a place of connection with Spirit. These connections are explored in A Question of Time as well as A Friend of All Faiths, and even Future Medicine.

Of course the pendulum has to swing back, mingling the positivist position with legal realism. Preparing to teach international law has awakened me to the great principles enshrined in such documents as the U.N. Charter. Whether or not the U.N. fully lives up to the ideals in those documents (and tragically it often doesn't), the sincere aspirations of humankind--the ethical norms, the grand view of peace, the efforts to secure blessed living among all humans--are beautifully captured by the language of these international agreements.

I write now from a new place--the Harvard Law School library, in its elegant reading room which feels more like a temple than an educational facility (or maybe they should be the same). A previously closed door has now been uncovered to reveal a hidden antechamber--it's like Indiana Jones--containing some oil portraits of learned judges of the past (Chancellors of the Exchequer and the like), and browned volumes rumination on the Law from every corner of the Earth: Japanese Code, Scottish trials, French jurisprudence, Roman legal principles, and so on. This is the Caspersen Room (formerly the Treasure Room), whose memorabilia showcases the history of the law and Harvard Law School.

And the current exhibit on HLS alumn who contributed to Brown v. Bd. of Education is also inspiring. If this link still holds, you can visit some of the ancient and timeless spirits who inhabit this temple too. I am nowhere near the consciousness of The Paper Chase, with the sardonic torments of Socratic method gone awry. The stillness here is that of an ashram -- only marred by occasional bursts of typing hither and thither. Precious is the view of Oliver Wendell's home's chest, flouridly monogrammed OWH, and his tin lunchbook. Justice Frankfurter's wife was taller than him, according to the photos, and his memo (in courier, on an old typewriter) full of X'd out mistakes. These men and women were human -- they are here in their glory, reminding me of the great lineage that I share as a member of the Bar, and of the oath I took on joining the profession.

So there is some revitalization in this sacred energy of the path, and the reason for letting the western hemisphere of the mind triumph in the fullness of its faculties, knowing also that integration with other circuits will add still more to these treasures.

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COMPLEMENTARY & ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE LAW BLOG

Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173