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Holistic Health Perspective on Macbeth by Attorney

Verdi's Macbeth offers little insight into the worlds of spirit and the nature of fate, although psychologically and musically its greatness shines.

The world-famous Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center is staging Verdi's version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. I had never before heard the opera, and the translated text ('is this a text I see floating before me/or a projection of my own imagination'), made feasible by technology, allowed understanding of the psychological leit-motifs behind the music. I noticed many references to spirit and fate, and, from the perspective of energy healing, the textual efforts to link Macbeth's psycholgoical and spiritual decline to the world of astral entities was of interest.

To me, the portrait succeeded only in part. It is, of course, deeply relevant, both morally and legally, whether Macbeth's criminality is the result of a deranged mind -- in which case he might have available the criminal defense of 'diminished responsibility' - or of a character flaw; the word that kept popping up in the libretto was 'ambition.' But whether Macbeth was controlled by the spirits or merely encouraged by them is secondary to the question of his enmeshment with the seedier side of his own being, an archetypical flaw characterizing humanity.

Ambition is, of course, the mark of politicians - be they a Scottish soldier desiring the kingship or a modern-day presidential candidate. ('Obama, Obama, beware McDuff.' Or was it McHillary?) Actually, Lady Macbeth was the more interesting character, as she was less conflicted than her husband and more direct about the raw use of power. She was an instrumentalist, an instrument of destruction as one who saw the end (in itself not all that noble - Macbeth's ascension) justifying the means (ridding himself of threats both actual and -- in a rather Nixonian way -- perceived).

But back to the spiritual - the energies of darkness were meant to be inspired (if such can be) by the dark text. Portents, forebodings, grim premonitions, thunder, lightning, use of the words "horror" and "horrible," all these were meant to convey the presence of evil. I was probably very impressed with all this, reading Macbeth in grade school. These days, the better text is Hannah Arendt's 'Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil.' The ugliness is so commonplace in this dark age which Hinduism refers to as 'Kali Yuga,' the Age of Unrighteousness, that images of soldiers, guns, tanks, even Macbeth's amusingly thuggish black leather coat together with the text's impious references to bad spirits do little to conjure up black magic.

These days, one only needs to witness the true horrors - the cyclone in Myanamar, people being jammed into the Superdome after Katrina, the earthquake in China, genocides by petty tyrants everywhere - to understand that the pettiness of one pretender to the Scottish throne, fueled by a little greed and some flashes of lighting, is not so amazing. It is truly the banality of evil with which we are grappling, and the omnipresence of trauma and tragedy in the world that needs healing. The evildoers might not wear thuggish coats (or maybe trenchoats, if you watched "The Fog of War"). There may not be 'wierd sisters'--there could be 'neo-cons' instead. No one from the outside is stirring up a witches' brew. Better for us to take responsibility for our own actions.

To that end, I have finally purchased 'Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide' by Samantha Powers. I want to read cover to cover how the Macbeths of this age were sanctioned (in the sense of enabled) and tolerated, how fear overrode courage. In the opera, Lady Macbeth subverts the meaning of virtue and the virtue of meaning, by calling 'courage' the ability to overcome the 'fear' of 'self-doubt' and plunge into murder. For no reason at all, really - the motivation to ascend the throne (or descend perhaps) is not reallly all the convincing in the melodrama. But the fear to which Powers will no doubt refer is the paralyzing inability to speak out against atrocity and thereby to work one's powers to collude with genocidal rulers.

One visual detail of the opera: the actors playing soldiers did this little sweep each scene before the curtain closed, moving their steps backwards deliberately, guns pointed forward, like suspicious guardians of security waiving their weapons into the suspicious night. Maybe I've seen this little manuever too many times on TV - the endless cops and robbers shows, crime scene scenes, bad episodes of Stargate and Stargate Atlantis and garbage in garbage out (why would anyone go through a Star Gate with machine gun, ray gun, or weapon of any kind being the first object thrust forward, anyway)? Violence itself has become banal, all the ratings have changed, and what may have shocked audiences back in Shakespeare's time has nothing on reality shows.

The true evil, the true shocker, is not Macbeth and his Lady, but rather the diminishing distance between these characters, meant to portray embodiments of ultimate evil, and what our culture accepts in the ordinary everyday. The soldiers in tanks waving machine guns who are puppets supporting the evil politician has become a sad, but nonetheless weary, cliche of our times.

But maybe this is also a personal comment, in that I have met these characters in various (health care, educational, business, and other) institutions, and that the real interest for me, as one whose professional path has been about healing, is not so much the dark Darth Vader side of destruction, as what may be possible once we heal the dark shadows, and step into a numinosity so bright, its infinite potential may presently be too blinding to reveal.
The Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on holistic, alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies. The law firm represents medical doctors, allied health professionals (from psychologists to nurses and dentists) and other clinicians (from chiropractors to naturopathic physicians, massage therapists, and acupuncturists), entrepreneurs, hospitals, and educational organizations, health care institutions, and individuals and corporations.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of The Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine, a nonprofit organization exploring legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, massage therapy, energy healing, and herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. Michael H. Cohen is author of books on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy dealing with complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, including Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).
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Health care and corporate lawyer Michael H. Cohen has been admitted to the Bar of California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C. In addition to qualifying as a U.S. attorney, he has been admitted and to the Bar of England and Wales as a Solicitor (non-practicing). For more information regarding the law practice of attorney Michael H. Cohen, see the FAQs for the Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen. Thank you for visiting the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog.
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