10 Questions Series: Bernie Siegel

August 15, 2013 by Chris Grosso

Bernie Siegel

NAME: Bernie Siegel

BIO: For many, Dr. Bernard Siegel—or Bernie, as he prefers to be called—needs no introduction. He has touched many lives all over the Planet. In 1978, he reached a national and then international audience when he began talking about patient empowerment and the choice to live fully and die in peace. As a physician who has cared for and counseled innumerable people whose mortality has been threatened by illness, Bernie embraces a philosophy of living and dying that stands at the forefront of the medical ethics and spiritual issues our Society grapples with today. In May 2011, Bernie was honored by the Watkins Review of London, England, as one of the Top 20 Spiritually Influential Living People on the Planet. He continues to break new ground in the field of healing, supporting changes in medical education to “humanize” medical practice. 

Q: Who and or what, do you attribute the person you are today to?


A: That could be a book because I would have to say several things. I was born an ugly duckling due to my mother’s ill health. She wasn’t supposed to be pregnant, there were all kinds of complications, she couldn’t survive a cesarean section etc. She said, “They didn’t hand me a child, they handed me a purple melon.” I heard that when I had grown up and had no idea of the whole story because the family album had pictures of a covered carriage and my mother smiling so I assumed I was asleep. She told me later on that they wrapped me in kerchiefs when they let my parents take me home from the hospital and when they got home, they put me out back in a covered carriage so nobody would get upset from seeing me. So I said to her, “Why am I not a drug addict or an alcoholic, because nobody was touching me.” Please understand, they loved me but I was their first child and they didn’t know what to do with what they were given. The answer was that my Grandmother took me, poured oil all over my body and four or five times a day would push everything back to where it belonged. When I heard that, it made all the difference in the world because I’m sure as an infant, no matter what I looked like, I felt like the most loved kid getting those massages. So I really think that was a big part of my growing and my brain developing. Most of all however, I think it was the love that was given to me unconditionally and I felt that my whole life. It certainly wasn’t that my parents always liked what I was doing, even my becoming a doctor, my father preferred I went into business so he could help me, but I wanted to be a doctor. So I grew up with sentiments such as, “Do what will make you happy, troubles are God’s redirections that something good will come from, and that material things are to make the world a better place” and the latter came from my father because his father died of tuberculosis when he was twelve. They had no insurance, six kids and a hell of a time surviving. So it taught him that money, financial matters were to help people, to help them survive, not to have a bigger house or a bigger car and that sort of thing, because I hear that from so many kids, they often don’t know why their father won’t spend more time with them. The father is always on the computer etc but look at the house they’re living in and it starts to make sense, and it breaks the kid’s hearts. What I learned was to live in my heart and to do what will make my happy, and that was not selfishness. It didn’t matter what job I took, my mother’s answer was, “Do what will make you happy.” It brought attention to my own feelings, and the realization that I never knew what the future would bring so to keep an optimistic view of it, because who knows what today’s events will bring. So I think that made me who I am. That just reminded me of an experience I had roughly forty or fifty years later when, for the first time I was getting a massage from a woman. Her husband was massaging my wife and giving her some extra time so his wife, who’s a therapist, started with me. She put oil all over me, including my shaved head, and when she massaged me, I went back to being an infant. Now I knew what was happening, it was an incredible experience but when I opened my eyes, there were six people in the room standing around staring at me. I said, “What the hell is going on here? I’m getting a massage. Why are you all standing there staring at me?” The woman’s husband said, “We thought you had a heart attack or a stroke. We couldn’t talk to you, we couldn’t communicate with you” and I said, “I know, I went back to being an infant.” So their reaction very much confirmed what I had experienced. I grew up caring about people and I would say again, that’s what made me who I am. I became a doctor for what I like to call “healthy reasons.” Not because I’m fascinated by the human body or want to understand death, but I like people and I want to help them. That also became my problem, because I couldn’t help everyone, I couldn’t fix everyone. We’re all mortal. Another experience that really changed my life was going to a workshop that I thought was intended for Doctors hosted by Dr Carl Simonton years ago. He wrote a book called “Getting Well Again” that taught imagery and other things and I thought that would help me in helping my patients and alleviate my feeling of failure. When I got there however, I was the only doctor out of 125 people and it blew my mind. Not one single oncologist in Connecticut had come to this meeting. Sitting next to me were my patients and that’s what changed me, being there with no desk and sitting next to them. One of their exact words were, “You’re a nice guy, I feel better when I’m in the office with you, but I can’t take you home with me so I need to know how to live between office visits” and that really redirected my life. I love how Mother Theresa said she wouldn’t attend an anti-war rally but if there was a peace rally to call her. So I realized it’s not about waging a war against everybody’s disease and diagnosis but rather about helping them live. I may add, I went back to the office and pushed my desk back against the wall, which confused a lot of the technical people I worked with and made them uncomfortable, even the guy who had to move my telephone said, “What are you doing, this isn’t like a Dr.’s office.” So that changed my life, helping people live and they also taught me about living. You might say in summary, what I learned was if you really love your life and your body, amazing things happen. You don’t die when you’re supposed to and so I’d say those are the things that really got me doing what I’m doing today, helping people to live, including myself and my wife. I look at our lives, when we got sick, what was going on and it wasn’t about guilt, shame and blame, it was about learning. People have taught me what most doctors don’t learn, in other words, when somebody does better than expected, the doctor will tell them they’re doing very well and to keep it up. I learned to say, “You didn’t die when you were supposed to so what’s going on?”, and they always had a story to tell me. Things they were changing in their lives to help them survive. So I’ve learned to ask people, “You’re doing very well so what are you doing? Let me tell other people.” So what’s made me who I am, my experience. When I experience something, I believe it. I almost choked to death when I was a four year old and had a near death experience. I was very upset that I didn’t die because it was a lot more interesting out of your body than in it. I always laugh when I say that but you see, I was out of my body and I’m thinking, “This is interesting. I’m sad my parents will find me dead but I’d prefer being dead than back in the body choking on a toy (which I had aspirated after putting it in my mouth).” So when you have an experience like that, it changes who you are. I can’t deny what happened to me. I had a past life experience, something I wasn’t looking for at all, but I was on the phone telling someone my schedule and how busy I was and she asked me why I was living this life. She wanted me to slow down and take it easy. I went into a trance because she asked me why I was living this life. So why am I who I am? In a past life, what I realized, and I’m not going to go into the details, but I killed people and animals, pets and things. I killed like a knight or soldier would kill, I was given orders and I would go. I had to learn that you have to have the right Lord, so when you follow orders it’s for the right reason, not just to get even or kill somebody.


Q: What are some of the musical albums or musicians/bands that have impacted your life and in what way?


A: Right now, I have the satellite in the car, and I can play the music channel on my TV as well and my favorite recently has been classic country western. What I find is it’s like poetry, for example, “Let your heart make up your mind. Yesterday is dead and gone, tomorrow is out of sight, help me make it through the night.” There’s a whole host of songs that say something to me and they’re therapy so I can listen to them all day long and feel good about it.


Amazing Grace is another song I used to sing all the time at the end of our workshops. The person who wrote Amazing Grace was a ship’s captain carrying slaves to America from Africa. They ran into a horrendous storm and the captain said, “God, if you save us I will turn around and bring the slaves back.” So the storm abates and he turns around and brings them back. He goes on to become a minister and eventually writes Amazing Grace and that song says a lot to me. I grew up as an artist and painter and that’s part of why I became a surgeon, to use my hands. I am visual and my auditory senses are not well developed. My wife’s mother was an opera singer who was well known in her day on major stages in New York and other places around the country. So when I started dating her daughter I would sing at their house and would notice the mother closing the windows. I didn’t ask why, I just assumed she didn’t want to bother the neighbors, but eventually when she knew I was going to continue seeing her daughter she said you can’t sing here anymore, you’re driving us insane. I had no sense of notes or keys so I sang the wrong notes and in the wrong keys but for me, it was the lyrics I’d memorized that meant something so I would sit there and sing away. Over the years, my wife has trained me and she is very pleased with my singing now.


I grew up in New York and spoke for Norman Vincent Peale at his church in Manhattan. I said to him, “I can’t take New York anymore, the noise, the people. I like being out where it is quiet” and he said, “Bernie, it’s not about the noise, it’s about rhythm.” After that, I came across so many people who loved New York because it gave them energy, especially creative artistic energy. I think it was Walt Whitman who wrote a poem I came across in which he said, “Give me again oh nature your primal sanity” which is one of the first lines in it and I thought, “Ok, he agrees with me. He understands me” but the poem ends with the words, “Give me Manhattan.” So he made it very clear to me as the poem because Manhattan stirs his energy and its creativity and everything that’s going on there. When you’re sitting out in the country, what’s stimulating you? So I thought yeah, he and Peale are saying the same thing and they got the message through to me to find the rhythm in my life and enjoy it.


Dream the Impossible Dream, from the show Man of La Mancha, is also in a sense a role model for me. To live those songs, sing them and live them, especially the spiritual songs. There’s one line, “He knows every lie that you and I have told, and though it makes him sad to see the way we live, he’ll always say, I forgive.” I find that relates to me and how some people feel about me, because I am more spiritual than religious and I’m not doing what religion says I should do etc. So to me, the way the playwrights and musicians, the way they’re looking at the world, they’re telling me what the world is really like. One of the things that never made sense to me was this; you tell me your child died ten years ago and yesterday you were driving down the parkway and your child appeared and said, “Slow down.” So you slowed down and realized there was a sheet of ice and the child saved you from a horrible accident. Now my comment was, “Your kid’s a bum. Ten years later and he’s still hanging around doing nothing? He could be back in a body and going to school.” So my friend, Doctor Brian Weiss, who’s written about past lives said, “Bernie, there’s no time when you leave your body.” And that was something I couldn’t believe because I hadn’t experienced it, so how I could I accept that. There was a dialogue in the show Carousel, in which a man is shot committing a crime and an angel appears and becomes his guide. One day the angel asks if he’d like to go back and watch his daughter graduate from High School and the guys says, “My daughter’s a baby, what are you talking about?” and the angel says, “No, she’s graduating from High School, there’s no time up here.” That’s from Rogers and Hammerstein years ago. Now, where the hell did that line come from? How the hell did they put that in there? But when I heard that line, “There’s no time up here” at that point I had full acceptance and could begin listening to the stories that people were telling me and there were many of them including symbols, favorite pets showing up, all kinds of signs that relate to their kids. So these are the things I’ve learned to accept because of the experience that came with it.


The other thing I’d like to mention is a poem by W.H. Auden in which he says, A doctor comes home after examining a lonely woman and says to his wife, cancer is a funny thing, it’s like a hidden assassin waiting to strike at you. Childless women get it and men when they retire. It’s as if there had to be an outlet for their foiled creative fire. Now therapists were saying the same thing decades before that. That cancer was like growth gone wrong but when I’d say that, the doctors would yell at me saying, “Just because it rhymes it doesn’t make it true.” But twenty and thirty years later when these things are studied, you find that loneliness does affect the genes that control your immune function. So suddenly, it’s scientific, but the poet and songwriter had already seen it and written about it. They don’t have to worry about the science because it’s been their experience. So again, that’s what music in the sense means to me, the poetry. If the music is about life, fine, but not just a lot of noise. It’s the lyrics which mean something to me.


Q: What is one of the most shocking experiences you’ve ever had?


A: There’s very little that shocks me because I consider life a miracle so I guess what shocks me is that life exists. How the hell did we get here? What shocks me is that bacteria alter their genes and resist antibiotics and viruses resist vaccines. The tree doesn’t die, nor do I when you cut off a branch or a finger, we both heal so we don’t lose all the sap or blood. That to me is total shock. Also that water defies the laws of physics by becoming less dense when frozen. Life really is a miracle and all the things that are been built into us through it.


The other thing I’d say that shocked and woke me up was as I began to change as a doctor. One of my patients was a mystic and communicated with dead people. She came into my office one day and said, “Now that I know you’re not a normal doctor, I don’t mind talking to you about this. Yesterday, while in group I asked for a message for Bernie and this is what I got: From Frank, If I’d known it’d have been this easy, I’d have bought the package a long time ago and not have resisted so much.” As soon as she said Frank, I knew exactly who that was. It was a doctor named Frank Guida was a support group member but had just died from cancer. So I called Franks wife and I told her I had a message from Frank which I recited to her and she said, “Oh my God.” I asked her if I’d upset her and she said, “No. Every time we walked out of the doors of the meeting, he’d turn to me and say, “I can’t buy that package.” Now my patient who is a mystic has called me about people that she doesn’t know. She doesn’t live near me and is no longer my patient but she has called me about my parents and other people I know. She even told me years ago I was going to write books to which I told her, “I’m not going to write books. The only C I got in college was in creative writing. I’m not a writer, I’m an artist.” Well, I’ve now written twelve books and she told me that I would. So that is a hell of a shock and I tell people now who’ve lost loved ones, “Call up Monica and she’ll bring you a message from them.”


Another event was when I was in California speaking to the ASPCA at a non-kill conference. Part of my past life has led me to rescue everybody. Our house was like a zoo when our five kids were here to help us but now since they’re gone we only have four cats and two dogs. So I had met Amelia Kinkade who’s written some books about being an animal intuitive and communicating and again, I met her by no coincidence. I get on an elevator and there was a lovely young lady, so I said hello and asked her what she was there for. After a brief conversation, she told she was an animal intuitive. I couldn’t believe that as I’d never experienced it and I thought the idea that she talked to animals was nuts. Later, one of our cats disappeared because somebody had left the house door open and I thought it was probably dead because I’d left food out etc and there was no sign of it, plus we live in a wooded area. So I emailed Amelia and asked her where my cat was and a few days later I got an email back that was absolutely incredible. It started with, “I can see the moon though the cats eyes” and she described the house in absolutely incredible detail including the name of the veterinarian, his first name, and the other pets that were there who were scaring our cat, which she said was hiding under the house. That made no sense to me, how do you get under a house. Come to find out, there was a stairway that came off the house, down a hill, and went all the way down to the ground on both sides and that’s where the cat was protecting herself. She’d squeezed into it like a cage so the other animals couldn’t get her. I got her out the next morning. I stood in the yard yelling her name and she answered by meowing and I went and got her. Amelia by the way was sitting in Los Angeles when she told me where to find the cat in Connecticut. She taught me something about quieting my mind, so if you want to know your identity, quiet your mind and your life so you can reflect, because when there’s turbulence, you’ll never see who you are. Quiet your mind and it works every time.


I believe consciousness is non-local and a big part of what we experience with near death and past lives. It’s the consciousness that has come into us from other experiences and our consciousness that we remain aware of when we leave our bodies and they communicate with us through dreams, and even through drawings which I do a lot of work with myself. You can see people draw the past, present and future as well as dream about it. You go to bed at night and have a dream that says there’s a lump in your right breast and the doctor who is foreign, with an accent tells you it’s cancer. Well the woman having the dream wakes up, feels her breast and sure enough, there’s a lump. So she goes to the hospital, and they’re discussing the diagnosis with her when who walks into the room but the woman doctor from her dream who tells her the same thing, how does that happen? I hear more stories like that than probably most other doctors because the patients feel safe with me. I’m not going to tell them it’s their imagination, it can’t be imagination, it’s their consciousness. Carl Jung said, “The future is unconsciously prepared long in advance and therefore can be guessed by clairvoyants.” I’m not an expert at it but I’ve learned that if you quiet your mind the message will get through.


Q: What is one of the most beautiful experiences you’ve ever had?


A: I’d say my marriage and relationship with my wife. We have a love I think that very few people have. When we got married, we were still kids in a sense. I was still going to school, and she had just become a schoolteacher, so she knew how to take care of everything and bring me up. I was immature in terms of the reality of being out in the world. What I loved was that we would speak together at our presentations. She would do a lot of one-liners that insulted the men because there were always fewer men in the audience. She didn’t do it in a nasty way but touching on deficiencies and how much better women were and everyone would love it. So when I’d introduce her I’d say, “Here’s my wife and we’ve had 38 wonderful years of married life.” Everyone would smile and think I was so sweet and then I’d say, “38 out of 55 aren’t bad” and then the women would want to kill me. We got married in 1954 so we’re coming up on 58 years together and really, it’s just like one life. She was in my past life experience too and that’s why I was in tears for hours after I dad experience of that because of what I did to her. It taught me why her face was so important and meant so much to me in this life. It was an almost hypnotic experience. I had looked into it in a past life and found out I had killed her, so to see it in this life was a very moving experience from way back then. Our coming together was a kind of accident in a way, though as Elisabeth Kubler Ross used to say, “There are no coincidences Bernie.” We were both working at a day camp taking care of first graders, she with the girls and I with the boys. We met “accidentally” because our kids were in the pool together and we went on from there. We have five children now and of course, there’s troubles and difficulties but it’s still an incredible experience so I’d have to say life itself is also a beautiful experience.


Q: What is one of the most defining moments in your life and why?


A: What helped define me was the woman I mentioned in one of my previous answers who said, “I want to know how to live between office visits.” I learned that the way to make your life significant is to help people live. It’s not about trying to keep people from dying how to help them live. There was something I read the other day in Parabola Magazine from Pancho Stierle that struck me. He was out there in California with all of the protestors at the Occupy Movement and he got them to sit down and meditate. When the police showed up, they didn’t know what the hell to do because everyone was meditating. He made a statement that said, “If you want to be a rebel, be kind.” He was taken to prison because he was with the crowd and what did he do while there? He cleaned the cell and left a toothbrush, and napkins and tissues for the person who would be there after him. He also doesn’t speak on Monday’s because Gandhi didn’t and Gandhi is one of his role models and for me as well, especially his teachings on non-violence, ahimsa. So I love that line, “If you want to be a rebel, be kind” because I’m always teaching that. Kill with kindness, torment with tenderness and love everyone. I didn’t say you have to “like” everyone, I said to “love” everyone, and that’s my weapon. Am I perfect at it? Hell no, I’m not a Gandhi but every day I work at it and when I’m not loving I apologize. I can see that people feel this in their notes and messages to me. They’ll say “thank you” because they sense what I’m trying to be, they sense my consciousness. So it’s a gift for them to do that and I’ve also learned from the Sufi poet Rumi that criticism polishes your mirror. So I don’t mind people telling me what I do wrong because I see it as them trying to make me a better person. They’re not coming up to me and saying, “You’re a son of a bitch” or “You’re a rotten guy” because that doesn’t help me, but if my wife says, “Honey, lower your voice. You’re frightening the pets” or if a patient says, “What’s wrong because you scare me when you wrinkle your forehead like that. So think in the hallway and smile when you come in the room.” Then ok, thank you. Those are the things that teach me how to be a better doctor and a better person. Also Schweitzer’s reverence for life touched my heart because I am always picking up earth worms from the pavement and putting them back on the ground and Schweitzer did that too.


Q: What do you believe are the benefit, if any, vs. the dangers of mind-altering drugs?


A: My view of addiction, whether it’s drugs, food, alcohol or any list of other things, is the same reason I asked my mother why I wasn’t a drug addict or alcoholic, which is because when you’re not loved, often people become an addict and self destructive. Now the opposite of love is indifference and even worse is rejection and abuse, and I meet those people. John Steinbeck said, “Everybody experiences rejection. With rejection comes a desire for revenge. With revenge comes guilt and there’s the story of mankind.” That said a lot to me, especially when you think about what goes on with people showing up with a gun and shooting classmates or politicians and then committing suicide or whatever. There was a Harvard student, who did a study, which concluded that 98% of people who weren’t loved growing up suffered a major illness by midlife. So to me, what the drugs and addiction are saying is that I deserve to feel good, I’m allowed to take this because look how I was treated as a child. Our authority figures, particularly our parents are hypnotic. Their words are hypnotic literally to small children because of brain wave patterns. So you grow up with those messages, “You’re a failure, you embarrass me, that’s why I dress you in dark colors etc.” or even when parents commit suicide, the child may think they were a failure as a child causing that. The majority of those people who weren’t loved turn to drugs and alcohol and suicide. More people die of suicide than homicide in this country. So what I try to teach people to do is to love themselves, and the way I do it is by loving them, no matter how they’ve behaved. As a doctor, I’ve learned not to tell them not to come back because they’re killing themselves and that there’s no need to see a doctor, instead, I tell them to keep coming back and I love them. What I found months later was they’d begin to realize I wasn’t rejecting them, I wasn’t indifferent to them and they’d find some self worth and then they’d start behaving in a way that was life enhancing instead of self destructive. I tell people to get their baby pictures out and put them around their rooms, put them where they work or where they live so when people say, “Who’s that?” you can tell them it’s you and rebirth yourself in a way and that’s the spiritual and religious message. Be born again, create a new life, give yourself a new name, and stop killing that beautiful kid. I think clergy, politicians, doctors and particularly school teachers, if you make a kid feel worthy it changes their life.


Q: What are some films you’ll never forget seeing for the first time and why?


A: There’s a novel called The Human Comedy by William Saroyan, which was later made into a film. It’s about what’s going on in the world now except it was during World War II, instead of Afghanistan and Iraq. There is so much wisdom in it. There’s a teacher who says to the kids, “Hey go out and run, even if you run in your street clothes, it’s ok. People are going to laugh and you’ll always hear that laughter, but don’t let it stop you from participating. Don’t be afraid, you’re not a loser if you don’t win the race.” That’s not verbatim but you get the idea and that’s what I see even with cancer. If you want to participate, take responsibility and be a part of your life. There’s just so many wonderful lines from that book/film and other writings of his like; “Love is immortal while hate dies every minute.”


Q: Does God exist and if so, in what capacity? If not, why not?


A: To me, God is an intelligent, loving, conscious energy and why do I say that? Well you need energy to create. You have to have a source. It’s undifferentiated energy which has intelligence or it couldn’t create. Ernest Holmes in The Science of Mind said, “What if Jesus was the only normal person who ever lived?” What a wonderful thought and I know he was smiling when he wrote that but when I read it I thought, “Wow, that’s what I try to get across to people. What’s your potential? Who knows what can happen.” So it’s intelligent, conscious, loving energy and it loves us because we have survival mechanisms built in. There’s a consciousness to us, we’re aware. Through sleep and symbols, we can communicate, because God speaks through dreams and images, even the Bible says that. I think it’s from the perspective of communicating with mind and body that literally, people have a dream and the body is telling them they have a problem or they don’t. Some will have a dream and say. “Hey, I know I’m ok, I don’t have to worry.” I’ve had that happen to me, so all these things become a part of my definition of God. It’s not some person sitting somewhere who’s punishing you. Billy Graham was asked, “Does God want me to have cancer?” from someone who wrote in to him in his newspaper column and my answer would immediately be “no” but Billy Graham’s response was “not necessarily” and I thought, “What the hell are you talking about?” He went on to say, “God could give you cancer to make you more spiritual” and that’s not my God. My God doesn’t have to punish people to make them do things. What I view disease as is a loss of health. What I’d say to Billy Graham is, “If you go out to your car and get in and can’t find your car keys, do you walk home?” and if he said yes, I’d say, “Ok, then I respect you and your answer because you’re living it.” because he’d be saying yes, God wants me to walk home. But if he said no, I’d look for my car keys, then I’d say, “Ok, then tell people to go look for their health because God didn’t punish them or take it away, they lost it so they should go look for it.” We’re here to restore health to each other. Let’s look at the number 10. Why are there Ten Commandments? Why do we have ten fingers and toes? Why it’s a perfect score ten times ten? These are not accidents. Numbers have meaning. A reporter came in to interview me and I could tell she was very intellectual and I asked her to draw a picture. I looked at it and there was a clock with one hand pointed at twelve so I asked her, “What happened when you were twelve years old?” and she burst into tears because she had been sexually abused and that changed the interview. Those things are stored in us. Kabbalah talks about something called the “Ein Sof” which is like the undifferentiated. So you’d call it nothing, because how the hell could you describe it, and then God is created out of that nothing, God is not the original creator because God had to be created. Jung said, “If you’re God, you’re still nothing because one times one or one divided by one is still one. When does life begin? When you add something” So whether it’s a plant or animal or a human being, if you add those numbers together you have one and you add another to get two, and add another to get three, and add another to get four and you add those numbers up and your back to ten again. Out of the nothing or zero comes the One, which is God but from God comes creation. There are those who feel the Bible has a wrong interpretation and that it should read that God was created and then God went on creating because if you’re only one, you’re still nothing. You’re sitting there all by yourself. So numbers say a lot to me. Another thing that’s fascinating is that every single religion has seven days in the week, but not the same number of days in the month. How long did it take God to create the universe and so forth? Seven is like a cycle for everybody and the number eight is a new beginning. Numbers have a meaning as well as quantity in them. Those things are not coincidental. They are a part of our consciousness and how we store memories.


Q: What do you think your greatest contribution to humanity is?


A: Trying to love people and not be afraid to bring out what I experienced and saw, especially exposing the world as a Doctor. I was not afraid of criticism because I was loved and supported and could always go home and they would let me in. Psychiatrists and Psychologists were aware of what I thought I had learned but the physical side of doctors, not the mental side, don’t know or read what the psychologists and psychiatrists are reading. So when I wrote articles and sent them to medical journals they would come back saying they were interesting but not appropriate for their journal. When I sent them to where they were appropriate, they would come back again and I didn’t know what was wrong. They would say they were appropriate but they weren’t interesting because they already knew what I was talking about. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, became a friend of mine. I sent him my first book titled, Love, Medicine and Miracles and he sent me a note back saying he was about to write a book called Twelve Hopeless Cases about people who should have been dead but are alive and well today but that he was no longer going to do it because I’d essentially just written it. So I think because I was the doctor, I confronted a lot of other doctors. Norman Cousins wrote a book about his experience and what do people say, “Ah that’s an anecdote, how do you know he had the disease.” He’s not a doctor so doctors don’t listen to him and give him that respect but when Siegel gets up there it’s a doctor talking. So they got angry at me and I was on all the famous talk shows and had doctors arguing with me. They said I was blaming my patients when I asked them what was going on in their lives etc. The audience wasn’t disagreeing with me, but the experts on the stage, they were the ones saying I was nuts. Research however keeps supporting me as the years go by.


Q: What does the human experience mean to you?


A: We’re here to learn. I often ask people if they could be God for a day, why would they want to be God because I’m on the board of directors in heaven as a consultant. So I asked God one day, “Why do you create a world that’s such a mess?” Before I get to the answer let me take a step back. I was reading about the Baal Shem Tov, a Jewish Rabbi in the 1700’s who saw the Russian killing of fellow Jews and he was heard to say, “I wish I were God” and his students asked,  “Why, so you could stop this?” and he said, “No, so I’d understand why.” So if you said, “Oh, I want to be God for a day so I can make nice weather, or stop the wars etc” my comment is that that’s the wrong answer. So when I asked God why he didn’t make a perfect world He said, “Because the perfect world is a magic trick, it’s not creation. You’re here to live and to learn.” There’s a story called The Next Voice You Hear written back in the 40’s in which God talks to everybody, all over the planet, on every radio, in every language. The people come to realize that it’s not a joke and God’s message to them is that we’re here to live and learn and that we don’t need more religions, and we shouldn’t commit suicide because there’s housing problems in Heaven too, there was humor in it obviously. But that meant a lot to me, to understand why. As a minister once told me, “People aren’t ready for perfection. If we had a perfect world, what would we be doing all day?” We’re not ready for Heaven on Earth yet, we need to raise our level of consciousness. That’s why life is like going to school. If we all raise our level of consciousness and become post-graduate students, then we’ll have a perfect world but it will be self induced. That’s what I talk about when a disease disappears, it’s self induced healing. So when we get to a place of higher consciousness and awareness we won’t worry about what happens on the evening news because we’ll be here for each other. If the weather is bad or an earthquake happens, ok, we’re here to love and help each other to survive, and that’s what I’ve learned. If you have love, you can get through whatever you experience. If there’s no love, then you’re going to have a tough road ahead. Life is a school. The first time I gave a report in Heaven I finished with and God said, “Bernie, that’s not the end” and I said, “Yes, I’m done” and he said, “I know that Bernie, but does the Bible end in a conclusion?” and I said, “No, it ends in a revelation.” God then asked, “When you finish school, do you call it a termination?” and I said, “No, it’s called a commencement when you graduate.” “Yes Bernie” God said, “But when you finish a report in heaven you say the beginning, because we have to begin to use the information.” and to me, that’s what life is about, a constant process of beginning. Whether you lose a limb, a loved one, your job or whatever, you have to ask yourself, “How do I start again?” And my answer is this; by paying attention to your heart, finding a way to nourish yourself, asking for help, having meaning in your life, expressing emotion, asking for help, saying no to things you don’t want to do, making decisions about how people treat you- with medications or otherwise, having play in your life,  doing things that make you lose track of time and finally, by realizing that you’re a divine child, and I mean that very sincerely.

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.