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Bernard, Professor Claude

Category: Scientist

Claude Bernard (12 July 1813 – 10 February 1878) was a French physiologist and "one of the greatest of all men of science".  He made very important discoveries on the functions of the pancreas, the juice of which he proved to be of great significance in the process of digestion.  A second line of discovery was on the glycogenic function of the liver.  A third research study resulted in the discovery of the vasomotor system.  The study of the physiological action of poisons was also of great interest to him, his attention being devoted in particular to curare and carbon monoxide gas.

There is only one dark cloud hanging over Professor Bernard's achievements and scientific discoveries and that is that many were made through vivisection, to the disgust of his wife and daughters.  The couple was officially separated in 1869 and his wife went on to actively campaign against the practice of vivisection.  His wife and daughters were not the only ones disgusted by Bernard's animal experiments. The physician-scientist George Hoggan spent four months observing and working in Bernard's laboratory and was one of the few contemporary authors to chronicle what went on there. He was later moved to write that his experiences in Bernard's lab had made him "prepared to see not only science, but even mankind, perish rather than have recourse to such means of saving it.

What makes this even more extraordinary is that Professor Bernard was in theory a 'practising Catholic', and he has a biographical entry in the Catholic Encyclopaedia.  So, you should be asking, why on earth is he on the site?

Why is he on the site?

Given the fact that Professor Bernard, from the evidence, was both hard hearted and hard nosed – he even vivisected their pet dog, - you might wonder why he is on the site. 

The answer is that he witnessed some of the most remarkable materialisations and apports, that have been produced by mediums, and he had to admit they were ‘real’ in the sense there was no trickery, the medium was in a trance condition, the doors were locked, the medium was being held and in some cases the light was on, as opposed to the normal half light or very low light required for some phenomena.

He witnessed these phenomena with a great number of other eminent scientists present, some well versed with the tricks of some mediums and the jiggery pokery of the magicians, but still he realised that the carping, insulting, derogatory name calling that had been used by some of his fellow ‘scientists’ to describe these experiments was actually completely mis-placed and wholly unjustified.  And he called for an open mind in science and a realisation that we do not know it all, and that a certain amount of humility may be required when dealing with the works of God.

Professor Bernard, it appears, gradually came to the same sort of conclusion that Durand (de Gros), a doctor with a philosophical background, came to when he examined the case of Alfonso de Liguori, who assisted Pope Clement XIV in his last hours in Rome, while his servants noticed, on the same day, that the venerable Prelate was sleeping in his room in Arienzo, Naples province:

If the fact in question and the facts or alleged similar facts described to us daily in the publications of scientific telepathy are proven; if, in a word, we have to admit them, whatever the cost, well, a consequence seems to me to flow from there with the clearest and most irresistible evidence: it is that an occult physical nature is associated with the apparent physical nature, which is functionally equivalent, although it has a very different constitution.

According to Gabriel Delanne, finding this mysterious second self became almost an obsession with Professor Bernard  - “It is not only Claude Bernard's guiding idea, a kind of abstraction, an incomprehensible metaphysical-biological entity; it is a concrete notion, that of a guiding and centralizing dynamism, dominating intrinsic contingencies”.

Bernard in essence believed in the concept we have called the template – a blueprint or as Delanne expresses it a "guiding idea that Claude Bernard points out as the true characteristic of life; it is also the vital drawing that each of us realizes and preserves throughout our existence”.

How do we heal? – there has to be a pattern the body uses to heal itself, a blueprint it uses to mend the physical.  Both Delanne and Bernard, along with such notable figures as Dr Geley decided that this template along with the Higher spirit and its perceptions is what survives on death, and indeed they cited cases of out of body experiences [known then as astral travel] as evidence.

Interest in the spiritual

Professor Bernard  was fascinated by the research being undertaken at the time on mediums and was present during a number of remarkable séances.  The irony of this is that many these days use his work on how to conduct scientific research, whilst condemning the very thing Professor Bernard was fascinated by:

The philosophic spirit is always active in its desire for truth. It stimulates a kind of thirst for the unknown which ennobles and enlivens science….  The minds that are great are never self-satisfied, but still continue to strive.  There are those whose minds are bound and cramped.  They oppose attempts to discover the unknown, which is generally an unforeseen relation not included in existing theory.

Even more interesting given the scorn, derision, insults and aggression directed towards anyone in the field of occult research today, Professor Bernard identifies them by this very behaviour "the dominant idea of these despisers of their fellows is to try to contradict them."  But as he says, they don’t contradict them with evidence of their own, they contradict them by using offensive or weasel words.  In the meantime, as he says, in their experiments they report only results that make their theories seem correct and suppress results that support their rivals. In this way, they "falsify science and the facts":

They make poor observations, because they choose among the results of their experiments only what suits their object, neglecting whatever is unrelated to it and carefully setting aside everything which might tend toward the idea they wish to combat.

The one encouraging aspect of this observation is that Professor Bernard said that the  "despisers of their fellows" lack the "ardent desire for knowledge" that the true scientific spirit will always have—and so the progress of genuine science will never be stopped by them. Bernard writes:

Ardent desire for knowledge, in fact, is the one motive attracting and supporting investigators in their efforts; and just this knowledge, really grasped and yet always flying before them, becomes at once their sole torment and their sole happiness….A man of science rises ever, in seeking truth; and if he never finds it in its wholeness, he discovers nevertheless very significant fragments; and these fragments of universal truth are precisely what constitutes science

The body as a perfect system

Professor Bernard recognised that the body, taken away from all environmental influences was a perfect system.  Free from stress, pathogens, physical injury etc, it would function perfectly and there would be no illness, illness was caused by the environment.  In effect, he recognised the need for cause based medicine.

The living body, though it has need of the surrounding environment, is nevertheless relatively independent of it. This independence which the organism has of its external environment, derives from the fact that in the living being, the tissues are in fact withdrawn from direct external influences and are protected in part by the fluids circulating in the body.

Although the body in ideal circumstances is capable of free, healthy and independent life: the sensory system gives it the ability to detect the environment and react accordingly.  Thus its design includes the mechanisms by which it can react to environmental changes –threats and opportunities such as temperature changes or attacks by pathogens or the appearance of water and food.

As such external variations are at every instant compensated for and the body brought back into balance,  its equilibrium results from a continuous and delicate compensation.  As such healing is actually a rebalancing, and a rebalancing using the body’s mechanisms.

Needless to say, we could not have gone further from Professor Bernard’s discoveries and insights in our use of surgical interventions, massive use of pharmaceuticals and chemical intervention and our ridiculous belief in ‘auto-immune’ disease where the immune system is supposedly attacking the body.  The result is that a large proportion of the population in western countries where Professor Bernard’s discoveries are entirely ignored, are chronically sick.

Of lies, damn lies and statistics

Statistics has its place as of course does mathematics, but Professor Bernard was particularly scathing about the use of statistics as proof instead of statistics as a highlighter of trends or anomalies.  The use of averages in particular produces entirely misleading results, where the mean is a a better indicator.

“A very frequent application of mathematics to biology [is] the use of averages which may give only apparent accuracy. Sometimes averages do not give the kind of information needed to save lives. For example:

A great surgeon performs operations for stone by a single method; later he makes a statistical summary of deaths and recoveries, and he concludes from these statistics that the mortality law for this operation is two out of five. Well, I say that this ratio means literally nothing scientifically and gives us no certainty in performing the next operation; for we do not know whether the next case will be among the recoveries or the deaths. What really should be done, instead of gathering facts empirically, is to study them more accurately, each in its special determinism….to discover in them the cause of mortal accidents so as to master the cause and avoid the accidents.

Thus as we can see he was in favour of cause based medicine – in fact cause based analysis of all phenomena.

Cause and effect

The scientist tries to determine the relation of cause and effect. This is true for all sciences: the goal is to connect a "natural phenomenon" with its "immediate cause". We formulate hypotheses elucidating, as we see it, the relation of cause and effect for particular phenomena. We test the hypotheses. And when an hypothesis is proved, it is a scientific theory. "Before that we have only groping and empiricism."   When have we verified that we have found a cause? Bernard states:

Indeed, proof that a given condition always precedes or accompanies a phenomenon does not warrant concluding with certainty that a given condition is the immediate cause of that phenomenon. It must still be established that when this condition is removed, the phenomenon will no longer appear…."

As far as Professor Bernard was concerned all science should be finding the cause[s] of effect[s]

Theories are only hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed………. When we meet a fact which contradicts a prevailing theory, we must accept the fact and abandon the theory, even when the theory is supported by great names and generally accepted…… We can solidly settle our ideas only by trying to destroy our own conclusions by counter-experiments.

Of synthesis [bottom up] and decomposition[top down] analysis

In forming any hypothesis there is a constant cycling of the knowledge gained by using the results of experimental data – the occurrences or observations – and its classification; with the use of blue sky thinking inspired by revelation to breakdown the problem from a higher perspective; top down and bottom up are complementary, not in opposition.  Any revelation requires observations and occurrences to prove it – real data.  And in turn the top down helicopter view is essential to enable a person to see ‘the wood from the trees’.

Life and career

Bernard was born in 1813 in the village of Saint-Julien near Villefranche-sur-Saône. He received his early education in the Jesuit school of that town, and then proceeded to the college at Lyon, which, however, he soon left to become assistant in a druggist's shop.   He was dissuaded from adopting literature as a profession, and urged to take up the study of medicine.

This advice Bernard followed, and in due course he became interne at the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris. In this way he was brought into contact with the great physiologist, François Magendie, who served as physician at the hospital. Bernard became 'preparateur' (lab assistant) at the Collège de France in 1841.  In 1847 he was appointed Magendie's deputy-professor at the college, and in 1855 he succeeded him as full professor.

Bernard had been chosen as the first occupant of the newly instituted chair of physiology at the Sorbonne, but no laboratory was provided at the time for his use. It was Louis Napoleon who, after an interview with him in 1864, repaired the deficiency, building a laboratory at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in the Jardin des Plantes. At the same time, Napoleon III established a professorship which Bernard accepted, leaving the Sorbonne.

In the same year, 1868, he was also admitted a member of the Académie française and elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

When he died on 10 February 1878, he was accorded a public funeral – an honor which had never before been bestowed by France on a man of science. He was interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.



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