Marlowe's Shade

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Long Strange Trip of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

After it came out, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' book On Death and Dying she became an instant authority on death, a celebrity even. In three years she was testifying before the Senate to influence policy on "dying with dignity". Although others are credited with the founding of the hospice movement, her Five Stages because the philosphical underpinning of the entire movement and is still revered today.

This is despite the fact that within a decade of her heyday, she was discredited and disgraced as a scientist by a bizarre detour into the world of New Age fakery:

The scandal concerned the involvement of Kübler-Ross—and some of the grieving widows visiting her retreat—with a self-proclaimed spirit medium who conned them all into believing he had the ability to channel "afterlife entities." Not only channel them but facilitate their having sex with the grieving widows.


She herself first encountered the "afterlife entities" during an "out of body" experience after one of her "workshops." She wrote that "I saw myself lifted out of my physical body. ... [I]t was as if a whole lot of loving beings were taking all the tired parts out of me, similar to car mechanics in a car repair shop. ... I had an incredible sense that once all the parts were replaced I would be a young and fresh and energetic as I had been prior to the rather exhausting, draining workshop."


Enter the spirit medium of Escondido—a guy she had invited to her workshops, who somehow facilitated intercourse between the grieving widows and the "afterlife entities." The scandal erupted when several of the widows came down with similar vaginal infections, and one turned on the light during a session with an "afterlife entity" and discovered the opportunistic spirit medium himself, naked except for a turban. (He offered the completely plausible explanation that the afterlife entities had "cloned" him—and the turban, too, I guess—to help enable the afterlife entities to engage in the pleasures of the flesh.)

Kübler-Ross response to this was less than reassuring:

"There are those who might say this has damaged my credibility," Kübler-Ross said, when she finally conceded that the spirit medium's behavior "did not meet the standards" of her retreat. But it's not important "whether people believe what I say ... I'm a doctor and a scientist, who simply reports what she sees, hears, and experiences."

I don't think Kübler-Ross had even a thimble of evil intent in her work. She was sadly and profoundly misguided. And her philosophy of death contained a kind of hubris that thought it could "manage" the encounter with a Great Mystery. In every manifestation the right-to-die/euthanasia movement falls prey to this assumption that we know enough about Death and Life that we can make the decisions that were formerly left to God.

Even when her life lingered on after she had decided that she was ready to die, Kübler-Ross displayed this trait:

"I told God last night that he's a damned procrastinator."

Two years later she passed away at the age of 78.
papijoe 6:23 AM