The Parable of the Ignoramus in the Pharmacy

The medieval Jewish philosopher and poet Judah ha-Levi, writing in his Kitab al Khazari, put forth a certain parable to explain the dangers of unauthorized or unqualified agents trying to dispense knowledge and wisdom.

He is like an ignoramus who enters the surgery of a physician famous for the curative power of his medicines. The physician is not at home, but people come for medicines. The fool dispenses them out of the jars, knowing nothing of the contents, nor how much should be given to each person. Thus he kills with the very medicine which should have cured them. Should he by chance have effected a cure with one of the drugs, the people will turn to him and say that he helped them, till they discover that he deceived them, or they seek other advice, and cling to this without noticing that the real cure was effected by the skill of the learned physician who prepared the medicines and explained the proper manner in which they were to be administered. (1.79)

Judah ha-Levi in this case was talking about those who aren’t qualified to impart the heavenly truths of the Torah, and so seek alternate methods (e.g. astrology, “magic,” etc.) to do so. These unqualified agents, though they put on a good show, are “in reality ignorant of that which [they] should do, how much, in which way, by what means, in which place, by whom, in which manner, and many other details, the enumeration of which would lead too far.”

Applying this parable to our own day, I can think of some very specific people on the Internet right now that are killing people spiritually through a similar kind of malpractice. Calling themselves doctors, they claim to be competent enough to turn to for help when a patient has a struggling testimony, when in reality they are truly ignorant of not only the medicine, but also how to properly administer it.

(There are also those Kevorkianesque malcontents who exult in the death of the patient, and are more than happy to help others in their spiritual suicide.)

On the one hand, I kind of feel bad for these pseudo-physicians, since, after all, they are ignoramuses who don’t know any better. On the other hand, I know that many qualified experts have tried to correct their ignorance, only to be met with sneering retorts. So my sympathy for them only goes so far.

Actually, I feel the most sorry for those who have been duped by these charlatans. I also feel very sorry for their families and friends. As with actual medical malpractice, the kind of spiritual malpractice we see on the Internet today affects not just the injured patient, but his or her loved ones as well. The reason I feel sorry for them is because the actual learned physicians who have prepared medicine in the proper manner and are skilled to administer it are accessible. Sure, it will take time and effort and the right doctors to heal you (and it will also probably cost you more money), but then again, which method is better: checking out WebMD for an afternoon to see if you have cancer and how to treat it, or going to an actual hospital staffed with competent and qualified physicians who have the right medical instruments, training, and years of expertise?

If you wouldn’t put your physical health in the hands of a pretender, why would you do so with your spiritual health?

Ha-Levi concludes his parable this way.

Like unto the patients duped by the ignoramus, so were men, with few exceptions, before the time of Moses. They were deceived by astrological and physical rules, wandered from law to law, from god to god, or adopted a plurality at the same time. They forgot their guide and master, and regarded their false gods as helping causes, whilst they are in reality damaging causes, according to their construction and arrangement.

So too in our day we see people regarding the false gods of the Internet as helping causes, when really they are carcinogenic pathogens.

The remedy for all of this, of course, is to seek proper medical treatment. Here is one such qualified physician you should turn to. Here is another. And here is a third. Here are the prescriptions they would likely recommend. Unlike the many quacks on the Internet who ignorantly (or willfully) dispense death, these physicians (just three of many) actually know their medicine, and how to administer it to make you healthy again.