1000 years ago in Europe pre-Christian tribes originally had a Goddess culture - a matriarchy where earth and nature and their cycles and secrets were revered. In pre-industrial societies illness was not seen as a 'random assault from outside' but as a deeply significant life event integral to sufferer's whole being - spiritual, moral, physical and life course - past, present and future. Dis-ease was interpreted as packed with moral, spiritual and religious messages as one of many ways through which 'God revealed his will to mankind'. Other philosophies of medicine such as Ayurvedic or Tibetan think similarly, in these, dis-ease has a karmic aspect.
Around tenth century in Europe - after so called 'Dark Ages' - women, original stewards of land (men did 'animal husbandry'), were dispossessed of it by new patriarchies of Church and State. This male hierarchy hid things they were most afraid of, namely fact that it is women who hold key to processes and powers of life. They took them as their own, decreeing laws about how we should behave to impose control and inventing 'original sin'. Allied to this there came a prolonged persecution of women, especially any of those involved in healing. Some sources estimate about 5 - 9 million women were destroyed across Europe during this persecution. Essentially role of women as healers and midwives was discouraged and 'home-making' and its many associated skills is still regarded as a 'worthless' career according to our primarily fiscal values based on GDP.
When a patriarchy takes over a matriarchy as a fundamental paradigm shift, one of main things that happens is that 'healing' and 'spirituality' are separated out as an instrument of control. The world of spirit and physic were separated and became even more so during great male 'Age of Reason' that began with Descartes and continued with Newton, tail-end of which many are presently clinging to in desperation and a degree of applied self-interest.
Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650) was a central influence on 17th century revolution that began modern science and philosophy. His 'Method of Doubt' was published in 1637: "I resolved to reject as false everything in which I could imagine least doubt, in order to see if there afterwards remained anything that was entirely indubitable".
The philosophy of 'Cartesian dualism' became part of our science, where mind and body are seen as essentially separate. The 'self', conscious being that is 'me' was seen as essentially non-physical. Misguidedly (it was not Descartes intention) this philosophy contributed to mechanistic and rational philosophy of universe adopted by our culture. Descartes was one of first people to suggest that phenomena could be understood by breaking them down into constituent parts and examining each minutely. His view of human body as a machine functioning within a mechanistic universe took prevalence within 'Age of Reason'.
"Consider human body as a machine. My thought compares a sick man and an ill-made clock with my idea of a healthy man and a well made clock".
This attention to analytical detail is still at heart of our scientific research methodologies. As a result Western medicine has produced 'World saving' vaccines and antibiotics. It has created drugs and surgical techniques that do utterly amazing things. It has virtually eliminated all serious communicable diseases (in First World) such as leprosy, plague, tuberculosis, tetanus, syphilis, rheumatic fever, pneumonia, meningitis, polio, septicaemia. There are very few women dying in childbirth compared to past. Western medicine has been, and is, a triumph in face of these problems which worried us back then way cancer and heart disease worry us today. Even big medical problems of of 1930's and 40's have literally vanished.