The resurgence of spirit in medicine. A return to our holistic roots

Thesis (M.A.) 2014 38 Pages

Psychology - Clinic and Health Psychology, Abnormal Psychology



The inability to effectively process and heal trauma is one of the defining marks of Western civilization and one of the primary problems that all of global culture is afflicted with. Arguably, most of us are sick. If given a chance to really take a closer look, nearly everyone one has something physiologically, biologically, psychologically, emotionally or environmentally out of balance. This could be something acquired from birth, something caused by an accident or injury, something caused by poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption or stress. It may be a chronic medical condition, a back problem or even difficulty sleeping. How many people do you know who have chronic headaches, allergies, digestive problems or just generally think too much?

In Terence McKenna’s seminal text Food of the Gods we learn of an in depth history of exactly what substances and drugs are given precedence in Western civilization (McKenna, 1993). As one might imagine, sugar, caffeine, synthetic, and industrial drugs that still consistently do the most harm (psychologically and physiologically) to those citizens ingesting them in contemporary Western civilization are conveniently given priority in historical trading and commerce generally. Meanwhile, psychoactive plants and fungi from the Earth are considered illegal, to be distrusted, without much evidence for why.

Regardless of the form, sickness is a state of imbalance. While I am not proposing an eradication of all states of all physical and mental disease which may never be possible in an industrial world or otherwise I am proposing that we consider more effective ways to process trauma and deal with illness with the reinstating of natural medicines that have existed for millennia.

The primordial causes of illness, both physical and emotional are perturbations that occur in the ethereal realm and reflect the bad relation or discordance between man — nature — society.

When health is seen in this way, it becomes clear that the whole world is sick (Weiskopf, 2005, 243 ).

The Problem

The problem within our inability to effectively deal with illness in the modern world is that we no longer acknowledge spirit in our medicine in the same way the ancient healing systems of every civilization have done. The French metaphysician René Guénon once noted this general shift in Western values from quality to quantity in his seminal text The Reign of Quantity. In a similar way, Egyptologist Schwaller De Lubicz designated Western consciousness as an increasing “mentality of complexity”, that he saw in distinct contrast to older more archaic civilizations, which he asserted were in some ways more advanced than our own (Lubicz, 1998).

In the 1500s the word illness meant “bad moral quality.” The etymology of the word disease is from Old French, dis or des means “to lack, without or away” and aise or ease means “comfort” (Onions, 1992). In fact, the word misfortune was often interchanged with the word disease in Old French (Onion, 1992). The etymology of health in Old English comes from hal or “wholeness or being whole,” and means “good omen” in Proto-Germanic (Onion, 1992). The Old Norse etymology is from the word helge or “holy and sacred” (Onion, 1992). Within these definitions is a common thread, the idea of being without—a need to return to homeostasis and be complete. It could be argued that within these etymologies, the entire world is sick. However, to look more closely at the problem of sickness, it is important to consider the state of the world’s health today.

Modern conveniences, overstimulation, technological addiction, and the existential crisis of industrial life have been gradually poisoning the human body and mind for some time now. Some may argue that technology is the problem. It may be important to consider how the modern world—with all its conveniences—may actually be contributing to our premature mortality. Fast, convenient and processed foods came onto the American market in the 1950s. Since that time, the consumption of processed, fast and convenient foods has been directly correlated to an increase in global obesity (De Vogli, et al., 2014; Pereria, et al., 2005; Frazier, 2007).

While the previously mentioned research supports theories of what happened to humans after the dawn of modern civilization, modern living continues to have its impact on our health. Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological improvements have sharply increased yields from cultivation, but at the same time have caused widespread ecological damage and a vast amount of negative human health effects.

The selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry have similarly increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal welfare and the health effects of the antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial meat production. Genetically modified organisms are an increasing component of agriculture, although they are banned in several countries. Agricultural food production and water management are increasingly becoming global issues that are fostering debate on a number of fronts. Significant degradation of land and water resources, including the depletion of aquifers, has been observed in recent decades, and the effects of global warming on agriculture and of agriculture on global warming are still not fully understood.

Over thousands of years of evolutionary history, people in different parts of the world developed very distinct nutritional needs in response to a whole range of variables—including climate and geography and whatever plant and animal life their environments had to offer. As a result, people today have widely varying nutrient requirements, especially with regard to macronutrients—the proteins, carbohydrates and fats which are the fundamental dietary "building blocks," or the compounds most essential to sustaining life. For example, many people who currently inhabit tropical or equatorial regions have a strong hereditary need for diets high in carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. These foods tend to provide the kind of fuel that is most compatible with the unique body chemistry of people who are genetically programmed to lead active lifestyles in warm and humid regions of the world. Their systems are simply not designed to process or utilize large quantities of animal protein and fat. Conversely, people from cold harsh northern climates are not genetically equipped to survive on light vegetarian food. They tend to burn body fuel quickly, so they need heavier foods to sustain themselves (Price, 2009).

For example, Eskimos can easily digest and assimilate large quantities of protein and fat—the very types of foods which would overwhelm the digestive tracts of people from, say, the Mediterranean basin. The bottom line is that a diet considered "healthy" in one part of the world is frequently disastrous for people elsewhere in the world. For instance, well known dietary expert Nathan Pritikin has previously pointed out that Bantu tribes in Africa eat very low-fat diets, an approach that has long been widely regarded as very healthy in the U.S. and other industrialized societies. Not surprisingly, coronary artery disease and other modern degenerative diseases are almost non-existent among the Bantu.

Pritikin's successors and other leading health professionals have long advocated low-fat diets for everyone. Yet this one-size-fits-all approach has clearly failed to reduce obesity and cardiovascular disease for large segments of our population. Like all other universal dietary recommendations, it overlooks the enormous amount of biochemical and physiological diversity among individuals. As an example, Scottish, Welsh, Celtic, and Irish people have certain nutritional requirements which are just the opposite of the African Bantu. The ancestral diets of the Scots and Irish and related cultures have always been very high in fatty fish. For this and other reasons they have a hereditary need for more fat than other populations. So the low-fat diets that prevent heart disease in the Bantu can actually cause heart disease in some people of Anglo-Saxon descent. This principle of diet being linked to genetic requirements is seen throughout nature.

Thus, every animal species is genetically programmed to feed on specific sources of food. Unlike man who applies free will to his dietary choices, animals eat according to their natural instincts and genetic dictates. Consequently, insects, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals (except man) are not plagued with degenerative health disorders like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, allergies, and multiple sclerosis, just to name but a few. What’s more, these Traditional Cultures were consuming the fat soluble activators at a rate about 10x higher than Americans of the 1930’s! These sacred foods were revered by the Traditional Cultures because they believed that it aided them in easy fertility and contributed healthy babies. Ample quantities of these sacred foods were provided to growing children, pregnant mothers, and the elderly to maintain health including the prevention of tooth decay. With so many different Traditional Diets, you can see why it could be misleading for me to post what I eat specifically.

My Traditional Diet could easily be misconstrued by some that this is the way to eat traditionally, when it is, in fact, only the implementation of a mix of Traditional Diets that works for me given my unique genetic heritage, health history, home environment, toxin load, food budget etc.

There have been many leaps forward in modern medicine. The invention of the polio vaccine; victims of HIV are living much longer and healthier lives than they did 20 years ago; prostheses have made incredible advancements; gene therapy is able to identify and even modify birth defects before an embryo is implanted in the uterine wall. Despite all these amazing medical and scientific efforts, why does global illness remain so prevalent?

Medicine has managed so much, yet it cannot combat obesity or decrease suicide rates. The United States still holds the #1 spot for total crimes, rape, CO2 emissions, divorce rate, heart attack, McDonald’s restaurants, plastic surgery, and prisoners. The allopathic medical model has inadequately solved some of the most serious health problems facing the world today. Proof of this is found in the dietary, addictive, and psychological illnesses that affect nearly everyone. The increased consumption of processed and fast foods has created a global obesity epidemic (De Vogli, et al., 2014; Pereria, et al., 2005; Frazier, 2007). Over two thirds of adults in the United States are obese (King, 2013) and the increase in diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer can all be attributed to the obesity epidemic (Mello, et al., 2013; Frazier, 2007). If measures are not taken, by 2030, the majority of the world’s population will be obese (Rockholm, et al., 2010).

Further proof of the inadequacies of the allopathic medical model can be found in the continued permissibility of high fat, high sugar diets. Denmark taxes high fat fast foods and sugar foods as a means to deter consumption (Grønbaek, 2009). Sugar causes liver toxicity and contributes to several chronic diseases, hypertension, high blood pressure, cancer (Grønbaek, 2009; Lustig, et al., 2012) and increases in global rates of diabetes are being seen in countries that have never before had such high incidence of the disease (Barreto, et al., 2007; Ning, et al., 2009). Why would a medical model that takes an oath to heal people, not attempt to do something about the consumption of a veritable poison?

There are over 300,000 U.S. deaths every year from eating unhealthy food (Elbel, et al., 2011), and the fact that since 1980, child obesity has tripled (King, 2013). With the prevalence of fast food companies having a foothold in the global market and a presence in over 5,000 U.S. school cafeterias (Wang and Brownell, 2004), why haven’t medical legislators reached out and had these foods banned completely? With over 50% of U.S. children currently diagnosed with a chronic disease and 21% of them suffering from a developmental disorder, one would think this would be an urgent priority (Benbrook, 2012).

Currently there are over 1 billion people worldwide who are undernourished and are vitamin and mineral deficient (Muthayya, et al., 2012). Babies will be born with brain damage and birth defects as a result of these deficiencies. Food quality has dramatically declined because of agriculture (Ferrie, 2011), and although genetic modification is considered a marvel of modern science, it is contributing to antibiotic resistance in gastrointestinal tracts and food borne diseases, contributing to weakened immunity, liver and kidney problems, diabetes, cancer, hormone issues, food allergies and Parkinson’s (Benbook, 2012; Domingo, 2007). With these important findings, are medical legislators obligated to prevent patients from consuming anything that could be damaging to their health?

There is overwhelming evidence that the Biopychosocial model is critical to effective treatment of patients, however, has still not replaced the Biomedical model. The importance of mind-body medicine can no longer be ignored. Research continues to show the critical relationship between stress and disease, immune dysfunction (Dhabhar, 2009) viral infection (Salleh, 2008), asthma, diabetes, ulcers (Saleh, 2008), depression, osteoporosis (Welch, 2011), cognitive impairment, memory dysfunction, problems concentrating, and sleep issues (MacLeod & Donnellan, 1993; Newcomer, et. al, 1994).

The prevalence of mental illness is still quite serious with the global suicide rate increasing to 60% in the last 50 years (WHO, 2013). Perhaps not surprisingly, anxiety disorders, sleep problems, and increases in depression are all connected to an increased risk of cancer (Ji-An, et al., 2012). Young people are more depressed than ever in recorded medical history (Ford, and Rechel, 2012) and by the year 2020, research shows that depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world, trailing only heart disease (Murray and Lopez, 1996).

The focus of this Master’s Thesis will be describing and analyzing the impact of the inadequacies of the allopathic medical model, explaining why the model has been inadequate and providing a new model as a potential solution. The critical considerations are relevant in addressing this problem. Ethical factors relate to whether the medical industry— designed to make people well—is effectively doing the opposite in turn.

Integrated Literature Review

Research has documented the correlations between stressful events and decreases in white blood cell function (Littrell, 2008) and how vaccinations are less effective in stressed people. Wounds have also been shown to take longer to heal in those who are stressed and talk- therapy has been shown to enhance the body’s ability to fight illness (Littrell, 2008). Yet, stress is considered a matter of perception—an invisible influence. Additionally, the research of Ader and Cohen (2001) has shown how placebos can almost “trick” the immune system into working even though nothing is happening physiologically, as long as the mind believes it is, that appears powerful enough to elicit change. The domains of the mind and body have been seen as separate for a very long time, however, with research like this, one must beg the question: What is really going on here?

Medicine used to be dominated with the use of plants and herbology.

Scientists who study animals have reported that they instinctually know what plants to eat when they are sick or have been poisoned. Etymologically, the word medicine was dates to 1200 C.E. and comes from the Old French for “a cure, remedy, treatment, or potion.” In Latin it means, “the healing art” (Onion, 1992). In 1865, it was recorded that to take medicine meant, “to submit to something disagreeable” (Onions, 1992). The shamans of North America used the word interchangeably with “magical influence.” We also know of the early documentation that Frazer did regarding the prominence of magical belief amongst so called ‘primitive’ culture. But the simple fact is that humans have always had a deep and important relationship to the planet, although in these times, it may appear that relationship is not nearly as strong as it may have once been.



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Title: The resurgence of spirit in medicine. A return to our holistic roots