by Eunice J Minford MA FRCS Ed Consultant Surgeon, Antrim, N. Ireland
It is quite common to consider illness and disease as something ‘bad’ that has happened, that something is ‘wrong’ or has ‘gone wrong’, that something has been imposed upon us that needs to be eradicated, removed or eliminated. Whilst there may well be a need for surgery or medicine in order to treat a condition, how we perceive illness and disease can make a profound difference to how we see and understand it and how we understand healing. There is the tendency to see illness and disease as the enemy, something to be fought against and overcome. The phrase ‘fighting cancer’ or ‘battling cancer’ is often used when referring to patients who are engaged in cancer treatment. This way of understanding illness and disease was part and parcel of my medical training, which was steeped in the biomedical paradigm. The latter reinforces the idea that illness and disease happen to us, but are not caused by us, that we are victims of circumstance, chance, bad luck, our genes, toxins/chemicals or infectious agents. In this system, patients are devoid of responsibility for their own health and dependent upon the doctor to fix or cure them and thus they are disempowered. However, with the development of different paradigms of understanding the manifestation of illness and disease we are able to consider another way of understanding illness and disease – one that does not render the person a victim but is instead empowering and encourages them to take responsibility for their health.
The holistic paradigm sees all dimensions of the human person being involved in the maintenance of health and healing; the heart, mind, spirit, soul and not just the physical body. Esoteric healing and esoteric medicine are situated within the holistic paradigm and are inclusive of all dimensions of the human person – no aspect is left out. The emphasis in esoteric healing and esoteric medicine is in understanding the true nature of the human person (which is Love) and how we can develop ways of living and being that are aligned with that and which lead to harmony or equally if contra to that can lead to disharmony or illness and disease. In this way the body can be used as a marker for the choices we have made, for it lives all our experiences and all our choices impact it, whether we consciously recognise this or not. Esoterically, the body is considered to be a ‘marker of truth’ that reveals all the choices we have made, irrespective of what our minds say. So if we are self-loving, nurturing and caring in a deep way on a daily basis, address all our past hurts and wounds along with all the ideals and mis-beliefs we carry about ourselves and life, the more we will be able to develop a truly harmonious body. This takes more time, work and deep self-honesty than this one sentence conveys. I used to think I was ‘fine’ and my mind could say the words to others, “I’m fine”, but my body was telling a different story in that it was significantly overweight – something that would not be the case if I had been truly ‘fine,’ and self-caring and self-loving in all my choices.
Esoterically and energetically the fundamental truth is that it is living in separation to our true nature or essence of love that results in illness and disease and indeed suffering of any kind. To reduce all the illnesses and diseases and suffering of any kind to the separation from love, from our true nature might sound simplistic – but what if it is true? What is clear is that how we are living is not working, reflected by the rates of illness and disease and suffering in the world today. What is also clear is that most of us do not actually live very self-loving or self-caring lives when it is truly understood what it means to be self-caring and self-loving. For example, being self-loving includes being aware of how all foods impact the body and choosing not to eat those that are detrimental like gluten, dairy, excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol. This is only looking at a small aspect of the ‘what’ we eat without looking at how we eat (eg rushing it down in a hurry) or why we are eating (eg for comfort, reward, numbing etc). There is much more to being self-loving than just saying the words and it feeds into every area of life. It affects every single choice and we are often so engrained in unloving or loveless ways of living and being that we don’t even realise they are unloving eg staying up late at night is considered normal, drinking alcohol is considered normal, pushing ourselves hard at work or in the gym is considered normal – yet all these simple examples are unloving when felt and known energetically. I have done all of these things myself and I now choose otherwise as I can feel the difference it makes to my health and my body when I go to bed early, don’t drink alcohol and don’t push myself in the way that I used to. Of course, it is always a work in progress, as there are always deeper and deeper ways that we can be self-caring and nurturing of ourselves – there is no stop. What is also clear to me now is that whilst we have all the technology and scientific understandings with which much progress has been made in many areas regarding illness and disease, the root cause of such conditions remains elusive from a medical perspective. Bringing in the understandings of esoteric philosophy opens up another door, to say what if ? what if it is a lack of true care and love for ourselves, over aeons, that has lead to where we are today? It is important to understand that how we treat others reflects how we treat ourselves and vice versa – so if we judge and criticise others, we do that to ourselves, if we dislike or hate parts of ourselves those too will get projected onto others, and if we truly love, accept and understand ourselves then so will we truly love, accept and understand others. Whilst science, technology and medicine will continue to make progress in understanding illness and disease, perhaps a deeper and more profound shift could occur if we saw life and ourselves through the understandings of love. For if love is what we are, and it is, then surely it makes sense to start from that basis and consider how we have deviated from love and how that could result in illness and disease?
What if, illness and disease, instead of being considered abnormal or an aberration or deviation from normal, are in fact the normal response of the body to the choices that we have made with the body? What if they are in fact part of a healthy response by the body to that which we have done to the body through our choices albeit in ignorance of the true harm we were causing to ourselves? Through the understandings of love, we come to know not only that we are love but that we have also made many, many unloving choices that have detrimentally affected the body and which it must clear in an effort to maintain harmony and return us to the love we actually forgot we already are!
Jobst et al state the following: “thus disease may be thought of as a manifestation of health. It is the healthy response of an organism striving to maintain physical, psychologic, and spiritual equilibrium.” They convey in this paper how illness and disease can be understood to be a process of transformation, deeply embedded with meaning for the individual concerned. In addition, they describe disease as being a manifestation of health. This is consistent with the esoteric understanding which has the potential to completely change how we see, understand and respond to illness and disease. When I was first exposed to the understanding that illness and disease were healing it totally transformed how I understood them. It widened my perspective and allowed me to see with new eyes the role of illness and disease in the human journey and experience.
Scientific research is producing more and more findings that affirm that we are more responsible for our health than we have previously realised, particularly in the fields of psychoneuroimmunology, psychosomatic medicine, and epigenetics. The links between how our thoughts, feelings and emotions impact the immune system, the nervous system and the endocrine system are gradually accumulating and demonstrating how thoughts, feelings and emotions can result in illness and disease over time. More research is required to affirm these understandings for the scientific community, but for those who are open to the esoteric, the evidence can be found within one’s own body.
It can however be quite confronting and challenging initially to discover that we have what we have as a result of our own choices – for it seems to be part of human nature to want to blame others, blame the sun, blame God or life, the gene, the toxin, the bacteria or virus etc. Whilst some of these things have a role in illness and disease they are not the whole story and we can have a tendency to use them as the ‘cause’ because it takes the focus off us. Blaming someone or something else diverts attention from ourselves, lets us off the hook of addressing our own lives, our choices and how unloving we have been towards ourselves, not just in this lifetime but over many lifetimes. It hurts to realise what we have done to ourselves and we initially may feel we don’t want to go there. A crucial step in this process is knowing and feeling that no matter what has happened to us or what condition we have, that there is an essence of love within us that is unaffected by any of that. It has been my experience, that with this foundation and taking the steps to address the hurts and wounds and loveless choices I have made, it has freed me up to much greater levels of acceptance and love for myself and thus for others also and has been deeply healing and transformative.
Imagine if we saw illness and disease as part of having a healthy body, instead of a broken body? If we saw it as part and parcel of an appropriate response to the choices we have made? Perhaps we would stop and reflect more on how we are living, on the choices we have made that have resulted in whatever condition has arisen. We would no longer be victims of circumstances beyond our control but could be empowered to do it differently, to live life differently, to make choices that are more self-loving and self-caring. In this way, illness and disease are healing as they can bring us to a stop, to re-evaluate our lives and choices and to be empowered to live according to our true nature (love) instead of contra to it as we so often do. It can and often does lead to people asking deeper questions, searching for answers and perhaps uncovering deeper aspects and an understanding of themselves they had never before considered. Indeed, it is not unknown for some people to say, ‘cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me’ – such are the healing changes and new-found understandings and priorities such a diagnosis can help reveal. I appreciate that is not everyone’s experience, but it does demonstrate what is possible if we are open to seeing illness and disease as being healing and potentially transformative rather than just something ‘bad’ that has happened to us.
When understood energetically and esoterically, illness and disease are the body’s way of clearing or healing that which we have put into it. The body endeavours to maintain harmony and equilibrium and to do so it must clear that which is disharmonious to it and energetically this can be focused into an area like a tumour or a frozen shoulder or indeed any condition. As part of the overall healing process we can undergo surgery or medical treatment to address the physical aspects of the condition, but there is much more to healing than just addressing the physical domain as alluded to in the holistic paradigm of healing. The concept that a tumour or any condition is the body’s way of clearing that which we have put into it as understood energetically is one that will perhaps be met with skepticism or ridicule by many in the medical world as it is not how we have been trained to think or consider the body and I too would have dismissed it a number of years ago. However, what I have come to learn and know for myself, is that it does actually make sense on many levels and provides answers to what are often medically unanswered questions like, ‘why do I have this condition?’ Understanding how our life story, our biography, with all its ups and downs has impacted our biology can be truly transformative and healing.
Ultimately, as mentioned earlier in this post, illness and disease arise as a result of us living and making choices in separation to our true nature of love. This can also be expressed as living and making choices in separation from our soul – as the soul is pure love and that is our true nature. It is the separation from soul, from our true nature, that is our deepest ache, our deepest dis-ease. Equally, it is being re-connected with our soul, with the love that we are, which heals. When you know who you are, you know you are more than a body, more than any physical affliction and thus illness and disease are also seen and understood differently. They are imbued with meaning and with learning and the potential for transformation and deeper understanding – that they are in fact part of the journey of life that is endeavouring to heal the root cause of our ills – the separation from who we are. Thus Plato’s words are as true today as they were over 2000 years ago, perhaps showing that for all our scientific advancements we as doctors (and humanity) have not advanced that far when it comes to understanding the human body from the soul or love, “for this is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the soul from the body.”
So perhaps it’s time for us to realise that Plato knew what he was talking about, to take heed of his words and begin to incorporate the understandings of love not just in professional healthcare but in our day-to-day lives and see for ourselves how it impacts our health, well-being, relationships and lives.
1) Diseases of Meaning, Manifestations of Health, and Metaphor
Jobst K, Shostak D, Whitehouse P. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 5 (6), 1999 pp 495-502