Disease as creation
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843, 1985b, § 11, page 41) had already come to the conclusion that the complaints are not the disease. He calls disease a derangement of the vital force, the dynamic or spiritual force which animates man. The disadvantage of this definition is that it is rather vague. It does make it clear, however, that he saw the root of disease to be on the energetic or psychic level.
In the section below the root cause of disease will be further explored. The different ways to look at disease will be compared. The advantages and disadvantages of the various points of view will be put next to each other. We will also see how the different points of view could complement rather than exclude each other.
Disease as a process of 'wear and tear'
This is the first conception of disease, the way it is often used in ordinary medicine. A human being wears out, just like a machine. From time to time we need to replace the worn out parts. This vision of disease as a wearing out process fits in well with the mechanistic view of the world. This vision is not so strange. Everybody gets older, weaker and eventually dies. But there are certain problems with this point of view. Isn’t it true that the human body is constantly being renewed and repaired? So it is not clear how and when the wearing out process would triumph over the ability to repair. This dilemma is represented clearly in the following example. An old woman goes to the doctor with pain in her right knee. The doctor looks at it and says reassuringly: 'Don’t worry, it is only a bit of wear and tear.' Upon which the woman reacts with 'It is all right for you to say that, but my left knee is just as old and there is nothing wrong with that one!'
The above example shows that such a diagnosis does not really mean anything. It does not make it clear why the ability to repair is not functioning.
Let us look at another example. It is an example of a girl with severe acne. We could say then that her immunity is worn out, that it can’t function well any more because it has been overtaxed. It sounds a bit artificial. That is because it shows once again that nothing real has been explained.
Disease as a threat
This is the second way of looking at disease. It is also the most obvious: something is not going well, death may even be threatening. On the inner level disease is often experienced like this. There are people who experience disease to be such a threat that even when they do not have a disease, they are constantly afraid of it.
Allopathy also has this view of disease. The disease is something bad, it comes from outside and it needs to be fought. The bacteria and viruses have to be killed at any cost, it is 'either them or me'.
We can also associate this with the archetype of the shadow. Jung (1985, page 371) calls the negative part in man’s psyche the shadow. Many people are inclined to push this negative part away and to make it unconscious. Afterwards projection may take place, the negative part is put in the outside world and does not seem to exist anymore inside man himself anymore. The same then counts for disease. It is something that you have to keep very far away from yourself, but which at the same time is also a part of yourself.
Let us return to our example of the girl with eczema. We can see the eczema then as a threat of bacteria in the skin. The threat is not serious yet, only her skin is being threatened. But it could become serious.
The viewpoint of disease as a threat has an analogy to the theory of evolution. In both visions the central idea is that of fighting. In the theory of evolution the ultimate moral is the survival of the fittest. In disease as a threat the central idea is that you have to defend yourself against all negative influences from outside.
Disease as Original state
Hahneman (1985b, § 19, page 41) also calls disease a ’state of being', or a way to live and be. Sankaran (1991, page 11) links this state of being to the original situation. The outer original situation is then linked to an inner state of being. The inner state is then an adequate reaction to a certain situation in the environment. Looked at it this way the state is then an excellent reaction to the state of the environment. The only problem is that the reaction can be exaggerated. Or that it can stay even after the original situation has disappeared. The useful reaction is maintained and therefore becomes useless, a waste of energy. From the above it will be clear that in homeopathy the root cause of disease is of great importance. The situation in which the disease originated is very important in order to understand the diseased and the disease.
Let us return to our example once more. On closer investigation it appears that the parents of the girl with acne are constantly quarrelling. She cannot tolerate this. The imminent divorce of the parents causes a great fear of being abandoned. The girl becomes depressed, she retreats into herself and does not have friends anymore. Sometimes she even gets outbursts of anger when everything gets too much. But usually she reacts to the quarrels by brooding gloomily. When we look at the complaint in this way, then the symptom of acne is a reaction to the situation in the environment. And the reaction is right in the sense that is good to show her parents that they are causing her pain. Perhaps they will quarrel less for her sake, perhaps they will give her more attention.
It is very effective to link remedies to situational causes. It makes it much easier to learn and remember the varying symptoms. They will get a meaning and a function in the total reaction pattern. And that is quite different from a indigestible heap of little symptoms in the materia medica.
Disease as talent or strategy
You could also see the reaction patterns of, for instance, the (Magnesium muriaticum) girl in our example as a talent. These survival strategies are also an art or talent. They are an ability to manipulate the environment. You could also call it a strategy, a strategy which works excellently in certain situations in order to make the best of it. It is the positive side of 'disease'. These reaction patterns are possibilities, talents, abilities to handle situations. Here again the problem is not the talent but the fact that you can't react in any other way anymore, so it becomes a nuisance. Looked at it this way disease becomes a talent that has gone too far. In other words, the talent turns against you like a boomerang.
Going back to our example you could say that it is rather clever of this girl to make her parents stop fighting. When they see her so silent and gloomy they understand that they are hurting her and they stop quarrelling.
Disease as illusion
Another approach is to see disease as an illusion, the way Sankaran (1991, page 24) calls it a 'central delusion'. In every disease there is a central theme, something that the patient perceives wrongly. If you find such a central delusion in a patient and if you can find that delusion described in any homoeopathic literature then you can prescribe on it. In our example the girl lives with the delusion that quarrelling is threatening and that she will be abandoned. This idea or, rather, this delusion is the central theme of Magnesium muriaticum. Therefore if someone has this delusion you can prescribe that remedy. This is also possible if the original situation has long since passed. Or even if the original situation never existed, but is merely present in somebody as a feeling or delusion.
The idea of disease as original state is linked to that of delusion. The patient has the delusion of still being in the original situation. The Magnesium muriaticum girl first takes on the delusion of being abandoned in a situation when her parents, through their quarrelling, might leave her behind. Whether that original situation still exists later on is of less importance. Thus you could also prescribe Magnesium muriaticum when the parents got divorced a long time ago.
This idea is comparable to the idea of Masi (told during a seminar) of 'primary psora'. Masi has his own addition to the concept of psora, sycosis and syphilis. He perceives sycosis as an active, positive reaction and syphilis as a destructive reaction to a primary problem, that problem being a fear, nostalgia or loss, which Masi then calls the primary psora. In the Christian way of thinking Masi links this primary psora to the idea of original sin. The idea of primary psora is in reality the same as that of delusion. In the above example of Magnesium muriaticum you could say that the fear that her parents quarrel, will separate and will abandon her is the 'primary psora'.
One can also find the disease of the patient in his philosophy of life. The delusion gets translated to a conviction, for instance 'all people are bad' or 'nobody loves me'. Especially terms like 'always, never, everybody, nothing' point to the fact that people are speaking from their delusion. Their perception of the world is then seen as if it counts for everyone and at any time. Thus the norms and values of people are a good representation of their problems.
A nice illustration of the relationship between delusion and disease is shown in the book written by Siegel 'Love, harmony and cure' (1989, page 36). A woman has ALS, a paralysing disease where the muscles waste away. She became conscious of the fact that her thoughts were always on her weight, that she always wanted to become slimmer, because then her problems would probably disappear. Suddenly she realises 'Is it mere coincidence that I always wanted to have a thinner body and that ALS is now fulfilling this wish?'.
In Hawaii one had the same conception of disease as a belief. The only thing that a 'Kahuna healer' has to do to cure someone is to change his belief system, the rest of the rituals being a secondary matter (King, 1988, page 124). Here also a clear link is made between feeling (psora) and belief (delusion): a feeling is energy which is linked to and bound by a belief.
An interesting point in King's book is the differentiation between three sorts of belief. First there are opinions about which you can have discussions. Secondly there are convictions. When people are confronted with the opposite of their convictions they become emotional, they start heated discussions and react with strong disapproval. And thirdly there are deeply rooted convictions. They are so deep that people hardly recognise them themselves and their reaction to a confrontation is merely surprise. These last-mentioned convictions are very difficult to bring to the foreground during a consultation.
Disease as temptation
One could also see disease as an addiction. Every pattern has its securities, predictable reactions and possibilities. The unchangeable reaction patterns make people very predictable, both for themselves and others. The letting go of a state of disease can bring feelings of insecurity with it. One can get feelings of: 'What do I do instead?' or 'Who am I really?' Also, every solution to a problem gives you a certain kick, which could make you inclined to continue with these patterns even in situations where they aren’t appropriate.
Another angle of this is the gain of being ill. This is an angle that has been given a lot of emphasis, not only in allopathy but especially in psychotherapy. There are so many advantages in being ill that the patient would never want to get better.
There are also some disadvantages to this, however. Because of the rigidity of the reaction pattern, there are many options that remain unused. In that particular reaction pattern the loss could then be greater than the gain.
Let us look at our example. It could be tempting for the girl to remain in her state of being. She has a lovely feeling of being wronged and she does not have to take up responsibilities. If she left her state of depression she would have to start doing something with her life.
Disease as protection
We could see disease as protection in direct relation to disease as temptation. A certain attitude can keep a danger or a fear at bay and can therefore give a certain amount of protection. That shows at the same time the tempting aspect of that attitude.
But a certain behaviour can also serve as 'diversion tactics'. By being intensively occupied with your work, for instance, you could push away or walk around a deeper problem, such as for instance troubles in your marriage. This sometimes appears to lead to unwanted results in the course of treatment. The problem which lay on the surface has been treated, but with it the underlying problem suddenly comes to the surface in full intensity. And the condition for the patient appears to be aggravated instead of ameliorated.
Disease as symbol
In this view a complaint is seen as a symbolic expression of a psychological problem. This viewpoint has been accepted throughout history, as many expressions in our language confirm: 'This a load on my shoulders', 'He is a pain in the neck', 'This is hard to stomach', etc. Our language contains many of these examples.
Many people have also experienced similar feelings. For instance, there are certain problems within the family and it gives you stomach problems. The problems seem to lie heavily in the stomach. In the more chronic complaints this vision is not so easy to apply. But it is possible to see all diseases as symbolic. Dethlefsen (1987) describes this view extensively in his book 'The Meaning of Being Ill'
Disease as cultural phenomenon
It is also possible to see disease as a cultural phenomenon. Every culture has its norms and values. When these norms and values are very one sided, they could turn into illusions or delusions. And they could then lead to complaints in the different individuals within that culture. In our culture it is (was) 'not done' to show sadness. You don’t suddenly cry, and definitely not in the open. Even at a funeral of a well loved person you are supposed to remain composed. This in contrast for instance to other cultures where the wailing can be heard from far away, and even is the 'done thing'. This pattern to keep your grief inside is a cultural disease. This in the sense that the pattern belongs to the remedy Natrium muriaticum and that many people in our culture need this remedy. The culture decides the pattern and some, or even many, people adopt this pattern to such a degree that it leads to complaints.
If one compares the different types of psychosis in Europe and Japan one can see that there are many types that are exist in both cultures. But there are also many types of psychosis that exist in only one or the other culture. There is always a definite connection to the particular norms and values in that culture.
Disease as myth or fairy tale
Disease can also be seen as a myth or fairy tale. Herein we also see certain themes returning. One person's problem is seldom unique: you can find it within many people.
Myths and fairy tales are the expression of this fact. If somebody recognises his own problem in a fairy tale it can touch him deeply. The seminars in Bad Boll have shown that many remedies show a preference for a certain type of fairy tale. Someone who is ill therefore takes part in a certain kind of problem. Via the myth one is connected to the whole of humanity. Often the myth also offers the solution to the problem and can thus be a real help. Campbell says (1991,page 161): 'If you can find out where someone is blocked, it must be possible to find the mythological key to unlock this door'.
On the other hand you could say that, by solving his own problems, someone could help humanity to solve its mythological problems. It has become apparent that the best help with a certain problem can be given by those people who themselves have had and solved that same type of problem. They are best able to feel the essence of the problem and to know where solutions are to be found and where only temporary solutions will fail. 'Alcoholics Anonymous' is a good example of this.
Disease as creation or game
Finally there is the view of disease as creation. You could then call disease 'spirito-somatic', in a way analogous to the term psychosomatic. A human being creates a certain state within himself and then looks for a fitting situation around that. Here we see the circumstances not as the cause of disease, but instead man is cause of his disease and creator of the circumstances.
In this viewpoint the responsibility comes back to man himself. He himself becomes responsible for his disease and the situation.
But within the ability to create a disease also lies the ability to find a solution. Man then has the ability to change, to let go of old problems and to create new possibilities. This then is the level at which diseases are created and resolved.
From this viewpoint of disease as creation, terms like good and bad are not applicable anymore. One simply has a whole range of states, creations with experiences belonging to them.
Disease can thus be seen as a creation with experiences belonging to it. Man creates in order to experience. Dethlefsen (1987, page 113) describes it in his book 'Disease is a Path to Perfection'.
One finds this idea also in different religions. Christ says: 'You are all Gods'. And Palmer (1990, page 1): 'You deserve to experience the creation of you in all its wonder'.
Campbell (1991, page 180) gives a nice example. A woman with a lot of pain told Campbell: 'God has done this to me'. And he answered her 'No, you did this to yourself. God is inside you. You are your own creator. When you discover inside yourself the place where you created this, you will be able to confirm this and live with it, perhaps even enjoy it, as being your life'. The woman instantly felt a very deep change taking place and her complaints diminished considerably.
If we look at our own example in this way, then only the girl herself is responsible for her situation. That applies to her state of depression and apathy as well as all the other circumstances in which she finds herself.
A comparison of the different points of view
These different viewpoints can exist next to each other. They are different angles from which to view a problem. It depends on the point of view whether we see man as observer of his own life drama, or as actor, producer or writer. You could also say that man plays all the parts at once. The differences in points of view are then merely the consequence of a restricted way of looking at the whole.
One can even find a sort of hierarchy in the viewpoints, a hierarchy in the level of looking at causes outside yourself or inside. If we see disease as a process of wearing out, then there is nothing that can be done about it. You are a complete victim of that, 'you’ll have to learn to live with it'. At the other extreme of disease as creation, man is completely his own cause. Psychological, social or physical circumstances don’t have any influence on the situation, because they are a part of his own creation.
Perhaps it is useful to mention that not everybody will accept every point of view as being true. It can be difficult to accept a particular point of view. This could be because many things happen at a subconscious level. Some viewpoints are also quite paradoxical and that could make it difficult to get an insight.
An other important factor is feelings of guilt. It appears that many people react very emotionally to the suggestion that disease could be a creation. The idea that they themselves are responsible creates so many feelings of guilt that they cannot accept this. But in the vision of disease as creation, the concept of guilt cannot exist. This misunderstanding is caused by confusion about something else, 'the I and the Self'. The 'I' can be guilty of something, but the 'Self' can only be itself, create, express itself.
A last comment concerns the extent to which these different viewpoints can be proved. This will probably be very difficult. To the extent that the cause of disease is seen to be more inside man himself, it will also be more difficult to prove. The question is whether it is useful to try and prove all these different views. It would be much more useful to see them as complementary, rather than exclusive.
In the above we have taken a look at the different angles from which to view the cause of disease. It is possible to see these viewpoints as being complementary. They certainly do not exclude each other. The question is whether all these points of view are applicable at the same time to all problems. Some would answer 'yes' to this question. Others will think every situation calls for a different point of view.
In homoeopathic practice the view of disease as 'original situation' and as delusion are the most valuable. Personally I feel very attracted to the idea of disease as creation. This vision gives the most depth. It brings the responsibility, and therefore the ability to heal, back to man himself.