The Earth is Flat (and Other Obvious Truths)

The things we notice first are the ones that are the most obvious…even if they eventually turn out to be false or misleading. The Earth is flat, right? I mean, just look at it.

Of course, we all know the Earth is round (or actually, a spheroid oblated at the poles) but that’s only because for centuries, intelligent and inquisitive people have thought intensely about the matter and devised clever experiments to test their ideas. Now, from outer space, we can finally see with our own eyes what in ancient times was obvious only to seekers who invested the time and effort to expand their awareness. Without them, I have no doubt that most of us would still be firmly in the flat Earth camp. It’s just human nature.

Our ability to understand the world cannot shift until we expand the range and depth of our perceptions…and that means giving up attachments to the ways we’re used to looking at things. It means letting go of what we “know” is true – especially things that seem obvious to us like a flat Earth. But making that shift is very hard for most people to do. Quantum physics pioneer Max Planck hit the nail on the head when he said, “Science advances…but only one funeral at a time.”

Every day I come up against entrenched concepts in medicine and biology that are the equivalent of continuing to believe that the Earth is flat. Here’s a good example:

In most cases, when doctors test for an infection they don’t directly look for the causative agent, that is, a virus, bacterium, fungus or parasite. Instead, they look for markers of the immune system’s reaction to the infection. These are specific proteins called antibodies that are, under most circumstances, custom manufactured by the immune system to disrupt and disable the germs that infect us. If doctors don’t find antibodies against a particular germ, they feel confident in concluding that you you’re not infected by it.

Now, the problem with this approach is that any germ that evolves a technique for evading the immune system will also slip under the radar of this kind of testing. Some bacteria, like the corkscrew-shaped Borrelia spirochetes that cause Lyme Disease, are capable of shedding their complex cell walls in favor of a simple membrane. By abandoning their exterior structures and becoming CWDs (Cell Wall Deficient bacterial variants), these clever germs also jettison the surface markers used by the immune system to track them down and produce an antibody response. From the bacterium’s point of view it’s a great way to hide. But by “going stealth” and disappearing off the immune system’s radar screen, these bacteria also hide from standard medical tests.

So when the doctors tells you that, no, in fact you don’t have Lyme Disease, it’s not just a terrible misdiagnosis that could have a ruinous impact on your health. It also means that your health insurance closes the books and won’t pay for treatment. After all, your doctor proved you didn’t have the disease right? From now on, all your symptoms will be considered psychosomatic – a convenient side-shuffle since most insurance policies these days provide, at best, minimal coverage for mental health services.

As a result, you won’t get the treatment you need and will probably wind up bouncing from one practitioner to another in search of a miracle – or at least some kind of relief. And the longer you wait, the harder a condition like Lyme becomes to treat.

Entrenched beliefs are incredibly hard to dislodge. That’s because although we like to think we’re amenable to logic and reason, we human beings are more often motivated by our emotional and instinctual drives. At least unconsciously, most people feel that if they learned something during their arduous training to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or an auto mechanic, a pastry chef or whatever – then by God, they’re going to stick to it. It’s not just about facts and information – our ways of looking at things have become an essential part of how we define ourselves, our work, our community and the value of our lives in the world. And that level of belief doesn’t easily change. Certainly not in the face of something as flimsy as someone else’s unreliable self-reports about their health. After all, they’re just the patient. They didn’t go to medical school.

The classic comedy group, The Firesign Theater, once did an album called, “Everything You Know is Wrong.” I often feel that way when puzzling out biological and medical conundrums. Virtually everything I’ve ever been taught is wrong. But the most insidious conflicts arise when an idea isn’t completely wrong…just misleading.

Before Pasteur “proved” the germ theory of disease, the cause and effect nature of illness was hard to pin down. Doctors talked in terms of vapors and humors and conditions of the spleen. When Pasteur showed that microscopic life forms – germs – are the agents of disease, things got a lot simpler. Doctors could now accurately diagnose conditions like tuberculosis, syphilis and malaria. And even better, chemists could find a “magic bullet” to kill the invading germ.

The germ theory isn’t wrong. Some diseases – especially the acute infections seen on the battlefield or during times of plague – have pretty much this kind of cause and effect relationship with germs and can be treated with biologically toxic, antibiotic medicines. The problem with Pasteur and his pharmaco-chemical legacy is that this obvious truth hides a much larger truth, namely that most human disease, especially in the modern industrialized world, isn’t caused by acute infection. Most chronic, degenerative and auto-immune conditions are a function of biological terrain – the body’s “soil chemistry.”

Pasteur’s simple model of “find the germ and poison it” has led to a philosophy of medicine based on the profound suppression of symptoms. The result is that the actual causative factors of disease are usually driven deeper into the body. Furthermore, it's possible for various low level, stealthy pathogens to trick the immune system and set up a system of "tides" that swing back and forth from one ineffective response to another. I've written an article about this, published in Explore! magazine, called The Four-Way Stop Dilemma (it's in Adobe pdf format so it requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download for free if you don't already have it.).

In the 1960s, the great German physician Hans Heinrich Reckeweg published the theory of homotoxicology that explains this beautifully. Reckeweg showed that disease could be understood as the accumulation of toxins as they penetrate into deeper and deeper layers of the body’s many tissue system. He created a highly detailed table showing the types of symptoms that are produced in each region of the body at each deepening level of toxification.

The beauty of Reckeweg’s system is that it also predicts which symptoms will be activated as the body successfully detoxifies and heals itself. In our modern medical culture, the appearance of symptoms is considered a failure of treatment. In Reckeweg’s much saner world, these symptoms are seen as proof of the body’s ability to unwind the disease process as it returns to health.

Of course, I’m fond of saying that in spite of millions of dedicated, compassionate and highly skilled practitioners, we no longer have a health care system. Instead, we have an economic engine that, like any other corporate entity, is focused on maximizing profit. Since profit is derived from tending to illness rather than eliminating it, the business of medicine does what every business tries to do – capture and retain as many customers as possible. In this case, maximum profits are derived from having the largest possible number of people under expensive care for chronic conditions that can be treated but never resolved.

Look around at how the health of our population is sliding down the slippery slope and ask yourself how well the reality corresponds to the corporate medical model. It’s a perfect fit.


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