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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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Would You Choose to be Sick?
Article ID: 14391
Age Group: Adult
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Author: James Bulls
Posted: March 27th. 2011
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One of the most common beliefs in the metaphysical, Reiki, and spiritual healing communities is that people fail to recover from illness or experience illness more frequently because they choose to be sick and at some level don’t want to recover. My personal opinion is that it would be insensitive, patronizing, and condescending to tell a client “You’re in pain because you don’t want to get better, ” but the statement is worth considering if only because of the useful discussions it creates about focus, intent, and state of mind.
Among the schools of thought that have most greatly influenced my personal healing philosophy is existentialism, in particular Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground. Though you’d find it difficult to find a common thread among existentialist philosophers, you would find that they agreed at least in that existence precedes essence. In other words, what a person thinks, feels, does, says, expresses, or feels is what will define a person’s essence (and not the other way around, that a person’s essence dictates his or her character.) Existentialists are frequently painted with a dark brush for their seeming obsession with suffering and bleakness, but they are truly among the most vibrant spirits you’ll meet and their thought shares more in common with Zen than you may realize.
The reason I introduce the subject of existentialism is to highlight the words of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man who said:
“… Even in toothache there is enjoyment, ” I answer. I had a toothache for a whole month and I know there is. In that case, of course, people are not spiteful in silence, but moan; but they are not candid moans, they are malignant moans, and the malignancy is the whole point. The enjoyment of the sufferer finds expression in those moans; if he did not feel enjoyment in them he would not moan. … [L]isten sometimes to the moans of an educated man of the nineteenth century suffering from toothache, on the second or third day of the attack, when he is just beginning to moan, not as he moaned on the first day, that is, not simply because he has toothache, not just as any coarse peasant, but as a man affected by progress and European civilization, a man who is “divorced from the soil and the national elements, ” as they express it now-a-days. His moans become nasty, disgustingly malignant, and go on for whole days and nights. And of course he knows himself that he is doing himself no sort of good with his moans; he knows better than any one that he is only lacerating and harassing himself and others for nothing; he knows that even the audience before whom he is making his efforts, and his whole family, listen to him with loathing, do not put a ha’porth of faith in him, and inwardly understand that he might moan differently, more simply, without trills and flourishes, and that he is only amusing himself like that from ill-humour, from malignancy.”
Dostoevsky’s Underground Man says, in as many words, that the sufferer described above finds satisfaction in his suffering and in sharing it with others; that by experiencing the suffering and expressing it he finds essence: the man “divorced from the soil and the national elements” is through his pain united with what he has neglected to respect.
To return to the statement made at the beginning, “You’re in pain because you don’t want to get better, ” in light of the Underground Man’s experience introduced above, I think it would be more accurate to say, “You’re in pain because you’ve neglected your connection to the spirit.” What I mean by that is the relation between the 6th and 7th Houses of the Zodiac. The 6th House of the Zodiac is the house of Virgo, mutable earth, and health, productivity, and routine. The 7th House of the Zodiac is the house of Libra, cardinal air, and relationships, marriage, partnerships, and tight connections. The 6th and 7th Houses are opposites both by elements (earth and air) and by modality (mutable and cardinal.)
The Hermetic Law of Polarity teaches that opposites define each other and that where conflict exists it can be found in the Hermetic Law of Rhythm and the relative balance and equilibrium between opposites. In that sense, disruptions in the 6th House (health) result from excess weight in the 7th House (partnerships) ; in other words, the connections (or addictions) we have to other things impact the routine function of the body.
Caroline Myss wrote a book called Anatomy of the Spirit whose central theme returned to the same point I’ve outlined above: the place to which you direct your spirit affects your stability. In her book, she tells a story about a young lady suffering from HIV. Myss relates the story of how this woman’s addiction to smoking made other choices more difficult; she says that if she was holding a cure to HIV in one hand and a pack of cigarettes in the other, although the young woman would choose the cure to HIV her desire would still be directed at the cigarettes (and thus foil the cure for HIV no matter how effective it might be.) Do you see how Myss’ story of the HIV patient’s addiction to cigarettes relates to the 6th and 7th Houses of the Zodiac? Her connection or strong commitment to cigarettes (7th House) opposes her health and the function of her body (6th House.)
Again, I think that it would be insensitive, disrespectful, and patronizing to tell a client that he or she chooses to suffer, but from a spiritual and metaphysical perspective the discussion is worth having if only for the insights it gives into our own habits and behavior. Indeed, this is a theme I incorporate into my healing philosophy and into my card readings. Numerologically, I see 1 as the beginning and a fixed state of unity, harmony, and continuity. It is the source origin of all other numbers and is a harmonious state of existence with neither uncertainty nor disagreement.
Of course, who can remain in that state? Following 1 comes 2, the number of desire, curiosity, individuality, and productivity. Like Pandora whose boredom and dissatisfaction with safety and certainty led her to open the famous box, 2 breaks away from the banal predictability of 1 to begin a new and unpredictable adventure. Consider also the movie Matrix, where the insidious Agent Smith explains to Morpheous that human minds refused to accept a perfect world and instead insisted on conflict and disagreement. The computer logically believed that a perfect world free of conflict would be the safest environment in which to culture human minds, but failed to appreciate that human minds thrive on individual expression and the ability to choose one’s own fate.
Perfect spiritual unity is the state from which we all descended, it is the state to which we all seek to return, but it is also the state in which hardly none of us can exist. Who would choose an existence in which individual desires and the opportunity for self-expression did not exist? Who among us would surrender our free agency and give away our ability to choose for ourselves even when we know a choice to be poor?
Science fiction offers an insightful look at this discussion. I never watched Star Trek until I married my wife who adores Star Trek and I have to confess I’m curious why I never watched more of the series. With respect to health and illness, characters in the Star Trek universe typically don’t have to experience illness: medical techniques and methods are so advanced that everything from simple headaches to ruptured organs and broken bones can be treated and restored in a matter of moments. Tricorders, scanners, and other inventions of the 23rd century make suffering a thing of the past and a few moments in sickbay can bring an injured crewmember back from even the most dangerous maladies. In such a world, where health and freedom from suffering are only a transport beam away, would people become “divorced from the soil and the national elements, ” and as consequence choose to accept occasional pain and suffering in order to regain what was lost through continuous, uninterrupted harmony?
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