Archive for February, 2012

I often say to patients that there is no healing other than natural healing. What I mean by that is that all the drugs, and all the surgical techniques used in modern medicine, act directly against pathology. None of them actually stimulate or directly support self-healing. Yet that’s the only kind of true healing to exist. An antibiotic might kill a bug, but its the natural self-healing which repairs the tissue damaged by the infection. A broken bone can be held in place, but it’s the natural self-healing which knits the bone back together. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said “God heals and the doctor takes the fees” – a rather cynical view of the same concept!

Then I came across this passage in Rupert Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion

…it is important to remember that animals and plants have been regenerating after damage, healing themselves and defending themselves against infections throughout the entire history of life on earth. All of us are descended from animal and human forebears that survived and reproduced for hundreds of millions of years before the advent of doctors. We would not be here if it were not for our ancestors’ innate capacities to heal and resist diseases. Medicine can help and enhance these capacities, but it builds on foundations that have evolved over vast aeons of time, continually subject to natural selection.

Actually he’s being quite generous about Medicine here – it can help and enhance – but only in complementary ways. I don’t know of any treatments marketed by drug companies which directly stimulate healing. Rather, they, at best, reduce pathology whilst we hope that the body will get on with healing itself.

Amazing thought though, huh? Every single one of your direct ancestors survived to an age where they could procreate – or you wouldn’t be here today!

Isn’t it time we made available, researched and developed the ways of directly supporting and stimulating self-healing?

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Rupert Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion takes on the “dogmas” of scientific materialism. It isn’t a polemic. It’s a thoroughly thought provoking book which seeks to get people thinking about the claims and beliefs of those who think that human beings are mechanical “stuff” and nothing more.

He outlines ten common beliefs which underpin the materialistic conceptions of most scientists.

1 Everything is essentially mechanical

2 All matter is unconscious

3 The total amount of matter and energy is always the same

4 The laws of nature are fixed

5 Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction

6 All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.

7 Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activity of brains

8 Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death

9 Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory

10 Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works

He then asks the reader to consider how valid or true such dogmas are, and poses questions for debate at the end of each chapter. This is most unlike most proclamations of scientists, and certainly of “skeptics” whose astounding sense of certainty about their own opinions is quite breath-taking and typically comes across as arrogant and closed minded.

Here’s a quote from The Independent  – one of many positive reviews you can find –

But alas, in large measure, science and the idea of it have been seriously corrupted. That some of its high technologies are not in the general good is all too obvious – although it isn’t always obvious which ones are and which ones aren’t. Even more to the point, and in some ways more serious, is that science all too often becomes the enemy of what it should stand for. Although it must have rules and methods – in particular, the ideas of science must be testable – it should be open-minded. It should go where the data lead. That’s what the myth says it does do – but the reality is very different. In reality, science is locked into a series of dogmas that are largely untested and to some extent untestable, which for science ought to be the great no-no. Yet they must be adhered to, or risk the charge of flakiness and loss of grant. In The Science Delusion, Rupert Sheldrake drags ten of the most powerful dogmas out of the basement and into the light of day; and does science, humanity and the world a large, a considerable favour. The most obvious and all-prevailing of the great dogmas is that the universe as a whole – including life — is mechanical. Bits of stuff interact – and that’s it. The smaller the bits, the more fundamental the explanation is deemed to be. According to Richard Dawkins, human beings are “lumbering robots”, driven by their “selfish” DNA (where “selfish” is a shameless and seriously misleading piece of anthropomorphism). Consciousness, says Boston philosopher Dan Dennett, is an illusion – just the noise that neurons make, although it is hard to see how something that is not itself conscious could suffer from illusions. On the back of this mechanical dogma all metaphysics, which in effect means all religion, is kicked into touch. Yet, asks Sheldrake innocently, where is the evidence that life and all the universe are simply mechanical? What can the evidence possibly be? Common sense and common observation cry out every turn that we and many other creatures at least, are conscious, and that we have free will. Why reject our intuitions? On what grounds? Then again, some of the greatest philosophers, including Baruch Spinoza and AN Whitehead, have argued in various ways that consciousness is not confined to our brains. We do not engender it within our own heads, but partake of what is all around. Now there are reasons from many branches of science – physics, psychology, anthropology – to take this seriously. But all inquiry that seems to offend the dogma is marginalised.

and another from The Guardian

The unlucky fact that our current form of mechanistic materialism rests on muddled, outdated notions of matter isn’t often mentioned today. It’s a mess that can be ignored for everyday scientific purposes, but for our wider thinking it is getting very destructive. We can’t approach important mind-body topics such as consciousness or the origins of life while we still treat matter in 17th-century style as if it were dead, inert stuff, incapable of producing life. And we certainly can’t go on pretending to believe that our own experience – the source of all our thought – is just an illusion, which it would have to be if that dead, alien stuff were indeed the only reality. We need a new mind-body paradigm, a map that acknowledges the many kinds of things there are in the world and the continuity of evolution. We must somehow find different, more realistic ways of understanding human beings – and indeed other animals – as the active wholes that they are, rather than pretending to see them as meaningless consignments of chemicals.

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Rupert Sheldrake in his excellent “The Science Delusion“, challenges a number of basic tenets (or dogmas) of science as it is most commonly practiced and preached. The key belief he challenges is that everything in the universe is material and mechanical – the universe and everything in it is “stuff”. One of the most thought provoking chapters is about memory. He asks “Are memories stored as material traces?”

You’ll be familiar with the idea. Memories are stored in the brain. When we want to recall a memory we find it in the brain somewhere and call it up somehow so we can examine it. Analogies such as filing cabinets are used – all that has ever happened to us is filed away somewhere in the brain and we have some kind of amazing google-type search engine which goes and finds things for us inside our own brains.

In this model, whatever happens, whatever we feel, whatever we think leaves some kind of physical trace –


Maybe that trace is a network of neurons which fire off together, or maybe it is a storage area of groups of neurons. The trouble is that despite millions of pounds of research and thousands of researchers using a multitude of technologies and methods, we can’t find such traces. Nobody has managed to discover where the physical traces are which are accessed by our search engines.

Sheldrake proposes a different model. One of resonance.

pool of resonance

In this model, the brain is more like a tuner, and memories are more like the radio or tv signals which surround us all the time. Recalling something is a matter of tuning in to those signals. (No not the radio and tv signals!)

Rupert Sheldrake’s “big idea” is “morphic resonance”. He suggests that in memory we tune in to our own personal “morphic fields”. We, in a sense, tune in to our past selves, our past experiences, which remain as fields in the universe. Whatever you think about the morphic fields idea, this idea of memory being more like a tuning in to fields which are not contained within individual brains is a fascinating one.

Think about it.

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Do you have a daily meditation practice?

There’s a 21 day Meditation Challenge going on right now, so if you don’t, why not check this out and join in?

Here’s the introduction from Day 1 –

Only a few decades ago, medical students were taught to view the body as a machine whose parts would inevitably break down until it could no longer be repaired. Today science is arriving at a radically different understanding: While the body appears to be material, it is really a field of energy and intelligence that is inextricably connected to the mind. All of the thoughts, perceptions, memories, emotions, and feelings in our mind influence every cell of our body. When we have a loving thought or focus on a happy memory or feeling, our brain triggers a cascade of molecules that promote wellbeing in our physiology. On the other hand, when we hold onto emotions such as anger, fear, and doubt, this creates stress and damage in the body.



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Light at night

snowdrops by starlight

snowdrops by starlight

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The Great Turning

Excellent post on the School of Life site about the three stories circulating at present – the first one is “business as usual” ie no need to change what we do or how we live; the second one is “the great unraveling” – it’s all falling to pieces. And the third?

The third story is held and embodied by those who know the first story is leading us to catastrophe and who refuse to let the second story have the last word. Involving the emergence of new and creative human responses, it is about the epochal transition from an industrial society committed to economic growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world. We call this story the Great Turning. There is no point in arguing about which of these stories is “right.” All three are happening. The question is which one we want to put our energy behind.

I’m putting my energy behind The Great Turning – how about you?

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On the Cambo Estate, at Kingsbarns in Fife, there’s a magical forest walk you can take at night time just now. Cambo is famous for its snowdrops at this time of year and they’ve lit up the forest and placed a number of art installations amongst the trees. Here’s a flavour of it.

snowdrops by starlight cambo house

snowdrops by starlight

snowdrops by starlight

snowdrops by starlight

snowdrops by starlight

snowdrops by starlight

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Here’s an interesting idea from Okinawa. Apparently the people who live in Okinawa don’t trust banks (are you surprised?). However, in Okinawa, they have an interesting way of sharing money. It’s called a “tasukeai moai”.

Here’s an example. A group of 10 friends form one of these groups and they agree the following –

  1. To meet once a month for ten months.
  2. To each commit to put 50,000 yen (that’s around £400; or 500 dollars/euros) into the pot every month.
  3. Each month one person can opt to take the whole pot.
  4. Once 500,000 is taken, that person has to pay 2000 yen in “interest” each of the remaining months in addition to their monthly 50,000 contribution.
  5. The pot therefore rises by the amount of the addition payments each month (the 2000 yen from each “borrower” in addition to everyone’s monthly contribution), so the later you opt for the pot, the greater the amount you receive, and the earlier you take it, the greater the amount of interest you pay.
  6. If two or more people want the pot in any particular month, they draw lots.
  7. After the tenth month the club closes and a new club can commence. (you’ll have figured out that the group lasts for as many months as it has members….)

The group therefore support each other’s needs in a kind of informal savings and loan club. In addition to this support they are friends and increase their friendship through their commitment and sharing. These groups work on trust, friendship and everyone in the club knowing each other.

Different, huh?

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We live with a view of ourselves as separate entities, made up of tiny, distinct, independent parts. This idea, this kind of atomism, has been around for centuries.

Now, however, we’re coming to understand that reality isn’t like that.

Lynne McTaggart writes in “The Bond”

The universe contains an indeterminate number of vibrating packets of energy that constantly pass energy back and forth as if in an endless game of basketball with a quantum sea of light. Indeed they aren’t even there all the time, but are constantly popping in and out of existence, making a brief appearance before disappearing back into the underlying energy field.

This is our emerging model of reality, one where there are no “things”, there is no “material” or “substance” distinct from energy. One where everything is constantly changing and nothing is separate.

Thomas Berry writes

We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.

What a lovely phrase. This atomism has led us to believe that we are not only separate from each other but from Nature itself, and that has led to an unhealthy relationship with the Earth – one where we’ve been believing we can dominate and control. But we can’t. There is no separateness.

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The Fourfold Wisdom

Thomas Berry, in “The Great Work” writes that we can draw on what he calls “the fourfold wisdom” as we face the future together in the world. These are “the wisdom of indigenous peoples; the wisdom of women; the wisdom of the classical traditions; and the wisdom of science”.

He captures the essence of the these wisdoms as follows –

Indigenous wisdom is distinguished by its intimacy with and participation in the functioning of the natural world.

The wisdom of women is to join the knowing of the body to that of the mind, to join soul to spirit, intuition to reasoning, feeling consciousness to intellectual analysis, intimacy to detachment, subjective presence to objective distance.

The wisdom of the classical traditions is based on revelatory experiences of a spiritual realm both transcendent to and imminent in the visible world about us and in the capacity of humans to participate in that world to achieve the fullness of their own mode of being.

The wisdom of science, as this exists in the Western world at the beginning of the twenty-first century, lies in its discovery that the universe has come into being by a sequence of evolutionary transformations over an immense period of time. Through these transformation episodes the universe has passed from a lesser to a greater complexity in structure and from a lesser to a greater mode of consciousness. We might say that the universe, in the phenomenal order, is self-emergent, self-sustaining, and self-fulfilling.

This is a beautiful model. We understand and experience the world through particular lenses. We experience life through the maps of reality which we create.

This idea of the four wisdoms gives us a fascinating map. Go explore.

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