Updated: Jul 23
NB: This is part of a series on Romantic Healthcare, setting out the foundational ideas of a system of healthcare based on vital nature and vital science. Each can be read independently, though it is recommended to read the introductory article, 'What If You Gave a Revolution and No One Came', first. Some articles refer to previous ones, so this can guide you to go and read these as well, either before or after the article you are on.
Health. We all want it. Billions, if not trillions, are spent annually in the pursuit of it. We are searching for the ‘Road to Wellville’, but like the old joke, you can’t get there from here if you don’t know exactly where ‘there’ is. If ‘there’ is simply seen as the absence of symptoms, then healthcare becomes a march to the rear. Dressing this up and putting lipstick on it, such as in the World Health Organization’s ‘definition’,* does not disguise the fact that healthcare currently is either an orderly retreat involving ‘disease management’ (allopathic medicine), or a disorganized retreat of ‘every man for himself’ under cover of slogans such as ‘natural’, ‘wholistic’ and ‘vital force’.
*WHO: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
To put it rather bluntly, in either approach, there is no ‘there’ there.
The lack of a clear and rational understanding of what health is results in confusion and contradiction for the poor pilgrim seeking his or her way. Without a clear understanding of health, we are prone to following principals (‘experts’ or ‘gurus’) rather than principles. In this benighted state, Mark Twain’s advice many years ago remains valid, “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”
To be fair, even a broken clock is right at least twice a day. The WHO is right about two things: one, health is a state; and two, it is not merely a negative, but something positive to be attained. But what exactly? Until recently, the state of Health has been much as Churchill once characterized Russia, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The trick is to find the key. Without the key, Health remains a chimera.
Health is about Life, so the key must lie in our understanding of Life itself (see previous blog entry - What is Life?), in particular 'life biological'. Biological life is a dynamic activity.
The optimal state of activity of an organism is health or a state of “soundness of body; that condition in which its functions are duly and efficiently discharged.” [OED] In such a state, the sustentive and generative powers are in dynamic balance – homeostasis and palingenesis respectively.
The antithetical unity of OR within the organism consists of expansion and contraction (or better stated, compression), reflecting the nature of the cosmic OR.
As we saw earlier, each of the two aspects of Life, expansion and contraction, is itself polar, giving us a bi-polarity. Vital nature, or OR, is expansive overall, but within there is a dynamic between extension and compression. The one pole is, as Coleridge put it, the ‘free life’ and the other the ‘confining form’, or in terms of Genesis, ‘the heavens’ and ‘the earth’.
We can see this dynamic operating in a warm, loving hug. There is a compression, but the overall effect is expansive in nature, as the initial compression allows for an extension of self.
Inert nature, in contrast, is contractive overall. Within there is also a dynamic, in this case between dilation and constriction.
Organismic OR oscillates between the super-imposition function (internally and externally generated), or what we could term the general sexual function (not restricted to the physical level) and the release of the energy (percitation – excitation/ incitation) produced thereby in terms of activity or work.
The antithetical unity of organismic OR also produces the polarity between psyche and soma.
The optimal state is produced and maintained by access to those factors necessary for the optimal expression (vital operation), both qualitatively and quantitatively. Optimal expression or vital energy means a state of optimal strength (eusthenia) for defensive action (preservation of life) and offensive action (enhancement of life). Too much or too little of the factors necessary for life will result in too much or too little vital energy production. While a slight excess of energy is part of the healthy functioning and operation of the organism, too much (hyper) results in a diminution of vital power or weakness overall (hypersthenia). Too little (hypo) results in weakness as well (hyposthenia).
Too much or too little is determined both by the quantity and quality of the activant agents. The qualitative aspect rests on whether the agent is resonant to and with the individual organism’s nature, that is life-enhancing and life-prolonging. Some agents are universals (air, water, sun, movement, sleep), though even here, the quantity will vary from individual to individual. Other agents are typological; to the extent that organisms have certain aspects in common, such as blood or metabolic type, certain agents can be categorized as being beneficial or harmful according to typology. Finally, whether some things are resonant or not depends on individual, that is, genetic factors (mutations). Stimulants can be either exciting or inciting (‘moving’ or resonant – ‘moved to act’, ‘moved to tears’) or irritating (non-resonant). Percitants, which are resonant, can be either, as we stated, exciting (excitant) or inciting (incitant).
Thus, health is the state of optimal function and operation of an organism consisting of a dynamic equilibrium: homeostasis on the side of the sustentive power and palingenesis on the side of the generative power. With this understanding, we can get on the road again, knowing now where 'there' is.