And yet to a certain degree it is a secondary rather than primary system, coming into mobilization as such only when the body is threatened.
The body’s main purpose is not only to survive but to maintain a quality of existence at certain levels, and that quality itself promotes health and fulfillment. A definite, biologically pertinent fear alerts the body, and allows it to react completely and naturally. We might be reading a newspaper headline, for example, as we cross a busy street. Long before we are consciously aware of the circumstances, our body might leap out of the path of an approaching car. The body is doing what it is supposed to do. Though consciously we were not afraid, there was a biologically pertinent fear that was acted upon.
If, however, we dwell mentally in a generalized environment of fear, the body is given no clear line of action, allowed no appropriate response. Look at it this way: An animal, not necessarily just a wild one in some native forest, but an ordinary dog or cat, reacts in a certain fashion. It is alert to everything in its environment. A cat does not anticipate danger from a penned dog four blocks away, however, nor bother wondering what would happen if that dog were to escape and find the cat’s cozy yard.
Many people, however, do not pay attention to everything in their environments, but through their beliefs concentrate only upon “the ferocious dog four blocks away.” That is, they do not respond to what is physically present or perceivable in either space or time, but instead [dwell] upon the threats that may or may not exist, ignoring at the same time other pertinent data that are immediately at hand.
The mind then signals threat — but a threat that is nowhere physically present, so that the body cannot clearly respond. It therefore reacts to a pseudo-threatening situation, and is caught between gears, so to speak, with resulting biological confusion. The body’s responses must be specific.
The overall sense of health, vitality, and resiliency is a generalized condition of contentment — brought about, however, by multitudinous specific responses. Left alone, the body can defend itself against any disease, but it cannot defend itself appropriately against an exaggerated general fear of disease on the individual’s part. It must mirror our own feelings and assessments. Usually, now, our entire medical systems literally generate as much disease as is cured — for we are filled with the fear of disease, overwhelmed by what seems to be the body’s propensity toward illness — and nowhere is the body’s vitality or natural defense system stressed.
Private disease, then, happens also in a social context. This context is the result of personal and mass beliefs that are intertwined at all cultural levels, and so to that extent serve private and public purposes.
The illnesses generally attributed to all different ages involved. Those of the elderly, again, fit in with our social and cultural beliefs, the structure of our family life. Old animals have their own dignity, and so should old men and women. Senility is a mental and physical epidemic — a needless one. We “catch” it because when we are young we believe that old people cannot perform. There are no inoculations against beliefs, so when young people with such beliefs grow old they become “victims.”
The kinds of diseases change through historical periods. Some become fashionable, others go out of style. All epidemics, however, are mass statements both biologically and psychically. They point to mass beliefs that have brought about certain physical conditions that are abhorrent at all levels. They often go hand-in-hand with war, and represent biological protests.
Whenever the conditions of life are such that its quality is threatened, there will be such a mass statement. The quality of life must be at certain level so that the individuals of a species — of any and all species — can develop. In our species the spiritual, mental and psychic abilities add a dimension that is biologically pertinent.
There simply must be, for example, a freedom to express ideas, an individual tendency, a worldwide social and political context in which each individual can develop his or her abilities and contribute to the species as a whole. Such a climate depends, however, upon many ideas not universally accepted — and yet the species is so formed that the biological importance of ideas cannot be stressed to strongly.
More and more, the quality of our lives is formed through the subjective realities of our feelings and mental constructions. Again, beliefs that foster despair are biologically destructive. They cause the physical system to shut down. If mass action against appalling social or political conditions is not effective, then other means are taken, and these are often in the guise of epidemics or natural disasters. The blight is wiped out in one way or another.
Such conditions, however, are the results of beliefs, which are mental, and so the most vital work must always be done in that area.
Photosynthesis is the imperfectly understood process by which the green chlorophyll in plants uses the energy of sunlight to manufacture carbohydrates from water and carbon dioxide. This “stored sunlight” can then be used as food.