That susceptibility is a medical fact of life. It is a fact, however, without a basic foundation in the truth of man’s or woman’s biological reality. It is a fact brought about through suggestion. The doctors see the bodily results, which are quite definite, and then those results are taken as evidence.
In a few isolated areas of the world even today, the old are not disease-ridden, nor their vital signs weaken They remain quite healthy until the time of death.
Their belief systems, therefore, we must admit, are quite practical. Nor are they surrounded by medical professions. We have what almost amounts to a social program for illness — the flu season. A mass meditation, it has an economic structure in back of it: The scientific and medical foundations are involved. Not only this, however, but the economic concerns, from the largest pharmacies to the tiniest drugstores, the supermarkets and the corner groceries all of these elements are involved.
Pills, potions, and shots supposed to combat [colds and the] flu are given prominent displays, serving to remind those who might have missed them otherwise of the announcements [about] the coming time of difficulty. Commercials on television bring a new barrage, so that we can go from the hay fever season to the flu season without missing any personal medications.
A cough in June may be laughed off and quickly forgotten. A cough in the flu season, however, is far more suspect — and under such conditions one might think, particularly in the midst of a poor week: “Who wants to go out tomorrow anyhow?”
We are literally expected to come down with the flu. It can serve as an excuse for not facing many kinds of problems. Many people are almost consciously aware of what they are doing. All they have to do is pay attention to the suggestions offered so freely by the society. The temperature does rise. Concern causes the throat to become dry. Dormant viruses — which up to now have done no harm –are activated.
Coats, gloves, and boot manufactures also push their wares. Yet in those categories there is more sanity, for their ads often stress wholesome activities, portraying the happy skier, the tramper through the woods in winter. Sometimes, however, they suggest that their ware will protect us against the flu and colds, and against the vulnerability of our nature.
The inoculations themselves do little good overall, and they can be potentially dangerous, particularly when they are given to prevent an epidemic which has not in fact occurred. They may have specific value, but overall they are detrimental, confusing bodily mechanisms and setting off other biological reactions that might not show up, say, for some time.
The flu season intersects with the Christmas season, of course, when Christians are told to be merry and [wish] their fellows a happy return to the natural wonders of childhood, in thought at least.[They are also told] to pay homage to God. Christianity has become, however, a tangled sorry tale, its cohesiveness largely vanished. Such a religion becomes isolated from daily life. Many individuals cannot unify the various areas of their belief and feeling, and at Christmas the partially recognize the vast gulf the exists between their scientific beliefs and their religious beliefs. They find themselves unable to cope with such a mental and spiritual dilemma. A psychic depression often results, one that is deepened by the Christmas music and the commercial displays, by the religious reminders that the species is made in God’s image, and by the other reminders that the body so given is seemingly incapable of caring for itself and is a natural prey to disease and disaster.
So the Christmas season carries a man’s and woman’s hopes in our society, and the flu season mirrors his fears and shows the gulf between the two.
The physician is also a private person, so I speak of him or her only in his or her professional capacity, for he or she usually does the best he or she can in the belief system that he or she shares with his or her fellows. Those beliefs do not exist alone, but are of course intertwined with religious and scientific ones, as separate as they might appear. Christianity has conventionally treated illness as the punishment of God, or as a trail sent by God, to be borne stoically. It has considered man and woman a sinful creature, flawed by original sin, forced to work by the sweat of his or her brow.
Science has seen man and woman as an accidental product of an uncaring universe, a creature literally without a center of meaning, where consciousness was the result of a physical mechanism that only happened to come into existence, and that had no reality outside of the structure. Science has at least been consistent in the respect. Christianity, however, officially asks children of sorrow to be joyful and sinners to find a childlike purity; it asks them to love a God who one day will destroy the world, and who will condemn them to hell if they do not adore him.
Many people, caught between such conflicting beliefs, fall prey to physical ills during the Christmas season particularly. The churches and hospitals are often the largest buildings in any town, and the only ones on Sunday without recourse to city ordinances. We cannot divorce our private value systems form our health, and the hospitals often profit from the guilt that religions have instilled in their people.
I am speaking now or religions so intertwined with social life and community ventures that all sense of basic religious integrity becomes lost. Man and woman is by nature a religious creature.
One of man’s and woman’s strongest attributes is religious feeling. It is the part of psychology most often overlooked. There is a natural religious knowledge with which we are born. The feeling is a biological spirituality translated into verbal terms. It says: “Life is a gift ( and not a curse). I am a unique, worthy creature in the natural world, which everywhere surrounds me, gives me sustenance, and reminds me of the greater source from which I myself and the world both emerge. My body is delightfully suited to its environment, and comes to me, from that unknown source which shows itself through all of the events of the physical world.”
That feeling gives the organism the optimism, the joy, and the ever-abundant energy to grow. It encourages curiosity and creativity, and places the individual in a spiritual world and a natural one at once.
Organized religions are always attempts to redefine that kind of feeling in cultural terms. They seldom succeed because they become too narrow in their concepts, too dogmatic, and the cultural structures finally overweigh the finer substance within them.
The more tolerant a religion is, the closer it comes to expressing those inner truths. The individual, however, has a private biological and spiritual integrity that is a part of man’s and woman’s heritage, and is indeed any creature’s right. Man and woman cannot mistrust his or her own nature and at the same time trust the nature of God, for God is his or her word for the source of his or her being — and if his or her being is tainted, then so must be his or her God.
Our private beliefs merge with those of others, and form our cultural reality. The distorted ideas of the medical profession or the scientists, or any other group, are not thrust upon us, therefore. They are the result of our mass beliefs — isolated in the form of separate disciplines. Medical men and women, for example, are often extremely unhealthy because they are so saddled with those health beliefs that their attention is concentrated in that area more than others not so involved. The idea of prevention is always based upon fear — for we do not want to prevent something that is joyful. Often, therefore, preventative medicine causes what it hopes to avoid. Not only does the idea [or prevention] continually promote the entire system of fear, but specific steps taken to prevent a disease in a body not already stricken, again, often set up reactions that bring about side effects that would occur if the disease had in fact been suffered.
A specific disease will of course have its effects on other portions of the body as well, [effects] which have not been studied, or even known. Such inoculations, therefore, cannot take that into consideration. There are also cases where alterations occur after inoculation, so that for a while people actually become carriers of diseases, and can infect others.
There are individuals who very rarely get ill whether or not they are inoculated, and who are not sensitive in the health area. I am not implying, therefore, that all people react negatively to inoculations. In the most basic of terms, however, inoculations do no good, either, though i am aware that medical history would seem to contradict .
At certain times, and more particularly at the birth of medical science in modern times, the belief in inoculation, if not by the populace then by the doctors, did possess the great strength of new suggestion and hope — but I am afraid that scientific medicine has caused as many new diseases as it has cured. When it saves lives, it does so because of the intuitive healing understanding of the physician, or because the patient is so impressed by the great efforts taken in his or her behalf, and therefore is convinced second handedly of his own worth.
Physicians, of course, are also constantly at the beck and call of many people who will take no responsibility at all for their own well-being, who will plead for operations that do not need. The physician is also visited by people who do not want to get well, and use the doctor and his or her methods as justification for further illness, saying, “The doctor is no good,” or “The medicine will not work,” therefore blaming the doctor for a way of life they have no intention of changing.
The physician is also caught between his religious beliefs and his scientific beliefs. Sometimes these conflict, and sometimes they only serve to deepen his or her feelings that the body, left alone, will get any disease possible.
Again, we cannot separate our systems of values and our most intimate philosophical judgments from the other areas of our private or mass experience.
In this country, our tax dollars go for many medical experiments and preventative-medicine drives — because we do not trust the good intent of our own bodies. In the same way, our government funds [also] go into military defenses to prevent war, because it we do not trust our own body’s good intent toward us, we can hardly trust any good intent on the part of our fellowmen.
In fact, then, preventative medicine and outlandish expenditures for preventative defense are quite similar. In each case there is the anticipation of disaster — in one case from the familiar body, which can be attacked by deadly diseases at any time, and is seemingly at least without defenses; and in the other case from the danger without: exaggerated, ever-threatening, and ever to be contended with.
Disease must be combatted, fought against, assaulted, wiped out. In many ways the body becomes almost like an alien battleground, for many people trust it so little that it comes highly suspect. Man and woman then seems pitted against nature. Some people think of themselves as patients, as others, for example, might think of themselves as students. Such people are those who are apt to take preventative measures against whatever disease is in fashion or in season, and hence take the brunt or medicine’s unfortunate aspects, when there is no cause.