One of my girls has been having an uphill battle with her acne for about a year and a half now. She had a few, mild, zits at 14, but in the month before she was due to start ulpana, the term for boarding school for religious girls in Israel, her spots suddenly and aggressively transformed into full-blown acne.
I knew it was related to her stress and worry about going to the new school – and sadly, her first year there was so stressful, and the food they serve in the ulpana is so very bad, that the acne became a permanent feature of her life.
It’s really, really hard to have disfiguring spots when you’re a 14 year old girl.
So, we tried this cream, that gel, this wash. I paid for all sorts of people to squeeze blackheads out of her face.
I even spent an afternoon concocting all sorts of ‘natural’ treatments for her, from my essential oils collection. After a day or two, four days max, she’d get discouraged and just stop whatever the new thing was we were trying to do for her face.
So then, I agreed with my husband that we’d spend whatever it took to take her to a professional aesthetician, to get the acne reduced. It took around 5,000 shekels (no, that’s not a typo…) and we’re still paying it off every month.
Sadly, the debt is outliving the positive effects of the treatment.
For six months, the acne did reduce a little, and did seem to be dying down. But as soon as we stopped – it came back again.
Which is when my daughter started talking about Acutane / Roacutane, or ‘Roktan’, as they call it in Israel, and my heart sank.
Because that stuff is poisonous, and a whole bunch of people launched lawsuits against its maker, Hoffman LaRoche, claiming that Acutane had caused them to develop serious Irritable Bowel issues – one guy even had to have his colon removed.
And let’s not even talk about all the terrible birth defects associated with its use, which was another serious concern for me, as the mother of a teenager girl.
And let’s not even talk about all the other, awful side effects, that so many people like to claim are not so bad, or not so widespread. This comes from Wikipedia:
“Isotretinoin is the only non-psychiatric drug on the FDA's top 10 list of drugs associated with depression and is also within the top 10 for suicide attempts. A black box warning for suicide, depression and psychosis has been present on isotretinoin's packaging in the United States since 2005.”
(Isotretinoin is the generic name of the compound previously branded as Acutane, or ‘Roktan’.)
I sat down with my daughter, and explained to her: Roktan has a terrifyingly large number of awful side-effects. Let’s go through them in detail, and then if you still feel you want to explore it, we’ll take it from there.
Acne is really, really hard to live with, so I didn’t want to take my daughter’s free choice away when it came to deciding how to deal with it, but I also really, really didn’t want her to go the drug route.
Which is when God really helped me out.
My daughter had a friend dorming with her with bad acne who’d first been put on long-term doses of oral antibiotics, which had worked for a while.
And then, the zits came back.
(As a side note, my hairdresser was also put on oral antibiotics for acne, and stayed on them for a year and a half. This stopped when her legs started to puff up and swell, when her skin turned a yucky yellow and she started to feel really, really ill – at the age of 22. The antibiotics almost caused her liver to fail, and the Dr who’d prescribed them for acne never once thought to mention that it could be potentially fatal to continue them long term. But I digress.)
So then, the doctors put this roommate on ‘Roktan’ – which is where my daughter had first heard about it. “Her skin is like a baby’s! All her spots have gone!” my daughter told me, two months into the girl’s treatment.
So, we sat down and went through all the horrifying side-effects of Roktan – and by the end my daughter told me: “My friend has got most of those.” The friend’s eyes were puffy and blurry; her skin had started to spontaneously bleed when she waded into the Dead Sea whilst on a school trip. She was hyper-sensitive to sun (a big deal, when you live somewhere like Israel); her back and stomach hurt really badly, all of the time.
But her zits had gone!
So at least that.
But thankfully for my daughter, it was enough of a wake-up call to convince her that ‘Roktan’ was not the answer to the acne. So in the meantime, she started trying to eat a little bit healthier. She started trying to make the links herself, between suppressed feelings of worry and anxiety and massive flare-ups in her face.
And slowly, slowly, the zits are starting to come around.
In the meantime, the poor girl who’d been ‘cured’ by Roktan found that her zits returned as soon as she stopped treatment. The latest I heard is that she’s still having a number of bad side effects even though she stopped taking the drug two months ago, and has been off school now for a week, while the doctors are trying to figure things out.
One thing they are sure of, and have already clearly told the girls’ parents: It’s not related to the acne drug!!!
In the meantime, what can we learn from all this?
Let’s try to sum it up:
And that last one holds true even if the Roktan works, because the zits are just signposts to some deeper issue, or deeper work, that’s required for the person to really feel happy and spiritually-fulfilled in life.
So in the meantime, I’m continuing to buy my kid any cream she wants for her face, and to splash out on any treatment she wants to try (that isn’t potentially extremely dangerous).
I’m praying on her, I’m encouraging her, I’m buying her nice clothes.
In short, whatever I can do to ease her burden, and ease her test, I’m trying to do that, and in the meantime, her state of mind is really good, considering how hard the test actually is.
But “Roktan” is off the table, and so is long-term oral antibiotics. Because even if they do work, the long-term risks to my kid’s health are just too great to be worth the gamble.
And thank God, now she actually saw what happened to her friend, and learned about the scope of the side-effects involved, she thinks so, too.
A few years’ ago, God did me a very big favor. Every time I was around someone with a very complicated inner landscape, my eyes would go funny.
The first few times it happened, I freaked out and started panicking that I’d developed some horrible disease that was going to leave my partially sighted, God-forbid, or worse. But then, after this had been going on for a few months, and after I’d been talking to God about it a lot, I suddenly got the insight that my eyes would only go funny around particular people, or in particular circumstances.
One of those people was my husband, so figuring out what was going on become a big imperative.
After many more months of pondering it, praying on it, thinking about it, I managed to narrow down ‘funny eye syndrome’ a bit more, and to realize that it would happen whenever I was around people who were suppressing strong, negative emotions.
By suppressing, I don’t mean that they knew what they were feeling, consciously, and were gritting their teeth, or keeping a stiff upper lip, although clearly that also would sometimes occur.
I mean that these negative emotions were so buried, so hidden - even from the person themselves! - that they had absolutely no idea what sort of tremendously powerful emotional vibes they were actually sending out into the atmosphere.
That was being soaked up by yours truly and making my eyes go funny.
Releasing the pressure
Over time, I figured out that the single best way to cure my funny eyes was by helping the person I was talking with to really acknowledge their deeper, nearly always extremely negative, true feelings.
This is so much easier said than done, as most people who make my eyes go funny are suffering from something called alexithymia, or an inability to really describe or get a handle on their feelings. This usually happens because a kid isn’t really ‘seen’ in their childhood by an emotionally-absent parent.
So when they get upset, or scared, or anxious, or concerned, there is no caring adult around to notice what’s going on with them, and to give them the word, the label, they need to shrink their huge feeling down into language, and make it manageable.
So then, these individuals grow up, and a fuzzy sense of frustration (that they would never think to label ‘anger’) is really the only feeling that can or will admit to experiencing.
But if you could rip the scab off that ‘frustration’, then a whole bunch of seething, immature, enormous negative emotions would come bubbling out. If that sounds like a scary prospect, you are now starting to understand why so many people who find it hard to relate to their negative emotions are so scared of anyone getting anywhere near close enough to prise off the ‘frustration’ lid.
Because a volcano is lurking underneath.
Sadly for me, or luckily for me, depending on how you look at it, pretending that nothing was really happening underneath got very, very hard when my eyes would suddenly go completely weird mid-conversation.
Someone would be telling me what they had for breakfast, or about their upcoming trip to the US to visit family, or about their kid’s new school, or they’re new job - and whammo, my eyes would de-focus and I’d be left squinting around, completely perplexed as to what was going on and thinking big thoughts about serious vitamin deficiencies.
Until I figured this out.
Which is when I realized that God had actually given me a secret back route into instantly figuring where the emotional body was buried, so to speak. Because a person can swear until they’re blue in the face that they’ve made their peace with so-and-so, or don’t care about such-and-such, or completely past whatever it is - but if my eyes have gone funny, I know they are lying.
Especially to themselves.
This is useful with husbands, but not so useful with everyone else
Now, with husbands this is actually a pretty wonderful, helpful thing, as thanks to the funny eyes, we’ve got to the bottom of so many issues that we probably never would have, otherwise.
But with other people? Well, it’s made things pretty complicated. And it’s a big part of the reason I got so anti-social for a while, because for the life of me I couldn’t work out how I was meant to be reacting when someone would be telling me about their wonderful family celebration, or how much they really wanted to just settle down with someone (when the exact opposite was true) while my ‘funny eyes’ would erupt off the Richter scale.
If a person isn’t telling themselves the truth about a particular situation, woe betide the person who is dumb enough to try to step in and deliver the message the other person is trying so hard to ignore and avoid.
I learnt the hard way that you can’t fix people with ‘the truth’, and if you try, you are only going to get your head completely blown off. And you probably deserve it.
So, for a long stretch of time it’s been easier to keep things superficial with most people for most of the time, because in 2018, so many people are dealing with huge negative emotions that they’re repressing, without even realizing what’s going on.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because I have the feeling that the more you start to get in touch with your own real self, and the more you try to work through your own enormous, deeply-buried negative feelings, the more you’ll also start to notice how certain people, certain conversations, set you off, too.
Maybe, your eyes won’t go funny, but you might find your breathing goes a bit weird, or that your heart starts beating too fast, or you suddenly feel horribly hot and suffocated, or weak and faint, or your hands suddenly go ice-cold.
Pay attention to those clues that God is sending you, especially if they’re popping up around a spouse or a kid.
Because those people, you probably can help, if you take a deep breath and prepare yourself mentally to face down an internal volcano of huge, suppressed feelings.
But everyone else, you probably can’t.
So the best bet is then just to smile and nod politely, and quickly change the subject.
Not on purpose, of course, but they just have SO many different activities scheduled between 11pm and 3 am - the time when really, I absolutely, positively have to be in bed, ASLEEP - and trying to figure out how to keep them happy and well-adjusted and me alive is proving to be quite tricky.
I live in downtown Jerusalem, where until a few months’ ago there were stabbings regularly happening almost every week (and during one really horrible period of time, almost every day…).
When terrorists aren’t trying to stab people and / or shoot them and / or run them down on purpose, my neighborhood is actually really pretty safe and genteel. But the trouble is, you really never know when the next ‘Ahmed the stabber’ is going to show up, and there’s something about trying to go to sleep when your teens are out of the house that seem to bring all these paranoid fears rapidly boiling to the surface.
So here we are, stuck in a paradigm where they (rightly…) want to have the freedom to be teens, and to do the things that teens like to do in the middle of the night, while I (rightly…) want to be able to sleep at least six hours a night so my brain doesn’t completely dissolve and drip out my ears.
I’m typing this on around four hours’ sleep, and I can literally barely see straight.
Which brings me to another point I’ve been pondering recently, about how so much of what we’re regularly taught is COMPLETELY NECESSARY FOR HEALTH can only really happen in a people-less, hermetically-sealed bubble.
It seems that health gurus that preach the benefit of 8-9 hours sleep every single night, and the importance of getting to bed by 10pm, just don’t have teens to contend with. Or small children. Or elderly parents, who often have their own dramas and difficulties that we need to help out with. Or friends. Or social lives (unless you count all those obsessive, daily ‘hot yoga’ classes). Or spouses who don’t always fit their nervous breakdowns, cries for help, late nights at work and desire to have an evening out into the ‘ONLY BEFORE 10PM’ box.
THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME THEY'VE TRIED TO KILL ME
Not that my teens are only trying to kill me by severely biting into my beauty sleep. In the past, they’ve also tried to kill me by absolutely refusing to pretend that probiotic sauerkraut is a salad, the sugar-free anything is eatable, that brown bread - and brown pasta and brown rice - is just as tasty as the real, white deal, and by forcing me to make at least two suppers a day - healthy for me, and yummy for them.
At the height of my healthy-food obsession, I was getting into regular fights with my kids (who were not even teens, at that stage) because they (rightly…) didn’t want to be forced into eating stuff they didn’t like just because it was healthy, and I (rightly…) didn’t want to be making them white pasta - which they absolutely love to bits!!! Especially with tons of high-fat cows’ cheese grated all over it!!! - that was also giving them stomach aches, zits and mucous issues.
Again, I come back to the idea that the healthy eating fanatics that insist that their kids just LURVE all that sprouted stuff, and kale cookies, and avocado chocolate mousse (which btw IS really yummy…) either have kids that are completely different from mine in every way, shape and form and / or are complete control freaks who give their kids no free choice and / or are lying.
But my teens aren’t going anywhere soon - thank God! - so I have to continue trying to figure out how to tread that fine line between doing enough to stay healthy, without causing them to go completely insane by insisting that I have everything my own way, all the time.
God gave me my teens. God made teens temporarily retarded, so they think they don’t need to sleep properly and eat enough, and they forget that while they get to sleep in until 2pm in the afternoon, other people in the house actually have jobs to do, and errands to run, that require them to be awake much, much earlier.
In the meantime, I’m learning that while 10 hours sleep is nice, five hours sleep is also doable, at least some of the time. If you don’t mind feeling like a zombie, sprouting a whole bunch of wrinkles and losing all pretense of coherent thought.
Once you’ve been in the ‘alternative health’ game for a while, you start to realize that a lot of what passes as ‘healthy’ eating is actually an eating disorder in disguise.
It can be so very difficult to spot this, especially initially, because deep down we all know that at least on some basic level, we are what we eat, and the more fruit and veg we can get down us, and the more whole grains we knock back, and the more ice-cream, margarine and jelly beans we avoid, the better it’s probably going to be for us, health-wise.
BUT - there’s a line that’s so easily crossed when ‘eating healthy’ actually turns into ‘eating disordered’, and in this post, I want to try to pin down where that line actually is.
THE FIRST RED FLAG: EVERYTHING IS BOILED DOWN TO FOOD
One big red flag is when the ‘healthy eating’ person starts to bring all their problems and issues - and everyone else’s problems and issues back down to food. Got a headache? It’s a food issue. Feeling sad, anxious or upset about something? It’s a food issue. Having serious relationship difficulties with your parents, spouse or kids? Man, you just need to eat more seaweed and steer clear of red meat!!!
And so on and so forth, until the whole awesome complexity of being a sentient human being with a spiritual dimension and a highly complicated inner emotional world is boiled down to how much gluten or sugar you’re consuming.
Sadly, this is something that I see SO OFTEN in the ‘healthy eating’ world, and amongst the ‘healthy eating’ experts out there that is pretty much passes as standard, normal behavior. And that’s such a shame, because people are rarely so black and white, and even when food is a major component in their issues, it’s hardly ever the only thing contributing to their problems or difficulties.
People typically eat junk when they feel overwhelmed by life, and when their self-destructive emotional and spiritual impulses are running the show. But here’s the thing: simply switching the diet over to wholefoods / raw foods / gluten free / sugar free / macrobiotic / whatever the fad of the month is doesn’t solve the underlying emotional and spiritual issues.
Over time, it can surely ameliorate them, and begin the process of moving to a much healthier overall mindset and approach to life which puts a proper emphasis on looking after the self, and dealing with cause and effect, but food is not the whole answer.
So that’s the first way you can tell if ‘eating healthy’ has morphed into ‘eating disordered’, when absolutely everything in the world is brought down to food, or the particular diet etc that the person happens to be following.
THE SECOND RED FLAG: A RIGID, JUDGMENTAL AND CONTROLLING ATTITUDE
Another key sign that ‘eating healthy’ has become ‘eating disordered’ is when the healthy eater starts to adopt an extremely rigid, judgmental and even controlling attitude towards people in their orbit that aren’t eating healthy, according to them.
Again, this is unfortunately such normal ‘standard’ behavior in the alternative health world that it’s completely off most people’s radars. But to call a spade a spade, when people start getting all uppity about other people’s ‘lack of self-control’ that they don’t just eat kale for lunch, or jog five miles before breakfast, or contort themselves into all sorts of ‘relaxing’ poses for three hours a day, that’s another big flashing neon sign that ‘eating healthy’ has become ‘eating disordered’.
Rigid thinking is one of the key signs mental health professionals look for when diagnosing serious issues including personality disorders, etc. The more ‘rigid’ a person is, the more controlling they are, the less flexibility or ‘give’ there is in their routine, their thought processes, their ability to roll with the punches and react to ever-changing external circumstances, the bigger the problem.
Again, let’s remember that so many people only eat unhealthily in the first place due to underlying emotional and spiritual issues that aren’t being properly acknowledged and addressed.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to ‘flip’ these issues into a rigid, intolerant and judgmental approach to food and life that’s anything but really healthy.
THE THIRD RED FLAG: THEY'RE ANGRY, MISERABLE AND STRESSED!
The last telltale sign that ‘eating healthy’ is really actually ‘eating disordered’ is the person’s own mood. Invariably, when people are truly ‘eating healthy’ in a balanced, truly useful way, they feel great, they feel happy, they exude calm and joy, and they tend to be pretty laid back individuals that are easy to get on with and be around.
By contrast, when someone is ‘eating disordered’ then they’re usually full of repressed (and not so repressed…) anger, prickliness and intolerance. They tend to be wound very tight, on the ‘mega stressed’ end of the relaxation scale, and to be very hard to be around or really get on with, for any length of time, not least because they often put the burden of their own incredibly high expectations (and diet prep…) on to you.
These are the people who will tut disapprovingly when they see you holding the Starbucks paper cup, or who have to tell you how many ‘bad’ calories are in that muffin you’re eating, or who encourage you / nag you to eat different, or exercise better, or fast more ALL THE TIME!!!
No conversation can pass that doesn’t have some reference to food, and if you’re not eating disordered yourself, that usually makes for a pretty annoying, stressful and aggravating exchange of ideas.
So, to sum up: if someone isn’t glowing with joy, if they’re a martinet about food, or hyper-anxious about everything they’re eating, if they can’t go with the flow and keep feeling the need to bring up their food (figuratively speaking…) every chance they get, and to lecture people about their diets - the chances are very high that they are eating DISORDERED, not eating healthy.
Whatever they’re actually claiming or telling you about their AMAZING!!! eating habits.
In the Jewish tradition, after a close relative dies and is buried, you are meant to sit seven days of ‘shiva’ (from the Hebrew verb leyshev, to sit) - i.e. to mourn them formally for seven days.
Even in the most optimal circumstances, sitting shiva for a close relative is usually a very draining experience. But when you have to factor in unexpected deaths, frantic last minute plane rides to a different country, difficulties finding somewhere to sleep, and problems finding nourishing kosher food to eat into the equation - plus the vague unease of leaving your young teenage kids alone at home, in a completely different country - that all adds up to an enormously stressful equation.
And then there’s the other stressful parts of dealing with a close relative’s death, including sorting out their estate, dealing with other ‘difficult characters’ in the family who could snap at any moment and cut a huge swathe of dramatic discord through the whole proceedings, and (if you’re sitting shiva in the UK…) having to make four thousand cups of tea a day for all the people coming to ‘comfort’ you.
So all in all, sitting shiva for most people is actually a very difficult, traumatic experience, even in the most optimal circumstances where friends and family are caring for you, you can eat the food, you can sleep, and all your immediate family is in the same country.
After four days of sitting what I think of as ‘shiva on speed’ for my late mother-in-law in the UK, I got back to Israel late Thursday night with my husband, and felt like I was completely blank. The next day was Yom Kippur, the most important day of the year where Jews fast for 25 hours and pray that God will grant us a good, healthy, blessed year.
This year, I was so exhausted I spent most of the day knocked out in bed, and when I did pray, it was to ask God to please excuse my lack of praying - or anything Yom Kippur related - and to please give me a good year, anyway.
I was hoping to feel a bit perkier by the end of Yom Kippur, but if anything, I actually felt even more out of it and kind of empty-feeling. I could have just sat for hours on the couch without a thought in my head, completely oblivious to the world.
This is not ‘normal’ behavior for me at all, so I started to get a bit worried about it all. Until my husband reminded me that after all the stress I’d just gone through, I’d probably fried out my adrenals and needed at least a week just to process it all, before I could move on.
“There’s been so much going on, you need to just sit for a while and absorb it all,” he told me. “Once you’ve done that, you’ll get your energy and pep back, don’t worry.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF DOWN TIME
I felt very comforted by what he said, because I know he’s right. My job right now is to have some down time - even a lot of down time - to recuperate mentally and physically from the ‘shiva on speed’.
In the old days, people just weren’t able to grab last minute flights to the end of the earth to spend these fraught moments with their loved ones. On the one hand, they probably didn’t get the same closure, but they also didn’t come back from their experiences feeling more than half dead themselves.
As so often in the modern world, the ‘up’ we get from being able to do all these things comes packaged together with a mighty big ‘down’.
But I’m quite lucky, as at least I don’t have to get back to my day job, or report back into work this week. Honestly, I’m going to be out of action for at least another week - and it wasn’t even my close relative!
When people feel obliged to rush back to work so quickly after these stupendous events occur in their lives, I can’t help but think it’s storing up a huge amount of trouble for them further on down the line.
We need time to think, to process, to decompress, to grieve. That’s what the shiva itself is actually for, but in our modern world, even that process can be warped around in to some sort of ‘bereavement party’ where you just find yourself entertaining hundreds of people and making small talk, instead of sitting and crying out your heart’s secret pain.
YOU CAN'T RUSH THE GRIEVING PROCESS
So the moral of the story is, when these big things happen in your life, don’t buy into the modern world’s warped value system that tells you two weeks - MAXIMUM!!! - is enough to get over the death of a close relative, or the other massive shocks to the system that we periodically experience.
Rushing these processes only causes untold damage in the long term, because grief is not a linear emotion, and properly saying goodbye in all the myriad small ways we have to, really can and does take months.
If you feel exhausted after a very stressful experience in your life, understand that’s your body’s way of telling you to stay in the slow lane for a while, and to not rush back to ‘normal’. It’s hard sometimes to take that hint, but I know for myself that if I force matters and try to return to ‘business as usual’ too soon, it’s only going to lead to me getting wiped out for weeks, instead of a few days.
So if you’ve just had a massive shock, take a deep breath, keep your out of office on for a few more days, and give yourself, your body and your psyche the time they all really need to recover, regroup, and move on.
I’m taking a break from posting about ‘Electric People’, as I haven’t got time over the Summer holidays, with the kids home, to do all the research required for the next chapter. It will return soon, BH!
In the meantime, I just wanted to share what’s been going on with my eye, which kind of underlines why I started exploring a more ‘spiritual self-help’ approach to mental and physical health in the first place.
For as long as I can remember, conventional medicine just hasn’t worked for me. Whether it’s been big problems, smaller problems, whenever I’ve turned to a conventional doctor, they never really had a solution that resolved my problems - and not for lack of trying.
Up until a few years’ back, I dutifully did whatever the medical experts told me - and usually not only did it not help, there were occasions when it even made things worse.
That’s when I started going down the more ‘alternative’ route, and initially, being super-fanatical about the food I was eating made a huge difference…
But not all the difference. And over time, the same health issues reappeared again, regardless of whether I was eating my sprouted spelt bread and drinking a green smoothie every day.
That’s when I started to realize that something else is going on here, when it comes to human health.
If the ‘problem’, whatever it is, is really only at the body level of a person - that they’re aren’t sleeping enough or eating enough vits, etc - then doing things at the ‘body’ level will resolve the problem.
It should be noted here that conventional medicine ONLY deals with health issues - bizarrely, even emotional and mental health issues - at the level of the body, and often in such a clumsy way, their ‘solution’ can end up causing more damage than the original problem.
But there are two more stages of the human experience that also profoundly impact our health, too, namely our mind, mental state and emotions, and our soul, or spiritual connection to God.
If ‘the health problem’, whatever it is, is actually rooted in either the mental / emotional or spiritual realms, then just tackling it at the level of the body simply isn’t going to work.
And that’s why conventional medicine really doesn’t work for me. Now that I eat well enough, and I exercise enough, and I sleep enough, there’s really nothing else to do on that front. All my health issues - yes, I’m talking about my physical health issues here - are rooted in negative states of mind, unhelpful subconscious processes and spiritual unfinished business.
No pill is going to help me get over the anger that’s causing my inner tension, headaches and eye strain.
Only changing my attitudes and behaviors (with a little help from God…), and really understanding why I’m angry in the first place, can do that.
Again, if the problem is rooted in the physical realm, then a physical response or medication will help to clear it up. But if it isn’t, or if some of the problem at least is rooted in mental / emotional and / or spiritual stuff, then taking a solely physical approach simply isn’t going to work to curing it.
And that’s why conventional medicine really doesn’t work for me - and that’s also why it’s increasingly not working for a whole bunch of other people, too.
I've started writing a new book, with the working title ELECTRIC PEOPLE, that will hopefully explain how bio-electricity is the 'missing link' in human health, and that will hopefully give you, dear reader, a much better idea of HOW different treatments, both alternative and conventional work - and why they often don't work.
I don't have time to post on spiritualselfhelp AND write the book, so I've decided to stick up chunks of the rough draft as I go along. Please feel free to comment (respectfully...) on anything you'd like to hear more about, or have more details about, or if something doesn't make sense, and I'll try my best to answer your queries in future posts.
The idea that people are just chunks of animated meat is fairly new, and like many things that have corrupted the world of modern science, it can be laid at the feet of Charles Darwin.
Before Darwin came along with his theory of evolution, the idea that people had souls, and that there was a spiritual dimension to life, and that God existed and had created the world, was a given for nearly all scientists. Of course, there were always a few dissenters in the corner, but they normally kept their atheistic views to themselves, in much the same way that modern-day scientists who believe in God are forced to keep quiet, or see their career and reputation disappear down the tubes.
Then Darwin showed up, and challenged the God-centric view of the world in a number of key ways.
Firstly, he suggested that far from there being a specific plan behind, and a specific goal leading creation, everything in the world occurred due to random happenstance.
To put this another way, Darwin’s theory took an axe to the principal of ‘cause and effect’, and reduced everything in the world down to some kind of happy accident.
The next piece of mischief that the theory of evolution wrought in scientific minds is that it planted the idea that the world HAD to be incredibly old. After all, it would take billions and trillions of years before an amoeba could turn into a monkey, or a fully-sentient human being - if it could happen at all.
Sadly for Darwin, pioneering molecular biologist Douglas Axe recently proved conclusively that the amount of time it would actually take for even one of Darwin’s ‘happy evolutionary coincidences’ to occur was a number so big, it’s practically impossible. The world simply isn’t old enough for all the millions of evolutionary tweaks that could turn an amoeba into anything remotely similar to a biped - or even something more modest, like an earthworm or fruit-fly.[i]
Sadly for Axe - and everyone else who believes in God - the theory of evolution was so compelling for those individuals who wished to find an ‘intellectually satisfying[ii]’ way of denying God’s role in creation that no amount of scientific investigation, facts or research has been able to dislodge it.
And so, modern science continues to claim that the world is billions of years’ old, and to view every discipline through the lens of ‘evolution’, disregarding any of the uncomfortably mounting evidence that categorically disproves it.
Definition of vitalism
VITALISM VS MECHANISM
All this set the scene for the big schism that occurred throughout the 19th century [CHECK] between the ‘vitalist’ and ‘mechanist’ biological schools of thought. Again, until Darwin arrived on the scene, practically every scientist considered themselves to be a ‘vitalist’, inasmuch as they believed that some sort of invisible animating force, or soul, that they called the anima or elan vital, must be working through the physical body. This idea was so self-evident, it was axiomatic.
Vitalism held that this animating force was what separated living beings, including man, from the rest of the inanimate landscape.
But post-Darwin, when a new, God-less paradigm for life started to come into focus, many of the scientists of the day developed an almost religious zeal to root God and spirituality out of every last vestige of scientific endeavor - including the question of what animated man, himself.
This latter school came to be known as the ‘mechanists’, and they posited the idea that man was really just an intelligent collection of chemical compounds and cells, and was ultimately governed by the same laws of chemistry and physics that applied to inanimate matter.
Much of the debate between the vitalists and the mechanists took place around the subject of embryology, or the study of development. Ironically, Darwin himself gave the new field of embryology its name, and vainly hoped that the study of how life ‘developed’ would provide ample support for his theories of phylogeny, or what he termed the history of evolution.
Yet, despite the fact that the field was eagerly embraced by leading mechanists like German scientist Wilhelm Roux, that didn’t happen. As the field continued to develop (pun intended), embryologists like Roux and his colleague August Weismann soon confirmed that a fertilized egg appeared to be an unstructured single cell that continually divided, proliferated, and then somehow became a collection of differentiated cells.
While the vitalists argued, correctly, that epigenesis, or the external imposition of order on the cellular chaos of a fertilized egg, had to be coming from some intangible ‘vital’ force, the mechanists had a much more scientific explanation for what was really occurring: there had to be a little man, called a homunculus, in the sperm.
By the time Roux and Weissman were working on the problem of how a bunch of apparently simple cells could become a living creature, or a human being a hundred years’ later, the homunculus theory had fallen out of favor. However, the mechanists were still determined to find an alternative explanation for the creation of ‘life’ that didn’t include God or a spiritual element, so the ‘scientific’ search for how embryogenesis actually occurred continued unabated.
Weissman came up with a theory which postulated that the fertilized egg contained specific chemical structures called ‘determiners’, that would code for all the different cell types required. According to Weissman’s theory, once a cell had turned into muscle cell, or a blood cell, or a nerve cell, its function had been permanently fixed.
This was the earliest description of what came to be known as ‘genes’, and before long, DNA took the place of the homunculus in scientists’ minds, as the guiding force behind the development of life.
The father of modern genetics, American embryologist Thomas Hunt Morgan, proposed the theory that just as the genes contained inherited characteristics, they also contained the ‘code’ that would tell which cells to differentiate and become the endoderm (which gives rise to the glands and viscera in the fetus); the mesoderm (which gives rise to the bones, muscles and circulatory system) and the ectoderm (which becomes the skin, nervous system and sense organs.
At this stage in the game, it was believed that once a cell had been ‘coded’ at the beginning of the process to fulfill a particular function, that was set in stone and couldn’t be changed.
A MODERN TAKE ON DNA
It was only after work progressed on the human genome project that the cracks in this particular theory were discovered. Recent research has shown that there is no such thing as ‘one gene, one result’.
Science has now established that many genes work together to trigger a particular outcome. What’s more, the genes themselves are not ‘fixed’ and can be turned on or off by environmental factors that trigger biochemical messengers which in turn signal the gene to activate, or de-activate.
This process is called ‘methylation’, where environmental factors and experiences trigger a cluster of carbon and hydrogen atom, called a ‘methyl group’ to the outside of the gene. When this occurs, that gene is rendered less sensitive or hyper sensitive to the messages it’s being sent by the body.
What’s more, this pattern of peculiar gene expression, or ‘methylation’ can be passed on to the person’s descendants, in a process called ‘epigenetics’.
RNA vs ‘Determinors’
Weissman and then Morgan suggested that once a cell had been coded, or ‘determined’, it somehow lost the rest of the genetic blueprint that was initially available to it before it differentiated, and got ‘stuck’ being whatever it now was - like a piece of skin, or a heart muscle, or a nerve ending.
But later research showed that wasn’t true, and that the full genetic blueprint could still be found in every cell nucleus. In theory, these genes could be re-activated in the future, and each cell could change into a different type of cell via a process called ‘de-differentiation’.
Something called the RNA decides which bit of the cell’s genetic code gets switched off, and which is activated at any given time.
But the question still remained (at least for the mechanists and modern science): how was the RNA itself making these decisions, about which parts of the genetic blueprint each cell should repress, and which parts should be activated?