I recently finished reading Planet Medicine: Origins, Revised Edition: Origins by Richard Grossinger and what a ride it has been.
At its base, this book is an anthropological survey of healing systems from around the world as well as a bit of a philosophical examination of healing and healing systems. Which by itself is completely made of awesome.
It is also a big shaggy dog of a book that often meanders about sometimes uncovering thoughtful treasures and sometimes digging up old shoes that may not be quite so exciting. I have to admit there were times when I skimmed sections not quite convinced of the points he was making nor where he seemed to be going, but those were more than balanced by absolute gems and insights that would start me into deep attention. Followed but exciting turnings of my own thoughts.
In amongst the surveys of different traditions you’ll find intriguing quotes like this scattered about like gold glittering in a stream bed:
1) Allopathy has become, first and foremost, a competitive multinational corporation with trademarks to protect, products to sell; second, a means for preventing disease and curing sick people.
2) Western medicine is based on healing people to go back to jobs and niches. Disease in indigenous society is an opportunity for life change.
3) Most of daily life hypnotizes us—its customs, jobs, vehicles, clocks, billboards, and other media all implant “post-hypnotic” messages while keeping individuals in zombie-like trances.
Wow, I love those quotes because they do capture a bit of truth so well.
Beyond just being a fascinating look at so many varied philosophies of healing it has a couple of particular things that I really appreciated in its general approach.
One was how he also talks about Western scientific medicine as one of the systems. A philosophy with good points and bad points, strengths and weaknesses as well as blind spots and agendas. Which is a valuable POV that should always be remembered – heck no system of healing, thought, etc. should ever be treated as truth with a capital T!
I’ve seen too many books like this simplify the explanations and theory so much to make them accessible that they instead instead end up uncomfortably bland and generic sounding. It’s like saying most people have two eyes, legs, etc. – true but it is not a useful way to talk about different peoples around the world, any more than it is useful to talk too simply about different healing modalities. And thankfully he doesn’t do that. Instead he digs in to the stuff that makes them different and the things which leave the uninitiated going – “really? You think that?”
That is good. Actually really good because…
Real knowledge and understanding isn’t found in only being reflected back your current understanding and beliefs – but in being forced to re-consider them as you are exposed to different ones!
So sayeth I.
Lastly, there was one tidbit that really struck me, especially since I’ve had similar experiences in my yoga practice and working with my teacher. In one section of the book a man is told in a Tai Chi class to feel something in his body and had no idea how and was told “To whom did you sell your body? I hope you got a good price.”
Isn’t that one of the keys? How many of our problems come from no longer being connected to ourselves? Having a sense of ownership and care for our bodies and our health? It gets too easy to ignore or treat our bodies as foreign things to be done with, or done to, rather than developing that understanding and connection with. If there is one commonality to all good healing modalities to me, it is one of re-building that lost connection – buying back our bodies, our health.
Just my insane .02