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Illness: an evolutionary perspective

A new world

A new world will be a world free of doctors, lawyers, policemen and priests. This is what I fancy, since though these four professions were originally meant to remove suffering, falsehood, unconsciousness and ignorance upon earth, they have most of the time, perhaps unwittingly, become perpetuators of the very same evil they were meant to uproot.

Old world

Not all of them though, but many. So much so, that when one finds among these some-one who is still serving the Great Purpose, the heart feels a spontaneous admiration and gratitude. The mischief is often not wilful, at least with the medical profession. It has still retained some of its dignity. Even in an age of crass commercialism, one can find doctors who genuinely care. They are well-meaning so to say. But the rigorous scientific training constantly directing them to the body and organs in isolation and as a machine has taken a toll on their spiritual being. So too, a regular brush with suffering and death has makes their emotional being somewhat insensitive and detached. The latter is of course even a necessity in the profession. How else can a physician heal or a surgeon put his knife into a living person’s abdomen if he is not somewhat like a battle-hardened soldier?

Added to this, and that is really the worst part, are the commercial considerations that have come to rule the world’s dying past. Money in its ugliest form sticks tenaciously to the skin of the old world, although it tries to slough it off. In an economically driven society, the power of guns has been replaced by the power of money and the drug mafia has overtaken the arms mafia. Medicine has become a commodity and the medical practitioner a businessman counting the money in his closet instead of protecting the health of his clients! The road to fame for a medical practioner opens rather through the number of publications he has to his credit than the number of patients who have come out of his chamber filled with hope, peace, courage and a new life. In a race for publication in journals that cater to a strict mechanistic view and a reductionist approach to life, one often ends up compromising quality for quantity. One often fails to see what one has not even cared to explore and notice. The result is a multiplication of ‘lies’ in the name of scientific evidence. This evidence, that gives largely only one side of the story in the complex and many-sided enigma of human life, hardens into a belief system. Young medicos easily come to ‘believe’ all that they read from these books and journals as gospel truths. The mind then instinctively shuts out other possibilities and one does not even observe the many anomalies that stare at us, contradicting our medical belief system. The cult status of certain physicians only reinforces this belief — this paradigm that man is but a blind clock, a machine mid machines!

The fallacy of the scientific paradigm

This has led us a full circle. If I, a physician, am just a blind machine, a strange product of unconscious genes driven by chemistry and blind cells, then what is the validity of all my observations, reason, inference, concepts, theories and all the rest? Are they simply meaningless constructs that are at best practical contrivances that have come up through a chance play of Nature’s forces, just as everything else? It is my belief in them that lends credence. And what is belief itself but yet another chemical stirring inside my brain?

In fact, one may even question any real validity of the very concepts of illness and cure. In a world where chemical ‘accidents’ and chance build up this immense material pile that we call a universe, all is simply an absurd chaos, a random happening, with no sense or purpose, no clear or definite cause than an accident that blindly repeats itself becoming a habit.

‘Illness’, or what we can call an illness, may simply be a habit, — a ‘bad’ habit when we see it from the individual’s viewpoint, but not necessarily from a universal standpoint given the way humanity has upset the balance of the world. But modern medicine and its busy priests have no time for this deeper question or the larger picture. And yet, we need to ask: if illness is simply a habit of nature, it may well be serving a purpose for our genetic pool, maybe in some strange way even ultimately enhancing our overall survival as a species. Or perhaps man is already on the verge of mutation as a species and therefore, like all mutations, a large number are simply unfavourable and are being wiped out through disease and through the drugs to cure them, through war born of greed and political solutions propogated by heads of states. And when the ground is cleared, those who pass through the passage, might find themselves at the end of the tunnel, in a new evolutionary body! This too is possible. If so, can we in some way turn our attention that way and facilitate the evolutionary emergence through illness rather than simply hit and abolish one head of the hydra while another appears right below our feet? Illness, in this view, is simply the resistance or obstruction offered to the evolutionary force.

Practical implications

What does this mean in actual terms? It means, first of all, that there is an evolutionary pressure in creation, — that is obvious. And an evolutionary pressure implies that there is an evolutionary Force at work, whether seen, unseen, acknowledged or not acknowledged, it is implicit, — that is logical. This evolutionary Force, as all its movements suggest, is vast, complex, intelligent and conscious beyond all comprehension. It was there before the elements emerged and man himself is an offspring of its workings. Now so far, this evolutionary Force has worked its way through all the helpful and obstructing materials offered to it by Nature. There is no reason why the same marvel will not be repeated again. And if it is true that all challenges are essentially only to hasten the evolutionary emergence, then maybe disease and a fast changing physical and psychological environment, is itself a great challenge thrown at the evolutionary Force that lies half-asleep within us. And of all challenges, the greatest challenge is death.

The question is whether the evolutionary emergence will be facilitated by a full awakening of this mighty, ancient evolutionary Force that is labouring silently in creation or by external manipulation through the human mind in its present potential, i.e systems, sciences, technology, etc. Maybe both, but there will certainly be an increasing replacement of the latter by the former.

Practically, it means a diminishing reliance on outer means and external aids, such as drugs, machinery, equipment, etc. and, on the other hand, discovering conscious ways and means to awaken the evolutionary Force and make ourselves ready to receive it. For, if there is such ‘a thing’ as an evolutionary Force as is consistent with both reason and common sense, then it is obviously not just an ordinary, insentient, mechanical force like the electrical, solar or the nuclear ones. Common sense would also suggest that it is wiser; if such a Conscious Force exists, as we can reasonably presume and as mystic and yogic experience clearly suggests, then it will do good if we learn to surrender and rely upon it more, and more rather than on our own little mental efforts that may work well while handling certain material forces, but are less likely to succeed when we deal with the deeper and subtler forces of the cosmos. A simple example is how difficult it is for human beings, even the most rational and strong, to control infrarational forces such as anger, greed, lust, etc. How much more difficult would it be to control or master forces that come from beyond the mental ranges, whose action is seldom felt or supported here? If anything, matter is too obscure to even recognise their presence.

A solution?

What we can do is to orient our natural instruments in a way so that they respond to the ‘right’ forces, those that help in our progress towards Light, Freedom, Mastery and Trust. This instrumental nature consists of our mind, life and body. Any illness usually affects all these three layers in some measure. It is seldom that an affliction of one part leaves the others completely untouched. What is more true is that, due to our excessive focus on the part that is visibly suffering with obvious symptoms, we (both the patient and the physician) often fail to notice what is happening in the other layers. Also, this involvement of the parts, other than the one mainly afflicted, may not show up as an obvious or recognised illness. Yet, despite all our unconsciousness, there is always inter-connectedness. Our body often mirrors in the language of illness the secret wrong indulgences of our thoughts, feelings and aberrant wills. It is even possible to take a cue from the body and arrive at the deeper source of the problem because the human body is a symbol — it represents in concrete terms and symbolically, part by part, the subtler planes of consciousness and inner movements of our nature. Of course, since human psychology or rather the occult forces that move us are quite complex, a strict and infallible one-to-one correspondence may be difficult to establish. It may not also be the right approach since what we experience in thought, feelings and volition as differentiated may often spring up from the same source. Thus greed for food and greed for money, though represented differently to our minds, are still ‘greed’ at the root. So too, ‘greed’ and ‘possessiveness’ are close kins whose offsprings are ‘jealousy’, ‘anger’, ‘lust’, ‘wrong attachment’ and ‘wrong indulgence’. And if we trace this family tree to its roots, we can summarise it in one word: desire. Therefore has it been said that 90% of disease is born from desire, a peculiarly human distortion, since what is a natural need in the animal world becomes, through exaggeration and amplification of tendencies, a desire with its attendant craving and frustration. This happens due to the emerg-ence of man's separative ego-sense that comes with his mental development. The more he develops mentally, the more he feels a sense of responsibility and anxiety for his separate self, an anxiety that takes perverse forms of will. Therefore is it also right to say that the root cause of all disorders is the ego.

Suffering — a fact

But human beings are not the only species that suffers, though we may be the only ones who experience it so consciously and acutely. Illness is a label stuck to life as a curse or so it seems. There must be and is a deeper cause still, a cause more universal than desire and the ego, which are more of an immediate practical importance to us. This deeper universal source of all suffering, this secret parent of ego and desire is Ignorance. Ignorance fixes the boundaries and limits of consciousness in a particular species or rather ignorance itself is the result of a fixing of boundaries and thereby limiting the infinite into finite forms and shapes. Thus, Infinite Truth and Absolute Existence become finite truths and a relative existence, transient and passing. Infinite consciousness-force becomes a limited consciousness and power. Infinite delight becomes a limited joy and ‘will to be’. Each of these limits then becomes a ‘natural’ law for the species, — ‘natural’ but not ‘sovereign’ since this law itself is a result and not a cause. In the deepest sense it is the Divine who has thus chosen to limit Himself and bear the consequences that arise from this self-limitation. And yet there is a deep wisdom in this, since this self-limitation and its attendant complications are only a passage for an infinitely greater delight of a multiple divine becoming that awaits us at the other end of the evolutionary tunnel. It is He who wears the mask of illness, walks in the garb of a sick and old man, grapples with fate and death, seems even to fail and fall but always for a greater and more complete conquest. Thus seen, we can arrive at a new and deeper understanding of ‘the illness’ or ‘illnesses’ and a radical cure.


(Free, One and Infinite, full of delight and truth and power, no afflictions, pure and immune)



(Sense of limits and limitations leading to many ‘names and forms and laws’, mutual conflict, attraction and repulsion due to ‘otherness’).

Desire and Ego

Greed, Possessiveness, lust, jealousy, vanity, frustration, anger, fear, etc

Suffering, falsehood, unconsciousness, death

The course of cure needs a reversal of this process. The remedy can be applied at each level, thus:

Level 1: Complete freedom from ignorance and limitation in each finite part. Each finite recovers its infinity and is in harmony with all other finites. Possible through the Supramental transformation, Grace and Gratitude.

Level 2: Freedom from desire and ego either through an emergence into the cosmic consciousness (the road to transformation) or else a complete loss and merger into the Beyond (Nirvaana/Moksa) — effort, tapasyaa, right path, meditation, etc.

Level 3: Freedom from the ‘wrong’ separative movements of nature born from desire and ego, such us greed, anger, lust, fear, etc. through a change of lifestyle (moderation), attitude and habits (sattvic).

These are inner means. While and until we have worked upon these levels, we can take support of outer means, such as gentle remedies, modification of diet, exercise, etc.

Since most of us seldom become conscious till frank symptoms of illness show us the inner disorder, we may need some help at all levels. In other words, an illness must be seen in its totality and the person treated as a whole. This is the principle behind an Integral healing process.

— Dr. Alok Pandey

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A symbol