Personal Reality, Session 648
There are too many aspects of what you think of as health and illness to discuss even in a book that is directed to personal reality, in which the body plays such an important role.
Health and illness are both evidences of the body’s attempt to maintain stability. There is a difference in the overall health patterns in men and animals because of the quite diverse nature of their physical experience. More will be said about this particular subject later. Overall, however, in the animals, illness and disease play a life-giving role, keeping balance both within a species and between them, therefore insuring the future existence of all involved.
In their own ways, the animals are quite aware of this fact. Some of them even bring themselves to their own destruction through what you would call suicide, and en masse. At that level the animals understand, and are always in touch with deep biological connections in which they know their own continuances within the chain of nature.
Man grants rich psychological activity to his own species but denies it in others. There are as many luxuriant and diverse kinds of psychological movement as there are species, however. The cycles of health and disease are felt as rhythms of the body by the large variety of animals, and even with them illness or disease has life-saving qualities on another level.
Instinct is fairly accurate, for example, guiding the beasts to those territories in which proper conditions can be found; and even for them the well-being of the body represents physical evidence of their “being in the proper place at the proper time”. It reinforces the animals’ sense of grace, in terms mentioned earlier in the book. (See the 636th session in Chapter Nine.)
They understand the beneficial teaching quality of disease, and follow their own instinctive ways of treating it. In a natural situation, this might involve a mass migration from one territory to another. In such cases the illness of only a few animals might send a whole herd to its safety, and a new food supply.
Man is so highly verbal that he finds it difficult to understand that other species work with idea-complexes of a different kind, in which of course thought as you consider it is not involved. But an equivalent exists; using an analogy, it is as if ideas are built up not through sentence structure reinforced by inner visual images, but by like “mental” patterns structured through touch and scent – in other words, thinking, but within a framework entirely different and alien to you.
Such “thinking” exists, using the analogy, within the framework of instinct, whereas your own verbalized thoughts can also intrude outside of that framework. One of the main differences between you and the animals, and one of the significant meanings in terms of free will, is involved here.
Animals, then, understand the beneficial directing elements of disease. They also comprehend the nature of stress as a necessary stimulant to physical activity. Observing even a pet, you will notice its marvelous complete relaxation, and yet its immediate total response to stimulus. So animals in captivity will fight to provide themselves with necessary health-giving stress factors.
Animals, then, do not think of illness in terms of good or bad. Disease in itself on that level is a part of the life-survival process, and a system of checks and balances. With the emergence of man’s particular kind of consciousness, other issues become involved. Mankind feels its own mortality even more than the beasts do.
With the growth of this particular variety of self-consciousness came the exteriorization, magnification and intensification of definite elements that lie latent in other animals, the individuation of strong emotional activity to a new degree, for example. The emergence of the “pause of reflection” mentioned earlier (in the 635th session in Chapter Eight, for instance) and the blossoming of memory along with the emotional intensification, led to a situation in which members of the new species recalled, in the present, the dead and the diseases that killed them. They became frightened of disease, particularly in the case of plagues.
Man forgot the teaching and healing elements, and concentrated instead upon the unpleasant experience itself. To some extent this was quite natural, for the new species developed in order to change the nature of its consciousness, to follow a reality in which instinct was no longer “blindly” followed, and to individualize in strong personal focus corporeal experience that had previously taken a different pattern.
Man has a far greater leeway. He forms his reality according to his conscious beliefs, even while its basis lies in the deep unconscious nature of the earth in corporeal terms. Man’s “I am”, [seemingly] apart from nature – a characteristic necessary for the development of his kind of consciousness – led him into value judgments, and also necessitated some break with the deep inner certainties of other species.
Illness therefore was experienced as “bad”. An entire tribe could be endangered by one sick member. At the same time, as the mind developed, cunning and memory became highly effective survival tools. In some societies or tribes, the old or infirm were killed lest their care take too much attention from the able-bodied and endanger the group.
In others, however, the old were honored for the wisdom that they had accumulated with age, and this became very practical in tribes where many did not survive. History was dependent upon the old with their memory of past events, and the group’s sense of continuity was also in the hands of its oldest members, who passed memories on to others.
An individual who had himself survived many diseases was considered a sage. Such people often watched the animals and observed nature’s own therapies and treatments.
In certain eras, the lines between the species were not completely drawn, and there were long periods where men and animals mixed and learned from each other. Man’s imagination made him a great maker of myths. Myths as you know them represent bridges of psychological activity, and point quite clearly to patterns of perception and behavior through which, in your terms, the race passed as it traveled to its present state. Mythology bridges the gap between instinctive knowledge and the individualization of idea.
When an animal is sick it immediately begins to remedy the situation, and unconsciously it knows what to do. It does not bother thinking in your terms of good and evil. It does not wonder what it did to get into such a situation. It does not think of itself as inferior. It automatically begins its own therapy.
A human being, however, has another dimension to deal with, a new area of creativity, a diverse mixture of beliefs. His or her ideas about the self must be examined, for they are being materialized in flesh. Again, the situation has great complexity, for the condition is still a healthy attempt on the part of the body to maintain balance. Overall there is also the world situation to be taken into consideration – the status of the species on the planet, in which, say, overpopulation problems will bring about death to insure new growth.
The individuals alive at such a time will also have a hand in such decisions, however. Once more, because you are self-conscious beings your beliefs regulate your reality. An animal knows unconsciously that it is unique and has a place in the scheme of being. Its sense of grace is built-in. Your free will allows for the freedom of any belief, including one that says you are unworthy, with no right to your existence.
If you misinterpret the myths, then you may believe that man has fallen from grace and that his very creaturehood is cursed, in which case you will not trust your body or allow it its “natural” pattern of self-therapy.
In order for consciousness to develop in your terms, there must be freedom for the exploration of all ideas individually and en masse. Each of you are living entities, growing toward your own development. Each of your beliefs, therefore, has its own unique origin and feeling patterns, so you must for yourself travel back through your beliefs and your own feelings until intellectually and emotionally you realize your rightness, your completely original existence in time and space as you know it.
This knowing will give you the conscious knowledge that is a counterpart of the animal’s unconscious comprehension.
An animal has no need of conscience, in any terms.
Because of the great flexibility of your natures, however, mankind needs a framework in which the ramifications of what I have referred to as normal healthy guilt can be considered.
What you consider conscience is often an applied-from-without sense of right and wrong instilled in you in your youth. As a rule these ideas represent your parents’ conceptions of natural guilt, distorted by their own beliefs. (See the 619th session in Chapter Four, as well as the first session in this chapter.) You accepted these ideas for a reason, individually and en masse, for mankind at any given “time” has a strong idea of the particular sort of world experience it will create.
Because you have free will you have the responsibility and the gift, the joy and the necessity, of working with your beliefs and of choosing your personal reality as you desire. I told you earlier (in the 636th session in Chapter Nine) that you cannot fall out of a state of grace. Each of you must intellectually and emotionally accept it, however.
While this may seem like the sheerest Pollyanna, nevertheless there is no evil in basic terms. This does not mean that you do not meet with effects that appear evil, but as you each move individually through the dimensions of your own consciousness, you will understand that all seeming opposites are other faces of the one supreme drive toward creativity.
(Aside, concerning the migration of geese: Their migration is perfect in its simplicity and complexity, yet your journey as a species is far less predictable, opening avenues of probabilities in which your consciousness and free will allows you to become conscious creators in worlds that you initiate and then inhabit.)