Why we bear the responsibility for illnesses ourselves
Nowadays, coincidence plays such a big role in our understanding of the occurrence of illness that there appears to be hardly any room for personal responsibility. As the likely causes for illness, for example bacterial infections, lack of enzymes, glandular dysfunction and so on, are recognised. It simply makes the patient look on these causes as something that exists outside and independent of him. He believes, without a second thought, that he had nothing to do with the causes, it was not his fault that he fell ill and he asks himself: ‘Why me? Why did it just have to happen to me?’
This question is usually not the beginning of a serious enquiry into the possible causes, but rather an accusation against the ‘blind fate’ that oppresses him. Are the sick then responsible for their ailments or not?
As already mentioned in the first part of this series, the worsening of the body milieu is to be seen as the root cause of illnesses and not – as is widely believed – microbes, cold or other triggering factors. The body environment is deteriorating, but not by coincidence; rather it is doing so from definite causes.
What burdens our body environment?
The main cause of the deterioration of the body milieu is an accumulation of toxins, thus of the waste products of metabolism – urea, uric acid and creatinine – which arise from the processing of proteins: cholesterol and unsaturated fatty acids from fats, various acids, for instance from the breakdown of refined sugar.
Then there are the harmful substances that are added to foodstuffs, such as antioxidants and preservatives, colourings, taste enhancers and preservatives. Also the toxins that are present in the air and the soil as well as the chemical fertilizers that get into our body by way of foodstuffs, as do other harmful substances like coffee, tobacco, alcohol, numerous drugs and vaccines.
Most of the toxins come therefore from our food.
The second biggest cause of the deterioration of our body environment is a lack of indispensable – essential – nutrients. Deficiencies occur mainly through an inadequate and unbalanced diet or the fact that the foods themselves are too refined and therefore deficient. Deficiency conditions are on the rise and are not restricted, as was previously thought, to some typical diseases such as scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) or beriberi (vitamin B deficiency).
Modern research confirms that every nutrient missing from the body will trigger a series of complaints and that serious diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis are caused to a large extent by the lack of certain vitamins and mineral substances. Thus the cause of disease in this connection is also largely due to nutritional factors.
Beside accumulation of toxins and nutrient deficiencies there is another cause for the deterioration of the body environment: malfunctions in organs, which are usually nervous or hormonal in origin. Our nerves and our hormone system are responsible for the harmonious activity of our organs. They monitor the pace of activity of the organs and that none is working too slowly or too fast or swinging in an uncontrolled manner between the two extremes. Both systems are strongly influenced by our moods, by stress, worries and so on, as studies in the field of psychosomatic medicine have shown.
The three factors that damage the body and pave the way for the outbreak of ailments are therefore the exposure to toxins, lack of nutrients and organic disturbances.
Is it all the fault of our body?
Does the detection of these factors mean that the responsible culprits have been discovered? Is it food itself? Drinks and tobacco? Medications and drugs? No! The body? Not that either! Neither the food nor the body can be considered as responsible because they are not able to make a decision. Whoever has himself decided nothing, cannot be held responsible. Responsibility cannot be separated from decision-making.
The body and its organs operate in a predetermined manner: the heart beats, the kidneys filter the blood, the digestive tract macerates the incoming food, the glands secrete, the nerves transmit impulses, and so on. The body cannot choose to function differently than intended. The immune system cannot decide to go on strike, for example, nor can the lungs decide to take up no oxygen, or the blood no longer to circulate.
Apart from which the body is totally attuned to the preservation of life and health, not to its destruction. It is the one that tells us what we must watch out for (aversion to certain foods), what we should eat (appetite for certain dishes), when is the appropriate time (hunger) and when we should stop (satiety). The body can conduct these various processes, synchronise and harmonise them. It is able to fight off attackers (microbes, poisons) and to ‘repair’ itself after an injury. When waste products threaten to choke the cells, the body goes into a liberating crisis of elimination (runny nose, cough, vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating, and so on). When a lack of nutrients endangers the balance of the body, it triggers cravings for certain foods. If it needs rest, it serves up tiredness.
If the body is functioning poorly, it is not because it has been defectively constructed or is lacking in internal logic. In such a case it would have destroyed itself long ago. It has also made no wrong decisions but has repeatedly been brought into situations that prevent it from doing its work normally: lack of rest, straining the digestive and nervous systems, slow poisoning by tobacco, alcohol, medications or drugs, insufficient exercise, excessive nervous tension, poor diet, an unnatural rhythm of life – all things that depend on … us!
Looking the facts in the eye!
We opt to overeat, or to take insufficient exercise. We stimulate ourselves with tobacco, drown our sorrows in alcohol, and take stimulants instead of resting. We refine our foods and denature them with additives, we poison our crops with dangerous pesticides, pollute the air we breathe, and treat ourselves with substances that are detrimental to our health instead of resorting to natural methods.
We choose how we handle our body, and therefore the responsibility for the deterioration of our body environment as well as the occurrence of ailments is ours. We are not the victims of external circumstances, but the authors of our troubles; we are no passive spectators but active participants in the emergence of illnesses.
Many may be able to accept this view relatively easily when it comes to illnesses such as stomach ulcers, eczema, or rheumatism, but what of infectious diseases in an epidemic? Are they not a typical example of illnesses caused by accident and for which we are not responsible?
In the past we went from this idea and tried to ward off such diseases by every possible means – wearing talismans, incantations, sacrifices, and so on. The knowledge of the existence of the body environment, however, shows that there is no issue of chance involved.
‘The microbe is nothing, the environment is all important’
If microbes were to play the major role in infectious diseases, there would long ago have been no single human being left on this planet! The numerous deadly epidemics like cholera, plague and influenza that have broken out at various times were murderous enough to wipe out all humanity. However, only a part of the population succumbed on each occasion. Although this could be anything up to two thirds of the population, yet some people were always spared. It was generally not the case that these people were not infected, but their body gave the microbes no chance to multiply and cause damage – it was simply not susceptible to the infection because it provided no favourable conditions for the microbes.
This ability to fight off infections is conditioned by the quality of the body environment. ‘The microbe is nothing. The environment is all-important’, is the famous dictum of Claude Bernard (1813–1878), the founder of modern physiology. Infectious diseases therefore depend on how receptive or susceptible is the body environment, the condition of which, as we have seen, is again dependent on us. It lies solely in our responsibility whether or not we contract infectious diseases.
How free is our will?
The assertion that a person is himself responsible for what befalls him is fiercely disputed by some. In their opinion the human being has no free will, and cannot freely decide for or against something. This freedom is indeed a necessary condition, because we can only be held responsible for something we ourselves have decided of our own accord. If a decision is imposed upon us from outside or has been influenced in any manner, then it is not free and therefore we cannot be fully responsible for it.
Are there not all kinds of social, economic, cultural, professional or family influences, which partly determine how we live and our diet and thus in the end also how things are with our body environment?
And are there not also different temperaments or basic physiological conditions, meaning different types of body environment, which also in a healthy state would not be equally susceptible or resistant towards certain germs and disease?
This difference in susceptibility, which makes a certain environment prone towards certain microbes than another, is not the consequence of an acquired weakness but one that already existed, which does not come from decisions of the person concerned, but was inherited from the parents. Is it possible to speak in such a case of responsibility in as much as we could not have freely chosen our temperaments or even the physiological conditions?
This raises the question as to what influence genetic disorders have and the role played by fate in this context: either we ourselves ‘forge our own fortune’, and therefore determine by our actions and omissions what will come back to us in reciprocal action – it would entail that there is no ‘blind’ fate – or events are taking place in a predetermined or even coincidental fashion – in which case we would bear no responsibility. To clarify this question it is therefore essential to find out whether man has free will and – if there is evidence – its nature.
In life we make decisions all the time, which shape our everyday life. This conveys to us the impression that we can determine our own life. If we look back, however, over our life thus far, this impression becomes qualified very quickly.
While there were certain events that went in the way we wanted, there were also a number of painful experiences that we would have gladly spared ourselves! How many moments in our life were the exact opposite of what we wanted or what we planned! While we manage some things quite well, we see ourselves in other areas more as victims or at the mercy of events.
What does our brain have to do with the free will?
The majority of people are in no doubt that the centre of our will and our decisions is in the brain. Upon closer examination of how our intellectual capabilities work, one thing becomes clear, however: the brain cannot be the seat of free will, because it is clearly influenced and can therefore make no independent, autonomous decisions.
At the beginning of our life our brain is like a blank slate. It is a new tool, which in the course of life will be fed information via our five senses. These strands are stored in memory and the intellect can process them by combining them with each other. Like a computer, the brain can only sort, sift and combine the information it receives. By itself it is unable to produce completely new information that is not the result of already existing elements.
The information stored in the brain is logically different from person to person and depends on his upbringing, nationality, schooling, occupation, the newspapers, radio and TV broadcasts, and adverts of interest to him, his friends, the political party of his affiliation, and so on.
These examples show that the brain is unable to make a decision uninfluenced, since all the deliberations are shaped and influenced by ideas and views coming from outside. To make a completely free choice, it is necessary that the entity from which the decision emanates be able to rely on criteria and values that are independent of physical factors and past experiences. The brain does not meet these requirements.
Another reason why the brain cannot be the seat of free will is the fact that its activity is dependent on our state of health, on our diet, the medications we take, the stress, the season – to name but a few of the generally accepted factors. But there are other influences that are often questioned, such as for example the influence of the stars.
If the brain cannot be the seat of free will, where then can it be located? Another organ is out of the question because there is no organ in the body that is as complete and refined as the brain. We must therefore look for the free will elsewhere, but must not limit ourselves to the material plane, as modern man usually tends to do.
A necessary glance into another dimension
There is one component of our personality that is non-material and which we have known about for a long time. Both the major religions and ancient medical writings, as for instance from Hippocrates, speak of it. This component – often called ‘soul’ – is the spirit of the human being. The spirit, which originates from the spiritual realm – Paradise –, is not of the same species as the physical body; it is spiritual species, while the physical body consists of earthly matter. Since there is a great difference in species between the spiritual and the earthly world, the spirit must during its sojourn on earth cloak itself with a material body, which comes from this earthly world, serves it as a tool and enables it to make contact with its surroundings and to work within it. That is how the spirit incarnates into a physical body; it is, however, not identical with the brain or with the body.
By nature of its origin the spirit remains free from any socio-cultural influence, to which the brain is subject. It is thereby able to make uninfluenced, thus really free decisions. Free will is accordingly anchored in the immaterial spirit of the human being.
Freedom of decision in humans and animals
The scope of the attribute of freedom of decision in the human being is easier to grasp if we look at animals by comparison. These likewise possess an immaterial animating core – the animal soul – but it does not provide them with a free will. With the animal, every action is always a reaction to some stimulus emanating from its body or the surroundings. With the human being it can also be the result of a deeper wishing. Animals develop because their surroundings impel them to it, the human being on the other hand can also develop because he wants to – independently of his surroundings and often also in the opposite direction to the latter.
The behaviour of animals is innate. The way they react in different situations is part of their nature. Although there are various possible responses to a particular event, the choice can only be within the specific ways of their species. A dog can bite an enemy or run away, but it will not head-butt it like a goat or a ram would do. Lions are meat eaters, but if they are in captivity it is possible that they gradually convert to a vegetarian diet of grains and vegetables. By themselves, however, they cannot decide to do so.
Because man has a free will, he can change his diet completely and even choose one that is totally unsuitable and unnatural, regardless of whether it is good for him or not. He is, however, responsible for the disastrous consequences of this unnatural eating habit, since he freely made the choice, unlike the lion, on which it was imposed.
The ability to make an absolutely free decision is one of the necessary conditions for personal responsibility. Another prerequisite is that the individual has the possibility to become aware of the consequences of his actions. Since animals can neither freely decide nor foresee the consequences of their behaviour, they cannot also be made responsible for their actions.
Where does it leave coincidence?
Free will and coincidence are two things that do not fit together. Coincidence or chance, as is seen by many, is ‘responsible’ for things happening completely unpredictably. They appear and disappear without rhyme or reason and devoid of logic. If coincidence was to determine events, we would be at the mercy of unpredictable and constantly changing events. Responsibility is only possible in a world in which things happen in a certain order, with logical and established processes and in accordance with an immutable lawfulness that allows us to foresee developments, to adapt to circumstances and to act wisely.
Only through the knowledge of these laws are we able to understand many things that otherwise would remain a mystery. We can recognise the relationships of events and gain a new perspective of life.