Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Yesterday I discovered that my kittens have fleas. Not a huge number, but I'm told these critters tend to multiply. So my first step, besides vacuuming daily so they don't spread to the house, was to improve their diet. A healthy animal should be able to handle parasites. Parasites, like most diseases, are a symptom and not a cause of ill health.

Wait. Did your eyes kind of swim past that last sentence without realizing how outrageous it is? I just contradicted the fundamental tenet of modern medicine, which is that germs cause disease. This belief is not an isolated peculiarity of the medical system, but is embedded in deeper paradigms of science and civilization. It fits in with the mentality of control too. If you can identify the pathogen, then the cure is to eliminate the pathogen. That is what we do with antibiotics, or with a flea collar. If a field has weeds, spray an herbicide. If a crop has insects, spray an insecticide. If the world has evil, eliminate the bad guys. If you have negative thoughts, kill those too. The germ theory of disease leads naturally to a mentality of war. We hear quite often the phrase "The battle against AIDS," or cancer or bacteria.

If we see germs as primarily a symptom and not a cause of ill health, then eliminating them is at best a temporary or secondary priority. The primary question becomes: Why are there germs here? Why are there fleas? That reason may not be a single, definable cause, but a constellation of causes, a holistic state of being.

Eastern North America is experiencing a catastrophic outbreak of Lyme disease, spread mostly by deer ticks. A control-based solution would be a vaccine against Lyme, or a way to kill the spirochete or kill the ticks. Looking symptomatically though, we see the tick infestation as a sign of something deeper. When I was kid you could trudge through the high grass all day and not get a tick. Today I get them sometimes from a short hike on a suburban park path. The proliferation of ticks is probably a symptom of sick deer, and that is a symptom of a sick forest. Just as candida overruns a human body depleted of its internal ecology, so do certain species overrun other depleted ecosystems. The forests in the East have been clearcut at least three times in the past 150 years, and their once numerous species reduced to a handful.

We are nearing the end of the Age of Separation, the age of control. There is no magic spray that is going to make the forests healthy again. It is the regime of control itself that we will abandon to recover health. We will end the state of war, against germs, against self, against nature. And against fleas. I am grateful to the fleas for alerting me that my kittens are not healthy. I had been lazy, feeding them Kitten Chow instead of the raw meat, liver, egg yolks, kelp powder, etc. I'd been feeding them. (Does anyone have any holistic cat food tips?)

Any time I have a physical symptom of ill health, I am also grateful to that. It shows me there is something to pay attention to. We can suppress symptoms, but if the underlying imbalance remains they'll come back, perhaps in some other form. The same is true of "negativity" in my mind. Don't go to war against yourself: not your anger, not your fear, not your laziness or any other negative quality. Each points to something. To what? There are no universal guidelines. My next Reality Sandwich essay will discuss how to work with pain and negativity though, in some depth.


At July 22, 2008 at 5:56 PM , Blogger thailandchani said...

The Age of Separation can't end soon enough for me!

Your points are right on, of course. I have a few chronic conditions that are caused primarily by living in an unstable society with crappy values. That seems clear enough!

The whole "battle" concept is just more western control jargon... aggression.. as if we can "battle" germs. What an absurd notion!


At July 22, 2008 at 11:19 PM , Blogger marie said...

Your logic is impeccable, and of course I have to agree with you in theory, but in practice? I'm sorry: ticks are just plain evil.

At July 23, 2008 at 12:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Advice on food and fleas:


Ursus Maritimus

At July 23, 2008 at 12:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head
And this our life, far from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.


At July 23, 2008 at 1:22 AM , Blogger Vanessa said...

If there are many interconnected reasons for a pathogen infestation, then why can't one of those reasons be related to the pathogen rather than just basing everything on the health of the infected organism? If we're all really so interconnected, it seems strange to place 100% of the healing burden on your kittens. Maybe the fleas are sick too, and addicted to intense reproduction for some reason. I'm curious to know how your holistic kitty healing efforts go.

Same question pops up with your lyme disease example. It is possible the ticks have changed in some way. Why assume the deers and entire forest sick, but the ticks aren't? I don't really know what I'm talking about, but the whole, "All disease is cured by correcting internal imbalance" attitude seems too clean-cut and broadsweeping to me.

(PS I've been reading your writings for a long time, and the Ascent of Humanity is partially why I started blogging a few years ago, keep up the good thoughts!)

At July 23, 2008 at 9:46 AM , Blogger Joe Verica said...

Thought provoking post....Bummer about the fleas.

I agree with your points regarding the mentality of control. We in the west seem to fancy this notion that the best way to deal with problems is to identify and destroy the "enemy", and with it (presumably) the problem. By itself, there is really nothing wrong with this mentality. It has certainly led to many advances that have made all of our lives easier. The problem is that if often doesn't work very well. As you point out, the "enemy" is frequently just a symptom of a deeper underlying problem.

In addition to its short-sightedness, we have taken the control mentality much to far. Many times, all the consequences of a particular action are not taken into account. Sometimes consequences are even ignored if they interfere with the opportunity to make a quick buck. There are countless examples of problems and so-called unintended side effects that have resulted from our desire to control. Modern agriculture is replete with them. Unwisely, we have thrown more technology at the problems and frequently end up with more problems than we started with.

Modern medicine is no acception. We are all familiar with the problems caused by the liberal use of anti-biotics. But does that mean the use of all anti-biotics are bad? Similarly, there are many problems associated with the use of vaccines. That being said, the story of the polio vaccine seems like a great success to me. It seems to me that balance (or lack thereof) is really the problem here.

As for the germ theory, I am a firm believer in it. Germs do cause disease. That being said, I think your point about ill health underlying disease is right on target. As a culture, we have eaten, drunk ourselves and not exercised ourselves into states of poor health. Many of the diseases we do end up with could have easily been fought off by a healthy individual or by better hygeine.

As for western medicine. I think it has made a lot of great advances that many of us owe our longevity and general good health to. However, treatment seems largely focused on symptoms, and not underlying causes.

Moreover, our medical system (political and business aspects aside) has a lot of practical problems. Many of these, as you have pointed out, are the result of the control mentality. It has given us excuses not to take better care of ourselves. We just assume that we can go to the doctor, get a "magic pill", and walk away cured.

Again, I think balance is the key. Eastern medicine has a healthier approach to disease treatment. Certainly, symptoms are treated here just like they are back in the states. However, the traditional eastern doctors take it a step further. They seek to treat the whole body to bring it back into balance. That approach make more sense to me.

At July 23, 2008 at 12:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flea Class

This is an interesting discussion. I don't know how cats build up immunity to fleas, but I think the commercially available "flea-o-cides" might result in fleas building up immunity and becoming super-fleas, the same way infections become resistant to antibiotics. Thus super, sometimes hospital-borne, infections and super-antibiotics.

I just received word that my video of Charles' AERO conference Deschooling workshop is available from educationrevolution.org. So I'm going to get to work on my own deschooling instead of trying to have the right answer on fleas.

However, Marie, I think you might need to work on your dualistic interpretation of ticks. ;) We are all God's children, and the ticks today and locusts of biblical times may have been God's messengers, sent to clarify our vision of reality. I guess I just mixed and matched monotheism with panentheism, which might lead to further discussion.

OK, I'm leaving now, before I get flamed.


At July 23, 2008 at 6:19 PM , Blogger Charles Eisenstein said...

Thanks for the flea tips. Actually, in addition to the nutrition I am using more direct means. I gave them a bath today. It helped a little bit. I didn't lather them up enough though. You know what? They didn't enjoy their bath very much at all.

As for Venessa's point, I would say that sometimes the organism is so far out of balance that the disease will kill it before internal balance can be restored. Secondly, one of the means for restoring internal balance might be to kill the parasites or germs. The problem often comes when they are seen as the primary problem.


At July 24, 2008 at 4:23 AM , Anonymous Chris said...

Charles, you say there are many more ticks out there than when you were a kid. You also talk about the inadequacy of the "fight the pathogen" paradigm in medicine.

That's sort of how I feel about cancer. Is it me or is cancer more prevalent than ever? It sure feels like way, way more people get diagnosed with cancer nowadays than when I was a kid. Of course doctors don't blame cancer on "germs" but they do blame it on a pathogen insofar as they talk about "carcinogens" causing cancer, which is the same basic concept as "germs". It's still some sort of substance "out there" that is the root of the disease.

But I definitely don't feel that "carcinogens" alone cause cancer. Doctors talk about quitting smoking, but there are studies that suggest smoking does not "cause" lung cancer. It's a contributive factor, I sure don't think smoking is a healthy habit, but the emphasis is all wrong.

"I would say that sometimes the organism is so far out of balance that the disease will kill it before internal balance can be restored."

That's interesting. Even in "ordinary," "normal" illnesses, the ones everyone gets from time to time, this can happen. Like someone has the flu, their fever runs too high & too long, & it becomes dangerous. You can suffer brain damage. But it would be a mistake to conclude that because fevers can run dangerously high, a "fever response" should be suppressed altogether. It's a natural, necessary process.

Is it a mistake to perceive "disease" as something to be fought? Maybe a lot of auto-immune diseases, for example, are not "bad" or "lethal" per se, but have some sort of needed function (like a fever), but like a fever that rises too high, they become dangerous because they haven't run their course properly. Then it would be more a case of "guiding" and "channelling" the illness as opposed to "killing" or "defeating" or "combating" it.

At July 24, 2008 at 5:50 PM , Blogger marie said...

When I first read AoH, one of the things that hit me as something that I simply had never considered was that diseases are not necessarily enemies. Like now we have vaccines, so nobody gets the measles any more, but a huge percentage of our kids have breathing difficulties due to allergies. There have always been hints that this was true: people who are "carriers" of sickle-cell anemia have some sort of immunity to malaria, don't they? So in its "weaker" form, it's beneficial, but once in a while, someone gets it full-blown and then it's deadly. So stamping it out altogether would probably result in an increase of malaria. It's easy to come to the conclusion that we should just leave well enough alone... Except for ticks, of course. They're just plain evil.

At July 24, 2008 at 7:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet are the uses of diversity

Keep it up, Marie. Next you'll have us counting angels on the head of a pin. ;) If I were a dualist, I'd be more worried about Calvinism than ticks.


Charles, sometimes it made sense to make war on germs; for instance, when Semmelweis got doctors to wash their hands after dissecting cadavers and before attending births. Before that, mothers and newborns were dying from childbed fever in Vienna hospitals, when the doctors went directly from the morgue to the maternity wards.


At July 27, 2008 at 4:27 PM , Blogger Olivia said...

I liked this post, and I've never thought of herbs in this way, but it makes sense. Thank you, Charles. I always learn so much from whatever you share.

Blessings, Olivia

At August 1, 2008 at 1:38 PM , Blogger Didi said...

I just found this from my mobile phone company (Credo mobile)! "Flea dip. Follow up Fido’s shampoo with a coffee ground rub down, working them down to his skin. Not only are the fleas suppose to vamoose, but puppy’s hair will feel soft too."

Look under the following for more interesting uses of coffee grounds: http://www.curbly.com/DIY-Maven/posts/1881-Top-1-Uses-For-Used-Coffee-Grounds


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