Mystery and Excellence on The Human Body - What Is Health

What Is Health

What Is Health

What Is Health

Modern physics has presented entirely new theories about the  world and how it behaves. These theories have been widely  accepted, and yet conventional medicine has been reluctant to  incorporate them into itself and continues to view the body as a  clockwork mechanism in which illness is viewed as a breakdown  of parts.

In his remarkable book Space, Time and Medicine, Dr. Larry  Dossey shows how medicine can and must be updated. Drawing  on his long experience in the practice of internal medicine and  his knowledge of modern science, Dr. Dossey opens up startling  questions. Could the brain be a hologram in which every part  contains the whole? Why have ordinary people been able to  raise and lower blood pressure at will, control heart rate, body  temperature, even minute blood vessels, in a way no one can  explain? What is the role of consciousness in health and illness?  Larry Dossey argues that just as the clockwork picture of the  universe was abandoned in the onslaught of new data, so will  the mechanistic view of health and illness give way to new models which, too, will be more consistent with the true face of the  universe.

Larry Dossey practises internal medicine in the United States,  and is also actively engaged in clinical research. He is Chief of  Staff of a large Dallas Hospital and an adjunct professor in the  Department of Psychology, North Texas State University.

What is health? There is no generally accepted answer, and one  of the embarrassments of modem medicine is its inability to  define exactly what it is that it promotes. Most persons tend  to visualize health in negative terms — I don't have high blood pres sure; I don't have an elevated blood cholesterol level; I don't have any

What Is Health

What Is Health

obvious abnormalities on my physical examination. If my doctor can't  find anything wrong, I must be healthy. This prevalent way of defining  health does not, however, tell us what health is. And even the attempts  to couch a definition of health in positive terms are flawed. The World  Health Organization has defined health as the total physical, psycho logical, and spiritual well-being of an individual — yet these concepts  are too vague to be very useful. They are not clear about what this  well-being actually is, or what is meant by the proper function of the  spiritual, physical, and psychological parts of ourselves....

Health, we ordinarily presume, somehow emanates from within us.  This supposition reflects our reflexive way of attributing all characteristics such as health — and even life itself — to the behaviour of our  constituent molecules. Yet it is not entirely clear that this is so. David  Bohm, in speaking of the living world, uses the example of a seed.  Almost all of the matter and energy that emerge as the seed grows  comes from the environment. "Who is to say," says Bohm, "that life  was not immanent, even before the seed was planted?" And if life was  immanent prior to the unfolding of the seed in its growing form, then ,  the growing seed becomes more than the mere matter from which it; began, as it takes on life itself. The growing seed has become more !  than the behaviour of constituent molecules.

This life-energy, a term Bohm uses, belongs to the implicate order,  — that unseen totality that, says Bohm, underlies the external world of; things and events (which belong to the explicate order), and in which '3  all things are grounded. Bohm has also proposed that health is the  result of the harmonious interaction of all the analyzable parts which  comprise the explicate order'— the cells, tissues, organ systems, and  the entire physical body — with the external environment. For Bohm,  health is harmony, a quality ultimately grounded, as are all things, in  the totality of the implicate order, and not in the particulate things themselves....

The essence of the nonobstructed, indivisible, flowing movement of the implicate order is harmony — which for Bohm is the meaning of  health when this harmony is transcribed into the explicate world. But  since pure flow and movement are imperfect in living organisms  (breakdowns do occur), harmony — and thus health — is imperfect.  Things go wrong. The result is disease, a break in harmony. All living  organisms change and die.

What Is Health

What Is Health

Seen in this way, health has a kinetic quality. There is an essential  dynamism to it.... Health is not static.

Yet how differently we ordinarily conceive health! For many of us  our image of health is to be frozen at some stage of youth, whereafter  things never change. We wish to capture this state in some crystallized,  static form, and so remain healthy thereafter. But it cannot be so, for  health is harmony, and harmony has no meaning without the fluid  movement of interdependent parts. Like a stream that becomes stagnant when it ceases to flow, harmony and health turn into disease and  death when stasis occurs. We return to the concept of the biodance, the  endless streaming of the body-in-flux.

It is pathetic that we have lost touch with this kinetic quality of  health. We view health as a frozen painting, a still collection of bits of  information: electrocardiograms, blood pressure readings, laboratory  values for liver enzymes, blood sugar, and kidney function. Even  health facilities that overtly emphasize kinetic aspects of health care —  the movement sports such as jogging frequently convert the distance a  client has run into a computerized number that indicates how many  "points" he has achieved, so that the kinetic experience becomes translated into the stillness of numbers. The experience of health, its moving  principle, is diminished. It is translated into dead data that, ironically,  seems to reassure us more than the experience of health itself....

There are moments in which all of us experience the harmony of the  movement we call life. These are transcendent or "peak" experiences in  which we may forget not only our self-as-object, but the world-as object, becoming one with the experience itself. Space and time are  perceived at such moments in nonordinary ways. Spatially, we cease to  distinguish ourselves as floating in a sea of space adrift with other  objects; and temporally, time ceases to flow in a linear way. These are  moments of implicate awareness.

These are also times of health, in the sense that they are experiences  of perfect harmony. Yet these moments invariably change, and as they  do our attention is drawn to the nonharmonious events that follow. To  some of these ensuing events in life, if they are sufficiently disruptive,  we attach the term "disease." We make these distinctions just as naturally as we analyze a flowing Bach fugue into its separate notes after  losing ourselves in the initial hearing of it. And our repetitious fixation  °n such nonharmonious events creates our belief that they have some

What Is Health

What Is Health

primary status, forgetting that we have abstracted them from the whole ness of the experience. The flowing harmony of experience becomes  rarer as we carve those genuine moments into bit-events.

Yet health is a flowing movement. There is no benchmark to which  we can refer to tell us when health leaves off and disease begins.  Health and disease are the "moving principles" of each other. As Bohm  implies: perceived as they are by conscious thought, and grounded as  thought is in the totality of the implicate order that enfolds all, health  and illness — how can we avoid the conclusion? — are one.

The experience of health and illness are, of course, not one and the  same. The experience of them occurs in Bohm's explicate order, the  world of the everyday that we habitually dissect into discrete objects  and events. And as a consequence of partitioning this world into separate objects, we find that we partition it into immiscible experiences such as health and illness.

Is there a way to experientially touch the implicate order such that  our own morbid preoccupations with health and disease are transcend ed? Can health and illness be experienced as irrelevancies? Almost  certainly this is the case. The mystical literature is alive with instances  of this sort. The mystics are consistent in asserting that ordinary considerations of health and illness, even of death, can be transcended.  Frequently these statements are misinterpreted — for example, the  mystic has "renounced" the body. This view is, I think, wrong, for the  mystic has achieved a state characterized not by a repudiation of the  flesh, but one in which he experiences the implicate union of opposites: body and nonbody, spirit and matter, health and illness, birth and death.

If we begin to experience the domain in which the issues of health  and disease cease to appear as absolutes, our ordinary health strategies  can be seen in a different perspective. The grim urgency of health care  imperatives changes. Not that health, if neglected, won't evolve into  illness, but that this evolution describes events only on the explicate level.

This is no endorsement of self-abuse and neglect of health. On the  contrary, my suspicion is that an experiential understanding of the relativity of health and disease will lead to an increasing respect for one's  material body, and that a fuller flowering of health will ensue. To transcend health care, to experience health as irrelevant, is not to neglect it.  It is rather to regard all matter, including one's physical body, as alive

What Is Health

What Is Health

and beyond health, grounded with conscious thought in the implicate  domain. Rather than engendering an abusive disregard for the flesh,  this point of view is more likely to promote sound health care — but  not out of a fear of dissolution and death, but from respect born of an  awareness (as Bohm states) that death is a mere abstraction, and that all  is alive.

If Bohm's proposals for an implicate and explicate order are correct,  it is clear that the efforts of modem medicine are wide of the mark.  They focus only on the reality of the explicate order, the realm of our  habitation, where the world is one of separate objects and events. The  implicate domain, where the very meaning of health, disease, and death  radically changes, is currently of no concern to medicine. The totality  that enfolds everything is ignored....

How could medicine redirect its course? Instead of "keeping the  parts running" ("explicate therapy"), how would it implement an  "implicate therapy"?

I do not believe the task is a hopeless one. Indeed, there are indications of an emerging paradigm in medicine that will foster an experiential awareness of the implicate order. These new methodologies have as  their foundation this underlying understanding: mind and body are  intrinsically united, and consciousness is the fulcrum of health.

From Larry Dossey, Space, Time and Medicine,
Shambhala Publications, Boulder, Colorado 80302, U.S.A. 

What Is Health

What Is Health

David Bohm and his concepts of 

the "implicate and explicate orders," 

and of the "holoverse"

David Bohm was an associate of Einstein and later Professor of  Theoretical Physics at Birbeck College of the University of London. He is regarded as one of the pre-eminent theoretical physicists of the 20th  century.

Bohm maintains that the information of the entire universe is contained in  each of its parts. There is, he says, a stunning example of this principle in photography: the hologram (literally, "whole message"). A hologram is a specially  constructed image which, when illuminated by a laser beam, seems eerily suspended in three dimensional space. The most incredible feature of holograms  is that any piece of it, if illuminated with coherent light, provides an image of  the entire hologram. The information of the whole is contained in each part.  This principle, says Bohm, extends to the universe at large.

Since Bohm frequently resorts to the holographic analogy, a brief description of the process will be given. The mathematical theory underlying holograms was developed initially in the 1940s by Nobel physicist Dennis Gabor.  When Gabor initially proposed the possibility, holograms could not actually be  constructed — this had to await the invention of the laser twenty years later.

Holograms are made using a kind of lenseless photography. Coherent light  — light whose waves are approximately of the same frequency — is required.  This light, such as from a laser, is passed through a half-silvered mirror. The  mirror allows the passage of some of it onto a photographic plate, but reflects  part of it onto the object which is to be "photographed." The object also  reflects the coherent light beam onto the photographic plate; at which point the  reflected beam collides with the beam passing through the half-silvered mirror. When the two "wave fronts" of light meet, they "interfere" with each  other, creating an "interference pattern." It is this pattern that is recorded on the photographic plate as a hologram.

Now the truly unique feature of holograms emerges. If a beam of coherent light is passed through the photographic plate, the observer on the far side of  the plate sees a striking three-dimensional "picture" of the original object suspended in space. And what is also remarkable is that if any piece of the hologram is illuminated with coherent light, the same phenomenon occurs. To be  sure, the smaller the piece the "fuzzier" the resulting image, and the larger the  portion the more detailed the image becomes; but the entire representation of

What Is Health

What Is Health

the original object is contained in each portion of the hologram.

Bohm proposes that the universe is constructed on the same principles as  the hologram. His theory rests on concepts that flow from modern physics. In  the modem physical view the world is not assembled from individual bits, but  is seen as an indivisible whole. In modern physics the old classical view of  "bit pieces and building blocks" has given way to the concept of pattern,  process, and interrelatedness.

The aspect of the world that we ordinarily perceive (the explicate order) is  that of isolated parts, however. To us, things do seem disconnected and unrelated. Yet this is an illusion and a distortion of the underlying behind-the-scene  oneness and unity, which is an intrinsic quality of the world.

This unity, says Bohm, is "enfolded" into the universe. It is an expression  of an implicit order — or, as Bohm says, an "implicate" order. How is this  order enfolded into the world? In ways already described by physics: through  electromagnetic waves, sound waves, electron beams, and in other numerous  forms of movement. The behaviour of all of these forms of movement constitute the implicate order in nature, and in order to emphasize its unbroken  wholeness, Bohm states that what "carries" the implicate order is the "holomovement" — which is itself an undivided totality.

For Bohm, order and unity are spread throughout the universe in a way  which escapes our senses. They are part of an implicate order which, although  hidden from us, constitutes a fundamental aspect of reality. In the same way  that order and organization are spread throughout the hologram, each part of  the universe contains enough information to reconstitute the whole. The form  and structure of the entire world is enfolded within each part.

It is important not to underestimate the seriousness intended in Bohm's  descriptions. For many working physicists these concepts are inescapable conclusions that flow from quantum mechanics and relativity. They are not mere  poetic or metaphorical musings about how the world behaves.

It is crucial, too, to appreciate the scope of these implications. We frequently assume that quantum physics applies only to the diminutive realm of  nature — electrons, protons, etc; and that relativity has only to do with massive objects of cosmic proportions — stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc. But Bohm's  contention is that we are squarely in the middle of these phenomena. He says: Ultimately, the entire universe (with all its "particles", including those constituting human beings, their laboratories, observing instruments, etc.) has to  be understood as a single undivided whole, in which analysis into separately  and independently existent parts has no fundamental status."

Extracts from Larry Dossey, Space, Time and Medicine


What Is Health

What Is Health

Health and the Implicate Order

Traditional View

Implicate View

1. The sensory world of  objects and events is primary.


1. The sensory world of objects and events is.  not primary. They belong to the explicate order  which is grounded, or enfolded, in an underlying indivisible totality, the implicate order.

2. Health is the absence of  disease.


2. Health is not the mere absence of disease,  but is the. manifestation of the harmonious  interaction of all apparent parts that inhabit  the explicate domain.

3. Health and disease are  absolutes and are irreconcilable opposites.

3. Health and disease are not irreconcilable  opposites. They are the "moving principles"  of each other

4. All living matter is  potentially dead. Everything  awaits decay.


4. All matter belongs to the implicate order,  where everything is alive. "What we call dead  is an abstraction" (Bohm)

5. Life is characterized by  movement, and death by  stasis.


5. The implicate order enfolds all, and is flux;

thus, both life and death are movement.  Nothing is static.

6. Health can be conceptualized as proper function of  body parts.

6. "Parts" exist only in the explicate domain.  Therefore, health transcends the function of  parts, since all parts, which consist of matter,  are ultimately enfolded in the implicate order,  and thus consist of an indivisible whole.

7. The focus of health care  is on the physical body.  Consciousness is a secondary and irrelevant factor

7. Both matter and consciousness are enfolded in  the implicate order, where all things are one.  Thus, all matter is to some degree conscious.  Health care cannot, therefore, ignore conscious ness. To focus on matter is to focus on consciousness

What Is Health

What Is Health

8. Health can be expressed  in terms of objective measurements — laboratory,  tests, physical examinations, x-rays, etc.


8. All measurements refer to objects belonging  to the explicate order, and are thus not primary  They defy the unanalyzable wholeness of the  underlying totality in which all material bodies  are grounded. As such, all measurements are  arbitrary and are poor indicators of health.

9. Health care focuses on  individuals.


9. This is an arbitrary and illusory concern of  the explicate domain. All matter is enfolded in  the implicate order; thus, so too are all bodies.  To focus health care on one person is to focus  on all, since all bodies (all matter) comprise a  totality in the implicate order.

10. Therapy primarily is'  executed by mechanical  means, by matter acting on  matter, e.g., by medications  and surgery.


10. Everything is alive. There is nothing in  principle, therefore, preventing the use of  consciousness as a primary form of therapeutic intervention at all levels of matter.

11. Health care is of un questioned value.


11. Insofar as traditional health care distorts  the wholeness of the body by inappropriate  concentration on function of mere body parts,  it can be destructive. Health care, thus, is of  qualified benefit, since it may create distortions in body awareness which may prove  harmful and actually generate illness.

12. Transcendence of the  concern about health is a  mystical aberration usually  leading to neglect and  rejection of the body.


12. Transcendence of the concern about  health may indeed lead to the view of health  as irrelevant, but may also lead to an aware ness of the body as being materially alive at  all levels. This awareness can generate a spiritual regard for the body, a self-identity with  the matter comprising it, leading to an  enhanced pattern of health care.

13 The ultimate goal of  health care is to forestall  disease and, thus, death.

13. Since death is an abstraction ("everything  is alive") this is an inappropriate goal of  health care.

What Is Health

What Is Health

Characteristics of a Healthy Body


A healthy person enjoys simple food and is contented because he  gets a satisfaction before eating to full capacity which would  give a feeling of fullness and discomfort.

Equally so, the process of digestion will be a quiet one and the per son will be unaware of it.

The healthy skin should not emit an unpleasant smell as does that of  a carnivorous animal. The skin should be moist, but not wet, should  feel warm, be smooth to touch and have an elasticity.

The lung function should be voluntary and without any difficulty.

Sleep of a healthy person is soft, quiet and uninterrupted. On waking one feels cheerful, bright and contented.

Deep mental emotions cannot long oppress a healthy person, he recuperates quickly.

The healthy body is one of fine proportions. 

All natural movements are free, unhindered and need no exertion nor tension.

A healthy feeling is one in which the person does not feel the presence of his body, its weight and-any part of it.

Even warmth all over the body, lightness of feeling, keen hunger,  sound and restful sleep, clarity of mind, ability of the body to work,  freedom from laziness, and timely elimination of filth are the signs of  good health.

From K.L. Sharma, Practical Nature Cure, 

Nature Cure Publishing House

What Is Health

What Is Health

Manuscript page of Charaka Samhita, early Indian medical text


An individual is supposed to be healthy if he is free of any  disease. He should not have any type of pain. His colour  and texture of the skin should be muscular, the body-parts  proportionate, and sturdy. He should have strength. His digestive  power should be well developed. It is to be judged by the feeling of  hunger, and the food which is taken in is to be digested so that at  appropriate hours of the day he feels hungry and thirsty. He should  have sound sleep and after sleep should feel buoyant and fresh. The  excretion of urine and stool should be smooth and at appropriate hours.  There should be unpolluted and pure semen in the body. Over and  above he should experience perfect coordination of mind, intelligence  and body organs. These are considered the important symptoms of the  healthy individual.

From S.H. Deshpande, Physical Education in Ancient India     

What Is Health

Back to Content