I am currently enjoying the third big illness of my life.
The first occurred when I was twenty-seven at the end of a two year retreat. I collapsed with a severe hepatitis which the doctors thought would kill me. As it was, I lacked all vitality for a while, had a succession of near-death experiences and took two years to recover. It was a wonderful lesson for a speedy young man. I was very grateful.
Years later in my mid-forties I had my second major illness, an extreme lower back crisis â€” three herniated discs and torn spinal tendons â€” which created pain that made me faint, put me in a wheelchair and crutches, and took eight years before I could walk normally again. This illness too taught me profound lessons about patience, acceptance and forgiveness.
Right now I am managing a third very interesting illness, of the parathyroid (not thyroid) which if not stopped, will slowly turn me into a lump of chalk because of a calcium imbalance, the sensations of which I am already experiencing. (In my case, it turns out that minimally invasive surgery is available. Hooray. Of all people, I have a wonderful network of healers, therapists and medical doctors in the UK who are my friends; so trust me when I say that I have explored all possibilities for healing and have great support. My surgery date is early April and if anyone wants to offer distant healing, Iâ€™d like you to send good energy to the surgeon and visualise me on a walking holiday a couple of weeks later.)
Temporarily weakened by the condition, however, I did decide to get a tonic from Ned Reiter, a very experienced herbalist who lives locally. During our consultation, he asked: â€˜And what story are you telling yourself about your illness?â€™
â€˜Many, many stories,â€™ I replied.
I consider myself very lucky because when I first started studying spiritual healing in my twenties, I read what I still consider to be the wisest and most helpful book on the subject, Alice Baileyâ€™s Esoteric Healing. If you are seriously interested in illness, healing and the process of death, then in my opinion it ought to be top of your reading list.
It deals in depth with the relationship between the endocrine system and the chakras, and the various factors that cause malfunction and disease. More than that it provides a crucial overview of the causes of illness. This includes, for instance, a startling and provocative suggestion that the ultimate source of illness lies in the imperfection of God. As part of Godâ€™s body, we participate in that imperfection whether we like it or not. (I like this insight because it perceives deity itself to be in a process of change and it also releases humanity from the dismal dungeon of original sin.)
Another profound insight from Esoteric Healing is that the actual material of our bodies comes from earth and will return to earth â€” dust to dust; and that even while we are healthy and vital, earth exerts an ongoing magnetic pull to reclaim the material that makes up our bodies. From this perspective, when we experience an illness or wound, the tissue of that part of our body is seeking to return to earth. To heal that tissue, what can we do for it, so that it is more attracted to stay in human incarnation than return to its mother? For me, that is a fascinating elemental perspective.
Esoteric Healing also provides a truly holistic perspective on the major causes of illness. These include, for example, personal karma, group karma, the karma of the earthly matter in our bodies, negative thinking, negative emotions, war, epidemics and pure chance.
SO MANY STORIES
So when my friend Ned the herbalist asked me what stories I was telling myself, it was a great question for I had been examining a multitude of possibilities.
One cluster of stories focused, of course, on my throat chakra and how my expression, my voice, was in some way inauthentic or constrained. Did this mean I should express more love or that I should release it to full expression? More humble or more assertive? Was the source of this constriction in my emotional life, my work, my family or was it ancestral?
Another cluster of stories worked with elements to do with the environment. I had been drinking coffee over the previous year and the PH of my body had become far too acidic. Or perhaps there was a speck of asbestos from some rebuilding I had done. Or a grain of LSD from my youth. Or the electromagnetic pollution from all the mobile phones and computers.
Was this illness purely my stuff or ancestral or collective or just one of those things that happens? There were so many possible stories.
I could have opted for immediate surgery but I chose instead to move forward at a more sedate pace (a choice I might not have made were it an aggressive cancer.) I chose to give my illness a relaxed and contemplative study so that I could look at all the possible causes. Like my friend, Ann, managing her cancer, I have milked my situation for insights and development â€” and for the opportunity to learn more about love, freedom of consciousness and healing.
RELEASING THE SOUL
Esoteric Healing not only looks at causes of illness but, of course, suggests strategies for healing through a series of laws and rules. The first of these laws states:
All disease is the result of inhibited soul life, and that is true of all forms in all kingdoms. The art of the healer consists in releasing the soul, so that its life can flowâ€¦.
This leads to the major strategic question for self-management: Do we actually know how to harmonise with the soul and facilitate its flow?
The basic strategic answer is classic. We have to know the skill of being able to sink gently into soft breath, open heart and calm mind.
The ambience of this calm state harmonises with the resonance of our souls. The soulâ€™s magnetism can then reorganise and reactivate the material of our energy bodies, bringing healing and development.
So real healing begins in this profoundly soulful atmosphere regardless of the cause of the illness or the healing technique.
In this state of calm awareness, we can also compassionately contemplate the inevitability of our own death. Here in this accepting state of consciousness, we can see that true spiritual development does not belong to this transitory day-by-day identity â€” Â our gender, our age, our habits, our daily sense of self.
Genuine development is ultimately about the progress and liberation of our soul.
So here I am in the middle of an interesting illness. It is teaching me more about true soul growth and liberation. More love, more consciousness, more compassion. And for this, I give thanks.