224 pages, pb
This is a very original book that explores miasmatic theory from the perspective of human evolution and in particular the changing food habits which impacted human health and established chronic diseases as a result. Many homeopaths have explored miasms from an evolutionary point of view, taking Hahnemann’s original ideas of the impact of infectious diseases and imposing a much broader social and cultural dynamic to miasmatic theory. However, the author has introduced a new idea into the mix, that of what we eat and how that has impacted health. The author has been influenced by the book The Paleo Diet by L. Cordain, which serves as a foundational theory of food for the author, and also the Eat Right For Your Type ideas, particularly when the author of that book, P. Adamo explores the diets of Hunter/gatherer, Early Settler and Nomadic man. The actual blood type theory, the author doesn’t necessarily agree with. Also, she quotes the work of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel) and his fascinating ideas of the impact of the first agricultural revolution. From a homeopathic point of view some similar ideas are explored by Peter Fraser in his book The AIDS Miasm, which would be a good book to read along with From Cave to Computer.
The premise of the book is that before Man settled into a communal settler existence and where grains were first seriously introduced into the diet – perhaps around 10,000 years ago – early hunter/gatherer survived on meat and some nuts, seeds and fruit. At that point, the author felt chronic disease did not exist. It only began to happen when grains were introduced and changing behavior led to physical and psychological changes. The author explores the mental state at each major change of behavior, from the early more instinctual survival behavior of early homo sapiens, an acute state where survival anxiety would be intense and occasional – as in being chased by a lion – to a more chronic underlying anxiety in early settler man. The anxiety was of whether there is enough food and where food storage and contamination became a larger issue. Early settlers also became less physical, doing more anaerobic exercise than the more intense aerobic exercise of hunter/gather man. The author explains well though that these changes were necessary to feed a growing population and for the social and cultural development of the species. Settler existence allowed some people to do other things than simply hunting for their own food. Culture could develop. The main point the author makes is that although these gradual but fundamental changes were necessary and helped evolution, they also brought problems with them, chronic disease being one of the most significant ones.
From a miasmatic point of view, hunter/gather was pre-psora (more acute stage), while early settler was identified as psoric. Mentally there was a more ongoing but not acute anxiety in the main and the widespread introduction of grains and hygiene challenges of settler existence developed symptoms of conditions seen as psoric, including scabies. One of the strong points in the book is that author states the infectious diseases of scabies, gonorrhea and syphilis were not the causes of the miasm but the result of an ongoing and gradually widespread susceptibility in the culture. In other words, these diseases are not the miasm itself, merely one part of its expression. Again, other authors have discussed this but the author makes a good argument to explain why this is the case. After the early settler, we have the Nomadic man, which is identified as being the tubercular miasm. Dairy food was introduced as a major part of diet, causing its own problems. Mentally, life alternated between excitement, adventure and intensity and periods of boredom, idleness and tedium, leading to risky behavior and more social violence to combat the boredom. More rigid roles between men and women also were established, creating their own mental and physical problems. The development of urban life, beginning around 6,000 years ago and continuing till this day led to the Sycotic miasm. Social roles became even more defined, class and hierarchical structures developed, acquisition of material possessions became the norm and social dynamics of comparison, competition, social conformity and rebellion etc were seen. Institutional violence became stronger, sexually transmitted diseases more common as sex was pursued for entertainment purposes and less for just procreation. Family structures were not so important leading to different levels of insecurity and for many of the poor, life became much worse. Diseases of all sorts, both venereal and others became the norm and hygiene and living standards were poor. Food was accessible, if you could afford it. The Syphilitic miasm follows this and is equated with the development of monotheism, beginning around 1,000 BCE and fully developing after the influences of Jesus Christ and Mohammed. The author makes the interesting observation that ‘Sycosis wants to indulge feelings and impulses, whereas the Syphilitic miasm wants to discipline and control them, setting up tension between the two.’ Syphilis comes from the mind, imposing itself on the Sycotic physical impulses.
The influence of the Syphilitic miasm was to create order onto human society, giving the necessary discipline, refinement and profound creative impulse to literature, art and science. On the dark side of this miasm, this quest for order and for purity led to such barbarisms as the Inquisition, the Communist revolutions in China and Russia, Fascism, the Slave Trade and various Holocausts. On a more general mental level, the ongoing anxieties of belonging, fitting in and social survival of the Sycotic miam are replaced by the deeper despair of eternal damnation and profound isolation of the Syphilitic miasm. The next miasm is Cancer and here there is a stronger quest for identity and control in a world becoming so much more complex and interactive. The development of a global identity challenges one’s own ideas, a struggle between the self and the collective, and leads to compensatory behavior of a need for control and order. Part of the quest for order is the desire for perfection, leading to obsessive focus on everything from schooling to work and social strata. Society itself is becoming more controlling and our relationship to food is becoming more obsessive. The author states that the Syphilitic miasm avoids meat out of a desire for purity whereas the Cancer miasm does so for ethical reasons. Some of these descriptions of the Cancer miasm, Peter Fraser would identify with the AIDS miasm, especially the breaking down of boundaries and identity, but both seem valid representations.
Therefore, each stage of development brings with it health challenges, the author saying that disease processes become deeper as we move further away from the original habits of the hunter/gatherer. The changes are necessary but we pay a price for them, serious chronic disease being one of them. But here is one of the main points of the book. The author recommends we return to the eating habits of the hunter/gatherer, also described in the book The Paleo Diet. She makes the claim that in all cases, eating grain and pulses is bad for our health, as is much dairy, and that many chronic immune disorders and other chronic diseases are the result of this. Therefore, the solution to our health is to change our diet accordingly and also to use homeopathy to treat ongoing conditions. However, without changing diet, homeopathy will not be able to cure many conditions. Eating grain and pulses is the maintaining cause that no remedy will cure.
Vegetarianism therefore is a form of social pathology, based on sacrificing ourselves for the sake of animals, and is part of the Cancer miasm. As a vegetarian I find that hard to swallow. Even using the author’s own argument that each stage of development is inevitable in order for human survival, even at the expense of our health, then maybe being Vegetarian is simply the recognition that this is the next level of change we have to accept if, as a species we are going to survive. We only have to do the math. If we adhere to the diet the author recommends, 75% of diet to be vegetable and 25% meat protein, keeping to this at least 80% of the time, how are we going to feed 7 billion people. How are we going to provide enough nutrition for subsistence farmers all over the world. In Sub Saharan Africa, with about I billion people, 25% are seriously malnourished with another 25% likely suffering significant enough mineral and vitamin deficiency to increase susceptibility to AIDS, T.B., Malaria and many other conditions. They love meat in Africa, but many simply can’t afford it. Also fish is by far the most common and cheap form of protein for most Africans. In many ways, Africa reveals the true cost of producing meat, much more so than in developing countries where the real cost of meat is heavily subsidized. In a nutshell, we can’t afford, as a planet, to eat a diet based on the Paleo idea.
Also, the radical position that all grains and pulses are ‘bad’ for you is debatable, to say the least. While I can agree that excessive and especially processed grains are bad for people, leading to obesity, diabetes and other diseases, the notion that pulses and whole grains are simply bad for one makes no sense. So many studies have shown how a healthy vegetarian diet gives greater health to people and in treating conditions such as many cancers, a strict vegan based diet is often advocated. The author pointed out the tendency for vegetarians to rely too much on grains and the very dubious benefits of soy, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Also, protein, which is the big challenge for vegetarians, according to the author, has been exaggerated as a risk. Most lactose vegetarians can get enough protein with a little effort and without resorting to tons of soy and even for vegans, who are normally more educated anyway, it is not that hard. Most foods have some protein. One simply needs to get enough variety, which luckily in the developed world, we have access to.
Finally, the global footprint of eating a vegetable based diet is so much less than the meat industry. This industry produces more global warming gases than the whole motor vehicle industry and the horrific practices of the meat industry – especially in the United States – is one of the most damaging in the world today – damaging for animals, for humans working in them, for humans eating the meat and for the environment. It’s great if we can have access to grass fed, organic meat and personally I see nothing wrong with it and one should only eat this type of meat but to condemn vegetarianism as a social pathology simply makes no sense. It also cannot be proven that eating grains and pulses is simply bad for one.
The author does an excellent job outlining her ideas and it is a great contribution to miasmatic theory and its relevance for human development. It’s a shame though that the Paleo diet theory is so absolute, but as with many dietary theories, it tends to produce ‘religious’ fervor for many.