"Integrative" Medicine: Orange's medical colonialism vs. Green's biomedical illiteracy


#1

I’ve been a licensed acupuncturist for several years and am currently in a doctoral program which is designed to prepare acupuncturists for total integration with the rest of the medical field. We have a lot of discussion in class on how we feel about integration, and what the pros and cons are.

As an acupuncturist, I have fairly extensive training in physiology, but would say that I have an above-average interest in science versus most in my field. I am particularly fond of pharmacology and nutritional biochemistry. I would guess that I place higher value on the scientific method than most acupuncturists.

So many thoughts have come up as a result of these discussions, including my own biases, Orange allergies that I’m still healing [especially the childhood traumas from Modern Medicine that caused me to pursue learning East Asian Medicine], and also the likely failure of “Integrative” medicine if it’s left to primarily first-tier thinking.

This is not a complete essay, rather just the first in a series, but I figured that just throwing this up on the message board and initiating some healthy discussion would be a great way to get fired up for subsequent parts.

Note: this material is largely unedited.


In order to paint a picture of how we may unite Science and Spirituality, in order to bring Medicine into the 21st and 22nd centuries, let’s take a deep dive into the dances of paradigmatic conflict which are currently tempting so many of us to throw the baby out with the bathwater in an effort to rise above the polemics and absurdity at whatever cost.

The Orange Meme [AKA modernity, AKA scientific materialism] has committed the capital offense of attempting to reduce all of human experience, its rich search for meaning, its artistic conceptualizations of the transcendent dimensions, and all the other nebulous, fuzzy, messy, qualia of our world to those entities which can be fully measured, namely matter and energy. This has been called Science’s colonization of art and morals by philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Ken Wilber, of course, calls it ‘Flatland’.

Reductionism was scientific materialism’s attempt to become the new ultimate arbiter of truth, replacing the church [Blue Meme, AKA pre-modernity], which was of course classically its tormentor but also its progenitor. Consider the fate of scientists whose theories or discoveries about the natural world conflicted with any of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Now enter the Green Meme [AKA post-modernity], which—with its emphasis on holism, equality, eco-responsibility, and good old-fashioned FEELINGS—makes Orange’s materialistic, hyper-rational, measurement-obsessed way of being seem downright nihilistic.

In Terence McKenna-speak, Green is also the stage of the archaic revival. It’s all about rediscovering all the treasures which we left behind at much earlier stages: indigenous wisdom, holistic healing techniques, and a general sense of belonging to a tribe. Green, being world-centric, however, strives to perceive all of humanity as a single tribe.

Because each stage / meme is a direct result of the disaster that the previous stage caused in the latter portion of its manifestation, it tends toward reactivity against it. Hence, Green thinking is highly critical of the ways in which Orange activities have polluted the planet, dehumanized us by turning humans into “human resources”. The unmitigated madness of capitalism run amok. The dark abyss of militant atheism. You get the picture.

The filthiest of bathwater, no doubt. But is Green in danger of throwing the baby out too? After all, Orange gave us the scientific method. It didn’t do a great job, however, of telling us how to apply it in the wisest, kindest way that truly benefits the most people. That’s the realm of ethics, religion, ecology, and spirituality. Ethics is something which cannot be reduced to particles and waveforms. There are no machines which collide moral theories together in an attempt to view their smallest constituents. Of course, Orange was an ethical quantum leap from Blue, but nevertheless is insufficient in its perspective to fix its own problems.

That notwithstanding, rational, empirical thinking is critical. The scientific method has changed everything and enabled a level of comprehension and mastery over the physical world that nobody in 500 years ago could have dreamed of. It has also given us many improvements in medicine as we have used its powerful techniques to more deeply probe the intricate machinery of our biological substrate, while also of course giving us new diseases that arise from our disconnection from nature and the disruption of our biochemistry with new compounds which it does not know how to deal.

Because Green tends to be so reactionary against Orange, Green post-modern thinkers have unconsciously attempted to use Orange’s weapons of reductionism against it. Fighting fire with fire, these thinkers tend to view all of science as socially constructed. They have, in true human fashion, uncovered another’s blindspot while simultaneously overlooking their own.

They have an excellent point, however. Scientists tend to get caught up so much in the whats and hows, that they tend to neglect the whys. ‘Because profit is good’ is no longer an acceptable why in a world that is burning, says the Green revolution, and rightfully so.

In its shadow aspect, Orange is nothing short of an epic nightmare that threatens all life on the planet, but if we refuse to integrate and honor the accomplishments of science and its corresponding level of cultural development, we may eschew all of its gifts and leave ourselves open to believing nearly anything. This can only prevent us from taking effective action in the remediation of the problems that Orange has created.

Do all forms of medicine need to be fully elucidated scientifically in order to be valid? According to Orange scientific materialist thinking, yes. Medicine is the domain of the physical body, which is the domain of science and science alone. According to more extreme manifestations of Green, all beliefs are equally true because all cultures are equal. Because Green can also eschew modern scientific thinking, it may prefer healing modalities which are more exotic, indigenous, and holistic in nature. Orange abhors this, because it sees this tendency as regressive.

They both have points. Orange in its negative manifestation is too pompous to admit that any kind of healing modality which was created before the existence of the scientific method may be valid, and also tends to overestimate its understanding of the physical world to the extent that it ignores the advances that it has yet to make, which may only be made in another fifty, hundred, or even five hundred years, regarding biochemistry and biophysics.

It looks down at ancient or indigenous medicines from atop its tower of sophistication and cold, unassailable rationality, at what it considers to be relics of the past which it has made irrelevant with its revolution in human thinking and epistemology. BUT some of the tendencies of Green may in fact be highly regressive if Green cannot learn to integrate and value Orange’s greatest contributions. Scientific exploration of ancient healing modalities could theoretically enhance our understanding of their physical mechanisms of action and applicability to disease.

In an ideal world of perfect scientific objectivity, where the application of science is somehow not culturally embedded [as Green thinkers have so wisely pointed out], we would simply apply the scientific method to each ancient, pre-scientific system of medicine and then figure out which ones are helpful and which ones aren’t, and how they each work. Then we can deconstruct them physically to isolate the parts that are effective and get rid of anything that’s not.

But as the Orange machine deconstructs each of these indigenous and ancient systems, won’t it then naturally take them and incorporate them into its value system? Where there’s efficacy, there’s profitability.

Welcome to the central topic of this essay: “Integrative” Medicine as Orange Medical Colonialism versus Green reactive irrationality, and the need for Integral solutions. It took us a bit, but we finally got here.

Just as it’s not a great idea for us to allow every practice that Green has found from around the world to be immediately welcomed as a perfectly valid medical tool, it’s also a terrible idea for us to let Orange scan the world for techniques to tinker with, alter, and then co-opt into its planetary suicide machine.

Cultural co-opting and colonialism are popular topics in the Green intellectual circuits. Looking from a truly higher perspective, they have catalogued the ways in which the dominator system likes to steal. It’s stolen from and co-opted all of the less technologically developed cultures it’s come into contact with. It can’t help but turn everything it sees into a commodity. Rather than actual invasion, it extends itself into new territories and then makes those territories and then converts everything there into a commodity or a customer.

It’s clear to the levels of Green and higher that Orange thinking is massively toxic in certain key ways. It’s philosophically impoverished. It tends toward meaninglessness. It seeks to dominate and control nature. Rightfully so, Green does not tolerate the anti-Gaian pathologies of negative Orange which threaten all life on the planet. Green is pissed at Orange because it can see just how insane it is in its negative aspect.

I would argue that healthy Green could figure out a way to apply the scientific method in a way that honors the uniqueness of each traditional form of medicine, and also serves humanity, not allowing it to be co-opted by the economics of Orange, but perhaps this is more suited to Yellow.

Healthy Orange could potentially have enough intellectual honesty to admit the limitations of its current instrumentation, and that it cannot explain everything that is real. The temptation with unconscious scientific materialism, however, is to label things which it cannot explain as “unreal”, rather than questioning the current models and instrumentation.

Many materialist scientists are uncomfortable with the idea of even studying things like the power of prayer or faith healing, because they have already made up their mind a priori that these phenomena are bullshit. The same kind of thinking would be highly problematic if the goal was to honestly explore a modality of medicine which employs language which it views as metaphysical or superstitious.

While we have multiple kinds of bias that we must do our best to eliminate from the realm of acceptable science, such as measurement bias, selection bias, publication bias, etc., what about the inherent bias of one’s center of memetic gravity?

Negative Orange is biased toward things which it can use for profit and to reinforce its worldview. This is another critical level of bias: cultural and economic bias. Biomedicine [AKA ‘Modern Medicine’] does not exist in a vacuum. It exists within an Orange economic framework which relies upon intellectual property laws that inadvertently decrease the profitability of that which cannot be patented. We’re talking about massive Lower Right quadrant effects on the perception of what is considered valid medicine.

This disproportionately funnels money into pharmaceutical research, for example. This is similar to a kind of publication bias, but instead of unpublished studies that aren’t being shared, it’s that the studies are never being done to begin with because there isn’t enough money to fund them. Without money, studies on herbs and nutrients, for example, have to be relatively small and cannot be done on the scale that would allow them to reach FDA approval as a drug.

So what happens when Orange gets ahold of an indigenous or ancient healing modality that shows efficacy? In the case of herbs, Orange takes what it considers to be the main active chemical constituent, then synthetically modifies it, making it patentable, and goes through the proper channels to get it approved as a drug.

Green, on the other hand, tends to reject biomedicine in that it is so put off by its densely Orange vibration, which tends to permeate clinics and hospitals, and its extensive use of toxic chemicals, and ignorance of holistic approaches, that it tends to avoid MDs at all costs, even when something may be critically wrong and they may need to see a physician for evaluation.

Considering that physicians typically expect themselves to be at the top of every hierarchy, which would place chiropractors, naturopaths, and acupuncturists below them in any system which attempts to integrate them; and that Green abhors hierarchies, how do we proceed?

When asked if I would ever work with medical doctors, my immediate knee-jerk reaction was that I would likely be looked down on and placed below them in the organization, and—not being willing to sacrifice my sovereignty and the necessary ability to communicate in an open, lateral fashion—I would not be interested.

Then, I thought, well…actually the answer is much simpler. If the physicians were all at Yellow or above, then I believe I absolutely would, because we would likely share the perspective necessary to develop a model that made sense.


That’s all I have for now. Would love to know any thoughts from anyone out there, particularly from anyone in the medical field. Thanks for reading!


#2

@Heyoka
I replied to you on the other thread. I would love to talk to you about this topic in a public interview at www.thewisdomfactory.net. If you are interested, please contact me. Heidi


#3

@Heyoka, thank you so much for this. What a wonderfully clear and perceptive overview!

From the point of view of the ‘patient/consumer’, this particular orange/green issue that has been simmering along for many decades was for the longest time simply a matter of personal choice and finding the treatment one wanted despite ‘official’ attempts to discredit such things as herbal and homeopathic remedies. And interestingly, it was accompanied by the public’s ever-increasing interest in the rediscovery of old wisdom and the grudging inclusion of certain alternative modalities such as chiropractic by health insurance companies.

However, it is now starting to manifest as a very nasty aspect of the ‘culture wars’, particularly when it comes to vaccination. Eastern medicine sees the so-called ‘childhood diseases’ as Nature’s way of ensuring a healthy gene pool, while Western medicine sees them as a scourge to be eliminated – because now it has the means to do that. Both are right, in their way. Orange seems to be winning this one. And, with mandatory vaccination starting up, it is winning by force, probably because commercial interests are so heavily involved and billions of dollars are spent on spreading the Orange message. Ordinary people are forced to choose sides without really understanding the deeper issues. Yet it is only by understanding the deeper issues that we can have a hope of integrating them and finding a wise path forward.

When science discovered that normal (vaginal) birth plays a role in ‘seeding’ a baby’s immune system, whereas a C-section bypasses this, it simply became a discussion point for women and their obstetricians and a possible factor in influencing their choices. (There are, of course, no huge commercial interests favouring C-sections.) Even though, in this case, the mother’s choice affects her child, nobody has a problem with that. If she chooses not to vaccinate her child, that potentially affects not just her child but all the other children in her community. But if everyone chooses to vaccinate, Nature’s built-in protection of the healthy gene pool is lost, so that, too, affects her community.

Nature is geared towards the health and survival of species and ecosystems, modern humanity is geared towards the health and survival of individuals. Yet the latter is destroying the former. How do we integrate them? How do we use these modern minds of ours to learn to think like a planet?


#4

Im not sure Nature has agency such that it can be geared towards anything. But if it can be geared towards anything a history of nature, I think, would show it is geared to the extinction of species.


#5

Thanks, Heyoka. I appreciate your elaboration on this issue and I agree with your analysis. (I’m involved in working with people with chronic illness (not as a provider). Lynn


#6

Hello Heyoka. Thanks for your analysis of the spiral dynamics stages as they apply to health care. I am an integrative MD, and long time follower of Wilber’s approach to Integral. Your essay and the replies bring up so many issues. Here are a few:
-Each of the new and old alternative therapies has it’s own history and internal logic. I agree that the financial profit constraints would make it exceedingly difficult to scientifically study most forms of herbal and energy medicine.
-People from different memes often are attracted to alternative medicine for different reasons. Premodern people are skeptical of science in the first place. Modern people may come to the conclusion that the scientific method just hasn’t discovered the scientific mechanisms of, let’s say, an herb. Postmodern people see the limitations of science and are more open to alternative worldviews and medical treatments. From second tier and above, seeing the wider perspectives and also the limitations of the various medical approaches comes into clarity.
-People vary in their level of introspection. In general, as people ascend in their stage, they utilize more introspection. But people have various lines, some of which may be higher than others. A higher level of ability to introspecct often leads to a wider view of medical paradigms and treatment possibilities.
-Lower right quadrant is also very important. Alternative treatments often require more financial and educational resources.
-Western medicine is still the dominant mode in our culture. Per the last statistics that I recall, our national budget for health care was $2.5 trillion, of which $50 billion was spent on alternative care, whether on not covered by insurance.
-As for vaccines, this is very complicated. Epidemic diseases became a real threat when humans began living in larger cities, probably a few thousand years ago. Some, like polio, tetanus, and diphtheria should be prevented with vaccines. Some vaccines are for very very rare diseases and are debatable. Some, like the measles vaccine, have changed a minor childhood illness at around age 5 into a dangerous illness at age 1 or adulthood. Issues of freedom vs societal protection are important and do not have easy, black and white answers unless viewed from a strictly amber viewpoint.
Great idea to get this discussion going.