Energy Medicine and the Politics (Politeia) of Health
“Politics” is derived from the juicier Greek word, “politeia,” which implies an active engagement in which people empower each other to enhance their communities. – Jean Houston
“The Earth is what we all have in common.”
The Body’s Two Ways of Protecting Itself Are Microcosms of What Is Playing Out in the Culture
Donna Eden and David Feinstein
The “body politic” is a metaphor for looking to the physical body to better understand the principles that govern society. It traces back at least to Greece in the 6th century BC. The King, for instance, was sometimes seen as the body’s head, with the legs as the “common people.” In one of Aesop’s fables, the legs were upset because the stomach was receiving all the food. You can see the possibilities for playing with the metaphor. As medical knowledge advanced during the Renaissance, analogies were drawn between the causes of disease and their equivalents in the societal realm.
While such “as below, so above” analogies are always over-simplifications, they can also be quite instructive. As we delve deeper into the Politeia of Health, the way the immune system operates provides a powerful metaphor for the well-being of society.
Anyone who has looked into the body’s ways of protecting itself has to be impressed with the intelligence and creativity of the immune system. The immune system keeps a record of every microorganism it has ever defeated so it can quickly recognize and destroy that microbe if it enters the body again. Not only does it detect and attack cunning invaders and protect us from environmental pollutants, it devises endless strategies for keeping the body healthy and vibrant.
From an Energy Medicine perspective, the body actually has two immune systems, or at least the immune system has two arms: the “Triple Warmer” meridian and the “Radiant Circuits.” They operate very differently, yet they need to work in concert for the body’s optimum functioning. When these arms of the immune system are not acting in harmony, health suffers, sometimes dramatically. Such is the case today with imbalances between these forces in the Body Politic.
Triple Warmer aggressively mobilizes all the systems in your body to fight. Its singular focus when a threat appears is on your survival. At such times, Triple Warmer has no interest in your happiness—only in keeping you alive. Meanwhile the Radiant Circuits are continually organizing all the systems in your body to promote your health using the strategies of harmony, cooperation, and generating joy. Both are vital. Understandably, however, Triple Warmer gets priority in an emergency.
Why is Triple Warmer called “Triple Warmer”? Triple Warmer works in conjunction with the hypothalamus gland, the body’s thermostat and instigator of the fight-or-flight response. In the states of fight, flight, or calm, Triple Warmer heats the body in three different ways. When the body is in relative balance, heat is distributed evenly throughout. When you become angry and ready to fight, heat and energy rise. The chest, neck, face, and arms become red and flushed with blood in preparation for battle. When your body prepares you to run away from danger, the heat and energy leave the upper part of your body and go to your legs so you can run faster. That is why your face turns white when you are terrified. These three different ways of regulating the body’s heat and energies earned Triple Warmer its name.
In response to danger, Triple Warmer operates like a military force. The cellular level of the immune system—with its lymphocytes, thymocytes, memory B cells, helper and killer T cells, antigens, and antibodies—is a military-like display that is dazzling in its design, complexity, and intelligence. Triple Warmer operates as a King who can conscript an army from the various locales, organs, and other energy systems. It has full authority. It can draft so much energy from other energy systems that important functions become temporarily incapacitated—all presumptively for the common good. The parallels between the Triple Warmer’s strategies and a nation’s military (protecting against outside invaders) and police force (patrolling the local inhabitants) are inescapable. Passed down from one generation to the next, Triple Warmer’s strategies evolved over many millions of years. Prototypes of the army’s most basic maneuvers trace back at least to protozoa, which had, more than two billion years ago, learned to recognize and destroy foreign intruders.
If Triple Warmer mobilizes your “inner militia,” the Radiant Circuits mobilize your “inner mom.” They support, inspire, strengthen, and cajole all your organs and energy systems to function as a tightly knit family. Whereas Triple Warmer protects you using the principle of conflict and the emotion of fear, the Radiant Circuits protect you using the principle of harmony and the emotion of joy. Their idea of a good defense is a radiant and well-integrated community of organs, glands, vessels, and energies. Rather than relying on a military approach, the defensive strategy used by the Radiant Circuits resembles that of community policing, where police officers see their job as helping the local community become strong and naturally resistant to crime.
Interestingly, not only do protozoa exhibit the prototype of Triple Warmer’s strategies, Donna also “sees” Radiant Circuit energies if she looks at a protozoan through a microscope. This energy coordinates all the parts into synchronized activity.
Triple Warmer and the Radiant Circuits complement one another. It’s a brilliant plan–build harmony and resilience day-in and day-out; mobilize against danger when necessary. And it usually works! After all, we did get from protozoan to human with this basic arrangement intact over eons of evolution. What could go wrong?
When Triple Warmer begins to code what is not a threat as a threat, the body can go haywire. A strawberry may cause the entire body to break out in a rash. A peanut may lead to anaphylactic shock. In autoimmune illnesses – such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, Addison’s disease, and multiple sclerosis—Triple Warmer directs the body to attack its own tissue. Because the body is designed to give Triple Warmer priority when it detects danger, such “false news” can overwhelm the body, throwing it into a constant state of Triple Warmer alert and feverish activity. The Radiant Circuits are not only put on the back burner, Triple Warmer “conscripts” energy from them to aid in its own battle.
This is exactly what is playing out now, writ large in the “Body Politic.” One of David’s teachers, the great scholar of the world’s mythologies and wisdom traditions, Joseph Campbell, believed that if humanity is to survive, at least one archaic but dominating myth must be transformed. While all mythological systems direct the "expansive faculty of the heart" toward the in-group, they deliberately direct "every impulse toward violence" at the out-group.
The emblem of the mythology begging to be born is, for Campbell, the photo from outer space showing the Earth as a beautiful, blue, but utterly indivisible home. The shrinking globe dictates that humanity can no longer afford to use "out-groups" as containers for its projections and destructive impulses. If we learn to cooperate, we all stand to win. If we don’t, we all stand to lose. So far, humanity is somewhere in the middle in fully grasping this fundamental truth.
At the physiological level, Triple Warmer codes parts of the body as a threat and attacks them. At the social level, the energy of Triple Warmer identifies those with differing viewpoints as the enemy and directs hatred and aggression their way.
The reasons for this archaic myth are nicely explained by our luminous colleague, Rick Hanson:
Until just 10,000 years ago, for millions of years primates, hominids, and early humans lived in hunter-gatherer groups that bred mainly within the band while competing intensely with other bands for scarce resources. Therefore, genes got passed on that promoted better cooperation inside a band and better aggression between bands. . . .
Bands kept their distance from each other, and when they met, they often fought. So it's natural to fear the stranger – who, back in the Stone Age, with no police around, was often a lethal threat. The related impulse to dehumanize and attack "them" also worked well (in terms of passing on genes) for millions of years.
The attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was an emblematic instance of Triple Warmer energy turning on the body of which it is a part. But we are seeing this every day with increasingly hateful and violent language and actions becoming commonplace. Whether you tend to identify with the more protective energies of Triple Warmer or the more collaborative energies of the Radiant Circuits, you probably feel these Triple Warmer tendencies in yourself. Anger toward the “other side” is erupting everywhere. The most extreme form of this in the body is cancer. The body is attacking itself in ways that will be lethal if not contained.
How do we contain these forces within the culture? First, we need to understand them within ourselves. We all have the patterning of Triple Warmer and the patterning of the Radiant Circuits deep in our DNA. Are they in harmony within you? Have your Triple Warmer-activated fears forced your Radiant Circuits into the background? (While it is not our purpose with these essays to promote our programs, many people are not familiar or conversant with this vital energy system, and if you want to learn more, you might consider this free class about the Radiant Circuits).
Second, we need to recognize that treating cancer in the body, or violent unrest in the Body Politic, requires a major intervention. It’s not business as usual. The strategies and teamwork of Triple Warmer and the Radiant Circuits have already broken down. Strong and creative actions are required. As Jean Houston says in our opening quote, “politeia is an active engagement in which people empower each other to enhance their communities.” As such politeia is more than a term to describe a vision. It holds a power and spirit of the community that we can learn to tap into and work with for co-creating a possible world that works for all. We have asked Jean to be the first of a number of people who will be guest contributors to this series. She has agreed, and her topic, our next installment, will be “Harnessing the Energies of Politeia.”
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