Introduction to the E-book Edition
Reading my own Planet Medicine in 2012, decades after its composition, I find not so much an organized thesis as a meandering archive of healing systems and their medicinal meanings. A medley of epiphanies, catharses, and umbrages, it is a rebellion against authority (both medical and literary) inside but also in opposition to the anthropological establishment.
I began writing Planet Medicine in 1976 as a book proposal for Harper and Row. Several editions of the book were published by different companies in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Its last note sounded sometime in 2002. After a gap of a subsequent decade, I find the following: Planet Medicine’s radical proposition is still active. I experienced some of the same “cures” and revelations as back in the day, for the book is full of magical prompts, therapeutic exercises, and shamanic bumps. While some of its lessons got embodied and internalized for me as I wrote it, others had been lost and forgotten, making me a neophyte in my own text. When I traveled the course anew, I became aware of my unconscious imperatives, shallow breaths, and parasitic movements. I was brought into harmony with spirits, and I received a fresh personal transmission.
I believe that Planet Medicine always had this quality, its most redeeming feature: to act as a guide to self-healing.
On the negative side this book is, to my present sensibility, a disorganized jumble of unexamined assertions and partisan didacticisms repeated in shifting contexts, including a number of poorly conceived and lazy paragraphs. I am embarrassed by that aspect, but what can I do? I am no longer the guy who wrote it, and I can’t anymore quiet him down; he is who he is.
Not all of Planet Medicine is a mess—only about a quarter of it, but that’s a lot. Another quarter seems amazing, startling, wonderful. Like any book the other half gets by, though I didn’t think I was writing “any book” at the time: I was conducting prophecy and art. But I had no perspective on the background against which I was generating a shape.
In retrospect, some of Planet Medicine’s predicaments were the result of a careless process and bad decisions. I accrued material uncritically without indexing or correlating it. I went from a proposal for Harper to a revised proposal for Doubleday to a series of drafts for Doubleday to an expanded and revised behemoth over almost twenty-five years. Even in the mid-seventies when I started, I didn’t resolve whether the project was an up-tempo tour of alternative medicines (which is what the acquiring editor at Doubleday preferred), a continuation of my graduate study in ethnomedicine, or a new stage in my then ongoing lineage of experimental prose books from Solar Journal and The Continents (1966–1969) to Book of the Cranberry Islands and The Slag of Creation (1969–1974). In effect, it became a bridge between a twenty-something self, who was already a clash of a compliant academic and a rambunctious artist, and a Saturn-return through fifty-something self, who was vision-questing experientially into systems for acts that he could believe in.
I never resolved the matter, so a series of clashing cadences reflects my default blend of ethnographic documentation, New Age marketing, and Black Mountain rap (with facile parentheses, brackets, and dashes). Some reviewers remarked on how confusing the style was, particularly its back-and-forth nuancing of its own conflicted voice. Hidden in a medical ethnography is a cyclical performance of a ceremony and the composition of an aborted poem.
The Doubleday editors asked me for a last-minute subtitle to discriminate my book from another being published at the time (Theodore Roszak’s Person/Planet), so as not to go up against an author more famous than me. I offered a number of possibilities, each of which they rejected. Then I submitted a playful parody of their own sound bites: From Stone Age Shamanism to Post-Industrial Healing. They loved it, and it stuck.
In the brief life of the Doubleday edition (1979) and the eighties that followed, Planet Medicine had many advocates. Read by a generation, it was a contributor to the revival of alternative medicine in the West and was seminal in numerous career choices and career changes. A required text in courses in alternative medicine, history of medicine, anthropology, and philosophy, it was also assigned in osteopathic and Traditional Chinese Medicine colleges. For a number of years it was placed on reading lists of conventional medical schools as an intro to complementary views and procedures. On that basis, I was invited to address incoming medical students in San Francisco during their orientation period. The edition was translated into German as Wege des Heilens (Ways of Health). Yet after Doubleday lost half its print run in the warehouse, it elected not to reprint, making the book’s tenure a mere 3,000 units.
After it went out of print in 1980, a year after its pub date, I sold the rights, and it was republished in 1983. Though the pages were badly rendered the first time on a belt press (with sections of broken type), the new publisher (Shambhala) understandably did not want to pay for a whole new typesetting job. They reproduced the existing text cheaply with a photo-offset version. I was permitted to rewrite some material in the Reich chapter (a mess because of Doubleday’s historic permissions issues with the Reich estate) and also to update the book with what was essentially a second, shorter Planet Medicine at the end of the first as an epilogue.
The Shambhala edition went out of print almost as quickly, and the rights reverted again to me. I published two subsequent North Atlantic editions, essentially reprints of the Shambhala version, the first in 1985. In the predigital days of publishing, once a text was typeset it was “frozen” on the page. Without changing the type I could make only minor revisions.
Yet I was dissatisfied with where the book had landed because, needless to say, it didn’t keep up with my research. I should have written a second book: Planet Medicine Revisited or somesuch. But I was attached to the generic vessel. I paid for a re-keyboarding of the Shambhala edition and siphoned my discoveries from twelve or so years into its matrix. The sudden digital fluidity of the publication process by comparison with the constraints of the past encouraged me to indulge, so I poured out the entire contents of my medicine bundle. I retained almost everything from the Doubleday and Shambhala editions while inserting new stuff in its expanding grid and along the margins, running my narratives together in an undifferentiated scroll. I created such a heap of text that I then had to split it into two larger volumes while pulling the homeopathy chapters into a smaller book called Homeopathy: An Introduction for Beginners and Skeptics. This essentially buried a potential “hit single” in an imposing encyclopedia of albums. Whatever the Doubleday book lacked in content and style, it at least had a shape and integrity of composition plus a spontaneous energy and manageable size that attracted readers. The new presentation sacrificed all that for thoroughness of topic.
The many voices and periods of Planet Medicine now spoke in tandem and chorus. If a point was made in 1978, it might have been framed in different ways in 1982, 1994, 1999. Well, they are all here, either in a row or distributed throughout the text. In some instances, reiteration might be helpful for readers encountering complex material for the first time, but most of it seems belabored and retentive, as though I was stuck in a rut—a meaningful rut but a rut all the same. I never resized Planet Medicine; I merely poured its myriad views into the same vessel. So the text goes up and down, back and forth, like a car on a bumpy and winding road, honking its anti-allopathy horn at unprovoked intervals. It never makes the absolute progress it should for that many hours on the road with that much petrol consumed.
Instead of archiving all and everything, I should have gone back to square one for either the first or second revised edition and sorted from there. I should have cut blatant duplications and reorganized core issues. Either that, or I should have left the original tome to history and, like other respectable authors, written a fresh book.
To the degree that I even intuited the problem, I solved a different one: I gathered more or less relevant art and instructed our designer to make the two large volumes more reader-friendly. I named the first, which had most of the initial three-quarters of the Doubleday text (minus the homeopathy), Planet Medicine: Origins. Completed afterward, Planet Medicine: Modalities received pretty much the last quarter of original book, the Shambhala material, and the bulk of my new paradigm sets. Within ten years I revised all three volumes again, changing the title of the peripheral book to Homeopathy: The Great Riddle.
In particular in my revisionary view of Planet Medicine, I feel as though my snide critique of mainstream AMA allopathic medicine is both shrill and tiresome. In my mind I keep saying, “Richard, enough already. You’ve made your point.” I search my present perspective for why I thought it necessary to bang the gong so many times. It is a pesky doo-wop indeed.
Then there is this major residual issue: Planet Medicine is not even really about medicine, not in the conventional sense anyway, which is its central problem and an intrinsic flaw. The book is about the esoteric and psychospiritual aspects of health and disease, the “self-cure” contained in any medicinal act, and the potential for knowledge and personal improvement in healing crises. It is certainly not about the medical aspect of medicines. As one reviewer noted, it is about the ancient and oft-ignored notion of disease (and healing) as a crucible for inner development. It likewise doesn’t distinguish among healing of the body, healing of the mind, and healing of the spirit—they are run together.
In that sense, I abandoned my readers outside a critical distinction: most cultures and individuals want first and foremost to get better—to dispel malaises and bind wounds in order make living bearable. Most people want to be able to get up in the morning without pain, free of systemic weakness and organ immobility, and not under a malignant threat to their existence. That’s the whole point of medicine, yet I let it slide right by!
Esoteric medicine is a luxury. Few people prioritize disease as a spiritual crucible or karmic opportunity. Nonetheless I dived right into it as if its primacy were obvious, never respecting the fundamental “fixit” nature of all medical systems or proceeding chronologically from ancient herbs and bone-setting to modern surgery and pharmaceuticals. By default I merged all of the developmental stages of “fixit” medicine into shamanic, phenomenological, transpersonal, and cross-cultural contexts, seeking only their subtexts, latent meanings, and metaphysical embeddings without telling anyone what the surface texts, terms, and mission were. I did not deal with medicine in its own context.
Really, a book that purports to be a history and anthropology of healing should have begun with a pass over practical ethnomedicine followed by a discussion of Rationalism and Empiricism in Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Hebrew, Persian, Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese systems, withholding existential and shamanic overlays for the conclusion. By opening my revised volumes with the relativistic nature of all diseases and cures (1995’s priority) and then following with the origin of healing in vision quests (1977’s priority), I squandered an opportunity to move from pragmatic medicine in all its guises to meanings of those forms.
In addition, I was one life lesson short of what I needed in order to make the text really work; I had not explored psychic healing yet.
When I originally began Planet Medicine in the 1970s, it was a literary and anthropological enterprise. I was going on my childhood psychoanalysis, my undergraduate Jungian reading, my graduate training in cross-cultural framing, my exploration of homeopathy (initially as part of my graduate work too), and my empathic grasp of shamanic issues from a study of occult science that began with a deck of tarot cards in high school. It was a purely intellectual, emotional quest; I envisioned something like the thesis I had wanted to write (but was dissuaded from) in graduate school. After eight years of fieldwork and teaching after my coursework, I had an advance from Doubleday to write that “thesis” at last.
Planet Medicine’s viability and oomph came from the fact that I was able to meld a psychoanalytic vision (e.g., “Freud, Reich, and Jung”—a course I taught several times in the early seventies at Goddard College) with my metaphysical studies and ethnographic material. In that sense I reenacted Carlos Castaneda’s shamanic synthesis but in a library and on a psychoanalytic rather than an entheogenic basis.
As I rewrote Planet Medicine in the eighties and then the nineties, I was being trained in bodywork, martial arts, and Qigong, so I added lessons in healing touch, conscious breath, and energy transmission. I would have had another key peg if I had begun psychic work before revising. Yet it was not until 2008 that I entered into an experiential study of psychic systems. Much of Planet Medicine is legitimately seminal to my embarking on that path, but I can’t get around the fact that I had no psychic experience as I put down its layers—and I sorely needed it.
If I had had the knowledge then that I do now, I would have addressed vitalism, faith healing, shamanic healing, homeopathy, and many of the other systems in less bashful terms and would have had the wherewithal to separate muddled meanings of different intentions and energies. Instead I indiscriminately invoked spirits, transdimensional planes, occult radiations and codes, and all manner of scalar, holographic, nonergodic and transductive metaphors willy-nilly. With the training I got subsequently, I would have keyed a range of metaphysical healing actions from shamanism to cranial osteopathy around two simple realities: that the body-mind has more planes available to it than are accessible by ordinary physical means, and that we can’t ply the imperceptible universe directly so we have to ply it indirectly through operations that approximate its “seeming” properties of synchronicity, telekinesis, alien transmission, symbolic transubstantiation, and the like. We have to act as though spirits and hyperspatial energies abound and interlope, whether they do or not, in order to activate an extant system that is everywhere and in every appearance, both ordinary and extraordinary, both dust-to-dust and magic. Whether it works by placebo and autosuggestion, psychosocial induction, or some unknown mechanism is all but irrelevant, for the issue is solely whether a sick person gets well. European homeopathy, Chinese Qigong, and Navaho sand-painting are equally field disturbances, emergent forms, and nonequilibrium dynamisms that shatter existing complexes and the paradigms that support them in order to create new meanings as well as new stages of health, harmony, and soul recovery.
Activated intention is not minor or subsidiary; it has a central basis, both cosmological and ontological, in an expanding universe. That is something I set myself up to learn from later psychic teachers by writing Planet Medicine in my youth, but I didn’t know it while I wrote it. What I knew was that shamans and healers knew it.
The rituals and language of all ethnomedical systems are cultural and characterological; they function as symbols and semes as well as treatments—that is how they link properties and acts. They are never literal in a literal sense, though they are literal because there is no other way to get to the same place, at least not in discrete circumstances (and what else is there in the hospital or the kiva but unique sociocultural and psycholinguistic events). This is true for agency in homeopathy, acupuncture, kachina-dancing, Reiki, faith-healing, etc.: the specific method is both arbitrary and indispensable; it doesn’t mean what it says, it doesn’t even mean what it does, but it is the only way there—the only way to the same meaning and action. So it does mean exactly what it says and does. The universe has a bias toward solving its own truth mystery—its own healing crisis—through us to boot, so it always provides humans with absolute tools in relative circumstances and leaves it up to us to make our individual journeys through its rich and diverse landscapes to get ourselves there. I had no way of saying that then, so I burbled on about paraphysical energies and psychic (or voodoo) transmission systems. It’s all good, but it sure makes for tough sledding.
As it stands, Planet Medicine works as a kind of encyclopedia of alternative, spiritual, and non-Western medicine—not only the medicines themselves as principles and techniques but their sources, paths of evolution, and hidden meanings. You can dip into it happily at any point, or you can look up individual modalities. I may not have distinguished the psychosomatic from the psychic, the pragmatic from the synchronistic, but that isn’t a problem at the book’s level. I did that later, so I direct you to some of my subsequent takes. In a 2007 essay “On Healing” in The Bardo of Waking Life, I summarized Planet Medicine in twenty pages. Its key themes are there in epitome and synopsis. I originally wrote the piece as a preface to a book entitled Calm Healing in which authors Ruth Miller and Robert Newman simplified all acts of healing to a combination of meditation, placebo activation, and the internalization of therapeutic runes and syllables.
I added the missing psychic component in my three-volume book Dark Pool of Light: Reality and Consciousness, written between 2010 and 2012. If you want to go to the next phase of this topic, that’s where to find it. The following are the themes of Planet Medicine as I see it:
Orthodox Western medicine is only one medical system; it is not the endpoint of medicine or even a present threshold to such an endpoint. Elements of it may be discrete, final, proven down to their mere and absolute laws of strong and weak gravity, but the system itself is temporary, relative, indeterminate. Its robots and labs are super-powerful now, but we have no idea how super-powerful and effective the curative acts of shamans were amid our forebears during the Stone Age, and we also have no idea of what’s coming down the pike, let alone what’s being practiced, beyond technology, in other star systems.
Even when new alternative medicines are based on ancient and traditional practices, they are not faithful renditions of those indigenous forms; they are the reinvention and evolution of some of their source terms under a different historical and cultural alias. A future medicine conflating craniosacral therapy, homeopathy, power runes, energetic palpation, and cell transference will reflect shamanic Stone Age medicine from the other end of the universe.
Vision quest is the primary and original source of scientific data. This was true in the Stone Ages and is true now. All that has changed is the terms of the vision quest, from nature to culture and from animal and plant voices to machine and robot ones. A vision quest must always encompass the following: a crisis of information and understanding, a self-healing, and a transmission of terms from a higher or different mode of intelligence. And that transmission must be radical and personally radicalizing. A real healer must be a healed (made) person too.
Unconscious projection of both health and disease from a doctor or healer is as powerful as any strategy or plan. Despite the concrete nature of comparative anatomy and pathology, there are no hard or categorical diseases. All diseases are subject to relative nomenclatures and protocols of reporting organic, social, and phenomenological processes and their symbolic categories. The line separating fighting from love-making and love-making from healing is contextual only.
Cures are never what they seem; they create (as they cross) categories of language and metalanguage; they depend always and obscurely on systems of belief as well as acts and their results. If you don’t believe this, look more closely at everything, everything you have experienced and everything you have observed anyone else experiencing.
There is never a clear line between health and disease. Nor is there one between either one of them and the sheer turbulence and static of beingness. Any discussion of health and disease is a discussion of existential being. It is likewise impossible to tell the difference between a cure and remission—between a disease that has gone away (been cured) and a disease that has turned into something else. Every disease is simultaneously cultural, ecological, semiological, and somatic; likewise every cure. This is less obvious in cases of generally accepted disease categories and well-defined individual ailments, especially where there has been a reversal or elimination of clear-cut symptoms. But a closer look shows that it is always true because there is always more than one level (or layer) of a disease as well as of its symptoms, and always more than one layer of that pathology’s happy resolution or unhappy intractability and escalation.
This principle is dramatically illustrated by two famous recent cases of sophisticated biologists who crossed the scientific and medical establishment with radical ideas. Peter Duesberg challenged the almost universal recognition of HIV as the cause of AIDS (or even AIDS as a legitimate disease category), claiming that its horrific ravages, in Africa for instance, represent a host of different autoimmune, wasting, recreational-drug, and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as poverty, malnutrition, and abuse of pharmaceuticals.
Stanislaw Burzynski similarly challenged the American Medical Association (AMA), the Texas Medical Board, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute, and Big Pharma with his “cancer cure” known as antineoplastons.
Both men persisted in their views for decades (and continue to persist) while defying and rebutting all attempts to silence them. Both suffered major blowback professionally, as they were widely characterized as frauds and quacks and forfeited their standings in the scientific and medical community. Both fought continual legal battles not to lose their tenure or livelihood or license and, in Burzynski’s case, to be allowed to continue manufacturing and dispensing his drugs, treat his patients, avoid multimillion-dollar fines, and stay out of jail.
By 2012 Duesberg would seem to have lost his battle insofar as AIDS is more rather than less established as a real disease category and it has also seemingly been treated successfully with exactly the kinds of antiretroviral and “cocktail” drugs that Duesberg said would only kill patients by further compromising their immune systems. Burzynski has seemingly been demonstrated to have patented a medicine that already existed in numerous well-established and natural forms and to have overcharged desperate patients for its use. His “medicine” has also ostensibly failed every clinical trial.
Yet AIDS still has not behaved like an ordinary transmittable disease or even had a consistent form from culture to culture, while not all HIV-positive individuals develop AIDS symptoms (and HIV-negative patients who do develop those symptoms are routinely assigned to other disease categories). The expected AIDS epidemic (predicted to follow the exponential pattern of prior global flu and polio epidemics) also never occurred.
It is not clear whether AIDS is now manageable, whether it never existed as such in the first place, whether a different epidemic (or epidemics) not associated with the HIV retrovirus ran their own course, or whether HIV is a co-factor and not a sole or sufficient cause of the AIDS symptom complex—and that is not a complete list of possibilities.
What remains inexplicable in Burzynski’s case, especially if his medicines are, as claimed by various establishments, inactive, tautological, criminally simplistic or naïve, and at best placebos, is the large number of cases of cure of advanced and terminal cancers, especially numerous aggressive brain tumors (many of them in young children), after his administration of his laboratory’s drugs. It is also unclear why the Government (through the FDA and the Texas Medical Board) held multiple grand juries in failed attempts to indict Burzynski for more than a decade during the 1980s and 1990s while it attempted, at the same time, through the United States Patent Office and National Cancer Institute, to replicate and re-patent his already-patented drugs under other names. Are we looking at real medical fraud (and by which party)? Is the FDA protecting the public from quacks or large pharmaceutical companies from competition for their profits now generated by high-tech AIDS and cancer industries (which the FDA shares through tithing-level fees)?
Is it not possible that in both instances (Duesberg and Burzynski) we are looking at unknown effects or unknown combinations and synergies of effects leading to both disease complexes and their cures; perhaps unidentified or obscure interactions of cell states, transpersonal symbols, cultural categories, placebo effects, and immune triggers or even archetypal and synchronistic events on large scales or in collective forms that have no ordinary causation chain or explanation?
Was the AIDS epidemic halted by increased public awareness of its causes and new drugs or did “it” halt itself? Could Burzynski be dispensing something other than his drugs, perhaps at an energetic or psychic/shamanic level or even at some mysterious astrocartographic frequency, something that neither he nor his opponents (and competitors) are aware of, that works in part by dissuading (or removing) patients from toxic doses of radiation and chemotherapy?
Because these questions have no consistent or certifiable answers, their battles continue to be fought in courts, media, and academic and professional societies, as members of the public (on both sides of the issues) are outraged at either the stupidity and gullibility or the cravenness, arrogance, and greed of their opponents.
In a mundane sense, disease is pathology, compromised organs and functions—that is as plain as day. Esoterically, though, disease is spirit intrusion, even in modern life. All disease is, at core, spiritual (spirit) disease or metaphysical disease in that all diseases post extrinsic messages into the organism and engage with it in the creation of new languages and ways of talking to its “self.” Every physical disease and every mental disease has a spiritual and karmic basis, but that doesn’t mean that they are represented only by their karmic meanings or that the spiritual meanings take precedent over bump effects in bodily space.
The most effete metaphysical off-body approaches to holistic healing as well as the subtlest manual, symbolic, and shamanic tactics are meant to deal with everything in the name of disease and healing, from states of possession without designation to pathologies for which science has serious names like AIDS, cancer, heart disease, strokes, autoimmune dysfunction, etc. Every healing is a mode of cultural balancing, a community resolution of meanings and acts going forward.
The goal of holistic medicine is to treat the greater organism always, not single organs, even if organs are the proximal sites of distress and peril.
One’s own habit of self-cure is the most basic means of healing. When someone gets sick, what fails first is the loop of self-cure—and this doesn’t (or doesn’t only) indict the immune system. It cascades across various languages, including character, ego, and other subcellular and hormonal signaling, in which a person continues to address him- or herself, unconsciously and prelinguistically as well as mentally and semantically. Every ailment is also a “narcissism” or it wouldn’t take hold.
Every medicine that instigates a physical change sets in motion a chain of symbolic transformations and psychosomatic phase states of a different order. They are often more significant in their outcome than the target event. Healing is signs speaking to signs, codes to codes.
Real healing means real change and the transduction of disease into something else, e.g., freedom and health. The homeopathic microdose is a perfect metaphor, if not an actual nano-spark, for activating the laws of cure. A real and deep cure jolts an organism into changing by breaking into not only its morphogenetic codes but its semiologies. Rudolf Steiner’s alphabet of eurythmy is a near-comical trope of the affair.
The most powerful medicines are autonomous, latent, part of the systemic basis of the biology of being. The ultimate medicine is dream medicine.
The lighter and more internal the treatment, the deeper and truer its healing effect. Surgery, radiation, and pharmaceuticals are never vectors of healing; what they are is crisis management, disaster prevention, symptom alleviation, life extension. One has to follow nature’s laws of cure for real healing: from the inside out, from the past to the present, from a ping to an event, from a subwave to its long wave.
The most penetrating diagnoses and treatments are not made by using exogenous disease categories but by reading character and matching the character of a cure with the character of a disease. This is not just character in the personality sense but character as a patterned replica and signature of energy; e.g., the peacock’s feathers, the flounder’s gait, the crab’s shell, the neurotic’s phobias, the clinical patient’s fractured dance of symptoms and failed self-cures.
Character is also cultural, which situates the relative symbolic basis of all medicinal systems. Whether into a shaman’s hut or an urban medical office, the patient is entering a context, and the character of his (or her) disease will be “acculturized” not only in definition and accoutrements but in application and final assessment.
In some fashion all medical systems are frauds and symbolic displacements. Placebo effect is part of any treatment, any cure. The real unknown source of health is coterminous with the real unknown source of body-mind: the embryonic metamorphosis of molecules into autonomous creatures. Each nameable disease is merely a symptom of a real disease that is unnameable and unknowable.
All healing ultimately must tap the embryogenic stem energy of the body. Vital and invisible energies are precisely that: vital and invisible. Something induced molecules to make cells and cells to make organisms and it wasn’t just entropy or thermodynamics under boundary conditions of membranes and tissue subsystems.
Death is not a failure of healing but part of the cosmic system and inevitable. Some ailments must conclude in death—this is where the esoteric nature of disease collides unhappily with the commoditization of healthcare and sends corporate and national debts spiraling. Death is also healing, for it conducts the psychospiritual organism to its next phase, clearing otherwise incurable illnesses and dressing the spirit core for its return to the cosmic incarnational cycle. Even if you don’t believe in this cycle (and, regardless of your beliefs, you are subject to it insofar as it exists), death is the ultimate cleanser. It creates a transpersonal chrysalis—socially for the friends and relatives of the sick person, culturally for the flow of history, ecologically for a material-weary planet, and existentially for the organism that has run its course and grown too weary and sluggish to respond to its own vital force.
I recognize that Planet Medicine—all its phases and tributaries—holds a nonlinear view of a moment in history and our culture. Writers tend to repeat revelations that are cutting-edge and profound at the time. They seem so fresh and novel that they cast a mirage of unbounded applicability. Holistic health and alternative medicine have gone so far and so fast in their own development as well as in public acceptance that many of the issues I am stressing back then seem obsolete today, even pedantic. From a medical standpoint, that’s good—we are in a more enlightened era. But the book itself remains in the Dark Ages, crying out for a new paradigm.
In November 2012 as I was rereading Planet Medicine, a fan in Toronto posted an enthusiastic call-out to the print version on my Facebook page, saying that it continued to inspire her and thanking me for having written it. I responded that coincidentally I was checking it for an e-book version and troubled by its sloppy presentation. I thanked her for giving me encouragement and energy to carry on. She wrote back:
“It’s no skin off the world’s teeth to put knowledge in the context of its time; every author’s caged in the moment, personal and global. It’s always great to get revisionary forewords that give us the writer’s own view on the work years on, but don’t be so discomfited by the gentle facts of change and the ways we evolve our understandings. Planet Medicine is an excellent and important book published at a time when medical anthropology really needed it…and absolutely, here’s to unlimited energy for going forward!!”
Now that’s a great reader. So, here’s to revisionary forewords as well as unlimited healing energy.