What is Disease?
The common meaning of the word ‘disease’ is “a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body”. However, as with ‘health’, this definition is insufficient to compass or explain most of the suffering of people, for which the original wider meaning of dis-ease, a lack of comfort, might be more appropriate.
A full definition of Disease must include any thought, belief or relationship that makes us believe that we are not free to be ourselves. Our thoughts may no longer be our own thoughts, but become instead the thoughts of others that we have adopted as if they were our own. In such circumstances we may make decisions against our own best interests, or we may forget what those interests really are.
A full definition of Disease must also include any thought, belief or relationship that fosters the delusion that we are separate, alienated from the people and things with which we are surrounded. For many people, the experiences of life have conspired to make this perception so strong, that it may come to seem almost as if it were reality. The evidence from the social sciences and from medicine that this perception can be detrimental to Health is particularly strong.
To those who experience life in these ways, surely all of us to some extent, perception comes to have a reduced “depth of field”. If we are restricted in our ability to refer to ourselves, or to reach out and make meaningful contact with others, then perceptually and experientially we must live our lives in the narrow space between our own surface and the surfaces of what we survey. Since most of the interest, meaning and beauty of life is located beneath these surfaces, and since these surfaces generally give less insight than might be expected into all that lies beyond, those unable to perceive these vital aspects of reality can seem to be pursuing goals that might be considered of low priority or even counterproductive to the ideal ‘Healthy Person’.
There can be little doubt that each person is different to all others, with their own work to do, and that the state of perception that is Healthy for one will not be the same as that which is Healthy for another. However, in all cases it seems clear that Health requires some degree of development in understanding, an evolution in that which is usually called ‘philosophy’ or ‘wisdom’, throughout life.
For this reason Disease could be defined (in addition to the common meaning of the word) as the gap between our current state of perception and that which is Healthy for us as individuals, and anything that obstructs further development in the quality and depth of that perception. Disease in this broader sense is certainly the cause of much disease in the common meaning of the word.
Healing is that which restores perception to its Healthy state and which enables a sufficient flexibility in perception to allow for further advance.