Three Causes of Spiritual Illness
As we pass through life on the physical plane, things happen. We contract flus and colds and viruses, and we sustain physical injuries, like falling off our bikes as children or experiencing sports injuries. As adults, we may throw our back out or experience a serious car accident, in the process, acquiring bruises, cuts, sprains, infections, lacerations, and sometimes broken bones.
Some of us may also experience serious illnesses of an internal nature like cancer or hepatitis, heart disease or multiple sclerosis. Eventually we pass through old age and the progressive infirmity and death of the physical body. These are the givens–they are all to be expected as part of what it means to be an embodied, living being. But these are all effects, and what the shaman is primarily interested in is the cause.
Cause and Effect
In looking through the shamanic healer’s eyes, the ultimate causes of virtually all illness are to be found within the imaginal realms–in those same regions from which illness derives its initial power to affect us adversely. Because of this, it is not enough to simply suppress the effects of illness with medication on the physical plane and hope for the best. For true healing to occur, the causes of the illness must be addressed.
From the shaman’s perspective, there are three classic causes of illness, and interestingly, they are not microbes or bacteria or viruses. Rather, they are negative internal states that appear within us in response to negative or traumatic life experiences. The first among these is disharmony.
Disharmony is what we experience when life suddenly loses its meaning or when we have lost an important connection to life.
Let’s take the case of an elderly couple who have had a long marriage, and suddenly one of them dies. They may not have had a perfect relationship, yet there is a deep bond between them because of all they have shared together. The survivor may go into crisis upon the loss of their mate, and within a short time, he or she may come down with something medically challenging, like cancer. Suddenly, they’re gone too.
The state of disharmony that we experience in response to such life situations causes a diminishment of our personal power. This can happen in a subtle manner on the one hand, or in a catastrophic, life-shaking way on the other like losing your job, and in the process losing your livelihood. When we experience disempowerment, or “power loss,” it affects our energetic matrix, rendering us vulnerable to illness.
The second classic cause of illness is fear. A person who is walking around with a chronic sense of fear gnawing away at them is doubly vulnerable to illness because their anxiety aggressively and progressively diminishes their sense of well-being, and this, in turn, affects their feeling of being safe in the world.
This sense of well-being is the base upon which our personal health system stands. When this foundation is affected negatively, it diminishes the ability of our immune system to function. And when our immune system goes down, we’re in trouble.
It’s not too difficult to see that there is a feedback mechanism at work here. Fear, and the anxiety it creates, produces disharmony. In the same breath, disharmony generates fear, and if the two of them are working together, it doubly affects the protective mantle of the body’s immune system, as well as the energetic matrix. Illness is the inevitable result.
It is no surprise to Western medical practitioners that disharmony and fear can manifest themselves in diseases that are recognizable to science. Almost 500 years ago, the Renaissance physician Paracelsus observed that “the fear of disease is more dangerous than the disease itself.”
This brings us to consider the third classic cause of illness–the phenomenon known to indigenous healers as soul loss.
3 Soul Loss
Among the traditionals, soul loss is regarded as the most serious diagnosis and the major cause of premature death and serious illness, yet curiously, it’s not even mentioned in our Western medical textbooks. The closest acknowledged context is “He/she has lost the will to live”.
In Western society, soul loss is most easily understood as damage to a person’s life essence, a phenomenon that usually occurs in response to trauma. When the trauma are severe, this may result in a fragmentation of that person’s soul cluster, with the shattered soul parts dissociating, fleeing an intolerable situation. In overwhelming circumstances, these soul parts may not return.