My medical career has essentially spanned the same time frame as the AIDS “epidemic”. When I entered medical school in 1980, we began to hear of this new illness showing up in gay men in New York and San Francisco. When I graduated in 1984, many deaths had resulted from this mysterious new illness. By the time I finished residency, it was announced that the cause had been discovered, a major first step in the path to controlling this devastating illness. Even then, though, some things didn’t seem to make sense.Throughout my medical training we were taught that, with viral infections, two “arms”of the immune system get involved, the cellular and the humoral. The cellular immune system is based on white blood cells and rids of us of invaders by engulfing and digesting micro-organisms such as viruses and bacteria. The signs of activation of the cellular immune system include fever, mucus, and often rash, as the white blood cells digest and excrete unwanted foreign substances. The consequences of the cellular immune system are the signs of illness that we see and that make us feel sick. The humoral immune system is the memory part of our immune response. It is the part that makes antibodies tailored to specific invaders that tag and remember these substances.
In the normal course of a viral infection, both arms of the immune system are involved. As an example, with chickenpox we see signs of activation of the cellular arm with the fever, mucus, cough and rash that characterize this illness. As with most viral infections, the signs of the illness are almost identical in type, if not in severity, across all people. In other words, chickenpox almost always gives the same type of rash, lasts the same length of time, etc., no matter who gets the illness. Next, the humoral immune system is activated, and six weeks later antibodies are produced which impart life-long immunity to the illness.
With this new disease of AIDS, the interpretation of how the viral immune system works seemed to change. For the first time we were being told that, even though every case of AIDS was caused by the same virus, there were many possible manifestations of this viral disease. And, shocking to me at the time, I remember distinctly finding out that the diagnosis of the illness was based on a test that detected antibodies in the blood to the HIV virus. What?! I had been taught for years that when we produce antibodies to a virus, this means we are immune to that virus. Why now, all of sudden, does detecting antibodies to a virus mean it is the virus making us sick? For me, this would be akin to saying that the German measles virus, when contracted by adults, can cause a kind of arthritis. With that line of “logic” when a middle-aged person comes in complaining of joint pains, we would do an antibody test, discover the antibodies (because the person did have German measles as a child) and then pronounce that it must be the German measles virus that is causing the illness. This is a mis-interpretation. We generally assume that the fact that we have antibodies mean we are immune. Why would it be different for HIV?
Subsequently other unusual facts and diagnostic discrepancies started to emerge from the AIDS crisis. We were told that the HIV virus was contracted through sexual or blood born contact. This was not the first such micro-organism to have this characteristic. All sexually-transmitted diseases are, of course, transmitted only through direct sexual contact, including herpes, Chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and many others. However, unlike AIDS, all of these illnesses share the characteristic of being almost equally present in both males and females. With AIDS, at least in the US, for the first time a sexually-transmitted illness has stayed almost predominantly within one sexual group, that is gay men (over 90% of the deaths in the US have been in gay men).
Additionally, with other blood-born illness such as hepatitis C, many cases are eventually found among the medical profession, due to the risk of inadvertently spreading the virus through needle sticks, a risk predominantly born by medical and dental workers. Inexplicably, with AIDS, as far as I know, only two dentists in the entire 25-year history of AIDS have contracted AIDS with no other risk factors (gay male, IV drug abuser, etc.). This, of course, might lead us to the question whether these two dentists were completely forthcoming in their answers about their risk factors.
The final unusual diagnostic discrepancy of the AIDS epidemic was that over the years, numerous patients, supposedly numbering in the thousands, who were found to suffer from the full blown AIDS illness, had no detectable levels of antibodies in their blood. In fact, they had no evidence of any sort of having a viral infection, even antibodies, but because they had all the AIDS symptoms, it was assumed that they must have had the virus at least at some point. This was an unprecedented conclusion.
Sometime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the safe sex campaign began, and at the same time we saw as the introduction of the different categories of AIDS drugs, each supposedly targeting different aspects of the virus’s life cycle. What was once considered an early death sentence became a manageable disease, albeit with many unpleasant and even life-threatening consequences. This brings us to the present, where the dire consequences of the AIDS epidemic predicted in this country have largely proved to be unfounded. Back in the 1980s we were told that unless a vaccine was quickly discovered, we were basically doomed as a species because the virus would quickly spread throughout the heterosexual population, as had other sexually transmitted diseases. Twenty-five years later there is no vaccine in sight, there have been rare illness in those without risk factors (i.e. gay men, IV drug use, co-existing other sexually transmitted illness, malnutrition, etc) and, even today, fewer people die of AIDS in this country than in car accidents or of alcoholism.
But what about Africa? Don’t the AIDS experts tell us that unless massive action is taken the HIV virus will soon wipe out the economies and viability of different cultures in many African countries? Again, some inconsistencies exist in these predictions. For starters, people in Africa are rarely actually tested for the HIV virus when they are either screened or diagnosed with AIDS. The cases, as in this country, almost uniformly occur in people with other risk factors for illness. These include the some of the same risk factors of gay male sex, IV drug abuse, malnutrition, co-existing sexually transmitted illness. But they also include the specifically African issues of TB, malaria, as well as many other unchecked infectious illness existing in people highly exposed to environmental toxins amid a huge burden of poverty and social unrest. As with most illness, if one examines the epidemiological data, the best conclusion one can draw is that the poorer, the more malnourished, the more exposed to TB, malaria, toxic waste, and social disharmony that a person or culture experiences, the more likely they are to get sick with AIDS. This is highly unusual way for a virus to behave, one from which we supposedly have no natural defenses. These and many other issues surrounding the AIDS controversy have been extensively documented in all sorts of sources over the past twenty years. I would refer all my readers to the book by Christine Maggiore, What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?, the website www.virusmyth.org, and the article in the March 2006 issue of Harper’s magazine about the inconsistencies of the AIDS-HIV connection and the problem with the HIV drugs (available online at www.harpers.org/OutOfControl.html).
This is not a closed case. Many questions remain that need to be answered, and more to be asked. As we gear up to spend almost unlimited resources fighting this virus, it behooves us all to find out more about the facts behind this perplexing epidemic.
Goethe, considered by many to be the father of modern scientific thinking as well as a great literary figure, urged physicians and scientists to be students of the book of nature. Modern, western-trained physicians generally put no stock in this dictum. Sadly the same can be said even for some who claim the mantle of “natural” or holistic health practitioners. It is not enough to use so-called natural medicines or vitamins. Rather, it is the thought process that determines whether medicine is “natural”.
“Right” therapeutic thinking involves the process of envisioning the human being as an integral part of the local and cosmic world. Right therapeutic thinking embraces the alchemical dictum of “as above, so below” as it attempts to understand the hidden processes that result in health and illness. Rather than seeing isolated symptoms and addressing them with chemical medicines, surgery or radiation, the true natural practitioner tries to educate the person back to health. He or she does this through a radically different envisioning of the illness and the human being. For me, it is this step that will lead us into a new and more exciting approach to healing of both individuals and the planet.
Let me try to illustrate this concept of right therapeutic thinking with a few examples. First, a relatively simple one: The most common illness that most of us will experience is the common cold, sometimes referred to as a viral infection. As we all know, the experience of a cold is often fever, mucus, a kind of cloudy feeling in the head, often followed by a cough, sore throat, congestion and bodyaches. Conventional medicine postulates that this illness is caused by a virus that invades our bodies and that will take time for our immune system to clear. Sometimes, if it is worse, it is said that this illness is the result of a bacteria that can then be cleared by using a medicine (antibiotic) that kills the bacteria. Most natural practitioners treating a cold claim that the same process is occurring, but that one can stimulate the immune system with such medicines as Echinacea or vitamin C.
In right therapeutic thinking, a different approach is taken. We look for the process or observable events that occur. In this case, the overall picture is one of heat and “activation”. That is, even though generally we don’t feel very active with an infection, there is a lot happening within our bodies. The tissues are red, the mucus is running, the lungs are coughing, the skin erupts. It’s as if we have become a hot, frothing volcano, spewing forth increasingly toxic mucus. If we imagine ourselves in the context of nature, and in particular the seasons, unmistakably this would be a summer experience, for winter is the time of coldness and contraction as literally the greenness of the earth, the smells, flowers, insect activity; in short, activity and buzzing contracts down into the earth. In contrast, the summer is literally abuzz. Abundant smells, colors, tastes burst forth from the earth in the warmth and sunlight.
In the context of the entire earth, the seasons are always in balance, which is the way the earth maintains its health. If the summer got too strong, or put another way, if the earth got a cold, then over time too much activity would be “breathed out” and the earth would sicken. The earth would become dry and barren if this exhalation weren’t checked. The earth needs the winter experience to rest and recycle.
How does the earth keep from being in an excess summer mode? One answer is that, soon after the height of mid-summer, as the earth is in full bloom, a shift happens, a shift that can actually be felt by very sensitive people. The meteor showers occur, which seems to bring about a shift in the activity on earth. Plants begin to die, fruits become seeds, and a coolness returns to the air. Meteor showers have been shown to contain a particular type of iron know as ferrum siderum (literally, meteoric iron). Thus right therapeutic thinking leads us to the conclusion that iron heals the earth from excessive summer.
Right therapeutic thinking sees the same process happening within the human being. When we have a cold or a bacterial infection, our summer processes have become too strong. We need to tone down the volcano, rest and recycle. Within the human being, a surprisingly similar occurrence takes place. Our bodies also use iron to bind and neutralize poisons. An illness called porphyria occurs when the unbound protein part of the hemoglobin molecule cannot be bound to iron. This unbound protein literally poisons and kills us; if it is bound to iron, it serves as the basis of our ability to use oxygen. Iron also binds to cyanide to render it harmless, and on and on. We neutralize poisons by binding them to iron. When we become iron-poor or anemic, we become weak and susceptible to all manner of toxic influences, including viruses and bacteria. It should be no surprise, then, that a medicinal preparation of meteoric iron has been used for centuries to treat hot, eruptive illnesses that affect humankind.
Delving deeper into the mystery of iron leads us to various mythological images. For instance, Saint Michael in Christian folklore was considered the bearer of iron as he brought his sword, made from iron, down to earth to slay the sulfurous dragon (illustrated by Jean Fouquet’s 15th century painting, right). The dragon, of course, represents the spewing forth of heat, poison and all that is unclean. It is fought through the courage and strength that is represented by the iron sword of Saint Michael. For the alchemists, iron correlates with the gall bladder and the planet Mars — the so-called red planet because it is rich in iron oxides. For those who practice right thinking, this is no surprise as the gall bladder is the organ that excretes poisons that have been processed by the liver. The bile flow is the mechanism of flushing out the mucus, pus and toxins, the markers of the hot, “infectious” illnesses. Bile flow is stimulated by bitters, which is probably why bitter herbs, e.g. goldenseal, have always been used in the treatment of sulfurous, “infectious” diseases.
To turn to a more complex example, let us look at AIDS from the standpoint of right therapeutic thinking. Setting aside the still controversial question of whether AIDS is caused by the virus HIV, if we look at the phenomenon of the person with AIDS, one conclusion that we could draw is that the person seems defenseless. In particular they become defenseless to a whole array of ubiquitous and usually harmless micro-organisms. We all have yeast growing in our gastrointestinal tract, we are all surrounded by pneumocystis and many other usually non-pathogenic viruses, bacteria and fungi. But, uniquely, a person with AIDS has lost the ability to fight, not a particular organism, but virtually any micro-organism.
This situation is perhaps unique in the history of humankind. I can’t help but wonder whether something has changed in past decades with regard to our relationship with the whole realm of micro-organisms. This relationship with micro-organisms leads to the concept of “self”, of what is a human being. We are taught that we are autonomous beings who live within this skin, and that “self” resides within the skin. In fact, within this same skin live billions of others, a bewildering combination of named and unnamed micro-organisms. Without these friends living within us, we wouldn’t survive the week. These organisms in our gut and every other orifice in our bodies digest our food, make vitamins (B12), maintain our mucosal linings in good repair (e.g. the gut wall), and make antibiotic-type substances that kill off more pathogenic bacteria. It is not so far-fetched to say that these others who live within us actually are our immune system.
In the last 60 years, we have waged war on this “other”, forgetting that there is no self without our microbial friends. We pasteurize our milk, give antibiotics to our animals, vaccinate our children and use antibiotics that get rid of our protective inner friends. This war on our inner ecology has been both relentless and devastating to our ability to maintain that which we call self. It also, fundamentally, has thrown us off from our ability to properly imagine the world in which we live. Truly, there is no such thing as the isolated, insular self. Humans must be in community, first with our inner microbes, the wider community of minerals, plants, animals, other people, and finally the entire universe. The concept of the isolated self doesn’t square with the reality of our basic physiology; it is the fundamental illusion of human existence.
In a funny way, the AIDS phenomenon has been instrumental in re-awakening the value of community. As many people were dying of AIDS, the value of human care, hospice, networking, etc., gained a stronger hold in our culture. Seen from the perspective of right thinking, AIDS is a call to re-envision community, starting with the ecology of our own bodies. Starting with the Nourishing Traditions diet (based on the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon), we begin to knit together the fiber of community starting with our food. We learn how to care for our inner ecology as well as the ecology of our farms and land. This ecological approach to AIDS bears fruit not only for individual patients suffering from immune deficiency but also reconnects us with the larger issues at work in our culture that are the true “causes” of this phenomenon.
In summary, I am not so much looking for new medicines or foods to treat individual illnesses, although those are certainly welcomed. Rather, I am searching for a new way to envision the human being and think about what is behind health and illness. Out of this envisioning will emerge specific therapies that hopefully will help not only individuals but the culture as a whole. Ultimately, our sicknesses result from the forces and imbalances in the larger world in which we live. Studying the book of nature is one approach to understanding this larger world.
Guest Column: HIV – The Untold Story
by David Lowenfels
In this article I will take you on an introductory crash course of the HIV/AIDS controversy. I cannot possibly show you all the key points in a casual manner, but I will get you started on the journey. So fasten your seatbelts…
What is AIDS?
Of course you’ve heard about it: the fatal plague, spread by “unsafe” sex and blood, caused by the deadly virus called HIV. Anyone can get it. We’ve all seen the scary charts, cartoons, and photographs. This 25-year old story is reinforced daily by doctors, celebrities, and the media. But is the full story being told?
AIDS is not a single disease, but rather a syndrome — a collection of twenty-some-odd different diseases. The term AIDS was coined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the late 1980s as a surveillance tool so that it could keep tabs on this mysterious syndrome, whose cause was then unknown. If someone tests “HIV-positive” and has one of these 20 diseases, then he or she is diagnosed with AIDS. Never mind that these same diseases can and do occur in HIV-negative individuals.
In 1993, the CDC definition of AIDS changed. As a result, the number of cases doubled overnight, and AIDS quickly became a numbers game that now included people with no disease, yet who had fewer than 200 T-cells. Upon closer examination, one will find that that AIDS cases are reported cumulatively; this way, they appear to be constantly growing even when they are not. According to the CDC, AIDS cannot be reversed; once individuals have been branded with an AIDS diagnosis, they are medically stigmatized for life, even if they have recovered and are apparently healthy.
The Dreadful Test
The diagnosis begins with the gravitas of an “HIV test”, which is claimed to be 99% specific for HIV, yet really only tests for abnormal amounts of nonspecific antibodies. Those stigmatized as “HIV+” simply have a higher level of auto-antibodies than what has been deemed normal, according to an arbitrary black-or-white threshold. A global standard is lacking, such that it is possible to test “HIV+” in one country, and test “HIV-” in another. There are many diseases which demonstrably cross-react with the “HIV antibody” test, including tuberculosis, leprosy, and lupus. HIV proteins have been found in normal human placentae, not to mention everyone’s blood when undiluted . The auto-antibodies are ubiquitous, yet strangely are still called “HIV-specific”.
In fact, “HIV” has never been properly isolated, which I will explain subsequently. Therefore it is ludicrous to claim that an antibody reaction against a protein of questionable origin is proof of infection with a deadly virus. To give such a diagnosis based on this uncertain test is medically irresponsible. “HIV” testing is psychologically harmful and should be used only for its original purpose, which was the anonymous screening of blood donations.
How was HIV linked to AIDS?
At an April 23, 1984 press conference held by Reagan’s Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler, Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Institute of Health announced he had found the “probable cause of AIDS”. This claim came just days after Gallo’s filing for a patent for the lucrative HIV-antibody screening test, a test that would be used to screen all blood donations in the U.S. and Europe. Yet two weeks passed before any actual scientific information was published. Mysteriously, that pesky word “probable” seemed to all but disappear in the ensuing months.
There is a story within a story here, which is notable but essentially a diversion: The legal dispute between France and the U.S., for the title of “discoverer of HIV” (Montagnier vs. Gallo), and corresponding royalty profits from the “HIV-antibody” test. Details of these allegations can be found in the investigation by Congressman Dingell , and a document called “HIVgate” . This lawsuit was settled in a private meeting between Chirac and Bush, in which scientific history was literally rewritten to suit political means. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who discovered what, since the entire “discovery” is based on a platform of faulty logic.
Antibodies are Cross-Reactive in Nature
An antibody is like a “key” that fits into a “lock” region on a protein/antigen. Imagine a master skeleton key that can fit many different locks. Conversely, imagine a loose lock that could be opened by several similar keys if wiggled just right. This is cross-reactivity. It is a gift from nature because it means that antibodies formed against one antigen later can be recycled against a similar antigen.
Mathematical logic states that the greater the variety of antibodies a person has, the higher the probability they will bind to a given antigen. Therefore the more antibodies a person has, the more likely they are to test “HIV+”. Because of cross-reactivity, it is impossible to deduce exactly which antigen the antibodies were originally formed against. Imagine putting three different acids into three kinds of milk, and trying to guess which acid curdled which milk. It is impossible. The only thing that can be proven is that the milk is curdled. Furthermore, it is impossible to tell when an antibody was produced, since they can persist in the blood for many years, if not indefinitely.
Retrovirus-Hunting: A Remnant of the War on Cancer
In order to understand the historical context, we must revisit the War on Cancer started by Nixon in 1971. Inspired by Peyton Rousâ’s experiments with chicken sarcoma in 1911, virus-cancer researchers devoted unprecedented research funds into finding a retrovirus that caused cancer in humans. Twenty years later, after squandering billions of federal dollars, this project was closed due to complete failure. What remained was a smorgasbord of unemployed retrovirologists, with narrowly focused laboratory skills and thinking. If there was any successful research from the War on Cancer, which is questionable at best, it would be from Bob Gallo’s lab, which made some mediocre discoveries of doubtful utility.
A Brief Lesson in Retrovirology
A “retro”-virus is named due to the “reverse transcription” of RNA into DNA by the enzyme reverse transcriptase (RT). Scientific dogma long held that DNA was always and only one-way transcribed from DNA into RNA, that is until the discovery of RT in 1970. At first it was wrongly assumed that the enzyme RT was an exclusive hallmark of retroviruses, and could be used as a footprint “surrogate marker” in lieu of an actual virus. But in 1971, it became well-known that RT was present in all forms of cellular life, namely as an essential part of the DNA repair mechanism (imagine DNA “band-aids” transcribed from RNA). Because this surrogate marker was now shown to be totally nonspecific, special rules for retroviral isolation were codified at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, under the supervision of retrovirologist Luc Montagnier. These rules included purification by centrifugal density gradient, and subsequent electron microscope (EM) photographs of the purified isolate from the 1.16 g/mL band. EM photographs are absolutely essential to show that the viral isolate is indeed pure virus and is not contaminated by debris from animal cells which could confuse the identification of viral protein. (see  for example photos) The bottom line is that many things may look like a virus, but only certain things actually are virus, and the rules are very strict about how to tell the difference.
In 1975, Bob Gallo claimed to have discovered the first cancer-causing retrovirus in humans, which he named Human Leukaemia 23 Virus (HL23V). In the following months, his peers showed that this discovery was a farce; Gallo had not followed the Pasteur Institute rules and instead used only nonspecific surrogate markers. In order to “prove” which culture proteins were viral, he used an antibody test that was later shown to cross-react with ubiquitous cellular proteins. The scandal was a huge embarrassment for Gallo, who was quick to blame everything on accidental laboratory contamination.
The point of this history lesson is that Gallo used identical evidence to claim his discovery of HL23V as he did for HIV. In fact, Gallo had a stronger case for HL23V than he did for HIV. This is because he could not find RT in cell cultures from AIDS patients until he combined the blood of ten different patients in what can only be called a “a real cell soup”. How can a virus that cannot be found in one person, magically pop out when mixed with the blood of nine others?
To his “cell soup”, Gallo added HTLV-I leukemia cells and powerful oxidizing (cell-damaging) agents, incubated for several days, and fished out a handful proteins from the 1.16 band, which happened to show RT activity. No EM photograph of the purified 1.16 g/mL isolate was ever published by either Gallo or Montagnier. Every single published photograph was from an unpurified cell culture, depicting non-viral budding commonly seen in fetal umbilical lymphocytes and other proliferating cells. As codified by Montagnier himself at the Pasteur Institute, virus-like particles in an impure culture is proof of nothing.
Gallo injected rabbits with these putative “HIV” proteins, which caused them to produce antibodies. He then extracted antibody serum from the rabbits, and mixed it with the blood of hemophiliacs and gay male AIDS patients. Because the rabbit antibodies formed against his “HIV proteins” reacted with the proteins in the patients’ blood, he concluded that these patients must be infected with his virus. However without first properly demonstrating that the original culture proteins actually came from a virus and not something else (which requires an EM photograph), this rabbit trick is merely a feat of circular logic and cross-reactivity.
As mentioned earlier, the more antibodies an organism has, the more likely they are to bind to any given antigen. At the time, hemophiliacs were regularly using unpurified blood products, as the genetic technology to manufacture monoclonal proteins was not yet invented. This exposed them to a wide variety of foreign antigens. In a similar manner, the gay men had been exposed to various antigens from all the lifestyle stressors they had encountered, including STDs, recreational/pharmaceutical drugs, and chronic infections from weakened immunity.
Between 1990 and 1995, National Institute of Health and Congressional investigations took place regarding scientific misconduct in Gallo’s lab. These investigations ultimately found the seminal publications on HIV to be “of dubious scientific merit” and “really crazy” (due among other things to pooling the blood of ten people). In reality, there has never been adequate proof for this “new virus”, and the HIV/AIDS theory is a house of cards built on a sham. The only reason scientists believed it in the first place is because Montagnier and Gallo conveniently left out the crucial details in their publications!
In a 1997 interview, Montagnier affirmed: “I repeat we did not purify.” When asked if Gallo purified his culture, he replied: “I don’t believe so.” Also in 1997, the missing EM photographs were finally published in two separate articles by Bess and Gluschankof. These photographs showed gross contamination by human cell membrane “microvesicles”.
If the so-called “HIV isolates” are composed primarily of human cell membrane fragments, it begs the question whether HIV even exists at all, or whether people who test “HIV+” simply have auto-antibodies to proteins from their own cells. That is exactly what has been claimed by dissenting scientists such as Dr. Heinrich Kremer, Dr. Alfred Hassig, and the Perth Group. They have shown that the so-called “HIV antibodies” are actually formed against oligomers of the human cytoskeletal proteins actin and myosin, i.e. structural proteins that get exposed to the blood when cells die in an abnormal fashion (necrosis). This puts AIDS in the category of an autoimmune disease, which seems to be a good fit with both explaining disease progression and successful treatment. These researchers have shown how autoimmune syndromes can be triggered by various combinations of the five forms of oxidative stress: malnutritional, infectious, psychoemotional, chemotoxic, and traumatic. This points to AIDS as a multi-factorial phenomenon with unique triggers in each individual case, yet following a common degenerative pathophysiology. For more details on this biological aspect, I refer you to my recent article from the Townsend Letter, and the online library and FAQ at aliveandwellsf.org.
What I have shared with you in this article is really just the tip of the iceberg. This subject is as wide as it is deep, and there is a wealth of information available on the Internet and in books. How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go? The choice is yours.
2. The Dingell Report: www.healtoronto.com/galloindex.html
3. HIVgate by Janine Roberts: www.rethinkaids.info/documents/Africa/Janine%20Roberts%20-%20HIVgate.pdf
5. Interview with Luc Montagnier, by Djamel Tahi, www.virusmyth.net/aids/data/dtinterviewlm.htm
8. http://aliveandwellsf.org/kremer, www.virusmyth.net/aids/index/ahassig.htm, www.virusmyth.net/aids/index/epapadopoulos.htm, www.theperthgroup.com
About David Lowenfels
David Lowenfels is a scientist, musician, engineer, yogi, and bodyworker. He holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master of Arts from CCRMA at Stanford University. He began questioning the HIV=AIDS model in 1999. What drives him? “Here in San Francisco, I find it heartbreaking to see so many men who are visibly deformed due to their toxic chemotherapeutic battle against a hypothetical virus…these drugs are physically mutating people by causing genetic damage to the mitochondria and DNA.”
Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection
by Jessica Prentice
2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl
by Daniel Pinchbeck
I don’t normally review two books at once, but these, which seemingly have nothing in common, inspired me to double up this round. Jessica’s book is about food and the connection of food and culture, while 2012 is about the forecasted return to the earth of the legendary and perhaps mythical god Quetzalcoatl predicted to occur in the year 2012. Not much connection there? On deeper examination, these two books, both well written and fun to read, stimulate many questions about the current situation that humanity finds itself in. They both also delve into the subject of the nature of time.
Jessica Prentice is someone I have come to know professionally over the past few years. She writes recipes for this newsletter; we have done many workshops together; she has cooked for one of our Fourfold Healing conferences; she is one of the founders of the visionary community supported kitchen project (www.threestonehearth.com); hosts the Wise Food Ways website, and is involved in many other food-related activities. Jessica is a master chef, skilled communicator, effective teacher and a true social visionary when it comes to food and culture. We now also know that Jessica is a very good writer who has provided a guide to help us choose and prepare the healthiest foods possible. Full Moon Feast is full of practical, delicious recipes along with sources for all the best foods in the Bay area and nation-wide. This book also contains the interesting story of Jessica’s evolution in her pathway to embracing the Nourishing Traditions/Weston A Price style of eating. However, what I want to focus on here is the full moon aspect of the book. Full Moon Feast is written as a series of thirteen chapters, each of which describes a specific season or time of the year connected to certain food-related activities that traditionally happened during that time of the year. For example, salmon run and therefore are available for catching at only certain times of the year. Traditional people celebrated this salmon moon with specific festivals, prayers, and activities that all relate to the movement of the salmon. Jessica describes these in vivid detail, then suggests creative uses for the salmon that are available at this time of the year. She does the same for the other twelve moons.
What I think is so important and revolutionary about this book and its approach is that, by connecting local seasonal food with a new approach to our calendar, Full Moon Feast brings us not only better health but a change is our thinking. For example, why is it that our current time-keeping system and calendar is divided up the way it is? Why do certain months have 30 days, others 31 and one 28 (except every 4 years)? What do the names of our months relate to, why is January in mid-winter (except in the southern hemisphere) and July in mid-summer? What is behind these names and their connections to the seasons? I have no idea and, in fact, my guess is that there is no true reason behind many of these names and seasons. They are mostly arbitrary. In contrast, the moon when salmon return to earth connects us to real events happening in our natural world.
Certain times are when specific events happen in nature, and if we are paying attention, these natural occurrences stimulate us to do certain activities with regard to food. We connect to the celestial world (moons), the animal world (salmon), the plant world (the corn moon — when the corn is harvested), and have a guide to understanding on a visceral level (food) where humans fit into the entire natural scheme of things. The importance of this is that there is a coming revolution, a revolution of re-connection, a revolution where the strategy of domination, where humans attempt to dominate nature must end. In its place, will come the strategy of connection, not only with each other, but with the grandeur and meaning of the world around us. This fundamentally involves a change in our relationship with time. We must move from understanding time as an abstraction, time as a commodity, time as our enemy to a relationship with time that is filled with meaning and connection. Jessica’s book is a valuable guide to getting us started on this strategy of connection in a deep and timely way with the world around us.
Daniel Pinchbeck’s latest book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, is largely about time. Pinchbeck is a writer who has been investigating psychedelic drugs and changes in consciousness for a long time. In this current book he turns his attention to the Mayan prediction that in the year 2012 the end of an age is coming and a new age will commence. These Mayan predictions were all based on the precise and accurate study of celestial activity. In fact, Pinchbeck writes a lot about how the Mayan civilization, so advanced in many ways, was largely about exploring the relationship betweens humans, time and celestial events. In doing so, they were able to predict with almost startling accuracy many events, both outer events and events that relate to human awareness.
When one’s calendar is imbued with meaning, one’s life is all about connection. When a calendar marks very specific, observable and deeply felt celestial events, then humans can more readily find their places in the big picture. One of the main scientists Pinchbeck follows in this book is Jose Arguelles who, in Time and the Technoshpere, has written that time is “mental in nature”. He writes that “our current calendar has trapped us in a feedback loop of accelerating de-synchronization.” When Pinchbeck asks Arguelles, “How important is it in your opinion that people switch to your thirteen-moon calendar?” Arguelles replies: “Only harmony can unify” and “Condition the mind to an irregular standard and the mind will adjust to disorder and chaos as normal aspects of existence. Our civilization is based on false time, and artificial time has run out for humanity.”
Pinchbeck examines crop circles, the work of Rudolf Steiner, psychedelic plants, ancient cultures, and much more in a fascinating look at the relationship that some of our most profound thinkers have drawn between time and human thought and consciousness. In reading this book, my guess is that your theory of time and the possible coming changes at the deepest levels of our culture will be altered.
We all know that “things can’t go on like this forever”. There is too much pollution, too much waste, too much global-warming, too much hatred, too much killing, too much going wrong. 2012 gives some perspective on how we got here and some insight on what needs to happen to change our understanding of time and its connection to culture. Full Moon Feast gives some practical and fun strategies for implementing these changes in you own life.
Recipe: Coconut-Date Energy Balls
I love these little balls — they are sweet without being too sweet, and are rich with coconut meat and coconut oil. I store them in a cookie tin and sometimes bring them in the car with me when I know I’m going to be running around doing errands or other busy-ness. Their balance of good fats with natural sugars means they give both an immediate lift but also sustained energy until the next real meal can be had. They also make a nice sweet for after a meal, a good snack during a meeting, or a welcome addition to a lunchbox. They are great for kids to both roll and eat! They need to be kept cool or they will soften or melt.
- 1 cup date paste or 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
- 1/2 cup coconut spread (available from Wilderness Family Naturals)
- 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/4 cup dried coconut plus more for rolling the balls in
- Optional: zest of a lemon or small orange.
In a food processor, process the date paste or dates for a few seconds or a minute or so. If using dates, they should be processed into a chunky paste.
Add the coconut spread (and the optional zest, if using) and pulse a few times until the two ingredients are mixed.
Melt one tablespoon of coconut oil in a very small pan, and then start the processor and pour the melted oil in through the top while the processor is running. Add the 1/4 cup sundried coconut and process for 5 or 10 seconds more. Then turn off the processor.
Remove the blade and then the processor bowl from the processor. You can either leave your mixture in there and work from that, or transfer the paste to another bowl to work from.
Put on some good music or a book on tape, or get a friend to help you, or call up a friend so that you can chat while you roll the balls. This is a repetitive and mindless task and though it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, itâ€™s nice to have a distraction. Or you could be very zen about it and focus entirely on the task!
To roll the balls, pick up a very small handful of paste and press it in your hand. It should stick together. Then take the paste and press and roll it into a little ball, about one inch in diameter. Put the balls on a plate as you roll them.
When you have finished rolling all the balls, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and remove from heat.
Now take each ball and do this: put it in the little pan with the melted coconut oil. Shake the little pan so that the ball gets covered with coconut oil. Take the warm oiled ball and immerse it in the dried coconut flakes so that it gets covered with coconut. I do this by just putting the ball into the bag of freeze-dried coconut and rolling it around. Put the ball back onto a clean plate or straight into a cookie tin. Repeat with all the balls until they are all covered with coconut. Store in a cool place and eat as desired!
Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection — book by Jessica Prentice
Jessica Prentice is both a professional chef and a passionate home cook. She currently conducts cooking classes, writes a monthly New Moon Newsletter on her Wise Food Ways website, and offers monthly Full Moon Feasts in the Bay Area. She is a Bay Area chapter head for the Weston A Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts, and a founding member of Three Stone Hearth, a community kitchen in the Bay area. Her new book, Full Moon Feast, is about food and culture.
Recipe adapted from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice. Copyright Jessica Prentice 2006 Chelsea Green Publishing Co. Used with permission.