An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Richard Katz founded the Flower Essence Society in 1979 to research and teach the principles and practices of flower essence therapy, inspired by the pioneering work of Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s. After early training in mathematics and science, Richard went on to study widely in several different apprenticeship programs in the fields of herbology, plant science, and meditation. He is a student of the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner. With his wife and partner Patricia Kaminski, he has extended the repertoire of flower essences through a "living science of Nature," requiring an accurate understanding of subtle qualities of plants, and their correspondence with the mental and emotional realms within the human being.
Richard and Patricia also manage Flower Essence Services, which produces flower essences and herbal products at Terra Flora, their 27-acre Biodynamic garden and wildlife sanctuary in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills near Nevada City, California.
Is if fair to say that COVID‑19 is not infectious?
Comments about Dr. Cowan's March 12 talk on Covid‑19 and 5G and his March 26, 2020 follow-up webinar
Dr. Cowan asks some important questions and has offered many helpful insights for creating health, but he undermines his case by the distortions I have described.
In March, I received emails with a link to a talk by Dr. Thomas Cowan with the message that COVID-19 is not infectious, but instead is caused by 5G. Some people pointed to Dr. Cowan's connection to Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophic medicine to give credence to his claims. I have watched this video go “viral” around the world and cited as a justification to question the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. The responses seemed polarized between critics who dismissed any concern with 5G and ridiculed Steiner's teachings, and those with concern about 5G, who accepted Cowan's statements as fact, without questioning their logic or accuracy.
Therefore, I decided to examine the claims in Dr. Cowan's video from his March 12 talk on 5G and Covid-19 (video since removed by YouTube), and the references and claims he gave in his follow-up March 26 webinar.
Here is what I discovered:
Cowan: "Steiner said: viruses are simply excretions of a toxic cell." Talk at the Health And Human Rights Summit in Tucson, Arizona on March 12, 2020.
(Video was banned from YouTube and is only available from Bitchute.com)
Cowan starts his segment on COVID-19 by stating that Rudolf Steiner was asked in 1918 about the flu pandemic and said in response, “Viruses are simply excretions of a toxic cell.” Cowan concludes that segment by saying, “Viruses have nothing to do with it.”
Even if we take the first sentence as a direct quote and the rest of it as Cowan’s opinion (he is not clear when he is quoting and when he is commenting), I could not find the quote, “Viruses are simply excretions of a toxic cell” anywhere in Steiner’s work.
Dr. Cowan has a connection to Anthroposophic Medicine, so when he references Rudolf Steiner to back up his medical opinions, it is natural to give credence to what he says. I checked with Drs. Matthias Girke and Georg Soldner, the Head and Deputy Head of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum (Anthroposophic Society headquarters in Switzerland), and they confirmed that Rudolf Steiner never made the statement that Dr. Cowan attributes to him. They also had Peter Selg, a biographer of Rudolf Steiner, confirm that it is not anything that Rudolf Steiner said.
In the March 26 webinar, Cowan gives the lecture series, “Cosmic Workings of Earth and Man" as the source for the quote from Steiner. This series is part of the lectures to the Goetheanum Workmen given in late 1923 and early 1924. The only lecture in that series that I see that mentions viruses and poisons is the one given January 19, 1924 in Dornach. There is one paragraph near the end that mentions viruses and poisons, but in a totally different context. As far as I can see, this is not a comment in response to the flu pandemic, certainly not made in 1918, and it is not discussing the kind of viruses involved in the influenza pandemic of 1918 or the current COVID-19 pandemic. The relationship between “poisons” and the various bodies of the human beings is quite nuanced in the lecture, and it is not the direct quote that Cowan offers, nor does it support the conclusion that he draws from it.
What Steiner says
There are many contexts in which Steiner discusses infectious diseases. One lecture, which was actually given at the time of the 1918 flu pandemic, was From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, Lecture 3, October 20, 1918. In the lecture Steiner says, “Bacilli, as such, are of course in no way connected with disease." It seems likely that by “bacilli” Steiner means all kinds of infectious pathogens, including viruses. However, the larger context of this lecture, is that Steiner is discussing the cosmological influences on cycles of pandemics, not “excretions of toxic cells,” as Cowan claims. He is discussing the spiritual level of causation after saying that “from the external point of view it is also true that a certain kind of bacillus is connected with the present influenza epidemic.”
A book of Steiner’s comments on epidemics, On Epidemics: Spiritual Perspectives, is a collection of Steiner’s thoughts compiled from various lectures. Some of these selections make clear that Steiner is attributing the pathogen as a “superficial,” “external” or “secondary” cause. He encourages us to look for primary causes, in the physical, emotional or spiritual conditions of our organism, and in wider environmental factors and cosmological cycles. In this way, Steiner is echoing the objections to Louis Pasteur’s germ theory by Antoine Béchamp and Claude Bernard, that the “terrain” or inner milieu is more important than the germ or pathogen. Steiner is asking that we consider what has created the fertile ground for the microbes to proliferate and trigger the inflammatory response that we know as disease.
Steiner was not saying that microbes were “excretions of a toxic cell.” That seems to be Dr. Cowan’s interpretation of modern research (see below) attributed to Steiner. Steiner did not contend that “Viruses [or bacteria] have nothing to do with it.” As I understand Steiner, he was saying that there are multiple levels of causation, and we should look beyond the materialistic causes to find deeper causes.
As an aside, I am reminded that Aristotle taught that we should consider four levels of causation for any phenomena. In my study of Steiner’s lectures, I have found that he will say seemingly contradictory things at different times because he is looking from different vantage points, different levels of causation.
In other contexts, he did not dispute the existence of infection. For example, in a lecture entitled Issues of Health in the Light of Spiritual Science (January 14, 1909) Steiner discussed the progress humanity had made against communicable diseases through the improvements in hygiene. Steiner argues we should not only consider the pathogen, we should also consider our lifestyle and conditions that make us susceptible to infection. Steiner never gives us simplistic answers.
Here is my understanding: from the external (physical plane) point of view, there is the pathogen (“germ”) and the response of the organism to it. From the whole systems holistic point of view, it is the disturbance in the body’s inner ecology (terrain). There are environmental levels of causation (toxic pollution, including electro-smog like 5G). There are emotional factors, individual and societal (pandemics of fear). There are social and economic stresses. There are karmic factors, both individual and group. There are cosmological cycles to consider.
For example, in the January 14, 1909 lecture cited above, and in many others, Steiner emphasizes how our fear of bacteria actually nurtures their growth. This accords with a statement from Dr. Edward Bach, who treated World War One soldiers and victims of the 1918 flu pandemic:
“In this age the fear of disease has developed until it has become a great power for harm, because it opens the door to those things we dread and makes it easier for their admission.” Heal Thyself, 1931
Steiner also emphasized the influence of malevolent spiritual beings (Ahrimanic beings), who have access to the human organism through the materialism of our time. (For example, see "Awakening Spiritual Thoughts" from May 5, 1914.) Steiner was referring to still another dimension involved with infectious diseases.
Near the end of the 10-minute March 12 lecture segment, Dr. Cowan quotes Steiner as saying, “In times when there were no electrical currents, when the air was not swarming with electrical influences, it was easier to be human… . For this reason, in order to be human at all today, it is necessary to expend much stronger spiritual capacities than was necessary a century ago.” I was able to source this quote from July 11, 1923, Die menschliche Seele in ihrem Zusammenhang mit göttlich-geistigen Individualitäte (GA 224) translated by Malcolm Gardner as cited in this article.
We can agree that electrical fields are a challenge to our humanity, but what Steiner tells us here and in many other contexts, is that the way we must deal with such “fallen ethers” ruled by Ahriman is to strengthen our own spiritual forces. Steiner goes on to say the following, after the quotation that Cowan read:
“But it does not occur to me to be reactionary and say something like: Well then, we must banish all these modern achievements! That’s not the objective. Modern human beings need the access to the spirit that spiritual science provides, so that through this strong experience of the spirit they can also become stronger in relation to the forces that accompany modern culture, the forces that harden our physical body and take it away from us.”
That’s not an argument to accept 5G, in my opinion, but it is guidance as to the realm where the real battle is fought.
I would like to call your attention particularly to this statement:
“The content of our consciousness is also important: if we approach truth, we experience the connection of our being with the spiritual world. Recognizing truth can awaken joy, confidence, trust and fulfilment. We encounter a quality which gives necessary orientation, frees the human being from tension and insecurity and thus strengthens the healing forces of the body. In contrast, untruths and lies make us ill: they separate human beings from the spiritual world of truth, isolate them and impede the healing forces which flow from truth.”
Dr. Cowan is unfortunately spreading untruth by inaccurate and misleading citations of Steiner.
Specious arguments against viral transmission of COVID-19
Cowan: "The problem is the poison, the reaction is the virus, that's the messenger, and that creates the immune response... I don't want people to focus on the immune response, it is a toxic event, at least that's my hypothesis." (Zoom, 1:05:05)
This is a puzzling disease. There seem to be many contributing factors determining who gets ill, and how serious is the illness. We are all searching for answers. I don’t have any easy explanations to offer. However, I reject simplistic answers based on imprecise thinking and mischaracterization of evidence.
I have examined Dr. Cowan's claims that lead people to the conclusion that COVID-19 is not infectious, and I find that they are not convincing, however persuasive they might seem at first glance. With plenty of evidence that this coronavirus is highly infectious, and out of an abundance of caution, I believe it is best that we treat this disease as having a major component of infectious transmission, and act accordingly, even as we consider other levels of causation that are largely ignored by conventional medicine.
Here are some of Dr. Cowan’s main points and my comments:
The simplistic claim that electrical fields cause pandemics, 5G caused COVID-19
Chelsea Green Publishing
Company (9 april 2020)
This claim is taken from The Invisible Rainbow, by Arthur Firstenberg. One can accept that electromagnetic fields have negative impacts on health, and that 5G is extremely detrimental, without making it the sole cause of disease, including COVID-19. There are many factors that can make people susceptible to disease, such as air pollution and other environmental stresses, unhealthy food, overuse of pharmaceutical drugs, stressful lifestyles, disconnection from Nature and our own bodies, toxic emotions (fear, hatred, etc.), lack of spirituality, cosmological and karmic influences. The 19th century dispute about whether it is the “germ” or the “terrain” (inner environment) that causes disease can be resolved by understanding that it is the relationship between pathogen and host that is involved. It’s not a binary choice of either infection or environmental toxicity, for example. You can have legitimate concerns about 5G technology and still believe that COVID-19 can be transmitted by infection.
Consider the following:
There were many infectious pandemics throughout history long before electricity.
Firstenberg cites the introduction of radio towers near military installations as the cause of the 1918 flu pandemic. Could there also be influences from years of devastating war, soldiers uprooted from their communities, crammed into barracks or ships, and fearful of being sent off to their slaughter, which made them susceptible to disease? Then on the battlefield, soldiers were lying wounded and hungry in cold, damp trenches for days on end with artillery shells raining down on them.
Firstenberg cites a study in which the flu was not able to be transmitted experimentally to volunteers. (I verified that there was such a study.) That’s puzzling. But then look at this New York Times article about how the flu spread rapidly from sailors that landed in Philadelphia followed by a parade attended by 200,000 people. That sounds like transmission to me. The flu did not infect everyone who was exposed. That’s a historical fact. But that doesn’t mean there was no transmission. As we know from Steiner and Bach, fear of disease makes one more susceptible to it. Perhaps the volunteers in that experiment went into it with such selfless courage that they were not affected. I don’t know. The experiment only shows that they were not able to simulate the natural transmission of infection.
Wuhan is a 5G hot spot. That’s where COVID-19 started. Cowan cites that as proof that 5G is the cause of COVID-19. But, South Korea was one of the leading implementors of 5G some months before China brought 5G to Wuhan and before the outbreak of COVID-19. South Korea controlled the epidemic early by extensive testing, quarantine of those who were infected and contact tracing. That seems to be good evidence that transmission is involved, and that social distancing and quarantine methods can make a difference in limiting the spread.
The 19th century dispute about whether it is the "germ" or the "terrain" (inner environment) that causes disease can be resolved by understanding that it is the relationship between pathogen and host that is involved
Cowan cites outdated testing criteria to cast doubt that there really is an infectious disease
According to the Koch postulates from the 19th century, one can only prove that a pathogen causes a disease if everyone who has the disease shows the same symptoms and has the same pathogen present, and no one who does not have the disease symptoms has the pathogen present. Then, one must be able to isolate the pathogen from the diseased people and infect others with the disease. Since COVID-19 was not tested according to those criteria, Cowan contends, there is no evidence that it is caused by the coronavirus. However, when I looked up the Koch Postulates, it turned out that even in his lifetime Robert Koch disavowed this extreme version of his postulates, because of the discovery of infected people who are asymptomatic. This is a complex subject, and that is the point. Louis Pasteur’s original germ theory that disease is caused solely by an outside pathogen invading a healthy body is overly simplistic. It is also simplistic to use that criteria to say that there is no infectious component to disease.
Cowan claims that modern research shows that “exosomes,” excretions of a toxic cell, are “another name” for viruses
This is a complex and intriguing subject, which says to me that we have a lot to learn about viruses. I don’t pretend to have a comprehensive knowledge. However, I have examined Dr. Cowan’s rather categorical statements, and I don’t see that they fairly represent the complexity of the subject.
Cowan says poisoned cells “excrete debris, which we call viruses” and the latest research on exosomes and viruses says exactly that. Cowan cites a talk by the Director of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) on “the complexity of viruses,” but I have not found such a talk.
The only NIH studies I have found related to viruses and exosomes and extracellular vesicles describe how viruses use these excretions to penetrate cells and travel from cell to cell, but that’s not the equivalent of saying the virus are the same thing as exosomes. Exosomes are also associated with (non-infectious) degenerative diseases. None of that proves that infectious viruses don’t exist. There is definitely a relationship between cellular excretions and viruses, but there does not appear to be a reductionistic identity. Here are the studies I found:
Dr Cowan cites a talk on the human virome to show that viruses are internally generated
In his March 26 webinar, Cowan refers to a 2015 NIH talk by Dr. Herbert (Skip) Virgin, “The mammalian virome in genetic analysis in health and disease pathogenesis.” One takeaway from this talk is that there exists a human “virome,” an ecology of viruses co-existing with the human organism in a similar way that bacteria make up our “microbiome.” Another takeaway is that this is a very complex situation, in which some genetic material from viruses becomes embedded in our own genetic material. Many of the internal viruses that Dr. Virgin describes are bacteriophages, viruses that attack bacteria, which can be either helpful or not. It appears that just as there are beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria, the same can be said for these viruses. So, that begs the question whether disease viruses are invaders from the outside or already exist in the human body. Dr. Cowan concedes that either or both could be true, but then he concludes that the tests for the virus associated with COVID-19 must be bogus because the genetic material it tests must already be present in everyone. I don’t see that Dr. Virgin’s talk supports that conclusion. I don’t know how reliable the tests are. But that is not proof that there is no infection.
Dr. Cowan then moves to the idea that viruses are internally generated “messengers” from the cells to alert other cells or organisms to some toxic situation. That’s an interesting hypothesis, and it might well be part of the disease phenomena. But it doesn’t prove that the disease is not infectious. It is simply another explanation of disease transmission.
Modern research on the microbiome and human virome overturns the conventional thinking that bacteria and virus are all pathogenic. But here is the logical fallacy: that statement does not mean that no bacteria and no viruses are pathogenic. Saying that there are other causes of disease besides microorganisms does not mean that microorganisms have “nothing to do with it” or that there is no such thing as transmission of disease. Binary thinking is materialistic thinking, which is part of what makes us unhealthy.
There is no contradiction between being concerned about the effects of 5G and other environmental stresses and acknowledging that it is highly likely that COVID-19 is infectious and that measures to limit its spread are important.
We are understandably suspicious of “official” information from mass media, the government and pharma. We know that conventional medical science has a very limited and one-sided view of health and disease. However, we need to use our critical thinking (as Rudolf Steiner admonished us) to avoid overly simplistic and one-sided thinking in reaction. Dr. Cowan asks some important questions and has offered many helpful insights for creating health, but he undermines his case by the distortions I have described.
There is no contradiction between being concerned about the effects of 5G and other environmental stresses and acknowledging that it is highly likely that COVID-19 is infectious and that measures to limit its spread are important. We can follow public health guidelines, while at the same time considering all the other health factors that help us maintain our integrity in face of environmental stress, enhance our life forces, create emotional balance, access our inner sources of spiritual strength, and deal with the massive social, political and economic crises as much as we are able.
I am writing this not as a medical professional or academician, but rather as someone who has studied Rudolf Steiner and has been involved in natural health (specifically flower essence therapy) for four decades. I am open to suggestions, additions and corrections to what I have written. We all need to use our collective wisdom and insights to deal with the current international health crisis, which is also a stress test showing the weaknesses and contradictions of our global society. I hope others will be stimulated by what I have written to develop these thoughts further.
You may be interested in a blog post I made about some of the psychological and spiritual issues related to Dr. Bach's work and flower essences in times of crisis like this.
Update: Response to Dr. Tom Cowan's April 9 webinar:
I listened to Dr. Tom Cowan's Thursday, April 9 webinar. I appreciated his emphasis on natural health-affirming practices, with some excellent suggestions, his openness to a variety of factors affecting health (not just 5G), and his refraining from claiming Rudolf Steiner as a source for his virus theories, as he has done in the past.
I agree with Dr. Cowan that this pandemic is a wake-up call to humanity, and that we should not succumb to fear, as that only feeds illness. I sense these sentiments of Dr. Cowan are sincere and heart-felt, so let me first respond from the heart.
Social Distancing is an Act of Love
Even if there is only a 50% chance that this hypothesis is true, it is a small sacrifice that we can make to avoid causing harm to others.
The true reason to practice social distancing, to wash our hands and to put on masks in public is not out of fear of disease, or simply to follow regulations, but rather out of love and care for others, to reduce the amount of suffering and avoidable death that may result from not taking these precautions. These practices are based on the hypothesis that some people without obvious symptoms can transmit the disease to others, some of whom may get severely ill or die.
For example, face masks are less about protecting us from disease than reducting the chance that respiratory droplets from our mouth and nose, which may carry disease, can infect others. (Therefore, Kaufman's and Cowan's objections that the viruses are smaller than the pores of the masks are irrelevant. The masks are to stop droplets, not individual virus particles.) Even if there is only a 50% chance that this hypothesis is true, it is a small sacrifice that we can make to avoid causing harm to others.
That is why the question of whether COVID-19 is spread by human transmission is not simply an academic question. It is literally a matter of life and death, which is why it becomes a moral question. That puts a very serious burden of responsibility on anyone who claims to prove that COVID-19 is not infectious, as the obvious implication of that point of view is that that public health measures recommended to slow its spread are unnecessary.
Dr. Kaufman makes a reasonable-sounding and detailed presentation about the role exosomes play in the cell's response to disease, toxicity and other stresses. Exosomes resemble viruses as seen under the electron microscope and have other similar characteristics.
However, it is an unjustified leap of logic to draw the conclusion that because some viruses and some exosomes have similar shapes and have similar characteristics, that therefore all viruses are the same thing as exosomes. From that conclusion Kaufman and Cowan argue that all viruses are only internally generated and are thus incapable of transmitting disease, and so there is no human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.
As his confirming evidence Dr. Kaufman quotes James Hildreth, MD, president of Meharry Medical College and a leading researcher in virology, as stating, “the virus is fully an exosome in every sense of the word.” However, Dr. Hildreth is very clear that COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease and we need to practice all the public health programs of social distancing and hand-washing that are recommended to slow the spread of the disease.
Hildreth: "In the case of Covid-19 we are in fact the vectors, because we are transmitting the virus to eachother. So the goal is to eliminate the vectors and that means we have to protect ourselves and by doing that everybody else." (2:16)
In the video linked above, Dr. Hildreth is obviously speaking out of a deep sense of caring for the well-being of others, especially of the African American population, which has suffered disproportionately from COVID-19.
I wrote Dr. Hildreth about his quote that Dr. Kaufman used regarding viruses and exosomes, and he responded as follows (with permission to share). The bracketed note is mine, and the red highlighting is also mine.
"I have never said that SARS CoV2 [the virus associated with COVID-19] is an exosome. I have been saying for years that HIV-1 is an exosome but the biogenesis of these two viruses are very different. The exosome hypothesis cannot be applied to all viruses - clearly most viruses are not. And frankly, we are still learning about the SARS CoV2 virus' biology including its assembly and budding mechanisms."
Dr. Kaufman is misrepresenting exosome research. Most irresponsibly Kaufmann takes Dr. Hildreth's statement relating to his HIV research out of context and twists it to support the opposite of what this distiguished researcher believes about COVID-19. For a fuller listing of Dr. Hildreth's views on the current pandemic see this page on Covid-19 and the community.
Look at the Evidence in the Real-Life Experiences of Transmission
Dr. Kaufman also makes the point that there are many false positives by the PCR test because it shows people who don't have disease symptoms test positive for the RNA sequences thought to be associated with the virus. But are those false positives, or examples of asymptomatic infection? I don't think we know the answer. Maybe both factors are involved.
The testing based on genetic sequences might well be far from perfect, although I doubt it is useless, as Cowan and Kaufman suggest. Researchers claim that the genetic sequences for which they are testing are not otherwise present in the human genome. I leave it to others with more expertise to evaluate these claims.
Cowan and Kaufman's arguments ignore the epidemiological evidence happening in real life that shows how this disease is spreading by contact. Outbreaks in various places have been traced to travellers from China or other areas where the disease appeared early. Now, in many nursing homes, large portions of the residents are affected as well as the health workers who care for them, after someone with the disease introduced it to the facility. There are similar situations in prisons and other places where people are housed in close quarters. Many medical workers who are treating people with COVID-19 are getting severely ill or dying, in numbers far higher than people of similar ages, health profiles and environmental exposure. The difference is that they are experiencing much more exposure to infected people. We can also look at places where social distancing has been put in place and has had the real effect of slowing the spread of the disease as evidence of the reality of transmission.
In other words, rather than relying only on what one sees through the microscope, or soley on tests based on genetic sequencies, or requiring a protocol based on 19th century germ theory (Koch's Postulates), let's consider the actual experience of human beings who are suffering and the patterns of transmission that we can see playing out day by day.
Dr. Cowan argues in his April 9 webinar, that because the spread of radiation sickness from the Chernobyl disaster was not related to a virus, that this somehow proves that COVID-19 is not spread by human-to-human transmission. This is similar to his earlier examples of dolphins poisoned by an oil spill or frogs poisoned by DDT. Let's get real here and use logical thinking. All Cowan is showing is that that not alldiseases involve infectious viruses or other pathogens. He doesn't show that no diseases involve infectious viruses or other pathogens.
I do think story-telling helps make a point, so in that spirit, I offer the following. After Mary sees mud all across the floor of her house, and discovers her teen-age son Johnny's muddy boots, she confronts him, "Johnny, did you track in that mud?" He responds, "Oh, no, that couldn't have been me. Remember five years ago when the streets flooded and there was mud in the house. That proves that people don't spread mud." How many people would accept that logic? (I thought so.)
There is a lot we don't know about COVID-19. I suggest that it is too risky to ignore or dismiss the evidence that one characteristic of the disease is that it is highly infectious. Acknowledging the likelihood that COVID-19 is infectious is not to say that is the whole story, as I explained above. All of the concerns that Dr. Cowan raises about EMF and the structure of water, for example, are worthy of consideration. The issues of privacy, freedom of medical choice, and how crises are used to advance the agendas of the power elites (the Shock Doctrine) remain as important as ever. None of that depends on proving that COVID-19 is not infectious.
Wishing you wellness and inner strength to face today's challenges.
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