Let’s consider the idea of gui qi, demonic influence or possession as a cause of disease that was brought up in the last blog entry.
It’s easy to dismiss gui qi, demonic influence or possession as a cause of disease, as primitive superstition. However, in the cited case Li Shi Zhen observed the signs and symptoms of the condition, located the disease, made a diagnosis, offered a two prong treatment and successfully resolved the problem. Isn’t that what all doctors hope to do? I think a few factors may likely lead to a diagnosis of demonic influence:
- Abrupt onset of condition
- Drastic changes in the appearance and behavior of the patient
- Strange signs and symptoms
- No better existing explanation for the conditon
- The patient complains of demonic influence
Of course, the doctor with special senses may also be able to make that diagnosis regardless of the above. The question is, how is allopathic medicine today different. First, the diagnosis is likely based on various test results: imaging, biopsy, genetic analysis, etc. Then a diagnosis is arrived at, then certain drugs or procedures are prescribed. Li Shi Zhen’s patient would probably be referred to a psychiatrist who would make a diagnosis, schizophrenia maybe, and prescribe certain drugs. He would likely be hospitalized.
Any disease, even a common cold, involves many complex processes. The ambition of medicine whether ancient or modern, eastern or western, is to understand them and find a way to interrupt, stop and reverse their pathological development to restore health. Western diagnostic labels are shorthands for complexes of processes. Chinese pattern diagnostic terms emphasize certain processes but they are still shorthands neverthless. To adequately describe one disease often requires multiple patterns. So what is gui qi, demonic influence? It describes a complex condition that is mysterious in etiology and manifestation that may have a strong psychological element. Now, doesn’t that sound like many diseases we know in the scientific world? Viewed this way gui qi is no longer superstition but a justified attempt to understand and describe the disease and to cure the affected.
(This is part 2 of a series on gui qi.)