This book is just what it says in the subtitle: "An Introduction To Oriental Diagnosis." It will give you a basic understanding of how yin and yang manifest in different realms, most of all in the human body. It also shows you how to analyze a person's health through studying their external physicality, based on traditional Eastern medical practice.
The introduction includes a quote I especially agree with: "The standard Oriental writings on the causes of disease stressed the relationship between an individual's health and his or her diet, activity, spiritual attitude and total environment. No single aspect of human life was considered separate from another. The biological, psychological and spiritual were seen as related aspects of the totality." Much of the problem with Western medicine, psychology/psychiatry, and even spirituality is viewing each realm as mutually exclusive. A person's physical problems may be traced back to destructive patterns of thinking or excessive stress. A person's spiritual problems may be exacerbated by poor diet and lack of exercise, leading to diminished self-control. The point of the book is to show that a person's body functions as a whole, not just connected parts. A problem in one part of the body will be reflected in other areas and will affect the operation of the whole.
Also in the introduction are The Seven Principles of the Order of the Universe and The Twelve Theorems of the Unifying Principle, which will look very familiar if you've read Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy
. I had to look up the meaning of "bifurcation" again.
The rest of the content of the book is based on these principles and demonstrates how they work in the universe and in the human body. The principles are followed by a "cheat sheet" of what yin and yang are in specific categories like motion, temperature, biology, etc.
Next is a list of the ten major organs of the body (five yin and five yang) and how they correspond in pairs. Dense organs are yang, while hollow organs are yin. The pairs are as follows: Lungs > Large Intestines, Heart > Small Intestines, Kidneys > Bladder, Spleen > Stomach, Liver > Gall Bladder. "If any problem arises in one organ of the pair, there will also be a problem with the complementary organ." The next section features diagrams of what types of foods are in season throughout the year, which parts of a plant are yin and which are yang, etc. A box chart shows all the major types of foods and where they fall on the spectrum of yin and yang.
The rest of the book discusses how to diagnose a person's state of health. This is done by evaluating the person and their environment, personality, spirituality, and history - everything about them as a whole. The main tool for diagnosis is one's own intuition, which is then confirmed in the examination of behaviors and physical characteristics. Another favorite quote: "Healthy people should look younger than average people their age." Since I look about 15 without makeup and 17 or maybe 18 with makeup, I must be very healthy on some level. Even in person, Dirk couldn't believe I'm 21.
There is way too much in the book to break down section by section, so I'll just mention some highlights. The following sections demonstrate how to see the yin or yang quality of different parts of the body, and how to know the condition of internal organs by checking corresponding areas on the face, in the eye, and all over the body. The section on what different tints in the skin mean was fascinating. There are also multiple pulses - three on each wrist, with one deep and one surface, for a total of twelve pulses, each corresponding to a different organ. Specific qualities of handwriting can show how yin or yang a person is, and the quality of the communication itself shows which body systems are functioning properly and which are not. Towards the end is the guide for proper proportions for main types of food and the order to eat yin and yang foods in when eating macrobiotically.
In the final section, Kushi talks about how to give advice to people in a way that is most likely to help them. You must understand the way their mind works and explain macrobiotics along the path of their understanding, big picture to details or details to big picture. He makes clear that the purpose of healing is not simply removal of physical maladies, but to realign oneself on the path to freedom.
"You should try to help people remember their infinite dream, together with the understanding that this world is ephemeral. Symptoms can be cured and eliminated, but ultimately people have to understand their total freedom and their own creation of their misery. Without such understanding they will repeat their sickness and come back to you. When you treat sick people try to set them on the path of rediscovering their innate freedom.... Our diagnostic advice is primarily education
. Its purpose is to develop the sick person's view of life, his spiritual, mental and physical condition. This way of healing was practised by Jesus and Moses, but there are very few practitioners of this holistic medicine among the millions of doctors in the world today."
Although I disagree with the implication that Jesus healed people physically by healing them spiritually first (He addressed their spiritual separation from God, their greatest need, before addressing their more temporal physical need), and I'm not completely sure how Moses fits into this picture, I do agree that the point of seeking good health is far more than making your life more comfortable. We all have an eternal purpose to fulfill, a soul that lasts beyond the physical body, and we should take care of our body and soul that we may impact the world in the areas we were designed to affect. From personal experience, I know that it's much easier to love your family, to learn, and to make wise decisions when you are physically strong than when your strength is drained and your perception is clouded by ill health.
This book is a very enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to people who want to get their feet wet in understanding macrobiotics. When you read it, make sure you have a mirror nearby, because if you're like me, you'll probably want to try some of the diagnostic techniques on yourself. I have barely begun to master the information and way of thinking. Sitting on my shelf at the moment is Edward and Wendy Esko's Macrobiotic Cooking for Everyone
(courtesy of my favorite used book store, which is such a bland designation for a treasure chest of book and media finds), so that's next on my list to read.
Even as I'm finishing this lengthy review after multiple interruptions, I'm wondering how the arbitrary logical progression reflects on my soundness of mind and body. Logic? What logic?