Emergence Theory is Ayurveda in Practice

Emergence Theory is Ayurveda in Practice

In This Article

Treating the Whole, not the Parts

Charles Darwin’s half-cousin, Sir Francis Galton, was a 19th-century Victorian statistician, sociologist and anthropologist. He was intrigued by a carnival game where contestants were asked to estimate the weight of a large ox for a prize.

Sir Francis Galton inquired whether anyone ever actually guessed the exact weight of the ox. He then asked if he could see the 800 or so guesses submitted by the carnival-goers. He analyzed the numbers, and found that the average guess for the weight of the ox was 1187 pounds…

The exact weight of the animal was 1188 pounds! The average of the group was way smarter than any one individual – suggesting to Sir Francis that there was an unseen intelligence of the whole that does not exist in the parts.

For centuries, this theory has been tested over and over again in psychology classes by asking a class to estimate the number of beans or now, jelly beans, in a large jar. Repeatedly, the average of the group’s individual estimates is more accurate than any one individual in the group. (1)

Today, this science or phenomenon is called “Emergence.” (1) Examples of emergence in nature are beehives, coral reefs, schools of fish that work together as one, ant colonies, animal herding, microbial intelligence… the examples are truly endless!

Can the BODY as a Whole Be More Intelligent Than the Sum of its Parts?

According to Ayurveda, health issues set in when any one part of the body forgets its role as part of the whole. This is referred to as “smriti” in Ayurveda. In the west, we call it “cellular memory.” Another common Ayurvedic notion is that we treat the whole person who has the disease, but not the disease itself.

In the west, the concept of treating the whole body is coming to light, but it is still far from a mainstay in modern medicine. That said, the most accurate diagnosis and treatment in the world is a western diagnosis. For example, if you have heart disease, knowing exactly what went wrong with a specific part in the heart can be life-saving. Diagnosing an arthritic hip and replacing it can add quality years to one’s life, and a diagnosis of diabetes is a life-saving and life-extending diagnosis in some cases. As a culture, we would be in harm’s way without the wisdom to diagnose and treat the parts.

Today, however, there is an urgent need for more research into treating chronic disease before the expensive diagnosis and treatment. This is not only bankrupting our medical system, it is bankrupting the average American. In 2013, the federal government reported that Americans had $41 billion in out-of-pocket costs associated with prescription drugs, causing a rising number of medical bankruptcies. (2)

To resolve this financial and personal crisis, we need to direct our attention toward the parts that have lost their memory of proper function with the whole, and exactly why they lost their way. 

Proving ancient wisdom with modern science is the intent at LifeSpa.com. We are taking time-tested health practices, techniques and tools that have been used successfully for thousands of years and finding modern science that backs these practices. The nature of these practices is that they almost always focus on the whole, rather than fixing the parts.

Western medicine provides us mastery in fixing broken parts, while traditional systems of medicines, such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine, are geared towards healing the cause of the broken partby addressing the whole.

Let me give you a quick glimpse of what I regularly write about… We now know that stress impacts the intestinal tract, disturbs digestion and the health of the beneficial bacteria inside the gut. This stress-induced microbial alteration is linked to disturbances in our mind, mood and cognitive ability through what is called the “gut-brain axis.” (4)

Stress, which is just one way the body can break down, is linked to 3 critical bodily functions: assimilation of nutrients, the detoxification and removal of waste, and the integrity of the body’s immunity. (3)

A dysfunction in any one of these three can cause innumerable problems, concerns and diseases in the parts that they affect. I encourage you to continue learning how to strengthen the whole in these areas and, in turn, protect your parts.


  1. http://www.radiolab.org/story/91500-emergence/
  2. http://www.cnbc.com/2014/05/28/costs-fuel-painful-medical-debt-bankruptcies.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22314561
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/

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Dr. John

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