It has been said by some scholars that Ancient Greece was “The Sun Culture because of their great open air stone temples. The Greeks affiliated the sun with health and the word we use in English “Health” is actually a derivative of the Greek “Helios” which means “Sun”. So to the Greeks the sun was a healer of the body. And to other cultures too!
Some historians have noted the relevance of the sun to Ancient Persia with their veneration of the sun in their ancient Zoroastrian books.
King Akhenaton of Egypt brought up the sun idea as he stood it against Egypts’ many gods with his idea of “One God”.
Later in legend-or is it history? we find Moses (Thutmoses?) reiterates the one god idea but seems not to emphasize the sun though he does encounter “a pillar of fire by day”.
Here let us look at the Greeks and their peculiar neighbors-the Scythians-
as both have quite a lot to say to those of us interested in the physical body and its training and development. Most importantly these cultures established priorities about the physical body which have not really changed in importance and these remain extremely useful to those of us interested in the world of The Physicalist.
Greeks and Scythians; The Elements
According to Greek history Hippocrates is credited as the father of modern medicine. He introduced the theory of four humors which parallels the four elements. Hippocrates also taught the imbalance of these elements was the primary cause of sickness in the human body. The Four Elements are Earth, Fire, Water and Air. The humors they parallel are Melancholic,Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Choleric. This concept remains extremely useful when evaluating the basic health of a person and is still used by practitioners of Unani Medicine. Those of you familiar with the Chinese herbalists “Five Element Theory” or “Three Aspects” of Ayurvedic medicine will see many parallels.
According to Greek legend Hippocrates
learned these basic medicine from an athletic trainer or Paidotribe called Herodicus. Herodicus, was not only a martial arts man; boxer and wrestler-but was also a massage therapist or “anointer”. He was, in short a sort of “Physicalist”. But he was not a Physician. In the academies of the day The Greek Physicians oversaw the “Physicalist” who was known as a “Paidotribe”. History and myth of this time goes back further to the legendary figures of the Centaurs or Horse-Men who according to legend knew the secrets of medicine. Pythagoras is credited with an additional influence as he brought Egyptian wisdom to the Greeks. Through his tradition the significance of numbers as both quality and quantity was taught along with his theory of musical harmony and scale which also had an effect on medical theory. These concepts are finding their way back into medicine at present due to the latest theories on vibration/wave theory and it’s effect on health.
according to prevailing historic opinion were probably the “horsemen” or more accurately, the Scythians from Asia. This picture of the Centaurs points to a School or what could be called The Way of the Scythians. The Scythians, then were synonymous with the teaching which was associated with the Centaurs or horse-men whom the Greeks personified as Chiron and Aesclapius, who according to legend taught Herodicus. If we are are to seek for a source for the Greek Four Element theory we can find it in the “Centaurs”.
It is on the four element theory that all western medicine was based from 400 BC until the 1940’s. Due to the present complexity of modern medicine some Physicians have suggested to me a return to the four element theory as essential to simply organize the vast array of secondary and tertiary details now flooding medical diagnosis.
As mentioned before, The Four Elements are; 1.Air, 2.Water, 3.Earth, 4. Fire
These same elements were used to describe Temperaments or “Humors” in the bloodstream as well as body types and personality types.
The four personality types are;
1. Choleric (naturally reactive, loves to argue, easily angered, likes to “get it done”),
2. Melancholic (quiet, introspective, poetic,easily sad, sits still),
3. Phlegmatic (quick thinking, but appears slow, graceful, on the outside, loves puzzles)
4. Sanguine (energetic, cheerful, extroverted, may not “get it done” but will have a great time)
With these “Theories of Four” (probably of Persio-Scythian origin and carried to Greece from “Asia”)- a fifth aspect; that of “physis” or “organism in unity” was added- by the Greeks themselves. Modern medicine calls this idea “homeostasis” the Chinese concept of “Ch’i” is connected to this.
This aspect is also extremely important because it treats the body as a unity. To this idea of balance Hippocrates emphasized history or more accurately- patient history. In other words, he realized the effects of TIME on the balance of health and disease.
Eventually, as Greek Medical Theory formed the Four Humors were literally cross-referenced to the Four Elements to form an Octagon which would symbolize among other things, complete Health. This same Octagon is found in the Tic Tac To game and is used in the Magic Squares of the most ancient Siberian Shamanism which predate the Greek period discussed here and may well have been brought in by the Scythian cultures as well.
With the teaching of this symbol of this Octagon or “Pattern of Eight” as listed above- is also another symbol; that of the Hexagon of of “Six Non-Naturals” or Six Sources of Dis-ease. (Attributed to Herodicus).
The Non-Naturals are variables used to this day in Traditional Arab/Greek/Muslim Herbal Medicine to diagnose illness. They are also attributed to Herodicus, and include;
6. water (food).
In modern times the balance of these six aspects are much ignored.
This Hexagon of traits-
Is the key to health and ONLY when these things are balanced do physicians in these traditions search for further causes of disease. As the Roman Catholics discovered with Exorcism- first look for natural causes for physical and behavioral problems in people. Once these six are established as balanced we can then look to psychological or spiritual problems.
The Ancient Archetype of Physical Culture;
Chiron- the Centaur of legend both Master Archer and herbalist. It was he who taught Hippocrates and Jason.
(Illustration from Maxfield Parrish’s “Jason and his teacher”)
This image points to a stream of knowledge coming down from ancient times (Atlantis) via the Scythians, fully initiated in archery on horseback and possibly the riding of stags and the use of chariots with horses and stags.
(Some Greek statuary points to this especially in regard to the Amazons and ancient Goddess religions). Archery also implicates sacred geometry-starting with the line, arc, and circle and is the basis of healing the human body through poisons and herbs and designating many other life giving technologies. This could also include the development of the harp from the bow and the music of the harp-which also heals. Archery also includes the principle of tension-and-release which connects to the activity – rest rhythms in the body.
½ human and ½ animal, Chiron would have understood the secrets of the human body and the links of humans and animals. It may well be the ancient Scythians embodies this idea as they domesticated animals and had the first Cavalrys in history. R. Steiner once gave out the meditation of visualizing oneself as a centaur with wings. This embodies the combining of the three natures; those of man, animal and angel (wings). Ancient Shamanistic paintings world- wide show centaurs in different ways; some were half- stag and half-human. There were also those that appeared half- horse or half- goat as well. Pan is one of them. Cernannos, the earliest ram horned man- is also one of them. Dionysius is connected to them. So, from this we see, even the basic mythic form of the Centaur is somewhat variable but
stands at the ancient door of physical health.
The Scythians were reputedly, taught by the Centaurs-or mistaken to be them. Highly developed crafts of goldsmithing
were exchanged with them, along with medicine and probably weaponry as well as various forms of related medicine and Shamanism.
The Scythian influence goes back before 1800 b.c.e. (see From Scythia to Camelot, by Littleton and Malcor p.5) when people –if art and poetry are any indication -thought in a very different but visionary way. Their perception worked in dream pictures, woven with outside reality – their spiritual perceptions flowed into them through poetic sense as they moved through a pristine nature. As their consciousness expanded -as history rolled on- it shifted from the stars and the heavens toward the earth, it’s animals and the elements. Around 1500 BC the pictures of men-animals make their appearance with the Centaurs and many other creatures of twin natures like the serpent man Fu His, and his wife Fu-nu from Chinese legend.
*Practical Exercises for the students of this chapter are;
1. Pulse Diagnosis (Use Chinese or Unani/Muslim tradition).
2. Urinalysis (same as above)