Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pyramids of Power

Pyramids of Power: An Ancient African Approach to Optimal Health by Dr. John Chissell, both the tape and book, were donated to my school recently in a big box of other gems. I borrowed this book to find out what exactly is an ancient African approach to healing. The book is divided into a number of chapters with ones focusing on Optimal Health intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socio-economically. African-American author, Chissell , does an effective job of developing a healing philosophy which combines his medical knowledge with Ancient Egyptian/Kemetic healing practices and alternative healing. He describes the Pyramids of Power which are a series of triangles which can do anything from promote healthy relationships, reduce illnesses, and increase well-being. I read this book and although it is described as "African" in its approach, I felt a bit of "deja vu", as in "I read this before"... "it sounds a lot like...", etc. In less than 100 pages, Dr. Chissell promotes a healing practice which endorses raw veganism, forgiveness, meditations, and a "healthy" criticism of the medical system.

In the first chapter, he describes his own health crisis, a diagnosis of malignant hypertension, which led him to his philosophy. Reading the name of this condition, I became confused since I only know "malignant" to mean cancerous and "hypertension" as high blood pressure. Confused, I thought "cancerous high blood pressure" was impossible but thanks to wikipedia, I understand that Chissell's ailment "is severe hypertension (high blood pressure) with acute impairment of an organ system (especially the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and/or the renal system) and the possibility of irreversible organ-damage". Chissell had gone the medical route by taking an ever-increasing strength of prescriptive medications. However in what would be considered a "spiritual awakening" while a medical intern, this physician ended his agnosticism which led him to a path where he believed in " a divine order" (Ma'at) that eventually led him to seriously question and trust in the healing capabilities of his body. What I appreciate is that despite his training in medicine, he was still able to critically view the health care system in which he worked, dubbing it a "sick care system" since he felt that too much emphasis was being placed on treating illnesses and not preventing or curing them. Very rare is it to find a doctor trained in Western medicine who actually sees the limits of its practice and embrace other philosophies. Like Queen Afua, contributors to Sistah Vegan, Kris Carr, and so many others which I have reviewed on this blog, Dr. Chissell sees food as medicine and extensively explains his medical reasoning for this through his ABC system.

Nevertheless, through his dietary changes, exercise, stress reduction, and other lifestyle adjustments, Dr. Chissell was able to reverse his illness. I appreciate that he also provided a much more comprehensive explanation of Ancient Afrikan/Kemetic beliefs and practices than what I found in Sacred Woman by Queen Afua. Although I do some broader parallels with Christianity and other belief systems, I am still unclear on a lot of specifics in Ancient Afrikan/Kemetic philosophy including the deity (Amun) and energy (Nun). The Pyramids of Power are also a bit unclear, abstract, and convoluted. (Near the end of the book, I began to feel a bit lost.) He does provide a lot of description about the different pyramids however, I felt a bit lost and overwhelmed with all this information. There are diagrams but they are completely separate from the descriptions and that does not help my comprehension. What I do love is that this writer grounds himself in his ancestry and place of origin which lends to his lens and way of looking at the world. He reminds me that my African ancestors, as do many other indigenous peoples, looked to nature for clues about healing. By looking at how animals behave, we can gather clues about how one may live to gain optimal health.

John T. Chissell, MD

Coming up next: Race & Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes, and Activism of African Canadians by Carl James et al.

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