We interviewed Dr Liliana Atz on a previous occasion, and met her again to talk about EnneaMediCina, an alternative health discipline that brings together two ancient medical-philosophical systems, the Enneagram and Chinese medicine, revisited in the light of the neurosciences. EnneaMediCina offers a new approach to well-being and to the integration of body, mind and spirit involving various disciplines that join with – and reinforce – each other. As Dr Atz explains, the Enneagram is a symbol representing reality in its entirety, a dynamic model that encapsulates the Universe at macrocosmic and microcosmic levels, and which groups human beings under three centres and nine types.
Chinese medicine, on the other hand, is based on an ancient medical-philosophical culture in which a human is considered a combination of ‘something’ that – although not defined as ‘genetic’ – includes a couple’s energy at the moment they conceive a new being. Other factors include the movements and energy of the stars, and the circumstances that brought the couple together at that moment – does their union take place in time of peace or war; is it an act of love or an act of aggression? These diverse elements form the initial substratum that give rise to a unique and unrepeatable individual that – interacting with the environment – breathes life into what we call ‘personality’.
In psychology, differing psychological reactions have long been explained as the result of the interaction between specific genotypes and phenotypes. This is where PNEI (Psiconeuroendocrinoimmunology) comes into play. PNEI is a scientific model that considers the working of the human organism as it is in life: a totality. For a long time, medicine has studied human beings by carrying out detailed investigations of systems, organs, and tissues, thus obtaining a mass of extraordinary ‘mechanical’ information, but losing sight of the whole. The scientific evidence gathered by PNEI on the constant communication between biological systems has allowed a reconnection between what, in life, has never been separated: the mind and the body.
This discipline provides confirmation that human beings are not fragmented, that they play an active part in their health and are not helpless victims of the whims of chance or of an inescapable genetic inheritance.
Dr Atz, when did you first learn about the disciplines that led to the creation of EnneaMediCina?
I first encountered the two great strands of knowledge that lie at the core of EnneaMediCina between the mid-1980s and the early 1990s.
“I am, fundamentally, a studious, a researcher, a person who is never satisfied with outward appearances and the ordinary, or the non-sense of things and situations.
“EnneaMediCina is the result of a long period of study, and a curiosity driven by an existential unease that was searching for answers. This led me to a train of thought that has met increasingly with validation in the fields of neuroscience and in leading-edge theories on the workings of the human psychosoma.”
What are the differences between the language of the Enneagram and the language of Chinese medicine?
“Our Western cultural model leads us to compare, to search for the infinitely small, to separate, divide and categorise. Our mind is built on a framework of right/wrong, good/bad, and health/illness.
“The Eastern model, on the other hand, has a different vision of reality that is more holistic, more global. Thus, light is not in conflict with darkness, just as health is not in conflict with illness, etc.
“The two models are simply different approaches to the same phenomenon. History has divided the tasks: to the West it assigned research, experimentation, the risk of ‘pushing the boundaries’, of understanding and dominating matter, and the exaltation of the power of humankind over nature (microcosm, the infinitely small).
“To the East, history assigned the tasks of conserving dominance over energy, observing spirituality and understanding one’s inner self; denying the exaltation of ego, promoting the harmony of man in contact with nature and respect for the universe (macrocosm – the Oneness).
“Macrocosm and microcosm are thus inextricably bound to each other: the infinitely large contains – in a mirror version – the infinitely small, just as the infinitely small contains the infinitely large.”
How has the approach to these ancient healing practices changed following their re-evaluation in the light of the neurosciences?
“The Enneagram defines nine personality types arising from nine ‘traps’, ‘passions’ or ‘mortal vices’. These are the Seven Deadly Sins –
Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, and Lust – plus two further vices, Deceit and Fear, which block the infinite possibilities enclosed in the DNA of our cells.
Hidden behind our interpretation of reality – deformed since infancy by our subjective point of view (behind which we all learn to mask our individuality) – is the separation from Self, but also from others and from the divine.
“The Sins are, therefore, exacerbations of personality that prevent energy from flowing freely.
“In Taoist philosophy, which runs through TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), the entire cosmos is the manifestation of Tao (the sphere representing the continual alternation of Yin/Yang), and is the primary law on which TCM is based. Moreover, it is thanks to the two poles – Yin and Yang – that the movement of energy is created, giving life to what exists.
“In TCM, which is a vibrational medicine, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood express the diverse vibratory characteristics of Qi (energy) present in the Universe and in humankind and which, combined in different ways according to the principles of Yin/Yang, give rise to a multitude of psycho-physical-emotional responses. Today these can be explained by western science.
“We can, therefore, switch our genes on or off by starting to move: we can choose to actively experience life, or to block its flow because we are afraid or because we resort to habitual, consoling patterns of behaviour, even when this leads to malaise.
“All of this is represented psycho-spiritually in the symbol of the Enneagram and, in TCM, by the Taijitu symbol.”
What are Enneagram types?
“The Enneagram types are numerological archetypes of typical and recognisable models of human behaviour. Because these archetypes are situated in the depths of the collective subconscious, they influence behaviour without the individual being aware of it.
“This archetypical genetic potential, which we are all born with, determines which set of talents and innate abilities we are endowed with.”
What is epigenetics?
“Epigenetics is the science that studies how DNA functionality is modulated by information arriving from the environment. Our choices in terms of diet, physical activity and the ways we handle stress have the ability to switch genes on or off, thus influencing their functions without altering their sequence.”
Is it actually possible to influence one’s own DNA? What does ‘neuroplasticity’ mean?
“Epigenetics is the branch of molecular biology that focuses on the modifications that genetic material can undergo during the life of an organism as a result of the causal interactions between genes and their product. Contrary to what was once believed, genetics is not an insurmountable obstacle to change.
“According to the latest neuroscientific studies, we can modify our life path by activating what is defined as ‘neuroplasticity’: the brain’s capacity to modify the restrictive beliefs about ourselves and the world.
“It seems to be ever more a statement of fact that DNA can be influenced and reprogrammed through words and energy waves – a concept embraced by Eastern therapies right from the start!”
When does the psyche influence our life, and when does it affect our health?
“As both epigenetics and PNEI have demonstrated for some time, childhood experiences are consolidated in beliefs, thoughts and feelings that mark the life trajectory of an individual. If children are given a loving and protective environment that nurtures their growing personalities, they will be able to face difficulties with optimism and confidence.
“As proven scientifically by PNEI, this kind of environment stimulates hormones that promote well-being rather than stress and discomfort; it is the quality of our thoughts and belief in our own potential that helps us to stay healthy.”
How are the organs of the human body linked to the psyche?
“It is now clear, even to Western medicine, that unity of mind and body underlies the treatment and cure of illness, and that harmonising the five emotions and seven feelings of Chinese medicine are intimately connected to what PNEI calls ‘the healing of psychological scars linked to constricting beliefs and states of mind.
“According to PNEI, emotions are biochemical; they transform into cascades of molecular messages, and these messages reach the various parts of the body, including the immune system, establishing a continuous dialogue between the nervous system, endocrine system and immune system that can determine good health or illness.
“This had already been established thousands of years ago in Chinese medicine, according to which good health is the result of a balanced diet, correct breathing, a functioning system of defence against external and internal pathogens, and the harmonious flow of the ‘five emotions and seven feelings’.
“When an imbalance occurs, the organ and the viscera connected to the element (the structure most characterising of the particular Enneagram type) will be first to signal the disharmony and suffer a disorder. If the problem finds no solution, the entire psychophysical structure will eventually be affected.”
Could you explain what the ‘Qi of Healing’ consists of?
“The set of ancient Chinese practices used in the pursuit of long life were a form of shamanism and have been lost in the mists of time.
“The shamans were tribal leaders – often women – who were experts in herbal medicine, exorcism and spiritualism, and sought contact with the forces of nature. They were the first doctors in Chinese history.
“Their healing techniques included sequences of physical movement and vocal expression.
“By means of sacred dances, they coordinated the movements of the body and respiration with the breath of creation, eliminating negative energies from the body.
“Many academics believe that these dances were the precursor of present-day Tai Chi Chi Kung, whose basic purpose it to enable the body’s Qi to resonate with the breath of nature.
“In fact – as confirmed by an increasing number of studies – the correct practice of so-called ‘medical exercises’ helps to increase the production and flow of Qi (breaths, energy) in the body, while at the same time stimulating the circulation of blood and emotions.
“It is interesting that in 2004, for future medical protocols, the World Health Organisation had already included acupuncture, manual therapies, Qigong, Taiji and other physical, mental and spiritual therapies, such as shamanism, alongside western medicine.”
You are the author of various publications including books on EnneaMediCina. Could you tell us something about them? Where can they be bought?
“Temperament and personality, residing in various facets symbolised by the nine basic types of Enneagram, are united under EnneaMediCina with the fundamental laws of Chinese medicine to broaden the vision of humankind on a quest for global and conscious well-being.”
Who am I?
Which of the Enneagram types characterises me best?
What are the mental and physical problems that characterise that Enneagram type?
Which psycho-spiritual dynamics form its matrix?
“The book begins by asking these fundamental questions and by identifying the reader’s predominant psychological type. The physical problems connected to the type and the underlying psycho-spiritual dynamics can both be verified.
“Psyche and soma speak the same language and, taking for example Enneagram type 9 – whose themes are related to procrastination, the difficulty of self-expression, and to the passage to other levels of consciousness – we will see how the emotion that initially characterises it is unrecognised and unexpressed anger.
Type 9 belongs to the Instinctive Triad, to the reptilian brain – which means it relates to survival, reproduction and the control of territory. If the anger problems remain unresolved, type 9 may exhibit signs of physical and mental imbalance, as follows.
Body: digestive problems, weak tendons and joints, testicular and prostate disorders, inflammation of female genitals, irregularities of the menstrual cycle, tremors, spasms, tics, blockage of the diaphragm and pelvis, paresthesia, problems with eyesight, arthritis, obesity, psoriasis…
Psyche: excessive oneiric activity, ravings, exaltations, emotion and energy swings, depression, instability, the urge to cry, shyness.
“Quantum physics reveals that everything is interconnected: the observer becomes part of what is observed; that the probabilities of the vibration (Qi) become material only in the presence of an observer; and that our awareness determines the reality in which we live.
“To escape the dynamics at the root of these problems using EnneaMediCina, the reader may decide to follow a path leading to awareness and consciousness of – and experimentation with – their self and their other potential. This is the path of neuroplasticity, as described above.