Vital force, that lies at the heart of all healing

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If health is the absence of disease, it is equally the presence of the vital force.  Natural medicine takes the approach that this vital force is the “intelligence” beyond any of the measurable components of atoms and cells. When our vital force is compromised in any way the effects reverberate throughout the vital energy force and illness is the consequence. Alongside the doctrines, there is an ever-increasing choice of alternative modalities ranging from acupuncture, homoeopathy and naturopathy, to kinesiology, iris analysis and pulse testing, to name only a few, which deal with aligning the body’s energies.

A rising number of people have become in some way disconcerted with modern medical techniques and the mechanistic approach to their health. As the mind-body connection is made, there is a realisation that it is more than just the biological homeostasis which must be maintained for health, but also the corresponding emotional, psychological and esoteric energies of the physical body and practitioners who offer this approach are increasingly sought. Otherwise unexplained spontaneous cancer remissions have been linked to changes in attitude, or the adoption of meditation practices and other practices which are believed to effect a persons vibrational energy levels.

Modern medicine cannot explain the link between the vital force and health or disease. It cannot be seen, captured, controlled, measured, or tested by any of the instruments known to science so it is often dismissed as nonsense.

History assures

History assures us of it’s existence – In China it is known as chi, Sankrist Indians call it Prana, Japanese know it as Ki, Christ referred to it as Mana, Hippocrates called it “vis medicatrix naturae” (L. natures life force) in new age terminology it is known as cosmic energy, vitalism, or the universal life force

Evidently a notion of this energy has existed for years, waning in and out of the human conscious experience like a nagging reminder that regardless of the greatness of our sciences, there is no greater power than that of the life force. It has been proven that it is a field beyond the testing capabilities (if not knowledge) of modern science. Even the standard Oxford Dictionary describes it as “a doctrine that life originates in a vital principle distinct from physical forces.” Perhaps, its essence is best captured in the spirit of traditional or folk medicine to which we look today for clues about the magic of vitalism.

Ancient Greeks, Celts, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures all around the world practiced at some time in their history, a form of healing which is today referred to as ‘holistic’, ‘new age’, ‘alternative’ or ‘complimentary’ medicine.

It was before the body had been divided up and named anatomically and before the physiological boxing of system functions that Shamanistic healing practices were common and the Shaman or Medicine man or woman was the most revered person within a tribe due to their connection with higher Powers and their own innate powers to heal. Bacteria had not been discovered, nor diseases and their pathologies yet people did get sick, so how were they treated? By these traditional healers. These healers were initiated into their practice and worked both on the physical and spiritual realm, using treatments ranging from herbal remedies to dream therapies, both to heal and provide an explanation for the ‘disease’ of the patient. In Australia the Shamans of Aboriginal society were called Marban

The word marban can connote any unusual power and the possessor thereof, but most commonly refers to those persons who have the wisdom and skill to use extraordinary human and non-human powers to diagnose and treat illness and sometimes, to influence the weather. Mabarn also help to maintain order and social control in the community through their curing activities…… It is generally agreed that most mabarn are born with their power, it is djugurdanidjanu (from the dreamtime) (Tonkinson Myrna 1982)

Paramount to the healing process were both the faith of the person being healed and the intent of the healer. That is to say that both had to be believers for the process to be successful. Healing and Spirituality were a singular notion with recognition that one affected the other.

The Mabarn offers an explanation of illness which is within the model of the universe of the desert people. Outside specialists are less able to enter the world of the Aborigines, and although their treatment may be better in theory, the patient has difficulty in responding…. Faith in the healer is a well known ingredient in the healing process. (Buhrmann 1980 p330)

Natural or alternative therapies also work on this faith basis. It is the same process as used in most religions – ‘believe in your prayers and they will be answered’. Today positive affirmations are promoted and used as a means to improved health and lifestyle. It is the belief that thought can in some unknown manner, influence a situation, or in vitalistic terms the energy of a situation. It is through this notion that the basis of “spontaneous remissions” to terminal illnesses can be explained.

The practices used by Shaman would perhaps seem shocking in the eyes of many today, “they use their spirit familiars as assistants in diagnosing illness. Dreaming is used to both diagnose and cure patients whose organs are ‘removed and cleaned’ during the course of the Marban’s dream.” (Buhrmann 1980 p330) Acupuncture, however is still a shock to many, yet this ancient Chinese practice of inserting needles into the body at specified locations is becoming increasingly recognised amongst modern Doctors for its ability to assist the healing process of many diseases.

Throughout the centuries traditional medicines have been revered, outlawed, ridiculed, and finally as if to complete the cycle, a resurgence has emerged. One might suggest this began in the 16th century with the work of Paracelsus, others might say he merely gave doctrine to a form of medicine which existed since humankind.

He (Paracelsus) was the first biochemist, physiologist, pathologist, and pharmaceutical chemist, as well as one of the earliest scientific surgeons. His ideas became the basis upon which conventional medicine developed, after they had been “purified” of his magico-spiritual orientation. (Wood Matthew piix 1992)

Paracelsus’ based his medical practices on the tenet ‘Vis Medicatrix Naturae or Nature cure, believing that the body and mind’s natural healing capabilities were best restored when using techniques that are considered to be in harmony with Nature or natural processes. He was ridiculed and labelled a quack during his time, but by the Renaissance era when Humanism was at its peak, the ideas of Paraclesus’ work had re-emerged. As humankind began to question the reasons behind their existence, much talk was focused around questions of the soul and “energies” which affected the human ‘spirit’.

Principles of Vitalism

Dr Sammuel Hahnemann, founder of Homoeopathy in the 19th century, adopted the principles of vitalism in his work claiming that it is the dynamic or vitalistic force which animates the human body and that “without the vital force, the material organism is capable of no sensation, no function, no self-preservation.” (Wood 1992 p.51)

So what has brought on this resurgence in “traditional” medicine and the vitalistic approach? It seems that the answer lies somewhere in the mist between science and religion. The Science which has dominated since the Renaissance and which promised to reveal the secret of life, has revealed it has limits hidden beyond the realms of human grasp. The birth of Jesus Christ and the ‘New Religion’ outlawed the ‘Old Religions’ which had connected the mind, body and spirit to the earth through ritual, prayer, sacrifice, and a reverence to nature.

There seems too to be a growing acknowledgment that there may be a power greater than just the One God with which people have become so accustomed. For the one God, theory seems to provide only one perspective, one truth, and not necessarily the one sought or required. Matthew Wood in the Magical Staff suggests that humankind needed a religion such as Christianity due to our inability to handle too much complex knowledge at any one time. (Wood Matthew p.x 1992) Now, as our faith in science and religion tumbles, the vital force of the collective unconscious seems to be revealing, piece at a time, a part of that ancient knowledge which was stripped from us so long ago. As our ability to see from more than just one perspective grows, it is as if it truly is a new ‘sight’, a new dimension. We are becoming acutely aware of the energy forces flowing in and around us and we are re-learning how to use them, especially in the healing and health maintenance process.

In the Western world, our re-embracement of our vital energy is greatly assisted by people whom we might describe as “enlightened beings” – the Deepak Chopra’s, Louise Hay’s, Rupert Sheldrakes and so many others who are creating a ripple effect as the knowledge they impart in one circle spreads out to the next. They are, through their writing and documentation of personal experience, reminding humankind of it’s true potential, the magic within, the power to heal. Re-connecting the Mind, Body & Spirit and having us recognise that through our thoughts, our emotions, our experiences, our way of modern living, we expend our vitality and thereby jeopardise our health.

Benefits of Positive Thinking

‘Positive thinking leads to a healthier, happier life’ seems to be the ‘catch cry’ of the nineties. A multitude of media is now available on how positive living may be achieved through enhancing the positive energy around oneself. These books (plus their accompanying lectures, tapes, c.d.’s etc) lean heavily on the traditions of natural medicine and the vitalistic approach. Louise Hay for example suggests that

The holistic philosophy is to nurture and nourish the entire being – the Body, the Mind, and the Spirit. If we ignore any of these areas, we are incomplete, we lack wholeness….If we begin with the body, we would want to work with nutrition…..We would want to find a form of exercise that appeals to us…..With the mind, we could explore visualisation techniques, guided imagery, and affirmations…Meditation…allow{s} your “knowingness” to come to the surface…..In the spiritual realm…..there is becoming connected with your Higher Source. (Hayes Louise 1984 p88-9)

Our vitality comes through acknowledgment of self and our environment, and the choices we make. Our requirements for life, herbs, minerals, foods, the oxygen we breathe and even light all has its own vitality which must be acknowledged and preserved in the intake in order to maintain the balance of the vital human force.

And, so it is through such acknowledgment that we re-unite the human spirit, with nature and we look once again to the earth mother to feed and protect us


By Jayne Parish