Copyright 2013-2022 by Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc.
By Bruce Berkowsky, N.M.D., M.H., NCTMB
In this article I present an overview of the theoretical context of traditional naturopathy. Although I am long retired from naturopathic practice, these principles will always be the organizing nucleus and ground of my physical existence.
Ostensibly, the formalized practice of naturopathy began in 19th century Europe with the advent of water-cure therapy. However, naturopathy has actually evolved from the healing practices of the ancients. After all, practitioners (such as Hippocrates and Galen) who had only natural foods and medicines at their disposal, were essentially naturopaths. In turn, much of their understanding of health and disease was built upon the accrued knowledge and experience of preceding generations of healers, beginning with prehistoric ones.
Unfortunately, the practice of traditional natural healing arts, especially in the western world, is rapidly disappearing. Although the near absolute dominance of allopathic medicine is a relatively recent phenomenon that began in the late 19th century, the allopathic viewpoint regarding the nature of health and disease has come to be viewed as the most informed and legitimate one. Accordingly, a medical treatment model that focuses upon symptoms rather than cause and places greater emphasis on standardization, rather than individualization, of therapy is, for a variety of reasons, now being adopted by many of the natural healing disciplines.
However, symptoms do not constitute the disease. Rather, they are the effects of the disease. Symptoms are local expressions of general states. While standardization has value regarding efficiency within a high volume practice, it runs counter to the undeniable fact that no two individuals are alike. Each human being is individualized by the singular nature of his or her own soul and its tangible emotional and physical expressions. Accordingly, a treatment model that ignores individuality has a detached, soul-less quality that not only impacts clinical outcome but also tends to make the patient feel as if he has lost control of his own life and is losing touch with who he really is.
Of course, change and adaptation over time are inevitable and unquestionably there is a great deal that can be learned from modern scientific research, diagnostics and therapeutic methodology. However, this does not require that the natural healing arts sacrifice its timeless understanding of the true nature of health and disease.
The 19th century German poet/philosopher J.W. von Goethe observed: “The half-known hinders knowing. Since all of our knowing is only half, our knowing always hinders our knowing.” Knowing based purely upon rational intellect, disconnected from the spirit that vitalizes all aspects of the natural universe, is inherently half–knowing.
Philosopher J.N. Findlay in The Transcendence of the Cave remarks: “The other world is, in fact, not so much another world as another half of one world, which two halves only make full, rounded sense when seen in their mutual relevance and interconnection.”
The ancient healers understood that complete knowing required not only the application of rational intellect but also application of the imaginative consciousness, which enables one to go beyond analysis of physical properties via a complementary perception of the higher forces that sustain these physical properties. While these higher forces are beyond the reach of the senses and rational consciousness, they constitute the inner nature of the phenomena of the natural universe. So long as we deny their relevance and persist in willful half-knowing, we cannot make “full, rounded sense” of health and disease, and the burgeoning health crisis our society is now experiencing, will only deepen and extend.
Absent this understanding of the connection between form and substance, light and vessel, knowing cannot be other than half-knowing, which obstructs access to complete understanding. Modern science, for all its undeniably impressive achievements, has its limitations. Albert Einstein underscored this when he said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world…Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
In his latest work: The Barbarous Years, the great Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn explores the dark, violent relationship between the early settlers in the 17thcentury English settlements in North America and the Native Americans whose land they occupied. In an indirect way, the heedless destruction of Native American culture has contributed to the nearly complete disconnection of modern science from the rhythms of the natural universe.
In reference to the Native Americans of that era, Bailyn writes: “Their world was multitudinous, densely populated by active, sentient and sensitive spirits, spirits with consciences, memories and purposes, that surround them, instructed them, impinged on their lives at every turn. No less real for being invisible…the whole of life was a spiritual enterprise…the universe in all its movements and animations and nature was suffused with spiritual potency…All the world was alive! And the wind is alive! The mountains are alive!”
I recently read an article about those Amazon tribes who still live deep within the rainforest and follow their traditional ways. As I turned a page, I came across a portrait photograph of an old shaman. His eyes, even on a two dimensional page, reflected a bottomless depth of knowing. When I peered into those eyes I perceived a forest trail within them, the trailhead of which was first blazed millenniums before by healers who were as much a part of the earth and its turning within the cosmos as the cycle of the seasons.
Compare this to the familiar image of the doctor who appears in a television commercial, garbed in surgical scrubs or long lab coat, a stethoscope slung casually around his neck–the dress and diagnostic instrument that serve as symbols of his awesome knowledge and status–peddling some drug that makes no impression upon cause and carries the potential risk of a litany of serious side effects. Whatever trail his eyes contain has no connection to the timeless wisdom of nature. Instead, he uses his authority to convince a trusting, readily misled public to take toxic substances into their bodies in order to suppress symptoms without addressing cause. After all, cause almost invariably involves poor eating habits, sedentary behavior, etc. and there is no profit to be made in discussing any of that. One of the dictums of traditional naturopathy is: So long as cause persists, its effects will accumulate and extend.
It is ironic that medical researchers, who generally dismiss the domestic practice of natural medicine as unscientific, flock to the Amazon forests hoping to make contact with a shaman such as the one in that photo. Even though he has never spent a day in medical school or even elementary school, they are eager to learn whatever he can teach them about the medicinal plants of the forest. However, driven by medical science’s penchant for reductionism, they will take whatever knowledge they garner about those medicinal plants and strip it of all its holistic and spiritual context in the quest to isolate one biochemical component that can be made into a highly profitable patent drug to be used as yet another means of treating symptoms rather than cause.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the theoretical context of traditional naturopathy. I suggest you absorb of much of it as you can for it holds the key not only to better health but to the wholeness of being that can only be attained though integration with the spirit and rhythms of the natural universe.
The True Nature Of Health And Disease
Human life is dependent upon the presence of certain fundamental conditions, including: proper diet; pure water; fresh air; sunlight; exercise; accommodating climatic conditions; rest and sleep; emotional poise. Health exists in direct proportion to the extent that these conditions are supplied or denied.
The human being has an intrinsic, organic relationship with said fundamental elements, and disease is an outgrowth of a deficiency of one or more of them. Thus, the restoration of health in the ill individual is effected via the identical means of sustaining life and preserving health in the well, meaning: reestablishment in the ill person’s life of said fundamental factors in accordance with individualized biochemical and constitutional requirements. Lacking the restoration of these fundamental conditions, surgery and drugs (even natural medicines such as herbs and homeopathy) can act only superficially upon the symptoms or ultimates of an underlying disharmony. Hence, the unrectified disharmony, which the organism must ultimately express, will eventually manifest in some other, and perhaps more threatening, form.
Acute diseases, especially in children, may resolve themselves despite improper management if the patient’s resiliency and powers of recuperation are still intact. However, chronic diseases can never be fully remedied by therapeutic fragments, but only through restoration of the proper relationship of all the elements of life in organic unity. In 1892, Emmet Densmore, M.D. in How Nature Cures wrote:“The law of cure may be defined as the unfailing tendency on the part of the organism toward health, since disease is but the expression and result of a disturbance of the conditions natural to life. The only useful office of the physician is to restore those conditions.”
Sickness is a state the body adopts because the state of normality can no longer be sustained. It is a valiant attempt by the Vis Medicatrix Naturae (i.e., innate healing power of the body) to restore normality, and the symptoms produced are evidence of this healing power’s endeavors toward restoration. However, without reintegration with the fundamental conditions of life, only some degree of symptomatic amelioration, rather than full recovery of vigor and vitality, is attainable. In chronic disease, the alternate state adopted by the body never fully leaves when only treated symptomatically, because the conditions prerequisite for the normal state have not been reestablished.
Chinese medicine is based upon the connectedness and interplay between the internal organs and the external environment. Noted practitioners of Chinese medicine Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, O.M.D. in Between Heaven And Earth write: “Most ancient cultures, engaged in tilling, sowing, cultivating and harvesting the soil, depended upon the fruits of the land for survival. Agrarian cultures experienced power through Nature and aspired to be in harmony with the seasons, rhythms and patterns that connected all things with each other. Within this reality, the world was like a garden. The garden was Nature–the living earth, the human person, the biosphere, the circle of all life.”
Failure of modern medicine derives, in large part, from its viewing of the individual as an autonomous entity with only a vaguely defined relationship to the natural universe. Certainly, the need for oxygen, water, food and light are accepted, but only given one-dimensional acknowledgement. What is lacking is a visceral understanding that human life is fully intertwined with Nature and that health, disease and recovery from disease are all manifestations of natural forces.
This lack is disturbingly evident in the hospital environment as well as the clinical protocols employed in those environs. Natural sunlight, when it manages to enter the patient’s room, does so only by chance, not design. Instead, artificial lighting, which illuminates but lacks the healing qualities of natural light is pervasive. In intensive-care units, circadian rhythms are often ignored while glaring, fluorescent lighting are kept on round-the-clock, contributing to the profound mental and physical disorientation experienced by many of the unfortunate residents of these wards. Florence Nightingale, while attending wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, observed that among those patients who had experienced great hemorrhage and debility, the ones who recovered quickest (all other factors being equal) were those whose beds had the greatest sun exposure. She also noted that these same patients, when asleep, uniformly turned their faces toward the sunlight. Sir James Wylie, physician to a Russian czar (quoted in Sun, Air and Light Baths), found: “The number of patients cured in rooms permeated by sunlight was 3-times greater than that of those confined in dark rooms.”
With reference to fresh air, windows are often inexplicably kept closed, forcing debilitated patients to sustain their flickering life-flame with recycled air impregnated with the exhalations of the sick and dying and the swarming microbes associated with disease. James C. Jackson, M.D., a renowned Nature-cure physician, wrote in 1868 in his book How To Nurse The Sick: “Be sure, then, that in treating any invalid, whether suffering from an acute or chronic disease, you see that the room occupied has plenty of pure air, and that the person has opportunities to bathe [skin exposure] in it…air is considered by us as a sine qua non [essential element or condition] to restoration…It is so refreshing, so recuperative, so calculated to restore the body to healthful conditions, and so easily obtained, as to leave those who forbear to use it for the benefit of the sick without justification.”
The other fundamental elements of life are similarly ignored. The food given is as devoid of life force as the plastic tray upon which it is served [a long-standing joke, even among medical personnel]. The water used both internally and externally is laden with toxic chemicals. Sleep and rest are commonly interrupted to draw blood or to administer medication. Ridiculously, the patient is sometimes aroused from deep, restful sleep to receive a scheduled sleeping pill. Natural sleep and rest are crucial elements of healing and should only be interrupted if the patient has soiled the bedding. Clinical practice dictated by reflexive loyalty to a standardized protocol is a product of divorce from both the natural universe and familiarity with the conditions of cure.
The physicians of ancient times understood the inseparability of the human being from the natural universe and that disease was a consequence of, and perpetuated by, alienation of individuals from their natural milieu. Hence, those physicians used fundamental elements such as fresh air, pure water, sunlight, natural diet and exercise not only to ameliorate symptoms in the short-term, but to effect the reintegration needed to sustain health in the long-term. Hippocrates maintained that disease must be treated in the same principle that the great 17th-century English physician Thomas Syndenham later described accordance with natural laws. In his Observations Of Medicine (1676) he reports that his practice was based upon: “…the support of enfeebled nature.” When Syndenham (renowned as the “English Hippocrates”) lay dying, he told his weeping pupils that he was content to die as he was leaving behind him three physicians greater than he ever was. One of the pupils asked, “Three great masters. Who are they?” Syndenham replied: “Water, air and exercise.”
In the 1930s, famed Swedish health teacher Are Waerland began his Sun Viking movement. Many adherents experienced greatly improved health and even recovery from serious illness. Waerland taught that disease was a disturbance of the life-rhythm of the individual, established through millions of years of biological evolution. He instructed his students to look outside the body to environmental conditions as primary factors for creating health or disease. Waerland’s theory was that health could only be produced and disease eliminated by restoring the human body to a relationship with the external factors and conditions of Nature, through which the original human life-rhythm could be reestablished.
Are Waerland in In The Cauldron Of Disease defined health as: “a robust anatomical, physiological and psychological reaction to a lifestyle consistent with innate, human biological imperatives. Conversely, disease is an unsound, enfeebled, anatomical, physiological and psychological reaction to abnormal lifestyle conditions which are biologically incorrect, artificial, and thus, unnatural to the human organism.” In other words, health or disease exists to the degree that the fundamental elements of life are present or absent.
This compelling logic supports the practice of artfully employing the fundamental elements of life as the primary therapeutic tools for restoring and maintaining health. Adjunctive modalities, such as homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal medicine, are highly valuable healing tools, but they are of secondary importance within this scheme because the measure of their benefit is dependent upon the extent to which the fundamental elements of life are provided or denied.
Famed German Nature-cure teacher Adolph Just in Return To Nature wrote in 1904:“Men who no longer listen to the voice of Nature become the victims of a thousand different diseases and miseries…man can recover and again become happy only via a true return to Nature: Man must today strenuously endeavor in his mode of living to heed again the voice of Nature, and thus choose the food that Nature has laid before him from the beginning, and to bring himself again into the relation with water, light and air, earth, etc. that Nature originally designed for him.”
Written by Dr. Bruce Berkowsky, N.M.D., M.H., H.M.C.
Dr. Berkowsky, a registered naturopath, master herbalist and classical homeopath–is President of Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc. He is the founder/teacher of both Spiritual PhytoEssencing and the Natural Health Science System which he designed following many years of research and clinical practice, and includes herbology, nutrition, homeopathy, aromatherapy, exercise, traditional nature-cure as well as East/West healing arts/bodywork. Dr. Berkowsky teaches in-depth seminars/teleseminars/workshops to health-care professionals and spiritually aware individuals.
Disclaimer: This publication is intended as an educational tool, and not as a prescription. Seek the advice of your health-care provider before discontinuing any medication and/or trying any new remedy or technique.