Vitalism. Oh man, isn’t that a word that raises hackles!
For some, it evokes images of bug-eyed circa-1900 quack healers.
Then there’s Vitalism’s own rather pompous, way-too-heady self-definition.
Are you ready? Crank up your brain cells:
“Vitalism is defined as a doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining.”
Oh gee – doesn’t that put you right to sleep?
For example, the idea that energy is at the heart of all healing. And the idea that a higher intelligence is the force that guides the healing hand.
For me, that’s Vitalism in a nutshell.
In plainspoken words, Vitalism, for me, is the idea that hiding just behind the complicated physics, chemistry, and biology of our bodies, there’s a lovely power at work that has our best interests at heart, and that will never stop trying to teach us to heal ourselves by aligning our lives with the divine laws of balance and harmony.
I’m reminded of a story from the early life of a great yogi of India, Paramhansa Yogananda.
One day found the young disciple at the feet of his guru, Sri Yukteswar, thrilling to the wisdom that cascaded and danced in the master’s words.
Suddenly, Sri Yukteswar paused and asked his young disciple a pointed question: “What is God?”
Yogananda stumbled as he groped for an answer. “Why, God is everywhere!” he exclaimed.
Sri Yukteswar’s response was withering, “Ah, a pantheist! No! God is infinite Intelligence and Energy.”
With that definition of the all-pervading Healing Power, let’s see if we can’t come up with a practical definition that any good Vitalist could get behind.
How about this:
“The Vitalist understands that the human being is produced by the same Creative Intelligence that animates, sustains, and inspires all living things.”
Naturopathic medicine is built on an understanding that the divine Intelligence and Energy (AKA the “Vital Force”) is the ultimate healing power.
In our workaday lives, we naturopathic physicians will often suggest that our patients consider adopting better eating habits, undergo lab tests, or take supplements and other medicinals that will support the body’s efforts to heal itself.
Meanwhile, we’re forever mindful of the underlying energy that sets the pattern for health and disease. We’re always looking for ways to help that Higher Energy find openings to heal our patients, operating through the bodily processes.
This is why we call upon a timeless treasury of traditional and newer, innovative means to bring about a closer integration of the patient’s mind, body and spirit. Because we know that healing the parts happens most effectively when we endeavor to heal the whole.
To repeat: as naturopathic doctors, we honor the role of the energetic component in diagnosing and healing, simply because it’s the level where the most enduring, profound, and all-encompassing healing occurs.
Now then, healing is never a random process. It’s never a question of simply throwing a bunch of cures at the patient in hopes that one of them will “stick.”
Healing is a focused internal process of personal growth, development, and discovery.
In the most effective healing, the various parts of our being increasingly become harmoniously integrated. As Paramhansa Yogananda said, in the presence of Spirit (AKA the Vital Force), disease cannot exist.
True healing is a process of bringing ourselves in line with the source of all healing, at the highest level we can access.
In our unique and special, individual case, healing may mean treating our ailments with physical, energetic, or spiritual means.
The joyful and challenging experiences of our lives are opportunities for inner growth. The more attuned we are to the unchanging, eternal, underlying inner harmony of our soul, the more vibrant and alive we feel.
That inner harmony is the essence of our being. And the more deeply we can dive into that harmony, the more we become aware of an upward connection to the higher power that lives at the core of our being.
Change and Healing are Inseparable
There are two approaches we can take in our search for increasing happiness and healing.
We can look for a cure outside ourselves – popping pills and herbs and other nostrums.
Or we can be open to change in ways that will help remove the root cause of our suffering.
A willingness to change is the first step toward freeing ourselves of old behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that may be preventing us from finding our natural wholeness.
Resistance to change means we’ll continue to be what we are not. It raises barriers to discovering the freedom of being what we truly are: pure, unconditional health, joy, and love.
For more on Dr. Marcel’s work click HERE.