Spiritual Sources of Disease and Healing


by Marcel Hernandez, ND

As naturopathic doctors, we investigate the sources of a particular complaint on all three levels of the patient’s being: body, mind, and spirit.

Our role is to determine where the “center of gravity” of the complaint lies – is it primarily physical, mental, or spiritual?

Health challenges are never just about the body. For example, if a person presents with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the standard medical approach assumes that the complaint is physical, and that the most appropriate treatment is medication to control the symptoms.

The standard medical perspective assumes that the “center of gravity” of most complaints is entirely physical, with little involvement of other factors. But in our naturopathic practice, we find that IBS is never the primary pathology – it’s merely a physical reflection of something else that’s going on in the patient’s life. 

Marcel Hernandez, ND, of Pacific Naturopathic in Mountain View, California
Marcel Hernandez, ND of Pacific Naturopathic in Mt. View, CA

For example, we know with absolute certainty that IBS is easily aggravated by stress. So it makes sense to question the patient about the stress in their job, home life, and relationships.

At a physical level, of course, we will definitely take a complete medical history and look at the person’s diet, exercise, sleep patterns, and lifestyl. And we will certainly offer physical therapies to help relieve the symptoms.

Evaluating the spiritual factors in a particular complaint requires special experience and spiritual sensitivity. In fact, very few healthcare practitioners know how to evaluate the spiritual factors in disease.

Naomi Remen, MD, offers doctors this advice:

“Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”

Over the years, we’ve seen that patients with chronic illness who have a living relationship to a higher power tend to have a less confusing experience of their illness, and a more positive mental/emotional orientation to their life.

Note that a “living relationship” means more than just blindly “believing in God.” Healing can only be abetted by a power that can actually move the patient’s energy, emotions, and volition.

When someone asked Carl Jung if he believed in God, he replied, “Believe? I don’t believe. I know.”

Dr. Connie and I have found that the patients who “know” tend to share several characteristics.

  • They have less anxiety about their condition.
  • They are more receptive to their healing protocols, and participate more actively and faithfully.
  • They maintain an attitude of surrender to God’s will – they are less nervous about the outcome, even as they actively participate in the healing process.
  • They are concerned with their condition, of course. But they are less agitated, and more at peace than patients who lack a spiritual connection.

Studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that treatment outcomes are more promising when patients have an active spiritual life, and a real awareness of the existence of a higher power.

How can we bring a spiritual power into our treatment?

Establishing an upward connection takes dynamic faith, will power, and focus.

If this is all sounding a bit vague, let me give an example from my life.

In the early 1970s, I found myself in the depths of misery. I had lost my way spiritually and could see no way out of my crisis of meaning. And then I received valuable assistance from two spiritually minded friends.

The late Ken Carey, author of Starseed Transmissions and Return of the Bird Tribes, was a treasured friend. Ken and I were chatting one day about the possibility of an upward connection – something that had not been part of my experience for a long time.

Ken said, “The loneliest I have ever felt is when I did not experience my connection with God.”

Lightning bolts went off in my head, to the accompaniment of a chorus of angels singing loud hallelujahs.

Was that what was eating me? Could my inner torment and loneliness be due to the lack of a spiritual connection?

Since that time, whenever I find a spiritual “bug” of melancholy trying to bite me, I’m careful to check my upward connection, and let in a ray of divine light.

Within days, I had a conversation with Joseph, another dear friend, about how we might experience the presence of God. I said that if I allowed Spirit into my life, it wouldn’t be real, because I would just be pretending.

Joseph exclaimed, “By all means, pretend!!”

Again, lightning flashes illuminated my brain. My denial of spiritual reality was the real pretense! In the days ahead, I found that to the extent that I could crack open an inner door to the healing light of Spirit, the light would come streaming through.

If you have difficulty with the thought of a higher power, the best suggestion I can offer is to seek help now.

Spending time among souls who are actively cultivating their own divine connection will make the journey easier, more joyful and fulfilling, and less lonely.

For more on Dr. Marcel’s work, click HERE.