The miracle in your own self. Thoughts on natural and cultural medicine – Part 2

Using the power of our mind and consciousness. Impelling self-efficacy and self-healing

The miracle in your own self. Thoughts on natural and cultural medicine – Part 2

To part 1

The healing power of culture: using the power of our mind and consciousness

Even in times of need, there remains what we call culture, i.e. the areas that people have created through their mind. What we refer to as culture also includes technical artifacts (down to technical instruments in medicine). But in our understanding, the core of culture is formed by values and norms, the beautiful and the arts as well as leisure and also playfulness. Understood in this way, culture is both an inner attitude and a conscious design on the outside in the context of people’s minds and consciousness.

I use the word cultural medicine here (“Kulturheilkunde”). Such a medicine, which draws on the resources of culture, strengthens the “barefoot doctor” in an emergency situation through his attitude, providing him with mental and artistic resources that are the means to supplement naturopathy.

This supplement is of great importance because humans, as natural beings, are beings of deficiency; they need culture to survive. People, when compared to animals, are neither particularly strong nor fast. They are inherently not optimally equipped nor particularly resistant. Nevertheless, they can compensate for this disadvantage through their “second nature”: culture. By joining forces, sharing and collaborating, they even gain supremacy. In this, the so-called “shared intentionality” and “cooperative action” are of particular importance.

This is made possible by what we call mind and consciousness, and by language, information and communication. People can coordinate their actions, create specific long-term plans and manufacture tools. Culture and technology enable people to survive in an environment that initially is a major challenge for them.

Pretty early in history, men were able to protect and care for sick tribesmen when illnesses or weaknesses occurred by actively supporting the healing process with various remedies from plants, artifacts, with rituals and even by building special healing facilities.


The Asklepieia, the first healing centers in ancient Greece, were at the same time also cultural places. In these facilities, the most powerful agent of healing was the word – healing and speaking belonged together. This is beautifully expressed in a traditional song: λόγος = φάρμακον = ἰατρός. [1] These words, which form a kind of mantra, mean:

The word is the cure and the cure is the doctor.

The so called “three steps of ancient dietetics” are needed to understand this mantra: Initially the healer had to influence the lifestyle of the patient which was possible only through the word or through communication. Only if this did not help it, in the second step medicinal plants were involved, which were nevertheless administered within a communication context.

The knife, i.e. surgical interventions, were reserved for a third step, when the medicinal plants could no longer provide the help needed. But one proceeded exactly in this order: first the word, then the medicines and only then the knife! In modern medicine it seems that the order is sometimes reversed. Maybe not necessarily for the benefit of the patients.

By the way, in the time of antiquity, humans were able to orient a healthy lifestyle on principles that are particularly well expressed in three inscriptions on the temple of Delphi:

Recognize yourself!

Nothing in excess!

You are! Be who you are!

Through this and good self-care, people come to what we call today self-efficacy, i.e. they experience that they can contribute to their recovery and a good life through their own action. This, in turn, encourages the person to continue this lifestyle. Through the positive feeling associated with self-efficacy, the self-regulation of self-active people receives powerful impulses so that self-healing can happen.

Culture provides meaning for human communities. It also allows orientation in emergency situations and give the necessary strength to cope with problems. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche summarized this in one sentence:

Once you have your “Why” of life, you get along with almost every “How”. [2]

The miracle in our own self: impelling self-efficacy and self-healing

Culture as a provider of meaning is of paramount importance in emergency situations and for sick people. It influences the patient’s inner attitude which, in turn, facilitates or hinders the process of self-healing. In addition, the design of healing environments as well as entertainment through art and music, a loving conversation and human attention can create cultural healing stimuli.

“Inner attitudes” and “inner images” of those seeking recovery decide whether healing can happen and whether the self-healing powers can be stimulated. Understood this way, healing is a very natural process and a miracle at the same time. This miracle happens in our own self as self-healing. Healing is not done, it happens. It comes when everything fits together. Any form of healing, even modern medicine, can ultimately only provide the stimuli for this miracle to take place in us. The incredible successes of modern medicine are by no means supposed to be underrated. Of course, it is beneficial to have modern medicine – and we need it too. It is indispensable, especially in the case of accidents and injuries as well as for acute and life-threatening diseases. But we are well-advised if we do not forget that – beyond these achievements – we have a healing power in ourselves – in situations when the technical artifacts of medicine are no longer available.

Every healing is self-healing and self-healing can be learned with the help of the imagination,

as psychotherapist Gary Bruno Schmid put it. [3]*11 To an important extent, the patient “decides” via his mind and consciousness whether progress is directed towards healing or sickness.

Erwin Liek, one of the most famous doctors in the Weimar Republic, states the following in his book, “The Miracle of Medicine”: “We call miracles what we cannot see through. As we see through it, the miracle stops.” And further,

Behind all matter is the spirit, and this irrational, metaphysical is what we call ”life”. An art of healing without the irrational is unthinkable.

Liek concludes that “we cannot get along with scientific thinking alone” and that the doctor should actually be a kind of artist, “Medical art is the knowledge of human nature, the judgment of humans, impartial, nature-based empathy for the sick and his surroundings, bridging from soul to soul. You can’t do that with science alone.”


[1] Ernst Howald, Eine vorplatonische Kunsttheorie (A Preplatonic Art Theory). In: Hermes 54 (1919) 187–217; here: 187ff.

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung, Sprüche und Pfeile, 12 (Twilight of the idols, Proverbs and Arrows, 12)

[3] G.B. Schmid: Bewusstseinsmedizin: Psychogene Heilung durch Vorstellungskraft. In: Suggestionen: Forum der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Hypnose und Hypnotherapie eV – DGH Ausgabe 2013: 6-40. (Consciousness Medicine: Psychogenic Healing through Imagination. In: Suggestionen: Forum of the German Society for Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy eV – DGH Edition 2013: 6-40).



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Date: July 12, 2020
Author: Prof. Dr. Hartmut Schröder (Germany)
Photo: Pexels via Pixabay

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