Holism & Health

“An Understanding of Holistic Medicine”

John Diamond, M.D.

Extract from the book 
Holism and Beyond: The Essence of Holistic Medicine


Until I first came to America I had never seen the northern sky. In Australia I was quite able to identify the constellations, but in America I couldn’t. I searched and searched for Orion’s belt, and in the end it was pointed out to me. After that I was able to find it easily.

Now, we must remember there is no Orion’s belt in the sky. There is only a collection of stars that appear to us, once they are pointed out, to resemble what we imagine Orion’s belt to have been. But there is no more relationship between the stars comprising the belt than there are between all the stars in the universe. The only relationship is that which we have created in our own fantasy.

The Universe Within

A medical diagnosis is like Orion’s belt. It doesn’t really exist. It is just putting together a few easily observed findings, that seem to have some special relationship. But when we do this, we ignore all the thousands of other findings that are really just as equally related and equally important in the whole universe of the patient.

Each patient is a universe, and a true understanding of him is an understanding of each star in that universe and of the relationship between each star and all the other stars that comprise his universe. Not just picking on a few of the stars because they make a convenient story. A true understanding of a patient is an understanding of his total universe.

This is holistic medicine. It is not twenty or so specialists each working on a patient’s individual stars, but one doctor who at all times works with an understanding and appreciation of the individuality of each star and, at the same time, the myriad inter-relationships of all the stars of the patient’s universe. This is true holistic medicine.

The Notion of Good Doctoring

Let’s change our analogy. A potter is throwing a pot. While it is spinning on the wheel he is constantly feeling and examining it, using all of his aesthetic, artistic and intuitive faculties as well as his logical faculties. Using thus his whole creative self, he works with and molds the clay to keep it as perfectly symmetrical as possible.

Should there be one area which starts to become asymmetrical, he proceeds to rebalance this and to re-center this area, but he never works on only that area but always on the whole pot spinning on the wheel. Always working on the whole pot: his hands going up and down over the whole pot but concentrating most on the particular area that requires his immediate attention to restore the balance. He doesn’t give that particular area a special name. He doesn’t feel that there is a specific problem with that part of the pot or that separate work must be done there. He just sees that in the overall dynamic structure that is that revolving pot on the wheel, there is one area more than the others that requires his particular attention to center it. But he always works on the whole pot.

And when the whole pot has been re-centered, he then looks again at it rotating on the wheel. Now all of his brain, his intuitive brain and his logical brain, recognizes that symmetry has been restored. And now he proceeds to work on it again, and he keeps on working until such time as he feels that the form that he wanted has been achieved and that the pot is balanced and centered and perfect in every way. When this point is reached, his artistic needs are satisfied, and he now feels that the pot is ready to leave him, to go out into the world on its own – balanced, centered, a thing of beauty, an aspiration to Heaven and an inspiration to Earth. By its very presence, reminding us of all that is perfect and balanced and peaceful and calm in our existence.

So it is with a patient. When the doctor works in a holistic fashion with him, he is all the time working with all of him, certainly concentrating a little more here where it is needed at that time – and this will change from visit to visit – but always being conscious of the whole and always being aware that the part that most requires immediate correction, the part that the patient most wants corrected, is but one small tiny portion of the whole and will be corrected only when the whole is corrected and balanced.

And so he keeps doing this, session by session. Re-balancing and re-centering, until the patient and the doctor both feel that he is now ready to go out into the world on his own. He has been centered as best as possible, strengthened as far as possible against the buffets of the world. He is now ready to go out as a therapeutic communication to the world, spreading his peace, his balance and calmness and joy and love to all. The balanced, centered, integrated creature that exists inside each of us.

But remember that whenever the potter concentrates exclusively on one part of the pot, which for some reason he feels, rightly or wrongly, requires more attention, the integrity of the whole structure will be destroyed. He can shape and create symmetry and perfection only when he is always working up and down and around the whole structure. That is my understanding of holistic medicine.

Medical Diagnosis and the Wise Astronomer

Forget the medical diagnosis. It is only a name. It is only an Orion’s belt in the whole firmament of the universe of the patient. The doctor must breach the narrow confines that most institutions want him to work within. He must think of the totality of the patient. To see him as anything less, to reduce his existence to a diagnosis, is an insult. To see him in his totality is to worship him as a Being.

Holistic medicine really implies the absence of using any diagnostic label. The best label is the name of the patient, because we each suffer from the disease which is ourselves. The diagnostic label for John Smith is “John Smith.”

The holistic doctor must remember that the patient is, at this moment in time when we see him, at the end point of all the shaping forces that have influenced him in his existence. He is at this moment the sum total of his genetic endowment, of the nutritional status of his parents and of himself, of their emotional states and desires, and those of his own. He is the culmination of all the shaping social forces that have acted on him and his family up until this minute.

When the holistic doctor observes the firmament of the sky that is the patient, he is seeing an instantaneous picture of all the end points, of all the shapings, the ebbs and flows of the universe since the beginning of time that create that picture. He knows that in the next instant, and for every instant after that, the picture will change and will continue to change with all the shaping forces of the universe.

So when he looks at a patient, he must remember that he is seeing him as the end product of all that has been and realize that this will change in the future just as surely as it has changed in the past and developed into that which he sees now.

This is the only way that we can ever think of any patient. And we aspire that, with his help, the patient’s universe may be somewhat more luminous and harmonious.