Definition of Health

Posted on 10th April, 2024

Health – It’s all about definitions by Cornelis van Dalen

We live in a time when health and what is ‘healthy’ is daily in the media. Health, it is said is ‘good’ and illness ‘bad’, yet without disease we have no concept of health.
Disease and health are natural. It is paradoxical that ‘whatever takes place in the illness is a natural process. What takes place in the healthy state is also a natural process.’ [1] The real question is how do the processes which run counter to healthy ones arise in man and animals? This we shall later explore in greater depth.
The word health is etymologically derived from the word whole. Modern English usage defines the word health as ‘soundness of body’. This definition is incomplete for the purpose of healing and has led to the contradistinction of health and medical [and healing] practices.
To be fair, there is no medical definition of health. The current medical paradigm is that absence of disease (pathology) is health. Pathology is what the doctor can tell from physical observation of the patient, or that can be ascertained in biomedical tests e.g. blood tests, to see if there is a deviation from parameters of what is considered normal. How many patients have had such tests, only to be told from the findings that there is nothing wrong with them, yet clearly for the patient there is?
A symptom is what the patient can tell, which is (largely) ignored by orthodox medicine. Yet in homoeopathy the symptom is the most important key – what the patient feels, where it hurts, the pain, the location, and if it moves, when or what makes it better or worse.
Central to the human being is mind. Mind is not the brain, as current thinking would have it. Mind in our terms is consciousness. The symptom is the expression of the inner dynamic of who we are, and how we feel, using both the physical and non-physical senses to perceive this. The symptoms are then in reality the consciousness expressing itself. If there is pain, then we are there in consciousness, in that location. We have a heightened sense of awareness when there is pain.
Yet health is more than the absence of either physical symptom or pathology. A brilliant social experiment was conducted in London in the 1930 – 50’s, which became known as the Peckham Experiment. In this, the relationship of health (pathology) and social well-being was measured. It found that when people were happily engaged socially, learning new skills etc, health dramatically improved. The project organisers defined health in the following way:
‘Health is totally distinct from sickness where subject to disorder (sub-health), the individual obeys the laws of pathology. In health man observes a different natural law, the law of function, for health means living a full functional existence, in which development proceeds according to potentiality’ [2]
Health is living a purposeful life, according to your potential. What do you understand full functional existence to mean?  Seeking fulfilment in work, in home life or in hobbies extends our inner being into the realm of creative expression, in the highest possible way. The fruitful challenge of mastering an art or craft renders us more interesting and contented people. This is seeking harmony to the inner expression of who we are as unique individuals. This is health. Happy people are healthier, meaning freer from symptom and pathology.

Health is a process of growth to completion, to wholeness.
This is another way of expressing the subtle aspects of true health. It is most evident to me as a practitioner and husband, that when a patient is not well, one needs to ask them who is wrong with them, and not what is wrong! Ailments from mortification, from grief, or other emotions are often the root to the disease process. This equates health to where one is in consciousness or awareness, a process of growing to a state of higher consciousness or awareness. Learning from life’s vicissitudes.

Health is taking responsibility for self.
No one can do for you what you must do for yourself. Health will not arise by taking a pill or potion – this is seeking to remove symptom. Removing symptoms is not health. It is similar to the statement made by the surgeons in the exercise of their craft – ‘the operation was successful but the patient died’. Operations and pills do not make for healing, the patient self-heals. The dilemma of our times with respect of healing is when to intervene in the processes of illness and when to leave the matter to the laws of Nature.

‘People with health lead a life according to Natural law’. [3]
An essential part of the daily practice of natural medicine is instructing the patient to seek for him or her self what they need to change and discover what their own role is in their stress and tension in life. It means taking control of your own life and enhancing your own insights and innate healing. Health is discovering who you are.

And sickness is health.
The innate wisdom of the body is self-healing, self-cleansing, and self-preserving. The unconscious mind is the all knowing, all pervading essence that allows the body to be this wondrous and marvellous, functioning and animating ‘thing’. This means that discharge symptoms of – e.g. nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, colds, coughs, fever and inflammation, sweat, skin eruptions are a part of self-healing which is health. The body seeks to restore health according to Natural Law. Discharges are eliminations from the body of substances which no longer carry life force in harmony with health. If the body cannot do this then there is disease. This is a most important matter to be aware of. So often a cold is ‘medicated’, a fever is extinguished with anti-pyretic drugs (e.g. Paracetemol), diarrhoea likewise ‘medicated’ to ‘bung up’ the bowel, but all these and many other discharging functions are self-healing and a sign of health. A wise physician knows when and how to intervene in the natural processes.
A wise man ought to realise that health is his most valuable possession. [Hippocrates]

©Cornelis van Dalen 2004, 2024

1. Rudolf Steiner & Ita Wegman, Fundamentals of Therap,y Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1983. P11
2.  Dr Innes Pearce, Miss Crocker The Peckham Experiment quoted in Pattern of Health by Dr Aubrey Westlake, Element Books, UK, 1985. P6
3. Werner Bohm Chakras, Roots of Power, Samuel Weiser Inc, USA, 1991

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