holistic viewpoint

How is illness defined from a holistic viewpoint?

The human system is a network comprised of five different levels:

Toxic, genetic, psychological, karmic, physical.

1. The physical level

By this is meant all connections which arise through geographical position and climatic conditions.

2. The toxic level

Exogenous (from without) and endogenous (from within) substances with a toxic effect which affect the human system. For example: Food, environmental pollutants and causative agents such as viruses and bacteria.

3. Genetic level

By this is meant what Naturopathy identifies as “constitutional types” and orthodox medical practitioners call genetic make-up or genetic pattern.

4. Psychological level

By this is meant all psychological influences or energies which affect the system from the psyche and external factors which have an effect on the psyche.

5. Karmic level

The karmic level also exists although this may be difficult for some people to understand or accept. I would like to define it as a higher power or the godly plan. This level is heavily dependent on religious or cultural factors: we may be dealing here with the actual meaning of life.

The holistic definition of illness is as follows:

The more levels which are imbalanced by either external or internal factors, the sicker the whole system becomes !
In other words:
A healthy system is perfectly balanced.

It perhaps now becomes clear why a therapy which only affects one or two levels can’t be successful. If we e.g. use medicines which merely effect a symptomatic change in the whole system we increase the toxic part: (this is called “side effect”); the whole system will thus be further imbalanced.

Networked structures such as the human body, can never be and should never be steered in a linear direction. ie from a set point in a single direction!

When we use the wrong methods to make adjustments in a networked system then chaos ensues. Paul Watzlawick und Frederic Vester are among several Philosophers who have studied this subject.

In 1991 I wrote a ” brochure on network thinking” for the UBS. Knowledge gained from the application of network thinking has been applied in Management for some time. Unfortunately this method of thinking has found few followers in medical circles, this would mean that recognition for “Medicine based on experience” which is the only branch of medicine to apply network thinking, would increase substantially.

Brochure for Network Thinking

©UBS-ORKI, May 1991 (slightly modified for the purpose of explaining the “human” system.)

1. The whole and its parts

In order to recognise a system, the parts must also be recognised. The interaction of the parts within the system must be perceived not the action of the single parts. The parts must fit together achieving their goal with unity and certainty.

2. Networked

Wholeness is a working together of parts. There are a variety of inertactive relationships which are not causal but circular, these are demonstrated in a network. There are same directional and counter-directional interrelations. Negative reactions are stabilising, positive reactions are either destabilising or destructive. The danger of forming an opinion of networks lies in the fact that single parts and relationships are viewed as being separate from the whole, thereby not fully recognising their impact.

3. The system and its environment

It depends on the problem or observer, what “part”, “system” or “environment” are. Systems are open ie they exist in relation to their environment. Systems are always part of an even larger system.

4. Complexity

Complex doesn’t mean complicated. A complex system is dynamic, not static and can adopt many behavioural forms. No predictions based on analytical methods are possible for a complex system, controls are only enabled by evaluation of experience.

5. Order

Not everything is connected to everything else but many things are interconnected. A system has structure, a behavioural pattern, an order which distinguishes it from other systems. It is only by means of this order that we are able to expect a specific behaviour from the system. The order is necessary to enable the system to be understood and influenced.

6. Control

Goal orientated behaviour means acting before unwelcome deviations arise. Through management we gain control of a system. It is not sufficient to wait until deviations occur and then intervene reactively, rather we can pre-vent the occurrence of unexpected deviations through foresight and goal orientated guidance.

7. Development

Systems can adopt new forms of behaviour and are thus capable of development. Man can shape and learn. When the development is purposeful and goal orientated the system can be influenced. This requires of us innovation and creativity.


Holistic thinking requires that we don’t concentrate on the single elements of a system but on their interaction.

Awareness must be of the entirety of things and not the detail. The changing of a single element has an effect on the entire system. In a network system only goal-orientated action leads to success. The influencing of single elements is not goal orientated but belongs to the method “trial and error”. Experiments with the human system can lead to death!

Man must love all of creation – or he will not love any of it.

Chief Dan George

Translation by Christine MacLean, thank you !

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