“Our purpose is not to resist illness but to use it… (because) healing arises exclusively from the transmutation of illness never from conquering symptoms.” (Dethlefsen and Dahlke from The Healing Power of Illness)

Illness is the destructive trend implied in every self-sustaining process of a living organism. It is the balancing, disintegrative counterpart to every integrating process. Without the potential for illness and disease, life could not proceed on its path of continuous creation because continuous creation is dependent upon continuous destruction. Life, in the physical sense, is what it is only within the context of the reality of physical death. Health exists as an existential phenomenon only in juxtaposition to the phenomenon of disease.

Therefore, the time-honored motto of healing - Vis Medicatrix Naturae (The Healing Power of Nature) – is only a half truth. Within this concept lies its ‘shadow side,’ the full paradoxical, hidden truth of the ‘destructive power of nature.’ Without a full understanding of this full dialectic in its wholeness, we are left with only a partial truth. The Universe as we experience it, exists in its wholeness because of the paradox of duality and maximal contrast. Life cannot be denied its death as light cannot be denied its darkness and visa versa.

Through the process of transformation, the illness itself becomes the healing path… the vehicle through which life is transmuted into greater life. As the 20th century philosopher, Paul Tillich writes, “Life must risk itself in order to win itself.” Illness is the physical evidence of life risking itself to win itself. It is the very process through which one must pass to experience one’s healing. This is “The Hero’s Journey”… the transition from life through death/illness to new life. It is the journey of life’s continuous creation.

“We have only to follow the thread of the ‘the Hero’s path.’ And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought ot be alone, we shall be with all the world.” (Joseph Campbell from Hero With A Thousand Faces)

Dr. Patrick Donovan

About the writer

Dr. Donovan is a Naturopathic Physician, author, educator, and a professor of clinical medicine at Bastyr University’s Natural Health Clinic. In 2010 he was voted by his professional peers as one of Seattle’s Top Doctors in the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. Dr. Donovan writes and lectures on the transformational process of healing and believes a person’s healing journey is ultimately a quest for his/her identity, purpose and meaning. He has more than 35 years of patient care experience as a Registered Nurse (RN) and a Naturopathic Physician (ND), representing a wide range of clinical settings from hospital-based surgical and intensive care as a registered nurse to outpatient primary care as a physician.

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