Totnes Cancer Conference: ‘Treating People – Not Cancer’


Towards whole-person cancer therapy – holistic science and the transformation of the biomedical model


Dr Claudius van Wyk – 17.11.2012


“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”


Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions




How we view the human person is an essential element in healthcare delivery. The reductionist epistemology underpinning the conventional biomedical model focuses on cancer as a disease to the detriment of the whole person. This view can be seen as a pre-Copernican flatland that views human physiology mechanistically rather than holistically. With its materialistic bias the state of dis-ease in humanity has become a market place and healthcare delivery a for profit industry. Attempts by governments to rectify the problem through national health provision have contributed to sovereign debt caused by the focus on increasingly expensive material interventions. The discounting of natural healing processes that comes with viewing the body as a machine eliminates a vast range of potential approaches to healing and especially the role of subjective experience as specifically identified in psychoneuro-immunology. A re-investigation of the prevailing scientific epistemology identifies the potential role of complexity thinking in bridging the gap between reductionist and holistic science. This new emergent scientific epistemology embraces the so-called paradoxes of quantum physics which in turn creates new vector space for a truly integrative medicine making further sense of approaches to treatment, especially cancer, based on models encompassing body mind and spirit.



The title of this conference is certainly worthy of attention. It deals with the essence of healthcare delivery, namely, how we view the human person. And this must also be seen against the backdrop of world in transition. Many would argue our institutions, economic and governmental, have passed their sell-by date and that the impact of their inability to attend to the real needs of global citizenry is being increasingly felt. This then must apply directly to healthcare delivery, whether offered from the private or public sectors. And it inevitably impacts directly on patients with cancer.


The challenge we are facing is a crisis of meaning, one I suggest, is generated by the prevailing reductionist model of reality. When researched you will find reductionism to be shown to mean firstly an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things. Secondly it will be shown to be a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents. This can be extrapolated to objects, phenomena, explanations, theories, and meanings.

I now offer that the problem with the biomedical model of medicine is that it has come to be increasingly based in this reductionist epistemology. And my admittedly blatant opening case is that conventional healthcare delivery is caught in a pre-Copernican flatland. The shift required to change that would be as dramatic as the shift made in the thinking of Columbus that allowed him to see the world as a round ball and consequently to contemplate the prospects of going to the East in an opposite direction to the conventional route.


From reductionism to holism


As a consequence I suggest that the only effective response to the problems of society that have been generated from this reductionist medical model would be an epistemological shift to a holistic model of reality.For the philosopher of science epistemology that branch of philosophy that studies knowledge in attempting to answer a basic question. This question concerns what distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? This question translates into issues of scientific methodology and questions how theories or models can be developed that are better than competing theories. It also forms one of the pillars of the new sciences of cognition that has arisen from the information processing approach to psychology. We shall presently examine these questions. And one of these questions that need to be addressed is the subtle issue of inductive versus deductive reasoning. I further suggest that it is important to review health and cancer against this backdrop.


Rene Descartes is credited with generating a schism in Western thinking. He defined a ‘res extensa’, the manifest material realm, that could be empirically studied, and hence scientific hypotheses offered and defended. He distinguished this from a ‘res cogitans’, a non-material realm of thought and feelings, beliefs and souls, which consequently fell outside of the scope of the scientific method. He did not demean this other realm – he was indeed a ‘believer’ but sought to put it in another knowledge category other than science. However in the emergent age of ‘modernism’ the world of science increasingly came to be seen as the only reliable source of knowledge and hence capable of dealing with human existential issues, especially including health and disease.


Recently I watched a BBC program on the nature of the virus and its impact on immune response. The machine-like descriptions offered by medical experts were noticeable. Patently the focus was on the identification of parts and on their causal relationships. I will suggest that despite their apparent complicated nature what is offered in such a sophisticated way is still a simplistic view of systems. Seeing systems as being distinct from each other has led to the growth in specialisation – and has inadvertently diminished holistic approaches to medicine. The implication for disease and cancer is of necessity germane.


The pharmaceutical industry


I spent a number of years early in my career in pharmaceutical sales. My original enthusiasm became increasingly tempered as I came to see that the core issue seemed to be more about generating profit than facilitating healing. It was a business that I worked for after all. I found that almost insignificant gains in medicinal efficacy were still hailed as medical breakthroughs – in order to capture market share. I came to realize that healthcare, as a general industry, inevitably would go that way. Unwell people, or potentially unwell people, would simply come to be seen as a market. Now certainly there are legitimate challenges to an industry in protecting investment in research and development and therefore patents and profits come into the equation. And certainly too tangible benefits have been offered to humankind through these further pharmaceutical discoveries. However inevitably in allowing our medicine to become driven by that profit agenda healthcare has become grossly distorted. The case of chemotherapy in cancer is a controversial one. Some critics see benefits as slightly more than negligible in some cases and downright dangerous in others. Yet it practically remains a first line approach to cancer treatment. And a lot of money is made – disease is a market opportunity. A recent article in Business Day live reported that South Africa’s second-biggest private hospital group was planning to open 1,000 more beds within the next four years. It was anticipating growing demand from an increasingly sick population.


In respect of the commercialization of health the British NHS must be seen as a well-intentioned counter response. It was appropriately lauded in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics as an achievement of British civilized standards. Together with the following Paralympics it indeed demonstrated deep humanistic social values and qualities. Nevertheless the NHS is probably also stuck in the same materialist paradigm. Treatment is focused predominantly on the diagnosed disease relative to a physical body to be attended to by means of material interventions. The person, inevitably due to the constraints of delivery of a mass service, is in the nature of the system a secondary phenomenon. I argue that not people directly but our prevailing medical scientific epistemology is at fault. And humanity and our collective health are paying the price. The father of Holism, Jan Smuts warned of the ethical consequences:


A serious lag has already developed between our rapid scientific advance and our stationary ethical development. Science itself must help to close this dangerous gap in our advance that threatens the disruption of our civilization and the decay of our species.”


I think we are seeing clear symptoms of the disruption of our civilization and the decay of our species. Surely it is time for a rigorous investigation of our thinking about the person in the world and individual and communal health – and surely it’s time for a serious review of the notion of integrative medicine.


Integrative medicine


The apparent answer to this shortcoming in healthcare delivery should be integrative medicine. But there is, I fear, serious confusion about its true nature. Here in Totnes we had the example where a conference was forced to change its format earlier this year because it offered a platform to speakers on alternative approaches to supporting cancer patients. In a subsequent debate on the validity of integrative medicine the concept was immediately correlated to complimentary and alternative medicine. The case presented from the conventional side was how it could be justified that taxpayers contributions could be employed in paying for services through the NHS that were not established in evidence-based medicine. This is certainly a valid question and bears a thorough response.

There is no question about the value of the evidence-based biomedical model with its empirical methodologies. For example European longevity must inevitably demonstrate Western medicine’s positive results – and indeed is to be celebrated. But increasingly this service comes at enormous cost, undeniably contributing to sovereign debt. But it also comes at another more insidious human cost. And that cost I suggest is not only human freedom, but also the experience of true wellness itself. We shall return to that notion presently. In respect of the material cost the words of Cicero, quoted in 55 BC here below, are salutary.


The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, the public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.  People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”


How does this sound so familiar? And what are the implications on public spending on health? Simply put I aver state health can no longer afford unconditional support of the biomedical model. It operates on the same underlying assumptions supporting the global economic premises that generated the current financial crisis. But does integrative medicine have anything different to offer? Here is a problem. There is no definition in my Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary – admittedly a 1994 version. But according to Wikipedia, for example, “Integrative medicine…is the combination of practices and methods of alternative medicine with evidence based medicine.”


This definition seriously misses the point. The notion of integrative medicine requires a rigorous re-appraisal – it must now be presented in a coherent epistemology. That, in effect, is a transformed view of the nature of existence and human beings itself. I suggest that the appropriate revised world-view was presented in the 1931 Centenary Conference of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The new notion offered was anticipated by Leo Tolstoy in his famous novel, ‘War and Peace’ in which a key character declares:


“The greatest science is the science of the whole”.


The notion offered by the man who was inaugurated as President of the Association in that year was ‘holism’. And the man was Jan Christian Smuts.


Holism as a paradigm


Holism as an idea or philosophical concept is diametrically opposed to reductionism. Where the reductionist believes that any whole can be broken down or analyzed into its separate parts and the relationships between them, the holist maintains that the whole is primary and generally greater than the sum of its parts. The reductionist divides things up in order to know them better; the holist looks at entities in aggregate and argues that we can know more about them viewed as such, and better understand their nature and their purpose. The shift is from the parts to the totality of relationships constituting the entity not only internally, but also in its context. This view offers profound challenges to the existing scientific view of empirical testing – protest notwithstanding.


Now Smuts’ originally offered a number of categories of emergent and enfolded wholes in his groundbreaking book ‘Holism and Evolution (1926). We can now correlate these to the world of medicine specifically and human wellness in general. He saw the evolutionary emergence of these wholes as follows:


  1. There is some original ‘nebulous underworld’ – Smuts’ description of a ground of being – this I suggest can now also be seen as the world of quantum potentialities
  2. From it emerges the inorganic world of matter – Hawkins’ ‘big bang’ and other theories – the province in medicine of chemistry – pharmaceuticals etc
  3. Through complexification this generates the organic world of life – the province of biology, and in medicine physiology, anatomy etc
  4. With increased complexification emerges the sentient world – the dimension of mind – the province of behavioural psychology etc
  5. This ultimately becomes self-referencing into the personal world – personality – the province of humanistic, analytical, and developmental psychology
  6. Individuals organize into the social world – the province of sociology, anthropology, ethnology, political etc
  7. Throughout through the sense-making and meaning-making process from this emerges the values world – the spiritual province of religion, and speculative province of philosophy, but also the generation of transpersonal and bio-energetic fields.


From the medical perspective we might say that categories 2 + 3 correlate to the field of the biomedical model. And categories 3 + 4 + 5 correlate to the body/mind relationship of psychosomatic medicine. Dwelling on this briefly we can see that the well-known medical phenomenon of the so-called placebo effect can be located here – and especially we need early on to recognise the role of expectation. The study of psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) has already identified the so-called HPA axis (hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal) as functioning in this psychosomatic phenomenon of placebo and other known responses beyond conventional medical explanation such as spontaneous remission and even hypochondria. The PNI concept integrates the three known information processing and physiological modulation systems in the body namely, the central nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system. And as such the Cartesian dichotomy separating as it does mind from matter is both deeply challenged and an integrative view called into question.


Many years have passed since Ader et al clinically demonstrated and many studies confirmed the role and function of the immune system as learning response. Yet the biomedical model still disregards the potential of integrative medicine in immune system modulation. Clear evidence, such as the example of disease activity and emotional state in multiple sclerosis1, supports the findings of psychosomatic medicine of state associated disease resulting from psychological, emotional and psychosocial factors. Notwithstanding medicine continues to remain fragmented into specialisation, and state modulating interventions continue to be considered as merely palliative.


So in conventional medicine the human being remains a physical body with generalised characteristics. The person, with all the human depth of subjectivity, is absent. Maybe in this respect psychometric market research could even be more sophisticated than biomedical medicine. Indeed whilst psychology has progressed significantly in its relatively short history as a science – it remains divorced from medical treatment. It now surely needs to be fundamentally integrated with all medical procedures. In my own experience for example with patients suffering severe trauma after physical accidents I have found that early psychological interventions to depotentiate the events came to be recognised by some of the relevant medical practitioners as having contributed to a significant shortening of the healing time. So then if the mind is involved in the healing process – so too does Smuts identify all the other levels of whole systems as described as potential influences. This insight must explode the field of medicine into new dimensions of possibilities and probabilities.


A holistic model of person must then recognise the principle of ‘embedded-ness’ in which the person is neither functionally or psychologically separate from the life-giving milieu and context. A holistic model of the person must then further recognise the principle of enfolded-ness. In evolution from that identified ground of being all of the emergent phases are intrinsically enfolded or constituted within the person. The bacteria living in our intestine are intrinsic to whom we are! Einstein got that – including the ethical implications. After he became acquainted with holism he declared that two fundamental ideas would dominate the scientific thinking of the 21st century, his own of relativity and Smuts’ of holism. He went on to say:


A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us…Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”


The paleontologist and priest Teilhard de Chardin also got that. He proposed the law of complexification that suggested that with increasing complexity in organic life came increasing consciousness. Consciousness, it follows, is thus intrinsic to our being. So surely it cannot be left out of medicine. And Maurice Leenhardt the ethnologist and priest offered the further notion of cosmomorphism. This was a state in which a living entity lived in perfect symbiosis with its context. The principles of embedded-ness and enfolded-ness are thus established.


The interdisciplinary nature of holistic medicine


Following an unfortunate bout of dysentery picked up on a country walk my 13-year-old sister was later diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This was treated intensively with cortisone with later adverse effects on the liver. With the consequent immune function impairment she succumbed to secondary infection and died a year after the first infection. During this period my distraught parents took her from conventional medical treatment, which showed no improvement in her condition, to alternative treatments, ranging from naturopathy and homeopathy, to laying of hands in prayer. She finally died in the Groote Schuur hospital where Dr Christian Barnard had performed the world’s first heart transplant.

I suspect that tragedy had something to do with the either/or approach imposed on my hapless parents by the various disciplines. I recall my mother lamenting that my parents should have listened to either the one side or the other. What could the outcome have been with a truly integrative approach?


My sister was a great achiever, both academically and musically. She participated in many piano eisteddfods where my mother, a piano teacher, observed her performances acutely. She hated missing school, missing music lessons and seeing other streaking ahead. What was the potential role of this growing stress in the aetiology of the condition?


The Epistemological shift and subjectivity


Now we know that as opposed to Descartes ‘arguments subjectivity (expectations, thoughts, feeling) is a real phenomenon. It does not take medical rocket science to appreciate the immediate effect of fear, anger and grief on physiological responses. And the immune system is a key modulator in physiological responses – with the inflammatory reaction being almost immediate.


Furthermore the concept of intersubjectivity is equally real. When we look at quantum mechanical effects we will see that attitudes, even though suppressed from obvious behavioural signs, have an effect on others. The example of the good hospital ward, the good nurse, the effect of good old bedside manner are well recorded. We affect each other – and particularly the attitudes and beliefs of the caregiver of whatever nature must play a role. Surely there is a need for more rigorous research into what attitudes, what psychological interventions, and which qualities of interpersonal skills, and which enabling belief frames could create the most advantageous psychospiritual context for healing. But such research will hardly be funded from the healthcare industry if no profits are to be generated through drug development etc. And the case for significant government funding too will be compromised by the inability to offer scientific credibility to such research through the lens of the reductionist medical model. But from a transformed medical epistemology of holism surely new opportunities can be clearly defined.


Complexity thinking


One hopeful sign is the new science of complexity and emergence. If reductionist science, after Roger Sperry, Iain McGilchrist et al, is best represented as left-brain activity, and holistic science is integrated left-right brain activity, then complexity science can be seen as the corpus callosum bridging these two lobes of thinking. It is a way of beginning to heal the Cartesian schism. The great advantage of complexity science is a rigid adherence to inductive thinking, but with a focus on those phenomena normally discounted in reductionist thinking. These will be briefly articulated below.


I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference in London entitled ‘Healthy Cities’ conducted by the University College of London and sponsored by Lancet. It specifically employed principles of complexity thinking in its study of future healthcare delivery. Shortly (Nov 2012) the Exeter Medical School will be hosting a conference entitled ‘Beacons for Change’ where it will be exploring community transformation to be held at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Its specific approach will be complexity thinking. Whilst not examining medicine directly it is nevertheless encouraging that the medical school is engaging with this transformative paradigm of thinking. How then do we differentiate the old thinking from the new?


In the inductive scientific approach research is initiated through observation, followed by the formulation of a hypothesis and to be validated by empirical scientific confirmation. Thereafter researchers feel free to offer a new theory. Whilst there is sound logic in this method its limitations in fully accounting for complex systems is becoming increasingly apparent. The unexpected, unpredictability, issues such as pathogenic mutation etc show the flaws in this approach to medicine. Here an important advance offering huge benefits to medicine would be to embrace complexity based thinking in scientific method.


Complexity Principles and Medicine


A first issue would be taking into considerations the multidimensionality of systems – and their relationship to homeostasis. The placebo effect, for example, demonstrates that at least the central nervous system and endocrine system are involved in healing. And the core modulator here would be psychological. Immediately subjectivity is involved. An example would be the phenomenon of those so-called non-progressors who whilst being diagnosed as HIV positive, instead of demonstrating the normal prognosis, remain healthy despite the infection. Whilst certain studies attempt to identify genetic factors in this phenomenon other studies demonstrate a significant presence of positive attitudes in those displaying this response. Complexity thinking embraces this multidimensionality without having to directly track causality.


A further issue would be that of recognizing nested hierarchies. Microscopic studies of cellular structure and function demonstrate correlations to macroscopic physiological structures and functional equivalences. Now the focus becomes patterns of behaviours rather than causal connections of parts. The role of intestinal flora in the digestive system, as mentioned, is a fine example of this that is easily encompassed in complexity thinking.


Yet another issue is that of complex adaptivity. Here there are opportunities for further studies into immune function embracing cybernetics, systemics and informatics, for example. Acquired immunity is a fine example that can be encompassed in complexity thinking.


A further defining feature of complexity thinking is that of the principle of self-organization. Complexity thinking can embrace features of collective systemic autocatalysis. The physiological capacity to redirect energy flows in the face of food supply changes is a fine example.


Furthermore complexity thinking features such as co-evolution is now well demonstrated in the study of epigeneticsshowing how environment and choices can influence genetic code. Finally, for our introductory purposes there is the complexity feature known as new order emergence. This feature can then hold the thinking space for considering a known phenomenon in cancer patients of spontaneous remission.


Homeostasis and health


Complexity thinking thus enables us to transform our thinking about homeostasis, which the Oxford Medical Dictionary describes as the human body managing a multitude of highly complex interactions that maintain balance or return systems to functioning within a normal range facilitating compensatory changes supportive of physical and psychological functioning.


From the holistic science perspective I then offer a definition of homeostasis that embraces principles of complexity thus: ‘It is a ‘state’ of on-going multiple hierarchical and multidimensional self-organizations enabling optimal adaptation.’ We can turn now to a more comprehensive account of holistic medicine.


Holistic Science and Medicine


I would argue that in its epistemology holistic science would need to embrace both inductive (reductionist and complexity-based)) as well as the deductive approach. Contrary to the inductive in deductive thinking we might begin with a theory such as an intuition of the potential unifying character of evolutionary processes (holism), we would proceed to careful observation of process and emergence as change over time (Goethean approaches), from those observation we would formulate a hypothesis (the world shows a tendency to holistic integration through adaptation) and finally we would seek empirical confirmation, particularly in pattern repetition and process replication. In this latter respect computational science offers powerful tools of process modeling.


A core scientific issue from the reductionist perspective would be the challenge of non-falsifiability. This requires the capacity to setting up experiments to prove the hypothesis wrong. Rupert Sheldrake, who I met in the nineties when his morphogenetic field theory ran up against fierce scientific resistance, faced this dilemma of non-falsifiability. Some would argue that this is only a problem for his detractors – not for him. I would suggest that developing an inclusive holistic epistemology capable of counterbalancing the inductive with the deductive could bridge this gap. The empirically demonstrated paradoxes of quantum physics, for example, point to such a transformed epistemology. In fact now quantum physics needs to be embraced in the holistic model of medicine.


Quantum principles:


From the holistic perspective a few core features of quantum physics immediately appear to have a bearing on medicine. This is referred to as relational holism in quantum mechanics – and paradoxically validates Einstein’s belief in the potent role of relativity with holism whilst addressing his objections to certain features of quantum mechanics.


1. Quantum universality as demonstrated in the Planck constant suggests that the domain of potentialities is structured. Consequently this informational/energetic domain offers the space for the arcane principles of Chinese and Indian medicine approaches to be reconsidered.

2. Quantum connectedness as demonstrated in principal of non-locality (Aharonov–Bohm effect) could explain phenomena pointing to the potency of inter-subjective (for example patient-therapist) engagement.

3. Quantum co-evolution as demonstrated in the collapse of wave function (von Neumann) could explain the phenomena of epigenetics.

4. Quantum indeterminism and the uncertainty principle (von Neumann attributes this to Dirac) could show how apparently closed systems might now be viewed as open system enabling creativity and emergence. Non-mechanistic evolution provides the thinking space for further investigation of ideas such as Sheldrake’s morphogenesis.


Purpose in holistic science


Finally, in looking at Holistic Science I want to stress that it includes an act of faith namely, that existence is purposive and that humanity is a key expression of that purpose. The shift from the biomedical to the holistic model would then of necessity include the shift from the causal symptomatic treatment of the diagnosed mal-functioning component of a system of a material body to including the treatment of the multidimensionality of humanity. This would include recognizing in wellness our purposive role in the universe. Some see this role as meaning making. Offering such a revised view of the human person Smuts said:


A living individual is a psychological whole, in which the parts or organs are but differentiations of this whole for the purpose of greater efficiency, and remain in organic continuity throughout. They are parts of the individual, and not independent or self-contained units that compose the individual. It is only this conception of the individual as a dynamic organic whole which makes intelligible the extraordinary unity which characterises the multiplicity of functions in an organism, the mobile, ever-changing balance and interdependence of the numerous regulatory processes in it, as well as the operation of all the mechanisms by which organic evolution is brought about. This conception applies not only to individuals, but also to organic societies…and even to social organisations on the human level.”


He continued:


“… The concept of the organic whole must … be extended beyond the spatial limits of the organism so as to include its interaction with its environment. The stimuli and responses, which render them mutually interdependent, constitute them one whole, which thus transcends purely spatial aspects. It is this overflow of organic wholes beyond their apparent spatial limits, which binds all nature together…”


Medicine and the whole purposive person


Robert Dilts offers a holistic model for engaging with the deeper subjective dimensions of the human person based on Gregory Bateson’s view of neurological levels. These can be usefully applied to healthcare delivery. These dimensions offer opportunities of potential self-generated and also therapist supported interventions into the subjective experience of any person. A clear example would be with someone with cancer and these interventions can be applied in addition to conventional therapy. The proffered dimensions in the Dilts model progress along similar lines to Smuts’ thinking from the physical to the more psychological and spiritual.

Firstly he offers the dimension of the ‘context’ enabling interventions of dealing as effectively as possible with any environmental stressors.

There is the ‘response’ dimension of behaviours enabling rigorously reviewing and adjusting personal lifestyle habits.

There is the dimension of ‘capacities’ informing behaviours such as skills, competencies, and experience and enabling the on-going acquisition of knowledge about preferred practices and choices.

There is the dimension of ‘values’ in the re-examination of which lifestyle choices can come to be based on genuine self-appreciation and self-discovery.

There is the further dimension of ‘beliefs’, both personal and collective, and holding the opportunity of generating a meaningful life philosophy, one of personal possibility, and that in turn demonstrated in everyday practice.

And there is also the dimension of ‘identity’ offering the new possibility of experiencing Self as a process of emergence, and importantly including making sense of the experience of having a disease such as cancer.

And finally there is the dimension of acknowledging life ‘purpose’ and herein finding some way of experiencing the joy of serving a greater cause.


Conventional medicine might argue that these interventions are merely palliative or at best psychologically useful, but not being the role of the doctor. Maybe that is so. Indeed there is a case for specialization. But to see these elements described above, as being separate from the healing process and outside of the domain of medicine is the key reductionist flaw. Certainly the surgeon does not need to be a psychologist – but surely the surgeon needs to be fully aware and appreciative of the important role of the psychologist, and also to be fully aware of the need for the systems of healthcare delivery to enable the integration of holistic approaches. At least any intervention, for example in this respect of cancer, needs to be supported by a deep and empathetic appreciation of the trauma that follows diagnosis. Those key emotional elements of fear, anger, and grief, both psychologically embedded and also as an understandable response to the condition, ought to be empathetically supported towards a hopeful resolution. Such interventions in the subjective experience of the patient ideally are to be directed in discrete stages moving from victim-hood towards an ultimate capacity of empowered self-meaning making of whatever the condition.


Reclaiming health – reclaiming freedom


We have incrementally handed over responsibility for our health to institutions. Now I suggest that regaining that responsibility has the capacity of liberating the human soul. Although seemingly esoteric a holistic science perspective of the human person embracing complexity thinking and quantum phenomena has no issue with recognizing the subtler relational dimensions of energy and information that constitutes a human being.


Personal responsibility to self, society and planet through the daily choices we make holds the opportunity to set us free from on-going servitude to those man-made institutions that are run on assumptions that limit the deeper nature of humanity. The primary presupposition of those institutions, it has been argued, is that the material dimension of being is the only scientific reality.


Finally, whatever the engagement, the effectiveness of interventions might also be as much about the deep empathetic engagement between therapist and client as it is about the processes and remedies offered. From the holistic science perspective that recognizes the body/mind/spirit capacity to self-organization it might be in such deep empathetic engagement that natural healing processes are activated. As Kuhn suggests, human paradigms shift slowly, and our biomedical model based on reductionist science has become so deeply rationalized and institutionalized that it will not be easy to shift the view of those with a vested interest in its perpetuation. Yet it took a Columbus to reveal the new Copernican world. And it will take us as individuals to reveal a new world of potential healing towards purposive wholeness. Ultimately therapy is all about exquisite attendance – and that, to quote Khalil Gibran, is about love made manifest.



About Claudius van Wyk


Claudius has facilitated holistic wellness intervention and offered training to potential facilitators specializing in holistic approaches. Entitled Applied Psychosomatic Integration (APSI) the approach employs techniques from Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) within the context of psycho-neuroimmunology (PNI). Claudius has co-facilitated private and corporate workshops for inter alia, Nestle and Sasol. He was featured on radio and television and the print media in South and Southern Africa and has presented to selected academics at the University of Witwatersrand Medical School, the Psychological Association of South Africa, the Family Life Centre, and the Zimbabwe Independent Medical Association. He co-authored a book, ‘Holism and Consciousness – A study in Neuro-holography’ with neurosurgeon Dr Ian Weinberg, which, according to Prof (Psych.) Lewis Hurst, ‘…offered the most comprehensive and vital account…of the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the human brain…’ Claudius co-authored a further paper with Weinberg entitled ‘Quantum Determinism, an Integrative Neurological Model of Consciousness’ correlating principles of quantum physics to neuroanatomy and the structures of subjective experience. He had the opportunity to discuss this paper with Dr Rupert Sheldrake in respect of his theory of morphogenetic fields. He also discussed the phenomenon of consciousness to matter with Dr Masaru Emoto and had the opportunity of studying quantum physics and consciousness with Prof. Emeritus Amit Goswami. Additional conversations were held with quantum physicist, Danah Zohar.


Claudius’ M.Sc. research proposal was an examination of Personal Holistic Integration (PHI) as an integrative approach to corporate wellness. His doctoral thesis, whilst submitted for a Ph.D. degree, was awarded a D.Sc. by the Indian Board of Alternative Medicine. It was entitled: ‘A Holistic Revision of the Epistemological Framework of the Biomedical Model with Reference to the Role of Consciousness as Subjective and Intersubjective Experience’. According to the examiner, Dr Marius Herholdt: ‘…this thesis renders an important contribution to our holistic understanding of human functioning and health. Since meta-theoretical perspectives, conditioned by orthodox worldviews, academic paradigms and cultural belief systems dictate our methods and protocols, total wellbeing demands fundamental revision. This thesis… is such an endeavour to revise the western based positivistic strategies underlying the bio-medical model.’


Claudius’ facilitation has included working with the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (an essentially Southern and Eastern African initiative to support the psychosocial development of essentially orphans of HIV and other diseases) in developing strategies to deal with the enormity of this challenge. This has included strategizing the development of a mobile task team and also the development of essential governance mechanisms.

He is a member of the Scientific and Medical Network and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

1Annals of Neurology, Nancy P. Dalos MD, Peter V. Rabins MD, Benjamin R. Brooks MD, Pat O’Donnell MS, RN