Courage to Heal

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By: Bill Warnock, N.D.

We live in a time when our relationship with illness is much different than in times past. A person today is becoming more and more separated from his/her illness. We give the doctor the responsibility of our physical health and the psychotherapist responsibility for our emotional health. Many acute illnesses are being eliminated or cured. Yet many people develop chronic illness such as diabetes or arthritis. A person alive today can expect to be healthier and to live longer than at any other time in history. Our materialistic view of the world would have us believe that illness results from chance, from having a bad set of genes, from being exposed to a germ, from being exposed to a toxic chemical, or from an injury. According to this theory we are all victims of illness.

A possibility that I would like to examine in this article is that illness has a purpose; that through illness we are provided with an opportunity to become more than we currently are. As a doctor, I have seen many people who have been given a clean bill of health, yet at a deep core level, remain unhealthy. I have seen others who, in spite of succumbing to their illnesses, have been transformed by them, have been healed.

What is the difference between the person who is healed by their illness, and the one who is not?

We all know that every illness, no matter how mild, is accompanied to a greater or lesser degree by fear. There is fear of death, fear of pain, fear of being a burden for others, fear of incapacity, fear of loss of control and sometimes fear of the unknown. To face these fears it takes a certain amount of courage. There is one fear however which lies at the heart of all illnesses and which, with our materialistic view of illness, is seldom recognized. Unless we are able to overcome this fear, true healing cannot take place. This is the fear of facing up to our karma, to ourselves. To face this fear requires even more courage than to face any of the others.

In September of 1924, Rudolf Steiner delivered eleven lectures known as the Pastoral-Medical lectures in Dornach, Switzerland. He summed up these lectures in the following meditation:

I will follow the path
Which frees the elements into activity
And leads me down to the Father
Who sends illness to work out karma,
And leads me up to the Spirit
Who guides the erring human soul to freedom.
The Christ leads downward and upward,
Harmoniously creating human spirit being from human earth being.

According to Steiner, illness resides in the astral body.* Between death and rebirth each soul goes through an extensive period of purification. During this time that part of the

astral body which is acceptable to the spiritual world unites with the ego and enters into the spiritual world. The unpurified portion remains behind and, on the next incarnation, is reunited with the soul. The subsequent life on earth provides the soul with opportunities for greater perfection of the astral body.**

Illness is the instrument that transforms the imperfect astral body into that which is acceptable to higher spiritual beings.

When an individual is able to move beyond the physical aspects of illness and to penetrate it with the soul, he or she is confronted by this unpurified portion of the astral body. For the doctor or the patient, this process takes a tremendous amount of courage. This is the courage to heal. For the patient, it involves honestly examining the part he or she wished never existed. For the doctor, it involves letting go of self so completely that patients are able to get a clear picture of their own soul.

The courage to heal, the courage to become that which we are destined to be, yet have not become, is what our age is asking of us. Without this courage we will not fulfill our destiny and take our place in the spiritual world along with the host of beings assembled there. In past ages, the process of illness transforming the astral body took place slowly and on an unconscious level.

Our age calls for consciousness to be present in this process. Because illness itself is changing, we ourselves must develop a new relationship to it. We have the opportunity in our age to be transformed, not only by our own illness, but, if approached in the right way, by the illness of another human being. When we are confronted by our own or by the illness of another, we must develop the capacity to see into the being of the illness itself. This is truly the courage to heal.

*The sentient or feeling body: see Steiner, Course for Young Doctors, lecture 2, Anthroposophic Press, Herndon, VA

** Steiner, Between Death and Rebirth, ibid.

Dr. Warnock and his colleagues run the Champlain Center for Natural Medicine in Shelburne,VT. He can be reached at (802) 985-8250.

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