For a large part of human history the conception of Man as body, soul and spirit is closely held to be true. Healing practices were also closely linked to the spiritual world. The spirit was gradually separated from Man’s conception of itself.
According to cultural historian Markus Osterrider (2017), this process was a gradual one. The final blow came in the 14th century with nominalism in Western scholastics. This was the breakthrough for a purely secular view of the world. A science “without the need of God”. This scientific approach was purely empirical, experimental and material. It took over in the West in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.
In today’s predominant health care systems, soul and spirit are very much separated from the view of the human being. There is an increasing breaking down into smaller and smaller separate units for research.
“Since the sixteenth century and Descartes’ compartmentalization of body and mind, this Cartesian foundation of medical science has divided the field into specialties and subspecialties, in self-contained systems that may or may not interact. Ironically, in societies that place a high premium on individual choice, such as the USA, treatment focuses on a diseased or compromised part of the body and not on the personhood of the one with the condition. In contrast, medical practices in countries that have valued the collective good, such as China, consider each personal case with its unique history and constellation of experience and view the person as a whole, inclusive of body, mind, and soul”. (Hanser 2016, p. 53)
Compartmentalisation is the main approach within mainstream healthcare giving rise to various specialities like oncology, cardiology, otorhinolaryngology and gynaecology just to name a few to this growing list. The treatment of the human body is segmented and often not based on a wholistic view of human physiology and the interconnectedness of the organ systems. For instance, a weak circulation may affect the liver’s functions which may led to emphasis and treatment being placed on the weak liver when the cause of the problem may lie somewhere else completely.
On the emotional or soul level, this is dealt with in the field of psychology and psychiatry. At the spiritual level of Man, there is a rise in what is termed as alternative or New Age medicine where higher forces are called upon and used for healing.
“The word health comes from the old English ‘hal’, a root word signifying whole and healing. Moreover, ‘heal’, in Northern Middle English, means ‘to make sound’, to become healthy again. We [also] use the word ‘sound’ – as a synonym for health and wholeness to signify basic vitality. To heal therefore means to become whole, in harmony and in balance”. (Barrow, 2017)
A therapeutic process should strive towards a well functioning physical body, an emotional life that is moving in a rhythmic flow without stagnation and a continuous striving in thoughts towards the good and the true. This idea of health as the well-being in body, soul and spirit was also echoed by Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, a medical doctor in America who has been achieving remarkable results by integrating music, vocalization, breathing and meditation techniques in his work with patients at the hospital.