A term describing an integral, inclusive approach, which regards
each being, system, or object as more than the sum of its
parts. Holism is often associated with medicine, nutrition, and
lifestyle. The term can imply a pretechnological lifestyle which
uses alternative healing practices vs. contemporary established
western practices. Holistic practices deal with the whole person,
in which one’s entire well-being is analyzed—hisher physical,
emotional, spiritual, mental, social, environmental factors, etc.
Although often described as a New Age concept, Eastern,
earth-centric, and indigenous peoples have practiced holism
for many centuries. The term holism derives from the Greek
holos (whole), and was first used by Jan Christian Smuts in his
book Holism and Evolution (1926). Smuts states, ‘‘Both matter
and life consist of unit structures whose ordered grouping produced
natural wholes. . .The rise and self-perfection of wholes
in the Whole is the slow but unerring process and goal of this
Holistic universe.’’
The notion prefigures theologian Teilhard de Chardin’s
theory that the human race is ‘‘evolving mentally and socially,
towards a final spiritual unity.’’
Holism is primarily associated with healing processes and
advocates patient-centered medicine in which the physician
treats the person as a whole being, rather than focusing on a
set of symptoms. It promotes preventative medicine by maintaining
the health of all aspects of the self—physical, mental,
emotional, spiritual. Generally, however, holistic medicine is
simply a generic phrase referring to a variety of healing practices,
some beneficial and some questionable.
Alternative therapies normally associated with holistic medicine
Acupunctureacupressure—alleviating pain and increasing
immune responses by balancing the flow of vital life
energy through twelve major body energy pathways called
Aromatherapy—the use of essential oil extracts from
herbs and plants to treat a wide range of conditions and disorders.
Ayurvedic medicine—an ancient Indian medical practice
which treats disease by providing natural therapies designed
for particular metabolic types.
Craniosacral therapy—manipulates bones in the skull to
treat disorders and improve overall body functioning.
Herbal medicine—including Western, ayurvedic, or Chinese,
employs naturally occuring herbal remedies for disorders
and diseases.
Homeopathy—the use of non-toxic, extremely diluted,
low-cost medicines to treat chronic illness and maintain selfcare.
Used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, homeopathy
entails a ‘‘like curing like’’ approach to healing.
Osteopathy—treatment of bodily disorders by restoring
the structural balance of the musculoskeletal system.
Reiki—the channeling of universal energy to aid in the
healing process.
As we enter the 21st century an increasing number of physicians
are advocating a holistic approach to health care, emphasizing
prevention as well as treatment. Noted published practitioners
(and their specialties) include Dean Ornish (reversing
heart disease), Deepak Chopra (ayurvedamind-body), ChristEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Holistic
iane Northrup (women’s health), and Andrew Weil (overall
health and preventative medicine).
Brown, Chip, ‘‘The New Age Comes of Age,’’ New Age The
Journal for Holistic Living (Nov.Dec. 1999) 66–70.
The Burton Goldberg Group. Alternative Medicine The Definitive
Guide. Tiburon, Calif. Future Medicine Publishing, Inc.,
Chopra, Deepak. Boundless Energy. New York Harmony
Books, 1995.
Hastings, Arthur C., James Fadiman, and James S. Gordon.
Health for the Whole Person. Boulder, Colo. Westview Press,
Miller, Don Ethan. Bodymind The Whole Person Health Book.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice-Hall, 1974.
Natural Therapy.com. httpwww.naturaltherapy.com. February
25, 2000.
The New Holistic Health Handbook. Lexington, Mass. The
Stephen Greene Press, 1985.
Northrup, Christiane. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. New
York Bantam Books, 1994.
Ornish, Dean. Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish. New
York Harper Collins Publishers, 1995.
Pathways to Wholeness A Healing Guide. Berkeley, Calif.
Clear Light Publications, 1975.
Pelletier, Kenneth R. Mind as HealerMind as Slayer A Holistic
Approach to Preventing Stress Disorder. New York Delta, 1977.
St. Aubyn, Lorna, ed. Healing. London Heineman, 1983.