The word holistic, to my knowledge, was first used by Jan Smuts in his book, HOLISM AND EVOLUTION, originally published in 1926. Jan Smuts was a General and later Prime Minister of South Africa. His book laid the foundation for the concept of Holistic Medicine. He states that the word comes from the Greek word HOLOS, which means whole. However, he further states that holistic ”–covers both inorganic substances and the highest manifestations of the human spirit.” Smuts goes on to emphasize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. His book is a brilliant integration of philosophy, biology and science, including quantum physics.
The word Holistic had little use until the 1970’s the first Holistic Health organization was established in California. For several years that organization had meetings in San Diego, with over 3000 attendees. In the fall of 1977, prior to the annual meeting of that organization, a meeting of holistic leaders was called. Olga Worrall, Bob Leichtman and I attended and walked out, as it was obvious that the concept was beginning to attract some pretty flakey ideas. I then wrote to several physician friends and in November we had a meeting at Meadowlark, the center founded by Dr. Evarts Loomis, in Hemet, California. We decided to found the American Holistic Medical Association. In May, 1978, two hundred twelve physicians and medical students met in Denver, Colorado, to found AMERICAN HOLISTIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (AHMA). The AMERICN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (AMA) refused to allow advertising for the meeting or anything holistic for several years. I was elected President of AHMA for the first two years. The next couple of years the AHMA meeting was held in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and had about 800 attendees. The NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE (NEJM) carried an article written by a neurosurgeon colleague criticizing the ”charismatic speakers” who spoke too well, and concluding that ”we” are too busy taking care of disease to have time preventing it. In January, 1980, MEDICAL TRIBUNE published an article ”WHAT IS HOLISTIC MEDICINE” written by me at the request of the editor. Today AHMA continues and thanks to two former Presidents, Rob Ivkers and Bob Anderson, we have the American Board of Holistic Medicine.
By 1980, Charlotte McGuire founded the American Holistic Nurses Association; and within a few years there were holistic veterinary and lawyer associations. By 1982, the AMA hosted meetings to discuss Holistic Medicine and hospitals and universities began having meetings on holism. The concept grew and has expanded since then.
From the beginning, my concept of Holistic Medicine emphasized the essential inclusion of all appropriate conventional medical approaches as well as including spiritual and pastoral counseling. Indeed, it is the exclusion of the spiritual from conventional medicine that prompted the foundation of AHMA. For three decades the emphasis has been on the integration of Body, Mind and Spirit. Smuts emphasized moral and ethical ”flowering” of human thought. As he said, ”There is not a problem of Metaphysics, of Art and even of Religion which will not benefit enormously from contact with the concept of Holism.” In 1981, I founded Holos Institutes of Health, Inc, a 501-C-3 organization to pursue education, research and clinical services in Holistic Medicine. And in 2001, Holos University Graduate Seminary was founded to provide a doctoral program in the principles of Holistic Theology, Spiritual Healing and Energy Medicine. hugs-edu.org
Through the years, some have spelled Holistic as Wholistic. HOLOS means whole. Thus, that includes body, mind and spirit, and all things sacred and holy. It is true that the Greeks have a different word for Holy – Ayios, meaning alpha, gamma, iota, omicron and sigma. Thanks to my med school friend, Harry Metropol, ”When it is placed in front of a name for example Ayios Patrick it means Saint Patrick. By the way Saint Patrick is one of the Saints of the Greek Orthodox Church.”
Another historical fact found in the History of the Irish Race by Seumas Macmanus is that of the three certain colonizations of Ireland, the first was by the Firbolgs who came from Greece over 1000 years before Christ. In fact the word Celtic is a Greek word. The Saxon word ‘hal’ has also been said to mean whole as well as holy and health. I cannot find an historical time of its origin. Is it possible that hal came from the Greek influence with the Celts?
Eighty years after Jan Smuts’ book, Holism continues to be more than the sum of the parts. Holism and Holistic must include the complete alpha and omega – whole, health, holy, sacred and spiritual! Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Integrative Medicine are more recent terms but, to be complete, they must be Holistic.