The Healing Power of Illness Book Overview


Having just finished reading The Healing Power of Illness by Thorwald Dethlefsen I felt compelled to write this post sharing the most inspiring quotes and add a little about my perspective.

Before I begin, I feel the need to mention that, at first, some of the views may be seen as contentious. However, if you persist with the message Thorwald shares you will see they are extremely empowering.

So, now, let’s get started.

Illness and the cause

No alibi for an illness.

In this book, Dethlefsen sets out his goal to prove that there is no excuse for any illness and if you read on you will see how he explains this in a gentle and clear way. He goes on to say:

…[I] Propose to show that the patient is not the innocent victim of some quirk of nature but actually the author of his or her own sickness.

Now I accept that this could be upsetting to some readers, however, Dethlefsen’s explanation, to me, opens up an amazing perspective on health and healing.

Illness and health are singular concepts, since they refer to a human state or condition and not, as in fashionable in today’s usage, to organs or parts of the body. The body is never ill or healthy, for it does no more than express messages from our consciousness

The body is never unhealthy or well, at this point in the book I didn’t quite get ‘it’. I thought about the concept of ‘Neti Neti’ which means neither this or that. This, to me, at that time, meant that we are all somewhere on the spectrum between healthy and unhealthy, for example, I may have an unhealthy arm but the rest of my body is healthy. The Healing Power of Illness goes further and presents the concept brilliantly with the following quotes:

Illness = Consciousness Level
Symptom = Body Level

Getting annoyed at the symptom is like getting annoyed at an engine warning light instead of the actual engine problem.

Illness = Out of Conscious Balance
Symptom = Alert that something is wrong

At this point in the book, I was beginning to understand Dethlefsen’s principal points. In that the body is the warning sign of illness, just like a fire alarm is not the actual fire or as mentioned earlier the engine warning light is not the engine problem.

I have mentioned many times throughout this site the difference between the western and eastern philosophy of medicine. In the west, we tend to treat the symptoms and the east tends to treat the whole person and the root cause. Each have there place because with a broken leg or after a crash I would like western medicine to treat the symptoms first before moving on to healing the whole.

However, like Dethlefsen, I feel that treating the cause is, generally, a much better way of treating illness. That said I still feel prevention is the best choice if we can and are aware, which is not always possible.

The Healing Power of Illness then shares how we can become aware of what has caused our body to produce the symptoms.

It is the illness that ultimately makes us heal-able. Illness is the turning point at which unwholeness can start to be turned in to wholeness.

To me, this is an extremely powerful statement because it shares that if we, unknowingly or very rarely knowingly, create the illness, then once aware, we can choose to ‘uncreate it’.


The twin questions “What is the symptom stopping me doing?” and “What is the symptom making me do?” generally lead directly to the area of the illness’s central theme.

By starting to ask ourselves these questions we can begin to find out what conscious process is out of balance.

To recognise the actual content, all that is important is ‘that’ things are and ‘how’ they are – NOT ‘why’ they are.

To me, this quote is really important in life. Focusing on the ‘how’s’ and ‘that’s’ and not the ‘why’s’ are fundamental to most recoveries because asking why can waste a lot of time and energy and never really, in my opinion, produce a concrete answer that can help us heal, thus leaving us in limbo.

Trying to guess (and that is what it is) why something happened or what is going to happen next is pointless. The reasoning is that there are way too many variables involved in working out the why’s – As Wei Wu said: ” I don’t know enough to worry.” In each moment there is nearly an infinite number of possibilities that could happen next. Some we can see and hear that will help us ‘guess’ the next event or why something happened. Most are out of our consciousness’ ability to pick up.

One example is a dog whistle making a high pitch sound which humans can not hear. The energy waves are ‘out there’ being heard and picked up by the dog’s consciousness. So we know the soundwaves/energy is being created but our consciousness cannot pick them up to interpret them in to sound.

If we then think about how music and certain sounds (both just energy waves) affect our emotions and then bear in mind that we hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum (we also only see less than 1% of the electromagnetic visual spectrum). Meaning there are lots of sounds and energy waves around us which may be affecting us on some level. You may now be aware of why Wei Wu stated ‘we don’t know enough…’ and why Dethlefsen feels the ‘why’ is not important.

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As I see it from what is written above we really don’t know enough to guess the future or worry and try to work out ‘why’ something happened to us because the amount of information translated by our consciousness is so small in comparison to the full spectrums of all the information and energy created around us.

Thorwald Dethlefsen goes one to discuss the importance of our consciousness:

The only thing that survives the grave is consciousness itself – yet that is the last thing anybody worries about.

He explains the body receives the consciousness like a radio picks up a signal or waves which is very similar to what Bruce Lipton shares in his book ‘Biology of Belief‘. Bruce states that if in the future someone is born with the same cell receptors as ourself, Our consciousness and ‘being/identity’ could be ‘downloaded’.

As mentioned earlier, If we look at our consciousness as the receiver of energy waves.

Energy waves, like sound, are created through the movement between two poles – loud and silent. If we keep in mind what Thorwald Dethlefsen says in the next 5 quotes below our mind could be blown (mine was!).

But rhythm is nothing more than a constant alteration between two poles

The solution lies beyond polarity – yet to get there it is necessary to unite the poles and reconcile the opposites.

The book discusses the importance of Unity over of Polarity because Unity is what will heal us by bringing our consciousness in balance. However, it understands that we can only attain this through polarity and that is what any illness is – polarity or an imbalance between the two poles. As Herman Hesse said “Problems are not there in order to be solved: they are merely the poles in which life’s necessary tensions can arise”

But first, let’s look at Dethlefsen explanation of Polarity and Unity.


Polarity is like a door that has ‘Entrance’ on one side of it and ‘Exit’ on the other: it remains one and the same door but, depending on which side we approach it from, we see only one of these twin aspects of it.

Destroy the rhythm, and we destroy life, for life is rhythm. Anyone who refuses to breathe out will no longer be able to breathe in.

If we take one pole away the other disappears also.

If we now go back the sound metaphor we used earlier if we were to remove the ‘loud’ pole from the sound spectrum there would be no sound energy wave for our consciousness to receive.

Polarity brings the inability to consider both aspects of a whole at the same time.

As I see it at the moment, we are never one or the other, i.e Loud or Quiet we are the unity of the energy wave between the two extreme poles because that is what our consciousness receives -the movement between each pole.

All paths of healing or initiation are but a single path that leads from polarity to unity

Wholeness is only attainable when we finally stop the dividing of our I, or ego, from the rest of existence.

So by seeing the wholeness of the dance between the two poles as the creator of energy wave. The poles enable us to have the whole and to start to correct the imbalance which leans too far towards either of the poles. If we are using the sound or energy wave analogy we could have an illness because our consciousness is too focused toward the quiet.

With that in mind, the next quote shares the importance polarity plays in helping us heal.

Recognition demands polarity

This means once we become aware that we are focusing too much on one pole or the other we can become whole by consciously creating a balance through seeing and experiencing the unity of the movement between each pole that is creating the energy wave.

Conclusion and Summary

So to conclude and wrap up we can ask ourselves the following two questions to discover which pole we are leaning too much towards.

“What is the symptom stopping me doing?” and “What is the symptom making me do?”

With the answer to these 2 questions, we can choose to find the middle way to create balance and unity through the observing. Any preference for one side over the other is creating a divide and, in this books opinion, the illness which is revealed to us through a symptom in the body is a result of that imbalance.

The two questions above help to bring out from the shadows that which is required to help attain the equanimity needed for the body to recover from the symptom.

The Healing Power of Illness is summed up by Thorwald Dethlefsen with these 10 reminders:

  1. Human consciousness is bipolar on the one hand this allows us to become self-aware but on the other, it makes us unwhole and incomplete.
  2. Illness is our nature. Disease is an expression of our incompleteness and is unavoidable in the context of polarity.
  3. Human illness embodies itself in symptoms. Symptoms are parts of our consciousness’s shadow that have been precipitated into physical form.
  4. Each of us as a microcosm contains within our consciousness all the principles of the macrocosm. Since however, our power of discrimination ensures that we only identify ourselves with one half of each principle, the other half is relegated to the shadows and inconsequently unknown to us.
  5. Any principle that is not lived out for real insists on its right to life and existence via the medium of physical symptoms. In our symptoms, we are constantly forced to live out and to real-ise precisely those things that we least want to. This is how our symptoms make up for all our imbalances.
  6. Sypmtoms make us honest.
  7. In our symptoms we have what our consciousness lacks.
  8. Healing is made possible only by making ourselves aware of those hidden aspects of ourselves that are our shadows and by integrating them. Once we have discovered what we are lacking, the symptoms become superfluous.
  9. The aim of healing is wholeness and oneness. We are whole the moment we finally discover our true self and become one with all that is.
  10. Illness prevents us from straying from the road that leads to oneness. For that reason – ILLNESS IS A PATH TO PERFECTION.

I hope you like this overview of The Healing Power of Illness and if you have any comments or would like to sign up for my newsletter please do.

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