Photography has fascinated me for nearly sixty-five years, since I started with my first Brownie camera at the age of thirteen. And although I became a medical doctor, I always continued to use music, art and photography as healing modalities in my private practice as well as my own personal life. In fact, I do believe that my Special Gift has always been to be able to look deeply into my patients and students through what I would call a photographer’s eye—seeing beyond the obvious and into the soul of the subject.
In every generation of doctors, there are a certain number who seek to go deeper than the mundane, becoming more interested in the transcendental qualities of human nature. Most choose to remain within the medical profession, continuing to treat patients. Some, however, choose to leave it, becoming teachers of students also interested in the transcendental. Each of these teachers develops his own philosophy, and employs particular modalities to assist in the educative process.
It was over forty years ago that I learned to move beyond the path of medicine which concentrates on what the person cannot do to what he could do—his strengths that would help lift him out of whatever his dis-ease was. Ever since, and increasingly over the years, I have tried to find for every person what his strengths are and to encourage his creative expression, to help him release his deepest Self. And that is always his love. For that is always the deepest message of the Muse—you are loved.
To help me in this task I employ many modalities—including photography. And always with one Intention: to actuate the vital force I call Life Energy—what Hippocrates called the vis medicatrix naturae—the innate Healing Power within that we all possess. Life Energy flows through our bodies and is what causes a cut to heal, and what we no longer have when we die. It is low when we are stressed and ill, high when we are unstressed and healthy and although it can have many different levels, it is the highest when we truly feel loved and embrace our lives fully.[i]
So much of my work over many years has been concerned with Life Energy—this healing power within. This goes back to two cases from when I was working in neurosurgery in about 1960. There were two men in beds side by side, same age, same hospital infection, same antibiotics given and in a week one was cured and one was dead. When I asked my supervisor why, he simply said that some have got it and some haven’t got it. I thought then that this It is more important than anything else. And the It I eventually called Life Energy.
Life Energy is the healing power within and the aspiration is to try to actuate the sufferer’s Life Energy. You can’t activate because it is their Life Energy. You can’t give it to them, you can’t switch it on in that sense. You can’t implant it in them. All you can do is help them turn the switch—to actuate it. It is as if all the electricity is flowing in the wires but then somebody has to flick the switch to cause the electricity to work. I can’t flick anyone else’s switch—they have to do it. But I can encourage them to want to do that. Encourage them by showing them how to do it.
So my work is always assessing what is the level of someone’s Life Energy. How much do they really want to live? How much do they enthusiastically, passionately, wholeheartedly, gratefully embrace all their lives? And it is my task to help bring that about if that is what is the karmic plan for that person—or that person and me.
I have found that one of the most effective ways to achieve this is through the practice of the high Creative Arts—painting, sculpture, photography, poetry, literature, dancing, music and some peripheral ones like bonsai. Not gardening generally but maybe Japanese flower arranging because that involves more of the Muse—it comes from deeper within. And the deeper from within it comes, and the more it comes up undistorted by the superficial unconscious and by consciousness, the higher the Life Energy.
Thus, in my case, I believe that the primary purpose of photography is to enhance the Life Energy. There are so many uses of photography, but the one that matters most to me is for it to be therapeutic, for I am a therapist, a healer, and I use photography as an essential component of my healing—of self and other sufferers. By therapeutic I mean not dealing just with dis-ease, but going deeper, much deeper to the underlying anguish which afflicts us all throughout our lives—not feeling truly loved.
Over many years now I’ve taken at least a million photographs and taught photography to my students with virtually always this approach as my underlying purpose. I am not concerned with technique—although over time I have acquired some—nor with the subject matter, the apparent message. I am only ever concerned with the photograph having high Life Energy and thus conveying the deep message of peace, of feeling loved which I call Belovedness.
For years I have used many forms of the Creative Arts to help identify each person’s individual and highly personal harmony. Each person has a special gift or talent—his individual song of the soul—that is unique to him or her alone, which, when engaged in, gives a special and absorbing joy and raises their Life Energy to the highest. Photography has this ability when approached correctly, opening the door to a very special sense of peace and well-being that few other activities can provide.
Many photographers would similarly proclaim this as also being their basic Intention. Where I am different is that I use my photographs as an essential component of my healing practice. Not only can their therapeutic value be examined, but in a very specific and controlled situation their Life Energy-enhancing powers can be assessed. I do believe that this is a valid criterion —for to my way of thinking the basic, primitive purpose of all art, of all creativity, especially photography, is to be healing.
[i] See my Life Energy.