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Author: PG La Barre - Registered Naturopath
Title: From the Shed

How I First Became Interested in Nature Cure

I first became interested in an approach to health, which bore similarities to a healthcare system that Lindlahr and subsequently J.C.Thomson chose to call 'Nature Cure' in 1904. In 1941 my father aged 61, had contracted cancer of the oesophagus, this was diagnosed as inoperable and terminal. He had known a business colleague who had recovered from cancer of the stomach following a similar diagnosis. He contacted his erstwhile colleague to find out what he had done, and to see if he could recommend the person whom he had consulted. My father went to see this person who prescribed a regime which could roughly be called naturopathic, he also suggested that due to the gravity of the condition that he had residential treatment. This he did, but unfortunately it was not successful and he died six months later, relatively peacefully. During this time I had been pursuing a course in chemistry, physics and biology, (HSC), this, in those days gave you exemption from 1st year medicine, a discipline I thought I might find rewarding. I had also volunteered for the RAF.

After nearly a year of waiting, there then followed the most boring three years of my life so far. During the period of waiting to escape from the RAF I contacted the person who had treated my father during his illness, more out of curiosity than anything. He turned out to be a man of many parts, at a physical level he recommended diet, massage, exercises, sunlight, on a mental level he leant towards Adler and other broadly analytical methods, and spiritually he was into Indian, Buddhist, Theosophy, Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff and others. I became interested in what he was doing and used to go over to his consulting rooms once a week to observe and help out generally. I also joined his study group, which met on alternate Sunday afternoons. Eventually I suggested that I should join him and he would teach me what he knew. He suggested that I should get some basic training first, and the only place that offered any was the ESNT at the Kingston Clinic in Edinburgh. The rest is history.

How I Feel About it Now

Preliminaries -In order to understand the ramifications of what might be termed Thomson Nature Cure (TNC). It could be helpful to appreciate the trials and tribulations of his early life. 'J.C.' was born 18th July 1887 to Jane and Peter Thomson at the family farm in Angus. It was his father's second marriage, his first having produced ninechildren. His father was 6o when he married Jane in Jan 1883 (two months after his 1st wife died) Jane was 32.She gave birth to Eva some 16 months later, three years after that J.C. was born and three years later Aggie. There was a three generation gap between J.C. and his father, this left him open to the influence of his sisters and, by all accounts, his not inconsiderable mother. His father died when he was 11. For some reason the bulk of his estate went to the children of his first marriage. This left the family in somewhat straightened circumstances. Jane moved to Edinburgh and took in lodgers to help with the finances, she sent J.C. to Daniel Stewarts's College, where he had an uneventful time, he left school when he was 16, spent 6 months in a lawyers office which he didn't like. He then joined the Navy, but was invalided out after 18 months with what was presumably tuberculosis. He then spent 2 years building up his health sufficient to be accepted into the Metropolitan Police. (note his three authoritarian occupation choices.) He resigned from the Met. and departed for the USA in 1908. He qualified as an N.C. physician two years later at the age of 23! He returned to Scotland in August 1912, set up in practice in Edinburgh and developed his own unique practice of Nature Cure.


Whilst the story of N.C. is essentially the story of J.C. it follows that J.C.'s strengths are Nature Cure's. For better or for worse.

CONVICTION: J.C. always gave the appearance of being right, the greater the need the greater the conviction. Uncertainty, doubts or failures were not to be entertained.
CHARISMA: With attendant authenticity and authority can take you into a new dimension.
APPEARANCE: Tall 6ft +, craggy, red hair, commanding presence.
TRACK RECORD: Mc Fadden's sanatorium at Battle Creek, Kellogg's and Post's establishments and finally Lindlahr's where he was eventually made manager. He qualified as a 'Nature Cure Physician' after two years being in America. Worked at Marshall Field's as trainee salesman for 6 months. Started practice in Galena, Missouri. He then moved to Florida for a while and back to Scotland Sept. 1912, after 4 years in America.
HISTORY: Born to a mother of 35 and father of 65. He had two sisters, one 3 years older the other 3 years younger. His father died when he was 11. Most of the money went to his father's first family, nine of them. His mother moved to Edinburgh and opened a boarding house. School 'till 16. Six months in a lawyer's office. 18 months in the navy, invalided out withtuberculosis. Two years on farm recovering. Then to London and the Metropolitan Police for a year. He then set sail for America.
INTUITION: He recalled many examples of intuition and the power of thought that he had experienced.
VALIDITY: The underlying beliefs and concepts of Nature Cure he propounded with evangelical zeal.
HEALING CHRISIS: Concept and management of same.
NON-INVASIVE: Aids to healing.


The trouble with strengths is that they usually have a flip side. What is strength in one context is a weakness in another. Conviction can hide doubt and block exploration. Single mindedness inhibits experimentation. Charisma when applied to facts is fine, when applied to opinion is dangerous. Appearance can be deceptive. Track records need to be verifiable. Intuition can be rationalised, thereby nullifying it. Validity of concept can be stretched too far.

The outcome of all these factors meant that it created a situation that had its own built in contradictions. The main weakness is, that because of the success of TNC was due to a large extent to the personality of its founder, it's highly protective and defensive stance allowed no development that wasn't sanctioned by 'himself'. This caused anyone who wanted to explore or initiate other developments to keep a very low profile or leave the fold altogether. There was only one boss; innovations that were not thought of by him were not looked kindly upon, leading to a steady defection rate.This meant that after his death in1960, his ideas that depended more on his personality than on logical reasoning slowly lost ground to the resurgence of interest in alternative and complementary approaches to health care. This despite the heroic attempts of Leslie Thomson to revise and underpin with reason rather than rhetoric the writings of his father.A further difficulty was that, because TNC was deeply rooted in the physical dimension of health, and because the rest of the world was becoming interested in other dimensions such as the emotional, the mental, relationship, social interaction, environmental and political implications,TNC no longer met the more complex needs of the people. Also JC's highly combatative approach to authority, particularly that of the medical profession as well as to the legal and church dignitaries plus the emergent women's lib. movement. This further isolated him from the world we inhabit.

A Possible Way Forward

The first thing needed is to realise that there is a problem. If we agree that there is, how do we go about solving it? We could then identify the areas which:-

(a) need to be abandoned, (b) need to be improved and (c) which need to be held onto through thick and thin. Our hope will be that we can tell the difference between them. If we can decide on what our core values are, and if we can present them in a coherent and constructive way, we could build what could be called a secondary set of ideas which can form a basis to our practice.

There are many problems. One of the main being the balance and recognition given to the clinical with its dangers of dependence, and the educational with its dangers of 'teaching' as opposed to learning. Confucious, 2,500 years ago said, 'Tell me and I will forget'. 'Show me and I may remember'. 'Involve me and I will understand'. Another more complex problem is the consideration of the mind-body relationship. TNC has always insisted that a healthy body produces a healthy mind. Thus distorting the original classical quote, 'orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano'. 'That your prayer must be, for a healthy mind in a healthy body'. This gives equal status to body and mind. Present thinking is that they are both inextricably mixed. One outcome of this is seen in the effect of the practitioner-patient relationship, which many observers believe to be more important than the modality employed. This brings up the question of, how authentic can a practitioner be. Critical thought, particularly self-critical thought is not very high on our agenda. As Bertrand Russell noted. 'The English would rather suffer torture or death, than think'. If our relationship with our patient, the other person in the room with us, is to be one of equality, the only difference being oneof technical knowledge, then it is important that we are aware of our own shortcomings. And realise the potential they have for altering the outcome of our deliberations.

There are so many important issues to be addressed that I believe the most productive way forward would be to form a group with the object of investigating the problems. The group would have to consist of people who had enough interest, time and energy to explore the problems in an open and constructive way. They could then report back to the main parties concerned inviting their comments and modifications. I realise that this will entail a great deal of work and commitment but I see it as the only way forward if we want to salvage anything out of the TNC legacy.

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