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Author: Stewart Mitchell
Title: Towards an Ecology of Health?

"Where are the young people coming through in our movement?"
Sandy at the 1978 ISRN Conference

It is gratifying in the 21st century to observe the influence of naturopathic ideals throughout the world.

There is not a continent where naturopathy is not in some form represented, and whereas our pioneers struggled long and hard in what must have felt like a wilderness, it seems like the naturopathic view is gradually being adopted and extended by sensitive people around the globe. Philosophically, we find ourselves in alliance with the revolutionary movements of our times - the bionetwork, food and agriculture, and even, some may be surprised to hear, amongst our former antagonists, the medics. A recent article on medical education in the British Medical Journal for example, urges aspiring doctors:

"Be aware of the limited powers of modern medicine and danger of your treatments. Put patients first, listen to them and work with them as partners; cure is not what everyone is expecting of you"

Some might say we can rest our case. But the reason we should resist throwing our hats into the air is the perverse decline both in quantity and quality of UK professional naturopathic practice. As far as the Kingston story is concerned, my question is: was the Kingston System naturopathy or did naturopathy become the Kingston System? If the latter, (and my experience inside and out tells me that it did) while we still have it, what can the Kingston System now become?

Let's not think of demise but rebirth, be prepared to tidy up nature cure intellectually, and reappraise its objectives to ensure that the 'straight' is not confused with the 'narrow'.


Is it not strange that considering our pedigree the word 'Naturopathy' usually draws a blank response even within the alternative health community? That according to consumer surveys consultations with naturopaths rank well down the list alongside the 'crystal healers'? In spite of the humane message of our discipline, it has evidently not captured the imagination of the today's public as when it once held sway; nor has it flourished among the young as a way of living in as much as say, Yoga has in much less time.

That naturopathy might not strictly speaking be an 'opathy', with its technical connotations, is now too late to discuss. That the expression nature cure itself lends itself to multiple definitions can also be a distraction. (Even after a lifetime in practice I'm still seeking 'one-liners' to satisfy the casual NC enquiry. I have progressed from "It is one health, one disease" to "Getting buried in a willow coffin!")

Neither label is consistent with our actual involvement: as practitioners, we are guides much more than technicians; even in our therapy, we succeed more from showing rather than doing. But our fundamental claim is presumptuous. We assert nature cures - yet it would be more truthful to say that nature can cure and more likely as a form of 'trade in'. Similarly, the oft-quoted message of the readily healed broken bone should be tempered by our practice experience that it is not always so simple with a broken heart. We offer hope more than cure and we may have misled in claiming NC to be a philosophy - it might be enough just to encourage people to be philosophical about falling ill.

However, it is not merely name changing which will reposition nature cure but an impetus, one which connects with human experience, not just nature cure 'types'. It took me a short time in office practice to appreciate that while a stay in a clinic might precipitate the revolution and adaptations for cure and a healthy life, the real work takes place in someone's home environment. While appreciating their contribution, we should recognise the limitations of centres and clinics. It was an exaggeration to suggest that centres represented the ideal, which at its best is catalytic at the risk of guilt inducing.

The truth is and always has been: nature cure is what happens in peoples' homes - where babies should be born, where people consume most of the world's resources, and if given the choice, prefer to die. And the inclination to behave more naturopathically in order simply to survive can only increase in the modern world. We naturopaths do not possess a philosophy that can correct or convert - we are more accurately representatives of ecology.

Ecos: Gr. Under your roof" - Anyone Interested?

Given longer to answer my casual enquirer, I have found it useful to define naturopathy as "What happens in your home - where you are more likely to find the cause of your ills but also where you can best rectify them?". It by-passes the argument about cure vs. medicine, gives an opportunity to explore experiences and above all keeps it personal - a very attractive proposition for most of us.

It's my definition of 'straight' - being straight with the person, not prejudging their theories or condemning their attempts at self-medication, either through the conventional or alternatives routes.

I've found this approach - informative, attentive, non-interfering unless invited (especially with foods), supportive with a friendly (Kingston tutored) hand - popular and professionally rewarding.

In 25 years practice I have not had a business card or advertised, sold an item or prescription, nor mentioned osteopathy, and keep as busy practice as I can manage. Kingston made me fearless. I'm sustained by curiosity and offer to care - isn't that where the cure of nature cure is derived?

Let's invigorate the Kingston System in whatever form it takes and belongs.

Stewart Mitchell

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