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1847-1981 :

A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Julia Twigg
©AUTUMN 1981 - Thesis Index

The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.


[Numerical links are to the author's footnotes, use your back button to return to the same point in the text. Text links are to relevant items on the IVU website, all open in new windows]


The growing interest in alternative medicine in the 1970s contributed to vegetarianism's more favourable reception: certain developments internal to medicine had contributed to this. The first of these was the massive expansion in the post-war period in the prescription of drugs. (1) Their effectiveness changed the nature of medicine and led to the eradication of many of the great killer diseases; however, disquiet grew within the medical profession, and from the 1970s within sections of the population - thalidomide was a turning point here - over the dangers of side effects, and over the easy prescription of powerful drugs for relatively trivial complaints. Iatrogenic illness became a major concern, and polemical books like Illych's Medical Nemesis published in 1975, caught this mood of doubt. There was also increasing concern over the growth in the use of surgery. Secondly, more and more illness presented to doctors was either openly psychological in origin, or attributable in large part to such factors. The training and resources of doctors meant that this demand was largely met by a massive increase in the prescription of psychotropic drugs. Many felt, however, that this failed to meet the real problem, and encouraged a medicalisation of what were essentially the pains, and crises of life. This growing perception of the role of the psychological in illness undermined the usefulness of the old model of the body as a machine, medicine, in its pragmatism, had never entirely adopted this model, though its most dramatic successes in the twentieth century did to a large extent rest upon such a view. (2) Now, however, there was a growing interest in the role of subjective factors in illness.

Thirdly, there was the changing nature of illness. Medicine was increasingly running up against the intractability of degenerative illnesses like heart disease, arthritis, back pain, for which drug treatment seemed of limited, largely palliative, use and whose causes seemed rooted not in the attack of a disease but in long-term factors such as smoking, stress, forms of eating, attitude to life. The criticisms that the alternative medical tradition had been making for almost a hundred years, now seemed increasingly relevant. Health did seem to be bound up with the whole personality and with the circumstances of the patient's life in a broader sense.

The cost of high-technology medicine rose by leaps and bounds in the 1970s. Medical treatment was eating up an ever-larger proportion of the GNP of advanced industrial societies. What could be done was becoming less relevant than what could be afforded to be done. The old optimistic theory, put forward at the time of the setting up of the NHS, of a pool of illness that would eventually be mopped up, had been shown to be hopelessly wrong. These factors and the financial crisis in the NHS produced an interest in cheaper solutions and more self-help and preventative techniques, though ironically, these have tended to be among the first victims of government cuts.

Though the arrival of the NHS had initially seemed to auger the demise of alternative medicine, in an indirect way it ultimately contributed to its rising popularity. Despite the uneven provision and use of its services, the NHS did create rising expectations of health; and, acute medical needs being met, people were interested in techniques that offered a fuller sense of health. The strained resources of the NHS and the shifts in the centre of gravity of medicine from the GP to the hospital also produced an experience of treatment as alienating; people felt lost in the machine, passed from one anonymous medical technician to another. Treatment seemed cold and technological.

These developments also influenced the medical profession, and the 1970s saw a change in attitude - among some doctors at least - towards alternative techniques. Magazines like World Medicine began to carry articles on it; and anthropological material was discussed in a modern medical context. In 1977 the GMC lifted its ban of over a hundred years on doctors working with unregistered practitioners; it was now officially acceptable for doctors to refer their patients to alternative therapies. (3) In 1978, David Ennals, the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, organised a briefing from Health for the New Age (see below) and others on alternative medicine and its relevance to a reformed health service. (4)

A number of umbrella organisations sprang up in the seventies to promote the alternative medical approach. (5) The Wrekin Trust held annual conferences on health and healing, where various techniques and philosophies were described and demonstrated; these meetings were largely aimed at the interested public. (6) A group with a similar range of interests, though a different focus, is Health for the New Age, founded in 1972 by Lt. Col. Marcus McCausland and his wife Marika. The aim is to collect together research work in the field of alternative medicine and deviant science, and to act as a catalyst for research workers. (7) Other centres have also been founded, such as the Leamington Spa Health Foundation, formed in 1977, the White Cross Society, and the East/West Centre, which succeeded the now defunct Quasitor, as a centre for alternative treatment, natural childbirth and groupwork. (8) All these have vegetarian or health food connections; and many, as we shall see, are also involved in wider spiritual ideas. The, vegetarian magazines regularly reviews books on alternative medicine and carries articles. (9)

A wide range of therapies come under the umbrella of alternative medicine: (10) two principles act to define its scope and character.

The first of these is the deviancy definition as emphasised by Wallis and Morley; (11) and they point to the tendency of alternative medicine to encompass wider world-views and to develop, for practitioner and patient, sect-like associations - though cultic, following Campbell, (12) is a better term since social bonds within alternative medicine are loose, approaches are highly individualistic and the ethic of seekership prevails; a sense of epistemological toleration, which arises from the sense of being together, outside a powerful medical orthodoxy, is also marked. (13)

The deviant identity is produced through interaction with orthodoxy; and different historical patterns of entrenchment have produced different forms of reaction and definition. (14) A diverse range of treatments are held together by this deviant definition: some could, with only minor changes in their ideology or in orthodoxy's attitude to them, be incorporated into official medicine - osteopathy is an obvious example - while others rest on such fundamentally different accounts of the world - radionics, for example, with its pendulum passed over letter or hair – that a major paradigm shift would be needed to accommodate them. (Care is needed in the prediction of such debarrment since acupuncture - once the most decried and 'impossible' of treatments - is now increasingly studied in orthodox circles). Which side of the divide a treatment finds itself upon also affects its nature: thus osteopaths in America have, since their incorporation into orthodox medicine, increasingly prescribed drugs and have abandoned most of their alternative aspects.

As evidence of the labelling process, alternative medicine can point to its treatment by orthodoxy: many in orthodoxy have rejected alternative ideas more out of prejudice as to their social and institutional origins than from: any scientific examination of the phenomena claimed (though the history of alternative medicine has not been without its charlatans, a fact that tends to be ignored in the mood of studied credence and disenchantment with orthodoxy). Finally the deviant label is not one-sided: there are aspects of positive appeal here, and alternative medicine can be part of a more general commitment to deviant ideas of a political, social or spiritual nature. The related appeal of deviant science has a similar quality.

The deviant, counter quality can, however, be overstressed. Not all in the alternative medical tradition attack orthodox medicine or its institutional base. Captain Bruce Macmannaway, a noted healer, dislikes the term alternative medicine, arguing, as does Health for the New Age, that what is needed is a combination of the best of both. (15) Dr Ledermann also shares the belief in the need for both. (16) The training of natural therapists with institutions, degrees and. professional bodies mirrors the professional structures of orthodoxy. Though there are important differences in the patient/therapist relationship, there are also similarities: the framework of the consultation, the style of the room etc are similar and draw power and legitimacy from that similarity. (17) Deviance is not pointed up here. Patients can also treat such therapies in the neutral, instrumental way that people treat orthodox medicine, looking for alleviation or cure in a very straightforward way. Though some involved as patients do refuse all orthodox treatment and are committed to the idea of, for example, nature cure as a total system, more common is the mixed or pragmatic approach that would prefer nature cure but would not shun orthodox treatment, especially for major illnesses. Many have come to alternative medicine through chronic illness and though they may become committed in a wider sense and loyal to the treatment that has helped them, the deviance of the approach itself was not part of the appeal.

The second defining principle relates to certain underlying concepts in alternative medicine that give it an internal coherence beyond just the deviant label: these concepts are shared with vegetarianism.

The most important is holism. Alternative medicine is often termed holistic medicine, and the idea that 'healing' means 'making whole' is a constantly reiterated theme. The word holistic involves a series of slightly different but inter-related meanings. Most narrowly, it means the rejection of the fragmenting specialisms of modern, and especially hospital-based, medicine. More frequently, however, it means the unity of mind and body, whereby the two are seen as interacting upon each other; thus emotional stress produces physical illness - cancer, heart disease - and psychic difficulties are mirrored in physiological states. Similarly physiological imbalances - bad diet, particulars foods - directly affect mental and emotional states; the food allergy theory is popular, as is concern over the psychological effects of food additives, not to mention the older ideas concerning the psychic effects of meat. 'Any symptom, on whatever level, is symptomatic of the disharmony of the whole' (18) and thus treatment on one level can help another. Yoga, through the exercise and discipline of the body, can calm the mind; and massage can smooth away psychic tension. Conversely, attention to one's psychological state - whether in the form of talking while having the treatment, or more directly in various alternative forms of psychotherapy - can help one's physical state.

Alternative medicine rejects the dualism that would separate the body I own, from the mind I am; and the focus of identity is here consciously extended to include bodily identity. Thus what one does and experiences physically is given a greater significance. The White Cross Society emphasises the psychic and health ills that come from the neglect of and suppression of bodily identity:

Most of us are totally blind to our bodies... Get in touch with your body... Massage helps your body to come alive. The touch of hands revitalises those parts which are dead without your being aware of it... If you cannot touch your own body with love, you will never be able to touch others. (19)

This is a strong theme in the growth movement and in humanistic psychology generally. (20) One of the most common features of the popular psychotherapy movements is the stress on direct feeling through physical experiences like touching, screaming, moving, as opposed to the what is seen as the endless cerebration of conventional analysis; and movements of the EST and Insight variety have as an aim the forcing of the participants into an awareness of their bodily presence.

These concerns are related to a wider social criticism – once again Carpenter is a forerunner here – in the popular counter-cultural feeling that modern society has over-abstracted and cerebralised life: Roszak, for example, argues that the 'body is nature nearest home', and that we suffer not just in our health from this drawing of the self up into the head, but also in the impoverishment of our wider perceptions. Our alienation from our bodies is the start of our alienation from ourselves. (21)

Thirdly, holism frequently involves the belief that a human being is more than just body and mind, but has also a spiritual dimension and that this too is relevant to health and illness. The denial of the existence of the spiritual side of life, or refusal to express it, are seen as causing the kind of imbalance between the different aspects of being that in turn causes illness. Sometimes the sense of different aspects of being is related to a model of levels of the person. There have been a variety of formulations of this since theosophy popularised the idea; they usually start with material existence, followed by the individual's physical self, rising through the emotions, to the intellectual, to the intuitional, to the spiritual planes, and ending in a level of pure spirit that exists beyond the self. Sometimes in the more occult versions, these different levels have different 'bodies', so that emotional or spiritual existence is expressed in auras or 'subtle bodies'.

Finally, holism involves the context of the individual. This can mean his or her social circumstances, in the sense of relationships - this is a particular characteristic in humanistic psychology - or more widely, the society in which the individual lives, or it can mean the cosmic context, the place of man in Nature or within a wider cosmic unity. (22) Any disjunction between the individual and context can lead to imbalance and thus illness.

The second major theme underlying alternative medicine is the idea of nature; nearly all alternative therapies embody the natural model referred to earlier in the context of nature cure. The aim is co-operation with nature and the release of its healing capacity. Frequently this is conceived in terms of a third important feature which is energy, power, vibrations etc - themes that are found also in deviant science.

Body energy is a basic concert of all force of natural medicine and healing. It is the very stuff and flow of life... Ill health and disease occur when this flow is for some reason blocked in the body. All the natural therapies seek in their different ways to remove these blocks and restore the body to its even flow of energy - to bring it into balance and equilibrium. (23)

Sometimes eastern concepts of centres or sources of power are referred to, such as chakras or meridian points. In more psychological versions, the aim is to release damned up psychic energies previously used in the defence of the ego. Healing is also often conceived in terms of spiritual power, usually external to the healer, though sometimes, as in shamanistic ideas, derived from or enhanced by ascetic practices such as the avoidance of meat. (24)

Finally there is the major emphasis on self help. At a concrete level, many of the therapies are consciously simple and practical in character, often using easily available remedies such as herbal tisanes, forms of exercise and fasting. (25)

At a more conceptual level, alternative medicine rejects ideas of illness as something that happens to you and to which you respond with either passive fatalism, or the automatic taking of a pill. They attack particularly the abuses of modern drug medicine, where numbers of aspirins, tranquilisers and sleeping pills are prescribed with little thought by doctors of patients as to why they are needed. Above all, they reject the idea of cure as something external to you that in administered by an autonomous professional body according to an external - and ill-understood by the patient – system of ideas. The NHS is here criticised for encouraging a dependent and authoritarian attitude which undermines the patient's own sense of self and of responsibility. By contrast, real treatment involves co-operating and taking part in the process of getting well – you must do the exercises, follow the diet, talk with the therapist, think about your life. Frequently this self responsibility will involve a change in the nature of your life. (26)

This self-help also has egalitarian aspects. Revolutionary periods - those following the French and Chinese revolutions, for example - have frequently produced attempts to dismantle the medical and other professions as part of an egalitarian upsurge whereby all citizens should participate equally, and as an attack on privileged social groups. Alternative medicine today has some of these aspects, and it has been taken up in radical and New Left circles as part of an attack on the social and academic prestige of the doctors; and to this is added, criticism of multinational drug companies. There is also a connection between self-help medicine and the women's movement, though here there is the added aspect of rejecting the control of women by the predominantly male medical profession, with its authoritarian attitudes and biologically-based definitions of women. (27)

Alternative medicine teaches you that you must take responsibility for your sickness. Illness is ultimately caused by the self: 'The body wants to be well - pain and sickness are signs that we are doing something wrong'. (28) Every illness is a warning, and you cannot become well until you have recognised the nature of the warning and acted upon it. As we have noted earlier, alternative medicine is deeply embued with the search for meaning in illness - as indeed is this whole milieu with the question of meaning altogether - and it poses the question 'Why did I become ill?' in ways that ultimately reach to formulations of meaning that are beyond the medical. Here karma and nature are elided into a natural theodicy; both are seen as operating at the level of objective cause and effect, though both are here essentially moral and spiritual conceptions. You will suffer if you ignore nature's law or the operations of karma. There is a reason in all things but more than that here is a meaning in all things. Illness is meaningful. Suffering can be part of one's spiritual journey; sickness can be designed to teach you something you must learn. (29)

  1. 86. The revolution here came during and after the Second World War with the arrival of M&B and the broad spectrum antibiotics.
  2. 87. Orthodox medicine is far from being the monolith that some theorists, especially critical ones, have presented it as being.
  3. 88. As evidence of changing attitude of doctors, Tony Eddy of Nature Cure Clinic reported how from late 1960s the clinic found an increasing number of young doctors asking to sit in on consultations (that is the way the clinic trains practitioners).
  4. 89. Participants included representatives from the Scientific and Medical Network, the Soil Association, the Healing Research Trust, British Committee of Natural Therapeutics, Association of Humanistic Psychology, the Health Education Council, the Dorothy Kerin Trust and Health for the New Age. For an account of the meeting and for a useful resumé of the alternative approach see, Health for the New Age, Winter 1977-3, p8-17, and. Spring 1978, p5.
  5. 90. For information concerning alternative medicine I have drawn on observation and discussion at the Wrekin Trust Health and Healing Conference; interview with Marika McCausland; information from Festivals of Mind and Body and Spirit; interview with Tony Eddy of Nature Cure Clinic; and various printed sources.
  6. 91. The Wrekin Trust was founded by Sir George Trevelyan to explore 'New Age' ideas. Vegetarian food is served at its conferences.
  7. 92. For a resumé of its aims and beliefs see the cover of its journal Health for the New Age.
    MARCUS McCAUSLAND: came to alternative medicine through dowsing, had been an army officer and later worked for a company making atomic fuses. His wife, MARIKA, after periods of severe illness is now a healer, and a follower of Muktenanda. The McCauslands are not fully vegetarian, though they avoid all red meat, eat very little chicken and fish and follow a wholefood diet.
  8. 93. The White Cross Society, founded by Dr Shyarn Singha, 'patrons R.D. Laing, the Marquess of Bath, Yehudi Nienuhin'. Uses range of techniques, workshops held in London and centre in Suffolk. At Quasitor's groups vegetarian food was served and the East/West Centre is committed to macrobiotics.
  9. 94. See, for representative examples, Alive, June 1978, p40, and March 1979, p14.
  10. 95. Nature cure retains a central place, and its use of diet and fasting are found in combination with a number of other therapies. Manipulation is another recurrent feature; both osteopathy and chiropractice centre on the, spine and aim at the restoration of the integrity of the body' a structure, while other therapies concentrate on the soft muscle tissue, using general massage or massage of particular areas, such as the feet. Bioenergetics also uses massage; and Rolfing offers a 'particularly violent version, aimed at breaking down the psychic tensions in the body - both draw on Reichian ideas. The Alexander technique aims to restore correct posture and thus alleviate stress and illness, as do also other versions of postural integration and kinesiology. Some therapies aim to harness the senses - aromatherapy, dance and colour therapy, for example. Homeopathic or herbal remedies are often prescribed, sometimes after diagnosis by radionics. Alternative therapies included healing of all sorts, as well as a variety of psychotherapies such as gestalt, primal scream, body-work, encounter groups. Relaxation and meditation are often taught with the principal enemy stress and anxiety. Techniques like, yoga are commonly used, as well as biofeedback, machines to train the individual to reduce his or her levels of stress.
    For a useful survey see., Dr. Andrew Stanway, Alternative Therapies: A Guide to Natural Therapies, 1980. Also relevant is Malcolm Hulke ed., The Encyclopaedia of Alternative. Medicine and Self Help, 1978.
  11. 96. R. Wallis and P. Morley, eds, Marginal Medicine, 1976. Various terms are used by other authors - natural, alternative, fringe, marginal, holistic - though the differences are not significant.
  12. 97. C. Campbell 'The Cultic Milieu', A Sociological yearbook of Religion in Britain, 1972.
  13. 98. By and large therapists do not criticise or expose each other - openly at least. The attitude is very much one of finding something or someone who is right for you; and the conscious, rational weighing up of the different bases and claims is not encouraged.
  14. 99. See Julius Roth, Health Purifiers and their Enemies, 1976, for comparison of the history of relations between orthodoxy and alternative medicine in the USA - largely hostile and defined apart - and in Germany - more sympathetic and intermixed.
  15. 100. Health for the New Age tried in 1973 to set .up a health centre in the old Charing Cross Hospital that would combine the best of both, while being also a centre of a social nature where people could come to enjoy themselves and make contacts, as well as learn to be healthy. The idea looked back to the Peckham Health Centre.
  16. 101. 'The Natural Therapist holds a central position, for his approach to health and disease is basic, and what he practises is not fringe medicine. He must however avoid dogmatism and fanaticism. No school of medicine can claim to be all sufficient. While it is correct to trust the self-healing power of nature, it is not correct to trust this power absolutely. If a patient fails to respond to natural treatment, or if his condition is such that no response to natural treatment can be expected, then the resources of scientific modern medicine must be made available. Quoted by Dr Barbara Latto in New Vegetarian, July 1977, p25, in her favourable review of G.K. Ledermann's Good Health Through Natural Therapy also recommended by Nina Hosali. Barbara Latto is a nature-Cure therapist and wife of Dr Gordon Latto, President of the Vegetarian Society [and of IVU in 1981].
  17. 102. Many alternative therapists employ the symbols of dominant institutions - Harry Edwards combined scientific and religious legitimacy through the use of white coats and a church-like room - or of social prestige – upper-middle-class accents and social manner, military rank.
  18. 103. Health for the New Age, Winter 1977, p11.
  19. 104. Prospectus of White Cross Society, p1 and p2.
  20. 105. See for example Arthur Balaskas' Bodylife, 1977. Balaskas is a colleague of R.D. Laing and member of Philadelphia Association
  21. 106. Making of the Counter Culture, p98. There are direct parallels with Carpenter here.
  22. 107. 'One cannot separate man from nature or the cosmos; like a tree, he is an expression of God' Marika McCausland. 'We see health as a way of life, and that life will be based on principles which we recognise as Truth. If a thing be true, it will work on every level'. Health for the New Age, Winter 1977-8, p9.
  23. 108. White Cross Prospectus, p3.
  24. 109. Many healers, like mediums, avoid meat, stimulants or sex before a healing session. William J. MacMillan in his autobiography The Reluctant Healer, 1952, gives indirect evidence when he recounts his realisation that he could only heal out of his own weakness and emotional fragmentation, and not, as was the norm, from spiritual strength or power: at that point he abandoned his vegetarian diet, p99.
  25. 110. 'Your first step to freedom might be to eschew painkillers, tranquilisers and antibiotics to get rid of a headache, depression or fever, and instead drink a hot lettuce soup, a juice of onion and lemon, or some other brew of spices and foods from your larder'. Prospectus of the White Cross Society.
  26. 111. Gary Easthope argues that healing is essentially a process of adopting a new personality. 'Learning to be Healthy', paper read at BSA Sociology of Religion Conference, 1979.
  27. 112. Self help medicine is an established feature of women's groups. See Our Bodies Ourselves, 1971, the Boston Women's Health Book Co-operative, English edition Angela Phillips and Jill Rakusen; while not committed to vegetarianism, they describe the diet with favour, p116 and 122.
  28. 113. Health for the New Age, Winter 1977-8, p10.
  29. 114. See for example 'Order: cause and effect... We are on the side of order. We believe that, hard though it is to accept, that suffering has a purpose. We see suffering not as a random evil, nor as a punishment, but as an operation of the law of cause and effect, and a means through which we may instruct ourselves as to the nature of being.  
    Experiences happen to us because we need to grow... If physical illness is treated and understood properly, we emerge with greater knowledge how to become and remain well. It can be a difficult path, but is a path, to freedom and wellbeing'. Health for New Age, Winter 1977-8, p10.

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