The Healing Principle



Reaching towards the light.  



All beings everywhere want to be happy.

All beings tremble before danger, all fear death.  

All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all.  

The Buddha



If a mad dog is chasing you, you run away.  

When you cut your finger, it heals up by itself.  



The DNA molecule reproduces.  It has the fundamental property that it makes copies of itself.  

All living things are constructed and operated using instructions carried by their DNA, and consequently, all living things exist to reproduce.  

In order to reproduce, they have to survive.  

In order to survive, they have to preserve their safety, stay as healthy as possible, and, ideally, flourish.  

These last two, the biological adaptation towards survival and well being, constitute the Healing Principle.  

It is a direct, basic consequence of evolution and natural selection.  It is so obvious that we overlook it.  

It is now a fierce biological imperative operating at all times and all levels within all living beings, defined as a tendency to:  



How did it become so strong?  


Natural selection

The process in nature by which, according to Darwin's theory of evolution, organisms that are better adapted to their environment tend to survive longer and transmit more of their genetic characteristics to succeeding generations than do those that are less well adapted.

Free Dictionary


After life started on Earth, the Healing Principle would quickly have become stronger and stronger within successive generations of living things, because those that most sought to preserve their health and survival would have out-lived and therefore out-reproduced the others.  Through this process of accumulation of positive traits, the adaptation we can call the Healing Principle would soon have become a fierce, primary, universal imperative.  

This means that nature wants you to survive, in vigorous health.  We can encourage this imperative with self-nurturing actions, or obstruct it with self-destructive actions.  

In practice, it means making the most of circumstances, and doing the work of nurturing, of putting the right conditions in place so that well being can flourish.  

Think about making a clay pot.  You take some wet clay, and shape and mould it with your hands until it becomes a pot.  That pot has been entirely shaped by your own hands.

Now think about a flower in your garden that is looking a bit dried up and ill.  What do you do?  You water it and maybe give it some food.  Instead of merely going all wet and soggy, the flower revives and flourishes.  Yet all you did was chuck some water on it.  What is the mysterious force that has caused it to regain its former glory?  That's what I'm talking about.  Evolution has produced a natural world where all organisms take full advantage of their circumstances to flourish as much as possible.

The reason I refer to this as "God's love", "nature's compassion" etc. is that if you think about it, when you give someone love, you're helping them to flourish.  You're the water, they're the flower.  It's really the same process.


Facts and values

Human flourishing is probably the main fact that human beings value.  We value it because evolution and natural selection favour behaviour that encourages health and survival, because these factors increase the chance of reproduction.  



What we do for ourselves we can do for others, and this is called compassion.  We spend our days seeking, gaining or maintaining flourishing, evolutionary fitness; aiming to feel good in the short or long term (or preferably both).  In itself this is morally neutral, but we may do it in a good or bad way as far as it affects other people.  


Nature’s compassion

The Healing Principle – fitness, flourishing, well being – is the currency of compassion.  Active compassion is therefore part of the fabric of nature.  


We love compassion

We love to see the Healing Principle at work in ourselves.  We love to see others happy and flourishing.  We love and admire people we describe as brave, those who risk their own well-being for the sake of others, or who expend effort for others, or who protect others.  We feel good when we produce it in others: when we share our own well-being with others.  


Frequent short-sightedness of the Healing Principle

Nature has built us for survival rather than happiness.  However, of course, we want both.  The Healing Principle can sometimes be rather blind and troublesome in its operations, which can lead to unhappiness, for example when it makes us selfish, or thoughtless of consequences, or when the ego and emotional systems, trying to protect us, constantly have us in a state of worry and high alert.  If we want to achieve happiness, then we may need to modify the natural order slightly, so as to apply the Healing Principle in a way that is more optimum for happiness than nature intended.  


Short and long term consequences

Some things make us feel good in the short term – but are damaging in the long term.  Likewise, some things that are uncomfortable in the short term bring success in the long term.  The short term only lasts a short time, while the long term can last for a significant chunk of your life.  


A natural purpose

The Healing Principle – the drive to achieve flourishing and feeling good, in the short and long term – can be thought of as one of nature’s purposes for us.  



Even though evolution is a blind, impersonal, natural process, in each of us, the Healing Principle looks after us personally.  It seeks “my” flourishing.  


A rational faith

The Healing Principle – nature’s tendency to thrive in response to nurturing – is an idea we can have faith in to help achieve compassionate results, because it is rational, and because coupled with insight, it really works.  


Unconditional love, forgiveness, redemption

The Healing Principle is unconditional because it's available to good and evil people equally – there's no moral judgement involved, and one doesn't have to earn it by being a good person.  You just have to be good at putting the right conditions in place for you to flourish.  How you do it is the moral part.  As we go about our daily lives, seeking flourishing, we need to take care of how our actions affect others.  

It's redemptive because no matter how terrible your life is, nature’s tendency to make you flourish is always there trying to help you become well, and if you decide to access it, encourage it and work with it explicitly, it can work miracles in your life.  A good example would be a drug addict.  Drugs can ruin a person’s life, but if they can get clean and take steps to make themselves healthy, their world can become a beautiful place again.

No matter how many times we go wrong, there's always some kind of chance available to make things better again, whether individually or morally (for humans, the two tend to be interlinked).  


An atheist religion?

The Healing Principle is effectively a force that pervades all of nature, so therefore it pervades you.  It is at once personal and transcendent, within you, without you, and all around you throughout nature: the universal, active drive towards well-being, health, strength, feeling good and survival.  

It is perhaps the most sacred thing we have.  As nature’s compassion (“God’s love”), it forms one of the DNA strands of the existing organized religions, and together with the concept of truth, affords a mystical and spiritual perspective to atheists, as well as the grounding of an ethics of compassion.

The nurturing actions required by the Healing Principle can be treated as a meditation, since actions necessarily occur in the present moment, the present time and place.  



I will be with you – will you be with Me?  

Richard Foster – “Life with God – a life-transforming new approach to Bible reading”  


Did not He find thee an orphan, and shelter thee?  

Did not He find thee erring, and guide thee?

Did not He find thee needy, and suffice thee?


As for the orphan, do not oppress him,

and as for the beggar, scold him not;

and as for thy Lord’s blessing, exalt it.  


The Qu’ran: Sura 93


Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus: Matthew 7:7,8


The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like.” He said to them, “It is like a mustard seed.  It is the smallest of all seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant and becomes a shelter for the birds of the sky.”

Jesus: Gospel of St Thomas


... evolution selects for adaptive actions.  

Michael Tomasello – “A Natural History of Human Thinking”


In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.  And that makes me happy.  For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.  

Albert Camus – “Return to Tipasa”


In all species, nature works to renew itself as it works to nourish itself, and to protect itself from danger, each by its kind and for its kind, in the great work of continuation that is evolution. In humankind the work of renewal lies in the work of affection, the bond of one to another made by desire.

A C Grayling – “The Good Book: a secular Bible”


Eventually Muhammed’s religion of al-Llah was known as islām, the act of existential surrender that each convert was expected to make to God: a muslim is ‘one who surrenders’ his or her whole being to the Creator.  At first, however, the believers called their religion tazaqqa.  This is an obscure word, which is not easy to translate.  By cultivating tazaqqa, Muhammed’s converts were to cloak themselves in the virtues of compassion and generosity; they were to use their intelligence to cultivate a caring and responsible spirit, which made them want to give graciously of what they had to all God’s creatures.  By pondering the mysteries of creation intelligently Muslims would learn to behave kindly and this generous attitude would mean that they acquired a spiritual refinement.  Al-Llah was the great exemplar.  Muslims were urged to contemplate His ‘signs’ in order to appreciate His graciousness to the whole of the natural world.  As a consequence of his generous intelligence, there was order and fruitfulness instead of chaos and selfish barbarism.  If they submitted to His edicts, they would find that their own lives could be transfigured by a similar refinement.  

Karen Armstrong – “Muhammad”


chance uk – nurturing and healing troubled children

The Flowering Brain – neuroscience and healing

Action for Happiness programme of happiness lessons (article)


What is the difference between “I like you” and “I love you”? Beautifully answered by Buddha.  Buddha’s answer was so simple. When you like a flower, you just pluck it.  But when you love a flower, you water it daily.  One who understands this, understands life.  

Fake Buddha quotes


A loves A if A’s happiness depends on A.  

Philip Veasey



The little girl loves the flower and so she waters it.  Then the flower grows of its own accord, and this is a universal principle of nature. You can be, at the same time, the little girl and the flower.  The water is compassion.  What we do for ourselves we can do for others.