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The Doctor Of Life Energy – A Tribute To John Diamond

by Peter Muir(more info)

listed in energy medicine, originally published in issue 275 - January 2022

For almost half a century John Diamond MD, who passed away peacefully on April 25 2021 at the age of 86, was a pioneer in the field of holistic medicine. The best-selling author of thirty-five books, his approach to healing is brilliantly original, an inspirational blend of the medical, cultural, and spiritual, and it offers a veritable cornucopia to anyone seriously interested in healthy living and healing. This article gives an overview of his career and life’s work as well as outlining some of his key ideas.

John Diamond MD (1934-2021)

John Diamond MD (1934-2021)

Diamond was born in 1934 in Sydney, Australia, and originally trained and then worked as a psychiatrist. In 1971 he moved to the US, where he was based for the rest of his life, with the exception of a four-year residence in England in the 1990s. He became actively involved in alternative medicine in 1974, having grown increasingly disenchanted with the constricting orthodoxy of the mainstream. Thereafter, he spent the rest of his career teaching, treating, researching, and creating an ever-growing body of work. He was an exceptional personality: a powerful communicator – both in his writings and in the thousands of seminars that he gave around the world for lay and professional audiences –, deeply compassionate and humanitarian in his outlook, open-minded and open-hearted, a brilliant therapist, and endlessly creative, gifted with a fount of ideas and insights that poured forth in abundance throughout his whole life. Despite all this, he was remarkably down-to-earth and possessed a wonderful sense of humour. One of his favourite affirmations was: “I enthusiastically, passionately, whole-heartedly and gratefully Embrace all of my life.” That was indeed how he lived, and of all the people I have known, he is the one to whom the overworked word “genius” could be most meaningfully applied. He was, in short, one of a kind, and will be sorely missed by friends, students, and colleagues.

While the man himself is, alas, no longer with us, his work lives on. In looking at it as a whole, one is daunted by its sheer scope. Was there any health modality, any aspect of human creativity, spirituality and philosophy that he did not explore in depth and somehow manage to grasp the essence of? Remarkably little, it seemed; and whenever he did, he would somehow find a way to incorporate aspects of it into his own approach. Acupuncture, Alexander Technique, chakras, colour therapy, cranial-sacral therapy, crystals, herbs, homeopathy, kinesiology, meditation, nutrition, osteopathy, and much, much more, he embraced wholeheartedly – and in most cases, long before these modalities became widely accepted, especially by medical doctors. His work is therefore both holistic and forward-looking, a unique and personal synthesis.

The Basis: Life Energy

Yet despite its diversity, there is one thing that unites all Diamond’s work: the concept of Life Energy. Life Energy is the innate healing power of the body, an idea that has been around under different names for thousands of years. The Greeks, for example, called it thymos; the Chinese, Chi; the Egyptians, Ka; The Hindus, Prana, and so on. Life Energy enters our body with the breath, flows through the acupuncture system and vitalizes the organs and tissues. It is the fundamental driving force behind all health. When it is low – when its flow is somehow compromised – we are stressed and prone to illness; when it is high we are unstressed and healthy. And when it is at its highest, we feel truly loved and are able to embrace our lives fully. The only true healing therefore comes by raising our Life Energy.

Diamond first became aware of the importance of Life Energy when, very early in his career, he began work in the neurosurgery department of a large hospital. In the ward, there were two young men who had both been seriously injured in motorcycle accidents. They acquired the same hospital infection at the same time and both were treated with the same course of antibiotics. And yet within a week, one was cured and the other was dead. When Diamond asked his supervisor why, the man simply said “Well, some have got it and some haven’t.” When Diamond asked him what the “It” was, his supervisor just shrugged. Diamond realized then that the It – what he was later to call “Life Energy” – was more important than anything else. It was at the center of his work thereafter.

One of Diamond’s key insights about Life Energy was that is constantly affected by everything we encounter in our lives. Every image you see, everything you eat, every note of music you hear, any session of therapy you undergo, the pattern of carpet in front of you, the height and design of the chair you are sitting on, the fabric of the clothes you are wearing, your social interactions throughout the day, the TV you watch – all these and much more will either raise or lower your Life Energy, often at an unconscious level.

Being aware of these affects is an important first step in being able to control them and thus optimize one’s Life Energy. This was the basis of his best-selling book Your Body Doesn’t Lie from 1979. To quote a random example, Diamond showed how even a tiny amount of refined sugar placed on the tongue will lower your Life Energy. An equally small portion of raw, unrefined honey, on the other hand, will not.[1] Similarly, fluorescent lighting lowers the Life Energy, while natural light – sunlight, candlelight, incandescent – does not.[2] In the course of his career he researched the effects of literarily hundreds of thousands of such factors on Life Energy.

Diamond was a pioneer in using music for health

Diamond was a pioneer in using music for health. He took up drums at 57 and started
his own jazz band, which played internationally in places like hospitals
and nursing homes for the benefit of the patients.

Music and Life Energy

One of the areas he explored the most was music. Diamond deeply loved music, and understood its therapeutic power: “Of all the physical modalities, music most activates the Life Energy and uplifts the soul. Only pure love can do more,” he wrote at the beginning of his groundbreaking four-volume Life Energy in Music series.[3] As a young doctor, he experienced the healing power of music first-hand. Working in the back wards of a mental hospital in Melbourne with seemingly incurable, long-term patients, he arranged for a piano to be donated – and the results were remarkable. A woman with schizophrenia who had been in the hospital for many years, seemingly quite uneducated, found her way to the instrument and began playing. Diamond realized to his surprise – no-one had any idea that she could even play – that it was a part of a Beethoven sonata, played very slowly. Over the next few days she played all thirty-two of Beethoven’s sonatas from memory. And then she went home and never came back. Another patient in the ward had been a prisoner of the Chinese in the Korean War. Something had happened to him in captivity and he had not spoken since. He had been in the hospital for seven years, never talking. One day he went to the piano and motioned Diamond over. The man started to play the piano as if he were trying to talk to Diamond. Every day they would go to the piano and the man would play for him. Diamond realized that he was gradually remembering and playing music. Then he started to actually talk to Diamond while he was playing the piano, and then later, without playing. Finally he talked to other people, and eventually he too went home and never came back.[4]

Inspired by these and many similar experiences, Diamond began systematically investigating music in all its aspects: which styles, which performers, which composers, which instruments, which acoustics would raise the Life Energy and which wouldn’t. The results were often highly nuanced, and always revealing. For example, he found that while all the music of Beethoven had high Life Energy, the energy level consistently increased throughout his career, with his last works – written when he was almost completely deaf – his most transcendently therapeutic.[5] Similarly, the highest Life Energy piece of music by Bach was his very last, composed as he lay on his death-bed. It is an exquisite chorale prelude for organ, “I Stand Here Before Your Throne”.[6] Overall Diamond’s voluminous researches into music are a revelation, delineating in unprecedented detail its therapeutic power.

The Meridians and The Emotions

One of the achievements for which Diamond is best known is the discovery of the relationship between the emotions and the acupuncture meridians, which was the basis for his classic, Life Energy: Using the Meridians to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Emotions.[7] Beginning in about 1975 he showed that each of the meridians is associated with specific positive and negative emotional states. The liver meridian, for instance, is associated with the state of happiness in the positive, and unhappiness in the negative. So if you are feeling happy, the Life Energy in your liver meridian will be high. But if you are feeling unhappy, this will cause the Life Energy in your liver meridian to be lowered. The same is true the other way round: if the energy of your liver meridian is low, this results in you feeling unhappy. There is also a link between a meridian and its organ, which in the case of the Liver Meridian is the liver. This in turn links the emotions to the organs. Thus, if your liver functioning is impaired in any way, whether through trauma or illness, that in turn will affect your state of happiness by affecting the Liver Meridian. And, contrariwise, unhappiness, especially if deep-seated and long-lasting, can contribute over time to a compromise of liver function, and even eventually to liver disease. So it is with each of the meridians. The Heart Meridian, for example, relates in the negative to the emotion of anger. Therefore a person with heart disease will suffer from anger, which in turn would have likely been a contributory factor to the etiology of the illness.

Over time Diamond developed his work with the meridians and the emotions into what he called the Acupuncture Emotional System, finding precise emotional states associated not just generally with a meridian, but with a specific point on the meridian. He discovered over two hundred of these emotional syndromes.

An example of one of these syndromes is what Diamond termed the Passion Problem. We are all born with a great and equal supply of passion – of fire in the belly. But few of us really utilize its power; instead we push it down, afraid lest it animate any hate within us, rather than the love. So we lead controlled, constrained, passionless lives. This leads to problems in our relationships – one partner with a passion problem is very often the reason for a break-up of a marriage – and more generally in our lives. Diamond found the problem generally related to the Gall Bladder meridian, specifically to the point Gall Bladder 12. The following meditation is helpful in working with it, especially if done regularly and intently, and reinforced by treating the point (Diamond incidentally, recommended treating Acupuncture Emotional System problems exclusively on the left side in most people, except some lefthanders).

The Passion Meditation

Imagine that in your lower belly, your hara, a little fire is burning. Now with each breath fan the fire, make it grow bigger and bigger until you can almost feel it as fingers of flame coming out of all the pores of your skin. And especially flames bursting out of your head.

Overall, his work with the emotions and the meridians amounts to a new and precisely delineated model of how the health of the mind effects that of the body, and vice versa – in other words, psychosomatic medicine.

The Two Wheels on the Dry Land

One of Diamond’s most distinctive traits as a healer was to nurture the positive in a patient wherever possible. He argued that orthodox medicine focuses too much on what is wrong with a patient, at the expense of what is right. For a person’s strengths are so often the thing that really gives them the motivation for really embracing life and achieving full health. That led to the idea of what he called “The Two Wheels on the Dry Land.”[8]

One day Diamond was taking photographs in remote countryside by the sea just before dawn. He backed his car into what appeared to be an area of dark grass, but instead turned out to be a deep waterhole. His car was completely stuck and started to rock precariously: at any moment it might even fall into the water. This was before the days of cell phones and there was no one else about, so, having crawled out of the car, he had to walk some miles until he eventually was able to get a tow truck. To get the car out of the waterhole, the operator merely attached a hook to the front and immediately he was able to pull it free. The man commented, “It’s a good thing that you had two wheels on the dry land.”

Diamond realized that was a wonderful metaphor for the patient’s strength. Focus on the two wheels in the waterhole, as is so often the case in conventional medicine, the car would have been impossible to save. But focus on the two wheels on the dry land, and the car could be easily rescued. With everyone who came to him, he was always looking for the two wheels on the dry land, the activity which could most help their Life Energy, sometimes with near miraculous results.

Many years ago, a man in his forties consulted with Diamond. He had once been a dentist but was now very sick with advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), and on disability for life. He lived alone, drank, smoked, and spent his time just watching TV. In terms of conventional medicine, there was little that could be done for him, and a top specialist in the field had recently given him a very short time to live. Basically he was just waiting around to die. 

Diamond only had a day to try and help him. What was he to do? He wondered what the man’s two wheels on the dry land might be. Diamond had known and worked with many dentists and knew that so many of them are at heart frustrated sculptors – they like to make little crowns and the like. So he had the man make tiny models out of Play-Doh of birds and other things, which the man happily did the whole day, singing as he did so. His Life Energy was transformed, and suddenly he had a reason to live.

The man returned home and enrolled in a pottery class. He called Diamond up about six months later: his symptoms had disappeared and he was feeling fine. He had stopped smoking and drinking, and later he married. In short, his life turned around. A few years later he contacted Diamond again to say his symptoms had returned. “Are you still doing the pottery?,” asked Diamond. “No, I gave all that up,” the man replied. So Diamond encouraged him to take it up again, and the symptoms again disappeared. The man lived on well into his eighties.

Creativity, the “Power Within”

The crucial aspect of the story of the dentist with ALS is that Diamond found a way to unlock his creativity. Once that was done, little more was needed, even for a situation as dire. I believe that there was no medical doctor who used the transformative potential of human creativity in his patients more consistently and greater effect than Diamond. In a passage in his book Facets of a Diamondperhaps the best introduction to his approach to healing – he tells us why. He regarded creativity as “The Power within [the patient] that alone can cure him. This is his innate ability to make, at every moment, the best choice for health and love and life… Every act of Creativity actuates the will to be well and enhances the Life Energy.”[9]

Diamond’s work with music has already been discussed, but he also was deeply involved in investigating the Life Energy other art forms, among them painting, photography, drama, literature, and poetry. As well as using his research in his clinical work with his patients, he wrote books about his findings – Art for Healing: Guided Painting Then and Now[10] and Beyond the Obvious: Photography for Healing[11] are two examples – and presented many seminars on different aspects of creativity. More important, Diamond actually himself did these things. He was deeply involved in developing an approach to therapeutic photography – which he termed Life Energy Photography – and painting – Life Energy Art – which resulted in works made with the explicit intention of raising the Life Energy of the viewer. He created innumerable such images in both media, especially in the last twenty years of his life, exhibiting internationally, and setting up a permanent gallery devoted to his work, the Life Energy Art Gallery in Mount Kisco, New York.

Central to Diamond’s approach was that anyone could use creativity for healing if shown how, just as happened with the dentist with ALS. There was, however, a qualification. Just singing or painting something in the usual way will not necessarily raise your Life Energy in and of itself, or if it does, the effect will most likely be modest. A subtle, but absolutely crucial, extra element is needed. That element is altruism – doing it for the benefit of another.

Try it for yourself. Take an easy-to-sing song that you know, like “You Are My Sunshine” and sing in your usual way (and if you don’t usually sing, just do it anyway, regardless of how it sounds). Now try it again, but this time, as you are doing it, sing it for someone. They don’t need to be physically present. They just need to be someone whom you would like to sing it to, someone you think might benefit from hearing the message that they are your sunshine. Sing it from your heart, giving it to them as a gift, with the clear intention in your mind of making them feel better. If you do it sincerely, your music will be healing and with very high Life Energy. That means you will be greatly raising your Life Energy, and that of anyone who hears you. To get started is as simple as that. Do not worry whether you have a “good” voice or sing on-key. Diamond showed time and again that the only thing that ultimately matters in terms of the Life Energy was the singer’s intention to heal, not his technical accuracy (or the painter’s, poet, etc.).

The Spiritual Dimension

One of the most inspiring features of Diamond’s work as a whole is its spiritual dimension. For him spirituality began with the love of the mother, which he called Matrophilia and described as “the world’s oldest religion,” noting that it is “the most basic, the deepest feeling within each of us since our own beginning.”[12] He regarded the maternal relationship to be at the very essence of health and Life Energy, and believed that our life’s suffering was ultimately caused by the fact that, often unconsciously, we do not feel fully loved by her. The true purpose of healing was directly or indirectly to reconnect us with that love, which always exists at a deep level.

In later years, his spirituality broadened. He increasingly taught the existence of a Spirit World, and the Buddhist doctrine of Tariki (a Japanese term meaning “Other Power”), the belief that our thoughts and actions are the work of outside agencies guiding us, rather than the result of our own personal efforts. He showed that the sincere belief in both these things – the Spirit World, and Tariki – is deeply liberating and greatly raises one’s Life Energy. It therefore became central to his approach.

Above all, throughout his career Diamond taught the supreme healing power of love. “It is love,” he wrote at the end of his book Life Energy “that banishes all negative emotions. It is love that invokes the spirit and activates the Life Energy…. And it is love for our true self, for the self that we can be, that drives us on to want to be better and want to be healthier and to want to be more evolved. Love is health and life.”[13] Diamond truly believed this – and inspired so many others to do so. 

Further Information

This article can do no more than scratch the surface of Diamond’s work. To explore further, the following resources are recommended:

Notes and References

  1. John Diamond, M.D. Your Body Doesn’t Lie. Harper & Row, London. 168-169. 1979. ISBN 0-446-35847-9.
  2. Ibid., 128-129.
  3. “The Healing Power of Music,” in John Diamond, MD The Life Energy in Music, Vol.1. Archaeus Press, Valley Cottage, NY: p5. 1981.
  4. “An Overview of the Unique Power of Music,” in John Diamond, M.D. The Life Energy in Music, Vol.3. Archaeus Press, Valley Cottage, NY: 9-10. 1986.
  5. “Towards an Understanding of Beethoven,” in John Diamond, M.D. The Life Energy in Music, Vol.1. Archaeus Press, Valley Cottage, NY: 128-129, 1981.
  6. “The Sufferer,” in John Diamond, M.D. Facets of a Diamond: Reflections of a Healer. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, Cal. p. 76, Also known by its catalogue number BWV 668a, the original German title of the work is “Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich.”. 2002.
  7. John Diamond, M.D. Life Energy: Unlocking the Hidden Power of Your Emotions to Achieve Total Well-Being. Paragon House. New York. 1985.
  8. See “Two Wheels on Dry Land,” in Facets of a Diamond, 109-111; “The Two Wheels on Dry Land,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3czaOiX_VO0 , accessed July 5, 2021.
  9. Facets of a Diamond, p. 11.
  10. South Salem, NY: Enhancement Books, 2011.
  11. South Salem, NY: Enhancement Books, 2014.
  12. Art for Healing, p. 1.
  13. Life Energy, p. 232

 

Comments:

  1. Tom said..

    Thanks for writing a wonderful review of this man's life. Anyone outside of the main stream medical mafia gets my vote. These people are the true healers.


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About Peter Muir

Peter Muir PhD is an internationally recognized pianist, educator, musicologist, and conductor, whose approach is guided by a passionate belief in the power of music to transform the well-being of individuals and communities. Dr Muir first met John Diamond MD in 1990. Diamond became Muir's mentor, intensively training him over a period of many years in his unique approach to holistic healing, especially the use of creativity for health. Dr. Muir's past positions include: Director of Dr. Diamond's Institute for Music and Health in South Salem, New York; former head of Keyboards and Director of Jazz at Westminster School, London; and adjunct lecturer in musicology at the City University, New York. Since 2008 he has been on the guest faculty of the Graduate Institute in Bethany, CT (www.learn.edu) as lecturer in using music for healing.

As a performer Dr Muir embraces an impressively broad repertoire, including jazz, blues, ragtime, and classical. The New York Times has described his playing as “potent” and Newsday has praised his “terrific” performances. As an educator Dr Muir focuses on approaches to learning and making music that maximize its therapeutic impact. He assists anyone seeking to connect their music more deeply to their lives, particularly those with disabilities, and his work has been featured in national media and in peer-reviewed journals. A noted scholar of American vernacular music, he is author of the critically acclaimed Long Lost Blues: The Rise of Blues in American Popular Culture. In addition Dr Muir has been directing choral and instrumental groups for more than 25 years in the UK and US. He is director of the Virtual Songbirds, an inclusive, online singing community which he founded during the pandemic lockdown in 2020, that is open to anyone who loves to sing. For more, see www.PeterMuir.com

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