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"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi


Interview with Bernie Siegel:

The Healer Within

By Judith Pennington

Bernie Siegel, bestselling author and visionary, advanced the medical profession by leaps and bounds in 1986 with the publication of Love, Medicine and Miracles and its claim that unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant in the immune system. A surgeon trained at Cornell Medical College and Yale University, Siegel was ill-prepared for the emotional suffering that would be part of his work, but he was willing to observe the world and educate himself in order to heal and be healed.

By 1978 a busy surgeon with post-traumatic stress syndrome and nowhere to go with his feelings, he began to search for solutions and found Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who had him sit with incurable patients and get in touch with his feelings. The famed author on death and dying also introduced Siegel to the writings of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, the symbolic world of the unconscious mind, and the power of art to tap into higher, intuitive knowledge that could guide people in their quest for healing.

Having been an artist as a child, Siegel was quite intuitive himself and that same year went on to establish a related organization called Exceptional Cancer Patients. Its hallmark was and still is a specific form of individual and group therapy utilizing patientsí dreams, drawings and images to bring about personal change and healing. Siegelís experiences with this group are the core of Love, Medicine and Miracles, which quickly climbed to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Siegelís understanding of healing deepened profoundly when, after co-creating five children in seven years, he and his wife Bobbie grew exhausted and fell ill. Hospitalized for a severe infection, Siegel learned that factors like stress and change contribute to illness, and he began to explore with his patients the patterns associated with their ill health. Bernie, as he prefers to be called, also found that healing is stimulated by the willingness to express our feelings, change our lives and relationships, and address our spiritual needs.

Today, after his 1989 retirement as a surgeon and the publication of two more bestselling books [Peace, Love and Healing (1989) and How to Live Between Office Visits: A Guide to Life, Love and Health (1993)], Bernie is still a wayshower in the world of healing. He believes that healing comes from within and that the key to living between office visits is coming to know and appreciate our true value, worth and inner beauty. Contributing love to the world in our own unique way is another of his keys to health and healing.

The good doctor has observed that people struggle to get in touch with the intuitive self because many of us are just too busy thinking and are unwilling or unable to feel our feelings. He likes to say to people, "If you remain logical and intellectual, you become pathological: you canít find your way in life. But if we get into feelings and into the body, then recovery comes, or at least the disease becomes a teacher."

In this interview, conducted in late 1998 and published here for the first time, Bernie Siegel talks in his quick, animated manner about the power of intuition in his own life and how the "inner healer" guides us to self-healing.


Judith: You mentioned having lectured at the Association for Research and Enlightenment some 10 years ago (now 15), when you were just beginning your work. Did the information in the readings given by Edgar Cayce influence you in any way?

Bernie: What influenced me was just reading some of his intuitive statements. It wasnít so much the therapeutic effects of castor oil and other remedies, but what he intuited about peopleís bodies and illnesses and lives.

That fascinated me, because I saw it (intuitive abilities) in peopleís dreams and drawings, you see. People would put on paper, or tell you, a dream and it would happen in the future. I would have this evidence and watch my patients and see how, six or seven months later, something would happen to them that they had already portrayed or put down.

Jungís statement is that the future is unconsciously prepared long in advance and therefore can be guessed by clairvoyance. If you walk in to an Edgar Cayce* and he tells you whatís happening, then fine, itís because you are creating your future and heís able to read it. Now if you change, you can change your future. Itís not that weíre powerless.

J: You saw this with your patients?

B: Yes. Part of how I helped them was to get them to do drawings in my workshops. Some of the drawings related to choices in therapy. I would say, "Draw yourself in the operating room," and if it looked like hell, we might have a lot of trouble. So weíd say, "Letís change the situation. You need a new doctor. Maybe you shouldnít have the operation."

But the other work: when they would do things like scenes in their imaginations, weíd see past, present and future. If you said to me, "I donít know where to move to," Iíd say, "Draw a picture" and youíd put a certain city in a certain position. Iíd say "This is where youíre heading and this is where youíve been, you see?" And youíd say, "All right. Iíll stay on my path and go live there." You donít resist it. If it didnít feel right, then youíd say, "All right. Maybe Iíll say no to that job or that relationship."

J: So this is all about inner knowing. How does this play out in you?

B: Well, I stay open a lot and Bobby has had lots of precognitive dreams. You donít say to your wife, "Honey thatís crazy," but you live it and see it happening. And the other thing is that science is now catching up with this, so that we can measure what goes on in the human body and how, when we have certain thoughts and feelings, it changes our chemistry. So all these things are really going together, you see. When youíre not liking your job or looking forward to the future, you are your body chemistry.

I call it "the energy." I donít read auras, but I can walk into a room with patients and know whoís getting better and who isnít. You look at them and you sense something about their energy. People walk up to me and I can say, "Youíre getting better, donít worry." You feel it. Thatís the only way I can describe it. You see it and feel it, and itís not about radiation or colors. I donít know what I sense, but itís there.

Others who may have wonderful tests, you look at them and you know this is not good. Thereís no energy being given off. I look at them and say, "You know, I donít have a good feeling. Somethingís going on," and they usually say, "Yes, I know." Theyíre aware inside, even though the tests have been okay, that theyíre not well.

J: Youíre saying that your inner knowing picks up subclinical information?

B: Yeah. Especially as a physician in the office. Certain people just walk in and I know I donít need to worry about this person: theyíre just radiating health. Now, they may have had a life-threatening illness and things might still be happening, but you know theyíre in a phase of getting well and thatís what you sense.

To me, the Cayce readings are saying that weíre all capable of this. I was just talking with someone about animals knowing when someone will have an epileptic seizure. Or when their owner is returning home, theyíre sitting in the window 15 minutes before, yet canít possibly know the owner is on the way home. You do it as an experiment, arriving at different timesĖwalking, ridingĖand it isnít that they hear you.

I see it at home when Iím not well or am tired: our pets come and restore me. And if Iím just sleeping late because Iím lazy, they donít show up. So my comment is that we all have the same basic nervous system. Itís not that they have some special talent, but that they havenít lost the talent. As we grow up, we become thinkers and you lose that talent.

J: Yet intuition is available to us through different psychic senses, isnít it, so that everyone has some extant ability.

B: Exactly. I tell you, our daughter is very good at gambling. I donít mean that she does it obsessively, but when she goes on vacation, sheíll tell her husband to play a certain number and they make hundreds of dollars. Itís fantastic. She gets a message.

When the phone rings, there are times that I know whoís calling and Iíll have fun saying a name and theyíll say, "Howíd you know it was me?" Iíll say, "Well I knew." I asked my daughter: "So you know who it is, too?" She said, "No, dad, I know when the phone is going to ring."

Thatís a whole transcendent step above what Iím talking about. I will be tuned in sometimes, and when the event happens, I know. But she knows when itís going to happen.

I was in the airport the other day and everybody gave me the wrong information: "Whereís my plane leaving?" "Gate 25." Well, that plane was leaving two hours later and my ticket was made out wrong for this other plane. I really stopped and said, "Now are you supposed to be on the other plane? Is this to save your life? to meet someone?" This is where Iíll sit down and say, "Is this an intuitive awareness, is something happening in the universe, or is this someone who doesnít know how to do their job?"

The feeling I got was that this lady didnít pay attention to my schedule, because Iíd changed it, and she gave me a morning and an afternoon flight, instead of one after the other.

J: Or this was meant to help tune you in to your inner knowing, your development of awareness.

B: Yes. And to say, stop rushing around through the airport and pay attention to which plane is meant for you. I do that every morning when Iím homeĖwake up an hour early. I always take that time. The day waits for me to be with myself, listening to the voice and the wisdom and all the things that happen.

Itís incredible. Sometimes Iím upset with myself for not carrying paper and pencil to make notes, because itís a trance state and when I get back home Iím back in my intellect and forget the wisdom. I know itís in me and itíll come up at some point, but itís frustrating when youíre trying to stay aware of it. I keep writing, writing, writing, and when I have time, I sit down, look at all that Iíve noted, elaborate on it and keep tuned in that way.

J: Whatís next for you, in your work and in your life?

B: Iíd say itís basically the spiritual journey, just trying to help people live, period. It isnít always about physical illness and all the complaints we have: if you help them with the complaints, they live longer, healthier lives. So itís getting back to the love and the age-old messages of whatís the point of all this and why are we here. Questions that, really, physicians should be answering for people facing their mortality, but you know, the spiritual and philosophical are not part of our training, so we work with the mechanical aspects but donít help people with the other issues.

J: Youíre seeing enormous changes, arenít you, in the worldís recognition and awareness ofĖand even in the medical professional, I would assumeĖthis inner knowing, these faculties of intuition, and how to use them to stretch the limitations of logic?

B: I wouldnít use the word enormous with the medical profession; itís always literally 10 years behind where I would like it to be; medical training is always mechanistic and not experiential, from the standpoint of what someone is living. But from other aspects, yes, Iím seeing the shift. And again, I think it comes from pain. The more difficult things get in life, the more we are looking at options and choices. They can be numbing, distracting choices, or they can be life-enhancing choices.

J: Did personal difficulty play a role in your own growth?

B: I became a doctor for a lot of nice reasons. Nobody in my family was sick, nobody was dying. I didnít need to save the world. I just wanted to help a lot of people. I enjoyed using my hands, I was an artist as a kid and I loved science. I mean, this was just like a natural: all your love comes together.

Thatís why I had so much pain and suffering, because I wasnít ready for the death, for the illness, for all that I saw. Iím in here to love people and help them, and I couldnít stop them from dying and being sick. Nobody had ever sat down with Bernie Siegel in the educational process and said, "Why do you want to be a doctor? How are you going to deal with all this stuff?" So I suffered greatly. But my parents and wife and children helped guide me. They were my critics and teachers.

I always loved, and I wish Iíd come across it 50 years ago, a line by the Sufi poet Rumi, "Your criticism polishes my mirror." When I heard him say that, it was like, "Oh thank you. Now I know why theyíre all telling me how to be better. It isnít that Iím terrible. Theyíre trying to help me."

J: So it was compassion, but it was also love that carried you through and kept you going.

B: Yeah. But I used to be stung sometimes by patients who would tell me, one in particular, how angry I was. I said to him, "I didnít like what I had to do to you!" and he said, "But you took it out on me!" And I thought to myself, what an incredible thing for him to do. He was to be sent home that day, but he waited in the hospital to tell me how badly Iíd treated him. Now, when you think about that, why did this man wait to tell me? Because he saw the love and concern in my face and he knew I needed help. So he became my therapist. He sat and waited for me, to tell me.

When he finished, I told him I was sorry and he said, "Okay, Iíll give you that bottle of liquor after all." We laughed, but it was his desire to sit and teach me.

J: Weíre all teaching each other, arenít we? Thatís the bottom line, isnít it?

B: Yes, but most of us are not willing to listen to the teaching, to hear the criticism. We say, "Hey, youíre hurting my ego, itís not my fault"; we canít say Iím sorry. So weíve got to learn to say Iím sorry.

J: Is there more of this awakening, because of you, in the medical profession?

B: Yeah, I think so. I confront people more, because they canít say, "Well, heís a therapist, a social worker." They have to say, "Heís a doctor." So it creates more agitation in physicians. Those who agree with you can be transformed by you, and there are many physicians who say, "Thank you for what youíve done for me, for guiding me." Others are mad as hell at you, but itís because of what youíre stirring in them, that theyíre not willing to look at.

J: So that makes you a doctor of not only the body and mind, but also of the soul.

B: Yes. We all are!

* Authorís note: While some psychics may be limited to prophecy, Edgar Cayce was not. With his extraordinary "second sight," he was able to do much more than see past, present and future. The 14,000 transcribed readings housed at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach, Va., document Cayceís ability to hear only a name and address, and intuitively cross the boundaries of time and space to look inside that distant subjectís body and diagnose and prescribe remediesĖsome of which medicines, on more than one occasion, Cayce located psychically on dusty pharmacy shelves scattered across the country. Over time, the scope of Cayceís readings expanded beyond holistic health and healing into fascinating realms like ancient mysteries, past lives, meditation, and the story of the soul. Contact the A.R.E. or visit its website ( to learn more about this kind and generous family man, photographer and Sunday school teacher whose insights are still shaping the spiritual understanding of 21st century America.


Judith Pennington is a writer, spiritual teacher and author of a compelling personal story of transformation, The Voice of the Soul: A Journey into Wisdom and the Physics of God. She gives talks, presents workshops, and publishes books and CDs through Eagle Life Communications, an educational outreach for personal and planetary evolution. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter at, where you'll find articles related to this one. 




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