Foreword to Why Suffer by Anne Wigmore
This heartwarming—indeed inspiring—autobiography of Ann Wigmore provides invaluable insights into the origins of her wisdom.
Ann Wigmore's assigning top priority to her grandmother immediately appealed to me since I have claimed for years that, when caring for children is at issue, one grandmother is worth two pediatricians. (My department chairman, on hearing this statement, threatened to replace me with two grandmothers.)
Ann's grandmother taught her that most illness results from "ignorance, neglect or misdirected endeavors on the part of people themselves." Similarly, in my own religious tradition, Maimonides taught that 999 out of every 1,000 people bear responsibility for their own deaths and one dies of natural causes. How relevant this teaching is today in view of the new man-made epidemics-herpes, toxic shock, AIDS-as well as the relationships between failure to breastfeed and breast cancer, multiple sexual partners and cancer of the cervix, cigarettes and lung cancer, etc.
Ann Wigmore is not a doctor. She is a healer. In the strange world of Modern Medicine, healers are not doctors— and doctors are not often healers. Modern doctors run tests, take x-rays, prescribe risky pills, and do unproven operations. They pose as "men of science." They do not regard themselves as—and do not use the word—healers.
Ann Wigmore uses the name Hippocrates for her Institute at a time when doctors would like to forget Hippocrates. Medical schools-uncomfortable with its prohibition of abortion—no longer administer the Hippocratic Oath.
Modern doctors—interventionists by temperament and training-would rather forget the Hippocratic injunction: "above all, do not harm the patient." Modern doctors believing in "better living through chemistry" and in the surgical dictum "when in doubt, cut it out" would rather not be reminded that Hippocrates believed in diet and hygienic measures to build a patient's strength, resorting to more drastic treatments only when absolutely necessary. Healer Ann Wigmore proudly stands in the Hippocratic tradition and justifiably uses the name of Hippocrates.
Her story—epic in proportion—is played out against the background of modern world history. (I was particularly interested in her childhood years in Lithuania, since my family claims origins around Vilna.) Her description of the chaotic European scene around World War I carries the same air of realism as Erich Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Her emigration to America and experiences in this new world give the book a legitimate patriotic flavor (and make me impatient for the movie version).
But the account of her personal experiences - the bullfrog, the Saturday night bath, the goats - reveals Ann Wigmore as a heroic figure of our times. Were not her story so human, so personal, and so simply, charmingly and understandably told, I would call it larger than life.
I am lucky to have met Ann Wigmore last year in a television studio. Now, thanks to her autobiography, I understand the development of her method of healing. For any reader - healthy or ill -who wants to learn history and acquire the eternally valid wisdom of a healer for all times, in a delightful, exciting, entertaining, sparkling package, Why Suffer? is the book for you.
Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D.
Author, Confessions of a Medical Heretic