Have you ever wondered at how certain books seem to choose you, sliding into your life just when there is a specific longing and space for them, binding with threads of your destiny from the moment you choose them, too?
That’s how the young Sebastian Kneipp must have felt that evening when he returned from the library in Munich. It was at the end of the 1840s and he was trying to get through his university studies while suffering from a lung disease he couldn’t shake off. From a poor family, he had to rely on knowledge flowing to him from various, perhaps unexpected sources. Knowledge discovered. Knowledge earned by intellectual curiosity. And so one day in the library (was he trying to suppress his coughs in the studied silence of the reading room? Did he wander off into the stacks where nobody was, where he could cough into a handkerchief and not bother anybody?) he found a book by one Dr. Johann Siegmund Hahn — written a hundred years before — on the healing powers of water.
The author was a physician and pioneer of Wasserheilkunde, of naturopathic and scientific hydrotherapy in Germany; Hahn was comfortably positioned in a family of doctors and supported personally and professionally. Thankfully he was also generous and inspired to share his experience and knowledge. That book, with the rather windy title: “Unterricht von Krafft und Würckung des frischen Wassers in die Leiber der Menschen, besonders der Krancken, bey dessen innerlichen und äusserlichen Gebrauch (…)” rested then in the hands of Sebastian Kneipp.
“Physician, heal thyself”
While this may be a warning to those practicing medicine who seek to diagnose illnesses in people and/or project onto others rather than first acknowledging and clearing up their own health issues, it is also an earnest path for some – who, by healing themselves first, become powerful healers.
Photo by Maria Geller
After taking plunges into the cold waters of the Danube River (amongst the methods he discovered in the book and experimented with), Kneipp cured himself of what was considered an incurable illness and went on to develop a healing system that included hydrotherapy, phytotherapy, exercise, nutrition, and a balanced lifestyle. In 1887, he published his book, “Meine Wasserkur” (My Water Cure).
The town of Bad Wörishofen in southern Germany (130 km/81 miles from the München-Erding airport/Munich and 160 km/99 miles from the airport in Stuttgart), which became home to the priest and healer Sebastian Kneipp and his “water cure”, is celebrating Kneipp’s 200th birthday in 2021.
Though Kneippism is part of Germany’s intangible cultural heritage, his system, water cure and holistic approach have inspired and influenced healers and wellness spas worldwide.❀
Interview with Kneipp expert Jochen Reisberger | Dornbracht Healthness network
*We get to pronounce the K in “Kneipp” — which rhymes with ripe.
“Rien n’est plus puissant qu’une idée dont l’heure est venue.”
(Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.)Victor Hugo