What the Heck is VITALISM, anyway?

Vitalism is a word we hear all the time in the “Chiroverse”. Yet it is term we pretty much never hear from anywhere else.

Like-minded non-chiropractic people use words we recognize, such as “holistic” and “natural” and even sometimes “innate”.

But you only hear the word VITALISM in a chiropractic office.

Why do we use this little known word, vitalism and not a much more popular word like holism?

Why do we insist on vitalism?

Merriam Webster online dictionary has this definition for the popular word holism:

1: relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts <holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body> <holistic ecology views humans and the environment as a single system>

Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines vitalism this way:

1: a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from physicochemical forces

2: a doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining

We use Vitalism because it has a Distinction that is important.


Holism (whole-ism) is about the way that things work together. Holism describes a whole community of parts or people or processes. Holism can apply to any ecosystem, from a planet, to a human body, to a cell. It means that each discrete part of a system is always working in concert with all the other parts, even when we cannot perceive that interaction. It means that you cannot reach into an ecosystem and just tweak one little thing and not have an effect (large or small) on all the parts of the system as a consequence.

Holism acknowledges the intricacy of a living system but does not account for anything beyond an incredibly complete and complex machine. Holism does not acknowledge intelligence.



Vitalism takes the concept of holism and adds that essential ingredient: intelligence.

Vitalism says that we must look beyond the wholeness (holistic) of the ecosystem and acknowledge that there is an intelligence that runs the system which cannot (currently) be measured.

The Merriam – Webster definition refers to this intelligence by stating “that life is in some part self-determining”.

Vitalism is a recognition that the most amazing thing about LIVING things is not just the brilliant completeness and complexity of living systems but the intelligence behind living matter.

If you believe that vitalism is the stronger (better, more complete) concept, then you are a VITALISTS.

Vitalism includes Holism. Holism does not include Vitalism.

Vitalism is incredibly valuable because we offer something distinct. We offer something that people “know” but have seldom heard explained. Vitalists offer a belief system that people can do something with.

As a vitalist, we says, “I find the interrelated machinery in the human body fascinating, but wait, there is something MORE to this equation”. We are more than complex machines. We are designed with inborn individual intelligence and we have the ability to heal and adapt based upon that individual deep inner intelligence.

Vitalists believe that the entire human experience (including health) is run by the immense inborn intelligence of our human bodies. This intelligence is not our brain (although Innate intelligence lies there as well). It is an inborn innate intelligence which runs inside every cell and particle of our body. Innate intelligence is the internal consciousness of our own body – which runs completely separately from our intellectual consciousness. Vitalism focuses in that genius level intelligence which is always on the job – but operating at a level above anyone’s ability to measure it and collect data on it.


Holism explains the interconnectedness and necessity of ALL the machinery. But holism does not explain how or why it all works together.

A vitalist understands that our intelligence is what “runs” the machinery. Our innate intelligence is the operator.

As vitalists, we make different choices. We strive to tap into that intelligence and support it rather than work around it or bypass it with our technology.

When we make a choice to go back to a natural approach, this is not about devaluing technology or science. Vitalism is about adding back into the equation the brilliance inside every cell of the human body and allowing that to be the starting place, and the greatest authority, when trying to help people.

We, as Chiropractors, are Vitalists.

When we detect and correct the vertebral subluxation, we restore function and communication between the innate intelligence and the rest of the body. Our focus is squarely on the intelligence within the body and doing what is necessary to allow every human being to be in the highest level of contact with that intelligence.

We do that by removing interference to the nerve system. We do that by educating people to think and therefore behave differently. We do that empowerment families and communities to believe in their own body’s abilities, and we show them how to do it.

[quote_center]It’s a Great Day to be a Vitalist.[/quote_center]

Dr. Mary FlanneryMary Flannery is obsessed with STORY. She loves learning about stories and how to tell them better. She wants to help you do the same. She feels like she should tell you a really good story here but there is not enough room. Dr. Flannery is the Dean of Enrollment at Life West Chiropractic College and founder of ADIO Radio.