A vision of holistic healing: Basalt doctor talks about new book, ‘Fifth World Medicine’

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to The Aspen Times
Dr. John Hughes will discuss his book, 'Fifth World Medicine,' on Sunday, June 11, 2023, at Explore Booksellers in Aspen.
Courtesy photo

How can we practice science and approach healing in a more embodied, truthful way that allows us to live in harmony with nature? John Hughes, a doctor of osteopathy at Aspen Integrative Medicine, addresses this very question in his book, “Fifth World Medicine (Book II): The Science of Healing People and Their Planet.”

He will talk about his book on Sunday, June 11, at 4:30 p.m. at Explore Booksellers in Aspen.

His book provides personal stories, philosophical arguments, and a few, real-world tips to re-integrate the body, mind, and spirit, as well as one’s relationship with nature and the planet, overall.

He explains how the old paradigms of the Fourth World are beginning to “crack apart at the seams … particularly in the realm of how we understand what is true through science and find good medicine.”

Indeed, he once thought science was imperative — and absolute fact. But when he began delving deeper, he discovered the “world is a little more wavy than we realize,” he said in a phone interview. He has discovered a way to trust his own intuition “and understand the world and contemplate nature in a way that could be just as truthful as science. … There’s a higher way to do science and medicine that’s more sustainable” through deepening into relationship with the earth and coming into a healthier relationship with the body — a state that he calls the Fifth World.

“(The Fifth World) is found in deep wonderment and intimacy with nature, and that same nature that makes up the core of your body and spirit,” he wrote in the book.

He bases his book in philosophy, partially because of his background — he earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Duke University — and partially because he believes understanding philosophy builds a solid foundation for making the kinds of changes he writes about, from how we eat and work to where we invest money.

“We’ve forgotten how sacred the body is. Learning to integrate that (leads to) healing,” he said, adding that if there’s one message he’d like to impart, it’s: “Let’s go back to Aristotle’s ultimate science and re-integrate the body, mind, and spirit into one sacred body. It isn’t about trying to control or even save nature. It’s about trying to re-integrate nature and connect with the body, mind, and spirit.”

He talks about indigenous cultures’ approaches in his book, respecting their nonlinear way of thinking and their holistic perspective. In this way, he steps outside the dictums of science and follows his osteopathic training of looking at the entire body, including lifestyle and environment, rather than narrowly focusing on one “disease.” He believes dualistic thinking and linear, scientific methods have contributed, if not resulted in, humans’ poor health these days.

He encourages people to experience nature directly by unplugging from devices and simply connecting with nature — or even pets.

“Anything that takes us out of this constant mental world of having to think,” he said.

He also advocates creating a more sustainable world by, for instance, giving up plastic and turning to brown seaweed for disposable packaging because “We can’t build up our body by destroying our planet,” he said.

He applauds human advancement, such as glasses and contacts that help him see, but he also asked: “Are we overemphasizing the Western mind, or is there a way to integrate the Western mind into the planet and use our intuition and get back to our hearts, rather than manipulating (the earth)?”

While the Fourth World revolves around manipulating nature for humans’ benefit, the Fifth World contemplates the divine purpose of everything from a cow to a plant and tries to support, respect, and live in harmony with that.

“It’s respecting the sacredness of nature,” he said, and wrote that the Fifth World is “a world based in the heart, where humans live as integrated spirit-body-mind beings, in peace with others and for the good of all nature in tune with synchronized cosmic order.”

He encourages readers to look within and ask: “What kind of power lives within the tiny, holographic, and atomic aspects of you? Thinking about power, know and feel that submicroscopic, atomic level, in the wave-particle reality of your life, there is incredible energy and possibility for anything to happen.”

If you go…

What: ‘Fifth World Medicine (Book II): The Science of Healing People and Their Planet’
When: 4:30 p.m., Sunday, June 11
Where: Explore Booksellers, 221 E. Main St., Aspen
More info:

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