I was born into a German family of medical doctors with a passion for natural healing. My great-grandfather apprenticed with Father Sebastian Kneipp, a pioneer of the holistic therapy movement in 19th century Europe. After the war, my grandfather built and maintained one of the few stand-alone homeopathic hospitals in Germany. Since my childhood days, I found myself exposed to the philosophy that “nature cures all,” and was taught to regard the modalities of modern medicine with a high degree of suspicion and apprehension. Before I left home for college, I was never prescribed antibiotics but received old-fashioned nature cure treatments such as herbs, homeopathy, clay packs, and a combination of sun, air, and salt-water baths.
Growing up as the oldest son of the oldest son in a line of German doctors during the 1970s, I felt compelled to do something radically different from my ancestors and immersed myself in the exotic field of Chinese language, history and culture. Being selected as one of a few foreign students who were allowed entry into the walled-off country of China in 1982, I had the unique opportunity to see Maoist China before modernization. I found my American wife in Shanghai, and eventually ended up in the scholarly environment of the University of Chicago, all set to become a professor of Chinese literature after delivering my doctoral dissertation in 1990. After receiving the shocking news of a cancer diagnosis at a relatively young age, however, I decided to leave the traditional academic lifestyle and return to China for what eventually became 4 years of spirited immersion in Qigong, herbal science, acupuncture and other clinical aspects of Chinese medicine. I fondly recall this time, which is still the foundation of my beloved career in one of the most complete and sophisticated systems of holistic healing on record. Since there were still very few foreigners living permanently in China at that time, my teachers at the traditional Chinese medicine university taught me the intricacies of the art and science of Chinese medicine while drinking tea at their kitchen tables. In addition, I met some extraordinary individuals who taught me some of the more esoteric aspects of Chinese medicine in a traditional teacher-disciple relationship, such as various styles of movement and quiet meditation, classical pulse diagnosis, and Daoist folk herbalism.
When my family and I returned to the United States, I felt a strong desire to contribute to the nascent process of transmitting traditional Eastern medical knowledge in the West. I had learned firsthand about the clinical power of holistic medicine, and wanted to do my part in the pioneering task of bringing some of the effective modalities of Chinese medicine to chronically ill people who have found no satisfying solutions for their conditions in the field of modern biomedicine. This journey led to the founding of the School of Classical Chinese Medicine at National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), which has since emerged as an international forum for the teaching and research of ancient medical wisdom.