Reflect or Reshape?

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he was keen to investigate both conventional and alternative medicine. As a consequence, he sent me off on his behalf to a course in ‘German New Medicine’.

The brainchild of oncologist, Dr Geerd Hamer, it looks upon cancer as a ‘disease of the soul’—and thus not only physical in nature but also psychological and spiritual.

The physical aspect looks back at a moment of trauma, usually a year or two in the past. The psychological component is about the words the person speaks over themselves at that moment of trauma. And the spiritual component of it looks at why those particular words were chosen and at long–term issues of forgiveness.

Ever since I did the course, I’ve got phonecalls from various people who know I attended, asking what the handbook suggests were the words that could initiate a particular disease. I’ve yet to have anyone disagree with what I’ve uncovered; in fact, mostly a dozen lightbulbs have gone on all at once for anyone who has asked.


According to Geerd Hamer, who looked at over 40 000 patients to formulate his theory, the words we speak over ourselves at a moment of trauma have immense power.

There is nothing new in the idea that words have power. In the first chapter of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth by the power of the spoken word.

In fact Genesis 1:3 tells us that God spoke and there was light: words gave being to the firstborn of creation. At the beginning of the fourth Gospel, John tells us that Jesus was the Light that came into the world and it was He who was the Logos—the Word. (John 1:1;6)

In discussing the meaning of logos, William Barclay related the story of some Bedouins of the last century who had called out a greeting to an approaching stranger. Belatedly realising they had blessed an infidel, they hurried forward in dismay, knowing the power of their words was already active and was unable to be recalled.

The more I observe of life and the more I see of the illnesses that beset people, the more I am convinced Geerd Hamer is right about words and so are those Bedouins. Words are living and have extraordinary power to shape us.

As a writer, a wordsmith, I find this to be both confrontational and challenging. Obviously not every word we speak or write has the same level of world–sculpting power: otherwise we’d be living in chaos.

TS Eliot (who wrote of the fire and the rose in Little Gidding) is far more famous for The Waste Land. His seemingly fragmented poetry is said to be a reflection of the age. But is it? Does it precede the age or does it define it?

Does Milton’s Paradise Lost mirror the century in which it was written or did it, in some mysterious way, shape those times?

Going further back, does Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales merely show us a vista of a parade or does it actually body forth the parade of the fourteenth century?

In our own times, does the modern spate of dark literature for young adults with suicidal heroes and anti–heroes reflect the concerns of that age group or is it active in producing the concerns of the target group?

Exactly where does literature stand when it comes to the ancient understanding of words being spoken forth as a power unable to be recalled—living and active as soon as they are released as either blessing or curse?

I’m not sure of the answers to these questions but they concern me deeply. They exercise my thought, they are part of what I wrestle with when I write. Although I am not sure, I realise that as soon as we use the phrase ‘life imitates art’ we recognise (or at least should recognise) that the answer is not simple or clear–cut.

Does a writer simply discover a story ‘out there’ as many mathematicians feel is the case when a new branch of mathematics comes to light? Are stories discovered or invented? Even in mathematics, it is complex: new language concepts are often the pre–requisite for new discoveries. Perhaps this is not so extraordinary, since mathematics really is simply a different language with its own grammar and syntax.

We tend to see literature as an influence, rather than an incarnational force in its own right.

JJR Tolkien postulated a biblical and Hebraic understanding of words when he suggested that a writer is a sub–creator.

As Christians, as writers, as sub–creators, we participate as co–workers not just in God’s regeneration of the world but also in His acts of creation through Word and Spirit. If words are, as Jewish thought still maintains, the expression of God’s creative fire, the nature of His sustenance and the ongoing essence of His work, then story–telling is like prayer and prophecy. It is far more than entertainment, it is about giving life, about warning, about blessing.

The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. So JB Phillips translated Romans 8:19. Literature is part of that creation, as we are, too, straining to be part of, as well as an observer to, the final integration of all things. ‘“Everything”, said Sara in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book A Little Princess, “is a story. You are a story. I am a story. Miss Minchin is a story.”

Madeleine L’Engle wrote that, “Jesus, the story, is taught by telling stories.”

Without story, I suspect there is no world. Without poetry, there is certainly no me. After all, I am God’s poem, as it says in Ephesians 2:10—We are his poetic masterworks, created in Christ Jesus for good works… I took a bit of licence with the translation but not much, because the word usually translated ‘workmanship’, ‘masterpiece’ or ‘handiwork’ comes from poeo, meaning a poem.

I’m struggling with the nature of literature at the moment. I’m wrestling with people’s different thoughts and views. For me, writing is not about whether or not we conform to the demands of the marketplace (though it’s great if our work sells), it’s not even about a discourse with the world—it’s intrinsic to its being.

It’s therefore important—at least to me—to charge my words with truth, beauty, grace and peace.

Literature somehow in some unfathomable, numinous and ineffable way is not only integral to the Christian evangel with the world around us, it is integral to the very fabric of its being.

If words do indeed shape the future, then our responsibility is immeasurably great.


  1. Julieann

    Anne, I have heard you briefly touch on this topic before, and I was absolutely intrigued, hungry for more. Thank-you for sharing your research, knowledge and insight with us.

    • Hi Julieann

      I’ve been thinking about this topic a very long time – much longer than I ever imagined. Over the past few years, I have gathered a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that, although we don’t notice the action of our words (because they don’t spring into full bloom immediately but grow like seeds), they still work just as they did in ancient times.

  2. Hi Annie, so excited to hear about the expanded version of God’s Poetry. I loved the first edition and can’t wait to read this new one!

    • Hi Janet

      The firsr edition was in some sense ‘experimental’ – I was looking for the definitive book about names and how the Hebrews understood them long ago and eventually I realised that I was going to have to write the book for myself from the information I’d collected. Once it was clear that the names in the Old Testament encoded a calling and a destiny, then the big question became: why do I look around me and see so many people struggling to come into their destiny and never getting there?
      That was the ‘experimental’ part: to try to answer that question. From the feedback after the first edition, I was able to realise I’d got a toehold on ‘why’ but maybe not a full foothold. So that’s where most of the expansion lies.

  3. Annie, I am always amazed at your insight and knowledge regarding the power of words. They are indeed powerful, they can build up or they can crush the spirit. I feel so very sad when I see mothers in shopping centres crush a little child with cruel words.

    • Hi Lyn
      The truth is that I’m a name ferret and a bower bird when it comes to words. And my mum swears I came out of the womb asking, ‘Why?’ I often find when talking to people that the ‘why’ is to do with those words mum said at the shopping centre or elsewhere. They do indeed shape our lives. The idea that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us is tragically wrong.

  4. Hi Annie,
    That is all extremely interesting. I love studying the effect of our words.
    I know how Isaac in the Bible as well as those Bedouins you mentioned realised they could not revoke an uttered blessing, but what do you think is the situation with hastily uttered curses? Can we repent and change a situation by speaking blessings over a situation that has previously been cursed by words?

    • Charles Fivaz

      Jodi Picoult (in “Salem Falls”) has an answer to Paula’s questions.
      “Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.” !!

      • Hi Charles.
        You’re right! You can’t call them back – but you can clean up the mess. Giving and receiving forgiveness is part of the cleaning. Indeed, this is what Dr Hamer claims: that many people get better but they never return to full health until they work through their issues of forgiveness.

    • Hi Paula
      My experience is that it’s necessary to renounce the words – not simply repent but to take it to another level through renunciation. I didn’t realise this until one day someone said to me, ‘No is not enough,’ and I realised that throughout my life people had not taken my ‘no’ as ‘no’. After they suggested the concept of renunciation, I really haven’t had the same issues.

  5. Alison Collins

    Interesting. That really makes sense of why the eras of literature precede the corresponding ones in music.

    Regarding curses and blessings, I think that blessing our enemies has a powerful effect, as reflected in Romans 12:20 about putting burning coals on their heads(this verse is from Proverbs 25: 21-22). I think being freed from curses is central to our salvation. 1 John 1:9 indicates that with repentance we are also cleansed. IN Mark 11: 23-26 where Jesus teaches about curses re the fig tree, suggests to me that forgiving others is at the heart of releasing them from curses. If curses cannot be revoked, then we are all damned since this world is full of words that injure and curse. Lots of verses too about curses changed into blessings. I think this is part of our hope in Christ.

    Alison Collins

    • Hi Alison
      Absolutely right. Words of forgiveness, which by their nature are words to call love into a situation, are amongst the most powerful words of all. Curses are incredibly powerful but the love of God trumps them all.

  6. Story. Words. I am very interested in narratology – the life shaping power of our stories. Two interesting books on this are: Tell me a story, by Daniel Taylor and To be Told, bu Dan B. Allender, PhD. You have given us much to consider. Thanks Annie. Asta x

    • Hi Asta,
      Thanks for those titles. I am very interested in this kind of thing. And in the power of our own names to shape our stories: when we think about it, the word that is spoken over us more often than any other in life is our own names. It makes sense that it is incredibly significant.

  7. Anne, you’re sailing deep waters, much of which are over the head of this wader on the beach. However, since my gifts aren’t just practical but poetic, and I love your fiction, I believe I would enjoy your book, God’s Poetry – The Identity and Destiny Encoded in Your Name; especially since my name was changed.
    Please include me in your list. By the way, is there a way to register for your site and sign in for visits, comments, and notifications of replies?
    Bless you! Stay anchored, friend!
    In His joy,

    • Hi Maria
      I’m having the guy who set up the website for me look into how to get notifications of comments and replies!
      To each his own – I get many ideas in fiction that I research and write about in non-fiction. Most people would do it the other way around.

  8. Breath, words, fire, these are all far more mysterious and significant than usually given credit. Man’s wayward historical patterns of thought lingers heavily; moderism, darwinism, psycho-analysis, the list is exhausting, perverting the value of divine creation…we are steeped in deception. Therefore, we must know down to our bones that authentic storytelling is utmost, from God’s very fabric, and imperative. Without question or doubt, as you have urge to tell, tell and keep on telling it.

    • Actually, in Hebrew there’s a word for breath that is related to a word for name. This accounts for the Hebrew idea of how we are given life: God whispers our names to us. This is conceptually equivalent to God breathing life into us.

  9. Thought provoking post Annie. What about when we write something and then some time later it actually happens?

    • Hi Dale
      I’ve had that experience. And I believe that there are certain things common to mankind that you can write and it’s hard to know if there is any relationship between what you wrote and what happened. However there are also things so way-out bizarre that it’s impossible to believe it is simply coincidence that you wrote them and then they happened.

  10. Jo Wanmer

    Though Him (the Word) all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. (Jn 1:3)
    As we are made in the image of Him our words must have the same creative power. Does that mean that without my words nothing happens that hasn’t been activated by my words? In my head I believe it, but in the practical I haven’t walked into the fullness of this amazing truth.
    Bless you Annie for stirring me up again today 🙂

    • Hi Jo
      Well, maybe not ‘my’ words – but somebody’s words. Certainly the word Paul uses in Colossians 2:8, ‘stoicheion’ which is usually translated elemental spirits actually means the spoken sounds from which everything in the material universe comes. Here Paul exhorts us not to be taken captive by the persuasive words of others, which he equates in power with the elemental sounds which called the universe into being.

  11. Annie, I love your translation of worksmanship as poetry and I do think TS Eliot’s word defined the twentieth century. Thanks for your insights.

    • Thanks, Wendy! I love it too. As time goes by, I see that more and more people do shape their lives by the poetry of their name.

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