The life and work of Emanuel Felke

Erdmann Leopold Stephanus Emanuel Felke was born on February 7, 1856 in the small village of Kläden in the Altmark, near Stendal, Germany. His education was strongly influenced by both Christian and naturopathic beliefs by his parents, his teacher Friedrich, and the clergyman's daughter Hedwig: Whenever possible, his father treated the illnesses of his eight children with homeopathic remedies and herbs, which the young boy Emanuel became acquainted with during extensive forays through the countryside with his father.

The Clay Pastor, Emanuel Felke, on the street in front of the "Linde" in Repelen, 1907. The "Linde" was the center of the former bathing resort of Repelen around 1900. The Clay Pastor, Emanuel Felke, on the street in front of the "Linde" in Repelen, 1907. The "Linde" was the center of the former bathing resort of Repelen around 1900.

Already as a child, he was fascinated by nature and the abundance of medicinal plants it produced. In later years, at the request of his parents, he studied theology in Berlin. However, his deep interest in nature and the art of healing remained as strong as ever, and he was frequently seen attending medical lectures as well. In his free time, Emanuel Felke devoted his entire attention to the study of homeopathy and the works of Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of classical homeopathy.

After his ordination, Felke found his first position as parish minister in Cronenberg near Elberfeld in 1887.

In 1890 a devastating diphtheria epidemic broke out in Cronenberg, which claimed the lives of many children. At that time, Emanuel Felke recommended that the mothers of infected children take the homeopathic remedy Mercurius cyanatus C 30. All the children he treated this way survived the epidemic, whereas the children treated according to conventional medical practice frequently died. This curative success resulted in ever increasing numbers of people from Pastor Felke's parish trusting his advice on matters of physical health and not just their spiritual salvation. It wasn't long before the pressure of patients was so great that the Pastor had to arrange a special time for medical consultations. But the established physicians in Cronenberg accused him of charlatan practices.

Emanuel Felke in discussion Emanuel Felke in discussion

In order to protect himself from the increasing pressure, in 1894 Felke requested the church to transfer him as pastor to the small resort town of Repelen on the lower Rhine near Moers. He hoped to be able to primarily pursue his vocation as minister in the new location. But all too rapidly, the tidings of his medical skills spread throughout this small town as well. Patients came to him from far and wide, dedicated themselves to his art of healing, and asked for his assistance. Without more ado, he surrendered himself to his fate: An inn served as his treatment room; the sexton became his nursing assistant during office hours. His "leisure-time hobby" of studying the works of naturopaths such as Samuel Hahnemann, Adolf Just, Vincenz Prießnitz, Louis Kuhne, Arnold Rikli and Sebastian Kneipp now served him well. These natural scientists inspired him and incited him to think even further along these lines. He combined clay, light, air and water treatments with homeopathy, phytotherapy (herbal medicine), and iridology (diagnosis of patients by only looking at their irises). He developed his own curative concept based on these principles.

Pastor Felke 1926 Pastor Felke 1926

Felke treated his patients with devoted attention and great dedication. He healed many patients free of charge, and even gave needy persons the money to buy the natural remedies he prescribed for them.

At that time his curative concepts were considered revolutionary, and a thorn in the flesh to traditionally trained doctors. After a dispute with doctors trained in conventional medicine, in 1899 he wrote to his friend Max Vits "… Take note: If someone asserts that he knows and can do everything, then he's a conceited braggart. This especially applies to the field of diagnosis and healing …"

In 1897 he visited the "Jungborn" (a kind of sanatorium) founded by Adolf Just in the Harz region, and then on his part also founded a Jungborn in Repelen. But since people participated in the nude in the baths and during gymnastics activities, after a short time the facility was temporarily shut down by the police on account of the "breach of morality." Around this time the open hostilities from the local physicians began, which even resulted in several criminal prosecutions against Felke. In 1909, after a one-week court trial in which twenty-one advisory experts gave testimony, Felke was ultimately acquitted in the third judicial instance.

"But I can and will never decide to let go of my beloved and good homeopathy; instead I say it forms the backbone of my curative method, even if it is not recognized by science and the state."

Emanuel Felke

Although Felke clearly suffered under these hostilities, he did not let himself be deterred by the legal proceedings and continued to treat his patients as he saw fit. He worked primarily with combination homeopathic remedies. In this so-called "complex homeopathy," different individual homeopathic substances are combined to a single remedy tocreate a correspondingly broader spectrum of effectiveness, allowing different symptoms to be treated with only a single preparation. Diagnostically, he worked primarily with eye diagnosis (iridology), a method that allows a trained therapist to read indications of possibly pathological changes in humans from the structure and color of the sclera (tough fibrous membrane covering the eyeball) and the iris. In 1889 he presented his curative method to the broader public in a lecture given to over a thousand people in Krefeld. This was the start of the Felke movement; his modesty and humble demeanor remained intact.

"Naturally the human heart rejoices when one finds recognition and esteem – but I'm one of those humans who cannot tolerate very much of it. You raise me up too high – and I'm getting accustomed to the air at such high altitudes – and that is unhealthy and makes one lose the right measure for one's own ego and work – and that is dangerous!"

Emanuel Felke

The teacher Andres Müller wrote the first book about Pastor Felke's natural medical practice in 1900, with the title "Pastor Felke and his Method of Treatment."

Over time, Felke societies were founded and a Felke newspaper was published. In 1912 Pastor Felke resigned from his job as rectory pastor in order to be able to dedicate his entire time to sick patients. However, until the end of his life he continued to feel he was also a minister to his patients.

Empress Auguste Viktoria sent her court lady Countess von Voß to visit the new miracle healer Emanuel Felke. Notwithstanding her high ranking, the fine lady had to take a seat in the waiting room like everyone else. When it was her turn to meet the famous man, Pastor Felke greeted her casually with "have a chair." A bit huffy about being spoken to in such a familiar manner, she explained that she was Countess von Voß. Felke looked at her with amused, twinkling eyes and said "Oh, well then, take two chairs!"

Felke in Jungborn in Bad Sobernheim Felke in Jungborn in Bad Sobernheim

The war forced him to leave Repelen in 1915. One of his students, Andres Dhonau, invited him to Sobernheim. It appeared to Felke that the city in the Nahe valley would be a suitable place to settle and practice. The city already had a Jungborn since 1907, founded by Andres Dhonau according to his role model, in which his natural medical practices were already being followed. This place is still a powerful locus of Felke treatment today, now managed in the fourth generation.

At this time Felke authorized the homeopathic Central Pharmacy Mauch in Göppingen to sell the combination homeopathic remedies he had composed. Around 1900 the pharmacy belonged to his friend Dr. Richard Mauch. A pharmacist by the name of Emil Hevert also worked at this pharmacy from the mid-1920s.

Emil Hevert quickly learned to esteem Felke's combination homeopathic remedies. Deeply convinced of their effectiveness, the pharmacist was already engaged in various Felke associations during his time at Mauch and later held the chairmanship of the Felke Association. In 1956 Emil Hevert founded his own company, Hevert-Arzneimittel, and chose Sobernheim – the site of Felke's work for so many years – as company headquarters owing to his long connection with Felke's curative concepts.

Felke spa hotel in Bad Sobernheim Felke spa hotel in Bad Sobernheim

In 1923, Pastor Felke became an honorary citizen of Sobernheim. "Felke City," as it is also called, received the status of a spa town ("Bad") in 1995 and has been called Bad Sobernheim ever since. To this day, Bad Sobernheim, with its spa houses BollAnts, Maasberg and Menschel, is the center for the Felke therapy which uses the well-known natural remedies of light, air, water, clay and a natural food diet in addition to homeopathy.

Pastor Emanuel Felke died on August 16, 1926, shortly after his 70th birthday, in a private clinic in Munich. The city of Sobernheim named a street and the local gymnasium after him. The fascination and ingenuity of the Felke natural medical practice have survived him to this day.

Further reference literature

  • Felke E, Rheinfeld M (1916) Handbuch der Felke-Heilweisen.
    Selbstverlag, Köln.
  • Müller A (1911) Pastor Felke und seine Heilmethoden.
    Worms & Lüthgen, Krefeld.
  • Kramer W (1986) Lehmpastor Emanuel Felke.
    Dr. Waldemar Kramer oHG, Frankfurt a. M.
  • Bier E (1925) Der kleine Felke. Selbstverlag, Sobernheim.
  • Bolland A. Pastor Felke.
  • Hevert (2012) Pastor Felke und die Komplexmittelhomöopathie