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Healing Through Mind by Henry Wood


Truth may be considered as a rounded unit. Truths have various and unequal values, but each has its peculiar place, and if it be missing or distorted, the loss is not only local but general. Unity is made up of variety, and therein is completeness. Any honest search after truth is profitable, for thereby is made manifest the Kingdom of the Real.

During the fifteen years just past, but more especially within the last third of that period, a widespread interest has been developed in the question: Can disease be healed through mental treatment? If so, under what conditions and subject to what limitations? Has mental healing a philosophical and scientific basis, or is it variously composed of quackery, superstition, and assumption? In the simplest terms, how much truth does it contain? Any candid inquirer will admit that even if a minimum of its claims can be established, the world needs it. If it can be of service in lessening or mitigating the appalling aggregation of human suffering, disease, and woe, it should receive not only recognition, but a cordial welcome.

At the outset, it is proper to state that I have no professional nor pecuniary interest in any method of healing. The evolution of truth is my only object. To this end, critical and impartial investigation is necessary. While a personal experience of great practical benefit first aroused my interest in the subject, I have cultivated conservatism and incredulity in forming opinions, which are made up from a careful investigation of its literature, its philosophy, and its practical demonstrations.

The first point noticeable is the peculiar attitude of popular sentiment toward this movement. The unreasonable prejudice which has been displayed, and the flippant condemnation that it has generally received in advance of any investigation, illy befit the boasted impartiality and liberality of the closing decade of the nineteenth century. When the “Fatherhood of God” and the “Brotherhood of Man” are so much on men’s lips, and when the spirit of altruism is supposed to be at the floodtide, here is what claims to be the essential quality of them all denied even a hearing. The testimony of hundreds of clergymen, philanthropists, Christians, and humanitarians, is classed as “delusion,” and the experience of thousands who have received demonstrations in their own persons [information of which is accessible to any candid investigator], is passed by as an idle tale. It furnishes material for satire to the writer for the religious weekly, and a prolific butt for jokes to the paragrapher of the daily journal. The news of its failures is spread broadcast in bold head-lines by the sensational press. The fact that other kinds of treatment denominated “regular” also fail, seems never to be thought of. The mental healer, regardless of his success, is looked upon as an enthusiast, or worse, and even the citizen who modestly accepts the theory of possible mind-healing, is regarded as credulous and visionary by those who pride themselves upon their practicality. Why does this prejudice exist, when advancement in physical science uniformly meets with a friendly reception?

Perhaps the most important reason why “there is no room in the inn” for truth of the higher realm, is the prevailing materialism. Our western civilization prides itself upon its practicality; but externality would better define it. We forget that immaterial forces rule not only the invisible but the visible universe. Things to look real to us must be cognizant to the physical senses. Matter, whether in the vegetable, animal, or human organism, is moulded, shaped, and its quality determined by unseen forces back of and higher than itself.

We rely upon the drug, because we can feel, taste, see, and smell it. We are color-blind to invisible potency of a higher order, and practically conclude that it is nonexistent.

One reason for the prevailing adverse prejudice is that this new thought disturbs the foundation-stones of existing and time-honored systems and creeds. The literalism and externality of formulated theology are rebuked by the simplicity of the spiritual and internal forces which are here brought to light. The barrenness of intellectual scholasticism is in sharp contrast with the overflowing love and simple transparency which reveal the image of God in every man, and as an incidental result, possible health and harmony.

History ever repeats itself in the uniform suspicion with which advanced thought has been received by existing institutions. It seems difficult to learn the lesson, that the human apprehension of truth is ever expanding, while creeds are but “arrested developments, frozen into fixed forms.” As might be inferred, the clergy and the religious press, as a rule, are distrustful of this advance, and see little that is good in it. It is fair to admit that this disposition is often due more to misunderstanding, than to intentional injustice.

Another cause for its unwelcome reception is that it distrusts the dominant medical systems. All honor to the multitude of noble and brave men who from the old standpoint have battled with disease, and who have ever been on the alert to utilize every possible balm, in order to restore disordered humanity. But systems are tenacious of life in proportion as they are hoary with age. They mould men to their own shape; to break with them is difficult: tradition, pride, professional honor, and loyalty, and often social and pecuniary status, are all like strong cords, which bind even great men to their conventional grooves.

A further ground for the general unbelief is found in the peculiarities of the apostles and exponents of the new departure. A division into schools and cliques, the out-cropping of personality, exclusiveness, and internal criticism, statements of doctrine in forms likely to be misunderstood, and a technical phraseology have, in a measure, prevented a free and full understanding of principles, which are really simple and transparent.

Popular distrust is also awakened by the fact that, as a rule, mental healers have not regularly studied pathology, nor even anatomy. But it will be seen that if the principle of mental causation for disease is once admitted, mentality rather than physiology should furnish the field for operations. In order to heal, the mind of the patient must be brought into unison with that of the practitioner, and therefore, the latter must wash his own mind clean of spectres and even of studies of disease, and fill it to overflowing with ideals of health and harmony.

Another reason for misapprehension is the fact that mind healing is not demonstrable by argument. It is not intellectually apprehended. It concerns the inner man and can only be grasped by the deeper vision of intuitional and spiritual sense. It is like a cyclorama, the beauty of which is all inside. An outside view is no view at all.

Is there a necessity for some radical reinforcement to conventional instrumentalities to aid us in our warfare with human ills? Is it desirable to find some new vantage ground, and some more effective weapons? There can be but one answer. While surgery has been making rapid strides toward the position of an exact science, confidence in materia medica is on the wane. The surgeon is only a marvellously skilful mechanic who adjusts the parts, and then the divine, recuperative forces vitalize and complete his work. He only makes the figures, while the principle solves the problem. The adaptability of drugs to heal disease is becoming a matter of doubt, even among many who have not yet studied deeper causation. Materia medica lacks the exact elements of a science. The just preponderance for good or ill of any drug upon the human system is an unsolved problem, and will so remain. The fact that a fresh remedy seems to work well while it is much talked about, and then gradually appears to lose its efficacy, suggests that it is the atmosphere of general belief in the medicine, and not the medicine itself that accomplishes the visible result. It is well known that bread pills sometimes prove to be a powerful cathartic, even from individual belief; but general belief would be necessary in order to make them always reliable. General beliefs often have a very slight original basis, but gradually grow until their cumulative power is enormous. If scientific, the same remedies once adopted should remain; but instead, there is a continual transition. Fashions and fads are not significant of exact science. Elixirs of life, lymphs, and other specifics have their short run, and then join the endless procession to the rear. Many lives are sacrificed in experiments, but no criticism is made because the treatment is administered by those who are within the limits of the “regular” profession. After centuries of professional research, in order to perfect the “art of healing,” diseases have steadily grown more subtle and numerous. Combinations, distillations, extracts, and decoctions of almost every known material substance have been experimented with, in order to discover their true bearing upon that ever-receding ideal, the banishment of disease. If materia medica were a science, disease should be in a process of extermination. It does not look as if this were expected, for doctors with diplomas are multiplying in a much greater ratio than the population, and already we have more than three times the proportionate quota of Germany. As our material civilization recedes from nature and grows more artificial, diseases, doctors, and remedies multiply. What can be more beautiful and perfect than the human eye; yet how commonly this organ requires artificial aid. The human senses are losing their tone, and if present tendencies continue, it seems almost as if the future man would be not only bald, but toothless and eyeless, unless he receives an entire artificial equipment. Only when internal, divine forces come to be relied upon, rather than outside reinforcement, will deterioration cease.

Scores of the most eminent physicians, who have risen above the trammels of system, have vigorously expressed themselves regarding the utterly unreliable character of the drug system. Emerson affirmed that “The best part of health is a fine disposition.” Said Plato, “You ought not to attempt to cure the body without the soul.” A distinguished doctor of to-day remarked, “Of the nature of disease, and from whence it comes, we still know nothing, but thanks to chemistry we have new supplies of ammunition. For every drug of our fathers, we have now a hundred. We have iodides, chlorides, and bromides without number; sulphates, nitrates, hydrochlorates, and prussiates beyond count. But we do not believe in heroic doses. We give but little medicine at a time and change it often.” With such supplies of “ammunition,” people within range are liable to get hit.

A mere sketch of the rise and progress of the mind-healing movement may be proper before considering its philosophy. Its novelty having worn off, it is perhaps less prominent as a current topic than formerly, but its progress, though quiet, has been remarkable during the past five years. Careful estimates by those in the best position to judge place the number of those who accept its leading principles, in the United States, at over a million. Owing to the distrust of public opinion, a large majority hold their views quietly but none the less firmly. But a small fraction of its adherents are identified with its organizations, and yet within the limits of one school [those distinctively known as Christian Scientists], there are about thirty organized churches, and also one hundred and twenty societies which maintain regular Sunday services, though not yet having church organization. There are also between forty and fifty dispensaries and reading rooms, and a rapidly increasing literature, both of standard works and periodicals. One of the other schools, distinctively known as Mind Cure, has also a large number of organizations similar in character. The number of regularly graduated practitioners cannot be accurately estimated, but they are numbered by the thousand. Of the million more or less of believers in the principles of mind healing, it may be admitted that perhaps a large majority, in the event of severe acute illness, would still make some use of old remedies, or would combine both where circumstances would allow. Life-long habits are tenacious; to defy the force of public opinion, the importunity of friends and the overwhelming aggregation of surrounding belief, is a trying ordeal. Until public opinion softens, mental healing in its purity will be mainly employed in chronic troubles, or at least for those which are not of a sudden and acute nature. Mind healers would differ in acute cases, as to how far those who have had no previous growth of trust in unseen forces should be left to those alone. In the present stage of progress in mind healing, there should be nothing which would require anyone to dispense with reasonable nursing nor with common sense. Some things which are ideally and abstractly true, can only be fully realized in the future, and it is not well to prematurely use them before the conditions are fully ripened.

All new innovations, no matter how much needed, have had to pass through a period when “they were everywhere spoken against.” The time is not distant when personal liberty in respect to choice in one’s method of healing may be enjoyed without unpleasant criticism or notoriety.

The more important schools which agree in the one cardinal principle of healing through mind, designate their respective systems as Christian Science, Mind Cure, and Christian Metaphysics. These terms, in common use, are somewhat interchangeable. There are also those who combine mind healing with Theosophy, and still others who differ in non-essentials. What is distinctively known as “Faith Cure” has little in common with those before named. Its theory is that disease is healed by special interposition in answer to prayer. None of the other systems accept anything as special, but believe in the universality and continuity of orderly law.

There are many leaders, authors, and workers in this movement, who are eminent; but as principles are more important than personality, their names need not be enumerated.

Why did this movement originate among women, and why have so large a proportion of its exponents belonged to the so-called weaker sex? Because the intuitional and spiritual senses of women are keener than those of men, and mental healing is not the result of profound reasoning. It is the seeming “weak things of the world which confound the strong.” Men are largely immersed in intellectual and formulated systems, and when the time was ripe for new light and attainment in spiritual evolution to dawn upon humanity, it might have been expected that its first delicate rays would be detected by woman.

The one great principle which underlies all mind healing is contained in the assumption that all primary causation relating to the human organism is mental or spiritual. The mind, which is the real man, is the cause, and the body the result. The mind is the expressor, and the body the expression. The inner life forces build the body, and not the body the life forces. The thought forms the brain, and not the brain the thought. The physical man is but the printed page, or external manifestation, of the intrinsic man which is higher and back of him.

Materia medica deals with effects rather than primary causes. It seeks to modify the expression, which can only be done through the expressor. It is axiomatic that to change results we deal with causes. This principle is so widely recognized that it is seen in an endless variety of phases, even among barbarous and half-civilized races. The charms and incantations used for healing among Indian tribes have this significance. With all their barbarism they are near to nature and keen in locating causation. With nothing more than a superstitious basis, charms, incantations, dances, images, ceremonies, and shrines have a wonderful influence for healing. They divert the mind from the ailment, and stimulate a strong faith which awakens the recuperative forces to action, and thus cause a rapid recovery.

A traveller in Algiers relates the following conversation he had with a Moorish woman of high class: “When ill do you go to the doctor?” he asked. “Oh, no; we go to the Marabout; he writes a few words from the Koran on a piece of paper, which we chew and swallow, with a little water from the sacred well at the Mosque. We need no more and soon recover.”

If a skilful exercise of baseless superstition upon mind can be so efficacious, what results are possible by a judicious use of the truth? Mental causation is abundantly proved by the well-known effects of fear, anger, envy, anxiety, and other passions and emotions, upon the physical organism. Acute fear will paralyze the nerve centres, and sometimes turn the hair white in a single night. A mother’s milk can be poisoned by a fit of anger. An eminent writer, Dr. Tuke, enumerates as among the direct products of fear, insanity, idiocy, paralysis of various muscles and organs, profuse perspiration, cholerina, jaundice, sudden decay of teeth, fatal anæmia, skin diseases, erysipelas, and eczema. Passion, sinful thought, avarice, envy, jealousy, selfishness, all press for external bodily expression. Even false philosophies, false theology, and false conceptions of God make their unwholesome influence felt in every bodily tissue. By infallible law, mental states are mirrored upon the body, but because the process is complex and gradual, we fail to observe the connection. Mind translates itself into flesh and blood.

What must be the physical result upon humanity of thousands of years of chronic fearing, sinning, selfishness, anxiety, and unnumbered other morbid conditions? These are all the time pulling down the cells and tissues, which only divine, harmonious, and wholesome thought can build up. Is it surprising that no one is perfectly healthy? If man were not linked to God, and unconsciously receiving an inflow of recuperative vital force, the multitudinous destroyers would soon disintegrate his physical organism. Can the building forces be strengthened, stimulated, and made more harmonious and divine? Yes, through mind. The mind surely but unconsciously pervades every physical tissue with its vital influence, and is present in every function; throbbing in the heart, breathing in the lungs, and weaving its own quality into nutrition, assimilation, sensation, and motion.

A conscious fear of any particular disease is not necessary to induce it. The accumulated strands of the unconscious fear of generations have been twisted into the warp and woof of our mentality, and we find ourselves on the plane of reciprocity with disease. Our door is open to receive it. What is disease? A mental spectre, which to material vision has terrible proportions. A kingly tyrant, crowned by our own beliefs. It has exactly that power which our fears, theories, and acceptances have conferred upon it. It is not an objective entity, but our sensuous beliefs have galvanized it into life. “As a man thinketh, so is he.” Realism to us may be conferred upon the most absolute non-entity, if we give it large thought space, and fear it. As a condition, disease is existent; but not as a God-created entity, in and of itself. It appears veritable to us, because we have unconsciously identified the Ego with the body.

The material standpoint is false. We are immaterial; not bodies, but spirits—even here and now. Having lost spiritual consciousness, we practically,—though not theoretically,—feel that we are bodies. To grasp our divine selfhood and steadily hold it, disarms fear and all its allies, and promotes recuperation and harmony. When the intrinsic man dethrones the false and sensuous claimant, and asserts his divine birthright of wholeness [holiness] the body as a correspondence falls into line and gradually expresses health on its own plane. Normally and logically, that which is higher should rule the lower. The body, instead of being the unrelenting despot, then becomes the docile and useful servant. In its subordinate position, where it rightfully belongs, it grows beautiful and harmonious. Men live mainly in their bodily sensations. Such living, though apparently real, is a false sense of life. There is a profound significance in the scriptural injunction, “Take no thought for your body.” The dyspeptic thinks of his stomach, and the more he has it in mind the more abnormally sensitive it becomes. The sound man has no knowledge of such an organ, except as a matter of theory. The body, when watched, petted, and idolized, soon assumes the character of a usurper and tyrant. Retribution is sure and inherent under such conditions.

A change of environment often cures, simply because novelty diverts thought which before has been centered upon the body. The improvement, however, is often credited to better climate, water, or air. Human pride seeks for its causation without rather than within. Secondary causation is really effect, though not often so diagnosed. The draft occasions the cold, but it gets its deadly qualities from cumulative belief and fear. Who has not seen persons in which this bondage and sensitiveness have become so intense that even a breath of God’s pure air alarms them. In this way a great mass of secondary causation has been invested with power for evil, and mistaken for that which is primary. Noting the tremendous power of grown-up accumulations of false belief, we may glance at the modus operandi of mental healing.

There are two distinct lines of treatment which may effect a cure; one by intelligent and persistent self-discipline and culture, and the other through the efforts of another person called a healer. Often there is a combination of both. The power does not lie in the personality of the healer, nor in the exercise of his will-power. Neither hypnotism nor mesmeric control are elements in true mind-healing. The healer, in reality, is but an interpreter and teacher. The divine recuperative forces which exist, but are latent, are awakened and called into action. The patient is like a discordant instrument containing great capabilities, only waiting to respond in unison to active harmony. His distorted thought must be elevated and harmonized, so that he will see things in their true perspective. The healer gently guides him up into the “mount of transfiguration,” where he feels the glow of the divine image within, and sees that wholeness is already his, and will be made manifest as he recognizes it. A successful healer must be an overflowing fountain of love and good-will. He is but a conduit through which flows the divine repletion. He makes ideal conditions present. He steadily holds a mental image of his patient as already whole, and silently appeals to the unconscious mind of the invalid, to induce him to accept the same view. The patient’s mental background is like a sensitive plate, upon which will gradually appear outlines of health as they are positively presented. Improved views of his own condition spring up from within, and seem to him to be original. As they grow into expression in the outer man, his cure is complete.

Do failures occur? Undoubtedly, and often. Even infallible principles can have but imperfect application because of local limitations. The failure of a particular field of grain does not disprove the universal principle of vegetable growth. The imperfection of the healer, and the lack of receptivity in the patient, are local limitations. There are sudden cures, but as a rule recovery will be in the nature of a progressive growth. Lack of immediate results often causes disappointment, and leads to an abandonment of the treatment before the seed has had time to take root. The healer is the sower, and the patient’s unconscious mind is the soil. Often rubbish must be cleared away before any fertile spot is found. The cure must come from within. Sometimes the patient is cherishing some secret sin, or giving place to trains of thought colored with envy, jealousy, avarice, or selfishness. These are all positive obstacles to both mental and physical improvement, for thoughts are real things. The patient must actively co-operate with the healer, and make himself transparent to the truth. That which is misshapen has to grow symmetrical. Even if the mind could be instantly permeated with the belief of health, the body will need a little time to completely change its expression. Should these limitations discourage anyone? Not in the least, but rather the reverse. The fact that the cure is in the nature of a growth, is evidence that it is normal and permanent, rather than magical or capricious. Limitations are present, but they can be surmounted.

The phenomenon of pain, so commonly regarded as an evil, is only a warning voice to summon our consciousness from its resting-place in the damp, morgue-like basement of our being, to the higher apartments, where sunshine and harmony are ever present. It is beneficent when its message is heeded, for it is thereby transformed into blessing. Our resistance to it, and misunderstanding of its significance, prevent that possible transformation. The process of cure through mind, though in itself a steady growth, often appears to the consciousness of the patient as vibratory and uneven.

Many could heal themselves without the aid of another, if they appreciated the tremendous power for good of concentrated mental delineation of the ideal. By such exercises of mind, a wholesome environment can be built up, even if at first the process seems almost mechanical. But instead of such self-building, out of an infinitude of divine material, the average man is inclined to vacate the control of his being, put his body into the keeping of his doctor, and his soul [himself] into the care of his priest or pastor.

Efficiency for self-treatment is increased as the power of abstraction is cultivated. Hold a firm consciousness of the spiritual self, and of the fact that the material form is only expression made visible. Firmly deny the validity of adverse sensuous evidence, and at length it will disappear. Silently but persistently affirm health, harmony, and the divine image. Give out good thought, for thoughts are real gifts. In proportion as you pour out, the divine repletion pours in. Look upon the physical self as only a false claimant for the Ego. Hold only the good in your field of vision, and let disease and evil fade out to their native nothingness, from lack of standing-room. Even a warfare against evils as objective realities, tends to make them more realistic. At convenient seasons, bar out the external world, and rivet the mind tenaciously to the loftiest ideals and aspirations, and for the time being forget that you possess a body. Oh, victim of nervous prostration and insomnia, test these principles and see if they are not superior to anodynes, opiates, bromides, and chorals, and be assured that they leave no sting behind. The great boon which they bestow is not limited to nervous and mental disorders; its virtue penetrates to the outermost physical limits.

The whole atmosphere of race thought in which we live is sensuous. This vast unconscious influence must be overcome. The mental healer is like one rowing against the current of a mighty river. Humanity is “bound in one bundle,” and it is with difficulty that a few can advance much faster than the rythmical step of the mass. Even the Great Exemplar in some places could not do many mighty works because of surrounding unbelief.

Man is peering into the dust for new supplies of life, which are stored around and above him. Is it not time that he should make a serious effort to throw off the galling yoke of cruel though intangible masters, and achieve freedom and emancipation?

Turning to the religious aspect of mental healing, it is seen to be in harmony with revelation, and also with the highest spiritual ideal in all religions. While rebuking scholastic and dogmatic systems on the one hand, and pseudo-scientific materialism on the other, it vitalizes and makes practical the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. The healing of to-day is the same in kind, though not equal in degree to that of the primitive church. It is in accord with spiritual law, which is ever uniformly the same under like conditions. The miracles of the Apostolic Age were real as transactions, but their miraculous hue was in the materialistic vision of the observers. Healing is the outward and practical attestation of the power and genuineness of spiritual religion, and ought not to have dropped out of the Church. The divine commission to preach the gospel and heal the sick, never rightly could have been severed in twain, because they are only different sides of one Whole. By what authority is one part declared binding through ages and the other ignored? Who will assert that God is changeable, so that any divinely bestowed boon to one age could be withdrawn from a subsequent one? The direct assurance of the Christ, that “these signs shall follow them that believe,” is perpetual in its scope, because “them that believe” are limited to no age, race, or condition. As ecclesiasticism and materialism crept into the early church, and personal ambitions and worldly policies sapped its vitality, spiritual transparency and brotherly love faded out, and with them went the power—or rather the recognition of the power—to heal.

Wonderful works are not limited alone to those who accept the Christian religion; but in proportion as other systems recognize the supremacy of the spiritual element, and catch even a partial glow of “that true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” their intrinsic qualities will be made outwardly manifest. A right conception of God, as infinite present Good, strongly aids in producing the expression of health. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” An abiding concept of such truth directly promotes trust, harmony, healing. Seeming ills are not God-created powers, but human perversions and reflected images of subjective states. As a higher and spiritual standpoint is gained, apparent evils dissolve, and then in bold relief is seen the fair proportions of the Kingdom of the Real.