A Common-Sense View of the Mind Cure, by Laura M. Westall, , at sacred-texts.com
IT is impossible to state at this moment just what the limitations of mind-cure are. It has been little more than half a century since the subject was lifted out of the realm of the occult and placed upon a scientific basis, tho for most persons it still possesses a mystic character. Much has been learned, but there is undoubtedly much more to learn; we are still merely "nibbling around the edges."
Less than fifty years ago there were few physicians who believed that disease could be cured by mental influence; to-day there are clinics in many European cities, and leading physicians of America are using it in one form or another.
At present the medical fraternity takes
the ground that only mental, nervous, and functional disorders are amenable to mind-cure. Its future, therefore, seems to hinge upon the distinction between functional disorders and organic affections. On this point Dr. Schofield, of London, says in his "Force of Mind" that the more we examine this distinction, the more it tends to disappear; while another authority says: "There is no disease which does not involve organic change somewhere "--which seems reasonable. For we know that no organ can perform its functions if the nervous action is weak, and the lessened blood-supply impairs nutrition. Would not cellular degeneration finally ensue?
If this process could be arrested in its incipient stage, and functional action and nutrition improved by a combined medical and mental treatment, or by the latter alone in the manner already indicated, the probability is that the parts could be built up.
Dr. Gayer, of New York City, at the head of a new movement looking toward further investigation, claims that under hypnosis several cases of organic affection have been cured recently--if we are to trust the press--and also a severely burned arm healed.
The latter does not seem surprizing when we remember that under hypnosis French physicians have raised blisters on various parts of the body, have caused drops of blood to exude from the skin and even the name to appear, written in letters. of blood upon the arm.
Dr. Carpenter, in "Mental Physiology," describes a cure of warts by simple "suggestion," and the daily papers report that there is living to-day in a Boston suburb a man who cures such excrescences by simply passing his hand over them. Corns have also been cured by suggestion.
As regards structural changes, it is an open question. The distinguished Frenchman
[paragraph continues] Camille Flammarion asserts that the entire body may be caused to undergo change within a year; the softer portions yielding in from one to three months, the harder portions requiring eleven months.
In apparent confirmation of this we have Mailer's law: "A structural defect tends to be removed by an act increasing the organic action of the part."
And that this may be a mental act, Dr. Laycock points out, for he says: "If the attention be daily directed to an opaque cornea during a hypnotic trance, a deposit of lymph will be observed to form."
But why hypnosis, when a conscious act of attention is "sufficient to change the physical action of the part"?
Where poison has entered the blood, the out look is not encouraging. Yet Professor Gates has shown by his "Wonder-Bottle" that emotional states change the character of the blood, and it is almost too well known to mention that grief, fear, despondency,
and disappointment turn the hair white.
During the siege of Orleans, so the story runs, the soldiers of the Prince of Orange who were afflicted with scurvy were cured by a trick (practically suggestion)--no medicine being available.
It is not generally known that the Yogis of India possess a remarkable control of the body. They have the power to annul pain, and practised feats of levitation, walking on water, etc., centuries before the time of Christ. One of their number who visited Europe and America about five years ago demonstrated to physicians in both countries his ability to stop his heart's action for five seconds at a time--at least so the papers stated.
This, however, has been paralleled in the West. Dr. Brown-Séquard, of Paris, relates that he had a student in one of his classes who could diminish or accelerate his pulse at will. And Dr. Tuckey in "Psycho-Therapeutics"
gives, on the authority of Dr. Cheyne, an account of the experiments of a Colonel Townsend. This gentleman, in the presence of physicians, diminished his heart-action until it ceased entirely, and the physicians, after the usual tests, decided that the experiment had been carried too far. But as they were about to leave the room, signs of returning life appeared, and not long after, the heart was beating in a normal manner.
And thus we begin again at the beginning; we do not yet know to what extent the mind may control the body. Because a certain thing has never been done is no reason for assuming that it never will be done. Back to prehistoric cave-dwelling man, rude and unlettered, fashioning his rude implements of clay, is a far cry; and compared with it the civilization of which we boast seems a wondrous thing. Yet it has been compassed solely by the developing brain and mind of man. He
has dominated the lower orders of living creatures; he has girdled the earth; who doubts that he will navigate the air? He is harnessing the forces of nature and bending them to his service.
It seems hardly probable that if man can thus control forces external to himself, he is to remain forever subject to forces at work in his own organism. We can not assume that he has reached the climax of his powers--the goal of evolution--and if not, then he will continue to develop mentally.
And this development must certainly give greater self-knowledge and self-command. At the present the average man regards himself as a purely material being--of his mental life and power he has little cognizance. But when he awakes to this self-knowledge, there will follow inevitably an increase of mental power. And thus one may venture to prophesy that through an ever-growing consciousness
of power may man find his way at last to an absolute spiritual dominion, not only over nature but over self.
Mind-cure has been traced to Epidamus, an Egyptian priest, who flourished 500 years before the Christian era. Following him came the Hebrew prophets, who, it is said, also raised from the dead. Then came Jesus and His apostles, whose practises were followed by the priests of the Greek Church until the eleventh century.
In medieval times appeared St. Patrick the Apostle, and also the monk Gassner, who healed by touch, as did likewise some of the kings of that age.
In the seventeenth century Valentine Greatrakes, of Ireland, created great excitement; tho hardly greater, perhaps, than did Mesmer, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, in Paris.
The cures effected by the metallic tractors in England, the "Shriners" of London, "Dr." Cullis of Boston, and the
[paragraph continues] Mormon Elders are comparatively recent; while the miracle, faith, and prayer cures, hypnosis, Christian Science, and New Thought are current history.
A study of these various forms of cure discloses two facts: First, that practically every known disease has been cured by one or another, or so claimed. How permanent such cures were we have no means of knowing. And, second, that all such cures were effected by "a change in the mentality" or a change in the "state of mind." Without this, the cure could not have been wrought.
The only logical conclusion which can be deduced from these facts is that disease is mental or of mental origin.
Every sensible person knows that there is no healing virtue in the bone of some long-defunct saint (even if it can be proved that the bone was once a part of the anatomy of the saint!), but if the sufferer believes that touching it or kissing it will cure his
disease, the cure takes place. And if he believes that he is cured, then the disease must have been mental. And if all diseases have been cured by some such means--that is, a change in the mental state--then all disease must be mental.
But, it may be objected, such a disease as consumption can not be mental, because it is induced by bad sanitation.
Let us look at this. St. Paul said, "Man has a natural body and a spiritual body"; but this is equivalent to saying that man is a two-sided phenomenon, both mental and physical. Yet mind and body form a unit, "indissolubly associated," so far as this life is concerned, and because of this unity constantly reacting each part upon the other. So that not only do mental states affect the physical, but the converse; and this unfailing and inevitable interaction brings about, in case of disease, what has been termed "a vicious circle."
Thus, tho a mental state may induce
disease, on the other hand the body, reacting upon unhygienic conditions, may also induce disease.
The medical fraternity says that we are constantly taking into the system from the air, water, and food millions of poisonous germs, which, immediately they have gained entrance into the blood, set about to destroy us. But just as a nation maintains a standing army to repel invaders, so nature provides for this contingency by maintaining in the blood millions of other small bodies which attack and destroy the invaders. So long as the vitality or vital force is at par, they do their work well; but if the vital force is lessened by any cause (and bad sanitation among other things will do this), they are no longer equal to the contest and the germs gain the victory. The blood then becomes poisoned, the nutrition of the brain is impaired, and disease follows.
So whether the cause be mental or environmental,
the result is the same, as has been said. Therefore diseases which result from unhygienic conditions or the violation of nature's laws can not be said to be mental, or so it seems. But since all disease affects the mental state, it would seem to be closer to the fact to say that all diseases have a mental element.
This is the position taken by a leading London physician and author, and, if true, then all diseases are to some extent amenable to mind-cure. And this would explain why such diseases as consumption have been cured by a "change in the mentality," if it can be shown that such cures were authentic.
It is, however, undeniable that a large number of ills may be traced to mental or nervous origin, and to these one may certainly apply a rational mind-cure, such as has been suggested in these pages.
In chapter first it was pointed out that the organized or classified ideas which constitute
the mind are constantly reacting upon the body through the brain and nervous system, thus tending to bring about a mental and physical correspondence. Then if a "change in the mentality" or mental state is all that is necessary to cure disease, the problem is simple enough. One has merely to change his "state of mind," uproot pernicious, and transplant therapeutic, ideas.
But, it may be objected, this is a very slow process; it takes years for the habit of thought to write itself upon the body. This is perfectly true. One may "right about face" in his thinking, strive to ignore pain, divert his mind, and still have ample time to die of the disease before appreciable results are realized. Such a method of self-help presents a fine example of moral courage, will-power, and self-control, all fundamental and necessary; yet in serious or chronic cases it appears to fall short of the mark for these reasons.
In the first place, a persistent effort of will must be made to control the thinking, lift oneself out of the "slough of despond," and ignore pain. It demands unusual self-control, hence such a disciplined mind and will as few persons possess; and, unhappily, pain by its very nature tends to unbalance the mind, thus weakening the power of self-control.
And again, will, like every other mental and moral faculty, has a physical basis. To put it into operation, therefore, requires both moral and what we are accustomed to call physical stamina. But if the brain is in a state of exhaustion, its reaction upon the mind will be feeble, and hence sufficient energy will not be set free to carry out the behest of the mind. It is, of course, possible to whip up the brain by force of will; but it is like whipping up a jaded horse--his little spurt of energy is followed by a still greater exhaustion.
Evidently, then, the slow physical realization
of a changed habit of thought and of maintaining the correct mental and moral attitude in really serious disorders gives the problem a disheartening aspect. But when we take into consideration the physical side of the phenomenon called man, we get another point of view. If man were a disembodied spirit, then certainly the cultivation and exercise of his mental and moral faculties should keep him immune to disease. But he has a "natural body," played upon like all the phenomena of nature by natural forces, upon which he reacts; and the manner of this physical reaction is of vital importance. We have already seen that it is effected through the brain and nervous system; but the integrity of the nervous system depends primarily upon the integrity of the brain; hence there must be a normal condition of the brain if we are to obtain the best possible physical reaction.
A carpenter can not build a house with
faulty tools nor a pianist give an artistic performance upon a decrepit piano; and just so the finest, strongest mind can not manifest if its medium, the brain, is debilitated, disorganized, or diseased.
Rational mind-cure, therefore, is of a twofold character: the mental state or mode of thought must be reformed, and the brain must be built up, or brought to the normal standard. Since the fundamental essentials of health are "a sound brain [cortex] and a buoyant mind," we are justified in assuming that those diseases which are not of subjective or mental origin, or due to the entrance of poison into the blood, may be traced to some organic change in the brain structure. For we have it on high authority that "the surest way to check disease is to stimulate the brain [cortex] and increase the mental energy."
The first step in rational mind-cure is unquestionably to change the mode of thought;
but it is not enough to stop thinking depressing thoughts--a positive attitude must be taken in order to render the mind buoyant. And this may be done in several ways:
The method of "suggestion "--the daily affirmation of ideal health, hope, and courage--is good, for the reason that the mind feeds upon such ideas as harmonize with the inherent instinct of self-preservation. One is working with nature.
The use of the imagination is equally good; it is a molding force. But it requires mental concentration, which few practise or fully understand, and therefore the simple self-suggestion is easier, generally speaking.
The spiritual uplift which we call prayer is also an aid. For whatever uplifts the soul exhilarates the mind, and we thus get a better mental reaction. Its effect, however, is temporary, and it can not be relied upon to effect a cure; else why were
not our martyred presidents restored to health?
Finally, one may try to cultivate a saner philosophy of life. Most of us are too self-centered; we dwell too much upon our personal discomforts. If therefore we can bring ourselves to see that suffering in some form is the common lot; that it is a part of the discipline of life, which chastens the soul and fits it for a nobler sphere of thought and action, we shall go far toward cultivating a cheerful stoicism in regard to our ills.
The second step in self-help is to reform the mode of life, thus securing a better adjustment to external conditions. And here are needed common sense and self-control. The man who persistently fritters away his energy in emotional excesses; who delivers himself up to self-indulgence; who deprives himself of fresh air, sunshine, sleep, pure food, and pure water, or who works each day to the point of exhaustion,
must suffer the penalty. The law of compensation can not be escaped. The dyspeptic who persists in "bolting" his food, overloading his stomach, or eating when fatigued can not be cured by any method known to man. If you should have a sore on your hand and removed the scab as fast as it formed, how long would it take for the sore to heal?
Finally, one must by a combined mental and physical treatment build up the brain and thus improve the vitality.
To begin with, the brain is the hardest-worked part of the body, and the tendency of our time is to overwork it. So then one should learn to rest the brain. When the first symptoms of fatigue appear, stop; throw yourself back in an easy chair or couch and relax the muscles. This takes the tension off the brain. Every one knows that when the leg muscles begin to ache, after walking some distance, how refreshed he feels after a halt of a single
moment. Having relaxed the muscles, close the eyes, and let the thoughts drift; or, better still, make the mind a blank. Five minutes, even three minutes, will prove refreshing, and it should be resorted to at frequent intervals daily in nervous exhaustion. The celebrated Dr. Pepper, of Philadelphia, trained himself to fall asleep for two or three minutes at frequent intervals throughout the day, and thus accomplished a vast amount of work without fatigue. Just to relax the muscles, hold the brain steady, and stop thinking gives this cerebral rest.
The second measure, both hygienic and mental, is stimulating the brain, but this involves the third, which is breathing.
Some men and nearly all women breathe improperly. With the latter, tight clothing which crowds the vital organs together and diminishes lung space, and the wrong habit of sitting and standing, are responsible. Only a small portion of the
lungs is used, and there is residual air which is rarely changed. And yet "breath is life." We can live a number of days without food, several days without water, but only a few moments without air.
Every schoolboy knows that the oxygen in the air is necessary to life. Coming into contact with the blood through the thin membrane which lines the air-cells of the lungs, it changes the impure, blue blood into clean, red blood which pulses through the arteries, carrying the needed elements of nutrition to every part; and it not only cleanses but vitalizes the blood. Therefore, if one desires thoroughly to build himself up, body and brain, he must learn to breathe.
It should be made a habit. If one is obliged to live an indoor life, he should make it a practise to go to the door or window at frequent intervals and take each time at least seven full, deep inhalations, filling the lungs to their utmost
capacity. With head erect, and chest lifted, hold the inspired air for a few seconds, to extract all the oxygen from it.
An excellent exercise is to place the feet side by side, clasp the hands, and inhale and exhale regularly for several moments. The brain is thus electrically charged.
Another: Stand erect, inhale deeply, then holding the breath drop the head forward slightly, clench the hands, and tense all the muscles. This stimulates the circulation of the brain.
For nervous debility and mental depression, deep breathing is unexcelled, particularly if one applies imagination. Thus: when inhaling imagine that you are taking into your system the life-giving oxygen; that the invigorated blood is circulating in the brain, stimulating the exhausted cells, and imparting to them new life. With a little practise, one will soon be able to perceive the quickened circulation,
which will be followed by a sense of exhilaration.
Local self-treatment comes next in order. We have seen how the vital force leaving the brain spreads throughout the body by means of nerve-fibers; that it is the life-stimulus, since it keeps the internal fires burning; that if it depreciates or is unequally distributed, the weakest spot will be the first to suffer; and that only through its activity can the circulation be kept normal and also the nutrition of each and every part.
Manifestly, then, it is necessary to get control of this life-energy; and it is by no means as difficult as at first appears.
Simply concentrating the attention or fixing the mind upon any organ or part will, as before explained, direct the vital current to that spot. The nerves (vasomotor) will be quickened into action, and the blood-vessels will fill with an excess supply of blood. And as the blood contains
the elements of nutrition, an improvement in nutrition will take place. Changes will be made in the chemistry of the secretions, and in the thermic and lymphatic functions. This becomes apparent to the experimenter by the nervous agitation and the sensation of heat. Sometimes there will be a prickling of the skin, or it will "twitch" or "crawl," and again the throbbing of the blood in the arteries may be perceived.
If one applies imagination or "suggestion" results are quicker. Thus: One may form a mental picture of the vital force directed to a given spot, as the gardener turns his hose at will upon the plants under his care, and one may follow in imagination the course of the blood. And, finally, the purpose of all this: a mental picture of the desired result.
It takes longer in the saying than the doing. For once the practise is initiated, the laws of association and habit reinstate
previous conditions with astonishing ease. A little practise will bring any part of the body into almost instant communication with the mind.
As the physical processes are automatic it is well to work at regular intervals. Advantage is thus taken of the tendency to reinstate previous experience, and the worker will soon notice the state of preparedness of both mind and body. Ere long the initial impulse will serve to set the train in motion.
It means work--daily, persistent work--to get results. But if pills and powders fail to cure you, what are you going to do about it? Live at a "poor dying rate" or muster up courage to take a hand in your own salvation?
The time required to secure results depends upon the conditions of life, the age, the temperament, and the mental idiosyncrasy of the individual. Obviously success in any field of effort is achieved
the more quickly the more enthusiasm and persistence one brings to it.
In most cases, it is wiser to cooperate with a progressive physician--one who is broad-minded enough to recognize the mental factor in disease, and knows how to take advantage of it.
Life is very complex; it is a balancing of many forces and the adjustment of the organism to each and every one. Therefore many things have to be taken into consideration: heredity, temperament, environment, the mental attitude and the constitution, the age, the cause of the existing condition, etc.; and these the physician ponders and weighs as it is possible for very few of the laity to do. One may be working in the dark, when the knowledge of a single fact might put him on the right track.
Again, tho medicine does not always have the expected effect--sometimes a very different one from that anticipated--the
patient will find that the effect of such medicine as the modern, up-to-date physician may consider necessary will be greatly intensified by the mental and physical treatment outlined in these pages.
Finally, the action of one mind upon another is more immediately potent than the reaction of the mind upon itself; it is true of all suggestions or impressions received from without. The rose which I see and smell produces a far stronger effect upon my brain and mind than the rose I imagine I see and smell; that is, an ideal rose.
Thus, you may say to yourself daily: "I am well, and not only am I well, but I feel well. Disease is mental; so if I think myself well, I am well," etc.
Now this undoubtedly tends to buoy up the mind and you feel better in consequence. In course of time, if persisted in, it will bring about an improvement in the physical condition.
But suppose you meet a friend on the street. You are not feeling well, and you know that you look as you feel; nevertheless, when your friend exclaims, with a brightening glance: "How well you look! Why I never saw any one improve as you have! Haven't you gained flesh?"--the effect is magical. You feel instantly better and even doubt that you looked or felt bad in the first instance.
On the contrary, suppose that your friend exclaims with anxiety and dismay written in every line of his countenance: "How bad you look! Aren't you any better? Can't the doctors do anything for you?" Your courage drops below zero at once, and with it goes your vitality; and the idea that you are ill fastens its tentacles upon your mind with an unyielding grip. You not only feel worse, but you are worse. For some one has wisely said: "We think as we feel and we feel as we think we feel."
Hence it is not surprizing when our friends in the kindness of their hearts inquire in doleful accents and grief-drawn faces as to our rheumatism or neuralgia or jaundice that we part company with them in a chastened and despondent frame of mind.
It is, however, a matter which each person must decide for himself--whether or not he has the necessary knowledge and courage to attack his case single-handed. Some friend or physician may put him on his feet, but, when all is said, the permanence of his cure depends upon himself; for if he drops back into the old habit of thought and life, he will gradually reinstate the conditions which first laid him low, and will naturally relapse into a similar state. He is wise, therefore, in any event, if he sets about his own regeneration.
Moreover, it is a fine discipline for the mind. It strengthens the will, develops self-reliance, self-control, and self-confidence.
[paragraph continues] And when the victory is won, it is virtually self-mastery.
And "whoso conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city."