The Mind and Sickness
F. E. M. Roberts
THE words “psychology,” “psychic” and kindred terms pervade the literature of our day extensively, and from platform and pulpit we hear of “psychic treatment,” the “psychological moment,” etc., etc. In fact, psychology has apparently recently become a very interesting, not to say very fashionable “subject.” For psychology—the study of the mind or “soul” of man—is, for the first time in the world’s history, being put upon a practical basis. “How does it serve or benefit humanity?” is the question of the political economist, and the humanitarian. The answer is: “What benefits the individuals of a race benefits the whole race,” and Psychology answers the definition. Now, after centuries of vague and utterly unpractical theorizing about the mind and “soul,” Psychology has begun to observe, and experiments with facts, the result of these comparatively few observations and experiments has already proven the great importance of the study of Psychology to individuals and therefore to humanity. Indeed the predictions of some of the foremost medical men of the day is that Psychology is the one science to which the Twentieth Century must give heed. “The Secrets of the Universe,” says Dr. Beard, the New York Neurologist, “so far as man is concerned are locked in the cerebral cell. . . The forces that
are now filling the lunatic asylums and other institutions of Great Britain and America may yet be antagonized by higher forces that shall submerge them.” “Before the physical and moral reformer,” says Dr. Luckey, the celebrated Neurologist of London, “lie a vast field of psychological possibilities still to be explored.”
The basis of these predictions lies in the fact that Psycho-physiologists have recently proved beyond a peradventure that not only does a diseased body affect the mind, but to a greater degree, does a diseased mind affect the body. A wrong mental habit invariably causes some functional disorder—some important organ fails to do its proper share of work for the body. This, in time, weakens that special organ and in course of time real organic trouble may be brought about. The liver of a man, for instance, who habitually thinks on pessimistic lines, does not carry out its function properly, and the man pays for his lack of hope and faith—in frequent bilious attacks. We have also learned that the fit of rage which blanches or reddens the cheek, has, at the same time, not only deprived some important organ, or organs, of the blood necessary to their proper functioning, but has at the same time worked some mysterious change for the worse in the blood itself. The temperature at which the different cells of our body work best is about 98V2 degrees Fahr. And whether at the tropics or the poles, a marvelous mechanism maintains the temperature of the blood at this point with very little assistance from us. A thought of hatred, however, may in a moment, send it up to “boiling point” and in this condition it is spoilt food for muscle, nerve or brain cell. Dr. Hack Luke, in “The Influence of the Mind Upon the Body,” gives a number of instances in which drugs have acted, not according to their proved properties, but according to the expectation of the patient. For instance, a patient having asked for an aperient pill, the dispenser, by mistake,
gave him one composed of opium an antimony, which, however, instead of producing drowsiness and perspiration, acted in the way the patient expected it to act.
A thought of fear is one of the most destructive of physiological agencies, its powers of harming the body is apparently unlimited as illustrated by the following incident in “The Unknown,” by Flammarion. “Experiments are not wanting of persons dying suddenly in consequence of emotion. The experiment performed in the last century in England on a man condemned to death, who wTas made the subject of a study by medical men, is well known. The subject of the experiment” (Choosing death by the method he supposed the doctors were going to use, rather than public disgrace of being shot) “was fastened securely to a table with strong straps, his eyes were bandaged and he was then told that he was to be bled from the neck until every drop of blood had been drained. After this a puncture was made in his skin with the point of a needle and a syphon arranged near his head in such a manner as to allow tepid water to flow over his neck and fall with a slight sound into a basin placed on the floor. At the end of six minutes, the condemned man, believing that he had lost seven or eight quarts of blood, died ‘by the thought of death.’ ”
“The fact is,” states the late Prof. James, “that there is no sort of consciousness whatever—be it sensation, feeling or idea —which does not directly and of itself tend to discharge into ‘motor effect/ The ‘motor effect’ need not always be an outer stroke of behaviour. It may be only an alternation of the heart beats of breathing, or a modification in the distribution 'of blood such as blushing or turning pale, or what not. But in any case, it is there in some shape or other, when consciousness is there, and a belief as fundamental as any in modern psychology, is the belief at last attained, that conscious processes of any sort, conscious processes merely as such, must pass over into motion, open or concealed.”
Thoughts indeed, are “Architects of Fate” in the physical as well as in the mental and moral realms; and hope for suffering humanity lies in the fact that right thinking helps to bring about, not
only right mental and moral, but also physiological conditions. That an attitude of courage and hope, for instance, will not only cause better circulation of the blood, but will also improve its quality.
It is the scientific observing and recording of facts of this kind that has brought about the world-wide Mind-cure Movement of our day, which exists among lay organizers under the different names of Christian Science, Metaphysics, Mentaltherapeutics, mind-healing, etc., The general scientific term is psychotherapy.
This is no new power of the mind. One need merely recall the numerous and varied cures that have been made through all ages without the use of drugs to know that it must be an old one. The “Medicine Man” of the poor Indian frequently exorcised the “bad-spirit,” the supposed cause of the trouble, by hideous howlings. Kings cured by touch : the relics of saints, believed in, have had the same power, while there are thousands of testimonies to-day to the “miracles” worked at Lourdes and St. Anne de Beaupre and other shrines.
Which is the primary influence in the case of sickness and health, the mind or the body? Whatever answer may be given to this question is as impossible to prove as that other endless question “In the beginning which came first: the chicken or the egg?” There is no difficulty in proving, however, that the mind is capable of being the master power with all of us. That it uses the body, controls the body and in many cases rises superior t-o it, as instanced so often by the early martyrs; by the dancing dervishes of Asia to-day, who in their religious ecstasies cut and gash themselves with apparently no attendant suffering or pain; by the soldier who fights on with bullet in arm or leg, by the mother who watches for days by the bed of a sick child with no feelings of weariness or hunger, her thoughts all on the little sufferer, by the numerous historic cases such as that of the boy who, mortally wounded, brought from Ratisbon, news of victory to Napoleon, “a mile or more away.”
What are the claims of Psychotherapy as a healing agency? How wide are they? Does it claim to cure everything or only certain ills? It is not necessary to con-
sider here the claims of those pseudosciences that declare “All is mind; there is no matter.” Their exponents, with a logic not found in their literature, refuse to see any benefit in physical treatment. Their treatments often hear testimony by the unnecessary deaths of patients to the fallacy of their theories and their conduct brings discredit upon the real scientific mind-healing. Such “faith-healers” deny the existence of pain and sickness and yet proclaim their power, or Faith’s power, to heal what to them does not exist, the diseased body.
The scientific exponents of psychotherapy, however, declare that as an independent agent, that is, independent of physiology, the field of psychotherapy is strictly limited. Its exponents do not, for instance, claim to cure organic troubles and they prescribe, therefore, the aid of the specialist, for the treatment of cancer, a broken leg, or an infectious disease, for neither the faith-cure nor the mind-cure, they declare, is adequate treatment for the diseased or maimed limb or the system impregnated with typhoid or diphtheria germs: In other words, they do not claim the power to run an engine that is without a boiler, perhaps, or water, or fuel, or in any other way badly damaged or lacking in essentials; but these defects remedied or supplied by the expert machinist, they do guarantee to supply or assure the oxygen, the draft and the enkindling match, otherwise the energy, will and motivepower, without which the potential energies stored in our well-supplied machines would never be liberated. And just here one might ask, may not Science as well as Faith claim, in view of its glorious achievements of the past, some rights to be considered a hand-maid of Truth?
Psychotherapy claims pre-eminent rights—because of its already pre-eminent achievements—in the field of functional neurosis, that is, in all diseases rising from some perverted nervous condition, which nervous influence affects the function of an organ and makes it as unfit for its proper work in the body as though it were actually maimed or diseased. But some may ask: is psychotherapy, therefore, applicable only to persons nervous
by disease? Yes. But nervousness,
we are told, is the disease of the age, and psychotherapy has, there-
fore, an important role to play in attending the health of the age. Dubois, one of the greatest Neuropatnologists of the day, says, “I dare to state that 90 per cent, of dyspeptics are psychoneurotics, and that ail these patients should have nothing to do with restricted diet and stomachic medication. In the majority of cases very real cases of functional disorders exist but all these troubles are secondary, they indicate nervous depression. I often see patients who were just on the point of seeing clearly, but who missed it through their auto-suggestions (These are the thoughts suggested by the attitude of our own objective mind) and these sometimes brought about by their physicians—so with limited diets and exclusive diets go from bad to worse. Do not go about repeating the statement that nothing affects the temper like diseases of the stomach, it would be better to say nothing troubles the functions of the stomach like moody tempers.”
Again, the drink or drug habit, Dubois declares to be a disease of the nervous system and can be cured, permanently cured, by psychotherapy, which always includes proper rest and good food besides the proper mental treatment. In fact, the conclusions of the most advanced psychophysiologists of the day is that psychic disorders require psychic treatment and that many distressing and dangerous disorders are purely or primary psychic.
The following abbreviated list of diseases successfully treated by Dr. Luckey, the celebrated neurologist of London, England, by psychotherapy, will give an idea of the variety of ills that are of nervous origin. Chronic Alcoholism, Tobacco Habit, Morbid Delusions, Melancholia, Morbid Blushing—Epilepsy, Functional Paralysis, Writer’s Cramp, Stammering, Dyspepsia of various kinds, Chronic Rheumatism, Cerebral Tumor, Morbid or false ideas—as for instance, the constant feeling that some one is behind one with the impelling desire to look back and see who, etc. Dubois claims that for all such highly nervous people drugs are not only inadequate, but are positively injurious. The diseased or morbid mind is the source of the trouble and any cure to be permanent, must calm the troubled waters of the fountain.
The limit of the power of the mind over the body has still to be set and may be beyond our day-dreaming. We know that in the East, India for instance, where mind-control and direction are regularly studied and practised, adepts achieve power over their bodies that to us seem nothing short of miraculous. The Hatha Toga system, for instance, includes a complete series of exercises for the control of the physical body, so that all the muscles, both voluntary and involuntary, are brought into subjection to the will. The adepts in this system are called “Togi” as are also those in the Raja system. These iatter Togi claim to be able to free the mind and soul from the body and transfer the mind and soul from place to place without its body.
But to return to the Hatha Togi, about two years ago, Prof. Von Bergmann, the famous surgeon, introduced one of these Togi to a meeting of the Berlin Medical Society. “He proved a puzzle indeed to the wise and learned men who comprise that erudite body of Berliners! Without apparent effort he drew up his abdominal organs from their proper position, leaving a cavity in their place. Then he pressed them down until his abdomen grew globular. Then he divided them into two sections, right and left, with a hollow between them. He can make the muscles of any part of his body tremble and shake like jelly. He is able to stop his pulse beating and can move his heart about as he wishes. What, exactly, the powers are that he puts into motion to bring about these singular results remained a mystery, even after his heart had been examined by Roentgen apparatus.” Needless to say, but few arrive at this perfection of physical control, as the discipline and the exercises are long and tedious, but it demonstrates some of the potentialities of our marvellous human mechanism.
Strangely enough, though, as a lay movement, mind healing has spread almost phenomenally within the last quarter of a century. The professional medical authorities have, with amazingly few exceptions, failed to put into practice their own theories. In consequence, there are only a few Psychiatric Hospitals in the world to-day. And as a further consequence, though thousands testify to the positive cures made by the lay exponents'
of psychotherapy, yet the ignorance of some of these representatives of both the facts of physiology and psychology does not make for the advancement of their individual followers. Mind-cures to secure the development as well as betterment of men, must be based as are all other permanently successful enterprises upou faith and reason. We know that misjudged facts and untrue statements have successfully launched enterprises, but, these disproved, investors have not only lost fortune but often faith in these and other genuine propositions. Though faith is the paramount factor in all mind'cures, (that is, the belief that you are going to be healed) yet Reason has, too, its part to play, especially in the equipment of the healer.
Elwood Worcester, D.D., Ph.D., who, with the assistance of eminent medical men, has for the last four years been conducting most successfully, classes in psychotherapy at Emmanuel Church, Boston, without charge, says, in this connection: “We encourage the patients to acquaint themselves with the principles involved, by maintaining a good library of standard works, etc. Faith may be strong but it needs accurate and skillful direction in order to be useful as a therapeutic,” or healing agent, hence the need of careful diagnosis, which is not merely physical but also moral. This is not a task which every shepherd is qualified to perform. It requires careful observation of temperament, capacity and idiosyncrasy which will tax the resources of the most gifted man. This study of conscience, this analysis of a life’s experience in order to discover the cause of the present disturbance and to trace its history, requires time, sympathy and some psychological acuteness—motives which powerfully affect one man will have absolutely no effect upon another. Nor is it necessary merely to satisfy the reason, the will also must be aroused, possibly from the slumber of years. The task we are attempting is above all a moral undertaking, it demands moral qualities of the highest orders, intuition, sympathy, kindness of heart, and an absolutely inexhaustible patience.”
A new thought, a new conception of our relation to the Universe, to God, will suddenly “touch the button,” to use a familiar illustration, that sets in motion that
mysterious, marvellous inner mechanism of the mind and a “new man” is made then and there, physically, mentally or morally. Innumerable authentic cases might be cited in proof of this and each one of us, perhaps, can recall at least one case where “a changed person from that day,” as we say, was the result of a new hope introduced into that life, a sudden shock, or a deep love, something that in an instant changed the whole current of thought. In Harold Begbee’s wonderful book “Twice Born Men,” numerous instances are given of “re-created men.” In one instance, “The Puncher,” once a famous pugilist whose record was that never once was he beaten by his own weight, became, through drink, “an object of fear.” The state into which he had sunk can only be understood by a medical man. This man conceived a hatred for his wife and at last determined to murder her and end his life by dying game upon the scaffold. “With a butcher’s knife concealed upon his person, he goes into a tavern for a drink. Standing at the bar he sees a vision of his wife murdered just as he had planned, just as he had desired, sees that he had died game upon the scaffold just as he had determined, but with it—the despairing knowledge that he was still not at rest. Somewhere in the universe, disembodied and appalingly alone, his soul was unhappy. This was the vision. With it, he saw the world pointing at his son
and saying, ‘that’s young - whose
father was hanged for murdering his mother.’ A wave of shame came over
him. He came out of his vision with this sense of horror drenching his thought.” The result was a re-created man and his conversation has stood the test of many trying years. Harold Begbee asks: “How did shame come to that utterly depraved and hardened man? And what in the language of psychology is shame? How does grey matter become “ashamed” of itself?
“It is difficult,” says Ray Stannard Baker, in his book, “The Spiritual Unrest,” “to convey any idea of the eagerness with which suffering women, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and non-believers, have come to Emmanual Church in search of the new life. Where once the ministers were compelled to go out and urge men to come in (and this, notwithstanding the fact that Emmanual Church has for years been doing the finest institutional and settlement work of any Church in America) it is difficult now to find room or time for all who come. All sorts of cases have been treated by Dr. Worcester and Dr. McComb and the lives of many women have been utterly transformed ; from weak, hopeless, complaining, suffering beings they have been changed to hopeful happy, courageous beings.”
When, may we ask, will the pastors and medical men of Canada wake to the facts of modern psychology and physiology, and the testimony of modern research to the faith cures of Christ and the early Church? “And He did not many works there, because of their unbelief.”—(Mat. 13 c., 58 v.).