George Albert Coe.

The spiritual life : studies in the science of religion online

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a patient to think that he is not in pain, he is not in
pain ; or, a pain of which we are not conscious is not
a pain. This is equivalent to saying that where therei
is no painful consciousness there is no consciousness \
of pain a proposition as useless as it is tautologous.
As far as can be ascertained Jr.qm.. the, evidence .of
publicly known fact, the limits of Christian Science
healing 'are precisely the same ^ as ^ those recognized
By the regular medical profession in the employment
ofsuggestion. The founder of the system says:
"Until the advancing age admits the efficacy and the
supremacy of Mind, it is better to leave the adjust-
ment of broken bones and dislocations to the fingers
of the surgeon, while you confine yourself chiefly to
mental reconstruction, and the prevention of in-
flammation and protracted confinement." 1 This is
a most curious, not to say amusing, parallel. And
the force of it is not broken by Mrs. Eddy's claim
that she has cured "what is called organic disease as
readily as she has cured purely functional disease;" 2
for the very same claim can be made for faith cure
in all its forms and for the regular medical use of
suggestion. The real question is not whether faith
or Christian Science or plain suggestion has cured
what are called organic diseases, but whether the
diagnosis in these cases was correct both before and
after the event. Until we are assured of such diag-

- Science and Health , 400. 2 Ibid., 43.



nosis, after as well as before the cure, we must
assume that science without a prefix has prob-
ably defined the limits correctly. Furthermore, in
the interest of human learning and human happi-
ness, whoever knows of cases such as Mrs, Eddy
claims to have cured should use every endeavor to
bring them out of their obscurity into such light of
publicity as will compel conviction.

It is to be hoped, in fact, that faith cure or Chris-
tian Science or something else will yet demonstrate
all that is claimed as to the possibility of curing
organic diseases so easily and quickly; yes, to set
broken bones and reduce dislocations without re-
course to physical manipulation! Who that loves
his fellows would not hail with joy such a demon-
stration? Certainly science does not claim infalli-
bility, nor does it pretend to say what is possible or
impossible. It merely endeavors to give a correct
analysis of observable facts. It is by analysis of
such facts that the present view of the capacity of
therapeutic suggestion has been reached, and noth-
ing but further observation of the right kind of
indubitable facts is necessary to bring about any
degree of amendment.

Again, Christian Science treatment, in common
with medical treatment, has various degrees of suc-
cess and failure. Not infrequently it fails com-
pletely, even where the conditions seem to favor its

success. This being so, the truly scientific attitude



of mind would require that the facts be more com-
pletely analyzed, so as to show what conditions were
present in the successful cases but absent in the
others. For faith curers to say that a patient failed
of a cure through lack of faith when the only evi-
dence of such lack is that the cure did not occur, or
for Christian Scientists to claim a similar ground
for their own failures, is simply to beg the question.
Now, until such analysis of negative cases is forth-
coming from the believers in these systems we must
suppose that the real difficulty is in the practice
itself, and not in anything else whatever. Just
where the difficulty lies is plain enough to anyone
who understands the general facts of suggestion:
faith curers and Christian Scientists employ it upon
persons who are not readily suggestible, and in dis-
eases in which it is inappropriate or inadequate,
Tnat the adherents of these systems do not perceive
this to be the fact when they themselves fall victims
to their own imperfect practice would be astounding
if we did not take into account its entire consistency
with a method which proves the possibility of cure
by deduction instead of by induction. When you
deduce a consequence from a certainly known prem-
ise it is necessary to stand by it at all hazards. A
neighbor of mine was found by a caller hugging the
fire and nursing a cold. "O dear !" said she, "some-
how I have let go !"

That such a system should find it impossible


accept all the consequences of its own logic, however,
is what might be expected. While the law of sug-
gestion declares simply that physical functions tend
to conform themselves to our ideas of them, Chris-
tian Science goes on to claim that we may so disbe-
lieve in disease as not to suffer any pain due to any
physical condition. It would logically follow that
we could dispense with food, and this consequence
Mrs. Eddy appears to have beheld ; for she says : "It
would be foolish to venture beyond our present un-
derstanding, foolish to stop eating until we gain
more goodness and a clearer comprehension of the
living God. In that perfect day of understanding
we shall neither eat to live nor live to eat." 1 Yes,
one may reply, it would be foolish to venture beyond
our present understanding; but if the premises are
so perfectly understood, how can the conclusion be
obscure? How, unless our own inconsistency with
facts is interpreted as inability to understand them?
Not to press this point further, we may notice that
here, again, as far as practice is concerned, medical I
science and Christian Science are in strange har-
mony. It is truly scientific to continue to eat until
we know how to live without eating! And many
who do not follow Mrs. Eddy believe with her that
in the day of perfect understanding we shall neither
eat to live nor live to eat !

All the probabilities are clearly in favor of the con-

Science and Health, 387.


elusion that all the successes of Christian Science
healing fall under the general law of suggestion. It
differs from medical practice, however, in most im-/
portant respects. First, being founded upon a proc-/
ess of deductive reasoning, or, rather, believing it-
self to be so founded, it is to that extent incapable of
giving to observable facts their proper value. The
theoretical basis, in other words, is sought by a mode
of intellectual procedure outgrown and condemned
since the age of Bacon. Second, as a consequence,
it dispenses with diagnosis of a real sort ; and, third,
administers the same remedy to all persons and for
all diseases ! In thus employing a part for the whole
it is not unlike the various quackeries that infest the

Of course, my neighbors point -out the benefits
that A, B, and C have experienced. But just the
same kind of testimony can be had for almost any
patent nostrum, not to mention the work of the regu-
lar physicians. Undoubtedly Christian Science is
employing a curative agency that is of inestimable
value in certain classes of cases, and of some value
to everyone who wisely employs it in either health
or disease. The crucial question is not whether this
method succeeds, but rather whether it is being em-
ployed in a manner that secures the maximum of\
good results with the minimum of ill results. Here"
it would not be inappropriate to refer to the disas-
trous results that frequently attend Christian Science



treatment, to say nothing of what would result if the
general populace should once dare to intrust all ail-
ments to it. But the distressing facts of failure, of
needless death, even, have been too often spread be-
fore the public to need repetition here.

Meanwhile, it is worth noticing that the regular j
medical profession is to-day working wonders with
suggestion no less astounding than those of Chris- '
tian Science. If the growth of Christian Science
has, as is claimed, stimulated physicians to the study
of suggestion, let us be duly thankful. It is a prin-
ciple with some of the great minds in medical science
not to ignore irregular, homemade, and even quack
remedies. But the more probable fact is that Chris- j
tian Science has merely hastened a growth that was I
already started in the world of science and would of
itself have sooner or later attained all that lay hid-
den in the principle. /The facts that I am about to
relate as illustrative of the wonders of suggestion
were communicated to me directly by the physician
concerned, and in the presence of the patient and her
husband. The patient had submitted to an opera-
tion, but the wound had failed to heal. Suppura-
tion set in, and continued until the patient despaired
of life and was brought home to die. A new physi-
cian was now summoned, the one who tells me the
tale. Suspecting that the difficulty had a nervous
of mental root, he proceeded, little by little, without

the use of medicines, to inspire hope in the patient's



mind. He talked to her about the influence of the
mind upon the body, even had her read passages on
the subject from scientific books, taught her breath-
ing, relaxation, and how to secure physical exercise
though lying helpless in bed. In three weeks the
wound was entirely dry, though medication other
than ordinary bandaging had not been resorted to,
and hypnosis had not been employed at all. Im-
provement was rapid from that point on, though one
unfavorable circumstance occurred that seemed,
nevertheless, to form the scientific climax of the case.
Measles broke out in the family, the mother became
anxious about the children, and the wound, already
dry for some time, began once more to suppurate.
Again it was closed by purely mental means together
with the hygienic measures already mentioned, and
no more setbacks occurred. In connection with this
case, it is interesting to read another piece of advice
given by Mrs. Eddy to her followers. She says : "To
fix Truth steadfastly in your patients' thoughts ex-
plain Christian Science to them ; but not too soon."
Again: "Explain audibly to your patients (as soon
as they can bear it) the utter control which Mind
holds over body." 1

If there were need of further illustrating what is
common to medical practice on the one hand, and
Christian Science and faith cure practice on the
other, in so far, that is, as the latter succeed, it would

1 Science and Health , 412, 413.



be possible to multiply many times instances scarcely
less remarkable than the one just described. But
enough has been said to show the common principle
of all these different classes of healing without medi-
cation. The conclusion is that no one possesses a
monopoly of this principle ; that the effectiveness of
the principle is utterly independent of the theolog-
ical or metaphysical theories that sometimes accom-
pany its use, and that, in the interest of the highest
safety as well as effectiveness, its application requires
scientific diagnosis, and, indeed, scientific observa-
tion and guidance from beginning to end.

Suggestion and Miracle.

Facts like those of suggestive healing have not
failed to raise the question whether suggestion may
not be the clew to the miraculous element in the lives
of the saints, and even in the life of Christ, to say
nothing of its bearing upon the wonder-working
features of other religions. On the face of the
stories of saintly visions, trances, and revelations,
one can certainly read the imprint of auto-sugges- \
tion. Nor must we stop here. Let us consider two
exclusive cases of the most strange physical mani-
festations that have been known to accompany spirit-
ual exaltation. Seven hundred years ago St. Fran-
cis of Assisi, founder of the order of the Franciscans,
after long meditation on the wounds of Christ, found

upon his own person sores or "stigmata" corre-



spending to the five wounds of the Saviour. Simi-
larly, in the third quarter of this century, Louise
Lateau, a devout girl, repeatedly shed blood at the
same points. A committee of competent investi-
gators, after carefully examining into her case, be-
came convinced that the phenomena were genuine,
and free from intentional deception. But this very
wonder has been duplicated in substance by one or
more hypnotic subjects through whose skin blood
has been caused to exude by suggestion. Lesser
phenomena of the same class, such as the production
of redness, inflammation, and swelling, have been
repeatedly witnessed.

If all this should throw light upon some of the
miracles of Christ, there would be no occasion for
wonder. There appears no impropriety in his em-
ploying suggestion to the full extent of its therapeu-
tic capacity. He made no claims not to do so. Fur-
thermore, he did not in any way explain the modus
operandi of his acts of compassionate healing. What
is left to us, then, but to analyze these events as we
would any others, and to accept the explanations of
science as far as they go ? This is not the place, even
if the disposition were present, to give summary his-
torical judgment upon the problems to which this
mode of study would lead. Certainly much is re-
corded for which suggestion offers no explanation,
but this should by no means deter us from applying
this clew wherever it suffices, and trying it wherever



there is the least prospect of success. Any fear that
this would detract from his unique claims would
simply misplace the accent of the whole Christian
conception. It would turn attention from the Christ
himself to physical phenomena. Against this very
misplacement of accent Jesus himself explicitly pro-
tested. It would be in no degree derogatory to his
character or to his claims of most intimate relations
with the Father that he should employ the ordinary
forces of nature and of mind. There is even collat-
eral evidence in one case that this was the fact. The
multitude of all sorts of sick folk who resorted to the
pool of Bethesda can there be any doubt that the
kind of help they received was largely the same as
that derived from the sacred pools one can see to-day
in various parts of Europe ? And if so, Jesus' s word,
taking the place of the pool, may justly be regarded
as healing by the same means. We simply do not
need to look any farther to find the explanation.

This leads to the remark that the very idea of the
revelation of God in Christ is that of a divine pos-
session and use of finite faculties. Neither in the life
of Jesus nor in the prayers of any follower of his are /
we to assume a separation of natural from super- 1
natural. To unfold all that this implies would carry
us too far into philosophy and into the interpretation
of the profoundest conceptions of Christianity. But
this one word is offered in order to prevent the mis-
assumption that the farthest possible application of



scientific knowledge to any event, whether in our
lives of trust and prayer or in the life of the Master,
at all excludes, or puts away, or in any degree mini-
mizes, those divine influences in which we live and
move and have our being.

Hygienic and Therapeutic Value of the Christian

Attitude toward Life.

If we may assume that the keynote of a normal
Christian life is not the thought of sin, or of peni-
tence, or of suffering, or of anxiety of any sort, but
rather that of a joyous realization of the highest
good, a realization begun now and growing ever
toward greater fullness if we may assume this,
then it follows that the Christian mode of life tends
directly toward physical health. Other things being
equal, a religion that ruled by fear would have less
robust votaries than one ruled by love. Faith, hope,
and loVe are all full of constructive suggestion ; for
the first two take the attention away from present
evil to present and future good ; and love the out-
going of self toward others for their own good is
the very antithesis of that brooding and self-con-
templation whence grow the rankest weeds of un-
healthful auto-suggestion. With persons of certain
temperaments, if not of all, selfishness is distinctly
unhealthful ; and so it comes to pass that he who fails
to use his health for the bettering of the world is in

danger of losing even that which he hath.



It is remarkable how fully Jesus expressed the
healthful state of mind in respect to God and his
relation to our interests. "Be not anxious," "Let
not your heart be troubled" these are words of
physical as well as spiritual healing. If we consider
how, in spite of his own wondrous load of sorrow,
he nevertheless with unremitting consistency painted
life in colors the very opposite of all that is morbid,
of all that is depressing ; how, though he never blind-
ed the eyes of his followers to the suffering they
should endure for his sake, he taught them how to
rejoice even in tribulation ; and how perfectly all this
fits one of the deepest physical as well as spiritual
needs of the world if we consider all this, we shall

see new reason for calling him the Great Physician.




A Study of Spirituality

As long as men differ as profoundly as they do
in temperament, education, occupation, and what-
ever else goes to shape a man's mode of reacting to
the facts of life, there will be different types of reli-
gious experience. It becomes a matter of the great- 1
est importance, therefore, to adjust religious train-,
ing and religious exercises so as to appeal to the ,
universally human in all these variations. What ap- ,
peals to one man will not appeal to another. To
adopt a homely old saw, "What's one man's food is
another's poison." Emerson says :

" I like a church ; I like a cowl ;

I love a prophet of the soul ;

And on my heart monastic aisles

Fall like sweet strains, or pensive smiles :

Yet not for all his faith can see

Would I that cowled churchman be.

Why should the vest on him allure,

Which I could not on me endure?" The Problem.

There is, undoubtedly, something universal in reli-
gion, something adapted to all men, irrespective of
temperamental and other peculiarities. When, how-
ever, one tries to say just what that something is,
one's own temperament and environment are likely

to tint one's statement. Nevertheless, the general
14 205


religious consciousness of the world appears to be
reaching the conclusion that Jesus grasped this uni-
versal principle and gave it a consummate expression I
in his statement of the law of love. Love to God 1
and love to fellow-men this is the universally at-
tainable in religious experience. Yet even this law
is liable to be misunderstood unless we go back to
the Greek and observe that the verb translated "love"
does not mean "be fond of," does not designate
primarily a state of feeling, but a state of will, an
attitude of mind that can be voluntarily assumed by
all persons, irrespective of temperamental and other

In the course of ecclesiastical development, how-
ever, this universally human conception of the reli-
gion of Christ has been warped into special tempera-
mental forms. What Jesus made so broad has been
narrowed down to fit a particular kind of men, and
temperamental differences have been mistaken for
grades of spirituality. Following the fourfold di-
vision of temperaments, we may say that more than
justice has been done to the melancholic and san-
guine temperaments, and less than justice to the
choleric. Or, pursuing the qualitative mode of
classification, we may say that feeling has been un-
duly honored to the relative neglect of thought and,
especially, of action.

It may conduce to clearness to give at this point

a brief description of the four temperaments. The



sanguine temperament, to begin with, is impulsive
and impressionable. It responds promptly to the
most heterogeneous influences and impulses; is full
of feeling, ardent, hopeful, absorbed in the present ;
but its impressions and impulses are changeable and
lacking in depth. The melancholic or, more proper-
ly, sentimental temperament is largely given to feel-
ing and to feeling of a deeper and more lasting sort.
It is introspective, tends somewhat strongly to un-
happy moods, values the future above the present,
and weighs everything by standards drawn from
ideals that master the feelings. Next, the choleric
temperament, in contrast with both these, is the tem-
perament of action. Thought is not necessarily lack-
ing in the melancholic temperament, but it does not
tend so directly to practical issues as it does in the
choleric. The choleric man is prompt, intense, per-
haps impetuous. He looks without rather than with-
in, and values the present above the future. He is
likely to value consistency very highly, and his tend-
ency is to be more intense than broad. The phleg-
matic temperament, finally, is the slow one, the tem-
perament of deliberation rather than of feeling or
of impulse or of practical effectiveness. It must be
understood, of course, that no one of these tempera-
ments is often met with in its purity in any one per-
son, although nearly everyone has a greater leaning
in one direction than another. When our discussion

speaks of persons of this or that temperament, there-



fore, the meaning is always persons whose mental
organization is predominantly of the type named.

It has just been suggested that the development
of ecclesiastical Christianity has tended to give
more than their due to the sanguine and melan-
cholic temperaments, and less than its due to the
choleric. The evidence for this must now be of-
fered. And first let us undertake a

Psychological Analysis of Sainthood.

If you will run over in your mind the qualities of
mind and character which the Church, though
hardly mankind in general, is most fond of con-
templating, you will readily perceive that the specif-
ically saintly qualities, in the traditional sense of
sainthood, are almost exclusively states of feeling.
A saint may have a strong intellect and vigorous
will, but his claim to sainthood is not found in
either of these. The saintly feeling may be either
a quiet river, flowing through meadows of medita-
tion toward the ocean of infinite love, or a mountain
stream with many a thundering cataract ; but feeling
of one kind or another is the predominant quality.

Take St. Antony as an example. In Butler's
Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal
Saints, we read that, at the age of twenty, Antony,
listening to a sermon, heard the words, "Go, sell all
that thou hast and give to the poor." He imme-
diately applied these words literally to himself, and



with such impetuosity that the question is a legiti-
mate one whether his act was not a product of sug-
gestion pure and simple. He then became a recluse
and fled to the desert, where he gave himself up to
solitary contemplation and extreme austerities.
Here he passed through a remarkable inner drama.
Storm after storm of temptation swept over him.
At times the intensity of his feelings produced hal-
lucinations : he heard the voice of Christ, was beat-
en by devils, was frightened by a specter of a black
boy, was enticed by a phantom woman.

The picture here is perfectly self-consistent, and
its explanation has been given in the last two chap-
ters. Antony was a person of intense sensibility
united with a high tendency to mental automatisms.
He belongs to the same class as the persons in
Group I of Chapter III.

St. Francis of Assisi is perhaps the best example
of what the Roman Church means by a saint. The
instance of his extreme suggestibility given in the
last chapter has its setting in a highly emotional
temperament. We are told that he "communicated
[partook of the sacrament of the Lord's supper]
very often, and ordinarily with ecstasies in which
his soul was rapt and suspended in God." Often
while in prayer he fell into raptures. Contempla-
tion of the sufferings of Christ brought on weep-
ing so copious and prolonged as to ruin his eyes.

What it meant to him to have communion with God



is shown by a canticle which he composed on the
love of Christ, a part of which is subjoined:

"Into love's furnace I am cast;

Into love's fui'nace I am cast ;

I burn, I languish, pine, and waste.

love divine, how sharp thy dart !

How deep the wound that galls my heart!
As wax in heat, so, from above
My smitten soul dissolves in love.

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Online LibraryGeorge Albert CoeThe spiritual life : studies in the science of religion → online text (page 12 of 16)