W. F. (Warren Felt) Evans.

The primitive mind-cure : the nature and power of faith, or, elementary lessons in Christian philosophy and transcendental medicine online

. (page 6 of 18)
Online LibraryW. F. (Warren Felt) EvansThe primitive mind-cure : the nature and power of faith, or, elementary lessons in Christian philosophy and transcendental medicine → online text (page 6 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Peruvian bark and iron, is a mental languor. Every one
knows how a little pleasurable mental excitement increases
the strength and invigorates the whole muscular system.
Nausea is not in the membranes of the stomach, but is either
a conscious or unconscious feeling of repugnance and antip-
athy in the soul. The very tJiought of a disgusting object
causes us to express it b}'' a movement as if we were about
to vomit. Is it then the object or the thought of it that
makes us sick? But 3'ou will ask, " Is poison in the mate-
rial substance or is it in us? " If I affirm it is not necessa-
rily in the drug, you will kindly ask me to swallow stricnia
or Prussic acid. You will excuse me if I answer you in the
language of another under analogous circumstances : "Get
thee behind me, Satan, for it is written. Thou shalt not
tempt the Lord thy God." The truth seems to be that in the
spiritual or immaterial essence of Prussic acid there is some-
thing antagonistic to the life-principle in us. It is certainly
given in medicine in small quantities, so that below a certain
amount it is not considered deleterious, but useful. Then it
is not the thing itself that kills, but the quantity. What we
affirm, and which is the only practical principle in relation to
the subject is, that having swallowed it accidentally, so that
we have not by our presumption " tempted the Lord our
God," there is a power in a true faith (if we have it or can


get it) that will save us from its effects. The lower law of
its deadly influence will be suspended by the action of the
higher law of faith. For this we have the authority of Jesus
the Christ. (Mark xvi : 17, 18.) If a person swallows only
a small amount of stricnia, but under the impression that it is
a large quantity, it will intensify its effects. If, on the other
hand, we swallow an overdose, but believing and thinlcing It
only a small quantity, it will mitigate its influence. If our
mode of thinking in regard to it thus affects its action, why
is it unreasonable that faith may wholly repeal the natural
law of its action ? And if it is thus an antidote to poison,
and annuls the law of its action, why may it not cure all
diseases that are curable ? Perhaps our best remedy is found
in the simple prayer, " Lord, increase our faith."

"We might continue this discussion in regard to the mental
aspect of disease, and the common illusions respecting it,
and affirm that dyspepsia is not a condition of the stomach,
and so on through the whole catalogue of ills that flesh is
supposed to be heir to. But enough has been said to illus-
trate a general principle. The whole practice of materialis-
tic medication will seem to the spiritual man as absurd as it
would be to take the invalid and place him in the sunlight,
and then apply the remedies to the shadow of the man rather
than to the man himself. In the system of Jesus, the body
was healed by saving and restoring the soul. So, in the
employment of spiritual forces and metaphysical agencies in
the cure of an invalid, we ignore the body so far as to view
it only as the umbra of the real man, and direct our atten-
tion to the morbid idea, the mental image of the disease in
the mind of the patient. The importance of this procedure
we shall endeavor to show in our next lesson. We do this
on the self-evident principle that an effect will disappear on
the removal of its cause, as an effect exists in its cause, and
is one with it. They must both stand or fall together. We


act also on the principle laid down by Jesus, that " it is the
spirit that maketh alive ; the flesh profiteth nothing."
(John vi : G3.) To direct our attention, as is usually done,
to the body only, is to aim away from the central mark, and
of necessity to miss it.





Ideas, as we have before shown, are conceptions, or the
union of thought and feeling on the intermediate plane of
our being. By a morbid idea we mean a false or erroneous
intellectual way of thinking, which, if it becomes a fixed
mode of thought, is united to the correlative feeling. This
is the inner history of the genesis of all disease. Every
material thing in the universe, including the so-called physi-
cal diseases, exists in us as an idea, without which it has
and can have no existence for us. For the idea of a thing
and the thing itself, are not two separate and distinct enti-
ties, capable of an existence independent of each other, but
together they constitute an inseparable and indivisible unity.
Remove the idea of a thing, as of a chair, a table, or a coin,
or of a so-called bodily malady, as is frequently done in the
magnetic state, and from a law of necessity, the thing or
object disappears. The substance being removed, the phe-
nomenon, the appearance, the shadow, goes with it. The
properties or sensible qualities of all the objects of nature,
as Berkeley unanswerabl}' demonstrated, cannot exist inde-
pendent of or outside of a percipient mind. They exist in
our minds as thoughts and ideas, and as a feeling which we
denominate a sensation. If we remove from our minds, or
from the mind of a patient, the mental image or idea of the
malady, the disease will vanish as certainly as to remove an
object from before a mirror will cause the disappearance of
its reflected image. In proportion as the idea and the bcliej


of a malady are effaced, it will weaken its grasp upon us.
Here is the direction in which we should perseveringly aim,
whatever therapeutic devices we may employ. In certaiu
cases, and under the proper conditions, it may be done
instantaneously, but is more frequently effected gradually.
A foggy atmosphere does not clear away at once, like the
rolling up of the curtain in a theatre, but it slowly lifts to
show us " the whitely shining hills of day." The sun in
rising does not shoot up like a rocket from a vessel in dis-
tress, but the daybreak grows into the full morning.

When I affirm that to remove from the mind of an invalid
the idea of a disease, will cause the disappearance of his
malady, I feel myself standing on an established philosophi-
cal ground, an impregnable scientific position. In order to
dislodge me from it, it must be shown that a person can
have a pain, or discomfort, or any unhappiness, and not
perceive it or know it. But the problem for a true medical
philosophy to solve, is how to effect this radical change in
the mental status of the patient. How can we revolutionize
his mode of thinking, and pluck from his mind the deeply-
rooted idea of disease? Knowledge is power, and truth is
omnipotent. That which is seemingly impossible is easily
done if we know how to do it. Truth is the kingly princi-
ple. Say the Hindu sacred books, " Royal rule is in its
essence truth. On truth the world is based. Truth is lord
in the world. All things are founded on truth, and there is
nothing higher than it."

We know it as a fact that has often come under our
observation, that the dislodging from the mind of a patient
of a morbid idea, with its accompanying fear and unbelief,
v/hich has come to have a controlling infiuence, and the sub-
stitution in its place of the opposite idea and belief, has
often effected an immediate and radical change in his physi-
cal condition. Let us take an illustrative case, for which
nearly every one's memory will be able to furnish a fact par-


allel with it. During tlie prevalence of an epidemic fever, a
person affected with a slight cold, or any corubiuution of dis-
agreeable sensations, forms the idea that he is seized with
the malad}- in its incipient stage. While this belief reigns
undisturbed, he is, and will continue to be, sick of a fever.
Under the dominating influence of this idea, he suspends his
business and takes to his bed. At this juncture of affairs,
the family physician, in whose skill and judgment he impli-
citly relies arrives on the scene. He is one of an ever-grow-
ing number, who is rising from the lower dignity of a physi-
cian, a dispenser of drugs, to the higher office of a doctor or
teacher. On a careful and searching diagnosis of the case,
be assures the patient that his anxiety is groundless, his
f '^ars without foundation ; that he is laboring under an error,
and that the dreaded malady is not a fixed actuality. This
view of the case is accepted, and supplants and dethrones
the other, and in a brief time, as if a mill-stone had been
lifted from his condition, the man rises from disease to
health, and to the active discharge of the duties of his

It is to be remarked that fear as a form of unbelief, or
rather misbelief, and which is the tap-root of many a disease,
is but a suppression of faith, and not an extinction of the
power or faculty of believing. Hence, when fear is removed,
faith, its opposite, naturally and spontaneously ai'ises. The
allaying of the fears of a patient is equivalent to the excita-
tion of a saving or healing faith. Just as when a spiral
spring is pressed down by a superincumbent weight, if that
is removed, the spring returns bj- its own elasticity to its
proper position. So if by the divine power of truth, we can
lift from an invalid that which really holds him down, he
will " arise, take up his bed, and walk."

Let us return to the supposed case we have before us.
Hundreds of facts might be given which in principle are iden-
tical with it, and in all essential particulars are only repeti-


tions of it. Let us carefully scrutinize the mental principles
involved in the cure. There was a desire to get well, for we
take it for granted that the man was not a professional in-
vaUd. This desire included in it a willingness to use the
proper remedy. There was a confidence in the knowledge
and skill of the physician, and this was sufficiently strong as
of necessity to constitute a pre-disposition and tendency to
believe his suggestions, and to adopt his ideas and way of
thinking. There was also a ready submission of the ivill to
the directions of the physician and faith in their efficacy. In
this condition of mind, the kindly positive and authoritative
affirmations of the physician clianged the mode of the pa-
tient's thinMng in regard to his disease. The idea of the
fever was at once weakened, and obscured, and finally
blotted out of the mind, and, with its disappearance, the
disease vanished. It was hke meeting a man descending a
mountain road which we are ascending. We face him di-
rectly round in the opposite direction, take him by the hand
and lead him calmly up toward the summit, with its view of
the promised land. This case, carefully studied, will be
found to contain, compressed into a small compass, the
arcane spiritual philosophy of every cure effected by any of
the prevailing methods, and especially of the marvels of
healing wrought by the Christ. And by putting ourselves
into the same attitude toward Him to-day as the patient was
supposed to have done toward his physician, He will heal I'S
to-day in both soid and body. " He that cometh unto me I
wiU in no wise cast out" has never yet been proven false.
If it does in your case, it will be the fii'st in the history of
the world.

How and by what means this change is to be wrought in
the mental status of an invalid is a matter to be decided by
the skill and judgment of the physician. There is no way in
which it can be done without his consent and cooperation.
Wilt thou be made whole, or wish you to get well? must bo


answered in the affirmative, verbally or silently. "We can
lift a man from the water, while drowning, by main strength
and in spite of himself. But disease is not cured in that
wa}'. We shall have to accommodate ourselves to the differ-
ent stage of mental and spiritual development in which men
are found. "We must sometimes descend towards the level
of their platform in order to raise them to ours. We must
condescend to their position, and come into a certain sympa-
thy with them in order to take them back with us to our
higher view. This principle of sympathy is supposed by the
Hindu Mozoomdar to furnish the key to the mystery of the
cures effected by the Christ. But it is not sympathy with
the disease, but sympathy with the true idea of the man
which is obscured by the disease. By coming into sympathy
with this, the two become stronger than one.

"When we attribute the generation of diseased conditions
of the body to some antecedent abnormality of mind, we do
not mean to teach that a given disease, as rheumatism, or
dyspepsia, is the instantaneous creation of a sudden thought,
or the unexpected advent of an idea to our consciousness.
The disease may be the fixed ultimation, or ti'anslation into
a bodily exi"r¬Ђssion of modes of thought and feeling long
anterior to our first recognition of it. A person will say :
" I was sick before I thought anything about it ; as, for in-
stance, I woke up in the night with a severe cold." This
means in reality that you woke up thinking that you had caught
a cold, or more properly that the cold had caught you. To
say that you had a cold without thinking about it, is in reality
affinning that you had a cold without 'knowing it ; for you
certainly never knew it until you thought of it. Hence you
are testifying to what you do not know, and, consequently, as
a witness in this case, you are ruled out. You mean in what
you say, that you awoke in the night and became conscious
of certain unpleasant sensations, which were interpreted to
mean a cold. But faith could have given a different meaning


to tliera, and you would have escaped the cold. Or, if you
had never thought anything about it, you would have re-
mained until this day in blissful ignorance that you had
ever had a cold.

The true spiritual physician will never forget, whatever the
temptation may be to do so, that there is a higher therapeu-
tic efficiency in an idea than in any drug known to medical
science. In the language of the learned German professor,
Johannes Muller, "The influence of ideas upon the body
gives rise to a great variety of phenomena, which border on
the marvellous." He illustrates this by a case mentioned by
Pictet. A young lady who wished to experience the intoxi-
cating effects of the nitrous oxide gas, which she had at dif-
ferent times before inhaled, came to Pictet for that purpose.
But, in order to test the power of the imagination, common
atmospheric air was given to her. She had scarcely taken
two or three inspirations of it, when she became insensible
and exhibited all the effects of the nitrous oxide. The ques-
tion arises, what was it that so affected her ? Was it anything
more than an idea, and a belief ? Surely then the influence
attributed by Jesus to simple faith is not unreasonable,
thougli its saving power is discounted in these days of gross
material medication. The influence of ideas, Muller asserts,
when they are combined with a state of emotion, generally
extends in all directions, affecting the senses, motions, and
secretions. But even simple ideas, unattended by any excited
state of the feelings, produce most marked effects upon the
body. (Miiller's Elements of Physiology. Vol. II., p. 1392.)
This is an important testimony from a high authority.

Miiller lays down the general law that an idea having ref-
erence to a secretion (and the same is true of any physiologi-
cal action) causes a stream of nervous energy to be directed
towards the secreting organ, and if the mind is at the same
time influenced by an emotion, the effect just mentioned is
more marked. But what Muller denominates the nervous


energy I prefer to call the universal, divine life-principle in
nature, the akasa (pronounced a/tasa) of the Hindu meta-
physics, an all-pervading, omnipresent, vivific principle of
life and motion identical in its higher aspects with the Holy
Spirit of the Gospels. An act of faith determines a current,
so to speak, of this inconceivably subtle life-force toward the
result aimed at and desired. Hence through faith, wliich is
but a mode of thought in union with feeling, a disease is
curable that otherwise would be incurable.

It is a peculiarity of the Hindu mind that it is transcen-
dental, and gives more reality to the supersensuous, and
especially to thought, than is done in our European and
American philosophy. The subjective and objective become
one. In the Ldnka Ydtara, one of the sacred books of
Buddhism, it is said: "What seems external exists not
at all, only the soul manifests itself in different forms."
Again it is affirmed, " All worlds are but the creation of our
thought." This sounds like the words of Fichte in his alge-
braic formula, " the Ego equals the non-Ego " or external things
are included in the Ego or inner self. Even Condillac, who
reproduced the sensational philosophy of Locke in France,
though a materialist, was compelled to say, "Though we
should soar into the heavens, though we should sink into the
abyss, we never go out of ourselves ; it is alway^s our own
thought that we perceive." Neither Berkeley, nor Fichte,
nor Schopenhauer ever said more than this. The doctrine
taught by Buddhism twenty-five centuries ago has come down
through Christianity, and is faintly heard as a dying echo in
Emerson ; so faint that few even hear it at all. He says,
" All that j-ou call the world is the shadow of that substance
which you are, the perpetual creation of the powers of
thought, of those that are dependent, and those that are
independent of your will." {Nature: Addresses and Lec-
tures, p. 324.)

Our doctrine is nothing new, and need not be startling.


We arc intensely conservative, as was Jesus the Christ, who
says no man who has drunk old wine, or tasted the ancient
spiritual truth, straightway desires the new, for the old is
better. This is not common bar-room talk about the quality
of wines, but has a deeper meaning. And you will allow me
to say, that in the Gospels and the Epistles of Paul, there is a
rich and fertile stratum of sub-soil that the common religious
plow does not turn up. The surface of the vineyard is
becoming exhausted, and unless we plough deeper we shall
raise but a meagre crop.

That the doctrine of this lesson is not new, but belongs to
an old philosophy and archaic wisdom-religion, I present as
a proof but one more quotation. In the Dhammapada, one
of the books of the sacred Canon of Buddhism, among the
brief religious sentences of which it is made up we find these
golden words: "All that we are is the result of what we
have thought ; it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up
of our thoughts."

Five hundred years before Sakya Muni, Solomon says:
" As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Prov. xxiii : 7.)
A thousand years after Solomon, under the modifying and
exalting touch of the higher wisdom in Jesus, it becomes the
central principle in his scheme of human redemption, "Be it
unto thee according to thy faith." (Matt, ix : 29.)




The possession of a good memory, that holds all truth in
its capacious grasp ready for use whenever an occasion
arises which calls for it, is one of the most valuable of our
mental attainments. But there are times, and especially in
disease and in our transient and permanent states of unhap-
piness, when we could be tempted to exchange it for the
ability to forget, the power to change the dh-ection of our
thoughts, and expunge from the tablet of our minds the mor-
bid ideas that will not depart at our bidding. Like a lin-
gering and unwelcome visitor we bid them adieu and hope
we are rid of them, but they come back again through the
unbolted door. They are birds of evil omen, that not only
fly unbidden over our heads, but build their nest in our out-
house, and will not be scared away. In the cure of a man's
disease (or in the healing of ourselves) , we are to attend to
these false and fallacious ideas. Here is the seat of the
trouble, and where the remedy is to be applied. In showing
that disease exists on its spiritual and real side as a morbid
idea, we have driven the animal to his lair, and can now
suspend the chase and raise the question of the best method
of extermination. A new idea, when it is so administered to
an invalid as to be appropriated and to become a fixed mode
of thinking, and is not hastily thrown off by a mental excre-
tion, renews the entire man, soul and body. Since thought
and existence are one and the same, if we change a man's
mode of thinking and believing, we modify his whole life, as


certainly as au alteration in the direction of the wind from
west to east will cause the vane on the church-spire to point
eastward. But to dislodge from the mind of a patient a
morbid idea, that has become fixed and maintains its hold
with au obstinate steadfastness, is the most difficult work
the intelligent medical practitioner has to perform, and one
that few ever undertake to do, hence "They heal the hurt of
the daughter of my people slightly," or in part only (Jer.
viii : 11). To do this requires more skill than to amputate
a limb or select the right drug. The common medical prac-
tice is like coming to the rescue of a man who has fallen
among robbers ; we secure his valuables, but leave the man
in the hand of his enemies. To change the way of a
patient's thinking, or even our own, might at first seem as
much an impossibility as to change the skin of the Ethiopian,
or the spots of the leopard. It is not enough to paint the
skin of the one, or dye the hair of the other. This is super-
ficial. After the return of " Berkeley from a journey in
France, he was stricken down with a fever. On his re-
covery, his friend, Dr. Arbuthuot, wrote to Dean Swift,
"Poor philosopher Berkeley has now the idea of health,
which was very hard to produce in him ; for he had an idea
of a strange fever upon him so strong that it was very hard
to destroy it by introducing the contrary one." What the
learned and justly celebrated physician meant for a good
natured witticism, contains a profounder philosophy of
human nature than the medical schools ever teach. "We
have before shown that the idea of a thing and the thing
itself are not two distinct and separate entities, but are nn
indivisible unity and unbroken whole. The idea, as the
German idealists maintain, is the ding an sich, the thing in
itself ; the object is the phenomenon, the appearance, the
shadowy representation of it ; or, as Swedenborg, following
the terminology of the Schoolmen, would say, the one is the
esse, the other the existere derived from it. This he always


affirms is tbe relation of tlie soul and its body. {Heavenly
Secrets, 10,823.)

What we must aim at in the treatment of a given malady
is permanently to efface the idea and belief of it. If things
have existence to us only as we think of them, then to put
them out of thought is practically to annihilate them, as wo
have shown in a previous volume. There are works on the
art of memory with directions how to improve the retentive
power of that faculty, and these volumes have their value in
the education of the young. But what an invalid, who
remembers too well and too much, most needs to learn is tlie
art of forgetfulness, the blessed science of oblivescence.
We are told in all works on mental philosophy, that we best
and longest remember that on which we often and intently
fix the attention. So, on the other hand, in proportion as
we cease to attend to anything, or to fix the thoughts upon
it, the idea fades from the mind and ceases to be to us an

It is oftentimes amusing, as well as marvellous, to see
what an invalid can do when, for some reason, he forgets
his disease. The coming into mind of some more influential
thought, so that the idea of disease drops out of conscious-
ness, will effect in reality as great results as those about
which we read in the advertisements of patent medicines.
We were knowing to a case of rheumatic lameness of long
standing where the patient, under the diverting influence!
of an absorbing conversation, was seen to walk for a
fourth of a mile without any show of lameness. At length
he paused short in the road and exclaimed that he had for-

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryW. F. (Warren Felt) EvansThe primitive mind-cure : the nature and power of faith, or, elementary lessons in Christian philosophy and transcendental medicine → online text (page 6 of 18)