Horatio W. Dresser
Spiritual Health and Healing
HEALTH is usually regarded as an end in itself, to be sought directly, as we might go out in quest of pleasure. Hence people have in the past consulted physicians and have taken medicines and drugs simply to be relieved of their aches and pains. So, too, people have more recently visited mental healers, insisting that what they wanted was health; they did not care to hear a word concerning the spiritual life. Most of us who have had to give special attention to our health have been inclined to regard it as a distinct possession, a state of the body to be gained without much regard to the state of the mind or spirit. We have had to learn from experience that health as a true possession is inseparably connected with the mode of life we live.
Meanwhile, instances have been observed in which health has been restored to people who have given up the quest for it as a distinct end, and have, fortunately for them, yielded their minds to other interests. Health has, for example, come to men and women who have deserved it by giving themselves in full consecration to their life-work in the world. Any experience which thus brings health as a sort of by-product is instructive because it suggests that health might best be sought by first pursuing a higher end, by doing one’s true work as leader, scholar, artist, as a productive agent of any kind. Health might therefore be regarded as creative. By this term, “creative health,” one therefore means that larger health which springs from the life or conduct which is most intimately characteristic of the individual.
The Englishman who, doomed by the verdict of his physicians, to die within six months, entirely regained his health by first asking how he could most fully enjoy life during the time that remained to him, merely exemplified this principle in part. Exceedingly fond of hunting and fishing, this man gave himself up to the sheer pleasure of life in the open without thinking of any result that might come to him. Despite the possibility of catching cold in the swamps and in stormy weather, he indulged in all sorts of exposure to the elements without fear and without resistance. Nature doubtless relieved him of many a tension and inner obstruction because he yielded his organism unqualifiedly, inasmuch as he expected to die whatever he did. So nature might be kind to us all if we would do our part in full responsiveness, anticipating only benefits. Men have sometimes built up a rugged constitution through life in the open, or in contact with real hardship through constant exposure as in war-time, when their main interest was far removed from the pursuit of health. It is not recorded, however, that many who merely sought their own pleasure through exposure to nature have helped their fellow men to gain the vision of creative health.
Another man, very different in type from the Englishman and beset by headaches which no one could overcome for him, resolved to try the experiment of benefiting his head by using it to the limit, a heroic remedy most of us would say. Taking up an intellectual investigation with steady persistence, this courageous worker became sound in mind and body by using his powers instead of letting them lie fallow while seeking material aids. In so doing he found his vocation once for all in a field of original research which enlisted his intellect to the full. Undoubtedly his energies were pent-up prior to the discovery of this productive outlet. His motive in becoming a scholar may not have been philanthropic, but he surely found himself by losing himself in his work.
More inspiring by far was the case of a woman who, like the Englishman who loved to hunt and fish, was limited by the best physicians of her time to six months more in this natural world. Her question was not, How may I have the best time in six months remaining to me? but, How may I do most for my fellow men in this short time? Remembering that in the slums of the city in which she lived there was a house belonging to her family, she asked leave to dedicate this house to social service for the benefit of the poor and needy. Taking the house into her charge and becoming absorbed in the opportunities which contact with the laboring classes brought her, this deep lover of good works found the allotted six months passing into the years, and the years bringing her a state of health which could be prolonged into the fulness of life. She, too, not only found her vocation but in such a way that many co-workers were stimulated into creative activity by her example. Health did not at once cease to be a goal to be kept in sight, but it became a secondary good to be guarded for the sake of a life rich in opportunities for service. Her health came unsought when there was no apparent hope that she could survive beyond six months. This health was in brief a gift of her spiritual life. It came as an added element, not as a possession which seemed within human power to bestow. What resulted in her life might come in full many an instance if with equal zeal men and women who have no hope in material things were to give themselves as resolutely to some work supremely worthwhile. Thus creative work in any field might produce that wonderful health which is of the Spirit.
In a measure this was the kind of health which Dr. Quimby’s labors produced for him when, ostensibly a mere student of mental influences and in dire need of health, he undertook the investigations which led to the modern discovery of spiritual healing. Dr. Quimby apparently had but a short time to live. Yet he completely regained his health while scarcely thinking about it. While studying the phenomena of what we now call “suggestion” and the subconscious, he found a vocation of absorbing interest. His first interests could hardly have been called spiritual at all, although there may have been a Divine purpose that he should discover the silent method of healing at that time. He was not looking for light upon his own health when it dawned upon him with such fulness. There appeared to be little left to create health out of, so far as his physical condition was concerned. There was no one at hand to tell him to seek his freedom by spiritual means, unless we say that the Spirit within him taught him to look beyond material forces. But by discerning laws of mind which he could utilize to set people free from bondage to mere opinion and teach them a true “Science of Health” he became filled with the life-interest which brought his own spiritual health and with it his bodily health.
According to the principles which Dr. Quimby was thereby led to adopt, health is the natural right of every human soul. The presence of the Creator with us through the wisdom which guides and the love which sustains is for the sake of health, among ends of greater value than health itself. We ought therefore to judge by what God is endeavoring to quicken in us and produce through us, taking the whole of our life into account. We ought not to judge by physical signs or symptoms. We should judge by the immanent Life which makes for rounded development. Taking this as our clue, it should not seem strange at all that a person may find his health spiritually by discovering his work in the world. In Quimby’s case the work and the health were apparently one and the same. His theory that health is a consequence of understanding and rightly using our powers grew out of his own quests. He created his own health, if you please, by discovering a new field of service. But in the larger sense God created these gifts through him. Man’s extremity was once more God’s opportunity.
Quimby’s patients were in large measure in the same position. They had no hope physically. They had not found themselves or found their work. This was as true of Mrs. Patterson (later Mrs. Eddy) as of Rev. Mr. Evans, who became the first writer on the subject, and of the other pioneers. Coming simply to be restored to health, if his work as a “last resort” could save them, they found not merely health but a work to do in leading others into the same freedom. Quimby was their forerunner or guide. He could save and cure in so far as anyone, divinely guided, may rescue another from the borders of the grave and give a new lease of life. Yet there was still a work to he done, namely, their own creative response through the discovery of the greater self and its field for individual service. This meant that each one who became a pioneer in the new work of freeing the soul must think out the central principles concerning the Christ as the true healing power. The individual need afforded the special problem for each to solve, that he might prove the truth of Quimby’s teaching for himself. He might have little capital as it were to begin with: it was for him to aid in the process of creating health by means of this small beginning.
When, for example, a patient came to Quimby whose inner life was suppressed, with the nervous energies pent-up and causing trouble, the function of the silent spiritual treatment was to touch the dormant life into action and start the soul on its way to freedom. Through the intuition which came to Quimby to meet the individual’s needs, he did that work for another which the sufferer was unable to do for himself. It then remained for the sometime sufferer to come into spiritual understanding, that he might learn what conditions had caused his trouble and how to live so that such conditions need never recur. Thus a patient who had been an invalid for six years as a result of over-study in school, in gaining her health learned how to use her sensitive disposition and exceptional intuitive powers for the benefit of others beset by similar conditions. Thus the young man whom we have spoken of in Chapter I found himself as a true follower of Christ. The greatest work wrought by Quimby may therefore rightfully be called creative.
Yet in these and all cases where striking results ensued, where there was a life of service continuing throughout the years that followed, the healing was only the beginning of the creative work. The healing gave the impetus which when followed with constancy of faith enabled the individual to enter in and take possession of the benefits produced in the inner life. These became permanent with the discovery of the power to go to the same Divine sources. To find these sources was to discover the inner Word, to begin to read the eternal Word as the book of the soul’s progress.
Now, the individual who thus began to find the priceless possession may not have been wholly restored to health when this regeneration began. He may not have reached the point where he was free from bodily ills and able to demonstrate the spiritual law on all occasions. That is not the crucial point. Many take up their public work before they are wholly free. The point is that the remaining conditions offer the resistance needed to enable a person to attain creative health. These are the conditions one must master for oneself. They are there to test the soul. They are incentives to productive action. It is much more than a question of “the besetting sin.” Say rather that it is the understanding and mastering of disposition or temperament, and the perfecting of character through Divine help. Through the individual’s victory the same forces which apparently made for disease are now turned into account in favor of health so that they make for freedom. Thus the hardships of a sensitive disposition, misunderstood, become the benefits of the same disposition brought into constructive play.
Many have wondered why greater results have not been achieved through mental healing. They have wondered too why there has sometimes been a return of former troubles and maladies, and why some patients have not been restored at all. Here is a prime reason. This greater work is spiritual. It comes from Divine wisdom. No merely mental therapeutist can ever bestow it upon another, although abundantly able to overcome superficial ills. It begins with that quickening of the soul which shows that only through inner regeneration is the individual brought into the living abundance known as creative health.
It may well be that some are started on their way unwittingly, as in the case of those who found their health by forgetting themselves in a life of service. But we are saying that the greater step is into the spiritual knowledge which shows how the change is wrought, how health can become creatively permanent. In the same way others are started on the road by the use of denials and affirmations, without realizing that there is a more intelligent method. But the great consideration is change from mental methods to interior awareness that there is an influx of Life which is the constant source of health. It is knowledge of this influent Life which lifts the whole restorative process and makes it creative. From this influx when known as guidance there comes the impetus to do one’s greatest work in the world. Hence the whole pursuit of health changes into quest for the larger spiritual life.
To put matters this way is to pass beyond former ideas concerning salvation and the acknowledgment of sin. These are implied, to be sure. A man must see with open eye what his selfishness was and what misery it caused. He must trace matters to his own self-love, must will to reform in order that the regenerative process may begin in earnest. Yet merely to be “saved” is little indeed in comparison with what the modern world understands by the life through which a man is asked to prove by his works that he is saved. Real regeneration begins to show itself when life becomes constructive.
Thus Saul, the sometime persecutor of the new faith taught by Jesus, became Paul the great apostle of the doctrine he once opposed. We are no longer concerned with what he was before his quickening came, but with the quickening impetus which brought him “the mind of Christ.”
What might be accomplished if we should work first and last for these conditions which inspire creative health? Few of us know, because we are not yet quickened in this spiritually constructive way. We still dwell on human woe and misery, condemning people for their sin and looking upon evil as a mystery. We still lament that no quick road to health is found for all. We still talk about doctrines as if they possessed magic power to save the soul. In our schools we still educate for the intellectual life, instead of training the young to make ready for the fulness of life.
What if we were to seek directly that spiritual life which not only makes for permanent health but discloses the purpose for which we live? What if we should begin forthwith by doing this work which God calls us to do, whether it seems to make for health or not? This would he adopting in entire seriousness the promise that Christ came to bring the abundant life. It would imply firm belief in the spiritual law, namely, that we should first seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness pertaining to the kingdom before going in quest of the things which are to be added. It would be putting health on the spiritual basis, as a gift of the Spirit.
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Spiritual Health and Healing
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