Horatio W. Dresser
Spiritual Health and Healing
“IF man had lived the life of good, his interiors would be open to heaven, and through heaven to the Lord; thus also the smallest and invisible vessels would be open, and man would be without disease.” This statement admits us into the heart of the matter as spiritual health is regarded by one of our great seers. It tells us that man’s rightful estate according to the divine purpose is one of health, happiness and freedom. There is an incoming life from our Creator tending to keep us in perfect health. Disease is not an infliction sent down upon us, suffering is not a means of discipline bestowed by a stern will, as devotees of a former theology used to say. Spiritually speaking, it is normal to be well and strong, and if normal to be in excellent health it is right for man to be free and happy. All our thinking in the matter should start from this the divine ideal, not from the negative fact of man’s illnesses and sorrows. It follows that true spiritual healing comes about through an endeavor to return to our normal condition, that we need give attention to disease and its causes only that we may learn how to remove obstructions which impede the inflow of the divine life, the life which makes for our health and freedom.
To be prepared to see the force of this view of man’s health we need to remind ourselves that real causes are spiritual, whatever else may also be true concerning life under natural conditions. Man is a spirit, and the source of his being is in God, in whom he lives, moves and has his being, from whom there comes the impetus to develop and achieve. The divine life enters his spirit from within, in “the heart” whence springs his inmost love and volition; and proceeds thence into his understanding, or the life of thought, and so on throughout his selfhood, into the physical organism. Openness of heart tends to illumination of the understanding, and an illumined understanding can express itself in a quickened brain, a harmonious nervous organism and physical system, if there be no hindrances not yet overcome. The centre of power is within the soul, in the first place, and the centre must be kept open and free if the currents of life shall have free opportunity to course through man’s whole being. But the power received by man tends toward expressing to be as completely manifested as possible. There can be perfect correspondence between soul and body only so far as the life which touches the heart shall quicken every particle and possess every organ. For correspondence means the expression of spiritual power in exterior states. To be thorough-going it must be carried out into expression in every detail.
We are prepared then for another statement which touches the heart of the matter, namely, that “all diseases in man have correspondence with the spiritual world.” This statement seems absurd at first, since we think of the spiritual world as “heaven.” But the term is here used in its largest sense to include the entire realm of influences affecting the inner life of man. Heaven is order, harmony; but the power tending to produce it within us may be interfered with, and if there is selfishness or uncleanness at the centre there will be a corresponding outward expression. If the spiritual life sickens, if there is spiritual death, negation or strife, then the outward organism will manifest the conflict that is going on within. To say this is not to ignore any of the disturbances on the surface commonly called disease and attributed to purely physical causes. But these are secondary matters, and we are trying to look at the whole question in the light of what is primary.
If, for example, man is living a life of intemperance of any sort, there is both the effect produced on the body through drinking, smoking, excessive eating, inordinate physical desires and passions; and also the mode of life within man’s selfhood which permits and fosters this intemperance, leading as it does from one excess to another. In contrast with all this excess, rational balance between tendencies and desires is health. If envy rules at the centre, if there is hate at the helm, revenge, anger, jealousy, bitterness, anxiety, worry; fear of the loss of money, reputation, or fear of punishment and death–in each case the person’s life is affected according to the prevalence or persistence of the disordered state. Whatever evil desire, lust, or other selfish emotion arises to throw man’s inner life into discord also causes the bodily organism to suffer. If man is in doubt, in inner strife or temptation, his mental and physical life respond accordingly. All these disordered states are traceable to the prevailing desire or love, since
what man wants he pursues, and by putting forth his activity in the chosen direction he draws himself toward the conditions which fulfil his desire. We all know how the changes begin which cause our misery, if we are in the habit of noticing the immediate results in our feeling. To have an impulse to do a good act, to be charitable, forgiving, generous; and then to cut off this prompting to be generous by being mean, small, hateful, spiteful, is to find our inner life immediately narrowed, cramped, impeded.
Whatever removes man from tranquillity through worldly cares and anxieties, as quickly affects his outer life. When the inner life is unclean, the thoughts and emotions find ways of expression by enlarging upon this impurity. For our directions of mind readily grow into prevailing states and attitudes, fear and lust alike grow by what they feed upon. If there is mental weakness, a negative attitude, gnawing doubt, or despair; then this attitude affects our daily thought and conduct. But if the affirmative attitude prevails, if every incident is turned to account so as to give courage, to strengthen hope, lead to success, then equivalent outward results follow. To believe in success and to stick to this belief is indeed the sure way to secure an outwardly successful life.
The central consideration is never the effect or outward expression alone, however many attendant ills it may lead to; but the inward state from which it springs, the state which must be changed before the effects will change. “Since the causes of disease are in the spiritual world, and operate under the law of correspondences, and indeed are evils of that world, the diseases are not to he dreaded for what they are in themselves. The actual calamity or illness is in the
spiritual evil it externally represents. It is selfishness which is the veritable thing to be a dreaded. It is lust, jealousy, unkind thoughts, and enmities that are the real ill-health. Diseases of the body are material images of selfishness and sin. These are the concrete forms of our lusts. These mental things are their origin and their source of continuance.”*
“Psychiasis,” C. H. Mann, pp. 128, 131.
This is an unpleasant truth. People do not like to have their diseases connected with their life as a whole. They approve of the artificial separation which Christians have made for centuries between sin and sickness, in the face of the fact that Jesus identified the two and sought to establish spiritual health or wholeness. They wish to be cured of their illnesses as things apart, that is, as bodily maladies susceptible to physical remedies only, that they may go on gratifying
their favorite desires as before. They wish to keep such intemperance or excess as may please them, according to the conventional life they lead; and they refuse to classify these excesses as sins or diseases. Nearly everybody objects to any sort of teaching, whether urged by the Church, by physicians, by science, or by social reformers of any school, however liberal or radical, which traces human ills and evils down to selfishness and bids man master himself. And
so the would-be leaders and reformers are in league as it were not to make the indictment too severe. We do not like to be fundamental in our thinking. We do not like plain truths concerning our miseries. Too much effort would be required on our part were we to become free, sane and pure from the ground up, in all departments of life.
To say, however, that all diseases correspond with spiritual states is to realize that there are also spiritual states which mean freedom for us all. There is tranquillity, for example, serenity or peace at the centre with its equivalent ideas and emotions, calm and stable, and a well-ordered nervous system insuring inner control, skilful use of the brain and efficiency in outward work. There is interior openness to life, accompanied by what we call spontaneity of spirit, freshness of feeling, a certain youthfulness and vigorous power of accomplishment. When man acknowledges the one source of all life and power, and endeavors to live by the divine love and wisdom in all things, this responsiveness at the centre invites power which takes away any number of interferences within the self. There is obedience in the true sense, not through mere humility or any negative attitude, but through dynamic harmony with the divine will, the desire to be, to live and to act as God would have man act when attaining the fulness of life. Service is then the natural expression of the inner harmony. With faith at the centre there is adaptation to divine opportunities along the way. The moral life springs from the spiritual and man shows by his deeds in his home, in society, in civic service, in the commercial world, that he serves one master. To be a house at unity with itself is to be free from a thousand ills from which we find men suffering who have divided houses within them. In brief, it might be said that to be in disease or sin is to be trying to serve two masters; to be in health and freedom is to serve one Master, the Christ.
“He who lives in good,” says Swedenborg, “and believes that the Lord governs the universe, and that all good is from the Lord alone, that all life is from Him,. . . thus that from Him we live, move, and have our being, is in such a state that he can be gifted with heavenly freedom, and together with it peace; for he then trusts solely in the Lord, and has no cares for other things, and is certain that all things are tending to his good, his blessedness and his happiness to eternity·” That is to say, man is thereby brought into a state of unity between his will and his understanding, he receives the divine influx as one and is at peace with God and man in his spirit. He does not merely receive from within, he also gives. He does not seek first of all to get possessions or wealth, to acquire from his fellow men; he tries to give to men by performing his true function in the world as a constructive member of society, Since there is efflux or expression, there can be an ever greater influx from the divine source of love and wisdom.
It seems an enormous step from the external world where we are seeking the causes of diseases in unsanitary surroundings, in impure water and germs, to the realm of thought where health means spiritual unity within the self. In so far as man’s environment is made sanitary and all obnoxious germs are destroyed, we expect man to be healthy, and all this without regard to what he may believe concerning spiritual things. But we have not been carrying on an equally vigorous campaign to teach man to appreciate and rightly use the sanitary environment we hope to create for him. We forget that health in the true sense includes every phase of man’s life, and that when there is no inner understanding the forces of the external environment may count for naught. What we need above all is enlightenment expressing itself according to need in conformity with the spiritual standard.
Man cannot truly be understood in one part of his selfhood merely, as if he were a being of flesh and blood with an obscure entity called “the soul” somewhere hidden within the brain. To start with man in an adequate way is to begin with the great fact that he is spiritual and lives in both the spiritual world and the natural, partly recipient of spiritual forces within his spirit and partly associated with physical things and influences through his organism. The spiritual realm is in every conceivable sense the real domain of causes. Nothing in the natural world has any power of change, motion or life of its own; things in the natural world change, move and live by virtue of the immanent energies animating them, energies which exist for spiritual ends. This is true even when natural events appear to go contrary to order. The disorders of the natural world cannot be understood save through knowledge of the powers that normally make for order. Man being a spiritual being, living by spiritual influx, every event in his life must be put in relation to that central truth, however far removed it may seem from the ideal. If he suffers discords to break into the harmony of his life, these are due to misapplication of powers which are intended to produce harmony. There is but one efficiency in any event. The variations from harmony, health and freedom from which man suffers are one and all expressions of his own lack of adjustment to this one Life.
It becomes plain that the physical organism has no choice in what it shall express, since it is merely an instrument for the use of the spirit, obedient to the understanding and the will. Whatever the spirit wills, whatever man yields himself to as the goal of action, becomes manifest in bodily expression and conduct even though man permits himself to sink lower than the brutes. The body does not live from nature alone but from spirit. The body appears to move and live by itself because the spirit is in such intimate accordance with it that the two move as one. The spirit is within it in a connection as intimate as that of the fibre within the muscle. The spirit has in fact taken unto itself a body or visible form, it has clothed itself with the natural form as with a garment.
Since the physical organism is thus responsive to the spirit, it follows that when any disturbance such as anxiety, restlessness, ill-will, anger, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, malice or any other distemper that expresses selfishness becomes active or breaks forth within, then the brain responds, the nervous system also responds, and the physical organism as a whole reports the inner condition. This is true, whether it be merely a question of any angry emotion which shows itself in the flushed cheek, the clenched fist and the swift blow, or a question of deep-seated mental states steadily showing themselves in a life of habitual servitude to angry passions. There is disturbance whenever anger, hate, and the other disrupting emotions gain ascendency. This is so because man was made not for anger but for love, not for selfishness but for fellowship and service through response to the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He was made for health, happiness and freedom. The life energies should course through his being without let or hindrance. Whatever disturbs his inner life disturbs the life-currents generally. The more central the disturbance, the more widespread and serious are the effects coming from it. Whatever affects man’s inner life affects his attitude toward the spiritual world and the energies coming therefrom; for man as a receptacle of life inevitably takes some sort of attitude, either by responsively adopting an experience, or by refusing and struggling against it. Thus any change of state within him affects his relationship to the divine life. Thus it is that really to explain his diseases however external they may i seem, one must take into account what is at the same time in process at the centre, as he looks above and beyond himself in aspiration or as he looks more deeply within his lesser self in pettiness of motive. In either case he turns in a certain direction of mind which carries with it a sphere of influences. For all his states have their likenesses in the forces which they attract and to which they correspond.
To say this is not to declare that the influence of the spirit upon the body is the only influence that results from man’s disordered inner life. The physical organism as we well know is not like a channel through which a stream flows one way only, it is not like an utterly silent servant or mere machine. The soul influences the body and in the course of time makes manifest whatever is in process inside, marking in the face the results of anxiety, nervousness, inner conflict, repression, unhappiness, domestic troubles; or touching it with evidences of beauty and serenity of character, as the case may be. But the body also stores away for future trouble or future harmony the states into which it has been shaped by long-continued activity, by habit, misuse, excess, indulgence. These adverse physical conditions act in the course of time like counterforces to impede and deaden the spirit. If the inner life is constrained, distraught, rebellious, cantankerous, the body faithfully shows the consequences and sends them back upon the soul. Thus the conservative, crystallized, deadened inner life of the person who adheres to an old system of belief with rigid aristocracy and arbitrary intolerance becomes manifest in conditions of the physical system that in turn still further deaden the inner life.
The various stages are seen in the case of unclean desires of various sorts. These spring in the first place out of misuse of instinctive forces in themselves wholly good. The excesses in due time quicken desires which grow by what they feed upon, and lend to further indulgence. If man yields he goes over to the side of selfishness. His nervous system and bodily organism obediently carry out and foster his desire, giving it back with increase. Thus the body comes in time to condition the mind. To the extent that this condition increases man becomes the creature of the instrument he should have controlled. When such a condition results, something more radical than a change of mind must occur. The body must be cleansed. Some spiritual influence must touch and transform the man, that he may take possession of his instrument, and make it alive with spiritual health. Only through a transformation of both spirit and body can he become ; “every whit whole.” It is the power of the divine Spirit within him, the healing Christ which accomplishes this wondrous work.
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Spiritual Health and Healing
Free Online Book by Horatio Dresser
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