TRUE SPIRITUAL HEALING
Horatio W. Dresser
Spiritual Health and Healing
HEALING in the spiritual sense of the word begins with the discovery of our inner powers as children of God, made in His image and likeness. For through such discovery we learn that the spirit is potentially a master and can overcome interior and far-reaching causes of human misery. From this time forth it is never a mere question of illnesses and external obstacles to be surmounted, but of the attitudes, beliefs, habits, which underlie external conditions and give them their power over us. Instead of combating errors or denying the power of fears, it is a question of cultivating the affirmative spiritual states which make for freedom and happiness: faith, goodwill toward all, charity, loyalty.
To “repent,” that is, turn about and away from our troublesome desires in pursuit of their diviner opposites, is one step; to press forward despite all discouragements and conflicts, is another and usually a much harder one. For this involves a series of changes deeper in nature than any mere thinking about ideals. It means earnest desire to have the whole selfhood with its diverse promptings and interests made profoundly one. In this progress toward the deeper unity or integrity of the self man reaches a point where he can no longer divide his nature and seek to ward off certain consequences only, trying to escape from the necessity of coming to judgment in other respects. He can no longer dictate terms. If he really desires freedom he must observe laws and conditions with which he has nothing to do save to obey. For man’s true freedom is found, not through discovering ways of his own, but in choosing and moving with the guidances which lead into the divine way. Man does not create the alternatives which life offers, the opportunity to look up or down, in or out; to move with the constructive powers or against them; to be affirmative or negative. Yet be has remarkable power over life through his will to turn in the one way or the other, to change to the affirmative attitude.
When man is ready to see this real situation in life, as he is held in equilibrium between opposing forces, looking with open eye courageously into his spiritual past and with hope into his spiritual future, then indeed he may be healed with that healing which means complete sanity. Severe and rigid seem to be the conditions which hold him to his task, binding him to a present in which he reaps the consequences of his unthinking past and the failures of his ancestors. Yet the same power which long appears to be his enemy, standing over him like a slave-driver, proves to be the God of infinite love whose disguised blessings begin at last to be understood. Man begins to be free and to find that the power that appeared to be hate was love, when he becomes enlightened about the opportunities which life offers him, when he chooses opportunities that are constructive.
It does not suffice, one insists, to specialize on those matters commonly regarded under the head of “sin,” leaving man’s health to be considered by other specialists. Ill-health of any sort is no less truly a sin or failure to achieve the type. For all phases of man’s life move forward together, sin and sickness are sufficiently akin to touch the whole individual: the healing which “saves” must rescue the entire man and lead him into the fulness of life.
Whenever anyone has marked off man’s sinful nature in a sphere by itself as indicative of the hell man is making for himself, leaving him to repent by reckoning with his sins as if those were isolated matters, there has been a tendency to acquire self-righteousness, as if one were better than other people. But when one sees that all these matters belong together, there is no resource left save through healing for all. There is no longer even a theoretical stopping-point in the discrimination between God and man, the spiritual world and the natural, as if doctrinal distinctions were virtues. If the idea of the divine influx of love and wisdom means anything at all, one sees that man’s proper relation to it is dynamic throughout every portion of his being, that man is so constituted as to receive and appropriate the influent life in the plentitude of many- sided health.
Our view of human nature is different from the b beginning, when this becomes the ideal. We start with the inspiriting idea that man is by nature a highly organized spiritual being, adapted to receive and appropriate influent divine life in minuteness of detail, giving it freedom to pass into wise expression with creative efficiency. We give up the notion that his spirit is a filmy essence vaguely filling the body or timidly inhabiting the brain. We give our thought entire liberty to develop to the full this ideal of the spirit as master-life, master-substance underlying and strengthening the body according to need. We then think of each little receptacle as being brought into orderly relation and response, that the whole body may become in actuality what it is ideally from the beginning, “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Giving our thought to this glorious conception more and more, we may follow out very intimately and fully the idea that there flows into the soul a life which should touch every portion of our being. Realizing in spirit the vital reality of this inflow, then experiencing it as a quickening result throughout the organism, we may give thought to the needs of our brother man, exemplifying what we mean by the divine influx as a life, not a mere theory; a healing power, not a mere summons to forego certain of our sins; a love guiding us to spiritual service, not a mere feeling to give us consolation that we are “saved.”
The soul thus environed by divine possibilities has been graphically compared to a tree out in the sunlight receiving from the sun’s warm and vitalizing rays what is essential to its perfect growth. Without the incoming energy from the sun, the tree has no life, despite the richness of the soil. In response to this descending energy, the tree passes through remarkable stages of assimilation, through changes wrought within the structure by the life that enters every cell. Enlarging upon the comparison and recollecting that man develops instruments of receptivity and expression by use, we have a vision of the human spirit bathed in the warm, soft light of the Spirit, touched in “the secret place” of the heart by descending love and wisdom. What sort of practical realization or service is worthy of this sublime relationship? What truth is more widely needed than this, namely, that here at hand, in the vital hour of interest and need, the soul may enter in and receive from a source as bountiful as that from which the tree draws sustenance but many times increased, and of a quality infinitely higher?
According to Swedenborg’s statement of this vital relationship, there is an influx into the soul of each one of us at all times, in every moment, otherwise we could not exist and would not survive; an influx which not only sustains us but protects and guides us, withholding man by a “very strong force” from influences which tend to his injury. That is to say, this heavenly or divine influx really “rules everyone” whatever the appearances to the contrary and despite man’s failure to give recognition to it. This it is that keeps man’s life within bounds, drawing him into the pathways of his progress in loving protection and care. It rules man “not in the universal, but in the veriest singulars,” in the smallest things of life; it is the divine providence which is equal to every emergency. Although we are generally speaking unaware of this influx, so wrapped up in our own concerns that we may even ignore and oppose it, the divine life comes “in so vivid a manner” that man can notice it. For man already contains the powers which would make it possible for him to live with open vision toward the source of his life, with intimate knowledge of the favorable and unfavorable forces that play upon him.
While few of us may have been so illumined and quickened as to become vividly aware of this influx, able to distinguish by actual perception between life coming from the spiritual world, in contrast with influences coming from the natural world through the body or from the minds of people round about us, everyone may attain an ideal of this conscious relationship with the divine presence by noting the elements of it and letting them grow into a clear idea.
First, in regard to health, note that from this point of view it is not physical health or even moral health which should be sought as the end. For if health is sought for itself aside from the spiritual life we may depart from the divine order, which is by growth from within outward, from spiritual things to natural. We might then mistake for ends in themselves activities which should be co-operative, such as the endeavor to keep the body well exercised and in prime condition, the use of pure foods, and the like. What one should seek is the permanent inner state of freedom, peace, tranquillity, from which health will spring as a ready consequence if we are living a divinely useful life. One seeks this end by working first and last for the spiritual type of life in human society. One realizes that the very import of this interior influx is that it shall bring precisely this health which does not stop short of true service according to our fullest ability. One emphasizes the realization by making the ideal as vivid as possible, making it an uplifting picture of that which is to be.
Inasmuch as the influent life first touches the affectional nature or “heart” in the secret place, one thinks of divine love as entering in with quickening power to establish the right balance in intellectual things. Love in this creative sense is simply unspeakable. Yet intuitively we all know that it can accomplish the great miracle within us. We think of this life as reaching into the understanding, touching it into illuminating thought; and thence affecting the whole mind, the nervous organism and the body, accomplishing its work wherever needed. Inasmuch as all power is in this influx, as it tends outward to that which is most external in the body, one thinks of it as meeting and overcoming obstructions, lessening tensions, carrying out impurities. Once more one sees the importance of any co-operation from without which tends to keep the organism open and free–just as when inwardly intense we draw deep breaths, relax, and otherwise regain the normal rhythms while interiorly yielding up our tensions.
This realization of the divine influx becomes most effective when one sits down in a quiet place alone, or with someone who needs help. One seeks the divine wisdom by closing the door upon the outer world and opening the inner window that looks upon the spiritual world. We attain a similar attitude in prayer for the sake of worship when prayer is really effective; for in true prayer there is an upliftment of heart and will, an opening out to receive with the conviction that it is man, not God, who needs to change. True prayer, the Gospels tell us, is to the Father who already knows what needs we have and has provided for them through the orderly incoming of life. If to such a prayer one adds the realization that the Father is as surely present as of old, present in all detail and minuteness, in the relation of Heart to heart, through the divine in the human, one may make the prayer as vivid as the experience which the spiritual healer calls “realization.”
In a realization of the divine presence for immediate spiritual benefit one needs to forget distinctions which are pleasing to doctrinal people, and to transcend all barriers in quietly deep desire to let the divine life enter without let or hindrance. For the time being one thinks only of divine relationships, remembering that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Thus while frankly acknowledging what one has learned from mistakes, one no longer identifies the true self with the self that thus erred. For whatever the evidences that man acts as if of himself, as a separated self subject to adverse influences, in self-love and love of the world, one refuses for the moment to think in those terms: one thinks of man now in his larger estate. In that larger estate it is God who achieves, not man. It is the divine life in us that leads us to freedom and productiveness. Man has no power in and of himself to work such wonders. The power which man appears to have in sheer independence is due to an apparent cutting off of himself as if he were his very own, an isolated unit seeking private ends in disregard of God and man. In very truth man is never cut off. He lives from God. He enjoys freedom through the divine presence. God is the real source of health and strength. Unceasingly man is sustained by life from the spiritual world.
This realization is strengthened by the thought that all power is in spiritual life, and that there is no rival power. That is, the soul is a spiritual being constituted of spiritual substance organized for the freer life in the spiritual world that is to come as well as for experience in this world. The spirit has ruling and conquering power over the flesh. It can transcend physical conditions and become active on the higher level. Every thought is a help that is affirmative. Thought by thought one can build up a habit, an attitude that is favorable to the spiritual will. It is will or love which accomplishes the greater work.
Again, there is strength and helpfulness in the realization that to co-operate with the divine the human will needs to make affirmative effort. This is important for those inclined to yield too much or carry self-sacrifice to the extreme. If our attitude becomes weak we may be as far from true adjustment to the divine life as people who assert the self automatically. Half the art of the spiritual life, so far as the individual regarded by himself is concerned, consists in knowing how far to go in our endeavor to claim the place which belongs to us. Each must learn this lesson from experience, as a part of the larger lesson which our whole inner life is intended to teach.
Can one benefit another by the kind of realization which brings spiritual healing for oneself? Certainly, since we are intimately “members one of another” in the inner world. It is a question of substituting nobler influences for those which we already exert. The world of thought which we enter is essentially a social world, despite the fact that we seem to be more alone when we meditate. There we are connected by spiritual ties with those akin to us and those whom we can help. We live more intimately with these our real affinities than we ever suspect. We can learn to put ourselves more fully in line with the divine incoming life through which there are greater opportunities for helpfulness than in anything external. The true test of relationship to the divine influx is not in mere receptivity or meditation for our own benefit, but in helping others into freedom.
The spirit of man, let us remind ourselves, is essentially dynamic, a user of power rightfully supreme over thoughts and emotions, instincts and desires; it rightfully controls the flesh. One who truly understands the connection between the spirit and the flesh, instead of ignoring the body, should be able to gain a control over it impossible from the point of view of merely mental healing. For he should be able to overcome every obstacle in his nature which impedes the inflow of the divine life. This would mean active co-operation with that life all along the line of existence, spiritually, morally, socially, physically, in accordance with one standard.
Thus we start in every instance with the same great idea, namely, that man is a spirit dwelling interiorly in a world of higher power, the home of the Spirit within the human heart. In that world it is not a question of space but of interior states and their expression. The human spirit is not separated from fellow spirits, but is drawn nearer those akin by every accordant act. To desire to be like another whose attitude and conduct are more nobly spiritual, is to put oneself nearer the source of the other’s power, To desire to help another is to be with him in spirit, adding one’s might in favor of the best that is in him, seeing him in spirit from the viewpoint of the ideal. To make even a little headway in such service is to realize that one must become a more fitting instrument of the infinite life.
Once succeed, therefore, in transferring your centre of thought from the physical world, as if you were a thing of flesh and blood, bound down by physical forces and forms, and a new world of realities opens before you. Point by point your thought may be brought round to correspond. Begin to look outward, in touch with the outgoing stream from the inner life into the body, then the rest will follow. For you will see that, as you once impeded the courses of life streaming through you by endeavoring to stem the tide no man can turn, so now your possibilities of co-operating are without limit. The interferences you offered in your ignorance, your folly, pride, impatience, self-conceit, arrogance and selfishness, wrought misery enough for yourself and those associated with you; but they did not really change you as a person or alter the course of life. You begin to be healed from the moment you see the sources of trouble in yourself, your attitude and the mode of conduct springing from it; for you then cease to blame your neighbors and your God, and begin with yourself. Your restoration will continue in so far as you transfer your allegiance to the ever-present, inflowing life which never seeks anything within you short of your freedom, your health, your larger social service. In so far as you become sane at the centre, you may become an instrument for that wise sanity which the divine providence is ever ready to reveal.
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Spiritual Health and Healing
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