Man comes out of unity into diversity,
The ego appears, has to be recognized,
Then transcended and return to Unity
In a higher octave of consciousness.1
–Karlfried Graf von Durckheim
Illness can be our golden opportunity. For a few days, weeks, or months, we have to step out of the mad race and watch the world go by. This is the time to look at the instrument we call our body and to the condition of the brain that controls its every action and to the larger concerns of our mind and emotions. Before we are ready once more to play our part in the symphony of life, the instrument must be tuned.
For several years I have asked many of my patients two questions. Why do you think this illness came to you at this particular time in your life? Do you suppose this illness has certain lessons for you to learn? The answers have been many and varied. Usually, at first, the answers are not known, but if and when the patient is ready to accept the challenge of responding to the questions with candor and complete honesty, from that point on his life will not be the same.
Martha had just come out of the hospital, having had treatment for a low back strain, and was extremely resentful of her treatment while there. One trouble seemed to follow another. At this time she was suffering from a severe burn from a sensitivity she had developed to adhesive tape.
For fifteen years I had been trying to get her to look at herself and see some of the psychosomatic aspects of these various problems, but she had been unreceptive to such suggestions. Someone else, or something over which she had no control, was always to blame. Then, one morning during my period of meditation, I had a strong feeling that she was ready to talk. Later on I approached her, and she opened up, telling me of her need for sex, of her feelings of unfulfillment. She spoke of her inability to communicate with her husband on anything more than a very superficial level.
“I wonder,” she said, “if, in my need, I haven’t brought this illness upon myself.”
The beginning of real therapy takes place when we recognize that we are on the great path of life and that everything that happens to us has significance.
Clifford was in the hospital for two and one-half months in traction for a severely comminuted and compound fracture of his leg. He had ample time to ponder the questions. One day he came up with these comments:
“I decided I have been getting too big for my britches. I belong to too many organizations. I’m too spread out. I need to give more of my life to the consideration of others. I have become very conscious of the goodness and kindness of many people who come to see me, some of whom I had never met previously. I am going to be more concerned with things that reach out to others and less with myself. I have realized how fortunate I am. I have seen so many worse off than I. How my leg comes out is of no consequence because a person can always overcome a handicap.”
Mary was a thirty-five-year-old woman who was recuperating from a hysterectomy for cancer of the uterus. The questions had been asked, and after several days of deep reflection she broke down one morning and said, “At the age of sixteen I was married for the first time and had a baby. When he was a year-and-a-half old I gave his care over to my parents. I guess I was too immature to really mother him. I can never forgive myself for this.”
There are many instances of this sort involving young women who became pregnant before they were able to face the responsibility of motherhood, had an abortion or had to put their children up for adoption, and finally, years later, developed cancer. It is as if the malignant process involving their deep sense of guilt germinates in the mind and gradually takes form in the body. A very interesting study of these deepseated psychophysiological aspects of cancer appeared in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences a few years ago.2
These examples indicate that one’s life orientation bears a significant relationship to his state of health. This insight should be presented to the patient by both the physician and the psychologist.
Dr. Artur Jores of Germany reports on a flu epidemic in Hamburg that hit a peak in December and over the Christmas holidays, with a subpeak a month later.3 On a review of the cases it was discovered that practically all the patients in the latter group were post office workers who, during December, are very busy and play a very significant role in the eyes of the public. Perhaps they were too busy to be ill.
Further supporting this point of view, a medical writer describes the duration of illness in cases of flu among a group of 1,000 patients, 500 of whom, according to psychological testing, were normal and 500 of whom had a high degree of psychoneuroticism. The former group were well within a week, while the latter’s illnesses lasted on the average of three weeks.
Why the difference between these two groups of persons? What is psychoneuroticism? The dictionary defines the psychoneurotic as the person with an emotional disturbance less severe than a psychosis, suffering from a mental disturbance due to unresolved, unconscious conflicts, and typically involving anxiety, depression, and somatic disturbances.
If we wish to become whole persons, the true causes of anxieties, periods of depression, and psychosomatic types of illness must be discovered. We cannot be honest with ourselves and believe that the huge group of illnesses falling under this heading comes from outside of ourselves.
Anxiety is probably associated with illness more than is any other mental state, and to ignore it would be most unrealistic. The word comes from the Latin, angere, meaning to choke. In other words, we are choked with emotion. Certainly if a choking person walks into the emergency room of a hospital, the doctor first would examine the patient’s throat and remove the object producing the symptoms. SO, too, it is the role of psychiatrist and psychologist to remove the cause of the unconscious emotion that is quietly choking the patient and filling him with anxiety.
Most illness states are accompanied by varying degrees of anxiety that should be recognized and rooted out before they so alter the blood chemistry and the hormonal balance as to cause more manifest disease.
Ensuing alterations of the body chemistry, which vary from one patient to another, produce a wide variety of clinical pictures. Early in this sequence of events may be the alteration of the person’s sugar metabolism with its accompanying high incidence of anxiety and depression. If these disordered emotions are not recognized for what they are, the functional illnesses that follow at times may persist, and organic illness may appear. In other words, a healthy state of mind is the first requisite of wholeness. What poisons the mind must eventually poison the whole body. Far too often in the past there has been only a medical diagnosis, as though the physical illness were an entity in itself and not related to the mind. But every cell in the body has its nerve connection to the brain and is affected by this greatest of all computers. As Dr. Paul Tournier says, in any illness there are always two diagnoses: that of the illness and that of the person.4
Whole Person Medicine
In any medicine of the Whole Person, the primary requirement is to recognize the message of the illness and ask such questions as “Why am I anxious? Why the depression? Why the backache? Why is my resistance so low that I pick up every passing virus?”
Frequently a full response to these questions must wait until the patient is feeling somewhat better and is ready to face himself. This may take months or years. Many people will not be able to make this personal inspection in this lifetime. First there must be some type of relief of symptoms and attempts to approach a physical state of homeostasis.
At this stage, love, patience, and a feeling of acceptance of the patient are the essentials. This frequently cannot be accomplished in an impersonal hospital setting. It will mean a new education of physician, nurse, and technician alike. One who does not truly know himself can hardly be expected to know another. Those involved in the central portion of the healing team today should have had minimal training in the medicine of the Whole Person. This must, in the future, be taught in our medical schools and hospitals, and the teaching must be experiential. Too often, when a patient has said to me, “But doctor, you don’t know how terrible I feel,” I have walked out the door and gone to the next patient.
In 1964 I attended my first session of the Medicine of the Person, in Woudschoten, Holland, along with some eighty other doctors and their wives. For one week we looked at ourselves in the patient-physician relationship as we considered the subject “The Comprehension and Understanding of Man.” During that week Dr. Paul Tournier gave us four of the most meaningful medical lectures that I have ever heard. They were turning points in my medical practice. They dealt with the “Meaning of True Understanding,” “Our Personal Obstacles to This True Understanding,” the “Suffering of the Misunderstood Person,” and “Knowing God and One’s Neighbor.”
A few thought-provoking statements from these lectures remain with me to this day:
The noblest and the worst exist in the same heart.
Man cannot be seized from the outside.
The verb “to sin” should only be conjugated in the first person.
It is dangerous to have a noble vocation. It allows me to escape from recognizing my own sin. I may not be able to reach the patient because of my pride, my love of power.
Love is not natural. I put up the appearance of loving and of not judging rather than really loving.
It is in the midst of suffering that man feels the least understood. The efforts men make to understand can add to the suffering, the feeling that not only are we not understood, but we are actually misunderstood.
To understand the place of illness in life is to understand God working in that illness. The Holy Spirit is the capacity to see, understand, mobilize these forces.
For twenty-five years, these annual meetings have been going on. Physicians from many countries join together to examine themselves and see how fit they are to be teachers of their patients.
Discovery of Self
In this process of self-discovery there are two essential steps -the recognition of the personal self and, later, the discovery of one’s spiritual identity, or one’s Real Self. Each step is fundamental and must be taken in that order.
The spiritual self cannot be known until one has developed a feeling of real self-worth. Jesus chose, for His own intimate group of disciples, men who were recognized as successful in their own ways of life. They had found their identity in the world of men. They were ready for the next step-the venture into the world of spirit-and were asked by Him to leave all and follow Him.
One cannot leave what he doesn’t have. The boy who has always dreamed of being a football hero, the man whose great ambition has been to make a million dollars, the woman whose great goal has been to raise five children to maturity, must all be allowed to fulfill that dream and have the satisfaction of its accomplishment. One does not ask them to cut off their dream and start a spiritual journey. He who is not the master of his own body and emotions can hardly launch out into the world of spirit with its necessary concomitant disciplines.
In the school of life one does not soar from kindergarten into college. It is always one step at a time, with each life going at its own natural pace. Human growth must follow its own rhythm and fit into the seasons of life. When a natural rhythm is broken, illness will eventually follow.
As previously quoted, “Man comes . . . into diversity; the ego appears, has to be recognized….” This is an extremely important step and cannot be by-passed along the road toward personal fulfillment. I must love myself and believe in myself before I can love or believe in another, to say nothing of loving and believing in God. One who has never been conscious in this lifetime of having been loved by another cannot be expected to give love any more than the non swimmer can be expected to swim at the command of another. Many people today have been brought up in situations where they felt unwanted and unloved. Plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz has described how plastic surgery, while improving the appearance of certain individuals, in many cases did not restore their confidence and belief in themselves.5
Caroline, in her wheelchair for years with multiple sclerosis, has been steadily improving over the past year-and-a-half on a program of strict nutrition prescribed by Dr. Joseph Evers of Germany plus vitamin and mineral supplementation and homeopathic remedies-namely, Lathyrus (chickpea), which helped her regain full bladder control and helped stimulate leg movements, plus nux vomica, which helped overcome stiffness, and other prescriptions made on a monthly basis.
She then participated as much as she could in Meadowlark’s body movement and art programs and had daily workouts on a stationary bicycle to build up her small leg muscles. She is now able to live by herself, walk up and down stairs unaided except by a handrail, walk out to her mailbox with the aid of canes, and has taken up dress-making to help support herself. Very important in giving her the motivation to stick with her program was a “waking dream” experience in which she saw herself on a mountain running and walking with no hesitation.
Trudy, ill with a chronic condition, was never able to visualize the trips she had hoped to make with her husband, nor could she play the piano, as she had done in the past. In three months spent at Meadowlark she expected our staff to do everything for her. She did not improve.
How do we regard our bodies? How do we see ourselves performing life’s role? No great change ever came without vast exercise of the imaginative function and active anticipation. That which we hold in our minds is largely what we will become. Every thought filled with deep feeling that we pronounce or direct toward our person or any organ in our body is a direct command to our subconscious mind and will be involved in bringing about changes, altering the body’s homeostatic mechanism for better or for worse.
It is helpful for us to think of the conscious mind as the captain of our ship, standing on the bridge and directing our body. It relays the orders to the subconscious mind, the ship’s engineer, who is below deck and has no choice except to follow orders.
There can be no lasting healing without the cooperation and effort of the patient. Anyone who thinks the doctor is going to do everything for him is in for a sad disappointment. At most the doctor can only remove troublesome symptoms. He cannot change the inner and deep-seated causes of disease. He is, or should be, the leader and along with the psychologist and minister can only point out direction along the proper path. The patient must walk the path.
Every cell in the human body has its own level of consciousness and is, as it were, a member of the body’s orchestra, responsive to the direction it receives from the mind of the person. The conductor who loves the members of his orchestra has a vastly greater potential to produce great music than the one who is indifferent or actually working at odds with its members.
The following comments frequently made by patients show their attitudes toward their bodies: “I don’t know why my stomach never seems to be able to digest any food without a lot of gas.” “That back of mine never gives me any peace.” “If it weren’t for my d knee . . .” Such statements are the fuels that keep disease processes alive and well.
When one establishes a retreat center for healing, the first essential is not, as I had previously thought, a few hundred thousand dollars. It is, rather, a small group of dedicated people who are well along on the path of self-discovery and are ready to serve others and able to establish an atmosphere of love.
The guest who arrives with little or no sense of self-appreciation and is thoroughly discouraged needs to be waited on, loved, and appreciated until he or she can begin to feel accepted. Illness of all types is accompanied by great feelings of isolation in the patient; he hurts and longs for understanding. Frequently he is silent and fails to hear words that may be spoken to him, so high are the walls of his isolation.
There are four steps in the opening up and recognition of the self. First, there is the risk, then opening the door of self, followed by communication, and finally trusting and moving into the state of honesty and real openness.
The first message of true healing is spoken in silence, with a look, with a touch, all of which carry the message “I care.”
Some weeks after leaving Meadowlark, Susan wrote to me:
You opened your arms and took me in,
You asked no questions,
You shared your love with no strings attached,
You listened to my confused searchings,
You trusted my goodness, even when you saw none,
You opened vast new vistas for my mind to explore,
You gave the second chance to find- meaning and purpose,
You put the stars back in my sky.
I come to you
for with you I know
the exquisite joy of
For with you I taste
of the substance of the kingdom of God
For with you I can sit around in my bare bones and just BE.
After the patient has found some feelings of worth, there must be recovery of an ability to communicate. At first many guests must be alone in their own rooms, too much hurt by life to risk contact with others at a common table for meals. It matters little whether the illness is predominantly mental, emotional, or physical, the sense of isolation is very frequently there. In a group experience, in a relaxation class, or an experience in art, it is easier to stay on the sidelines. Then, finally, comes the day when the person allows the first little revelation of himself. Progress from this point is dependent upon how the revelation is received.
In a group, feelings may gradually emerge. “I never would have thought that Mary has had an experience so much like my own.” Or “I never would have guessed that our group leader would have had such awful thoughts during his own period of therapy, so maybe there is hope for me.” Or “I never realized that dreams could tell us so much about our own personal lives.” And so communication gradually builds up, and self-constructed walls of isolation start to crumble.
On the Lake of Zug, in Switzerland, about thirty miles from Zurich, is the Landhaus Murpfli, a small therapeutic community.6 There, under the direction of Max E. Bircher, M.D., this dimension of the healing arts is carried on. As one enters, one reads an inscription over the door: Porta Tibi Patet Magis Cor, which means “The door is open and even more the heart.”
One of the important times of day is the Teestunde, or tea hour. This is held in the small meditation room. The guests and Dr. Bircher sit in a circle facing a shallow tiled pool. From a chandelier above the pool falls drop after drop of water, each of which disturbs the pool surface and sends out its circular waves that engulf the whole pool and finally disappear. On one particular day the doctor had shown a film of himself and his teacher patiently working at a potter’s wheel. Afterward, an American patient attempted to describe a phase of her recovery at this small, yet world-famous, clinic.
I loved seeing you, also with this sacred concentration, trying and failing and trying again. And then, the masterpieces that you finally had the power and the knowledge and understanding and sorrow and love to create…. Then you, came to my door, and though I had wanted to shut out the entire world, I let you in. I don’t know what brought you there. I don’t know why you thought I would be there . . . in such need. Of what? Answers perhaps or more questions, maybe-but you came; and once more I tried to draw you out, in your entirety, into me through my eyes.
Sometimes the tears welled up as I spoke to you of the inexplicable complexities. You wiped away a tear with such gentleness that another came to take its place. I tried to talk, but all I could think of was how little I could ever talk to you; how little time there could ever be; of how late in our lives we had met; that there was so little time to learn from you everything of importance and of worth.
I thought again in passing how you looked more tired than anyone I had ever seen. My heart ached for you to carry all that load of tiredness and that you might be too tired to convey to me anything of the great riches you have gathered in your life. But through your fatigue, you answered me with much quiet.7
Until quite recently psychology and psychiatry have been merely content to deal with the discovery and recognition of the ego and have been quite unaware of the Real Self. However, Carl Jung and Roberto Assagioli, being eminently cognizant of the transcendent qualities of man, dared to launch out into man’s depth dimensions and have profoundly influenced the emerging and widening concepts of human consciousness. In this country Abraham Maslow, Ira Progoff, Robert Gerard, Jack Cooper, and others have done, and are doing, much to broaden the scope of the psychological sciences in this direction.
Here in detail is something of Dr. Assagioli’s concept of the human psyche as he describes it in his definition of Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles.
Psychosynthesis should not be looked upon as a single psychological doctrine or procedure. It is a dramatic conception of the psychic life which portrays as a constant interplay and conflict between the many different and contrasting forces and a unifying center which tends to control, harmonize and use them creatively. Psychosynthesis is a combination of several methods of inner action, aiming first at development of personality, then at the harmonious coordination and unification with the self.
These phases may be called respectively personal and spiritual psychosynthesis. The isolated individual doesn’t exist. Every person has intimate relations with other persons which make all interdependent. Moreover, each and all are included in and are a part of the super-individual reality.8
The Waking Dream
While many subjects are considered to be within the realm of this vast area of psychology, we shall deal only with the technique of the reve eveille, or waking dream, first described by Robert Desoille. The diagram below is intended to give a picture of human consciousness. The lower consciousness is the repository of one’s primitive urges and his many complexes, fears, anxieties, and obsessions. The middle consciousness is that portion of the mind that is readily accessible in one’s everyday life.
1. The lower unconscious
2. The middle unconscious
3. The superconscious
4. The field of consciousness
5. The conscious self or “I”
6. The Higher Self
7. The collective unconscious
The superconscious is the repository of higher intuitions, aspirations, and artistic, philosophical, and scientific materials. It is the source of altruistic love and the area of genius. The field of consciousness is the part of personality of which one is immediately aware, filled with present thoughts, sensations, and desires. The “I,” or center of pure self-awareness, is distinguished from the above-mentioned field of that awareness.
The Higher Self is the immortal aspect of one’s being, which never sleeps and relates to the totality of life. It is that presence described by Brother Lawrence in his Practice of the Presence of God, the Christ’s presence, or the Buddha state of mind.9 Last, the collective unconscious, a term used by Jung, describes the process of “osmotic” relationship the individual has with his total psychological environment and includes the archetypal images of dreams, psychic experiences, and so on.
In the waking dream technique, following a period of induced relaxation, mental suggestions are presented to the patient, which he may accept or reject at his will, such as the following: Can you visualize a mountain, a lighthouse, a bird? . . . Then the patient has the opportunity to climb a mountain, ascend the stairs of the lighthouse, or even fly on the back of the bird.
If he is not ready for this stage, the suggestion will be refused or accepted then rejected. In the case of the mountain, for example, the ascent may not be completed. One patient who was not ready for the ascent never climbed up the stairs in the lighthouse and instead set up housekeeping on the ground floor.
Perhaps the most useful object for suggesting the spiritual path is the mountain. Here are a few typical responses:
Monica L. “Can you visualize a mountain?” “Yes, it is a long way off and snow-covered.” “Would you like to go toward the mountain?” “No.”
This patient obviously is not ready to make the spiritual journey. The country of the spirit appears cold (snow) and uninteresting to her at this point.
James T. “Can you visualize a mountain?” “Yes.” “Would you like to climb it?” “Yes. There is no path, so I must make my own way. There are many rocks and the way is steep. I must go step by step. The footing at times is quite insecure. I am tired now and will sit down for awhile.” “Would you care to go on?” “No, I think not. I will go down now.” Here we have a man ready to make a start, and in subsequent dreams he may go on toward the summit and a spiritual experience, but certain aspects of his life must be put in order first.
Margaret S. is being prepared for a hysterectomy for an early cancer, and she is facing the question “What is life teaching you through this experience?” “Can you visualize a mountain?” “Yes, it is far away and somehow I get the feeling that it is made of tissue paper.”
On searching further into her background, we discover that her spiritual world was quite lacking in any real sense of significance. It was quite shocking to her to see this, and this area of discovery started her on a very meaningful journey into herself. If one is to make a true recovery from cancer or any other chronic illness, it is essential to find a meaning for life, and this type of experience carries with it such a sense of meaning.
Edward P. “Can you visualize a mountain?” “Yes.” “Would you like to climb it?” “Yes. There is a good path and it bears around the right side winding toward the top. There are many flowers along the path and a rich loam beneath my feet. As I get higher there are fewer plants. It is interesting that I do not seem to tire, and the cool fresh air seems to really invigorate me. I am nearing the top. I can see off to great distances. Now I find myself immersed in a great white light and what’s more, I am that Light. My body seems to fade away and everything is one. There is no separation anymore.”
After awhile the descent is made back to the house setting where the dream took place. This type of experience is always accompanied by real changes in life-style and a new sense of values. The dream, of course, has been much abbreviated, to bring out just the essentials.
Birth into a new level of consciousness is life-shaking and life-renewing. The one who has experienced it will never again be the same person. There is a new glow in his eyes, a new lightness in his step, and life takes on a new dimension.
This type of healing is far more effective than can be accomplished by the surgical removal of a diseased organ, the restoration of a blood pressure to normal through drug control, the disappearance of a stomach ulcer through a medical program, or the so-called five-year cure of a cancer. The latter cures are mere suppressions of a certain manifestation of a disease process, but the physician cannot honestly feel that anything has really been done that has restored the homeostatic process, the disturbance of which was responsible for the illness.
The Role of Art
I cannot conceive of the practice of medicine of the Whole Person without art. Man acting from his brain alone without the symbolic function of heart and his feeling nature is cold, isolated, and sick. Each organ of the body with its related endocrine gland and its corresponding chakra has a deep symbolic meaning, which if investigated in the doctor-patient relationship will enhance the growth experience as the result of having gone through the illness. The heart is referred to here in much the same sense that the writer of the Book of Proverbs intended in these lines:
“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). We are referring of course to man’s capacity to love. Recalling the discussion of chakras in the second chapter, the reader will note that the center in the heart area of the chest is the love center.
In the total healing of man there is probably nothing more important than the awakening of an all-inclusive ability to love. I may know something very well with my intellect, which operates through the mediation of the portion of the brain known as the cerebral cortex. This center, however, does not affect the brain centers that control my body functions. To do this, it must first be transmitted into my feeling levels (symbolically referred to as the heart area).
The brain by itself cuts others out of its world. It needs the warmth of the heart. Very helpful in this process of the discovery of the self is the employment of some of the free nonstructured forms of art, including the use, under direction, of pastel colors or a lump of clay and music and body movement.
In the Meadowlark program, we think of the visual-art techniques as “heart-to-hand” therapy. Deep within the human heart there is buried a secret center of knowing, always ready to guide and instruct the person. The teacher merely sets an atmosphere or background, makes a few suggestions to initiate the process, or puts on a suitable phonograph record to set a mood for reflection.
Then the colors the individual has a feeling for at the moment are picked, and he allows his hands to move across a sheet of paper (usually about two by three feet on a hard backing) guided by his heart (or feeling nature) rather than by the mind. Colors express predominant feelings; sharp lines may depict the saw-tooth edges of anger; ovals may be tear drops; dark borders around the pictures may depict enclosures that would seem to be confining life. Human figures represent individuals who, by their relative positions and sizes, signify personal relationships and suppressed feelings.
In the ensuing days of art classes, we usually see the softening of lines, new and brighter colors, the disappearance of enclosures, fresh flowing streams of life, young green plants, and other signs of the new life that the guest is beginning to feel in his own being.
Along with these changes there are always significant indications of renewed physical, psychological, and spiritual health. Very frequently there will be pictures of graveyards, burial caskets, and other symbols signifying the death of the old person and paving the way for the new. The new may be signified by symbols of springtime, of the female uterus with the new fetus, or of a baby held in the arms of a madonna.
This is also frequently seen in sessions with clay. The instructor of the class may be talking about life or there may be a musical background while each guest, with a lump of clay in his hands, allows his hands to identify with the clay, just allowing the fingers to work in it, scarcely noticing what they are doing. Figures appear, other symbols take form, and as they are taken back into the guest’s room at night and reworked, their significance begins to emerge and speak meaningfully to their creators. Literally, before one’s eyes, the meaning of Jesus’ statement, “You must be born again,” is revealed.
When it comes to body movement with music, the average person coming into this type of therapeutic program is frequently frozen, whether it be by a marital problem and divorce, by an increasingly impossible job situation, or by the overwhelming grief from the death of a loved one. He cannot move but can only stand or sit at the edge of the group.
After a few days, possibly the fingers or the toes will start to move to the music. Finally he gets up and lets go, becoming a part of the group. I recall one of our guests, quite schizoid, who just couldn’t relate to anyone, but when she danced, she was an angel out of this world. Another guest, not able to function in ordinary life, was an entirely different person in the swimming pool and was the life of the whole group. Thus, the beginning of depth therapy is that initial risk and venturing out of the tight enclosure by the imprisoned self.
TEACHER: (following relaxation class or yoga). Now that we are so relaxed let’s carry this feeling with us as we listen to the following music and just become one with the music. Now choose colors you like and draw your attention to the heart center. Let the colors flow from what you feel there out to your hand. Move the colors over your paper without a thought of drawing a thing. Be willing to let it happen. Let your deeper feelings move in color rhythms onto the paper.
TEACHER: What do those sharp points represent?
GUEST: I am angry!
TEACHER: Are you rebelling because your life seems to be at a standstill?
GUEST: It certainly is!
TEACHER: Do you feel like crying?
GUEST: Yes, but I never could cry.
TEACHER: But why do you hold back your tears?
GUEST: As a child my father would never allow us to cry.
TEACHER: Do you feel hemmed in by life situations?
GUEST : Oh, yes. (Tears break through.)
TEACHER: How do you feel as you look at the pictures?
GUEST: I feel bound and held back.
TEACHER: Let’s turn your picture sideways and look at it.
GUEST: Why it looks like a new birth!
TEACHER: (to a class working with clay). You have in your hands a shapeless ball of clay. As you listen to the music identify with the clay and allow your fingers to play with it and let happen what will…. Why do you have a glove on your hand?
GUEST: I guess I am reaching. I want more from life. I guess the glove is my protection.
TEACHER: How do you really feel as you look at this gloved hand?
GUEST: Like my hands are bound. I want to take off the glove and use my hands more creatively. I want to give as well as receive.
Having had a glimpse of one’s Real Self, the seeker for true health, or the achievement of Wholeness, is increasingly dependent upon himself, since the search cannot be made for him. Discipline will become increasingly a part of his life. This has already been touched upon in the chapters on exercise and proper nutrition. Now we must consider the all-important discipline of the mind through concentration, meditation, and contemplation. In concentration there is a gathering together of the mental processes to focus on a single point; in meditation, there is a holding of the mind to that point and allowing one thought to develop. In contemplation there is something akin to an actual union of the person and the object he is beholding in the mind’s eye.
To start with, the mind is something like a herd of wild horses being broken in by a cowboy; in the beginning of his training, he finds it is difficult to exert control over them. The same situation exists with the untrained mind that flits about from one subject to another and is distracted by bodily sensations, passing emotions, sleepiness, and an attachment to certain life situations or persons.
There can be no progress without concentration. In his book Concentration and Approach to Meditation, Ernest Wood describes a fourfold path to concentration.10 During the first week it is suggested that one pick an object for concentration and hold the mind on that object until the mind wanders. At that point he notes on a watch with a second hand how long a period of uninterrupted concentration was possible. This should be done daily and a log kept, indicating the object of concentration and the distracting thought.
During the second, third, and fourth weeks, Wood suggests that the subject for concentration should be a series of objects observed in a glance around a room. On closing the eyes, the objects should be seen in their ordered positions. If the mind wanders, one uses the will to bring it back. The number of interruptions should be noted.
During the fifth week one opens a book and notes the first name of an object upon which his eyes fall, then turns to another page and notes a second one. The period of concentration is then spent taking a mental trip from the first object to the second one. This exercise in “word bridges” might go something like this: “Millionaire” and “soul” are picked in that order. Millionaire-money-collection plate (in church)preacher-sermon-saving souls.
For the next three months a very good exercise is a full study of some categorical noun such as wood, cat, book, paint, education, or tree. This exercise comprises the centering of the mind on the object for fifteen minutes and thinking of the various thoughts that the object suggests in the following manner. First, how might the noun be classified and what other things fall into the same classification? Second, of what parts is it made up? Third, what is its purpose and what qualities does it suggest? Last, what familiar experiences have you had with it?
For example, Cat:
1. The cat family: members-the household cat, bobcats, Iynx, ocelot, tiger, lion, jaguar, cougar, and so on.
2. Parts: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, tail, legs, claws, teeth, stomach, liver, kidneys, and so on.
3. Purpose and qualities: a companion, mouse-catcher
4. Familiar experiences: thought about a particular cat that was an important part of a household.
Such exercises as the above can be practiced, with daily notations as to success, with great benefit and will be very helpful for further progress on any path of self-realization.
Those who would make that next step into the life of the spirit must be strong and disciplined. To quote Walt Whitman:
Allons! yet take warning!
He travelling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health,
Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself,
Only those come who come in sweet and determin’d bodies,
No diseas’d person, no rum drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.
(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhythmes,
We convince by our presence. ) 11
What is the answer? While it is as yet largely undefined, it seems to be a search for quality in life and a rejection of the amassing of material goods that has been so prevalent. Courses in comparative religion and classes in yoga and meditation are springing up everywhere. Life must have meaning, or the world will madly go on destroying itself. Let us hope our young people can make the change.
There are many and diverse paths into this land of the spirit, the domain of love-energy. The naturalist may find it in the out-of-doors, the artist on his palette or in his block of marble, the musician in a mystical relationship with his instrument, the astronomer in the starry sky, the church-goer in the silent moments of Holy Communion, the yogi in his meditation.
For a moment the curtain of time drops and one is immersed in timelessness; limitations of the body drift away and one is caught up in the immensity of the universe. He then knows that he is an integral part of the whole and belongs to it. While the experience may fade back into distant memory, it can never be entirely lost. It will always be something of a torch along the path of life.
The following comments are representative of those who have gained deep spiritual insight.
JOHN MUIR (naturalist): “Now all the individual things or beings into which the world is wrought are sparks of the Divine Soul variously clothed upon with flesh, leaves or that harder tissue called rock.”12
ROBERT HENRI (artist): “I am certain that we do deal in an unconscious way with another dimension than the well-known three. It does not matter much to me now if it is the fourth dimension or what its number is, but I know that deep in us there is always a grasp of proportions which exist over and through the obvious three, and it is by this power of superproportioning that we reach the inner meaning of things.”13
JOHANNES BRAHMS: “Spirit is the light of the soul. Spirit is universal. Spirit is the creative energy of the cosmos. The soul of man is not conscious of its powers until it is enlightened by Spirit…. Therefore, to evolve and grow, man must learn how to use and develop his own soul forces. All creative geniuses do this, although some of them do not seem to be as conscious of the process as others.”14
GUSTAF STROMBERG (astronomer): “Then we tried to explore the mind and found it in constant communication with the cosmos.”15
PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN (priest): Once and for all he understood that, like the atom, man has no value save for that part of himself which passes into the universe.”16
SRI RAMAICRISHNA (yogi): “As long as one says, I know or ‘I do not know,’ one looks upon himself as a person. My Divine Mother says: ‘It is only when I have effaced the whole of this Aham (I-ness) in you, that the Undifferentiated Absolute (my impersonal aspect) can be realized in Samadhi ‘ Till then there is the ‘I’ in me and before me.”17
ALFRED LORD TENNYSON:
“I know not, and speak of what has been. ‘And more, my son! for more than once when I Sat all alone, revolving in myself The word that is the symbol of myself The mortal limit of the self was loosed, And past into the Nameless, as a cloud Melts into heaven. I touch’d my limbs, the limbs Were strange, not mine-and yet no shade of doubt, But utter clearness, and thro’ loss of self The gain of such large life as match’d with ours Were sun to spark-unshadowable in words, Themselves but shadow of a shadow-world.”18
Jesus and Wholeness
In His ministry of healing, Jesus was concerned with Wholeness, or homeostatis. If one examines His healings, one will find evidence that there are two principles requisite in the attainment of the healing state of mind-namely, faith and love. Without this state of consciousness it is questionable that there can be any true healing of the Whole Person.
Jesus’ disciple John relates the conversation between the man with an infirmity, at the pool called Bethesda, and Jesus. There is no diagnosis of a disease state other than the implication that the man is paralyzed. Jesus simply asks him, “Wilt thou be made whole?”
The Power of Faith
In true healing faith plays a dominant role. First there is faith in one’s self, and then there is faith in the physician. We recall the instance of the woman with the “issue of blood,” the account of which is related in three gospels (Matthew 9:20, Mark 5:25, Luke 8:43) and Christ’s remark on feeling her touch His garment, “Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole.”
Then there is the account of the power of faith in the man who sat at Lystra, impotent in his feet. A cripple from birth, he had never walked, but from the inspiration of Paul’s words there was an instantaneous healing: “[Paul] steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on thy feet.’ And he leaped and walked” (Acts 14:8 ) .
If, in the latter part of the twentieth century, we physicians had as much faith in God and in Nature’s inherent ability to heal as we have the faith in the destructive power of disease and death, we would certainly see many more recoveries from illness than we are seeing today.
Faith is not something that can be taught in school. It is a self-discipline, and its attainment is only possible to those who are ready to make the necessary sacrifices. The tuning of the body is very demanding and involves a whole new way of life with control of the senses, prayer, fasting, and meditation. It implies carrying on our everyday life, but, at the same time, secretly, at an inner center, touching an inner point of reverentia1 silence. This is beautifully described by the late mystic-philosopher Thomas Kelly:
There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and with a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.19
In the act of faith one drops his mortal limitations, and, merging into a consciousness that transcends his own personality, he contacts an inner source of wisdom. In such a moment the lecturer puts aside his carefully prepared notes and gives the best speech of his life. If you should ask him afterward what he had said, he might well be unable to tell you.
The other essential ingredient in healing is love. Pitrim Sorokin speaks of this power as the great cohesive force of the universe. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin equates it with cosmic energy. In the touch of a hand, in the look of an eye, a charge of energy passes from one to another and healing is under way.
We are told that Jesus, departing out of Jericho, saw two blind men sitting by the wayside and that he had compassion on them and touched their eyes, and immediately they received their sight. Love and faith of this degree are certainly not common today, and its results rarely speed up the process of healing to this extent, yet there is no doubt in my mind that such acts of love initiate healing.
The role of faith and love in the healing process is told not only in the Bible but also by the Indian medicine man, the Buddhist priest, and in the secret healing agent of all who truly have experienced the power of these two great forces.
In a more recent time, The Book of Miracles, by Henry Cadbury, recounts the story of the healing at the hands of the founder of the Society of Friends, George Fox.20 Many of the individual accounts in Cadbury’s book were deleted, for they were then, as they are today, embarrassing to physicians and clergymen. Today more and more of such accounts are being recorded. The healings at the shrine of Lourdes in France have been studied and documented by a group of 5,000 physicians. Dr. Alexis Carrel made the pilgrimage to Lourdes as a surgeon and doubter and came back as a believer, as described in his account The Voyage to Lourdes.21
The healings are not the symptom patch-up that is so much practiced in medicine today, but healings of the whole person. In this life-stirring process, there is not always a physical healing, but there seems always to be a whole new pattern of life- a change from a life lived to find individual happiness to a life lived in the service of others and a life of far greater happiness and meaning.
The case of Mrs. Eileen Nader, a sixty-seven-year-old woman who came to me for treatment of a lump in her breast, illustrates this type of change. During the preoperative days, she was asked to face herself and search for the meaning of this hiatus in her everyday life. She went through her surgery for cancer with a real and deep knowing that she would completely recover. She described a dream she had as follows:
“When in the recovery room following surgery, something happened to me. I saw myself out of my body, whole and complete like before my illness. Then I turned and looked at myself. There were six tall men, all the same age, dressed in black, standing, three on each side. They were not talking; still I knew they were telling me to follow them. Then I found myself in a very big room.
The men in black had disappeared and from the west, advancing toward the east, a tall man dressed in a gorgeous white robe and a tall hat like a saint appeared. He was holding a large book in his hand and he strode toward an altar to deposit it. He then told me without words to come to his side.
Here was a square box with white sand in it. The sand was warm. He told me to shuffle my feet in it. At this point everything disappeared and I found myself alone in the middle of the room A tremendous white light appeared, like that of the sun, and I heard a loud voice say, ‘This is sanctification’ You are now sanctified.’ I then reentered my body.”
Prom that day on, Eileen was a different person as her life became one of service to others. There was something different about her appearance, particularly the look in her eyes. For the next five years of her life, before she died of pneumonia, she devoted a day each week organizing rummage sales to aid the program at Meadowlark.
The tremendous role of love in the healing picture can hardly be overestimated. This fundamental ingredient of healing is basic, and its presence is far too often completely overlooked. We physicians are all too ready to take the credit that I am sure we frequently do not deserve. The faithful attention of a loving and encouraging friend, minister, or nurse is likely to be overlooked.
The best medical program, or the most technically advanced surgical operation, is valueless if there is an absence of love in the patient’s environment; at most, it can only give temporary relief. First, there must be love for one’s own self and a vision of meaningful living; second, a love for one’s friends and associates; and, last, a love of the Creator of life -God.
My former teacher in medical school, the late Dr. Smiley Blanton, illustrated well the importance of this love factor in healing in his book, Love or Perish.22 Every act committed without the positive, creative power of love is a nail in my own coffin and implements the degenerative processes at work in my body. Why does one man grow old at fifty while another is still in the prime of life in his late eighties? Oliver Wendell Holmes and Albert Schweitzer are great examples of men who did not age; both were men with a great capacity to love.
Love really cannot be put into words. It is an inner experience, or practice, and is the fruit of meditation. In today’s hate-torn, war-minded world, it is scarcely any wonder that degenerative diseases are taking a greater and greater toll than ever before.
No, love cannot be weighed, measured, or analyzed, and so it has not fit into the empirical system of medical teaching, but, as already indicated in our earlier chapters, this situation is gradually changing. As the great physician and philosopher Albert Schweitzer said, “The beginning of all wisdom is to be filled with the mystery of existence and of life.” If we Americans are to survive, it is our young people who will save us, as they look to earth, to Nature, and to quality in life rather than to quantity of possessions.
Earlier this chapter dealt with centering of the mind through concentration. Let us now examine the process whereby we approach the wisdom that cannot be tested in schools, and where we experience the mystery of existence and the greater life of which we are a part.
The practice of meditation is a well-tested method of self-help to self-realization You can help yourself, if you will, by this practice. You must have a regular time and place, chosen for the greatest comfort, quiet, and freedom from interruptions. Sit quietly on a chair, or on the floor, with your spine straight, hands resting quietly in the lap or on the knees. The yogic lotus posture is good if comfortable, but it is not necessary. Close your eyes.
Focus your whole attention on your breathing as you inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply, to quiet your random thoughts. All of the air should be forced out of the lungs, followed by a long, slow inspiration, taking in as much air as possible. The chest should be expanded by raising the lower ribs, and diaphragmatic breathing added. When the diaphragm is contracted, it moves downward, drawing air into the lower lungs and causing the abdomen to protrude slightly as you inhale. The lungs should be filled slowly and completely, then emptied slowly and completely.
After a few moments of this breathing, it is well to use some method whereby the body, mind, and emotions can be silenced. There are many ways of doing this. Hosea tells us to “take with you words and turn to the Lord.” So you can start with such words as “Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace.”
Think of God as love and then translate the thought into feeling. How does it feel when you are filled with love? Continue with words such as Life, Peace, and Power, and both think and feel them. And now give yourself this command, “Be still, and know that I am God.” After an interval of inner quiet, repeat it, leaving off the last word: “Be still and know that I am.” After inner silence, the command becomes, “Be still and know That!” “That” is a term used by some to indicate the Nameless–God. And so God, I am, and That are all synonyms for this experience of stillness.
On the next repetition, the command is “Be still, and know!” Next, “Be still!” and finally, “Be!” As long an interval as seems comfortable should be allowed between statements, or until thoughts begin to interfere. Follow the last statement with an interval of controlled breathing and then repeat the entire series.
Another suggestion for entering meditation is through the first great commandment, focusing the entire attention on God and loving Him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul and then offering yourself to Him and calling for His will to be done in and through you.
Meditation is the steady, quiet, fixing of the mind on God or on Nature. Plato expressed this in the following words: “The ardent turning of the soul towards the Divine: not to ask any particular good but for itself, for the Universal, Supreme Good.”
The practice of meditation will teach us to meditate and will take us beyond meditation, when we are ready, into that state of Oneness with the Father.
We have merely sketched the path to healing in the sense of attaining a degree of wholeness, and it is not our intention to indicate the whole route, even if we were able to do so. The path is very individual and requires great perseverance. The merger of the self into the larger Self demands a complete change in a way of life. Things that formerly seemed important now become valueless, and a new set of values comes over the horizon. The path into this new consciousness is one through many valleys, which cause frequent loss of view of the summit, but as one ascends the mountain of finer consciousness, the valleys become narrower and more shallow.
Self-realization is very demanding. Shedding one’s skins of defenses would seem to leave one very vulnerable. However, the old person that one has been is not fit for the new encounter. Walt Whitman describes this journey in his “Song of the Open Road”: 23
Listen, I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you learn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remained behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.
Jesus, when approached by Nicodemus, compared the new consciousness, which made possible the miracles he performed, to a new birth (John 3:3). Such a new birth brings new dimensions of being with it. And once its fruits have been tasted, one will never desert the quest for Oneness.
Anxiety and fear give way to a feeling of faith and assurance. Resentment and jealousy are replaced by love. Impatience and irritability dissolve in an atmosphere of patience and perseverance. Love, as one has previously known it, loses its former air of exclusiveness and extends far out to encompass the entire family of man. Every day becomes a new and exciting challenge full of possibilities for growth and increased awareness of one’s essential self.
1. Karlfried Graf von Durckheim, Hara (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1962) .
2. Olle Hagnell, New York Academy of Sciences Annals 125 (January 21, 1966), p. 846.
3. Dr. Artur Jores, International Meeting, Medicine de la Personne, 1966, Woudschoten, Holland.
4. Dr. Paul Tournier, The Whole Person in a Broken World (New York: Harper and Row, 1965).
5. Maxwell Maltz, Psychocybernetics (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1960).
6. This center was visited in the summer of 1973 by the Meadowlark staff tour group.
Motion Picture Director’s Award winner Ray Garner has made an hour-long television film entitled Healing the Whole Man, which deals with Dr. Max Bircher’s unique center and includes an interview with him, along with seven other European physicians who are involved in similar work. Others mentioned in this book and taking part in the film include Dr. Paul Tournier, shown at his home in Geneva, and Dr. Karlfried Durckheim, at his center for experiencing self-realization through Zen and allied techniques, which is located in Germany’s Black Forest. The film can be rented from Meadowlark. Write to Friendly Hills Fellowship, Meadowlark, 26126 Fairview Avenue, Hemet, Calif. 92343.
7. The identity of the author must be kept secret.
8. Roberto Assagioli, M.D., Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles (New York: Hobbs, Dorman and Co., 1965).
9. Nicholas Herman (Brother Lawrence), Practice of the Presence of God (New York: Morehouse-Barlow).
10. Ernest Wood, Concentration and Approach to Meditation (Wheaton, III.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1967).
11. Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road,” Leaves of Grass.
12. Linnie M. Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness.
13. Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1940), p. 47.
14. From Arthur M. Abell, Talks with Great Composers (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955), p. 6.
15. Gustaf Stromberg, The Soul of the Universe (New York and Philadelphia: David McKay, 1940), p. 235.
16. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Hymn of the Universe (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), p. 65.
17. Sri Ramakrishna Math, Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna (Mylapore, Madras, India, 1943), p. 59.
18. Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Ancient Sage,” The Poetic and Dramatic Works (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1899).
19. Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (New York: Harper and Row, 1941), p. 35.
20. George Fox, The Book of Miracles, with note and introduction by Henry Cadbury (Toronto: Macmillan, 1949).
21. Alexis Carrel, The Voyage to Lourdes.
22. Dr. Smiley Blanton, Love or Perish (New York: Fawcett World Library, 1969).
23. Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road,” Leaves of Grass.