The Varieties Of Religious Experience, By William James
Lectures IV and V
The Religion Of Healthy Mindedness
we were to ask the question:
"What is human life's chief concern?"
one of the answers we should receive would be:
"It is happiness."
How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness,
is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive
of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure.
The hedonistic school in ethics deduces the moral
life wholly from the experiences of happiness and unhappiness
which different kinds of conduct bring; and, even more
in the religious life than in the moral life, happiness
and unhappiness seem to be the poles round which the interest
revolves. We need not go so far as to say with the author
whom I lately quoted that any persistent enthusiasm is,
as such, religion, nor need we call mere laughter a religious
exercise; but we must admit that any persistent enjoyment
may PRODUCE the sort of religion which consists in a grateful
admiration of the gift of so happy an existence; and we
must also acknowledge that the more complex ways of experiencing
religion are new manners of producing happiness, wonderful
inner paths to a supernatural kind of happiness, when
the first gift of natural existence is unhappy, as it
so often proves itself to be.
such relations between religion and happiness, it is perhaps
not surprising that men come to regard the happiness which
a religious belief affords as a proof of its truth.
If a creed makes a man feel happy, he almost inevitably
adopts it. Such a belief ought to be true; therefore it is true--such,
rightly or wrongly, is one of the "immediate inferences"
of the religious logic used by ordinary men.
near presence of God's spirit," says a German writer,
"may be experienced in its reality--indeed ONLY experienced.
And the mark by which the spirit's existence and nearness
are made irrefutably clear to those who have ever had
the experience is the utterly incomparable FEELING OF
HAPPINESS which is connected with the nearness, and which
is therefore not only a possible and altogether proper
feeling for us to have here below, but is the best and
most indispensable proof of God's reality.
No other proof is equally convincing, and therefore
happiness is the point from which every efficacious new
theology should start."
C. Hilty: Gluck, dritter Theil, 1900, p. 18.
the hour immediately before us, I shall invite you to
consider the simpler kinds of religious happiness, leaving
the more complex sorts to be treated on a later day.
many persons, happiness is congenital and irreclaimable.
"Cosmic emotion" inevitably takes in them the
form of enthusiasm and freedom.
I speak not only of those who are animally happy.
I mean those who, when unhappiness is offered or
proposed to them, positively refuse to feel it, as if
it were something mean and wrong.
We find such persons in every age, passionately
flinging themselves upon their sense of the goodness of
life, in spite of the hardships of their own condition,
and in spite of the sinister theologies into which they
may he born. From
the outset their religion is one of union with the divine.
The heretics who went before the reformation are
lavishly accused by the church writers of antinomian practices,
just as the first Christians were accused of indulgence
in orgies by the Romans.
It is probable that there never has been a century
in which the deliberate refusal to think ill of life has
not been idealized by a sufficient number of persons to
form sects, open or secret, who claimed all natural things
to be permitted.
Saint Augustine's maxim, Dilige et quod vis fac--if
you but love [God], you may do as you incline--is morally
one of the profoundest of observations, yet it is pregnant,
for such persons, with passports beyond the bounds of
According to their characters they have been refined
or gross; but their belief has been at all times systematic
enough to constitute a definite religious attitude.
God was for them a giver of freedom, and the sting
of evil was overcome.
Saint Francis and his immediate disciples were,
on the whole, of this company of spirits, of which there
are of course infinite varieties.
Rousseau in the earlier years of his writing, Diderot,
B. de Saint Pierre, and many of the leaders of the eighteenth
century anti-Christian movement were of this optimistic
type. They owed their influence to a certain authoritativeness
in their feeling that Nature, if you will only trust her
sufficiently, is absolutely good.
is to be hoped that we all have some friend, perhaps more
often feminine than masculine, and young than old, whose
soul is of this sky-blue tint, whose affinities are rather
with flowers and birds and all enchanting innocencies
than with dark human passions, who can think no ill of
man or God, and in whom religious gladness, being in possession
from the outset, needs no deliverance from any antecedent
has two families of children on this earth," says
Francis W. Newman, "the once-born and the twice-born,"
and the once-born he describes as follows:
"They see God, not as a strict Judge, not
as a Glorious Potentate; but as the animating Spirit of
a beautiful harmonious world, Beneficent and Kind, Merciful
as well as Pure.
The same characters generally have no metaphysical
do not look back into themselves. Hence they are not distressed
by their own imperfections:
yet it would be absurd to call them self-righteous;
for they hardly think of themselves AT ALL.
This childlike quality of their nature makes the
opening of religion very happy to them:
for they no more shrink from God, than a child
from an emperor, before whom the parent trembles:
in fact, they have no vivid conception of ANY of
the qualities in which the severer Majesty of God consists.
He is to them the impersonation of Kindness and Beauty.
They read his character, not in the disordered
world of man, but in romantic and harmonious nature. Of
human sin they know perhaps little in their own hearts
and not very much in the world; and human suffering does
but melt them to tenderness.
Thus, when they approach God, no inward disturbance
ensues; and without being as yet spiritual, they have
a certain complacency and perhaps romantic sense of excitement
in their simple worship."
The Soul; its Sorrows and its Aspirations, 3d edition,
1852, pp. 89, 91.
I once heard a lady describe the pleasure it gave her
to think that she "could always cuddle up to God."
the Romish Church such characters find a more congenial
soil to grow in than in Protestantism, whose fashions
of feeling have been set by minds of a decidedly pessimistic
even in Protestantism they have been abundant enough;
and in its recent "liberal" developments of
Unitarianism and latitudinarianism generally, minds of
this order have played and still are playing leading and
Emerson himself is an admirable example.
Theodore Parker is another--here are a couple of
characteristic passages from Parker's correspondence.
John Weiss: Life
of Theodore Parker, i. 152, 32.
scholars say: 'In
the heathen classics you find no consciousness of sin.'
It is very true--God be thanked for it. They were conscious
of wrath, of cruelty, avarice, drunkenness, lust, sloth,
cowardice, and other actual vices, and struggled and got
rid of the deformities, but they were not conscious of
'enmity against God,' and didn't sit down and whine and
groan against non-existent evil.
I have done wrong things enough in my life, and
do them now; I miss the mark, draw bow, and try again.
But I am not conscious of hating God, or man, or
right, or love, and I know there is much 'health in me',
and in my body, even now, there dwelleth many a good thing,
spite of consumption and Saint Paul."
In another letter Parker writes:
"I have swum in clear sweet waters all my
days; and if sometimes they were a little cold, and the
stream ran adverse and something rough, it was never too
strong to be breasted and swum through.
From the days of earliest boyhood, when I went
stumbling through the grass, . . . up to the gray-bearded
manhood of this time, there is none but has left me honey
in the hive of memory that I now feed on for present delight.
When I recall the years . . . I am filled with a sense
of sweetness and wonder that such little things can make
a mortal so exceedingly rich.
But I must confess that the chiefest of all my
delights is still the religious."
good expression of the "once-born" type of consciousness,
developing straight and natural, with no element of morbid
compunction or crisis, is contained in the answer of Dr.
Edward Everett Hale, the eminent Unitarian preacher and
writer, to one of Dr. Starbuck's circulars.
I quote a part of it:--
observe, with profound regret, the religious struggles
which come into many biographies, as if almost essential
to the formation of the hero.
I ought to speak of these, to say that any man
has an advantage, not to be estimated, who is born, as
I was, into a family where the religion is simple and
rational; who is trained in the theory of such a religion,
so that he never knows, for an hour, what these religious
or irreligious struggles are.
I always knew God loved me, and I was always grateful
to him for the world he placed me in.
I always liked to tell him so, and was always glad
to receive his suggestions to me. . . . I can remember
perfectly that when I was coming to manhood, the half-philosophical
novels of the time had a deal to say about the young men
and maidens who were facing the 'problem of life.' I had
no idea whatever what the problem of life was.
To live with all my might seemed to me easy; to
learn where there was so much to learn seemed pleasant
and almost of course; to lend a hand, if one had a chance,
natural; and if one did this, why, he enjoyed life because
he could not help it, and without proving to himself that
he ought to enjoy it. . . . A child who is early taught
that he is God's child, that he may live and move and
have his being in God, and that he has, therefore, infinite
strength at hand for the conquering of any difficulty,
will take life more easily, and probably will make more
of it, than one who is told that he is born the child
of wrath and wholly incapable of good."
of Religion, pp. 305, 306.
can but recognize in such writers as these the presence
of a temperament organically weighted on the side of cheer
and fatally forbidden to linger, as those of opposite
temperament linger, over the darker aspects of the universe.
In some individuals optimism may become quasi-pathological.
The capacity for even a transient sadness or a momentary
humility seems cut off from them as by a kind of congenital
"I know not to what physical laws philosophers will
some day refer the feelings of melancholy.
For myself, I find that they are the most voluptuous
of all sensations," writes Saint Pierre, and accordingly
he devotes a series of sections of his work on Nature
to the Plaisirs de la Ruine, Plaisirs des Tombeaux, Ruines
de la Nature, Plaisirs de la Solitude--each of them more
optimistic than the last.
finding of a luxury in woe is very common during adolescence.
The truth-telling Marie Bashkirtseff expresses it well:--
his depression and dreadful uninterrupted suffering, I
don't condemn life.
On the contrary, I like it and find it good.
Can you believe it?
I find everything good and pleasant, even my tears,
my grief. I
enjoy weeping, I enjoy my despair.
I enjoy being exasperated and sad.
I feel as if these were so many diversions, and
I love life in spite of them all.
I want to live on. It would be cruel to have me die when I am so accommodating.
cry, I grieve, and at the same time I am pleased--no,
not exactly that--I know not how to express it.
But everything in life pleases me.
I find everything agreeable, and in the very midst
of my prayers for happiness, I find myself happy at being
is not I who undergo all this--my body weeps and cries;
but something inside of me which is above me is glad of
it all." 
Journal de Marie Bashkirtseff, i. 67.
supreme contemporary example of such an inability to feel
evil is of course Walt Whitman.
favorite occupation," writes his disciple, Dr. Bucke
"seemed to be strolling or sauntering about outdoors
by himself, looking at the grass, the trees, the flowers,
the vistas of light, the varying aspects of the sky, and
listening to the birds, the crickets, the tree frogs,
and all the hundreds of natural sounds.
was evident that these things gave him a pleasure far
beyond what they give to ordinary people.
Until I knew the man," continues Dr. Bucke,
"it had not occurred to me that any one could derive
so much absolute happiness from these things as he did.
He was very fond of flowers, either wild or cultivated;
liked all sorts.
I think he admired lilacs and sunflowers just as
much as roses. Perhaps, indeed, no man who ever lived liked so many things
and disliked so few as Walt Whitman.
All natural objects seemed to have a charm for
him. All sights and sounds seemed to please him.
He appeared to like (and I believe he did like)
all the men, women, and children he saw (though I never
knew him to say that he liked any one), but each who knew
him felt that he liked him or her, and that he liked others
also. I never
knew him to argue or dispute, and he never spoke about
always justified, sometimes playfully, sometimes quite
seriously, those who spoke harshly of himself or his writings,
and I often thought he even took pleasure in the opposition
of enemies. When
I first knew [him], I used to think that he watched himself,
and would not allow his tongue to give expression to fretfulness,
antipathy, complaint, and remonstrance. It did not occur to me as possible that these mental states
could be absent in him.
After long observation, however, I satisfied myself
that such absence or unconsciousness was entirely real.
He never spoke deprecatingly of any nationality
or class of men, or time in the world's history, or against
any trades or occupations--not even against any animals,
insects, or inanimate things, nor any of the laws of nature,
nor any of the results of those laws, such as illness,
deformity, and death.
He never complained or grumbled either at the weather,
pain, illness, or anything else.
He never swore.
He could not very well, since he never spoke in
anger and apparently never was angry.
He never exhibited fear, and I do not believe he
ever felt it."
R. M. Bucke: Cosmic
consciousness, pp. 182-186, abridged.
Whitman owes his importance in literature to the systematic
expulsion from his writings of all contractile elements.
The only sentiments he allowed himself to express
were of the expansive order; and he expressed these in
the first person, not as your mere monstrously conceited
individual might so express them, but vicariously for
all men, so that a passionate and mystic ontological emotion
suffuses his words, and ends by persuading the reader
that men and women, life and death, and all things are
it has come about that many persons to-day regard Walt
Whitman as the restorer of the eternal natural religion.
He has infected them with his own love of comrades, with
his own gladness that he and they exist.
Societies are actually formed for his cult; a periodical
organ exists for its propagation, in which the lines of
orthodoxy and heterodoxy are already beginning to be drawn;
hymns are written by others in his peculiar prosody; and
he is even explicitly compared with the founder of the
Christian religion, not altogether to the advantage of
I refer to The Conservator, edited by Horace Traubel,
and published monthly at Philadelphia.
is often spoken of as a "pagan."
The word nowadays means sometimes the mere natural
animal man without a sense of sin; sometimes it means
a Greek or Roman with his own peculiar religious consciousness.
In neither of these senses does it fitly define
this poet. He
is more than your mere animal man who has not tasted of
the tree of good and evil.
He is aware enough of sin for a swagger to be present
in his indifference towards it, a conscious pride in his
freedom from flexions and contractions, which your genuine
pagan in the first sense of the word would never show. "I could turn and live with animals,
they are so placid and
I stand and look at them long and long;
They do not sweat and whine about their condition.
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with
the mania of
owning things, Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived
of years ago, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth."
Song of Myself, 32.
natural pagan could have written these well-known lines.
But on the other hand Whitman is less than a Greek
or Roman; for their consciousness, even in Homeric times,
was full to the brim of the sad mortality of this sunlit
world, and such a consciousness Walt Whitman resolutely
refuses to adopt.
When, for example, Achilles, about to slay Lycaon,
Priam's young son, hears him sue for mercy, he stops to
friend, thou too must die:
why thus lamentest thou? Patroclos too is dead,
who was better far than thou. . . . Over me too hang death
and forceful fate.
There cometh morn or eve or some noonday when my
life too some man shall take in battle, whether with spear
he smite, or arrow from the string."
Iliad, XXI., E. Myers's translation.
Achilles savagely severs the poor boy's neck with his
sword, heaves him by the foot into the Scamander, and
calls to the fishes of the river to eat the white fat
of Lycaon. Just
as here the cruelty and the sympathy each ring true, and
do not mix or interfere with one another, so did the Greeks
and Romans keep all their sadnesses and gladnesses unmingled
and entire. Instinctive
good they did not reckon sin; nor had they any such desire
to save the credit of the universe as to make them insist,
as so many of US insist, that what immediately appears
as evil must be "good in the making," or something
Good was good, and bad just bad, for the earlier
neither denied the ills of nature--Walt Whitman's verse,
"What is called good is perfect and what is called
bad is just as perfect," would have been mere silliness
to them--nor did they, in order to escape from those ills,
invent "another and a better world" of the imagination,
in which, along with the ills, the innocent goods of sense
would also find no place. This integrity of the instinctive reactions, this freedom from
all moral sophistry and strain, gives a pathetic dignity
to ancient pagan feeling. And this quality Whitman's outpourings
have not got. His optimism is too voluntary and defiant;
his gospel has a touch of bravado and an affected twist,
and this diminishes its effect on many readers who yet
are well disposed towards optimism, and on the whole quite
willing to admit that in important respects Whitman is
of the genuine lineage of the prophets.
"God is afraid of me!" remarked such a titanic-optimistic
friend in my presence one morning when he was feeling
particularly hearty and cannibalistic.
The defiance of the phrase showed that a Christian
education in humility still rankled in his breast.
then, we give the name of healthy-mindedness to the tendency
which looks on all things and sees that they are good,
we find that we must distinguish between a more involuntary
and a more voluntary or systematic way of being healthy-minded.
In its involuntary variety, healthy-mindedness
is a way of feeling happy about things immediately.
In its systematical variety, it is an abstract
way of conceiving things as good.
Every abstract way of conceiving things selects
some one aspect of them as their essence for the time
being, and disregards the other aspects.
Systematic healthy-mindedness, conceiving good
as the essential and universal aspect of being, deliberately
excludes evil from its field of vision; and although,
when thus nakedly stated, this might seem a difficult
feat to perform for one who is intellectually sincere
with himself and honest about facts, a little reflection
shows that the situation is too complex to lie open to
so simple a criticism.
the first place, happiness, like every other emotional
state, has blindness and insensibility to opposing facts
given it as its instinctive weapon for self-protection
against disturbance. When happiness is actually in possession,
the thought of evil can no more acquire the feeling of
reality than the thought of good can gain reality when
melancholy rules. To the man actively happy, from whatever cause, evil simply
cannot then and there be believed in.
He must ignore it; and to the bystander he may
then seem perversely to shut his eyes to it and hush it
more than this:
the hushing of it up may, in a perfectly candid
and honest mind, grow into a deliberate religious policy,
or parti pris. Much
of what we call evil is due entirely to the way men take
It can so often be converted into a bracing and
tonic good by a simple change of the sufferer's inner
attitude from one of fear to one of fight; its sting so
often departs and turns into a relish when, after vainly
seeking to shun it, we agree to face about and bear it
cheerfully, that a man is simply bound in honor, with
reference to many of the facts that seem at first to disconcert
his peace, to adopt this way of escape.
Refuse to admit their badness; despise their power;
ignore their presence; turn your attention the other way;
and so far as you yourself are concerned at any rate,
though the facts may still exist, their evil character
exists no longer.
Since you make them evil or good by your own thoughts
about them, it is the ruling of your thoughts which proves
to be your principal concern.
deliberate adoption of an optimistic turn of mind thus
makes its entrance into philosophy.
And once in, it is hard to trace its lawful bounds.
Not only does the human instinct for happiness,
bent on self-protection by ignoring, keep working in its
favor, but higher inner ideals have weighty words to say.
of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly.
What can be more base and unworthy than the pining,
puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it
may have been engendered? What is more injurious to others?
What less helpful as a way out of the difficulty?
It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which
occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation.
At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway
of that mood; we ought to scout it in ourselves and others,
and never show it tolerance.
But it is impossible to carry on this discipline
in the subjective sphere without zealously emphasizing
the brighter and minimizing the darker aspects of the
objective sphere of things at the same time.
And thus our resolution not to indulge in misery,
beginning at a comparatively small point within ourselves,
may not stop until it has brought the entire frame of
reality under a systematic conception optimistic enough
to be congenial with its needs.
all this I say nothing of any mystical insight or persuasion
that the total frame of things absolutely must be good.
Such mystical persuasion plays an enormous part
in the history of the religious consciousness, and we
must look at it later with some care.
But we need not go so far at present. More ordinary
non-mystical conditions of rapture suffice for my immediate
invasive moral states and passionate enthusiasms make
one feelingless to evil in some direction. The common
penalties cease to deter the patriot, the usual prudences
are flung by the lover to the winds.
When the passion is extreme, suffering may actually
be gloried in, provided it be for the ideal cause, death
may lose its sting, the grave its victory.
In these states, the ordinary contrast of good
and ill seems to be swallowed up in a higher denomination,
an omnipotent excitement which engulfs the evil, and which
the human being welcomes as the crowning experience of
his life. This,
he says, is truly to live, and I exult in the heroic opportunity
systematic cultivation of healthy-mindedness as a religious
attitude is therefore consonant with important currents
in human nature, and is anything but absurd.
In fact. we all do cultivate it more or less, even
when our professed theology should in consistency forbid
it. We divert
our attention from disease and death as much as we can;
and the slaughter-houses and indecencies without end on
which our life is founded are huddled out of sight and
never mentioned, so that the world we recognize officially
in literature and in society is a poetic fiction far handsomer
and cleaner and better than the world that really is.
"As I go on in this life, day by day, I become more
of a bewildered child; I cannot get used to this world,
to procreation, to heredity, to sight, to hearing, the
commonest things are a burthen. The prim, obliterated,
polite surface of life, and the broad, bawdy and orgiastic--or
maenadic--foundations, form a spectacle to which no habit
reconciles me. R. L. Stevenson: Letters,
advance of liberalism, so-called, in Christianity, during
the past fifty years, may fairly be called a victory of
healthy-mindedness within the church over the morbidness
with which the old hell-fire theology was more harmoniously
have now whole congregations whose preachers, far from
magnifying our consciousness of sin, seem devoted rather
to making little of it.
They ignore, or even deny, eternal punishment,
and insist on the dignity rather than on the depravity
of man. They
look at the continual preoccupation of the old-fashioned
Christian with the salvation of his soul as something
sickly and reprehensible rather than admirable; and a
sanguine and "muscular" attitude. which to our
forefathers would have seemed purely heathen, has become
in their eyes an ideal element of Christian character.
I am not asking whether or not they are right, I am only
pointing out the change.
The persons to whom I refer have still retained
for the most part their nominal connection with Christianity,
in spite of their discarding of its more pessimistic theological
in that "theory of evolution" which, gathering
momentum for a century, has within the past twenty-five
years swept so rapidly over Europe and America, we see
the ground laid for a new sort of religion of Nature,
which has entirely displaced Christianity from the thought
of a large part of our generation.
The idea of a universal evolution lends itself
to a doctrine of general meliorism and progress which
fits the religious needs of the healthy-minded so well
that it seems almost as if it might have been created
for their use. Accordingly
we find "evolutionism" interpreted thus optimistically
and embraced as a substitute for the religion they were
born in, by a multitude of our contemporaries who have
either been trained scientifically, or been fond of reading
popular science, and who had already begun to be inwardly
dissatisfied with what seemed to them the harshness and
irrationality of the orthodox Christian scheme. As examples are better than descriptions, I will quote a document
received in answer to Professor Starbuck's circular of
writer's state of mind may by courtesy be called a religion,
for it is his reaction on the whole nature of things,
it is systematic and reflective and it loyally binds him
to certain inner ideals.
I think you will recognize in him, coarse-meated
and incapable of wounded spirit as he is, a sufficiently
familiar contemporary type.
What does Religion mean to you?
It means nothing; and it seems, so far as I can
observe useless to others.
I am sixty-seven years of age and have resided
in X fifty years, and have been in business forty-five,
consequently I have some little experience of life and
men, and some women too, and I find that the most religious
and pious people are as a rule those most lacking in uprightness
men who do not go to church or have any religious convictions
are the best. Praying,
singing of hymns, and sermonizing are pernicious--they
teach us to rely on some supernatural power, when we ought
to rely on ourselves.
I TEEtotally disbelieve in a God.
The God-idea was begotten in ignorance, fear, and
a general lack of any knowledge of Nature.
If I were to die now, being in a healthy condition
for my age, both mentally and physically, I would just
as lief, yes, rather, die with a hearty enjoyment of music,
sport, or any other rational pastime. As a timepiece stops,
we die--there being no immortality in either case.
What comes before your mind corresponding to the
words God, Heaven, Angels, etc?
Nothing whatever. I am a man without a religion.
These words mean so much mythic bosh.
Have you had any experiences which appeared providential?
None whatever. There is no agency of the superintending kind.
A little judicious observation as well as knowledge
of scientific law will convince any one of this fact.
What things work most strongly on your emotions?
Lively songs and music; Pinafore instead of an
Oratorio. I like Scott, Burns, Byron, Longfellow, especially
Shakespeare, etc., etc.
Of songs, the Star-Spangled Banner, America, Marseillaise,
and all moral and soul-stirring songs, but wishy-washy
hymns are my detestation.
I greatly enjoy nature, especially fine weather,
and until within a few years used to walk Sundays into
the country, twelve miles often, with no fatigue, and
bicycle forty or fifty.
I have dropped the bicycle.
never go to church, but attend lectures when there are
any good ones. All
of my thoughts and cogitations have been of a healthy
and cheerful kind, for instead of doubts and fears I see
things as they are, for I endeavor to adjust myself to
This I regard as the deepest law.
Mankind is a progressive animal.
I am satisfied he will have made a great advance
over his present status a thousand years hence.
What is your notion of sin?
It seems to me that sin is a condition, a disease,
incidental to man's development not being yet advanced
over it increases the disease.
We should think that a million of years hence equity,
justice, and mental and physical good order will be so
fixed and organized that no one will have any idea of
evil or sin.
What is your temperament?
Nervous, active, wide-awake, mentally and physically.
Sorry that Nature compels us to sleep at all.
we are in search of a broken and a contrite heart, clearly
we need not look to this brother.
His contentment with the finite incases him like
a lobster-shell and shields him from all morbid repining
at his distance from the infinite.
We have in him an excellent example of the optimism
which may be encouraged by popular science.
my mind a current far more important and interesting religiously
than that which sets in from natural science towards healthy-mindedness
is that which has recently poured over America and seems
to be gathering force every day--I am ignorant what foothold
it may yet have acquired in Great Britain--and to which,
for the sake of having a brief designation, I will give
the title of the "Mind-cure movement."
There are various sects of this "New Thought,"
to use another of the names by which it calls itself;
but their agreements are so profound that their differences
may be neglected for my present purpose, and I will treat
the movement, without apology, as if it were a simple
is a deliberately optimistic scheme of life, with both
a speculative and a practical side.
In its gradual development during the last quarter
of a century, it has taken up into itself a number of
contributory elements, and it must now be reckoned with
as a genuine religious power.
It has reached the stage, for example, when the
demand for its literature is great enough for insincere
stuff, mechanically produced for the market, to be to
a certain extent supplied by publishers--a phenomenon
never observed, I imagine, until a religion has got well
past its earliest insecure beginnings.
of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four Gospels;
another is Emersonianism or New England transcendentalism;
another is Berkeleyan idealism; another is spiritism,
with its messages of "law" and "progress"
and "development"; another the optimistic popular
science evolutionism of which I have recently spoken;
and, finally, Hinduism has contributed a strain.
But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure
movement is an inspiration much more direct.
The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive
belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes
as such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope,
and trust, and a correlative contempt for doubt, fear,
worry, and all nervously precautionary states of mind.
Their belief has in a general way been corroborated by
the practical experience of their disciples; and this
experience forms to-day a mass imposing in amount.
"Cautionary Verses for Children":
this title of a much used work, published early
in the nineteenth century, shows how far the muse of evangelical
protestantism in England, with her mind fixed on the idea
of danger, had at last drifted away from the original
Mind-cure might be briefly called a reaction against
all that religion of chronic anxiety which marked the
earlier part of our century in the evangelical circles
of England and America.
blind have been made to see, the halt to walk; life-long
invalids have had their health restored.
The moral fruits have been no less remarkable.
The deliberate adoption of a healthy-minded attitude
has proved possible to many who never supposed they had
it in them; regeneration of character has gone on on an
extensive scale; and cheerfulness has been restored to
The indirect influence of this has been great.
The mind-cure principles are beginning so to pervade
the air that one catches their spirit at second-hand.
One hears of the "Gospel of Relaxation,"
of the "Don't Worry Movement," of people who
repeat to themselves, "Youth, health, vigor!"
when dressing in the morning, as their motto for the day.
of the weather are getting to be forbidden in many households;
and more and more people are recognizing it to be bad
form to speak of disagreeable sensations, or to make much
of the ordinary inconveniences and ailments of life.
These general tonic effects on public opinion would
be good even if the more striking results were non-existent.
But the latter abound so that we can afford to
overlook the innumerable failures and self-deceptions
that are mixed in with them (for in everything human failure
is a matter of course), and we can also overlook the verbiage
of a good deal of the mind-cure literature, some of which
is so moonstruck with optimism and so vaguely expressed
that an academically trained intellect finds it almost
impossible to read it at all.
plain fact remains that the spread of the movement has
been due to practical fruits, and the extremely practical
turn of character of the American people has never been
better shown than by the fact that this, their only decidedly
original contribution to the systematic philosophy of
life, should be so intimately knit up with concrete therapeutics.
To the importance of mind-cure the medical and
clerical professions in the United States are beginning,
though with much recalcitrancy and protesting, to open
their eyes. It
is evidently bound to develop still farther, both speculatively
and practically, and its latest writers are far and away
the ablest of the group. It matters nothing that,
just as there are hosts of persons who cannot pray, so
there are greater hosts who cannot by any possibility
be influenced by the mind-curers' ideas.
For our immediate purpose, the important point
is that so large a number should exist who
CAN be so influenced.
They form a psychic type to be studied with respect.
I refer to Mr. Horatio W. Dresser and Mr. Henry Wood,
especially the former.
Mr. Dresser's works are published by G.
P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London; Mr. Wood's
by Lee & Shepard Boston.
Lest my own testimony be suspected, I will quote another
reporter, Dr. H. H. Goddard, of Clark University, whose
thesis on "the Effects of Mind on Body as evidenced
by Faith Cures" is published in the American Journal
of Psychology for 1899 (vol. x.).
This critic, after a wide study of the facts, concludes
that the cures by mind-cure exist, but are in no respect
different from those now officially recognized in medicine
as cures by suggestion; and the end of his essay contains
an interesting physiological speculation as to the way
in which the suggestive ideas may work (p. 67 of the reprint).
As regards the general phenomenon of mental cure
itself, Dr. Goddard writes:
"In spite of the severe criticism we have
made of reports of cure, there still remains a vast amount
of material, showing a powerful influence of the mind
in disease. Many
cases are of diseases that have been diagnosed and treated
by the best physicians of the country, or which prominent
hospitals have tried their hand at curing, but without
of culture and education have been treated by this method
with satisfactory results. Diseases of long standing have been ameliorated, and even cured.
. . . We have traced the mental element through primitive
medicine and folk-medicine of to-day, patent medicine,
We are convinced that it is impossible to account
for the existence of these practices, if they did not
cure disease, and that if they cured disease, it must
have been the mental element that was effective.
The same argument applies to those modern schools
of mental therapeutics-- Divine Healing and Christian
is hardly conceivable that the large body of intelligent
people who comprise the body known distinctively as Mental
Scientists should continue to exist if the whole thing
were a delusion.
It is not a thing of a day; it is not confined
to a few; it is not local.
It is true that many failures are recorded, but
that only adds to the argument.
There must be many and striking successes to counterbalance
the failures, otherwise the failures would have ended
the delusion. . . . Christian Science, Divine Healing,
or Mental Science do not, and never can in the very nature
of things, cure all diseases; nevertheless, the practical
applications of the general principles of the broadest
mental science will tend to prevent disease. . . . We
do find sufficient evidence to convince us that the proper
reform in mental attitude would relieve many a sufferer
of ills that the ordinary physician cannot touch; would
even delay the approach of death to many a victim beyond
the power of absolute cure, and the faithful adherence
to a truer philosophy of life will keep many a man well,
and give the doctor time to devote to alleviating ills
that are unpreventable" (pp. 33, 34 of reprint).
come now to a little closer quarters with their creed. The fundamental pillar on which it rests is nothing more than
the general basis of all religious experience, the fact
that man has a dual nature, and is connected with two
spheres of thought, a shallower and a profounder sphere,
in either of which he may learn to live more habitually.
The shallower and lower sphere is that of the fleshly
sensations, instincts, and desires, of egotism, doubt,
and the lower personal interests.
But whereas Christian theology has always considered
FROWARDNESS to be the essential vice of this part of human
nature, the mind-curers say that the mark of the beast
in it is FEAR; and this is what gives such an entirely
new religious turn to their persuasion.
to quote a writer of the school, "has had its uses
in the evolutionary process, and seems to constitute the
whole of forethought in most animals; but that it should
remain any part of the mental equipment of human civilized
life is an absurdity.
I find that the fear clement of forethought is
not stimulating to those more civilized persons to whom
duty and attraction are the natural motives, but is weakening
and deterrent. As
soon as it becomes unnecessary, fear becomes a positive
deterrent, and should be entirely removed, as dead flesh
is removed from living tissue.
To assist in the analysis of fear and in the denunciation
of its expressions, I have coined the word fearthought
to stand for the unprofitable element of forethought,
and have defined the word 'worry' as fearthought in contradistinction
I have also defined fearthought as the self-imposed
or self-permitted suggestion of inferiority, in order
to place it where it really belongs, in the category of
harmful, unnecessary, and therefore not respectable things."
Happiness as found in Forethought Minus Fearthought,
Menticulture Series, ii.
Chicago and New York, Stone. 1897, pp. 21-25, abridged.
"misery-habit," the "martyr-habit,"
engendered by the prevalent "fearthought," get
pungent criticism from the mind-cure writers:--
for a moment the habits of life into which we are born.
are certain social conventions or customs and alleged
requirements, there is a theological bias, a general view
of the world. There
are conservative ideas in regard to our early training,
our education, marriage, and occupation in life. Following
close upon this, there is a long series of anticipations,
namely, that we shall suffer certain children's diseases,
diseases of middle life, and of old age; the thought that
we shall grow old, lose our faculties, and again become
childlike; while crowning all is the fear of death.
Then there is a long line of particular tears and
trouble-bearing expectations, such, for example, as ideas
associated with certain articles of food, the dread of
the east wind, the terrors of hot weather, the aches and
pains associated with cold weather, the fear of catching
cold if one sits in a draught, the coming of hay-fever
upon the 14th of August in the middle of the day, and
so on through a long list of fears, dreads, worriments,
anxieties, anticipations, expectations, pessimisms, morbidities,
and the whole ghostly train of fateful shapes which our
fellow-men, and especially physicians, are ready to help
us conjure up, an array worthy to rank with Bradley's
'unearthly ballet of bloodless categories.'
this is not all.
This vast array is swelled by innumerable volunteers
from daily life--the fear of accident, the possibility
of calamity, the loss of property, the chance of robbery,
of fire, or the outbreak of war.
And it is not deemed sufficient to fear for ourselves.
When a friend is taken ill, we must forth with
fear the worst and apprehend death.
If one meets with sorrow . . . sympathy means to
enter into and increase the suffering."
H. W. Dresser: Voices
of Freedom, New York, 1899, p. 38.
to quote another writer, "often has fear stamped
upon him before his entrance into the outer world; he
is reared in fear; all his life is passed in bondage to
fear of disease and death, and thus his whole mentality
becomes cramped, limited, and depressed, and his body
follows its shrunken pattern and specification . . . Think
of the millions of sensitive and responsive souls among
our ancestors who have been under the dominion of such
a perpetual nightmare! Is it not surprising that health
exists at all? Nothing
but the boundless divine love? exuberance, and vitality,
constantly poured in, even though unconsciously to us,
could in some degree neutralize such an ocean of morbidity."
Henry Wood: Ideal
Suggestion through Mental Photography. Boston, 1899, p.
the disciples of the mind-cure often use Christian terminology,
one sees from such quotations how widely their notion
of the fall of man diverges from that of ordinary Christians.
Whether it differs so much from Christ's own notion is
for the exegetists to decide.
According to Harnack, Jesus felt about evil and
disease much as our mind-curers do.
"What is the answer which Jesus sends to John
the Baptist?" asks Harnack, and says it is this:
"'The blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers
are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead rise up, and
the gospel is preached to the poor.'
That is the 'coming of the kingdom,' or rather
in these saving works the kingdom is already there.
By the overcoming and removal of misery, of need,
of sickness, by these actual effects John is to see that
the new time has arrived.
The casting out of devils is only a part of this
work of redemption, but Jesus points to that as the sense
and seal of his mission.
Thus to the wretched, sick, and poor did he address
himself, but not as a moralist, and without a trace of
sentimentalism. He never makes groups and departments of the ills, he never
spends time in asking whether the sick one 'deserves'
to be cured; and it never occurs to him to sympathize
with the pain or the death.
He nowhere says that sickness is a beneficent infliction,
and that evil has a healthy use.
No, he calls sickness sickness and health health.
All evil, all wretchedness, is for him something
dreadful; it is of the great kingdom of Satan; but he
feels the power of the saviour within him.
He knows that advance is possible only when weakness
is overcome, when sickness is made well."
Das Wesen des Christenthums, 1900, p. 39.
notion of man's higher nature is hardly less divergent,
being decidedly pantheistic.
The spiritual in man appears
in the mind-cure philosophy as partly conscious,
but chiefly subconscious; and through the subconscious
part of it we are already one with the Divine without
any miracle of grace, or abrupt creation of a new inner
man. As this
view is variously expressed by different writers, we find
in it traces of Christian mysticism, of transcendental
idealism, of vedantism, and of the modern psychology of
the subliminal self.
A quotation or two will put us at the central point
great central fact of the universe is that spirit of infinite
life and power that is back of all, that manifests itself
in and through all.
This spirit of infinite life and power that is
back of all is what I call God.
I care not what term you may use, be it Kindly
Light, Providence, the Over-Soul, Omnipotence, or whatever
term may be most convenient, so long as we are agreed
in regard to the great central fact itself.
God then fills the universe alone, so that all
is from Him and in Him, and there is nothing that is outside.
He is the life of our life our very life itself.
We are partakers of the life of God; and though
we differ from Him in that we are individualized spirits,
while He is the Infinite Spirit, including us, as well
as all else beside, yet in essence the life of God and
the life of man are identically the same, and so are one.
They differ not in essence or quality; they differ
great central fact in human life is the coming into a
conscious vital realization of our oneness with this Infinite
Life and the opening of ourselves fully to this divine
just the degree that we come into a conscious realization
of our oneness with the Infinite Life, and open ourselves
to this divine inflow, do we actualize in ourselves the
qualities and powers of the Infinite Life, do we make
ourselves channels through which the Infinite Intelligence
and Power can work.
In just the degree in which you realize your oneness
with the Infinite Spirit, you will exchange dis-ease for
ease, inharmony for harmony, suffering and pain for abounding
health and strength.
To recognize our own divinity, and our intimate
relation to the Universal, is to attach the belts of our
machinery to the powerhouse of the Universe. One need remain in hell no longer than one chooses to; we can
rise to any heaven we ourselves choose; and when we choose
so to rise, all the higher powers of the Universe combine
to help us heavenward."
R. W. Trine: In
Tune with the Infinite, 26th thousand, N.Y. 1899.
I have strung scattered passages together.
me now pass from these abstracter statements to some more
concrete accounts of experience with the mind-cure religion.
I have many answers from correspondents--the only
difficulty is to choose.
The first two whom I shall quote are my personal
of them, a woman, writing as follows, expresses well the
feeling of continuity with the Infinite Power, by which
all mind-cure disciples are inspired.
first underlying cause of all sickness, weakness, or depression
is the human sense of separateness from that Divine Energy
which we call God.
The soul which can feel and affirm in serene but
jubilant confidence, as did the Nazarene:
'I and my Father are one,' has no further need
of healer, or of healing. This is the whole truth in a
nutshell, and other foundation for wholeness can no man
lay than this fact of impregnable divine union.
Disease can no longer attack one whose feet are
planted on this rock, who feels hourly, momently, the
influx of the Deific Breath.
If one with Omnipotence, how can weariness enter
the consciousness, how illness assail that indomitable
possibility of annulling forever the law of fatigue has
been abundantly proven in my own case; for my earlier
life bears a record of many, many years of bedridden invalidism,
with spine and lower limbs paralyzed.
My thoughts were no more impure than they are to-day,
although my belief in the necessity of illness was dense
and unenlightened; but since my resurrection in the flesh,
I have worked as a healer unceasingly for fourteen years
without a vacation, and can truthfully assert that I have
never known a moment of fatigue or pain, although coming
in touch constantly with excessive weakness, illness,
and disease of all kinds.
For how can a conscious part of Deity be sick?--since
'Greater is he that is with us than all that can strive
second correspondent, also a woman, sends me the following
seemed difficult to me at one time.
I was always breaking down, and had several attacks
of what is called nervous prostration, with terrible insomnia,
being on the verge of insanity; besides having many other
troubles, especially of the digestive organs.
I had been sent away from home in charge of doctors,
had taken all the narcotics, stopped all work, been fed
up, and in fact knew all the doctors within reach.
But I never recovered permanently till this New
Thought took possession of me.
think that the one thing which impressed me most was learning
the fact that we must be in absolutely constant relation
or mental touch (this word is to me very expressive) with
that essence of life which permeates all and which we
call God. This is almost unrecognizable unless we live
it into ourselves ACTUALLY, that is, by a constant turning
to the very innermost, deepest consciousness of our real
selves or of God in us, for illumination from within,
just as we turn to the sun for light, warmth, and invigoration
you do this consciously, realizing that to turn inward
to the light within you is to live in the presence of
God or your divine self, you soon discover the unreality
of the objects to which you have hitherto been turning
and which have engrossed you without.
have come to disregard the meaning of this attitude for
bodily health AS SUCH, because that comes of itself, as
an incidental result, and cannot be found by any special
mental act or desire to have it, beyond that general attitude
of mind I have referred to above.
That which we usually make the object of life,
those outer things we are all so wildly seeking, which
we so often live and die for, but which then do not give
us peace and happiness, they should all come of themselves
as accessory, and as the mere outcome or natural result
of a far higher life sunk deep in the bosom of the spirit.
This life is the real seeking of the kingdom of
God, the desire for his supremacy in our hearts, so that
all else comes as that which shall be 'added unto you'--as
quite incidental and as a surprise to us, perhaps; and
yet it is the proof of the reality of the perfect poise
in the very centre of our being.
I say that we commonly make the object of our life that
which we should not work for primarily, I mean many things
which the world considers praiseworthy and excellent,
such as success in business, fame as author or artist,
physician or lawyer, or renown in philanthropic undertakings. Such things should be results, not objects.
I would also include pleasures of many kinds which
seem harmless and good at the time, and are pursued because
many accept them--I mean conventionalities, sociabilities,
and fashions in their various development, these being
mostly approved by the masses, although they may be unreal,
and even unhealthy superfluities."
is another case, more concrete, also that of a woman.
I read you these cases without comment--they express so
many varieties of the state of mind we are studying.
had been a sufferer from my childhood till my fortieth
of ill-health are given which I omit.] I had been in Vermont
several months hoping for good from the change of air,
but steadily growing weaker, when one day during the latter
part of October, while resting in the afternoon, I suddenly
heard as it were these words:
'You will be healed and do a work you never dreamed
words were impressed upon my mind with such power I said
at once that only God could have put them there.
I believed them in spite of myself and of my suffering
and weakness, which continued until Christmas, when I
returned to Boston.
Within two days a young friend offered to take
me to a mental healer (this was January 7, 1881).
The healer said:
'There is nothing but Mind; we are expressions
of the One Mind; body is only a mortal belief; as a man
thinketh so is he.' I could not accept all she said, but
I translated all that was there for ME in this way:
'There is nothing but God; I am created by Him,
and am absolutely dependent upon Him; mind is given me
to use; and by just so much of it as I will put upon the
thought of right action in body I
shall be lifted out of bondage to my ignorance
and fear and past experience.'
That day I commenced accordingly to take a little
of every food provided for the family, constantly saying
to myself: 'The
Power that created the stomach must take care of what
I have eaten.' By
holding these suggestions through the evening I went to
bed and fell asleep, saying:
'I am soul, spirit, just one with God's Thought
of me,' and slept all night without waking, for the first
time in several years [the distress-turns had usually
recurred about two o'clock in the night].
I felt the next day like an escaped prisoner, and
believed I had found the secret that would in time give
me perfect health.
Within ten days I was able to eat anything provided
for others, and after two weeks I began to have my own
positive mental suggestions of Truth, which were to me
I will note a few of them, they came about two
I am Soul, therefore it is well with me.
I am Soul, therefore I am well.
A sort of inner vision of myself as a four-footed
beast with a protuberance on every part of my body where
I had suffering, with my own face, begging me to acknowledge
it as myself. I
resolutely fixed my attention on being well, and refused
to even look at my old self in this form.
Again the vision of the beast far in the background,
with faint voice.
Again refusal to acknowledge.
Once more the vision, but only of my eyes with
the longing look; and again the refusal.
Then came the conviction, the inner consciousness,
that I was perfectly well and always had been, for I was
Soul, an expression of God's Perfect Thought.
That was to me the perfect and completed separation
between what I was and what I appeared to be.
I succeeded in never losing sight after this of
my real being, by constantly affirming this truth, and
by degrees (though it took me two years of hard work to
get there) I expressed health continuously throughout
my whole body.
my subsequent nineteen years' experience I have never
known this Truth to fail when I applied it, though in
my ignorance I have often failed to apply it, but through
my failures I have learned the simplicity and trustfulness
of the little child."
I fear that I risk tiring you by so many examples, and
I must lead you back to philosophic generalities again.
You see already by such records of experience how
impossible it is not to class mind-cure as primarily a
Its doctrine of the oneness of our life with God's
life is in fact quite indistinguishable from an interpretation
of Christ's message which in these very Gifford lectures
has been defended by some of your very ablest Scottish
The Cairds, for example.
In Edward Caird's Glasgow Lectures of 1890-92 passages
like this abound:--
declaration made in the beginning of the ministry of Jesus
that 'the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven
is at hand,' passes with scarce a break into the announcement
that 'the kingdom of God is among you'; and the importance
of this announcement is asserted to be such that it makes,
so to speak, a difference IN KIND between the greatest
saints and prophets who lived under the previous reign
of division, and 'the least in the kingdom of heaven.'
The highest ideal is brought close to men and declared
to be within their reach, they are called on to be 'perfect
as their Father in heaven is perfect.'
The sense of alienation and distance from God which
had grown upon the pious in Israel just in proportion
as they had learned to look upon Him as no mere national
divinity, but as a God of justice who would punish Israel
for its sin as certainly as Edom or Moab, is declared
to be no longer in place; and the typical form of Christian
prayer points to the abolition of the contrast between
this world and the next which through all the history
of the Jews had continually been growing wider:
'As in heaven, so on earth.' The sense of the division
of man from God, as a finite being from the Infinite,
as weak and sinful from the Omnipotent Goodness, is not
indeed lost; but it can no longer overpower the consciousness
of oneness. The
terms 'Son' and 'Father' at once state the opposition
and mark its limit. They show that it is not an absolute opposition, but one which
presupposes an indestructible principle of unity, that
can and must become a principle of reconciliation."
The Evolution of Religion, ii.
pp. 146, 147.
philosophers usually profess to give a quasi-logical explanation
of the existence of evil, whereas of the general fact
of evil in the world, the existence of the selfish, suffering,
timorous finite consciousness, the mind-curers,
so far as I am acquainted with them, profess to give no
speculative explanation Evil is empirically there for
them as it is for everybody, but the practical point of
view predominates, and it would ill agree with the spirit
of their system to spend time in worrying over it as a
"mystery" or "problem," or in "laying
to heart" the lesson of its experience, after the
manner of the Evangelicals.
Don't reason about it, as Dante says, but give
a glance and pass beyond! It is Avidhya, ignorance! something merely to be outgrown and
left be hind, transcended and forgotten.
Christian Science so-called, the sect of Mrs. Eddy,
is the most radical branch of mind-cure in its dealings
with evil. For
it evil is simply a LIE, and any one who mentions it is
a liar. The
optimistic ideal of duty forbids us to pay it the compliment
even of explicit attention. Of course, as our next lectures will show us, this is a bad
speculative omission, but it is intimately linked with
the practical merits of the system we are examining.
Why regret a philosophy of evil, a mind-curer would
ask us, if I can put you in possession of a life of good?
all, it is the life that tells; and mind-cure has developed
a living system of mental hygiene which may well claim
to have thrown all previous literature of the Diatetit
der Seele into the shade.
This system is wholly and exclusively compacted
of optimism: "Pessimism
leads to weakness. Optimism leads to power."
"Thoughts are things," as one of the
most vigorous mind-cure writers prints in bold type at
the bottom of each of his pages; and if your thoughts
are of health, youth, vigor, and success, before you know
it these things will also be your outward portion.
No one can fail of the regenerative influence of
optimistic thinking, pertinaciously pursued.
Every man owns indefeasibly this inlet to the divine.
Fear, on the contrary, and all the contracted and
egoistic modes of thought, are inlets to destruction.
Most mind-curers here bring in a doctrine that
thoughts are "forces," and that, by virtue of
a law that like attracts like, one man's thoughts draw
to themselves as allies all the thoughts of the same character
that exist the world over. Thus one gets, by one's thinking,
reinforcements from elsewhere for the realization of one's
desires; and the great point in the conduct of life is
to get the heavenly forces on one's side by opening one's
own mind to their influx.
the whole, one is struck by a psychological similarity
between the mind-cure movement and the Lutheran and Wesleyan
movements. To the believer in moralism and works, with his anxious query,
"What shall I do to be saved?"
Luther and Wesley replied:
"You are saved now, if you would but believe
the mind-curers come with precisely similar words of emancipation.
They speak, it is true, to persons for whom the
conception of salvation has lost its ancient theological
meaning, but who labor nevertheless with the same eternal
THINGS ARE WRONG WITH THEM; and "What shall
I do to be clear, right, sound, whole, well?" is
the form of their question.
And the answer is:
"You ARE well, sound, and clear already, if
you did but know it." "The whole matter may be summed up in one sentence,"
says one of the authors whom I have already quoted, "GOD
IS WELL, AND SO ARE YOU.
You must awaken to the knowledge of your real being."
adequacy of their message to the mental needs of a large
fraction of mankind is what gave force to those earlier
the same adequacy holds in the case of the mind-cure message,
foolish as it may sound upon its surface; and seeing its
rapid growth in influence, and its therapeutic triumphs,
one is tempted to ask whether it may not be destined (probably
by very reason of the crudity and extravagance of many
of its manifestations) to play a part almost as great in the evolution of the popular religion of the future
as did those earlier movements in their day.
It remains to be seen whether the school of Mr. Dresser,
which assumes more and more the form of mind-cure experience
and academic philosophy mutually impregnating each other,
will score the practical triumphs of the less critical
and rational sects.
I here fear that I may begin to "jar upon the nerves"
of some of the members of this academic audience.
Such contemporary vagaries, you may think, should
hardly take so large a place in dignified Gifford lectures.
I can only beseech you to have patience.
The whole outcome of these lectures will, I imagine,
be the emphasizing to your mind of the enormous diversities
which the spiritual lives of different men exhibit.
Their wants, their susceptibilities, and their
capacities all vary and must be classed under different
result is that we have really different types of religious
experience; and, seeking in these lectures closer acquaintance
with the healthy-minded type, we must take it where we
find it in most radical form.
The psychology of individual types of character
has hardly begun even to be sketched as yet--our lectures
may possibly serve as a crumb-like contribution to the
first thing to bear in mind (especially if we ourselves
belong to the clerico-academic-scientific type, the officially
and conventionally "correct" type, "the
deadly respectable" type, for which to ignore others
is a besetting temptation) is that nothing can be more
stupid than to bar out phenomena from our notice, merely
because we are incapable of taking part in anything like
the history of Lutheran salvation by faith, of methodistic
conversions, and of what I call the mind-cure movement
seems to prove the existence of numerous persons in whom--at
any rate at a certain stage in their development--a change
of character for the better, so far from being facilitated
by the rules laid down by official moralists, will take
place all the more successfully if those rules be exactly
moralists advise us never to relax our strenuousness.
"Be vigilant, day and night," they adjure
us; "hold your passive tendencies in check; shrink
from no effort; keep your will like a bow always bent."
But the persons I speak of find that all this conscious
effort leads to nothing but failure and vexation in their
hands, and only makes them twofold more the children of
hell they were before.
The tense and voluntary attitude becomes in them
an impossible fever and torment.
Their machinery refuses to run at all when the
bearings are made so hot and the belts so tight.
these circumstances the way to success, as vouched for
by innumerable authentic personal narrations, is by an
anti-moralistic method, by the "surrender" of
which I spoke in my second lecture.
Passivity, not activity; relaxation, not intentness,
should be now the rule.
Give up the feeling of responsibility, let go your
hold, resign the care of your destiny to higher powers,
be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of it all,
and you will find not only that you gain a perfect inward
relief, but often also, in addition, the particular goods
you sincerely thought you were renouncing. This is the
salvation through self-despair, the dying to be truly
born, of Lutheran theology, the passage into NOTHING of
which Jacob Behmen writes.
To get to it, a critical point must usually be
passed, a corner turned within one.
Something must give way, a native hardness must
break down and liquefy; and this event (as we shall abundantly
see hereafter) is frequently sudden and automatic, and
leaves on the Subject an impression that he has been wrought
on by an external power.
its ultimate significance may prove to be, this is certainly
one fundamental form of human experience. Some say that
the capacity or incapacity for it is what divides the
religious from the merely moralistic character. With those
who undergo it in its fullness, no criticism avails to
cast doubt on its reality.
They KNOW; for they have actually FELT the higher
powers, in giving up the tension of their personal will.
story which revivalist preachers often tell is that of
a man who found himself at night slipping down the side
of a precipice.
last he caught a branch which stopped his fall, and remained
clinging to it in misery for hours.
But finally his fingers had to loose their hold,
and with a despairing farewell to life, he let himself
fell just six inches.
If he had given up the struggle earlier, his agony
would have been spared.
As the mother earth received him, so, the preachers
tell us, will the everlasting arms receive us if we confide
absolutely in them, and give up the hereditary habit of
relying on our personal strength, with its precautions
that cannot shelter and safeguards that never save.
mind-curers have given the widest scope to this sort of
have demonstrated that a form of regeneration by relaxing,
by letting go, psychologically indistinguishable from
the Lutheran justification by faith and the Wesleyan acceptance
of free grace, is within the reach of persons who have
no conviction of sin and care nothing for the Lutheran
is but giving your little private convulsive self a rest,
and finding that a greater Self is there.
The results, slow or sudden, or great or small,
of the combined optimism and expectancy, the regenerative
phenomena which ensue on the abandonment of effort, remain
firm facts of human nature, no matter whether we adopt
a theistic, a pantheistic-idealistic, or a medical-materialistic
view of their ultimate causal explanation.
The theistic explanation is by divine grace, which creates
a new nature within one the moment the old nature is sincerely
given up. The pantheistic explanation (which is that of most mind-curers)
is by the merging of the narrower private self into the
wider or greater self, the spirit of the universe (which
is your own "subconscious" self), the moment
the isolating barriers of mistrust and anxiety are removed.
The medico-materialistic explanation is that simpler
cerebral processes act more freely where they are left
to act automatically by the shunting-out of physiologically
(though in this instance not spiritually) "higher"
ones which, seeking to regulate, only succeed in inhibiting
results.--Whether this third explanation might, in a psycho-physical
account of the universe, be combined with either of the
others may be left an open question here.
we take up the phenomena of revivalistic conversion, we
shall learn something more about all this.
Meanwhile I will say a brief word about the mind-curer's
are of course largely suggestive.
The suggestive influence of environment plays an
enormous part in all spiritual education.
the word "suggestion," having acquired official
status, is unfortunately already beginning to play in
many quarters the part of a wet blanket upon investigation,
being used to fend off all inquiry into the varying susceptibilities
of individual cases.
"Suggestion" is only another name for
the power of ideas, SO FAR AS THEY PROVE EFFICACIOUS OVER
BELIEF AND CONDUCT.
Ideas efficacious over some people prove inefficacious
over others. Ideas
efficacious at some times and in some human surroundings
are not so at other times and elsewhere.
The ideas of Christian churches are not efficacious
in the therapeutic direction to-day, whatever they may
have been in earlier centuries; and when the whole question
is as to why the salt has lost its savor here or gained
it there, the mere blank waving of the word "suggestion"
as if it were a banner gives no light.
Dr. Goddard, whose candid psychological essay on
Faith Cures ascribes them to nothing but ordinary suggestion,
concludes by saying that "Religion [and by this he
seems to mean our popular Christianity] has in it all
there is in mental therapeutics, and has it in its best
up to [our religious] ideas will do anything for us that
can be done."
And this in spite of the actual fact that the popular
Christianity does absolutely NOTHING, or did nothing until
mind-cure came to the rescue.
Within the churches a disposition has always prevailed
to regard sickness as a visitation; something sent by
God for our good, either as chastisement, as warning,
or as opportunity for exercising virtue, and, in the Catholic
Church, of earning "merit."
"Illness," says a good Catholic writer
P. Lejeune: (Introd.
a la Vie Mystique, 1899, p. 218), "is the most excellent
corporeal mortifications, the mortification which one
has not one's self chosen, which is imposed directly by
God, and is the direct expression of his will.
'If other mortifications are of silver,'
Mgr. Gay says, 'this one is of gold; since although
it comes of ourselves, coming as it does of original sin,
still on its greater side, as coming (like all that happens)
from the providence of God, it is of divine manufacture.
And how just are its blows!
And how efficacious it is! . . . I do not hesitate
to say that patience in a long illness is mortification's
very masterpiece, and consequently the triumph of mortified
souls.'" According to this view, disease should in
any case be submissively accepted, and it might under
certain circumstances even be blasphemous to wish it away.
course there have been exceptions to this, and cures by
special miracle have at all times been recognized within
the church's pale, almost all the great saints having
more or less performed them.
It was one of the heresies of Edward Irving, to
maintain them still to be possible. An extremely pure faculty of healing after confession and conversion
on the patient's part, and prayer on the priest's, was
quite spontaneously developed in the German pastor, Joh.
Christoph Blumhardt, in the early forties and exerted
during nearly thirty years. Blumhardt's Life by Zundel (5th edition, Zurich, 1887) gives
in chapters ix., x., xi., and xvii.
a pretty full account of his healing activity,
which he invariably ascribed to direct divine interposition.
Blumhardt was a singularly pure, simple, and non-fanatical
character, and in this part of his work followed no previous
Chicago to-day we have the case of Dr. J. A. Dowie, a
Scottish Baptist preacher, whose weekly "Leaves of
Healing" were in the year of grace 1900 in their
sixth volume, and who, although he denounces the cures
wrought in other sects as "diabolical counterfeits"
of his own exclusively "Divine Healing," must
on the whole be counted into the mind-cure movement. In mind-cure circles the fundamental article of faith is that
disease should never be accepted. It is wholly of the
wants us to be absolutely healthy, and we should not tolerate
ourselves on any lower terms.
idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with
the force of a revelation.
The mind-cure with its gospel of healthy-mindedness
has come as a revelation to many whose hearts the church
Christianity had left hardened.
It has let loose their springs of higher life. In what can the originality of any religious movement consist,
save in finding a channel, until then sealed up, through
which those springs may be set free in some group of human
force of personal faith, enthusiasm, and example, and
above all the force of novelty, are always the prime suggestive
agency in this kind of success.
If mind-cure should ever become official, respectable,
and intrenched, these elements of suggestive efficacy
will be lost. In
its acuter stages every religion must be a homeless Arab
of the desert. The church knows this well enough, with its everlasting inner
struggle of the acute religion of the few against the
chronic religion of the many, indurated into an obstructiveness
worse than that which irreligion opposes to the movings
of the Spirit. "We
may pray," says Jonathan Edwards, "concerning
all those saints that are not lively Christians, that
they may either be enlivened, or taken away; if that be
true that is often said by some at this day, that these
cold dead saints do more hurt than natural men, and lead
more souls to hell, and that it would be well for mankind
if they were all dead."
Edwards, from whose book on the Revival in New England
I quote these words, dissuades from such a use of prayer,
but it is easy to see that he enjoys making his thrust
at the cold dead church members.
next condition of success is the apparent existence, in
large numbers, of minds who unite healthy-mindedness with
readiness for regeneration by letting go.
Protestantism has been too pessimistic as regards
the natural man, Catholicism has been too legalistic and
moralistic, for either the one or the other to appeal
in any generous way to the type of character formed of
this peculiar mingling of elements. However few of us
here present may belong to such a type, it is now evident
that it forms a specific moral combination, well represented
in the world.
mind-cure has made what in our protestant countries is
an unprecedentedly great use of the subconscious life.
To their reasoned advice and dogmatic assertion,
its founders have added systematic exercise in passive
relaxation, concentration, and meditation, and have even
invoked something like hypnotic practice.
I quote some passages at random:--
value, the potency of ideals is the great practical truth
on which the New Thought most strongly insists--the development
namely from within outward, from small to great. Consequently
one's thought should be centred on the ideal outcome,
even though this trust be literally like a step in the
dark. To attain the ability thus effectively to direct
the mind, the New Thought advises the practice of concentration,
or in other words, the attainment of self-control.
One is to learn to marshal the tendencies of the
mind, so that they may be held together as a unit by the
chosen ideal. To
this end, one should set apart times for silent meditation,
by one's self, preferably in a room where the surroundings
are favorable to spiritual thought.
In New Thought terms, this is called 'entering
H. W. DRESSER: Voices
of Freedom, 46.
by the spirit, 58.
of Freedom, 33.
time will come when in the busy office or on the noisy
street you can enter into the silence by simply drawing
the mantle of your own thoughts about you and realizing
that there and everywhere the Spirit of Infinite Life,
Love, Wisdom, Peace, Power, and Plenty is guiding, keeping,
protecting, leading you. This is the spirit of continual
prayer. One of the most intuitive men we ever met
had a desk at a city office where several other gentlemen
were doing business constantly, and often talking loudly.
Entirely undisturbed by the many various sounds
about him, this self-centred faithful man would, in any
moment of perplexity, draw the curtains of privacy so
completely about him that he would be as fully inclosed
in his own psychic aura, and thereby as effectually removed
from all distractions, as though he were alone in some
primeval wood. Taking
his difficulty with him into the mystic silence in the
form of a direct question, to which he expected a certain
answer, he would remain utterly passive until the reply
came, and never once through many years' experience did
he find himself disappointed or misled."
Tune with the Infinite, p. 214
I should like to know, does this INTRINSICALLY differ
from the practice of "recollection" which plays
so great a part in Catholic discipline?
Otherwise called the practice of the presence of
God (and so known among ourselves, as for instance in
Jeremy Taylor), it is thus defined by the eminent teacher
Alvarez de Paz in his work on Contemplation.
is the recollection of God, the thought of God, which
in all places and circumstances makes us see him present,
lets us commune respectfully and lovingly with him, and
fills us with desire and affection for him. . . .
Would you escape from every ill?
Never lose this recollection of God, neither in
prosperity nor in adversity, nor on any occasion whichsoever
it be. Invoke not, to excuse yourself from this duty,
either the difficulty or the importance of your business,
for you can always remember that God sees you, that you
are under his eye.
If a thousand times an hour you forget him, reanimate
a thousand times the recollection.
you cannot practice this exercise continuously, at least
make yourself as familiar with it as possible; and, like
unto those who in a rigorous winter draw near the fire
as often as they can, go as often as you can to that ardent
fire which will warm your soul."
Quoted by Lejeune:
Introd. a la vie Mystique, 1899, p. 66.
the external associations of the Catholic discipline are
of course unlike anything in mind-cure thought, but the
purely spiritual part of the exercise is identical in
both communions, and in both communions those who urge
it write with authority, for they have evidently experienced
in their own persons that whereof they tell.
Compare again some mind-cure utterances:--
healthful, pure thinking can be encouraged, promoted,
Its current can be turned upon grand ideals until
it forms a habit and wears a channel.
By means of such discipline the mental horizon
can be flooded with the sunshine of beauty, wholeness,
and harmony. To
inaugurate pure and lofty thinking may at first seem difficult,
even almost mechanical, but perseverance will at length
render it easy, then pleasant, and finally delightful.
soul's real world is that which it has built of its thoughts,
mental states, and imaginations.
If we WILL, we can turn our backs upon the lower
and sensuous plane, and lift ourselves into the realm
of the spiritual and Real, and there gain a residence.
The assumption of states of expectancy and receptivity
will attract spiritual sunshine, and it will flow in as
naturally as air inclines to a vacuum. . . .
Whenever the though; is not occupied with one's
daily duty or profession, it should he sent aloft into
the spiritual atmosphere.
There are quiet leisure moments by day, and wakeful
hours at night, when this wholesome and delightful exercise
may be engaged in to great advantage.
If one who has never made any systematic effort
to lift and control the thought-forces will, for a single
month, earnestly pursue the course here suggested, he
will be surprised and delighted at the result, and nothing
will induce him to go back to careless, aimless, and superficial
thinking. At such favorable seasons the outside world, with all its current
of daily events, is barred out, and one goes into the
silent sanctuary of the inner temple of soul to commune
and aspire. The
spiritual hearing becomes delicately sensitive, so that
the 'still, small voice' is audible, the tumultuous waves
of external sense are hushed, and there is a great calm.
The ego gradually becomes conscious that it is
face to face with the Divine Presence; that mighty, healing,
loving, Fatherly life which is nearer to us than we are
to ourselves. There
is soul contact with the Parent- Soul, and an influx of
life, love, virtue, health, and happiness from the Inexhaustible
HENRY Wood: Ideal
suggestion through Mental Photography, pp. 51, 70 (abridged).
we reach the subject of mysticism, you will undergo so
deep an immersion into these exalted states of consciousness
as to be wet all over, if I may so express myself; and
the cold shiver of doubt with which this little sprinkling
may affect you will have long since passed away-- doubt,
I mean, as to whether all such writing be not mere abstract
talk and rhetoric set down pour encourager les autres.
You will then be convinced, I trust, that these
states of consciousness of "union" form a perfectly
definite class of experiences, of which the soul may occasionally
partake, and which certain persons may live by in a deeper
sense than they live by anything else with which they
This brings me to a general philosophical reflection
with which I should like to pass from the subject of healthy-mindedness,
and close a topic which I fear is already only too long
drawn out. It
concerns the relation of all this systematized healthy-mindedness
and mind-cure religion to scientific method and the scientific
a later lecture I shall have to treat explicitly of the
relation of religion to science on the one hand, and to
primeval savage thought on the other.
There are plenty of persons to-day--"scientists"
or "positivists," they are fond of calling themselves--who
will tell you that religious thought is a mere survival,
an atavistic reversion to a type of consciousness which
humanity in its more enlightened examples has long since
left behind and out-grown.
If you ask them to explain themselves more fully,
they will probably say that for primitive thought everything
is conceived of under the form of personality.
The savage thinks that things operate by personal
forces, and for the sake of individual ends.
For him, even external nature obeys individual
needs and claims, just as if these were so many elementary
science, on the other hand, these positivists say, has
proved that personality, so far from being an elementary
force in nature, is but a passive resultant of the really
elementary forces, physical, chemical, physiological,
and psycho-physical, which are all impersonal and general
in character. Nothing
individual accomplishes anything in the universe save
in so far as it obeys and exemplifies some universal law. Should you then inquire of them by what means science has thus
supplanted primitive thought, and discredited its personal
way of looking at things, they would undoubtedly say it
has been by the strict use of the method of experimental
out science's conceptions practically, they will say,
the conceptions that ignore personality altogether, and
you will always be corroborated.
The world is so made that all your expectations
will be experientially verified so long, and only so long,
as you keep the terms from which you infer them impersonal
here we have mind-cure, with her diametrically opposite
philosophy, setting up an exactly identical claim.
Live as if I were true, she says, and every day
will practically prove you right.
That the controlling energies of nature are personal,
that your own personal thoughts are forces, that the powers
of the universe will directly respond to your individual
appeals and needs, are propositions which your whole bodily
and mental experience will verify.
And that experience does largely verify these primeval
religious ideas is proved by the fact that the mind-cure
movement spreads as it does, not by proclamation and assertion
simply, but by palpable experiential results.
Here, in the very heyday of science's authority,
it carries on an aggressive warfare against the scientific
philosophy, and succeeds by using science's own peculiar
methods and weapons.
Believing that a higher power will take care of
us in certain ways better than we can take care of ourselves,
if we only genuinely throw ourselves upon it and consent
to use it, it finds the belief, not only not impugned,
but corroborated by its observation.
conversions are thus made, and converts confirmed, is
evident enough from the narratives which I have quoted.
I will quote yet another couple of shorter ones to give
the matter a perfectly concrete turn.
Here is one:--
of my first experiences in applying my teaching was two
months after I first saw the healer.
I fell, spraining my right ankle, which I had done
once four years before, having then had to use a crutch
and elastic anklet for some months, and carefully guarding
it ever since. As
soon as I was on my feet I made the positive suggestion
(and felt it through all my being):
'There is nothing but God, and all life comes from
him perfectly. I
cannot be sprained or hurt, I will let him take care of
it.' Well, I never had a sensation in it, and I walked
two miles that day."
next case not only illustrates experiment and verification,
but also the element of passivity and surrender of which
awhile ago I made such account.
went into town to do some shopping one morning, and I
had not been gone long before I began to feel ill.
The ill feeling increased rapidly, until I had
pains in all my bones, nausea and faintness, headache,
all the symptoms in short that precede an attack of influenza.
I thought that I was going to have the grippe,
epidemic then in Boston, or something worse.
The mind-cure teachings that I had been listening
to all the winter
thereupon came into my mind, and I thought that
here was an opportunity to test myself.
On my way home I met a friend, I refrained with
some effort from telling her how I felt.
That was the first step gained.
I went to bed immediately, and my husband wished
to send for the doctor.
But I told him that I would rather wait until morning
and see how I felt.
Then followed one of the most beautiful experiences
of my life.
cannot express it in any other way than to say that I
did 'lie down in the stream of life and let it flow over
me.' I gave
up all fear of any impending disease; I was perfectly
willing and obedient.
There was no intellectual effort, or train of thought.
dominant idea was:
'Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
be it unto me even as thou wilt,' and a perfect
confidence that all would be well, that all WAS well.
The creative life was flowing into me every instant,
and I felt myself allied with the Infinite, in harmony,
and full of the peace that passeth understanding.
There was no place in my mind for a jarring body.
I had no consciousness of time or space or persons; but
only of love and happiness and faith.
do not know how long this state lasted, nor when I fell
asleep; but when I woke up in the morning, I WAS WELL."
are exceedingly trivial instances, but in them, if
we have anything at all, we have the method of experiment
and verification. For the point I am driving at now, it makes no difference whether
you consider the patients to be deluded victims of their
imagination or not.
That they seemed to THEMSELVES to have been cured
by the experiments tried was enough to make them converts
to the system. And
although it is evident that one must be of a certain mental
mould to get such results (for not every one can get thus
cured to his own satisfaction any more than every one
can be cured by the first regular practitioner whom he
calls in), yet it would surely be pedantic and over-scrupulous
for those who CAN get their savage and primitive philosophy
of mental healing verified in such experimental ways as
this, to give them up at word of command for more scientific
are we to think of all this?
Has science made too wide a claim?
See Appendix to this lecture for two other cases furnished
me by friends.
believe that the claims of the sectarian scientist are,
to say the least, premature.
The experiences which we have been studying during
this hour (and a great many other kinds of religious experiences
are like them) plainly show the universe to be a more
many-sided affair than any sect, even the scientific sect,
allows for. What,
in the end, are all our verifications but experiences
that agree with more or less isolated systems of ideas
(conceptual systems) that our minds have framed? But why in the name of common sense need we assume that only
one such system of ideas can be true?
The obvious outcome of our total experience is
that the world can be handled according to many systems
of ideas, and is so handled by different men, and will
each time give some characteristic kind of profit, for
which he cares, to the handler, while at the same time
some other kind of profit has to be omitted or postponed.
Science gives to all of us telegraphy, electric
lighting, and diagnosis, and succeeds in preventing and
curing a certain amount of disease. Religion in the shape
of mind-cure gives to some of us serenity, moral poise,
and happiness, and prevents certain forms of disease as
well as science does, or even better in a certain class
of persons. Evidently,
then, the science and the religion are both of them genuine
keys for unlocking the world's treasure-house to him who
can use either of them practically.
Just as evidently neither is exhaustive or exclusive
of the other's simultaneous use.
And why, after all, may not the world be so complex
as to consist of many interpenetrating spheres of reality,
which we can thus approach in alternation by using different
conceptions and assuming different attitudes, just as
mathematicians handle the same numerical and spatial facts
by geometry, by analytical
geometry, by algebra, by the calculus, or by quaternions,
and each time come out right?
On this view religion and science, each verified
in its own way from hour to hour and from life to life,
would be co-eternal.
Primitive thought, with its belief in individualized
personal forces, seems at any rate as far as ever from
being driven by science from the field to-day.
Numbers of educated people still find it the directest
experimental channel by which to carry on their intercourse
Whether the various spheres or systems are ever to fuse
integrally into one absolute conception, as most philosophers
assume that they must, and how, if so, that conception
may best be reached, are questions that only the future
can answer. What
is certain now is the fact of lines of disparate conception,
each corresponding to some part of the world's truth,
each verified in some degree, each leaving out some part
of real experience.
case of mind-cure lay so ready to my hand that I could
not resist the temptation of using it to bring these last
truths home to your attention, but I must content myself
to-day with this very brief indication.
In a later lecture the relations of religion both
to science and to primitive thought will have to receive
much more explicit attention.
own experience is this:
I had long been ill, and one of the first results
of my illness, a dozen years before, had been a diplopia
which deprived me of the use of my eyes for reading and
writing almost entirely, while a later one had been to
shut me out from exercise of any kind under penalty of
immediate and great exhaustion. I had been under the care of doctors of the highest standing
both in Europe and America, men in whose power to help
me I had had great faith, with no or ill result.
Then, at a time when I seemed to be rather rapidly
losing ground, I heard some things that gave me interest
enough in mental healing to make me try it; I had no great
hope of getting any good from it--it was a CHANCE I tried,
partly because my thought was interested by the new possibility
it seemed to open, partly because it was the only chance
I then could see. I went to X in Boston, from whom some
friends of mine had got, or thought they had got, great
help; the treatment was a silent one; little was said,
and that little carried no conviction to my mind, whatever
influence was exerted was that of another person's thought
or feeling silently projected on to my unconscious mind,
into my nervous system as it were, as we sat still together.
I believed from the start in the POSSIBILITY of
such action, for I knew the power of the mind to shape,
helping or hindering, the body's nerve-activities, and
I thought telepathy probable, although unproved, but I
had no belief in it as more than a possibility, and no
strong conviction nor any mystic or religious faith connected
with my thought of it that might have brought imagination
strongly into play.
sat quietly with the healer for half an hour each day,
at first with no result; then, after ten days or so, I
became quite suddenly and swiftly conscious of a tide
of new energy rising within me, a sense of power to pass
beyond old halting-places, of power to break the bounds
that, though often tried before, had long been veritable
walls about my life, too high to climb.
I began to read and walk as I had not done for
years, and the change was sudden, marked, and unmistakable.
This tide seemed to mount for some weeks, three
or four perhaps, when, summer having come, I came away,
taking the treatment up again a few months later.
The lift I got proved permanent, and left me slowly
gaining ground instead of losing, it but with this lift
the influence seemed in a way to have spent itself, and,
though my confidence in the reality of the power had gained
immensely from this first experience, and should have
helped me to make further gain in health and strength
if my belief in it had been the potent factor there, I
never after this got any result at all as striking or
as clearly marked as this which came when I made trial
of it first, with little faith and doubtful expectation.
It is difficult to put all the evidence in such
a matter into words, to gather up into a distinct statement
all that one bases one's conclusions on, but I have always
felt that I had abundant evidence to justify (to myself,
at least) the conclusion that I came to then, and since
have held to, that the physical change which came at that
time was, first, the result of a change wrought within
me by a change of mental state; and secondly, that that
change of mental state was not, save in a very secondary
way, brought about through the influence of an excited
imagination, or a CONSCIOUSLY received suggestion of an
hypnotic sort. Lastly,
I believe that this change was the result of my receiving
telephathically, and upon a mental stratum quite below
the level of immediate consciousness, a healthier and
more energetic attitude, receiving it from another person
whose thought was directed upon me with the intention
of impressing the idea of this attitude upon me.
In my case the disease was distinctly what would
be classed as nervous, not organic; but from such opportunities
as I have had of observing, I have come to the conclusion
that the dividing line that has been drawn is an arbitrary
one, the nerves controlling the internal activities and
the nutrition of the body throughout; and I believe that
the central nervous system, by starting and inhibiting
local centres, can exercise a vast influence upon disease
of any kind, if it can be brought to bear.
In my judgment the question is simply how to bring
it to bear, and I think that the uncertainty and remarkable
differences in the results obtained through mental healing
do but show how ignorant we are as yet of the forces at
work and of the means we should take to make them effective.
That these results are not due to chance coincidences
my observation of myself and others makes me sure; that
the conscious mind, the imagination, enters into them
as a factor in many cases is doubtless true, but in many
others, and sometimes very extraordinary ones, it hardly
seems to enter in at all.
On the whole I am inclined to think that as the
healing action, like the morbid one, springs from the
plane of the normally UNconscious mind, so the strongest
and most effective impressions are those which IT receives,
in some as yet unknown subtle way, DIRECTLY from a healthier
mind whose state, through a hidden law of sympathy, it
the urgent request of friends, and with no faith and hardly
any hope (possibly owing to a previous unsuccessful experience
with a Christian Scientist), our little daughter was placed
under the care of a healer, and cured of a trouble about
which the physician had been very discouraging in his
diagnosis. This interested me, and I began studying earnestly
the method and philosophy of this method of healing.
Gradually an inner peace and tranquillity came
to me in so positive a way that my manner changed greatly.
My children and friends noticed the change and
commented upon it.
All feelings of irritability disappeared.
Even the expression of my face changed noticeably.
had been bigoted, aggressive, and intolerant in discussion,
both in public and private.
I grew broadly tolerant and receptive toward the
views of others.
I had been nervous and irritable, coming home two
or three times a week with a sick headache induced, as
I then supposed, by dyspepsia and catarrh.
I grew serene and gentle, and the physical troubles
I had been in the habit of approaching every business
interview with an almost morbid dread.
I now meet every one with confidence and inner
may say that the growth has all been toward the elimination
I do not mean simply the grosser, more sensual
forms, but those subtler and generally unrecognized kinds,
such as express themselves in sorrow, grief, regret, envy,
etc. It has been in the direction of a practical, working
realization of the immanence of God and the Divinity of
man's true, inner self.