Popular Science Monthly/Volume 72/March 1908/The Grain of Truth in the Bushel of Christian Science Chaff
|THE GRAIN OF TRUTH IN THE BUSHEL OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE CHAFF|
WHERE there is smoke, there must be some fire," is a proverb which may justly be applied to the claims made by Christian Science, for it is hardly fair to a large number of educated men and women to jeer at them as the victims of the absurd delusion that they have been cured of non-existent maladies. Not only can they produce well attested cases of undisputed cures of distinct diseases, without the use of medicines, but similar results occasionally occur at Lourdes and elsewhere, and, in fact, have taken place in unbroken succession throughout the centuries ever since the Temple Cures of Ancient Egypt. Though the facts are too well established to be denied, we may yet question the explanations they give of the cause and method, especially when we find that the Pagan idolatry of the priests of Ammon-Ra produced the same effect as the Pantheistic philosophy which Dr. Quimby and Mrs. Eddy adapted from Hindu sources. For though the charge of Pantheism is violently repudiated, it is even more authoritatively affirmed by the statement "God is All, and All is God."
Now while the philosophy is not convincing to the ordinary reasoning mind, a study of the methods of Christian Science can not fail to command admiration, not only on account of the efficient financial management, but also for the clever use of the most effective methods of mental healing. The fact that these procedures were discovered empirically does not distinguish them from the systems of the recognized medical schools, for the uses of most drugs were found in the same way.
It is also not just to accuse the "healers" of being quacks and charlatans, for, though there may be exceptions, it seems well established that sincerity on the part of the operator is usually essential to produce that conviction in the patient which is absolutely requisite for all cures of this nature in every age and time. In other words, the christian scientists are perfectly right in saying that "faith," conviction, belief, are necessary to produce the desired result, and that doubt in the patient, or among those present, is likely to prevent success. The reasons for this will be apparent later.
The opponents of this system affirm that most of the diseases in question are only imaginary, and do not really exist. Though we should grant this at the start, it would not alter the situation much, for imaginary diseases are often as "afflictive" to the sufferer, and more annoying and expensive to the family, than actual ailments, and a debt of gratitude is due to any method of removing them.
The next objection is that the patients would have recovered anyway if let alone. Suppose this is also conceded; the position is unchanged, for the chances are that the disorder would not have been left to the curative processes of nature, but would have been dosed with various poisonous patent medicines, with dangerous results. Here christian science is beneficial by preventing interference. But, after all, is this true, especially of chronic cases? We may well ask why, if nature alone was able to cure the case, it remained unbenefited for years, but quickly recovered as soon as mental healing gave its assistance.
The unexplained instances are jauntily disposed of by attributing them to "suggestion," but giving a thing a name is not solving the problem, and, while there are reams in the text-books upon the effects of suggestion, few seem to attempt to say exactly what it is or how it acts.
The whole subject of mental therapeutics is so discredited that the medical profession hesitates to treat it, but, really, few fields will more quickly repay the application of modern scientific methods. Light even appears in the dark maze as soon as we begin to classify the more reliable cures, as distinguished from those not sufficiently verified. The great majority are disorders of the nervous system, including under this head certain functional affections, and many more are dependent, directly or indirectly, upon morbid conditions of the circulatory system.
Mental healing has not yet demonstrated its power to cure diseases caused by microorganisms, like malaria, pneumonia, diphtheria, yellow fever and many others, and its adherents admit that it is not effective in surgical cases or those where there has been an actual destruction of the tissues. Christian scientists are often taunted by their friends with being unable to cure common colds (caused by bacteria), and with going to the dentist, and with reason, for both these are beyond their powers. They would lose nothing, and would allay much hostility, if they would frankly admit that, for the present at least, these complaints are beyond their scope, and would confine themselves to more successful fields, instead of claiming that they are able to "demonstrate" over cancer and smallpox.
The community has a right to protect itself, and should take measures to prevent individuals from endangering themselves and their neighbors by refusing medical aid in even the minor contagious and infectious maladies. It is somewhat surprising that the able leaders of this movement have not made some attempt toward a solution of this difficulty, which is the cause of much of the current enmity. They must certainly realize their own limitations, and should be clever enough to devise some edict on the subject which would attain its object without impairing the faith of their adherents.
The subject of nervous disorders is so complex that it seems at first hopeless, but the approach by the way of maladies of the circulation is more encouraging, though less traveled. One clue to this labyrinth was discovered many years ago while some young persons were under treatment for excessive blushing, which took place to such an extent, whenever they were addressed suddenly, as to be a source of great annoyance.
The first suggestion was to think of something terrifying whenever the feeling of reddening took place, upon the theory that terror tended to produce pallor, and would thus neutralize the blushing. This was occasionally successful, but it was always difficult to hold a vivid idea of fright, and the repetition of the idea robbed it of its effect, while the stock of new thoughts of this nature soon became exhausted.
The next step was for the patient to hold firmly the idea that he was not going to blush, and to refuse to believe that he was, even if he felt the warmth in his ears. He must know that he could not blush, and that he was not blushing. This worked now and then, but the patient naturally found some difficulty in believing that he was not blushing, when he could feel that he was, so the process was only useful when it was started well in advance of the tendency to redden. Here we have an exact parallel to the Christian Science doctrine, "Deny error! Evil and disease are non-existent!" No matter what the facts are, ignore them, and hold firm to the ideal that you desire. We see here a universal principle, the ideal must be made real, in spite of all obstacles. Now we may laugh at this system all we wish, but we shall in the end be obliged to admit that in every age it has achieved the wished-for results in minds of a certain class. It has a real scientific basis, however, as will be made clear later, but has the fatal defect of being inapplicable in many cases, because of its conflict with common sense.
Decided progress was made when the patient found that the flush would vanish if he said to himself firmly, "I know that I can stop blushing if I want to, and I will." This was only attained as the result of patient effort, assisted by strong auto-suggestion, by faith in the operator caused by the previous successes, and, as was learned in later cases, by incipient voluntary control of the arteries of the face. Great self-confidence on the part of the operator was required, together with considerable talk about "will power," "self mastery," etc.
Those who have read the books on mental healing will see that the three processes here mentioned—counterbalancing one emotion with another, denying the existence of the objectionable phenomena, and assertion of self-mastery—combined with belief in the process—and in the operator, form a large part, if not all, of the various systems, when stripped of unessential details.
The subject proving interesting, more scientific methods were adopted. The best results were attained in subsequent cases, where the subjects were intelligent, by dropping all indirect methods and by simply explaining to the patient that the walls of the capillaries and small arteries of the face, like all others in the body, are composed of circular muscular fibers under the control of special nerves. If the latter are stimulated in a certain manner, they allow the muscle rings to expand, thus increasing the size of the tubes, and allowing more blood to reach the skin, which causes blushing. If these nerves are stimulated in another manner, the rings contract, the bore of the tubes diminishes, the blood supply is cut off, like the stream of water when a garden hose is stepped on, and pallor results. Under normal conditions, these nerves are stimulated in both ways automatically, but by persistent effort it is quite possible to acquire the art of stimulating them at will either way, just as some people learn how to cry at will, instead of being dependent upon saddening emotions.
Here we have a truth of great importance, which is the foundation of all that follows. The action of the organs of the body is quite clearly influenced by mental states, such as fright, embarrassment, sadness, etc. We can cause at will the same effect, which usually only takes place involuntarily, by producing a mental image of an emotional state, by denying the existence of an existing state, or by acquiring the power to give the same kind of stimulus that mental emotions produce without the actual presence of any emotion. The feeling called "faith" is one of the strongest emotional stimuli, and is so powerful that it produces its result, even masking other emotions. The belief firmly held that we are about to cry, even where there is no cause of sadness present, will very often elicit real tears.
If this principle is firmly grasped, logical progress is rapid. An inflammation of any kind is evidently merely an excess of blood supply to the affected part—a sort of local blushing. The converse is an under supply, which starves the cells by failing to provide sufficient nutriment to them, and also poisons them by not removing rapidly enough the lactic, uric, and carbonic acids which are the waste products of all cell activities; for, as we know, the blood resembles those brooks which flow through oriental villages, serving both as sewers and as water supplies for all domestic purposes. The blood, in addition, transports the food assimilated by the digestive organs, the oxygen absorbed by the lungs, and the fluids secreted by the various glands.
Clearly, if we can control the blood supply to the various organs, many problems of disease are mastered. There is, however, one slight difficulty; though we can in a measure control some local nerves, most of those regulating the circulation are beyond the province of our wills. It seems as if nature were willing to trust us with minor matters like motion, but preferred to attend herself to subjects of real importance like digestion and circulation, while we are forced to conceal our humiliation by saying in a learned manner that "assimilation and circulation are functions of the sympathetic nervous system, not of the higher centers!"
Are we balked? Well, not necessarily! If the highway is blocked, there are yet the by-paths of attention and incomplete motion. While most of us are unable to control our blood supplies by a direct effort of the will, all of us can do it indirectly to some extent. Have we been reasoning in a circle, and are we still upon mere hypothetical ground with the mental healers? Not a bit of it! We here emerge from the perplexities of theory and stand upon the firm foundation of instrumental measurements, owing to the labors of a number of investigators, prominent among whom are Dr. Wm. G. Anderson, director of the Yale Gymnasium, and Dr. Angelo Mosso, of Turin.
Dr. Anderson places a student upon a low, legless table, about the size of the body, so delicately balanced that a breath will make it move, and outlines his figure so that he can resume his position after leaving the "muscle bed" temporarily. Now every exertion, mental or physical, means that more blood must be supplied to the active part, thus increasing its weight, while as the amount of blood in the body is limited, the excess must be taken from some other organ, thus decreasing the weight of the latter. If the man on the bed rises and dances a jig, when he resumes his place upon the balanced bed, his feet will sink, and his head ascend correspondingly.
Now this is nothing startling, as we all know that a member if exercised, will grow at the expense of idle organs, which tend to atrophy from disuse. Now it seems as if we had wandered from the subject of the mind, but we shall soon see that even here the mind is an indispensable factor. Curiously enough, if the man does not leave the bed at all, but merely thinks of dancing a jig, simply mentally going through the incomplete motions, but taking care not to move a muscle, the delicately balanced bed will sink at the foot almost as much as if the exercise had actually been performed.
Now it is clear why the Christian Scientists say to a person troubled with cold feet "Hold the thought that your feet are warm! Deny the 'claim' that they are cold"! It is reasonable to suppose that the feet of one of the mental believers would sink upon the muscle bed just as rapidly as those of the mental jig dancer, though we can not give the statistics, as unfortunately it seems extremely difficult to persuade the disciples of Mrs. Eddy to lend themselves to investigations of this sort.
We can even go a step further with the utmost confidence, and say that simple concentration of the attention upon a given part will increase the blood supply. This is capable of experimental verification, for very many people can cause the backs of their hands to redden perceptibly by fixing the attention upon one spot for some time, without the thought of desiring a flush, though that idea usually hastens the process.
This furnishes us a key to some obstinate chronic diseases, where there is no destruction of the tissue, but where an unwholesome condition has resulted from an oversupply of blood caused by undue fixation of the attention upon the part, a permanent blush, so to speak. As the health of the body depends upon the preservation of a normal blood supply, modified by the demands made by the activities of the different organs, we see that an organ constantly oversupplied becomes diseased, like a man who habitually overeats, while this oversupply must be taken from the share of some other portion, which consequently starves. If this is so, it is evident that a cure will follow when the unwholesome attention is discontinued. This shows why the Christian Scientists say "Deny error. If your 'mortal mind' has a claim that an organ is diseased, stop thinking about it. Hold the thought that it is completely well, that you are perfect." This whole line of thought is well conceived, and tends toward mental poise and bodily well-being, for those who are able to believe the tenets.
Having secured some clear ideas about the physiological reasons for some of the Christian Science methods, we are ready for the more difficult aspect of the subject, that of nervous disorders. Every practising physician is confronted with a class of cases in which there does not seem to be an adequate cause for the symptoms, and which are roughly classified under the head of hysterical affections. They include paralysis of various organs, stiffness of the limbs, pain and swelling in the joints, pain in the head and spine, perversions of sensation, over-irritability of various functions, and a host of Protean symptoms. The sufferers suffer actual pain, and often very serious inconvenience, but the most careful medical treatment seems unsuccessful. The limits of this article will not permit a discussion of this subject, but it suffices to say that to all intents and purposes the maladies are real, even though they exist only in the imagination. They seem akin to "fixed ideas," and "pain habits," as well as to that phenomenon called the "balky will" frequently met with in childhood, where a child refuses to obey, and then holds the idea so firmly that it is physically and mentally impossible for him to yield. We have all seen it in balky horses which refuse to move until their attention is distracted by a lump of sugar, blowing into the ear, or putting a pinching instrument upon the lip, which succeed where a severe beating only increases the obstinate immobility. Many cases of such fixed ideas are on record, which have been cured by fright. One old doctor was in the habit of curing bedridden patients by letting mice loose on their beds, until they ran shrieking from the room, forgetting all about their ailments.
In a recent case, the husband was sent for the physician, leaving the patient alone in the house. The telephone rang so continuously that she rose and answered it, and was so absorbed in scolding him for not returning in time to receive the call that she forgot that she was out of bed for the first time in years. One man who had a most severe case of asthma, which had caused him the most serious discomfort, was completely cured by the fright of the Kingston earthquake, and has had no relapse, though forced to live under conditions of considerable hardship. This is vouched for by the writer out of his own experience.
Now, while cases of this nature are very refractory to drugs and other medical treatment, they yield with surprising readiness to mental therapeutics. The attention of the patient is distracted, a desire for cure is firmly implanted, interest is excited, and all the conditions are made favorable. The process is not dissimilar from that of stimulating the motion of balky horses with lumps of sugar. The fact that there is no real disease evidently accounts for the failure of the skilled physician.
The successes of Christian Science are largely in these cases, which are principally found among women of the middle and upper classes, who live luxurious, self-indulgent lives, are over-fed, under-exercised, have no occupations or absorbing interests in life, and concentrate their attention upon themselves and their ailments. We are not surprised to find that converts belong very largely to this class, or to learn that many relatives bless any belief that will turn a nervous, sickly, complaining invalid into a cheerful, though perhaps a bit too superior and self-complacent member of society.
A very large percentage of all the cures of all systems of medical treatment without the use of drugs may safely be classed under some of the heads which we have already discussed. It is not unreasonable to group with mental healing many methods more generally accepted by the community, such as "high dilutionist" homeopathy, osteopathy, massage, electricity, water and bath cures, and even allopathy, which, as every physician knows, habitually employs "bread pills" and other similar methods of influencing the minds of the patients.
Making all allowances, however, there are a number of cases of genuine cures, as the result of mental treatment, of serious diseases, which have defied all regular medical processes. The discouragingly dry way of classification will be again most helpful here, as it shows us that these cases are mostly of "functional disorders"—when the organs of the body fail to perform their proper work. It is clearly impossible that any cell in the body should work at high pressure all the time, for adequate rest is essential to all living matter; further, it would be wasteful for secretions to be made when they were not needed, and nature abhors waste, while useless secretions would tend to produce sickness. It is one of the duties of the sympathetic nervous system to stimulate the activities of each organ at the proper time, and also to stop the process when no longer needed. It consists of a double chain of masses of nervous tissue, called ganglia, lying inside and on both sides of the spinal column, connected with each other by nerves, and also with great networks of nerves called plexuses, which govern the heart, blood vessels, intestines, liver, lungs and other organs. The spinal ganglia receive branches from the spinal nerves, which bring them into relation with the cerebellum and brain. The mechanism works reflexly, without the interference of the will. If, for instance, we ascend a mountain where the air is rarer, the lungs work more rapidly, as the result of more frequent stimuli from the sympathetic, thus taking enough more air to counterbalance the deficiency of oxygen. The presence of waste in the circulation stimulates the kidneys, a high temperature excites the perspiration, and the proper conditions cause the other organs to act. The exciting cause in the organ, whatever it may happen to be, sends an impulse up to the reflex centers, which in turn send an order down to the organs to get to work until commanded to stop. If by any means we can send a similar impulse up to the reflex centers without the presence of the usual exciting cause—a false alarm, so to speak—we shall get the regular result. It is also probable that the reflex centers can be made to give the regular orders to start work, not in the customary way by a message sent up to it from the organ, but by direct command of the lower parts of the brain, though not immediately by the cerebrum, or thinking portion. The functions of the sympathetic system are modified by the two pneumogastric nerves which start in the head and extend to the digestive organs, lungs, heart, liver, stomach and other organs.
It will, perhaps, be clearer to select one organ as a type of functional disorder, and follow the process closely, bearing in mind that these remarks do not apply at all to cases where there has been an alteration in structure, as these are not susceptible to mental healing. We will choose the stomach, the most abused organ, as it is defenseless against the acts of the will in putting into it all kinds of injurious substances. It takes its revenge, however, for ill-treatment, not only by causing pain in its own vicinity, but by instigating pain in the chest, dizziness, sleeplessness, headache, black specks and other disturbances of sight, palpitation of the heart, cold hands and feet, general indisposition—called "that tired feeling"—irritability, melancholia, bilious attacks, and other affections. It is interesting to note that if a disordered stomach can be relieved by mental therapeutics, all these symptoms can also be cured by the same means, to the great glory of the healer.
Now the stomach is a patient thing, more patient even than a donkey, but if ill treated too long, it will rebel—go on strike—and decline to handle "non-union materials" in the shape of improper or badly cooked food. Overeating, bolting, insufficient chewing, irregular meals, over-indulgence in alcohol, tea, coffee and tobacco, are, also, apt to produce that prevalent American disease—dyspepsia. The usual factor is a change in the gastric juices, which may be deficient in quantity, or may contain too much or too little acid or pepsin. Sometimes, however, the natural movements of the stomach become irregular, and the food is either hurried too soon into the intestines in a half dissolved condition, or, more frequently, retained too long in an undigested state to ferment and cause pain, gas and vomiting.
Now improper conditions of both the gastric juices and the movements result from a failure of the stimuli of the nervous system. The messages sent from the mucous membrane lining the stomach to the reflex centers stating that food is awaiting digestion may not reach the proper destination, owing to unnatural conditions of the nerves or ganglia; the reflex centers may not give the proper orders; the return nerves may fail to transmit; or the cells of the lining membrane may decline to obey orders. To use the simile of an electric bell—the push button may be broken; the wires disconnected or cut; the batteries may be used up; or the tongue of the bell may be loose.
Such failures of the nervous system are usually the result of overwork of some kind; it is simply tired out, and insists upon rest. The fatigue may be direct, from overeating or improper food, or it may come from general exhaustion from dissipation, worry or mental or physical overexertion. In many cases, simple rest, with freedom from worry and overwork, is sufficient to work a cure. Drugs often actually delay recovery, and we do not really know just why bismuth, rhubarb, nux vomica, gentian, or the newer proprietary and synthetic remedies should assist nature, though we have concluded for empiric reasons that they do. Mental healing certainly gives the nervous system a chance to recuperate undisturbed, and hence is often better than any other treatment. Often, nevertheless, rest is not enough. The rested nerves are still obstinate, and refuse to send the needed orders, resembling balky horses which must be coaxed with sugar. In these instances, also, mental methods will often start the proper reactions when everything else has failed.
Some experiments performed on dogs whose stomachs were kept open for observation will, perhaps, make the situation more clear. If a dog was allowed to eat meat in the usual way, its presence in the stomach caused the reflex centers to send orders to the gastric cells to commence secretion. The mere irritation caused by the presence of objects in the stomach was not enough, for the introduction of indigestible substances, or rubbing the lining with sand, or a glass rod, produced no gastric juice. Meat introduced directly from the outside, not through the mouth, still stimulated the juices. Thus it seemed to be purely a reflex performance—the ganglia seemed to say "you press the right button, we do the rest," the mind seemed to be unnecessary. Nevertheless, if the dog was allowed to swallow the meat, which was removed through a slit in the throat, and not permitted to enter the stomach, gastric juice was as cheerfully secreted as usual. This was puzzling enough, but worse was in store, for if the dog smelled and saw the meat, without even biting it, gastric juice was formed in larger amounts than if the meat were put into the stomach without the knowledge of the dog. Plainly, reflex action here played no part, and mental conditions of anticipation, pure emotion in fact, occupied the whole stage.
In other words, the stomach may be controlled in two ways, either mechanically by contact with food, or mentally by the production of emotions. If one fails, the other is still available. If food does not produce gastric juice, the proper mental states may be made to supply the deficiency. The problem of mental healing is here made absolutely clear; we can no longer deny that it is possible. The only difficulty is the method of production of the proper mental and emotional states. This is the most important and fascinating aspect of the subject, but space forbids its discussion in this place, as it leads into the realm of hypnotism, subliminal consciousness, suggestion and double personality. The experimenters were unfortunately unable to obtain data about the mental conditions of the dog, and thus we can not state what the results would have been upon its stomach of the memory of past feasts, the hope of future ones, or the belief or dream that there was meat in the stomach. We must wait for a satisfactory knowledge of the whole subject until some person shall appear with an opening into his stomach, like Alexis St. Martin, who, to our intense regret, died too soon to demonstrate the facts of christian science.
Not only is the stomach largely influenced by mental states, but we all know that joy, sorrow, anger and other emotions cause that extremely rapid and violent action of the heart that we call palpitation, while fright stops its action, through the pneumogastric, so that fainting occurs, or even death. Eage and other mental conditions sometimes intensify the action of the liver enough to bring about jaundice, while many public speakers and soldiers know that fright causes perspiration and stimulates the action of the kidneys. In short, there are instances too numerous to mention of the effect of mental states upon the organs of the body, and the facts may be considered as established.
While the proper mental states tend to stimulate the nervous system, and restore normal conditions, anger, worry, fear and doubt tend to lower the tone of the nervous system and check the functions. It has been conclusively established by observation that favorable results from mental methods are practically impossible unless the patient has confidence; he must believe that the desired effects will be produced; in short, he must have faith. There are countless instances outside the realms of mental healing to prove this, notably the cases where people have taken astringent pills by mistake, and have yet been purged because they expected to be. In one particularly amusing incident, a doctor gave a man a prescription for an affection of the stomach, saying, "Here, take this! "Later, when the patient returned to render thanks for his recovery, the physician had forgotten the remedy he had used, and asked to see the prescription. He was naturally somewhat surprised to hear that the man had swallowed the paper, and had taken no other medicine. In this category, also, belong the cures from amulets, charms and incantations. Every doctor of experience will admit that confidence on the part of the patient, and expectation of recovery are half the cure.
If now, these ideas are well founded, and mental states will cure functional disorders as well as those of the circulation and nervous system, why not abandon medical treatment altogether, and adopt some form of mental therapeutics—accept the beliefs of the christian scientists? Well, in the first place, mental healing will not work on all people; some can not accept the requisite theories; others do not seem able to produce the essential mental states; and others are so violently opposed to the whole system that exactly contrary results appear. Next, the methods are unreliable; they will work at one time, and later fail on the same person under apparently identical conditions, while the healers generally are not skilled enough to bring about satisfactory effects, for the whole system is in the hands of unscientific persons, whose methods outrage common sense and arouse hostility toward the many excellent features of their philosophy.
Most important of all, mental healing is powerless in very many kinds of illness, including most of those which are fatal or even dangerous. If mental healing is resorted to, the disease may become established before its nature is recognized, and the patient may die, when if he had been treated by regular practitioners he would have recovered. In all contagious and infectious maladies the patient becomes a menace to the community, since quarantine and disinfection are prohibited by the mental healers, as tending to confirm the patient in the "claim" that he is ill.
While the exact method of the action of drugs is uncertain, and many are probably inert, if not harmful, we are positive that certain ones, like quinine, mercury, opium, digitalis and others produce certain definite conditions which can be relied upon to assist the patient. Some of them kill the germs, just as boiling destroys the microbes of typhoid fever in water; others, like quinine, render the human body an unfavorable culture medium and discourage the "bugs"; others directly stimulate the action of the organs.
Even the more advanced mental healers admit that, at present at least, they are unable to treat with success surgical cases, which should at once be examined by a regular surgeon. The former err, however, in refusing to use antiseptics when prescribed, as they are rarely able to practise aseptic methods.
In addition to drugs, modern medicine is making great use of serums of various kinds, and antitoxin has rendered diphtheria, once a household terror, a relatively non-fatal malady. Further advances are being made daily along these lines, and great discoveries may be expected from the investigations of Metchnikoff into immunity and ferments.
Mental healing also errs in not employing to the full diet, fresh air, exercise and the other hygienic systems, which are rapidly growing to be our chief reliance in the control of illness.
It is a source of wonder to those who are following the subject that the usually acute leaders of mental healing do not profit by the experience of the Fathers at Lourdes. The latter have every patient examined by physicians, trained in the regular schools, before mental healing is attempted. This gives an opportunity to eliminate the dangerous or contagious maladies, while at the same time furnishing proof of cure and establishing the nature of the disease. It would seem possible to arrange this so as not to undermine the faith of the sufferer, as the process at Lourdes seems to meet with the approval of the Fathers.
The great weakness of the schools of mental therapeutics seems to be faulty diagnosis. In fact, there is apparently no attempt at diagnosis, and all patients are treated in the same general way. Thus time and strength are wasted on cases which are, from their very nature, hopeless from the start, and in which mental methods are absolutely criminal, on account of the danger and suffering of the patient and the probability of propagating disease in the community. It is not too much to say that no case should be treated mentally until it has been examined by a graduate of a reputable medical school, and pronounced not dangerous to the neighbors or likely to result fatally to the patient. It is for this reason that there is justification for the movement to restrict the practise of mental medicine, which would otherwise be an unwarrantable interference with individual liberty. It would seem possible to compromise the various warring interests, by requiring all mental healers to pass an examination, before receiving a license, in anatomy, physiology and diagnosis.
The whole subject is one which calls for tolerance and impartiality. Both sides claim too much. We have reason to believe that a very large proportion of all maladies can be materially assisted by mental healing, either alone or in connection with medical treatment. Even surgical and infectious cases may be benefited by improving the general tone and keeping up the spirits of the patient. In many ailments, however, this system is absolutely useless, while in another class regular treatment is unavailing, and mental methods are likely to succeed. It is a hopeful sign that a few physicians are devoting themselves to mental therapeutics, and that others send their nervous patients to the christian scientists. There is a field for both, and the two schools ought to work in harmony. One great bar to this is the prejudice, not only of the medical profession, but of the more intelligent portion of the community, against the new system, well founded, without doubt, on manifold errors, abuses and unreasonable claims. On the other hand, while there is much in the philosophy of christian science which is satisfactory to many minds, especially the portions resembling the Hindu beliefs as developed by Kant, the rest is illogical and irrational, and can not be accepted by thinking intellects.
The christian scientists have undoubtedly made many useful advances, mostly by pure empiricism, but these results are not essentially bound up with the christian science beliefs, and can be applied fully as well by any of the other christian churches. These methods can be studied, and are at the service of any one who will take the trouble to master them. It is a fact that they will work just as well with a pagan religion as with a christian one, as a doctor can cure a Chinaman of malaria as readily as an American. On the other hand, while the processes of mental healing can be applied by any one, and are being used daily unconsciously by many medical men, yet the essential elements are more easily furnished by the church, and it is most encouraging that one of the episcopal churches in Boston is adopting mental healing with gratifying success. The emotional nature of man, which controls mental healing, is intimately connected with his higher aspirations, and belongs rather to the domain of religion than to that of medicine.