The Path – April 1892



The opening sentence of Mrs. Gestefeld's article in February PATH entitled "Another View of Metaphysical Healing" leads those in the Theosophical ranks who have "examined the subject sufficiently to arrive at an understanding of the principles involved" to come forward with such knowledge as a disclaimer of the assumption that only those who are ignorant of the matter will share the opinion of the PATH'S Editor.

An early inquirer into the theory that now enjoys the diversified nomenclature of "Divine Science", "Mind Cure", "Mental Science", "Metaphysical Healing", and "Christian Science", may claim to know something of its rise, its progress, and its present proportions, having been from the first intimately associated with one of the leading exponents of the art, and having examined thoroughly the modus operandi of the said art's acquisition and practice under the guidance of one who is conceded by even her opponents to be a past master of the Healing Gospel. With friends, in addition, who are ardent believers in the system of metaphysical healing, some of whom are regular practitioners of the cult, and with the cheerful admission that in some instances great temporary alleviation of suffering has been effected by the use of this agency, — and in one solitary case what might even have proved a permanent cure had not death intervened from another disease, it will presumably be granted that the writer knows whereof he speaks, and that the following is in no antagonistic spirit, but is the result of a full knowledge of the "principles involved", from a long and dispassionate observation of the facts, together with some personal experiences in the methods employed. All which tend to the unbiased conclusion that the opinion of the PATH'S Editor is in no wise unfair to either the body of teaching known as Metaphysical Healing, or to its defenders and practitioners. The remarkable unanimity — seen, alas! on this point alone — with which all adherents of every shade of the "Divine" and the other allied sciences condemn any and all examples chosen by an outsider for remark, renders it extremely difficult to handle the subject at all; yet it will probably be conceded that certain basic statements are used alike by all branches of the several denominations, and even by every free-lance of a "healer" who is considered infallible by her own following.

These are, in substance, that "All is One", that "One is Reality", that the "Reality is Good or God", that "God is Spirit", etc: while in a text-book open at the First Lesson there is a list of the qualities of this God or Spirit, which is defined as both Principle and Person, and also as a "Unit and Person, i.e., that which cannot be separated". A great deal is further said in the book in question about Love and Life and Light, and of Reality, which is explained to be "a thing that exists in the Mind of God", and we are gravely told that "all expressions of Reality are real, but that there are expressions of Reality which are false because they exist in man's mind independently of God's Mind", these unrealities among others being sickness, sorrow, sin, and death.

To escape the discomforts of this quadruple-headed hydra we are to bask in thought on Love and Light, which is God or Good, whereby we will be made sound, joyful, holy, and deathless.

Now of all this, the conscientious student of Theosophy as opposed to the mere believer in Theosophy, according to Mrs. Gestefeld's distinction, recognizes naught as familiar save the first proposition that All is One, and that One is the Real.

So far from Theosophy, as affirmed, being alike in essence with the "Divine Science" as expounded from the metaphysical healer's viewpoint, nothing could well be more dissimilar; nor can Theosophy be restricted in its definition to that presentment of truth alone which '' appeals to and engages the intellect in contradistinction to "Divine Science" which "appeals to and engages the soul or self-consciousness", for according to the revelations of the partial and one-sided presentment of this Science known as Metaphysical Healing, it might properly be termed that which "appeals to and engages" the physical consciousness exclusively, judging from the disproportionate part the material body and its sensations are made to play in the scheme of regeneration, — for it is nothing less than this which is the aim of the cult. That Theosophy with its many sidedness of appeal, now to the higher mentality, then to the soul principle, and finally to the Higher Self and pure Spirit, is here limited in its sphere of action to the narrow bounds of the intellectual faculty, shows a want of appreciation of the fundamental teachings of our philosophy which inclines one to the view Mrs. Gestefeld takes of us, i.e., that special attention has been diverted from a right understanding of the Wisdom Religion in favor of what is covered by the term "Divine Science".

All who have become familiarized with the operation of the great law of adjustment known as Karma, realize that whatever of suffering is our lot, here and now, has had its origin in some previous life, ourselves having been the creators by thought-action of the causes whereof the effects are made presently visible. Now Mrs. Gestefeld's contention is that, if Theosophists admit thus much, it follows logically that the further admission must be made that, since past wrong thinking has produced a bodily disease, present right thinking should be the only means employed for its eradication, instead of allowing it, in Mr. Judge's words, "to work its way down and out by the proper channel, the body", her argument losing sight of the fact that, though the attitude of right thought will doubtless favorably affect the bodily conditions of a subsequent incarnation, it would be inconsistent with our views to look for such results in the present life so long as old reckonings are not fully wrought out to the last decimal.

It is again urged against us that if Karma should not be interfered with by thought processes, no more should it be checked by physical applications, such as medicaments and other palliatives; to which we may reply that such measures are not employed as cure, but as a perfectly legitimate means of alleviation, inasmuch as they pertain to the same plane as the physical trouble, i.e., the material, and that appliances and correctives appropriate to the sphere of matter to which the distemper belongs are in no sense an infringement upon the field wherein the invisible law operates. When mental force is brought to play upon bodily disease it is, according to Mr. Judge's position, thrust back again by the mind current to the sphere in which it had its source in a past embodiment, thence again to work its way down and out, — for such end it is infallibly doomed to effect sooner or later. Hence it is maintained as the wiser course, to allow it to work itself out in its chosen field of action now, — since we know what tenfold and irrepressible force is acquired by any pent-up power that is denied a natural vent, — we the while devoting our thought-action to higher issues than the rectification of what are not infrequently exceedingly trivial abnormal states of the physical system.

By this it is not meant that the object to be attained in amelioration of health will not be greatly advanced by a well equilibrated mind and a cheerful, hopeful temper, which every physician and every sick-nurse knows to be an invaluable aid to quick recovery. But this well-established fact has not waited ages for recognition till the advent of the mental healers, as they would have us believe.

That the objection urged against the mental practice of metaphysical healers does not hold equally good against the advocates of mesmeric and magnetic methods of alleviating physical infirmity, lies in the fact that animal magnetism by its very name proclaims itself on the same plane of matter to which the present expression of bodily disease is akin, thus making its application no more injurious to the mind than are such drugs as quinine in malarial fever, nor, in fact, than bread is to the hungry in health. The standing contention, however, of those who deprecate all mind-cure practice of every variety in disease is, that such lamentably false standards of thought and of the relativity of things are thus engendered, making so universal a topsy-turvydom that we are bewildered at the spectacle, and are ready wildly to call on all upholders of sound philosophy and framers of stable canons of speech to aid in re-establishing the reign of rational language, and the law and order of common sense once more.

Of more serious import than even the strange medley of religion and philosophy with which the literature of "Mental Science" is adorned, is the claim of a boasted ability to affect the conditions, either external or internal, of other persons through the channel of their minds. Only a dense ignorance of, or a wilful blindness to, the extraordinary achievements of the last two decades due to the painstaking researches of eminent psychologists abroad, such as Bichet and Janet of France, and of the scientific medical fraternity, such as Siefeault of Nancy and Forel of Zurich, can fail to recognize in much of the mental-science practice in this country a kindred art to the hypnotic methods now being exhaustively investigated by the aforesaid authorities at various centres.

It is true, indeed, that with the mental-healers no trance is induced in their practice, but none the less does the mind of the operator assume a dominant attitude towards that of the patient, and we know from a study of the means advocated by the Nancy School in particular that "suggestive therapeutics" — a term long anterior to mental healing — are not always dependent for success upon the hypnotic state when once the stronger will has established its right of supremacy over the weaker one. (1) The mere fact that the patient is ailing in body renders his will-fibre of poor resistance; indeed his very act in soliciting aid for his sufferings at the hand of the operator denotes the ease with which his open, receptive attitude of mind may be influenced to any extent by even the unconscious thought of the other. Those familiar with the detailed accounts of experiments of the kind made at different schools in Europe will need no confirmation of this statement. The literature of the subject is ample and easily accessible to all interested sufficiently to pursue a thorough examination of its somewhat intricate records. Therein it will be seen how impossible it is to guarantee an immunity of influence save on the one subject adopted for suggestion, the extreme susceptibility of the weaker sphere to even the unconscious thought of the stronger one being a factor that has to be reckoned with, making it idle for the practitioner to allege that he will "never interfere with another's free mental action", or that he "never holds a mind in bondage, but only directs it" — a distinction, be it observed, worthy of a Jesuit Father-Confessor.

The subtle persistency of these little-known forces, thus tentatively and ignorantly evoked, renders them beyond measure harmful in their after effects, months and years being oftentimes required to shake off the last traces of their baneful influence.

Case after case might be cited from an intimate acquaintance with the dealings of Metaphysical Healers of the disastrous effects in certain instances of disease; one, notably, where a woman of fine mind, of finished attainments, and of originally strong will and pronounced individuality much reduced by long years of invalidism, was persuaded to put herself under the care of a noted "healer", one of those to whom even Mrs. Gestefeld would accord the meed of a right comprehension of the "Divine Science", but a woman of less intellectuality and possessed of fewer advantages of education than her patient, though extremely intelligent and quick of apprehension, which was supplemented by a will of indomitable power.

The patient had had for years an organic heart trouble, had been unable to walk at all, and had led a life of extreme carefulness. Under the new regime in less than a week the "healer", in defiance of the patient's own better sense, and directly counter to the warnings of a friendly medical attendant who had watched her case assiduously, had her walking about the streets, and unaccompanied, a thing the poor woman had not ventured upon in years, as the prospect of dropping down dead at any moment was inevitably before her. During a period of some five or six weeks an utter revolution took place in the woman's habits, and apparently also in her physical strength and general well-being, at the end of which time, the "healer" being called off in another direction, the patient was suddenly left without what had now become a daily and necessary stimulus, with the consequence that she almost immediately broke down with utter prostration of mental and physical power, and died a few years after without having ever regained the comparative ease of her condition previous to her recourse to this system of cure.

All the while she was undergoing this treatment she confessed herself to be conscious of the performance of foolish acts that her better sense told her at intervals were rife with future penalties, but something outside of herself, as she expressed it, seemed to urge her on to the result recounted.

If this be not Black Magic in the deed, however white the intent may have been, we confess an utter inability to cope with any suitable characterization, in accordance with the usual signification of terms.

Many another instance of the like kind might be adduced, but this one will suffice for the present purpose. A minor consideration in the treatment of the whole question under review is that of the droll inconsistencies of theory and action that the professors of Metaphysical Healing Science are not above indulging in when need sorely assaults them in their own proper persons. For instance, we were on a time gravely assured by a practitioner of the art that mental force was equal to the cure of every disease, whether internal, organic, or incurable, and the statement was followed by the stout and not-to-be-shaken assertion that renal calculi were solvable under a well-directed and continuous thought current; but it was noticeable that when some time thereafter a hard mass of wax formed in the external meatus of the same person's ear, recourse was instantly had to syringes, soap, and hot water, and these proving inefficacious a speedy pilgrimage to the surgeon was undertaken for relief from his more perfect apparatus. When questioned why the powerful thought current could not have been as readily and as successfully applied to the ear's secretion as to that of the other organ in the body on an even harder substance, it was explained, in delightful defiance of all fact, that this was a "mechanical obstruction whereas the other was not", and all argument proved wholly powerless to establish the similarity of the two cases.

Such contradictions only compel our amused indulgence, and we experience the same lenient satisfaction as we are conscious of towards the innocent cross-statements of a diverting child comrade. But the more serious aspect of the matter is not unfortunately thereby lessened, as it has been our endeavor to prove above.


1. Bernheim maintains in his treatise, De la, Suggest ion, ect, that the "hynoptic state need not be one of actual unconsciousness," that by the methods of the Nancy School "real therapeutic effects are obtained when the patient does not fall into sleep or trance and when the patient recalls perfectly what has occurred after the seance is over." The same authority defines hypnotism as "the provocation of a peculiar mental state which augments suggestibility. All the phases of the state have the common character, not of sleep or trance, but of suggestibility." (return to text)

The Path