Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 10: Healing of the Self > Chapter 4: Healers of The Body and Mind

Healers of The Body and Mind

Services of the healing arts

A wise system of healing would coordinate physical and psychological, artificial and natural, dietary and spiritual treatments, using some or all of them as a means to the end--cure. But as the spiritual is the supreme therapeutic agent--if it can be touched--it will always be the one last resort for the desperate and chronic sufferers when all other agents have had to accept defeat.

Just as philosophy seeks a full rounded development of the psyche in its approach to spiritual self-realization, so does it seek a full adequate treatment in its approach to the problem of curing sickness. It recognizes that even if a sickness began with evil thoughts or wrong feelings or disharmonious courses of action, these have already worked their way into and affected the physical body and brought about harmful changes in it, either causing its organs to work badly, or introducing poisons into its blood system, or even creating malignant growths in its tissues. Therefore physical means must also be used to treat these physical conditions, as well as the spiritual means to get rid of wrong thoughts and discordant feelings. Both methods should be applied together to make an adequate treatment. Consequently philosophy does not, like Christian Science, deny the utility or necessity of ordinary medical treatment. On the contrary, it welcomes such treatment, provided it is not narrow-minded, materialistic, or selfishly concerned more with fees than with healing.

Why should we not unite working on the body by physical means with working on it by the healing power of the higher self? Why not give the latter a chance to repair its own work, since the physical-mental ego is its own projection?

There is no need to make the mistake of those cults which avoid mention of the body and its sicknesses, which pretend that both are not there. Let the fact of their existence be there but, at the same time, hold the thought of the Overself's superior power over them.

The art of healing needs all the contributions it can get, from all the worthy sources it can find. It cannot realize all its potentialities unless it accepts them all: the homeopath along with the allopath, the naturopath along with the chiropractor, the psychiatrist along with the spiritual ministrant. It does not need them all together at one and the same time, of course, but only as parts of its total resources. A philosophic attitude refuses to bind itself exclusively to any single form of cure.

The services of a physician skilled in the knowledge of diseases and in the care of their sufferers should never be slighted. Orthodox allopathic medicine deserves our highest respect because of the cautiously scientific way it has proceeded on its course. It has achieved notable cures. But it also has many failures to its debit. This is in part due to the fundamental error which it accepts in common with other sciences like psychology--the materialist error of viewing man as being nothing more than his body. Only by setting this right can it go forward to its fullest possibilities. Its deficiency in this respect has forced the appearance and nourished the spread of unorthodox healing methods, of which there are many. Most of these have something worthwhile to contribute but unfortunately--lacking the caution of science--make exaggerated claims and uphold fanatical attitudes, with the result that they too have their failures and incur public disrepute. The extreme claims made by credulous followers and unscientific leaders of mental healing cults revolt the reason of those outside their fold and lead to distrust of the justifiable claims that should be made. But they have enough successes to justify their existence. Only by a mutual approach and interaction will they modify each other and thus bring a truly complete system of healing. They are already doing this involuntarily and therefore far too slowly. They have to do it willingly and quickly if the world of sick and suffering patients is to benefit by the full extent of present-day human knowledge.

The cults which allow healing power only to the Spirit, which would deny it to all other means or media, even as secondary causes, are too extreme and fanatical.

When either faith healing or naturopathic treatment is too passive, when it refrains from timely co-operation with nature by the use of positive means, be they nontoxic medicines or essential operations, it becomes guilty of sacrificing the patient to its own narrowness.

I consider W.J. Macmillan's view on healing one-sided and incomplete, but thought my foreword to his book [The Reluctant Healer] was not the place to criticize him.

No healer's treatment is always successful nor is the cure always permanent. Failures are many and relapses are common. Those who shout and splutter from evangelistic public platforms exhibit the ego's arrogance, not the Overself's quiet humility.

They hold the view which conforms with their presuppositions, their inborn tendencies and governing prejudices, in short, with their little ego, not their impersonal higher Self. This is why there are so many contesting theories, why the body's ill health may cause the mind to be governed by negative thoughts, why this conflict of authorities shows their worthlessness.

All these cults and groups which acknowledge the power of mind over body but which leave out the acknowledgment of the body's power over the mind, are out of balance and so out of truth to that extent. This statement may be a matter of arguable theory with partisan adherents of either side, but it is a matter of tested fact with creative leaders who consciously exercise both powers.

The physical cure will surely be accelerated and the physical therapy will surely be helped if mental and spiritual healing agents are also joined in. In this way the individual limitations of the method of treatment being used will be overcome and each healing agent will contribute to bringing about a complete and successful result.

It is foolish to believe that there is any particular healing method which has only to be applied for it to be universally and equally successful or that there is any particular human healer who has only to be visited for one to be cured.

A careful study will elicit the fact that although all these various systems differ in their tenets of belief, they have several similarities of technique. A scientific examination of these similarities will yield the basis for determining the universally correct tenet of belief. Such an examination is necessary because the systems themselves have not sufficient interest in a scientific approach to make it themselves and are too self-interested to check their alleged cures with sufficient care. Even were they truly independent intellectually--which they are not--they are usually tied up to some form of religious creed. All these systems are dogmatic ones, being mostly based on some personal revelation. They depend primarily on faith. The treatments include very much more than faith alone.

The nature-curist who denounces all allopathic drugs as being satanic, the homeopath who can see physical salvation only in his own minute doses of medicine, and the conventional allopath who rejects the first as a quack and the second as a fool--each illustrates in his own person the defect of an ill-balanced mind. Suffering humanity needs all the help it can get. It cannot afford to reject either nature-cure, homeopathy, or allopathy. It needs all three and even more.

The practice of disidentification from the body detailed in The Quest of the Overself is not the same kind of mental treatment as Christian Science. The latter begins and ends with dogmatics, whereas the other is a rising by strict reasoning from the known facts to the unknown. Constant and repeated thinking about these arguments must go on until they are your own, until you have achieved thorough conviction.

A defective theory in healing must sooner or later lead to a contradiction in practice. The rejection of natural yet physical methods of supplementing and completing the higher ones explains why so many Christian Scientists have recourse, in hours of desperation, to the medicos they denounce and the systems they despise.

A prudent and balanced approach to the question requires us to make use of the services of allopathy as well as homeopathy, psychotherapy as well as physiotherapy, spiritual healing as well as mesmeric treatment, herbalism and even surgery--if and when needed--if we are to make the fullest use of developed human knowledge and skill.

Susruta, a Hindu physician and writer who lived in the pre-Christian era, aptly and expertly expressed the philosophic view of healing when he observed, "He who knows but one branch of his art is like a bird with one wing."

When comparing one Oriental country's healings with Occidental ones, or pagan centuries' cures with Christian ones, what the diligent student as well as the experienced traveller may find is that the techniques, mediums, and procedures are often the same, only the names of the agents using them are changed.

Why should anyone reject the physician and his medicines for the osteopath and his manipulations, or both for the healer and his prayer? The power which cures works through all three; if it did not, if it worked through a single channel alone, the others would never have been needed, found, and used.

Whether it is religion or science, official allopathic medicine or less established homeopathic medicine, each can make us its beneficiary and has its contribution to give us. But each also has its undesirable side, too often a sectarian narrow intolerance of the other. The world of knowledge, culture, techniques, skills, arts, and worship should be open to all seekers--whether their quest is for truth, God, information, or healing--and not dictatorially limited in its offering to the established, the traditional, the successful, and the conventional.

When truth gets into the hands of fanatics they do it harm. One man teaches that all disease is caused by wrong diet only, but another teaches that it is caused by wrong thinking only. But truth says that both these causes are operative in man's world, as well as several others.

Every healer, orthodox and unorthodox, has his percentage of failures, although the figure is generally unknown. Spiritual healing is not a universal cure-all. It is complementary to other systems.

From the moment that a healing cult fastens itself to the Bible exclusively, it narrows its vision and limits its power.

Is there a science of spiritual healing? If there is, we can discover it only by freeing ourselves from the cultist standpoint; for, with conflicting doctrines and different methods, Christian Science, Spiritism, Roman Catholicism, Hypnotism, and Couéism have yet produced similar results. It follows that these healings do not prove all their claims but may prove a part.

It will have to be recognized that, since we exist simultaneously on two levels, all our problems of suffering and sickness must be looked at from two points of view if they are to be adequately seen and grasped. There is the common and familiar immediate one, which deals with them as they are in appearance. There is the uncommon and unfamiliar alternate one, which deals with them as they are in reality. An orthodox physician treating a case of disease takes the first viewpoint. A Christian Science practitioner treating the same case takes the second one. Neither takes a wholly adequate and truly philosophical viewpoint.

Medicine and surgery

The services of medicine and surgery, despite the harm done by their errors and experiments, have been and are too great not to be appreciated at their true worth.

Fanatic followers of naturopathy as well as of Christian Science reject the services of surgery. Yet do the men among them ever stop to think that the act of shaving, which they perform daily, is itself the performance of a minor surgical operation? For the hair is as much a tangible part of their anatomy as is the bony skeleton. This also applies to finger nails, toe nails, calluses, and corns.

Such opposition to surgery on the part of those who are unorthodox in their views of healing is based partly on blind fanaticism and partly on blind ignorance. The excessive attachment to their own particular system prevents them from seeing its true place and surgery's true relation to it. Natural methods should be tried first, surgical methods only last. If natural methods are tried too late or tried without result, then it is quite proper to resort to surgery if any hope lies there. They should be given their chance in the earlier stages of a disease but if they are not, if the disease has advanced to a serious or chronic degree, surgery may fitly be considered, either alone or in conjunction with them.

Even in divine healing, the spiritual force may still use a surgeon through which to express itself. It does not necessarily have to use only a saint to do so. Spiritual healing completes and does not displace the conventional allopathic or the unorthodox physical healing systems. It does not supplant but supplements them.

Opposition to the new and powerful drugs is not because of their ineffectiveness. That they produce swift and curative results is admitted. The opposition is instigated by the harmful effects upon other organs or parts of the body subsequent to the cure, and sometimes accompanying it.

As the science of medicine becomes more reverent, it will bring the spirit to the healing of the body in addition to its medicine.

Life on earth is so short, so beset by dangers of many kinds, so exposed to our own ignorance and Nature's indifference, that we cannot afford to turn our eyes away as do the Christian Scientists from the discoveries and knowledge of men who have devoted their years to patient sacrifice and research for the alleviation of human sickness.

It is usually wise to consult a physician, wiser still to consult a specialist. Why reject the knowledge they have accumulated, the experience they have gained? But blindly to follow their advice is quite another matter. Here a critical judgement is needed, for medicine is immensely far from being the perfect science that mathematics is.

So long as orthodox medicine fails to recognize the mental or emotional origin of so many cases of sickness, so long will its cures be temporary and incomplete.

To reject the valuable contribution of surgical art is to neglect human knowledge of anatomy and human capacity to co-operate with Nature. Thousands of years ago, a gifted Hindu writer and medico even acclaimed it in these words: "Surgery is the first and highest division of the healing art, least liable to fallacy." Exaggerated, perhaps, but it is certain that the ancient Hindus knew and practised a well-developed form of this art--even including plastic surgery--but it mysteriously disappeared in the course of time. The successive foreign invasions and their massacres of intellectuals may have had something to do with it.

Gandhi denounced surgical techniques as unnatural and urged his followers to have nothing to do with them. Yet he lived to modify his view, for when stricken by appendicitis he accepted the help of those very techniques. The operation was successful. The medieval Church placed a ban upon those who performed any operation upon the human body that was accompanied by the shedding of blood. The modern Church has removed the ban and in its hospitals permits the extensive practice of surgery. Thus the erroneous theory of Gandhi and the erroneous superstition of the Church were corrected by time, which brought the facts of experience into play.

I have always associated hospitals with gloom, with drabness, with ugliness, and with despondency. The association was once falsified in California and again in Denmark. But not till I was taken through the hospital founded by Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo did I associate such intensely positive values as cheerfulness, beauty, hopefulness, and the last word in modernity with such an institution.

On transplants: If they have any positive value at all, amid all the negative ones, it is a blind and mistaken attempt to renovate human life--blind, because ignorant of life's higher laws of rebirth and karma, mistaken because leading always to greater evils than those it seeks to remedy.

The surgical operations to transfer certain glands from animal bodies to human ones may be successful in their vitalizing results on sexual stimulation, but their karmic results are deplorable. The man who so abuses Nature as to permit a lower grade creature's glands to be engrafted into his higher grade body is himself punished by Nature. He risks causing himself to be reborn with a deformed or even crippled body.

Official established and organized medicine is like official established organized religion. It has much that is true but there are also many weeds growing in its garden. We should not be afraid to venture outside its limits.

Every teaching which rejects the knowledge and skills gained by science, in order to put forward its own point of view--however "spiritual" this may be--condemns itself in theory and cripples itself in practice. It may do some good and help some people because of the modicum of truth inherent in it, but it would be able to do more good and help more people by accepting the results of science and adding them to its own. This is just as true of scientific medicine itself as it is of a medical-mystical cult.

Iconoclastic science came into the world and in a few short centuries turned most of us into sceptics. It may therefore surprise the scientists to be told that within two or three decades their own further experiments and their own new instruments will enable them to penetrate into, and prove the existence of, a superphysical world. But the best worth of these eventual discoveries will be in their positive demonstration of the reality of a moral law pervading man's life--the law that we shall reap after death what we have sown before it, and the law that our own diseased thoughts have created many of our own bodily diseases.

The practices of psychology

There are diseases of the mind quite apart from those of the body, yet too often neither the sufferer nor those in his surroundings will recognize the morbid symptoms. He considers himself, and they consider him, normal.

The moderns refuse to split up Mind into Consciousness and its Contents and they will not believe that Consciousness per se has its pure, unalloyed existence. Hence the utter confusion of modern psychology. Yet it is the light of this Consciousness which enables their own busy intellects to function and their bodies to believe themselves to be conscious entities. Everything in Nature works by Its reflected light.

The inner nature that is rent by unresolved conflicts and unhappy divisions needs healing just as much as the outer body that is afflicted by pain-bringing disease.

Psychoanalysis and psychiatry have to deepen themselves if they are to fulfil their own best possibilities. The emotional vacillations and mental perturbations of the lower self must be studied and understood, but this will never be adequately achieved if the existence of the higher Self is denied or ignored.

The psychoanalysts, who are so busy pointing out the complexes of other people, have themselves one supreme complex that dominates and obsesses. It is psychoanalysis itself!

The mistake of the analysts is to treat lightly what ought to be taken seriously, to regard as a parental fixation or sex repression what is really the deep spiritual malady of our times--emptiness of soul.

It is needful to look into the self in depth, to a level where psychoanalysts are seldom able to reach. For the real aim is to penetrate through thoughts to Thought itself, through the personal being to the impersonal one. Further, according to ancient tradition, not only must meditation penetrate deeply, it must also be continuous.

The work of a true psychoanalysis and a wise psychiatry is only preparatory to the work of mysticism. Yet in some cases it is necessary and valuable to a true philosophical mysticism. In clearing the mind from preoccupation with maladjusted personal problems, it makes more possible the opening of the gate of impersonal spiritual consciousness.

These complexes and neuroses begin to lose their power from the first moment that we begin clearly to recognize and frankly to acknowledge their existence. This indeed is the primary requisite of successful treatment, whether it be self-applied or whether it be the work of someone else.

Without psychological delving into, and treatment of, the emotional conflicts and moral problems, the conscious complexes and the subconscious tensions which absorb so many of the individual's forces and obstruct so much of his spiritual aspirations, any technique remains incomplete. Such a therapeutic activity is not separate from the religio-mystical one, but indeed forms a necessary part of it and confirms its purpose.

Half our maladies arise from a sickness which philosophic discipline alone can heal, from a divided, unbalanced, distorted, warped, or unintegrated psyche.

There are deformed minds as well as bodies, diseased emotions as well as physiques. Everyone wants to heal the one but few want to heal the other.

The psychology which believes its study of man to be complete with its study of his reflexes, complexes, emotions, and behaviour is superficial. It has still to get at and explain his consciousness of those things.

There are two essential divisions in the psychological constitution of man. The first is the realm of thoughts, the second is that which is aware of the thoughts, the thinker. Modern psychology has done nothing more than grope in the first realm; it has been quite unable to find the final verified truth about the second one, about the mind that is behind all thoughts.

The psychoanalyst, the psychological counsellor, and the psychotherapist can all study and practise philosophy with benefit to their professional work. Having done so, they can then play a useful role in treating those who would like to undertake involvement but are emotionally or psychologically too egocentric, too easily upset and unbalanced, or suffering too much from psychoses or neuroses, to be able to rise to its impersonal demands. There is of course a semi-lunatic fringe always around religion, spiritualism, and occultism, with a smaller one around mysticism, for there is some sort of ego satisfaction to be found there. The philosopher is not concerned with this atmosphere.

Too many unbalanced persons prematurely occupy themselves with occultism, hypnotism, spiritualism, and even mysticism. It is better not to encourage them, for that will only make their present condition worse. Their first need is to get straightened out and for this they need outside help. The proper help is not easy to find. If it is professional and paid for such as that given by psychologists, psychoanalysts, or psychiatrists, it may have only a very limited value. The kind of help that would be really efficient would be a combination of these professional skills with philosophic, intuitive, and psychic skill.

More patients suffering from mental disorders drag out miserable lives in hospitals than those suffering from other forms of sickness, although sickness may kill more people more quickly. This is only a part of the price modern man is paying for his "civilized" way of life.

Freud's outlook was too materialistic, his interpretation of psychological processes too mechanistic, his personal experience too one-sided to permit him to adequately solve the human problem. Nevertheless he presented a good start in opening up a neglected mental hinterland to science. Adler advanced beyond Freud. Jung advanced beyond Adler. Psychoanalysis has indeed made a useful contribution, amidst all its errors and exaggerations. It has brought into light what was formerly and unhealthily hidden in darkness. It has said what needed saying but what nobody had the courage to say. It has helped people understand their character better. But this said, its work is useful only on its own level, which is much inferior to the philosophical one.

Insofar as he can bring anyone to see himself as he is, the psychiatrist may prepare him--at a price--for this quest or, if he is particularly materialistic, may hinder his patient from it.

Those who take only a casual interest in their mental health will not take a serious interest in philosophy.

There has never been in incarnation so high a proportion of neurotics, psychotics, and mildly unbalanced, destructive, violent, or largely mad persons.

Everybody can recognize a bodily deformity--whether it be his own or another's--in an instant, whereas hardly anybody recognizes a mental deformity until weeks, months, or even years have passed: sometimes it is never recognized at all.

Ignorance of the laws of psychic well-being is not less dangerous because it is so common.

There is a legitimate place for experiment in the applied sciences: it contributed so much to their development. But in the matter of psychology, consciousness, psychical investigation, and the religious inner life, the need for guarding sanity and safeguarding morality is surely there.

The psychoanalyst may do useful work in bringing to the surface an earlier happening which gave a suggestion whose work upon the mind and feelings led ultimately to illness.

Pseudo-practical psychology is a system for turning thoughts into things, mental images into physical realities, and airy nothings into solid somethings--by believing in them.

The psychoanalytic method has only a limited usefulness, as its theory has only a quarter truth. If adopted and followed unrestrainedly it may do as much harm as good, or sometimes even more. It may make the patient so self-absorbed that he is deprived of the broad interest in life necessary to a healthy mind. It may cause him to go on seeking for childhood experiences that never existed, for the alleged roots of his trouble--a process over which people have sometimes wasted years. He may read extreme sexual meanings into his night dreams and his day thoughts, and thus come to absurd attitudes towards life. And finally, the patient may become so dependent on the analyst that he is a helpless creature unable to cope with the world by his own willed and personal response.

To tell yourself that you are getting better and better every day, when the cause of your sickness is making it worse and worse, is to lead the mind into illusion, error, and self-deceit. Suggestion has its proper place and usefulness, but it is only a part and not the whole of psychotherapy.

The psychoanalysts work busily on the ego all the time, thus keeping the poor patient still imprisoned in it. But a reference to the Overself might help him really to get rid of some complexes.

To how many persons has the average Freudian psychoanalyst brought true inner peace? If statistics were available they would be disillusioning. Why is this? It is not for lack of shrewdness, training, research, and practice on the part of the analysts. The basic answer is that both he and his patients are moving in a vicious circle; all their attention is being kept within the ego, that combination of animal and lesser human traits which has yet to discover its greater self. They seek escape, healing, and freedom where there is none. In that greater self alone the good, the true, the beautiful, and the healthy resides.

Psychoanalytic practices may be quite right in their place and for their purpose, but the technique used has no place in philosophy. We do not consider it necessary to delve into an aspirant's childhood in order to explain his present mental condition. For as we believe that his past stretches away into numerous earlier reincarnations, it is obviously insufficient and inadequate merely to take the past of the present reincarnation alone for analysis. Nor do we consider it of any use to try to explain his repressions and frustrations by attempting to interpret his dreams. For we consider most dreams to be merely a worthless melange of thoughts, events, and experiences of the previous twenty-four hours. The really significant dreams are very few.

Freud confessed that he had never had any mystical experiences or mystical feelings. He therefore went on to dismiss all such things in purely materialistic terms, making the silly assumption that because he had never had them, therefore it was not possible for anyone else to have them.

Freud thought that by searching in the darkest corners of our souls, by putting the most sexual interpretation upon the most innocent thoughts and dreams, we would develop our personalities and free our souls! This distorted and pseudo-deep psychology is typical of present-day theorists who offer their last surmise as a first discovery. No man who has practised the profound meditation which philosophic self-knowledge enjoins, will hear without a smile the Freudian psychoanalysts' doctrine that human nature is but a bundle of obscenity. Even Jung knew better.

Psychiatry takes itself too seriously and so overestimates the worth of its findings. If it could pick up a sense of humour, its results would be more accurate.

It is unreasonable to conclude that because so large a part of human activity must be attributed to the impulses of sex, the whole of human activity is attributable to that same source. Those analysts who do so have something to learn about the unconscious quest of every creature for its own spiritual self-realization.

The psychiatrists, being always properly qualified doctors of medicine, are expected to be more reliable in diagnoses, prognoses, and treatments than other healers. But experience shows exceptions. Others have succeeded in curing when the official psychotherapists failed. Why? It is because the unofficial ones have quite often dropped the materialistic belief that the causes of mental disease must be sought in the physical brain alone. The psychiatrists do not reckon with a mind having a consciousness apart from the body.

It is interesting to note that the author of works on Psychosynthesis, Dr. Assagioli, has dropped use of the word "spiritual" and replaced it by "transpersonal."

"All of my work has been directed towards myself," said Jung; "all of the books are but by-products of an intimate process of individuation."

Those psychoanalysts like Freud who find no Overself but only complexes in the human being are outgrown by those like Jung who do find this holy core.

Those who get into the hands of many psychoanalysts are likely to stay in their hands forever or until the requisite fees can no longer be afforded.

Psychoanalysis has harmed patients by its stirring-up of muddy waters that would have been better cleared of their dirt; by its pose as a strict science when it is only a fanciful pseudoscience; and by its narrow biased and misleading explanation of religion, which substitutes worship of the body's sex instinct for worship of the universe's higher power. Even the introversion which it so greatly excoriates as bad, is so only when it is unwilling and unable to fasten its interest on anything outside the small circle of its petty ego. Otherwise, it unfolds the capacity to intuit directly, to think metaphysically, and to meditate spiritually.

Hubbard's book on Dianetics had a wide circulation in this country. Despite repulsive literary style and egoistic literary arrogance, it contains information about practices which are of real worth. When I discussed it with the late Dr. Karen Horney, the leader of a more advanced, less materialistic school of psychoanalysis in New York, she thought that the danger of the patient evading the necessary work upon himself and his character by using this method as a seeming shortcut to the goal was very real. She thought that consequently this method was to be avoided. There is danger, but I do not agree that it should be completely avoided. Much of the danger could be eliminated by combining a part of the Dianetics technique with the analytic one, while avoiding the services of professionals of both schools.

Too much harping upon the unhappy childhood or adolescence of a person, or upon his unfortunate adult experiences, all in the name of psychoanalysis, is a mistake. The negative things in a man's past should be impersonally examined, the lessons in them carefully extracted, and then he should be done with it. It is better for the analyst to lift him up than to keep on pressing him down in this way. Similarly, the idea of writing down one's past--whether in a diary or a book--to act as a safety valve and get rid of it, is erroneous. It merely makes the past more powerful when it ought to be forgotten. A more positive attitude to the present and the future ought to be built up, and this is not to be done by dwelling on the miserable periods of the past.

The psychoanalysts have made it fashionable to search for a guilt complex, or to invent one if it is non-existent, and then to get rid of it as something utterly detestable, harmful, and evil. Yet insofar as it humbles its possessor, it may render a necessary and even beneficial service. Its opposite number, the smug self-righteous assurance that he is quite a fine fellow, may lead a man just as much into detestable and harmful ways.

Neuroses and its treatment

Highly neurotic persons are particularly eager to find a guru (or an analyst), as he or she affords an opportunity to enter into an intimate mental-emotional relationship centered round the neurotic's ego, thus feeding it still more. But the food here is "spiritual." Quite clearly philosophy, throwing the burden of self-salvation on their own shoulders, would be distasteful.

Those who can no longer cope with the life of today or with themselves and their experience of today are segregated and put into homes or institutions for the mentally disturbed. May it not be that there is something wrong with society itself that it has brought them to this state?

The neurotic person moves in a small world which is solely concerned with his own feelings and his own desires. All his thoughts are centered in his little self. How can he be released from such a prison? One way is to become interested in the lives of other people, helping them so far as he can. Another way is to become interested in understanding the World-Idea, participating consciously in its workings. His temperament will make it difficult for him to follow either of these ways. If, however, he is earnestly seeking release, the attempt to follow either of these ways will attract help from outside himself.

When men and women become so completely occupied with their own affairs that thought or feeling for others is entirely absent and the point of extreme obsession with self is reached, they are liable to go mad. It is certain that many of this type find their way into lunatic asylums or mental hospitals.

Schopenhauer was not altogether theorizing when he expressed the view that the unconscious mind retreats in the end from every effort at self-expression, because the sufferings and pains of consciousness cause it to return to its own primal and peaceful state.

In any madhouse one may see patients sitting for hours and staring into space, a vacuous expression on their faces. Outwardly they not only have these resemblances to the yogis but they too live in a kind of sequestered retreat, they too have in their peculiar way renounced the world and its affairs.

Most negative traits belong to the feelings of adolescence, most positive ones to those of real maturity. It is when the negative ones appear in adults that they become neurotic and must be treated as psychic sickness.

Through ignorance of the World-Idea or through disobedience to their revelators and teachers, neurotics get worse and become psychotics. They are to be found in both camps--the religious or cultist believers and the sceptical materialists.

Too many of these neurotics are too full of unstable egoism to have their emotional complexes soluble by any other psychological treatment than a robust and direct attack upon these complexes. A mushy sentimentality will merely prolong the life of such a complex.

Neurotics are moody, sometimes very attractive with their gay and brilliant charm, but sometimes repulsive with their black despairs and criticizing tantrums.

When anyone attaches immensely more importance to something than it really has, there is the first sign of neuroticism.

The neurotic, whose habitual reaction is entirely impulsive and quite unreasoned, may yet be intellectual or cultured or artistic. But in this matter of reaction he is too dangerously close to the animal level of evolution, with its instinctive passional response to stimulus.

Some people become neurotic through too much strained activity, but others become neurotic through too little!

It is a tragic fact that there are many psychoneurotic individuals and others suffering from mental disorders, who are under malign psychic influence. Whatever treatment is given such individuals, including those who are now receiving institutional care, might be more successful by having the patients take up residence at an altitude of not less than five thousand feet.

The electric shock and deep-freeze therapies used by several psychiatric institutions may achieve temporary success, but the price will be exacted later.

Where a thought of fear constantly recurs and plunges him into anxiety or even despair against all the evidence of fact and reason, he is no longer normal but is the sufferer of a phobia.

Sufferers from the manic phase of mental disorder are unstable in temperament and soon change their aims, policies, or goals, for none of these is clear enough.

In our studies, the term "the unconscious" is not used in the narrow meaning of certain arbitrarily selected innate trends, a meaning given it by the psychoanalysts, but in a broadly scientific sense, as containing in potential latency all the possibilities gained in the conscious life and all the deposits of former earth lives, and not only the personal possibilities, but also the super-personal or cosmic ones.

It may be that the patients who are advised by their analysts to take up painting pictures as a form of therapy benefit by the concentration involved in the work, as well as by the relaxation of transferring their thoughts for a while from their own self-affairs.

There are different ways of escape for those who have problems. Some of them, such as drink and sex, are frankly acknowledged to be so; others are less easily recognized as such and these include art and religion.

Professor Stefan de Schill, psychoanalyst: (1) A compulsion neurosis, of which there are several kinds, is caused by a person (technically called "a compulsive") feeling guilty over unclean thoughts. His dry washing of hands is an outer symbol of his attempt or wish to get rid of them. Or his feet swinging, fingers tapping the table, and ear-pulling are nervous habits which betray tension. (2) Any good standard work on psychiatry deals with these habit patterns, these neuroses, which annoy or irritate others.

In the catatonic state, the whole force of the person is turned inward and concentrated upon an idea or a picture or a happening which may be of a purely mental kind. They may or may not be aware of what is happening around them but they are unable to leave the condition at will; it must pass away of its own accord.

What has the person who is obsessed, insane, paranoic, or hysterical really done? He has fixed his attention on a particular thought, idea, belief, or mental picture and he will not let it go. If the thought contradicts reality, we call him insane.

In changing thought for the better, one of the first activities is to cleanse it of undesirable attributes, to wash them away by positive energetic willed control, immediately reacting to their appearance with a very definite mental exclamation of "No!" A mind filled with negative qualities cannot possibly be a healthy mind and is certainly unsuitable for high spiritual flights.

Neurotics talk about their quest but too often fail to apply its disciplinary principles, live in a perpetual muddle because they consider reasoning and planning to be anti-spiritual, and remain indecisive and unsettled because they are swaying from one emotion to another. They are easily excited, elated, or depressed. The fact is too often ignored that they have to go through a first stage in which they simply prepare themselves as grown-up human beings before trying higher flights. This is as much in their own interests as in society's, for they will then be better able to deal with others and help themselves. Surely it is more prudent to take up an ideal which is not too far off, which may be an intermediate one that seems reachable and realizable. But they must recognize this situation for what it is, practise a humble patience, and not try to put the burden of duty elsewhere. They are really looking for someone to nurse them out of their neurotic condition which, of course, means a passage from emotional adolescence to adult responsibility.

Too often the emotionally sick are excessively possessive and will not let go of someone.

The neurotic turns minor situations into great crises.

Freud thought that giving emotional support to distressed persons would probably come through forms of hypnosis or self-hypnosis. Today more and more use is made of methods of relaxation, imaging, suggestion, meditation, positive thinking, and kindred ways of countering stress or improving healing.


The practice of hypnotism to help others psychologically or to heal them physically cannot be recommended indiscriminately. Just as there are dangers in the surrender of one's body and will to an invisible spirit-entity in mediumistic passivity, so there are dangers in their surrender to a visible human entity in mesmerized passivity. It should not be practised--if it is practised at all--more than is sufficient to give a needed initial impulse to start the patient's constructive energies. If he is subjected too long and too often to this controlling influence of another person while in this passive inert condition, his willpower can only get weaker and weaker until he is ruined. For if the mind has opened itself up to accept control and receive suggestions from one outside source, it will do so from other outside sources too. In the end its individuality will be destroyed and its capacity for self-protection lost.

Although hypnotism is useful for some nervous illnesses, its "cures" are not reliable. When carefully and conscientiously used by the right person, it may be helpful; but it is also exceedingly dangerous in the hands of the wrong one.

The Theosophical denunciation of hypnotism as a black art is too sweeping. Hypnotism can be good or evil. That depends partly upon the intentions with which it is practised, the depth of knowledge of the operator, and partly upon the methods used. In the field of healing it may offer useful although often merely temporary relief. The same is true of the field of psychological and moral re-education. If the hypnotist is more than that, if he is also an advanced mystic, it is possible for the alleviations which he brings about to be of a durable nature. Thus the vice of alcoholism can be and has been at times cured instantaneously. The changes are brought about by the impact of the hypnotist's aura upon the patient. When this occurs and when the hypnotist places his will and mind upon the suggestion which he gives, there is a discharge of force dynamically into the patient's aura. It is this force that brings about the change, provided the patient has been able to fall into a passive, sleepy condition. In the case of an advanced mystic, the various physical techniques which bring about this condition are not required. It is then enough if the patient has sufficient faith and is sufficiently relaxed. The mystic can then accomplish the discharge of force merely by gazing intently into the patient's eyes.

The mild use of tobacco and the mild indulgence in alcohol are better in the end than the sudden breaking away from them under the spell of a hypnotic "cure." For in the one case the addict still has some room left for the development of self-control, whereas in the other, not only has he none but he is liable either to relapse again or else to divert his addiction into some other channel which may be not less harmful and may even be more.

Hypnotism can bring him to a kind of peace but it will not be the real one--only a copy, as drugs also bring.

No one can learn the art of thorough self-control by putting his will under someone else's control and his mind in a state of helplessness. Hypnotism, mesmerism, and suggestion may be useful as momentary helps or temporary palliatives but they do not solve the problem of attaining self-liberation. They may even be permanently useful when applied by a man to himself but he who most needs their help least possesses the willpower needful to apply them.

Hypnosis should not be resorted to lightly, nor used ordinarily, but should be left to treat chronic cases.

More than half the cases reported cured by hypnotic treatment were found by one investigator to have had their symptoms temporarily lulled only, the diseased condition or bad habit returning in a worse form than before within a few weeks, a few months, or at least within one-and-a-half years. Thus the patient merely deceived himself about being cured and unwittingly allowed the disease to continue its ravages unchecked by other treatment; hence its later aggravation.

It is true that with hypnosis, symptoms of deeper psychological maladjustments may be banished, but the psychological difficulty will remain and may break out in a more serious form elsewhere. This is the greatest limitation on the therapeutic use of hypnosis. It is effectively applied in psychology, not as a cure, but as a bridge to the subconscious mind to locate causes of maladjustments and phobias for other types of therapy.

If the hypnotist's patient is given the suggestion to rely on himself rather than on the hypnotist, this should overcome the objection to hypnotism as having a weakening effect on the will.

The most exaggerated claims have been made on behalf of medical hypnotism. Dr. Alexander Cannon for years diagnosed ailments by using someone as a professional hypnotic subject, but the truth is that the subject will only give a diagnosis either of what the patient believes is wrong with himself, or of what someone else present believes. The subject picks up the thought in the other person's mind rather than penetrating into the true nature of the disease itself. Cannon also professed to read the past incarnations of people by the same means, and I once had amusing proof of the truth of this criticism. A lady whom I had met and who was exceedingly ambitious and conceited, who could only conceive of herself playing the most historic roles whether in the past, present, or future, once went to him for a reading. The hypnotized medium said that she had been Cleopatra. Later the lady told me this with great excitement as convincing proof of the fact that she had been Cleopatra. Hypnotism has enough of a case to offer for scientific study without running into farcical extremes or fantastic assertions.

Hypnotism is morally wrong because it is the imposition of one person's will on another person. It is also practically ineffective because its results are mostly transient and the patient relapses later into his original or even a worse state. This is because it is an attempt to cheat karma and to sidestep evolution, but the Overself of the patient will not allow that to happen. Hence hypnotism's failure, for it is an artificial attempt to do the patient's own walking for him. Every man must in the end do it for himself. The hypnotist who cures me of the drink habit leaves me just as weak-willed afterwards as I was before, nay, even more so. But if I develop my own willpower and thus cure myself of the habit I get both a permanent cure and a stronger character.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.