Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 10: Healing of the Self > Chapter 5: The Healing Power of The Overself

The Healing Power of The Overself

Spiritual and mental healing defined

Although science has begun to note the facts of spiritual healing, it has not really begun to explain the facts. Nor will it ever, unless it becomes utterly humble before the great power of God.

The therapeutic side of meditation practices can be competently studied only by one who both practises them from the inside as well as observes them from the outside. The scientist and the medical physician, who can do the latter only, are not even half-competent: they miss the essence of the subject in missing the power at work. Their intellects may logically theorize or imaginatively guess at it but that does not bring them into touch with the reality of it. The very scepticism with which they usually confront the record of these unorthodox healings and often reject their genuineness, unfits them for such investigation. The proper openness of mind, neither credulous nor cynical, is hard for them to establish.

Spiritual healing must be separated from mental healing, as the former works by a descent of divine grace but the latter by a power-concentration of mind. A cure in the first case will not only be permanent but also affect the character of the patient, whereas in the second case a cure may be and often is (especially when hypnotic methods are used) transient whilst the character remains untouched. In this connection there are some statements in the chapter on "Errors of the Spiritual Seeker" in my book The Inner Reality.

A genuine spiritual healing of the physical body will always produce spiritual results. That is, it will produce an inner change in the character of the person healed. But when this happens it means that some kind of wrong thinking or wrong feeling is the real cause of his physical sickness. For instance, thoughts of bitterness, resentment, criticism, and condemnation strongly held and long sustained against other persons can and very often do easily produce liver trouble. So long as that kind of thinking and feeling continues, so long will the liver trouble continue. The proper way to heal it, therefore, is to get at the psychological seat of the trouble--that is, effect an inner change. Where spiritual healing treatment influences a man to give up the wrong thinking, so that it leaves him utterly, the physical effects of the change may show themselves suddenly and miraculously or slowly and gradually. Although they show themselves as a cure of a physical malady, note that it first began as a mental malady or as an emotional malady. And if the inner change is an enduring one, the following cure will be an enduring one too. This is the only type of healing which can truly be called spiritual. All other kinds of so-called spiritual healing are merely mental healing or hypnotic healing, and the cure can never be equal in quality or durability. Quite often, they have only temporary results and the sickness reappears because the inner man has been left with all his psychological neuroses uncured. Mental healing and hypnotic healing are not, strictly speaking, healing at all. They are suppression of symptoms, and at the cost of retention of the hidden causes of these symptoms.

In the case of mental healing there is not necessarily any change at all in the character of the patient. His angers, his hostilities, or his resentments may remain as active as before. His cure simply illustrates the power of mind over body--his own or someone else's mind. It is achieved by faith or concentration or suggestion. But in the case of spiritual healing there is an inner change along with bodily cure.

Why is it wrong to seek the cure of physical ailments by nonphysical remedies, and particularly by spiritual ones? To argue that the inner healing of bad character is more important--which may be granted--does not do away with the necessity of the outer healing.

It is not the true spiritual healing if it leaves the character and outlook untouched, unimproved. There are other kinds of healing which may relieve or cure one kind of ailment while leaving the person still open to make the karma that later brings on another kind of ailment.

He who sees in everything only matter and beyond it only nothing, who looks to physics and physiology for sufficient explanation of our existence and to chemical actions for sufficient explanation of our loftiest emotions, will be sceptical of mentalist principles and distrustful of spiritual healing.

It is often argued that psychological treatment may cure people suffering from nervous troubles or those whose sicknesses are largely the result of their own imagination, but that such treatment is useless for physically caused maladies. The only way to get at the truth about this problem is to divide psychological treatment into mental and spiritual categories. Mental treatment, which includes hypnotic treatment, is suitable only for nervous troubles, for there alone can it effect a cure; but spiritual treatment is suitable for both nervous and physical troubles because it involves a higher power than the thinking or imagining one, a truly spiritual power which is able to affect the physical body no less than the personal mentality. Mental treatment includes a large part of so-called spiritual healing, which is not genuine spiritual healing at all. Philosophy is able to make this differentiation because it understands the psyche of man and his inner constitution, because it has a deeper knowledge than scientific observers working from the outside or religious devotees working by faith alone can get.

Our knowledge of the laws which govern the psychological causes of sickness and the spiritual healing of disease is still incomplete and uncertain.

Before one talks of depending upon the Overself one must first have established a relation with it, earned a title to its grace. Otherwise, the talk is premature. Nor can such dependence ever annul the duty of utilizing all ordinary means, all human channels.

The possibility of healing physical ailments by spiritual means depends in the last analysis not upon the personal will of the healer but upon the divine soul of the patient. By Its grace, which is a definite force, the soul can assist both mind and body, as I have explained in Chapter 9 of my book The Wisdom of the Overself.

Those critics who deny the reality of Grace as well as those who deny the possibility of spiritual healing are tersely answered by the writer of Psalms 103:3: "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases."

Such healing does not contradict the natural laws; it co-operates with them. Thus, to expect an old man to be turned into a young man by its aid, is unrealizable. To demand a new leg to replace an amputated one, is unreasonable.

The mere removal of pain, healing of lesions, elimination of tumours, or restoration of functions without any physical agent being used in the cure is itself really a miracle. But such an achievement started and completely finished within only a few hours or a few minutes is even more miraculous. It compels us to redefine the word "miracle." No longer should we regard its meaning as a suspension of natural law, a deliberate intervention by God to thwart His own creation, but rather as a natural fact arising out of still unknown laws.

Because I foresee that many more years of continued research are needed before I shall have any conclusions of permanent value to offer, I venture to set down here only the most elementary of my findings. Even these would have been held back for some years were it not that the pressure of our times gives them an importance and urgency that brooks no delay.

If only a few sufferers have left the healers' presence restored to health, this should still render it an imperative duty to find out what little we can about how or why the healing happened.

We are still in the process of putting together into a single inclusive pattern of Healing and Truth the oddly assorted pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. And it is only the beginning of this process!

Out of this world suffering, you may learn the greater lessons which Buddha learned but which Mrs. Eddy tried to evade. Life on earth is not intended to be an eternal bed of roses; it will forever be a mixture of pleasure and pain; the wheel of fate will forever keep turning up now one and then the other. True healing is primarily the healing of spiritual ignorance, never the gaining of prosperity, and only occasionally the getting of good health. It is to win an unbreakable peace and a perfect knowledge which neither death nor man can steal or impair.

Are we to follow the example of some holy men, both in medieval Europe and in the modern Orient, who equate the acceptance of illness with the will of God? Are we to cherish our diseases in resignation to God rather than try to cure them by spiritual means? Is such pious fatalism better than turning to spiritual healing?

To the extent that Christian Science instruction will make clearer to his mind and fix more deeply within it those several great truths which Christian Science shares in common with philosophy, he will benefit by it. But to the extent that he absorbs, along with them, those errors, fallacies, and confusions which are also part of Christian Science, he will not. Therefore in its study he should keep vigilance close to him and not throw away his right to use critical judgement. One fallacy is not to see that physical means may also be used by God to cure, even if it be granted that they are indirect as well as on a lower plane. They need not be rejected but merely valued for the inferior things they are. But they have their place. Another fallacy is not to see that mental means may also be used. Psychology, change of thought, is also inferior and indirect, but still has a useful place and positive value.

Healings can be done without entering the kingdom. They are achieved by the power of concentration. This leaves the ego still there. The cure is wrought then by an occult, not a spiritual, power. It is personal to the practitioner, not impersonal. Every individual practitioner who makes progress will come to the point where either his power lapses or his understanding outgrows the imposed dogmas. If he accepts this opportunity or passes this test, he may come closer to God.

The Christian Scientist adherent needs to purify his motive. His need of better health or more money may be satisfied in the proper way but must be kept in the proper place. He should not seek to exploit higher powers for lower ends. He should carefully study the meaning of Jesus' words: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added unto you."

Mental healing--its limited success

The body has its own laws of well-being. The man who persistently infringes them but relies on the protective shelter of spiritual healing "demonstration" to take care of his infringements is following a risky, unreasonable, and uncertain course. All observation, experience, biography, and philosophy unite to warn him that the chances of succeeding are less than those of failing.

Only after he has extracted and applied its lesson may he turn his back on experience and deny its reality. Only after he has learned what law of physical, emotional, or mental hygiene he has violated, and corrected the transgression, may he declare his sickness an illusion of the senses and an error of the mind. Any other course is self-deceiving.

The New Thought mental healing cults do not understand the difference between those occult powers (healing is one of them) performed by the ego deliberately and those occult powers performed through the ego spontaneously at the Overself's bidding. The first kind are on an inferior level and keep the practitioner still enchained within egoism. But of course, by contrast to the orthodox church teaching, this New Thought teaching is certainly broader.

No unqualified person--that is, no unintegrated and unpurified person--has the right to audit another. Here is the error of Dianetics: it explains the disappointment of some disciples and the disillusionment of others.

The danger to those who seek such healing is one of falling into the materialism which exalts the body at the expense of the soul. The danger to those who practise it is one of falling into vanity, feeling more important or more powerful than others.

The fallacy in Christian Science theory is the pretense that problems and pains, diseases and malfunctions, cancer and crime do not exist among us here in this physical world. If we turn only to pure Spirit and leave out the world in time and space and form, then, undeniably, they do not exist. But we may not leave them out of practical reckoning while we have to live in this body, much as some of us would like to. If the theory floats in mists of fatuous optimism, the art of Christian Science healing does in some cases bring very successful results. Why?

With the Short Path are allied all healing techniques, like Christian Science, which affirm the actual existence of God as perfect, disease-free, and all-providing. Sometimes they really do draw on the Overself's power but at other times they use a queer mixture of black magic, hypnotic suggestion, and fallacious religion.

If a mental healer should be interested in, or be a practitioner of, black magic, he is far more likely to do serious harm to his patients than good. It is always better to avoid meeting such people. Even the "cures" which they perform are either only temporary, or else bought at a heavily disproportionate price.

A teaching which seeks the chief good for human beings, but ignores robust health and freedom from pain as a necessary part of that good, is an incomplete one.

The old notion that mental healing is only useful to, and possible in, cases where the patient only imagines that he is sick, is outdated.

A doctrine which denies the body's existence while hypocritically trying to cure the body's ailments, contradicts itself. In any case, the body remains there, a hard unavoidable fact which must be accepted in the end, however much anyone believes he has thought it away.

The group of powers manifesting themselves in the phenomena which have been variously named--according to the theoretical interpretation given them by various cults--as spirit healing, Christian Science, mesmeric healing, hypnotic treatment, and suggestive therapeutics, may, with one group of exceptions, conveniently be classified under the heading of "mental healing." These exceptions occur through the unconscious stimulation of physical vital force (prana) and usually lead to cures which are such in name only for they do not last long and are followed by a relapse into illness.

It is never the truly spiritual healer who temporarily feels the pain or shows the symptoms of his patient's disease, but only the physical-magnetic healer.

Uncritical believers in so-called metaphysical healing and in faith-cure theories are sooner or later subjected to the discipline of facts. The intensity of their pains and the gravity of their ills are intended to, and do, bring them to a truer view of actualities. Instead of blaming themselves for failure to demonstrate good health, they ought to blame these theories for having misled them. Such failure is a chance to revise imperfect beliefs, to cast out errors and start again. This surely is to the good and something to be satisfied about. The problem of bodily healing is a complicated one and often depends on more than a single factor.

Those who are likely to decry this proviso are always those who tell us only of the successes of mental or "spiritual" healing, but not of its failures. The comparative figures of the two sets of results are tremendously disproportionate. To open one's eyes to the flaunted successes of this system and to shut them to its aching failures, is not the way to understand it aright. To exaggerate what it has achieved and to minimize or deny what it has been unable to achieve--as is done by its ardent partisans--represents a falling away from intellectual integrity. To take a typical example, consider the famous healing sanctuary at Lourdes, France. It was established in 1860. During recent years the attendance of sick and crippled patients has been no less than six hundred thousand annually. Yet during the first seventy years of the sanctuary's existence, a total of only five thousand cures was reported. This should represent, on a conservative estimate, about one percent of successful treatments. The number of those pilgrim-patients who failed to benefit must therefore run into millions! We dwell on this example not to decry Lourdes, which is doing a blessed and benign work which everyone should respect, and certainly not to derogate its religious aspect, but to point out that the failures in every school of healing, whether materialistic, mental, or religious, must exist. That the inspiration which brought Lourdes into being was truly divine and that the most amazing cures have been achieved there in a manner only to be described as miraculous, we fully accept. But that there are limitations and disappointments inherently present in this kind of healing must also be accepted.

Do they not remind us of those medieval alchemists who talked glibly of transmuting brass into gold, the while their tattered sleeves and torn garments betrayed their shame-faced poverty! Facts are stern and can't be laughed off. Exaggerated expectations are inevitably disappointing. These failures are not held against such systems. No healing system, no healer, certainly not even the most orthodox, could have a record consisting only of triumphs. But no movement which boasts of its successes and ignores its failures has the right to call itself scientific. For only by studying its failures could it ever learn not only that there are errors mixed up with its truths, but also exactly what errors they are.

The mere giving of an auto-suggestion, such as "I am perfect health," which is belied by facts and made untrue by the body's condition, cannot bring about a cure. Such a fictitious statement can only bring about a fictitious result. To deny an illness' existence while refraining from denying the body's existence, is illogical.

In all this Christian Science teaching it is essential to note that the healer can utter these healing formulae, think these healing truths, either out of his intellect or out of his insight. In the first case his words and thoughts are merely like the map of a country. In the second case they are like an actual visit to the country. The first healer makes an unwarranted claim, does not see that his statements could be truly made only if he attained the stature and purity of Jesus. It is not enough that the patient should have faith; the healer himself must have the requisite higher consciousness. For the divine power which actually effects the healing will not come from his ordinary self but out of this higher one.

Since other cults holding contradictory theories are also able to claim cures, and since there is a natural healing force in the body itself, the Christian Scientists should be cautious and realize that their own theory may be only partially and not wholly correct.

Whereas Christian Science denies the reality of the body and hence of the body's ills, most other spiritual healing schools admit it. Whereas Christian Science nowhere speaks of man struggling upward through constant reincarnations on earth to realize his highest possibilities, its most powerful rival--the Unity school of Christianity--proclaims this doctrine.

Rudolf Steiner opposed psychic healing because, he said, it did not cure but merely drove the disease deeper inside, to reappear later in some other part of the body.

If the patient recovers, the system of healing--whether it be orthodox or unorthodox--gets the credit; but if he fails to recover, the system does not get the debit.

The Vedantist and Christian Scientist who are determined to exclude the idea of world-existence from their view, are nevertheless forced to yield and re-admit the exile when a simple toothache instructs them to the contrary.

A cautious attitude to these cures may well find them to be the result of natural healing processes; they would have happened anyway.

Unbiased investigation shows that there are disproportionately more cases of failure than of success by mental and religious healers. It is unfortunate for the claims made and misleading to the uncritical following that while the successes are highly advertised, the failures are buried in silence. Moreover, even among the alleged healings, not all are actual or durable ones. Thus the subject easily lends itself to deception, sometimes to imposture.

The therapy of spiritual healing yields results similar to those of other therapies. It has been known to cure one man of a chronic complaint yet fail to even help another man suffering from the same complaint.

If the published testimony to the cures by the methods of the best known of these cults is carefully and cautiously examined in the scientific manner, it will be obvious that in the first place some of the sufferers never had the particular ailment they name, but only some minor one.

The religious revivals which are carried on during intense excitement, with much dancing and jumping, and at which dramatic healing of the sick occurs, are too often mere displays of emotionalism. The Spirit-fire current rushes upward temporarily but soon falls down and with its return to quiescence there is the usual bodily reaction. Religious fervour abates and the cure vanishes.

The proportion of failures to healings is never known, and so long as the religious approach continues and a religious organization's power, wealth, and prestige are at stake, will never be known.

When Christian Science states profound mentalist truths it becomes elevating, but when it mixes them up with refutable conjectures, it becomes misleading. In the first case it is supported by the facts of life, whereas in the second it conflicts with them.

My attitude towards Christian Science-Aurobindo theory of physical immortality: continue to deny that abolition of death is possible, but admit that prolongation of physical life may well be possible. In the case of good individuals admit also its desirability.

The Christian Science practitioners apparently use their formulas, their statements of being, their treatments, in the form of uttered incantations. This is much like the use of mantrams in India.

A comparative study of the history of mental healing shows how universal and ancient are its origins; nor are its principles new.

Mental Moral and Spiritual Hygiene seeks to establish a proper way of living and thus prevent sickness. The healing art steps in where sickness already exists and a cure is sought.

Another extremely fanatical attitude of which we must beware is the belief that mental healing displaces all other systems and agencies for curing disease or keeping health; that its advocates may totally discard every branch of medicine and surgery, hygiene, and physical treatment. Sanity and balance call for the acceptance in its proper place of whatever Nature and man can contribute. With these preliminary warnings, we venture to predict that as the principles and practices of mental healing come to be better, namely more rationally understood, it will establish for itself a firm place in therapeutics which will have to be conceded--however grudgingly--by the most materialistic and most sceptical of medicos.

We must remember that mental healing is only a single aspect of the art of healing. All the others must be brought in to make a balanced system. God has given us valuable herbs, for instance, which possess remedial virtues. We should accept the gift.

The error of Christian Science would appear to be that it confuses theory and wrongly applies practice. Its principles are half-right, half-wrong; its technique is the same. The injunction to "cast thy burden on Me," which it seems to apply, is misunderstood to advise neglecting practical means of healing troubles and leaving all to God. But the correct way is not to neglect them but to do them while at the same time leaving results to God and being indifferent to them.

Even if Christian Science and New Thought sects produce healings, they are still not truly "divine." They use some lower force--some vital force, as the Indians say. For they are all attached to the ego, which is itself a consequence of their unconscious belief in its reality. The ego has cunningly inserted itself even into these highly spiritual teachings and is still the hidden source behind both their prophets and their followers. This explains Mary B. Eddy's and so many New Thought teachers' commercialism as well as the errors which are contained in the teachings of Emmet Fox, which led to his own mental-physical breakdown and death.

Christian Science can deny the existence of ill health only at the cost of logically denying the existence of good health also. Both are differing conditions of the same thing--the body. Christian Science calls sickness a lie. Then it should likewise call its opposite a lie. But not only does it not: it actually affirms that good health is a truth and a reality even while it denounces matter--the body--as a lie and an illusion! If, in spite of its deformed logic, Christian Science still gets healing done--as it does--this result must be attributed to the fact that the infinite Life-Power does take cognizance of the body's disease and does not deny its being there.

It is not only fallacious to deny the existence of a disease but also, if the attempt is made to secure healing, insincere.

The Christian Science attempt to deny existence to sickness as an error of mortal mind is itself an error. It is more philosophic, first, to take it as an existent fact, but to understand that the body's reality is only a limited and temporary one, and, second, to couple it with the other fact that there are healing forces and recuperative energies in the higher self of man which may dispel it.

If right thinking alone could sustain life and support health irrespective of every other factor, then human beings could immure themselves where sunlight, air, water, and food could not reach them and still live actively. But the only cases known to history are of a few hibernating inactive yogis. Such theorizing is self-deceptive.

Mary Baker Eddy, from the safe distance of the study, conveniently denied the existence of disease. Meanwhile the gods have smiled cynically as millions in Asia have picked up cholera and passed to their doom.

The mental peace obtained by denying facts like sickness may be welcome to the sufferer. But it may also turn out to be a false peace.

Although the theory of these cults is in part quite fallacious, the practice of them brings striking results at times. This is because the healing power really comes forth from the patient's own higher self, to which the cults do--although somewhat unconsciously--direct him.

One of the yoga paths is the creative use of imagination and thought for self-improvement, and so far as it embodies such a technique, Christian Science is a yoga path too. It instructs its disciples to see themselves as perfect, as the Universal Mind sees them, to concentrate on the concept of, and hold to the belief in, the divine in man. These meditations and attitudes draw forth higher resources, which may effect results where ordinary ones fail.

This thinking runs somewhat as follows. The entire universe is but an idea. Therefore the human body is also an idea. Therefore the human being, as the thinker of this idea, possesses complete power to alter, improve, and even change the body. Therefore he can abolish disease, annul sickness, restore health, and perform miraculous environmental betterments at will, provided he can suitably re-adjust and control his thoughts. All this sounds plausible and attractive, but there is a fallacy in it. And this is that the human being is the sole thinker of the World-Idea. He is not. He only participates in it along with the World Mind. His power over the body is a limited one. By his thoughts he can influence its functioning and sometimes modify its mechanism.

Healers and the spiritual path

Some persons have wonderful healing gifts, but they will need to keep the ego out of their use of these gifts if the quest is not to be obstructed.

Those who are born with healing skills, probably brought over from former births, function on different levels. The commonest is that which radiates life-force and energizes the cells of the sick person. This kind of healer must first put himself into a passive mood and then, when he feels the vibratory force of the life-force active within him, let it pass, with or without touching the patient, into the latter. The vibrations of the life-force are universal; they are not the healer's own personal property. He simply possesses a skill in letting himself be used as a channel, and it is usually concentrated in his hands. A healer like Saswitha, who says he is merely drawing the therapeutic power from his patient and redirecting it or returning it back to the patient, forgets that if this is so the patient himself gets it from the cosmic forces. It is not his own personal property.

Jesus healed the sick, cured the diseased. Why decry the feat (when others do the same) as "merely" using an occult power, and as a deviation from the highest path of attainment, becoming an obstacle to it? For this is the criticism by Advaitic Vedantins. This criticism is unfair. If it is right to cure a man by physical means--medicine, for example--then it is right to cure him by mental means, and drawing on still deeper powers is in the same line of progression. The Advaitins grant that a physician may attain the highest truth. Is a physician like Paracelsus, using both physical and mental remedies, plus his own spiritual power, and therefore capable of helping more people more effectively, to be denied this possibility?

The professional in other lines can often give a reasonable assurance of the efficacy of his work, but the genuine spiritual healer cannot. For not only is his own gift involved but also both the patient's self-made destiny and his evolutionary need.

Apollonius tells us that Pythagoras regarded healing as "the most divine art." Why should anyone reject the views of the Greek sage, not to speak of Jesus' own confirmation by his works? Why should the Indian sages regard healing as a merely occult art, hence as a practice to be avoided?

Why should it be right for a spiritual master to minister to diseased minds but wrong to minister to diseased bodies? To label one as white magic and the other as black magic, or to neglect and ignore the flesh in the interest of whole-time devotion to the spirit, is unfair.

Too many Indian, and a few Western, gurus and cults reject the development and use of healing power. It is, they argue, an obstruction in the spiritual path because it keeps its practitioner captive to the ego, which may even become stronger through conceit. There is the historic case of Ramakrishna. He went to his prayer shrine in his temple three times to request a healing for the throat cancer which troubled him, but each time failed to utter the words. The merit of argument based on increased egotism and vanity, the danger of being sidetracked from seeking the highest goal, is admitted. But is this enough ground to ban spiritual healing completely and always? Must it be denied to all people at all times, universally, because some healers may be obstructed spiritually by its practice? The answer of common sense agrees with the example of Jesus.

The healing of disease was well identified with Jesus' work, with Aesculapian Greek sanctuaries, with Egyptian exorcism, with many a mystic throughout the Orient, and even with a number in the modern world, Eastern and Western. How, then, with such a religious background, can it be fair to deny divine inspiration to the man who performs healing, while allowing such inspiration to the man who only preaches?

Vedantic thought usually regards the siddhis--occult powers--as obstacles to attaining truth. Among them the healing of the body's sicknesses and the mind's disorders is included.

That some persons are unusual in being born with the gift of healing the sick is a historic fact. Why reject the talent or power as being unworthy of a true sage or of those who seek to become such a one? In what way is this form of serving humanity unethical, unsafe, inconsistent with the highest?

Remember that Jesus started his work by an act of healing a sick person.

The results of their use of healing powers cannot ordinarily be predicted, much less guaranteed, but must be left to the Higher Power.

Spiritual healing is drawing much attention but the subject is involved in much confusion. Even the healers themselves hold contradictory theories about it. Some use prayer to get their cures; others deny that prayer is of any avail. Some practise meditation alone; others combine meditation with the laying-on of hands. Some deny that there is anything more than the power of suggestion behind the healings; others find in them an evidence of God's presence. Are there any spiritual laws which will scientifically explain the healings?

Is the Hindu wisdom always wise? There is the warning of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras against the occult powers that might be acquired by yoga: they are to be shunned because they obstruct further advance towards a higher plane. Healing is one of these listed powers. Must we accept such an attitude and reject the gift of healing, if it comes? Is good health so great an evil that disease is to be accepted dutifully? On this point a Westerner might rebel.

In ancient and orthodox Hinduism the profession of healer was regarded unfavourably, for the strange reason that it brought the healer and the sick together!

Rosa Bailly was known in France as a poetess. Quite late in life she became aware of certain radiations and found herself capable of healing sick people by using these radiations. Out of these experiences with patients she wrote a booklet entitled La Survie du Cancer (Victory over Cancer), but it is no longer in print and has never been translated. She died in the Pyrenees where she lived during this last phase of her life, devoted to healing work until she finally gave that up, saying that it exhausted her too much. What she regarded as her major contribution to the healing art was the discovery from this experience of hers that cancer has its seat "in the pithy marrow of the spine" no matter where its tumour is. She could not find a publisher for this little book in France, but it was published here in Switzerland and will not, it is said, be reprinted now that she has passed. In fact she was her own publisher. At the time of her retirement, she explained that vital energy would pass from her to the patient. It is known that some of her cures were spectacular, and even in most of the cases where she failed to save the life of the patient, she brought about a passing without suffering.

The confusion of thought concerning spiritual healing is tremendous. Swami Nikhilananda asserts that Ramakrishna's practice of falling into spiritual trance aggravated the cancer which finally killed him. Yet this is the very method and practice used by some healers to heal their patients, because, they believe, it releases divine energies.

What the healer does is to release, stimulate, or add energy to the sufferer's own natural recuperative forces.

The differences between healers are differences of techniques, personal fitness, and spiritual degree.

The power to heal the sick is a latent gift deliberately brought out by development or spontaneously released by illumination.

Spiritual healing is a gift which is innate in certain individuals and very difficult to acquire by others. It may, however, exist latently, and could show itself only after a certain degree of spiritual development has been attained.

Bernard of Clairvaux cured hundreds of the blind, deaf, and paralysed during the twelfth century simply by making the sign of the cross over the affected body part. Olcott in Ceylon, eight centuries later, cured dozens of cases of scorpion bite and even snake bite by making the sign of the pentagram over the part. Does this not show that the healing power lay in the healer himself, even more than in his method?

There are many puzzling cases of healers, like Saint Paul in ancient times, Saint Catherine of Siena in medieval times, and Father Matthew of Ireland in modern times, who cured the ills of many people but did not or could not cure their own. This is a paradox that is hard to resolve.

All healers lose their power after a time. This is to lead them to a higher level.

Doctors who can keep us well, long-lived, and capable of functioning properly are more needed than those who cure our diseases.

If words have any meaning at all, Christ's words have meant that personal sacrifice is the cost of spiritual growth. For eighteen hundred years, men of every kind--scholars, mystics, priests, laymen, ascetics, and saints--agreed on that. Then arose a new group of cults--faith-healers--which not only gave a new meaning to those words but a directly opposite meaning. Success and prosperity, they asserted, are outer signs of inner spiritual growth. The end result was that they tried to use spiritual forces solely for their own personal purposes and material benefits, instead of trying to surrender to those forces and submit to higher purposes. They denied--contrary to the experience of all religious history--that material loss and personal failure could ever be the working of such purposes.

The work of the Overself

My basic conclusion is that healing exists on all these different levels, which means its power comes from different sources. But this said, I feel that all healers should know their limits, their limitations, and I fear that many of them do not simply because they are carried away by their enthusiasm. Secondly, I feel that all healers would not only be none the worse for some knowledge of anatomy and physiology and the commoner maladies, but they should even attempt to acquire some of this knowledge. Otherwise many errors, many false or exaggerated claims, are made by the healers. I am not questioning their honesty; I believe most of them are honest. But I am questioning their lack of knowledge--I mean accurate knowledge and fuller knowledge. On the other hand, I criticize the medical profession for failing to enter into dialogue with the healers, for they would learn much to their own profit and to the improvement of their professional help if they adopted a humbler attitude towards the unorthodox healers.

Before the healing processes can come into operation, the patient must be brought into a receptive state; otherwise he will unconsciously obstruct them. Faith is the first requisite.

Those who approach him with their wish to be healed and their faith in his power to bring it to realization, have still not approached him aright. They must also be willing to have their own contribution to the disease's existence pointed out. They must also agree to rectify wrong habits of living and thinking. If they come only for pleasant words and a successful cure, if they are not prepared to deny themselves or to discipline themselves, he cannot heal them.

The first and least danger which besets the possessor of occult healing power is the praise or fame it brings him from other people, who are led by it to think him greater than he really is. He feels flattered by the praise and elated by the fame, with the result that his ship runs aground on the reef of vanity. His further progress gets stopped. Few can withstand the temptation as Gandhi once withstood it. One day an old Bengali man prostrated before Mahatma Gandhi and expressed gratitude for his having cured him of chronic paralysis. The man had tried other remedies without success and finally resorted to the repeated utterance of Gandhi's name, and was completely cured. When replying, the great liberator of India showed the selfless humility of his character: "Will you oblige me by taking my photograph off your neck? It was not I but God who cured you."

Deep down within the heart there is a stillness which is healing, a trust in the universal laws which is unwavering, and a strength which is rock-like. But because it is so deep we need both patience and perseverance when digging for it.

To pray for a bodily cure and nothing more is a limited and limiting procedure. Pray also to be enlightened as to why this sickness fell upon you. Ask also what you can do to remove its cause. And above all, ask for the Water of Life, as Jesus bade the woman at the well to ask.

If he can apply this teaching now, if he can put his faith in and make his contact with the higher power from this very moment, if he can forget himself for an instant, he can receive healing instantaneously.

When Jesus told the sick person,"Thy faith has brought thee recovery," he did not mean, as many now think, faith that the cure will be effected. No--he meant faith in the healing power--God. The first kind keeps the mind still centered in ego, whereas the second kind of faith lifts the mind away from ego. Another translation: "Your faith has made you well."

Because the Overself is not outside a man but is his own innermost nature, full faith in its presence and power is essential to experience its healing and help.

When the pursuit or practice of healing powers diverts him from the higher work of knowing who it is that is seeking or using them, when they no longer serve but make him their servant, he must pause and beware.

The secret of exercising spiritual power is to turn towards the other and higher being which is the soul. The price of exercising it is self-abandonment. This is as true of spiritual healing as it is of spiritual initiation.

Francis Schlatter replied to a query as to the secret of his successful healings: "I am nothing, but the Father is everything. Have faith in the Father and all will be well. The Father can grow a pair of lungs just as easily as He can cure a cold."

When he realizes how much is given by the higher power through him, and how little is really done by himself, the healer or teacher may well become careless of his fame, efface his own personality, and keep it humbly in the background. Whoever else achieves the same good results will arouse his generous joy, not his egoistic jealousy.

An honest healer can say only that his healing depends on two conditions being fulfilled: the faith of the patient and the permission of the higher powers.

A monk who attained great renown and reputation in Rumania for his selfless character, inspired preaching, and miraculous healing said that he asked all patients to make a confession privately to him of their wrong attitudes and wrong-doing before the work of healing could begin, as this opened the door.

This healing quality present in his highly developed being passes into others, although only into those who can absorb it through devotion or receive it through faith.

It is risky for him to forget what he primarily still is--a layman, not a medical man. He ought not attempt to occupy a position which does not belong to him.

Whoever wishes to experiment in healing himself or others need not be deterred by these provisos from trying to do so. He does not need to be an adept in yoga or a sage in philosophy to receive the power of grace. Technically, even a slight realization of the principle involved may suffice to bring success. For the result is not in his hands but God's. And partly because of this but partly because many physical ailments can be traced to their psychological equivalents in defective character, deep repentance is an additional factor of definite importance in such self-treatment.

No man in himself, his ordinary self, is a real spiritual healer in the way another man could be a medical, herbal, magnetic, homeopathic, or psychotherapeutic healer. Spiritual healing belongs only in the providence of the Overself.

The truth that it is not the ego which is instrumental in the higher forms of healing is made evident to every practising healer throughout his career. When Saint Augustine was dying, a sick man came to him and begged to be cured. Augustine replied that if he possessed any powers he would have used them upon himself. However, the visitor said he had been told in a dream to ask Augustine to cure him by the laying on of hands. The saint yielded and followed the instruction. The man was healed.

Unless a genuinely scientific and metaphysical basis is found, it will be discovered, as one famous healing cult has already discovered, that although cures are effected which cannot be doubted, many of these cures are not permanent. The principle which is the key to such healing--if it is to be real healing and not a temporary suppression of symptoms--and which overrides all others, was pointed out in an earlier book (The Inner Reality, also published as Discover Yourself). It is the surrender of the conscious will, the personal will, to a higher power. It is the giving up of ego by offering of your body-problem to the power behind all bodies. The cure is not effected and cannot be effected by the patient himself or by any professional healer who may be employed. It is done only by the Overself itself, which means that it is essentially a bestowal of grace. Now grace is an active force, not a mere intellectual thought or emotional attitude. It is the cosmic willpower, or what Indians call kundalini. This bestowal in turn requires that not merely the body alone be touched, but also the mind. Hence a cure which is genuine and permanent will always involve to some extent a mental re-adjustment, a correction of outlook, even an ethical conversion.

Those who do not understand the Overself's workings expect it always to manifest--if it manifests at all--in all its naked purity. If they desire healing, they think that the Overself's help can show itself only in a direct spiritual healing, for instance. The truth is that they may get the cure from a purely physical medium, like a fast, a diet, or a drug; yet that which roused them to seek this particular medium or gave it its successful result was the Overself.

Jesus' primary intention was to heal the inner man, to promote a directional change in his thought and feeling, to divert him from a sinful to a righteous attitude towards life, and to convert him from spiritual indifference to spiritual enthusiasm. The healing of the body was but a by-product and took place only after these inner processes had been successfully carried out. When the higher elements in a man's character got the better of his lower ones, the victory was followed by, and symbolized in, a return of health to the sick body. It was a visible sign of the reality of the invisible healing. Jesus could not have cured the physical sicknesses if the sufferers had not previously felt his greatness, repented of their former way of life, asked forgiveness, and resolved to become righteous. The Gospels record the cases of those who were able to do this; they do not record the cases of the far larger number who could not and whose bodily maladies therefore remained uncured. Most readers erroneously believe that Jesus could heal any and every person. Nobody can do that because nobody can force faith, conversion, penitence, moral evolution, and spiritual aspiration into a stubborn man's heart. There is a further factor in Jesus' healings. They were often accompanied by the proclamation that the patient's sins were forgiven him. This means first, that the aforesaid prerequisite conditions had been established and second, that the man's Overself had intimated its gracious cancellation of the particular bad destiny which had expressed itself in the sickness. The forgiveness came through Jesus as a medium; it did not originate in him. Those who believe that Jesus personally could unburden all men's evil fate, err. He could do it only in those cases where a man's own higher self willed it. Jesus then became a medium for its grace.

The healing does not come from the healer himself; it comes through him. What he does is to prepare conditions rendering it possible for this to happen. But this is no guarantee that the Overself will necessarily make use of them every time.

We eagerly seek to be relieved of sickness or trouble, but where relief is followed by a feeling of relationship to the Overself, we have gained something far more valuable than we originally sought.

When every form of available or affordable physical treatment--the unorthodox as well as the orthodox--has been exhausted without success, it is time to try spiritual healing. For the desperate it is the last hope.

The actual cure is so swift in time and so untechnical in method that he may be seized with the most exhilarating astonishment.

Genuine cures are quite possible and valid. The person responsible for it may have been used by the higher self of the sufferer as an actual instrument of spiritual healing.

So powerful is the force of suggestions implanted from outside that a man may be exercising the gift of healing direct from his own Soul yet he will believe, and believe firmly, that he is exercising and deriving it from the spirit of a dead man.

Spiritual healing cannot be successfully practised by anybody who has merely picked up its jargon and intellectually familiarized himself with its ideology. It can be successfully practised only by one who has entered into the consciousness of, and surrendered his ego to, the divine spirit within himself.

If, when the processes of the quest are not definitely directed towards the eradication of disease, they are still successful in contributing to such eradication, how much more successful can they be when they are quite definitely directed towards it!

This presence whose contact is directly felt has healing values emotionally. It frees him from frustrations and alienations.

"I am not a healer. Jesus is the healer. I am only the little office girl who opens the door and says, `Come in.'"--Aimee McPherson, in explanation of her hundreds of miraculous cures

The spirit can operate to ameliorate bodily ills directly and internally or indirectly through an external agent or medium. The latter does not replace but only co-operates with or is used by the spirit.

As this Spirit-Energy passes through the man, he feels dynamized, empowered in some direction, inwardly or physically or both together.

He understands well enough that this power is not his own, that it must be ascribed to the Overself, and that practising humility while using it is his best protection against the sin of pride.

The divine self cannot be aristocratically ordered by its lowly offspring to do this or that, although it may be humbly implored to do so. The ego cannot impose its will.

That which is heavenly is also healing.

The attunement of man's mind to the Universal Mind, of his heart to the fundamental love behind things, is capable of producing various effects. One of them may be the healing of bodily ills.

Seek inner peace

The basis of higher healing work is the realization of man as Mind. But the latter is a dimensionless unindividuated unconditioned entity. It is not my individual mind. The field of Mind is a common one whereas the field of consciousness is divided up into individual and separate holdings. This is a difference with vast implications, for whoever can cross from the second field to the first, crosses at the same time from an absurdly limited world into a supremely vital one. Consequently, genuine and permanent healing is carried on without one's conscious association and can be effected by dropping the ego-mind and with it all egoistic desires. Hence the first effort should be to ignore the disease and gain the realization. Only after the latter has been won should the thoughts be allowed to descend again to the disease, with the serene trust that the bodily condition may safely be left in the hands of the World-Mind for final disposal as It decides. There should not be the slightest attempt to dictate a cure to the higher power nor the slightest attempt to introduce personal will into the treatment. Such attempts will only defeat their purpose. The issues will partly be decided on the balance of the karmic and evolutionary factors concerned in the individual case. And yet there are cults which do not find it at all incongruous to suggest to the Infinite Mind what should thus be showered upon one, or to dictate to karma what exactly it should do! Once surrender is truly made, the desires of the self go with it and peace reigns in the inner life whether illness still reigns in the external life or not. Thus there is a false easy yielding of the will which deceives no higher power than the personal self, and there is an honest yielding which may really invoke the divine grace.

It is a mistake, however, to turn the higher self into a mere convenience to be used chiefly for obtaining healing or getting guidance, for healing the sicknesses of the physical body, or guiding the activities of the physical ego. It should be sought for its own sake, and these other things should be sought only occasionally or incidentally, as and when needed. They should not be made habitual. In his periodic meditations, for instance, the aspirant should seek the divine source of his being because it is right, necessary, and good for him to do so and he should forget every other desire. Only after he has done that and found the source, and only on his backward journey to the day's activities, may he remember these lesser desires and utilize the serenity and power thus gained for attending to them.

Your assertion that Jesus primarily wished to free men of disease, or to teach them how to become so, is untenable. Whoever has entered into the consciousness of his divine soul--which Jesus had in such fullness--has his whole scale of values turned over. It is then that he sees that the physical is ephemeral by nature, whereas the reality whence it is derived is eternal by nature; that what happens inside a man's heart and head is fundamentally more important than what happens inside his body; and that the divine consciousness may and can be enjoyed even though the fleshly tenement is sick.

The sufferer should use whatever physical medical means are available--both orthodox and unorthodox ones. At the same time he should practise daily prayer. But he should not directly ask for the physical healing for its own sake. He should ask first for spiritual qualities and then only for the physical healing with the expressed intention of utilizing his opportunity of bodily incarnation to improve himself spiritually.

Healing is but a mere incident in the work of a sage. Such a one will always keep as his foremost purpose the opening of the spiritual heart of man.

A modern mystic, the late Sister Marie of the Order of Poor Clares of Jerusalem, was told from within, "Because I love you I have given you bad health since the beginning of your life, so that you would feel how dependent you are on Me."

The Overself knows what you are, what you seek, and what you need.

Continued ill health is a great trial. The very fact that an individual has been forced to endure a life of endless suffering will surely lead him to realize that worldly life yields little--if any--real satisfaction or happiness, and that it is necessary to seek it in something Higher, in the Quest of the true Spiritual Life, or in God. Somewhere, sometime, this need of his will call forth an answer.

The Overself does have the power to heal the diseases of the body by its Grace, but whether that Grace will be thus exercised or not is unpredictable. It will do what is best for the individual in the ultimate sense, not what the ego desires. For the Divine Wisdom is back of everything every time.

Spiritual healing does not necessarily follow automatically upon the giving of complete faith. Nor does it necessarily follow upon the voluntary cleansing of the emotional nature. There are other factors involved in it. The place of suffering and sickness in the World-Idea is one of them. For those aspirants who will be satisfied with nothing short of achieving the Highest, the need of transcending the ego takes precedence over everything else, even over the body's healing.

It is impossible either to guarantee or to predict what would happen in any individual case. The difficulty is that if one tries to get at the Truth simply as a means to achieve the healing, the Truth eludes him. One has therefore to seek Truth and leave his fate to it, which will always work out for the best, materially or otherwise.

"Ask not for healing, or longevity, or prosperity; ask only to be free!" exclaimed Vivekananda.

People are attracted towards these cults either because they are in desperate need of physical healing or because they are in need of spiritual healing, or because they see in these doctrines an opportunity to satisfy both spiritual aspiration and material needs by a single faith and effort. They are trying to make the best of both worlds. To be able to attain the Kingdom of Heaven and to gain prosperity or cure disease along with it is certainly a most attractive benefit. But unfortunately it is also a little too good to be true. We would all like to have it, but can we have it? What did Jesus himself say about this point? He said, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added unto you." The word of greatest importance in this sentence is the word "first." If you wish to employ the help of a higher power and feeling, then you must give your first thought, your first devotion, your first reverence, your first love to that higher power and not to any lesser thing, such as material gain or even physical cure, as the price of your worship.

New Thought and Christian Science should correct their errors, for some of the things which they label as "negative" may not be so at all. It is divine love which sanctions losses, sicknesses, poverty, and adversities. They are not to be regarded as enemies to be shunned but rather as tutors to be heeded. Through such blows the ego may be crushed and thus allow truer thoughts to fill the emptied space. Even pleasure and prosperity may deal a man worse blows than the so-called negatives can deal him if their end effect is to close the mind's door to light.

All inner healing depends ultimately upon the operations of grace for its effectiveness. For grace is guided by wisdom and it is not always wise for a man to be healed quickly or even at all. In the case of certain characters, good health may be but a gate to dubious activities leading to worse ills that would befall them.

There are times when the Overself's grace may manifest even in the ugly form of illness! If its entry into the everyday consciousness is blocked or twisted by materialistic scepticism, animalistic obsessions, inherited complexes, or excessive extroversion, it may forcibly make its way through them. The body may then be stricken down with sickness until such time as the blockage or distortion is removed.

Ramana Maharshi once told us the story of a man whom he had seen when he himself was a young man. This man was crippled, could not use his legs, and had to crawl. An old man suddenly appeared before him and commanded,"Get up and walk!" The cripple was so excited that he automatically rose up and found himself able to walk properly. When he looked round to see this strange benefactor, the man had vanished. The healing was permanent. The point here is first, not whether the vision was subjective or objective, but that the healer did not even have a familiar identity, was not recognized as a Christian saint or Hindu god, and second, that the sufferer was stimulated into having enough faith to obey the command to believe he was healed already; it was not a matter of time.

A woman came for an interview who had exhausted all patience with her husband and announced that she was about to leave him. He was an alcoholic of the worst kind. I asked her to be patient with him, not to leave him, but to give him a further chance. Then I went into the silence for her. An hour or two after her return home, her husband made his first and last attempt at suicide. It failed and he was stopped before he could do any serious harm to his body. Then he fell into a deep sleep for a very long time. He awoke feeling better in every way but still despondent. A few weeks later the desire to drink left him completely and never returned. He was cured. "A miracle has happened," was his wife's comment in a letter.

Dorothy Kerin was almost instantaneously restored to health and freed from diabetes and tuberculosis. Moreover, her wasted flesh filled out and a gastric ulcer vanished within an hour. At the same time she saw a vision of Jesus, Mary, and the angels.

It is perfectly true that the divinity within man will shelter, feed, and clothe him materially, as it will also do spiritually, provided he looks for it, submits himself to its guidance, and obeys its promptings. But it is also true that the selfsame divinity may strip prosperity and possessions from a man's shoulders and lead him into the cold waters of destitution, and this because it has begun to make its presence felt in his life. It may do this or it may not, depending on individual circumstances and the man's degree of attachment to material possessions, but whatever it does will be wise and needful.

The healing power issues from an infinite source. There is no kind of disease which it may not cure; but it can do so only within the conditions imposed by the nature of the human body itself.

Dismayed by the failure of my physicians' last resort, I was sitting up in bed reading a passage from an old journal of John Wesley about spiritual healing. It quoted a friend as saying: "I could not move from place to place, but on crutches. In this state I continued about six years. At Bath I sent for a physician but before he came, as I sat reading the Bible, I thought, `Asa sought to the physicians, and not to God; but God can do more for me than any physician'; soon after rising up, I found I could stand. From that time I have been perfectly well."

As soon as I finished this passage I thought it should be applied to my own case, and laid the book aside. A great mental stillness and inner indrawing came over me at the same time. I saw that all the methods hitherto used to eliminate the disease were futile precisely because they were the ego's own methods, whether physical, magical, mental, or mechanical. I had exhausted them all. So the ego had to confess its total failure and cast itself on the mercy of the higher power in humiliation and prayer. I realized that instead of thinking that I or my physicians were competent to cure the disease, the correct way was to disbelieve that and to look to the Overself alone for healing. I saw that the stillness was its grace, that this quietness was its power. It could best cure me, if only I would relax and let it enter. So I surrendered to it and within a few weeks was healed.

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