« AnteriorContinuar »
of Blessed François de Pâris.1 In 1716 this lady, then aged 31, fell from her horse; paralysis and an ulcer followed; by 1719 the ulcer was in a horrible condition; in 1720 her mother refused an operation preferring to let her die in peace. In 1731 — after fifteen years of an open breast — she asked a woman to say a novena at the tomb of François de Pâris, to touch the tomb with her shift, and to bring back some earth. This was done on August 10th; on the 11th she put on the shift and at once felt improved; on the 12th she touched the wound with the earth and it at once began to heal. By the end of August the skin was completely healed up, and on September 24th, she went out of doors. Charcot 2 considers that the "cancer," as it was no doubt wrongly called, was due to hysteria, and has no difficulty in accepting all the facts of the disease and its cure on this basis: the breast healed almost at once, and recovered its natural size -"What wonder," he says, " since we know how rapidly troubles of the circulation can appear and disappear?
Troubles of the circulation! A breast built up again after fifteen years! But we are here in the very heart of the organic region! Where shall we draw this line, which is so often taken for granted, between functional and organic, between nervous and other diseases? Where, indeed, shall we say
1 Carré de Montgéron, La vérité des miracles opérés à l'intercession de M. de Pâris et autres appellans, démontrée contre M. l'Archevêque de Sens, 1737. Tome I, Démonstratîon, vii.
2 La Foi qui guérit, 1897, p. 30.
3 Many diseases once thought to be organic are now known to be functional. Some indeed think that even cancer is functional, though the trend of medical opinion seems
that the influence of mind is absent either in the cause or the cure of disease? It is easy to belittle a miracle by saying that it merely cured a trouble of the circulation; but merciful heaven! if we can by religious influence train the vaso-motor system, where is the tissue that we cannot touch?
The plea, then, so commonly urged just now, that faith-healing and mind-cure are only possible in functional neuroses is unscientific, because there is no such distinction in fact between functional and organic; since functional diseases have organic results, and organic diseases have functional causes, and all diseases are to some extent both functional and organic. It is true that some organic losses cannot be supplied by the mind: not only can a missing finger not be restored, but (so far as our present knowledge goes) a ruptured or decayed neuron cannot be built up again,1 and the restoration of nerve fibres is as much beyond the laws of our being as the restoration of a limb, though indeed other nerve fibres can sometimes take up the work. If this be true, then such organic nervous disease is indeed incurable by mind, but then it is equally incurable by any other method.2 The fundamental logical distinction is thus not between functional and organic, but between those diseases (both functional to be against this theory at present. We certainly have not reached finality in these matters.
1 Even this assumption, till recently so confidently made, is now being denied in some quarters, and may, perhaps, prove to be unfounded.
2 The assumption that organic nervous disease is incurable may well prove to be untrue. We really know but little as yet about the matter. Professor Bernheim includes organic diseases of the nerves among his cures. See Appendix II, p.
and organic) which are curable and those diseases which are incurable, which are in fact beyond the laws of our nature as at present known. And these incurable diseases are becoming fewer every day.
That plea is further unscientific because it ignores the evidence of physiology as to the nervous organism. To say that the mind can affect the nerves but cannot affect the body is like saying that a horse can draw its traces but cannot draw the cart which the traces unite to it. The traces exist precisely in order that the horse may exert an influence upon the cart, and the nerves exist precisely in order that the mind may exert an influence upon the body. They are, in fact, the link between the mind, both conscious and subconscious, and the body. They are the mysterious means by which spirit acts upon
As we have already seen, the nervous system itself shows, now that the ramifications of the nerves have been traced, that mind must influence every part of the body except a few tissues, such as the nails.1 I need only summarise the matter in words more weighty than any I could frame. In his inaugural address to the Royal Medical Society in 1896 Dr. Clouston said
"I would desire this evening to lay down and to enforce a principle that is, I think, not sufficiently, and often not at all, considered in practical medicine and surgery. It is founded on a physiological basis, and it is of the highest practical importance. The principle is that the brain cortex, and especially the mental cortex, has such a position in the economy that it has to be reckoned with more or less as a factor for good or evil
1 Even the hair may be turned white by mental shock.
in all diseases of every organ, in all operations and in all injuries. Physiologically the cortex is the great regulator of all functions, the ever active controller of every organ and the ultimate court of appeal in every organic disturbance." 1
This being the fundamental fact of our physical life, it is no wonder that, whatever his theories, no doctor in practice draws that distinction between nervous and other diseases. The doctor knows the value of a cheerful and hopeful temperament in his patients, "for the healing as well as for the prevention of diseases," 2 he knows how much depends upon their faith in him and his remedies. He knows that a despairing patient may succumb, when a resolute one can pull round, however organic the disease. He will rightly take every precaution in an epidemic; yet he knows that nothing renders a man more accessible to the successful incursions of microbes than a state of panic fear and the great majority of organic diseases are caused precisely by such parasitic invasion.
For the mind, the whole mind- let me repeat it in the condensed language of another high authority - causes changes in all the functions of the body, and the functions cause changes in the tissues
"The mind or brain influences - excites, perverts, or depresses -the sensory, motor, vaso-motor, and trophic nerves, and through them causes changes in Sensation, Muscular Contraction, Nutrition, and Secretion."
1" Address on Mental and Nervous Development in Disease," by Professor T. S. Clouston to the Royal Medical Society, Edinburgh, British Medical Journal, Jan. 18th, 1896. 2 Clouston, Ibid.
3 D. Hack Tuke, The Influence of the Mind on the Body, 1884, Vol. I, p. 2.
In homelier language, the mind can alter the nerves either way: as it can cause them to do their work badly, so it can cause them to do it better. That which applies to disease applies also to health and to recovery.
For some reason the bearing of this is more readily recognised in disease than in its cure. It is, indeed, a commonplace that the mind can produce the most serious organic diseases, just as it can admit others by the failure to resist parasitic invasion. The mental force that can cause coloured water to act as an emetic, or endow bread-pills with curative qualities can also produce organic diseases of the most serious kind.
Few indeed are the ailments as to which the influence of mental cause is not recognised. The great majority of diseases are parasitic, and the prophylactic value of the mental condition is here everywhere recognised; it is, indeed, one of the main reasons why doctors and nurses are so remarkably immune. As for other diseases, cancer (which is not as yet recognised as parasitic) is known to be often preceded, and probably prepared for, by worry or shock; and no one denies the importance of thought in heart affections, or its influence on the stomach, or that some states of mind quicken the circulation while others make it sluggish: indeed, there are few that cannot be brought under the following list, especially in the sentence I have italicised. I quote it at length because it is from the pen of one who is not only a high medical authority, but also a very pronounced materialist, Professor Forel, of Zurich.