“This laxative is quick and powerful”. These were the words my father used to describe a chocolate based purgative he’d been offered by a colleague at work to take home and try. He was so impressed by its action that next morning he headed back into the office hoping more was available. He’d been told that the product was being made in a factory where the man’s wife worked. She’d sneaked out some samples.
When my father arrived, the other men in the office, who’d also tried the laxative, were talking enthusiastically about its effect. They too wanted more. Finally their colleague arrived. They crowded around him, telling him how amazingly effective it was. He started to laugh uproariously. Finally, he informed them that the ‘laxative’ he’d given them, was nothing more than pieces of a popular chocolate. Imagine my father’s chagrin.
The episode of how ordinary chocolate could work so well as a laxative, and on several people, seemed a mystery in those days. I remember my parents discussing it and my father shaking his head in disbelief. We didn’t know back then that there is an association between what a person thinks and what he or she experiences in the body. Fast forward to today. Many people, including scientists and doctors, are exploring what they acknowledge as the possible connection between the mind and its impact on bodily health.
For example, channel Nine’s Sixty Minutes reporter Allison Langdon recently discovered that research is being done on what is termed the ‘science of placebos’ and its healing effect. She says, “researchers are making revolutionary advances… They’ve now got patients undergoing pretend operations to fight disease and chronic pain, and the results are nothing short of remarkable.”
Professor Irving Kirsch at Harvard University, is pioneering research into the ‘placebo effect’ – using the power of the mind to heal the body. He says, “when you have something that works, that in some cases works almost as well as the best medications we have but is safer than those medications, shouldn’t that be part of our medical practice? Shouldn’t we want to learn how it works, and figure out how we can make use of it?”
Harris Dienstfrey corroborates Kirsch’s views. He writes in his essay in Consciousness & Healing, “There is as yet no bottom to the well of the mind’s capacity to do in the body what any newly invented drug can do. The problem the drug is treating does not matter. The mind is expansive enough to treat the problem. Put it this way: The mind so far can do (for some people) what all the pharmaceutical labs of the world together haven’t been able to do.”
The power of the mind to heal is not a modern concept. An earlier pioneer into the power of ‘the mind over medicine’ was Mary Baker Eddy. Her research and spiritual practice sprang from the study of ancient Scripture which documented the healing work of prophets and Christ Jesus. This scholarship brought to light a further aspect to consider – something beyond the human mind’s influence on the body – namely, the link between the divine Mind, spirituality and health.
Eddy’s unsuccessful attempts to find health using the medical systems of her day – including what moderns call placebos - finally led her to this spiritual approach, which restored her health. She wrote a book about it, developed a system of healing, and taught others that method. Her one hundred and thirty year-old legacy of health and healing is still being experienced by people around the world in changed lives and improved health.
As a beneficiary of her pioneering work, I’ve personally felt its benefits. For over five decades, whenever I’ve had a health problem, I’ve drawn on the power of what I describe as ‘scientific spiritual thinking’, or ‘scientific prayer’. As a consequence, I’ve never had to employ the services of a doctor, or take medicine to this date. In every instance, the implementation of ideas presented in the Scriptures and Science and Health has led to a powerful change in my thinking, and as a follow on, in my body. As a result, I’ve been returned to good health.
My life-experience, may seem somewhat surprising to those unfamiliar with modern research on the power of the mind to heal, and the ‘placebo effect’. It may also seem hard to mentally take the next step – believing in the power of a divine Mind to beat ill health. Yet the latter has been effectively practiced by three generations of women in my family. Perhaps, further down the track, experiences like mine will lead to a recognition of the potential of this new frontier – the medicine of Mind and its power to heal the body.