HEALTH professionals are once again being forced to consider the impact of mental and spiritual factors in the treatment of disease. In 1979, Norman Cousins heightened interest in this subject with his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration. And today he is followed by such bestselling authors as Dr. Larry Dossey, who looks directly at spiritual faith and its relation to health. The illustrations such writers give of recovery through factors beyond drug therapy or surgery should give pause to all thinkers. Whether the example is of the placebo effect, optimism and hope, homeopathy, or spiritual faith, the fact that even incurable diseases respond to the mental state of both patient and physician is, at a minimum, arresting.
Apparently the body is not as material, mechanical, or biological as it would seem. If cancer, multiple sclerosis, and fused bones respond to ``mental'' treatment or religious faith--as such books show they do--we need to ask ourselves, What is the real nature of the body? Of health? Is there an underlying law that makes such treatment dependable?
This was the issue that Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, wrestled with for many years. She had seen a severe case of dropsy healed through the use of placebos. This exposed the essentially mental nature of disease to her, but that was not sufficient. She yearned to find the underlying science of such practice, and as an intensely religious woman, she instinctively turned to the Bible and the life of Christ Jesus for answers. At a time when her own life was endangered, she turned to the Gospels, and at that moment her years of prayer, searching, and reason suddenly bore fruit as the divine Principle of Christian healing was revealed to her.
She discovered that the operation of the human mind is not a factor in healing. Rather it is the action of God, divine Mind, on the human mind and body that heals. This, she saw, was the keynote of Christ Jesus' teaching and healing works. It isn't a drug, an unmedicated pellet, or the human mind that heals--in fact, they compromise our reliance on God. God, the divine Mind, heals; it transforms mind and body. This healing power is revealed through Christ, the spiritual idea of God Jesus exemplified.
This discovery led Mrs. Eddy to see the absolute primacy of the First Commandment, found in Exodus, ``Thou shalt have no other gods before me'' (20:3). Whatever we think has an impact on our life is in a sense a god. If we believe that disease has dominion over us, it becomes our god. If we feel it's the human mind, a crystal, a drug treatment, or something similar that determines our well-being--that becomes our god. But if we recognize that the only power, the only cause, the only real influence on our life and health is God, divine Spirit, we bring our lives under His jurisdiction, and health is the natural result.
It's not surprising that Mrs. Eddy's book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which shares all that was revealed to her, opens with these words: ``To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings'' (p. vii). All who discover the might of divine Mind to heal, as illustrated in the life of Jesus, open the doors to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus' healing works demonstrated the underlying divine Principle of being, and that Principle is revealed again in Science and Health.
The current interest in the mind/body relationship is encouraging, but when thinkers move beyond this to see that the divine Mind, not the human mind, is causative, we will enter a new era. Mankind will turn from drugs and other therapies and rely on Mind alone, and the healing that will follow will be as dependable and sure as that of Christ Jesus and his followers.