A medical study released last week had me thinking of Shakespeare's words in "Hamlet": "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
The study looked at healthcare spending and illness rates in the US and England, and found that Americans spend more than twice what the English do on healthcare (Journal of the American Medical Association, May 3, 2006). Yet, say the report's authors, "Based on self-reported illnesses and biological markers of disease, US residents are much less healthy than their English counterparts."
As sobering as those findings are, it was another factor not addressed by the study that reminded me of Shakespeare's maxim on the power of thought to make things good or bad. That factor - perhaps the proverbial elephant in the room - is the influence of information. What people think is largely conditioned by what they watch in movies and television, listen to on radio, and read in print and online.
What we take in mentally, and either accept or fear to be true of ourselves, sooner or later is what we feel or manifest physically.
Does taking in information about disease, projected fears and mental pictures of symptoms and syndromes, and internalizing their suggested consequences, in fact cause the very condition that drugs are designed to treat? That is the way aggressive mental influences work - they create a "demand" through projected fear and mental imagery, then supply the treatment.
In the words of one who knew better than all others the power of thought, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Jesus also knew that the source of all good information is God. And what he said immediately before those more famous words is equally powerful: "If you dwell within the revelation I have brought, you are indeed my disciples" (New English Bible). What he revealed, and what Mary Baker Eddy rediscovered in the mid-19th century, was that we have a wholly good and spiritual existence. That God is Life itself, our Life and the one Mind. That what God creates is good, harmless, whole. That a God who is all-good can communicate only His own nature and condition, can impart only goodness to crea-tion. Illnesses are fruits of the human mind's own miscreating.
To know, to discern and understand, these basic yet largely unseen truths is what makes one free and healthy, and able to help others gain their freedom.
In the compendium of wisdom later named the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Matt. 7:17). Corrupt in the original Greek means bad or worthless. Bad data, accepted as true, leads to bad outcomes.
Perhaps if medical researchers had also examined the disparity in what is spent on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs in the US (such advertising is still banned in England), and advertising for medical services that play on health anxieties, and disease fund-raising campaigns in the two countries, they might find a similar correlation to overall medical care spending: the greater the expenditure on advertising and promoting illness, the higher the incidence of illness.
Several decades before broadcast media appeared on the world scene, Mary Baker Eddy wrote prophetically, "We should master fear, instead of cultivating it. It was the ignorance of our forefathers in the departments of knowledge now broadcast in the earth, that made them hardier than our trained physiologists, more honest than our sleek politicians." On the same page she wryly observed that "A new name for an ailment affects people like a Parisian name for a novel garment. Every one hastens to get it" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 197).
Mental contagion is no laughing matter. It is something to be uncovered and disarmed. The Christ-message of our God-given wholeness is today's saving grace.