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Health and the Inner Life

An analytical and historical study of spiritual healing theories, with an account of the life and teachings of P.P. Quimby

Originally Published: 1906

G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York and London, The Knickerbocker Press

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>> More by Horatio W. Dresser


I. The Foundation

II. The Method

III. The Secret

IV. The Discovery

V. The Law

VI. The Spirit

VII. The Ideal

VIII. The Life


THERE are three general points of view from which one may regard the mental life of man in its relation to the body. In the first place, the mind may be regarded from below, as if it were a mere product of matter. From this point of view, every event in man's mental history is a result of physical processes; every thought, feeling, or volition springs from, and is dependent upon certain conditions of the brain. What is called "consciousness" is a product or accompaniment of bodily life; matter alone is ultimately real ; mind has no significance apart from it. The "soul" is an invention of human thought, devised to account for the higher phases of cerebral productivity. This is the point of view of typical old-time materialism. From the second point of view, mental states and bodily processes are regarded as if they existed on the same level. This may mean that physical events are taken to be merely parallel with psychic states, with no interchange. Or, it may imply belief in the interaction of mind and brain. Biologically ^ Health and the Inner Life speaking, it involves a theory of mental development corresponding to physical evolution. Most scientific theories of the relationship of mind and matter belong under this head. In some respects it is also the point of view of popular thought. In the third place, the observer is supposedly located within the mental life, looking out through **the windows of the soul" upon all the world. This position is not explicitly the point of view of any recognised school of thought, yet it is implied in many popular and unscientific beliefs. It is also the standpoint of those who maintain that the brain is merely the physical instrument of the soul. Such a position need not imply the complete independence or supremacy of the soul. But it may reasonably include the conviction that, on occasion, the soul is roused into masterful activity and is thereby enabled to initiate new lines of action. Many works of genius and occasional triumphs of the will seem to imply that the soul is superior, not merely as an observer of the bodily life going on below, but as an actual master of adverse conditions. Inspired by the study of such instances, contemporary theorists frequently point out that man is a soul with a body, not a body with a soul. It is even said that the soul is potentially master of every portion of bodily life, that in the long run the body becomes what the soul makes it. Whatever one may think of the extravagant and other unscientific beliefs which belong under this head, it is clear that both for theoretical and for practical purposes every one should be able to take up the position from which the body and the entire physical world are looked at from above. When we pause to think, we are compelled to admit the existence of consciousness as the primal and surest fact. What we know of the great world around is known through our states of consciousness, and if we seem to be living a merely objective life, amidst external things, it is because we have become oblivious of the real nature of experience. We live in the inner world of our own mental life, contemplate, reflect, and react upon events which, as known by us, are purely mental. Hence the burden of proof rests upon the materialist, not upon the idealist. If it requires thought to discover that we live fundamentally a mental life, the result of our analysis is the discovery that no point of view is more natural than that of the outward look from within.

It is one thing, however, to start with the fundamental fact of consciousness and arrive at idealistic conclusions about human experience as a whole, and another to regard the inner life as the centre of practical activity. The theoretical discipline is highly profitable. It is well to remind ourselves many times that in very truth we lead a conscious life. But as idealism in theory is not necessarily idealism in practice, a much severer discipline is needed before one is in a position to test the optimistic popular beliefs in regard to the supremacy of the soul. No one is ready to test these beliefs to the full who is unwilling to regard the soul as potentially a master. Now that materialism has had the fullest hearing, it is but fair that a distinctly spiritual point of view should have recognition. Most men have a half-dormant conviction that they have never accomplished what they might by mental power. Mere theory is of no avail in this connection : each man must investigate his mental world, experiment with his own mind. The chances are that every man will confiess with shame that he even lacks the first requisite, namely, self-control. A simple illustration will show the difference between the man who is at home in his mental world and the one who is without inner resources. Let it be a typical case of the approach of sudden illness, or simply the presence of a slightly painful sensation with which the mind unwittingly associates the name of a dreaded disease, with all its terrors. The man who has no staying power, no knowledge of his inner self, is swept forward by the consciousness of sensation, a description of which he communicates to a physician, who in turn is compelled to judge the case from the outside. By skilful questioning, many doctors are indeed able to work their way, as it were, well into the interior of a patient's life. Yet all this is relatively external. Even in cases of so-called mental disease the physician very naturally judges the mental states by their physiological conditions. Important as this judgment may be, there is still another story to be told.

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