All said and done, the human being remains an enigma. The over-simplistic comparisons with a machine that the reductionists made in the twentieth century have been found to be a grossly misrepresented fact, yet its repercussions are being felt to date. Modern medicine in fact developed largely with this view that the body is just like a machine, and since the machine cannot do anything by itself except the functions for which it has been made, its role in healing is next to negligible. It is someone outside the machine, the expert physician or surgeon, technicians of the body, who must study its fabric and make and set it right. The process of setting it right is also much the same as one would do to something like an unconscious machine. One has to only spend a little time in the Intensive Care Units and see how much the body is being made to endure and perhaps suffer under all our modern medical care. Whether all this highly sophisticated medical care has actually helped man even in terms of reducing morbidity and suffering is a debatable point, one to which there are no easy answer. In fact, critical care has raised many more uncomfortable questions than it has solved. Most physicians would admit that most critically ill patients would like to be left free to die (or recover!) gracefully and peacefully, preferably in their homes in good surroundings with their loved ones around, especially once they age, rather than kick the bucket with a terrible row and clatter, tubes in one orifice or another, with the wrists tied to a monitor and the mouth to a breathing machine! Yet they are forced to do the contrary for their patients, especially since the relatives carry a false impression that all this will miraculously cure suffering. Again the use of stronger and stronger medicines that often do a lot of violence to the body has already damaged and diminished the natural healing capacities of man. The emerging science of Psychoneuroimmunology is increasingly recognizing that disease is not something we have to fight violently as an enemy or correct mechanically as one does a machine, but to be used as a means to understand something about the dynamic processes of our existence, a symbolic language clumsily trying to tell us something that we just will not listen to otherwise, allowing us to use this knowledge for an evolutionary transformation and for better adaptation to the universe we inhabit.
In fact even the body hardly behaves like a machine. No man-made machinery can evaluate and manipulate itself, evolve new patterns that would heal, find novel ways to meet challenges and apply itself with such an amazing accuracy and rapidity to an external assault that would put even the best of armies to shame. What to say of the fine-tuned dynamic and brilliant ever-changing yet ever the same coordination between billions and billions of cells performing diverse and complex functions that cannot be equalled by the most harmonious orchestra or the most efficient organization, given the duration for which this brilliant cellular concert lasts without much wear and tear. The body is not so unconscious after all, much though we have made it appear so. It can and indeed it does collaborate in the healing process and perhaps its role is the maximum, for the body is healed when it wants to be healed. Many are the secrets of the body consciousness that we are yet to discover, secrets whose application may well change all our concepts of the so-called curable and incurable diseases. For, logically there is nothing to which the body can say that it is incurable, if only our mind does not come in with its dogmas and opinions and the vital with its excesses that disturb its natural rhythm and healing ability. Given time and patience, rest and support, trust and an opening to Grace, most bodies should be able to heal themselves provided we can keep the mind and vital silent. But herein lies the added complexity of our human nature.
For, the body is not all. In fact the body is more like a transmitter and a receiver through which many forces flow and find a field for their movements. Or we can compare it to a faithful barometer of sorts that records all the changes that take place at the different levels of our being. There is in us the life-force which animates the cells through nerves and the breath. It has its own complex pathways. In fact one of the principal Upanishads describes that the force of life and our being is tied to the body by a hundred and one subtle nerves that enter through the heart which is like a central point of our being. And it is this wrench when the strings of life are rent asunder during death that constitutes the pain of dying. Whatever it be, one thing is certain, that the bodily appearance is not all and there are other powers of being, other forces than purely physical ones that move us, powers of life and mind and soul, forces subtle and occult from this world and from energies and worlds of other dimensions. The body can be rather seen as a symbolic representation of these other planes and worlds that are mirrored in its movements and that also control its specific functions. There is, so to say, a world of subtle correspondences. Thus, the region of the head and the brain can be regarded as the seat of mental consciousness and a malfunction in this area reflects a malfunction in our mental apparatus, a fact often seen in an inverted way by the neuropsychologist. The area of the throat represents the force of expression or that aspect of the life-energy where it rises up and meets the mental consciousness. The region of the chest (lungs and heart) represents emotions and the force of life in its centrality, manifesting in movements of expansion, whether through ambition where the life-force is strong or through dependency and attachment where the life-force is relatively weak. Then there are the lesser and lower movements of the life-energy — desire and anger and bitterness, jealousy and other small sentiments — over which man makes so much hullabaloo. The still lower movements of fear, that were originally self-preservative, have assumed a different meaning and form in human beings and its excess is reflected as a disturbance in the corresponding abdominal organ. For instance anger and unkind thoughts affect the stomach, bitterness affects the liver, impatience and fear affects the intestines and kidneys, lust affects the urinary bladder, prostate or uterus. The lowest parts are of course the seat of the most obscure movements of the life-force, such as lust and greed.
Now this makes the issue already fairly complex since different parts in us may respond differently to the healing process and the healing energies — material or otherwise. This is so because though our physical being and bodies have evolved through millions of years (another reason not to undermine its powers and possibilities), our psychological being is yet evolving and progressing. The different aspects of our intricate psychological apparatus — thought, will, emotions, desire, passion, instincts and all the rest — are yet to discover their secret law of harmonious rhythm that can resolve their mutual discords. Perhaps illness is one way that Nature is using to accelerate this resolution by throwing a challenge of disharmony at it. These different parts are often terribly mixed with each other, only adding to the confusion. We cannot even distinguish movements of lust and love and our reason is often clouded by emotion and covered by passion and imagination. As if this were not all, there is the admixture of the different psychological influences that flow in and out of us from the environment in the form of vibrations. How easy it is to get caught in a fit of anger when we are with someone who is full of it and how easy it is to get trapped into a wave of desire when we venture into a mart.
Added to this are the hidden subconscious influences, the submerged parts, the lingering shadows of our bygone past in this life and others, the subtle and occult influences that are thrown at us from diabolic sources and ill-will. How are we to handle all this? The first necessity is of course to learn how to stand back from this chaotic field. Secondly, to find that point of support in us that carries in itself the possibility of a real mastery, not only of our confused present but also of our phantom past. Such a role cannot be played by the ego since it is a temporary formation of Nature itself, nor can it be played by reason since it is so heavily dependent upon the limited field of known experience on the basis of which it tries to find the unknown. Besides reason has no certain way of knowing things, its best word is a reasonable guess and its highest search is an agnosticism. Least of all can any mere surface manipulation — whether through drugs or genetic alteration or even behavioural methods — help us since they do not tackle the root issues. They may be helpful in temporary respite much as other therapies, including psychotherapies and breathing techniques and even meditation techniques or exercises are only temporary devices that can become a ritualistic farce or a temporary tool if they do not lead us to something deeper and more intrinsically true. It is not enough to simply increase the powers of Nature, whether through material or occult means, though it has its place, but even more important is to discover in us that which transcends Nature and its means, that which is untouched by death, disease and decay, for that alone can then transmute our fallen nature and rescue it from time’s vagaries. All other parts in us are themselves blind and to rely on them alone is like relying on the blind to lead the blind.
This discord can only be resolved by discovering the true psychological centre of our being, the inmost soul. Once discovered it can act as a true centre of Light to organise our being, and as a source of authentic power to change our nature and its intricate machinery, even rescue it from the past and its influences. However, it is not easy to discover this most intimate part of us since it is so much covered by the thick and obscure material of life and our dense bodies that trap our consciousness. However, even a little sincere effort in this direction is amply rewarding. Even a little of its touch can liberate us from much fear, give us the right inner and outer balance, show us that which needs to be changed, open us to higher and deeper forces of healing such as Peace and Joy and most of all to Grace. It is the central point, having found which we can touch everything else directly and lead each part to its own harmonious fulfilment. In fact illness and in general any suffering can be a great and powerful lever to open the doors to the psychic since it is in pain that we find our whole being concentrated in such a way as if nothing else existed. Only, instead of letting this concentration become a means of oblivion, if we can turn it inside as a sword to cut through the knots that tie us and are the source of limitation and ignorance and pain, we would find in pain often a greater Grace than in pleasure and things that give us happiness. But till that happens there is a lot more we can do by way of manipulating human nature to our advantage with a view to facilitate the healing process. These methods can be broadly divided into the following groups:
Standing Back from the Body
It is well known that all suffering has a physical and a psychological component. A man in coma does not suffer even if one were to inflict deep pain upon him. So also we have a higher threshold to pain when we are in deep sleep. The reason is that the mental factor is withdrawn in these states. The mind is the master sense and if one can control it then one can master the other sense experiences and even alter the response we give to the world contacts. We can de-condition and recondition our responses by imposing the mental will upon the body. But for this to happen effectively, the first requirement is to learn to detach the mind from the body and get the vantage point of support from which we can manipulate our physical nature. This detachment happens automatically when we are mentally engaged with something other than our illness and it certainly helps, especially if that something other is an interesting thing. The mental factor is thereby eliminated for a while and the body can better heal itself since it is unobstructed by the anxiety and fears that the mind often tends to have about the illness. Or else the mind factor is silenced when the patient gets reassuring words from the physician, his anxiety allayed and his faith strengthened; the rest is taken care of by the body which is far more conscious and capable than we can imagine. But in these two methods, the mind withdraws passively from the physical scene and thereby does not interfere.
The same withdrawal can be done consciously by learning to stand back in consciousness from the body and watching it as something outside us, as one would watch someone else’s body. By practicing one can perfect it to any extent, including remaining motionless and unmoved within in spite of conditions that would normally make someone writhe in pain. This detachment, when done as an active process, gives us the additional possibility of manipulating the body by the mental will. This too we normally do when we force the body to keep awake simply because something interests our mind even though the body is tired and wants to sleep. This same possibility can be extended to the extent of training the body to give a contrary reaction to afflictions and even to facilitate the healing process by stimulating the desired response, say the secretion of a certain hormone or chemical that is deficient or is required, but of course the physical basis must be there for this to happen. The mind has its limits, it can make a sleepy organ wake up and work, it can stimulate cells that are functionally slow, it can create new cells out of old ones, but it cannot make a dead cell come alive or reshape the body’s anatomy! Nevertheless detaching the mind from the body eliminates the mental factor and greatly facilitates the healing process.
Power of Suggestion
The power of suggestion is really a faith in the mind. If the mind has faith in something, it can induce the body to develop faith and that helps tremendously. Usually, the mind develops this faith when it gets the suggestion from informed sources. People whom the mental man trusts as knowledgeable or the methods in which there is belief are those that the mind can hold on to as powerful suggestions and these can in turn activate the chain of healing processes. But even when the mind gives a suggestion mechanically, the body may read it as a positive signal and get activated in a certain direction. This may work well when the rational mind is bypassed as in the twilit zone just before sleep. This is especially useful to penetrate into the subconscient parts. These subconscious suggestions can be very powerful and it is through these that the media and the prevalent beliefs enter the human mind and influence us. When it is supported by a collective faith — whether localized or a general faith — a group or epoch puts in a particular form of therapy, its power of influence can be enormous. Much of the healing that takes place once the patient has shown himself to a qualified physician and has been prescribed ‘good’ medicines is due to the activation of this faith. The rest automatically follows.
It is a common error to believe that only the physical things exist as real whereas those that belong to the domain of thought and idea are not real. Nothing can be farther from the truth and we have everyday proof of it. The sense of fear evoked through imagining horror has concrete physical effects and so also the contrary. Unfortunately, we are never allowed to develop this faculty and what is worse is that it is left at the mercy of all kinds of forces and influences so that given the first opportunity most people imagine the most horrible things. But we can instead direct this faculty to good effects by consciously creating mental forms that are beautiful and healthy. Mental imagery has already come in a big way in alternate healing. We can, for example, imagine an extension of Peace and Light and Force above our head (that such an extension actually exists has been affirmed by the yogis) and then we can slowly pull it down through the head and to each and every part right up to our feet. We can visualize it as a column of transparent white Light entering us through the crown and bringing Peace and Force and Health to heal us. We can even direct this Light to the afflicted part and imagine it entering the cells and opening them to the Light that heals, through thought suggestions. This imagination can be very powerful if done properly and by someone with an especially evocative power. Of course it is understood that not all can do it equally well and not all have the same affect. In such matters there is a great flexibility and even in the image certain spontaneity is needed. To make it too mechanical takes away much of their strength. Also there is a great degree of difference of response in different people due to receptivity and openness to these subtler influences. And knowing the extent to which we are glued to the physical dimension it may not be advisable to dispense with all physical support, especially in instances where the mind is full of fears due to suggestions of seriousness of the illness. It is ideal in that case to use these means as adjuvants rather than as the mainstay therapy.
Hypnosis is closely allied to suggestion and faith except that the faith of the patient is substituted by the therapist’s will in which the patient puts an implicit faith while in a state of hypnosis. But even auto-hypnosis, much like auto-suggestion, helps because it bypasses the rational mind. The power of auto-hypnosis can be easily understood through the example of TV viewing. We know that what is being projected are simply images, yet we laugh and sing and cry based on the hypnotic effect of the TV image. Hypnosis is a kind of identification and can also work if one can feel and live in the consciousness of the cure. This is not denial but simply identification with a state of consciousness that slowly begins to affect the physical body by percolating into it.
Can physical objects be charged with healing forces? This is a question which the casual scientist, overconfident of his knowledge may well ridicule. But is it so unscientific after all? If there are ranges of consciousness beyond the physical world, as indeed modern science is itself beginning to speculate, then it is not at all surprising that the laws and vibrations of a higher world or a lower one — or if we wish to avoid the terms higher and lower, then the vibrations of a more harmonious consciousness and those of disorder — can be superimposed upon material objects that can be used as mediums to transmit a positive and negative influence. Though such things are today termed as either ‘occult’ or ‘superstition’ based upon the position that we take, a day may well come when we may view them under the purview of a higher science. Flowers especially are extremely receptive and can be readily charged by vibrations and forces of a higher order. The healing power of some herbs and objects such as Rudraksha beads may well be related to a capacity of being charged this way. But uncharged they may be like any other object. Even the material of buildings may have this capacity to absorb and transmit certain kinds of forces that may help in healing. It is widely believed, for instance that Marble has this inherent capacity to absorb spiritual vibrations and retain it for a long time, justifying its use in places of worship.
The healing power of music is now well known and it may be related to a mechanism similar to the one cited above. Even the plants and water crystals are supposed to respond to music. And of all the harmonics known to man perhaps the best is a charged mantra. Of course certain mantras like the syllable AUM do not need to be charged, and if recited with faith, they have sufficient power to evoke the healing forces.
Relaxing and Widening
A part that is afflicted tends to be in a state of strain. It is as if doubled up and therefore closed to the healing action of Grace. The contrary movement of relaxation, whether done through the help of simple mental suggestions or through imagery, helps to open it and make it receptive. If to this one can add an exercise in widening by incorporating an image that widens one, then it is excellent and makes a part immediately receptive. This can be done by imagining one is lying on a plank and floating upon a huge body of water like the sea. One can then identify oneself with either the sea or the sky and slowly feel oneself becoming physically vast. Or else, one can widen oneself psychologically by contemplating the endlessness of Time and the boundlessness of Space, imagining that one has always existed before and shall always exist, and before that eternity of becoming and unfolding, this one life and its pains and troubles are like a fraction of a second.
Change of Lifestyle
An illness is basically a cry for change. The body is like an end point in a long chain of cause and effects that show themselves up as symptoms of illness. If we can work backwards and see where things have gone wrong within us, correct the movements that the illness symbolically represents, then we may be able to undo the formation of illness. Though not always so, since once the pathology settles in the very physical stuff, it becomes concretized and takes a lot of patience to undo it. Still if we can utilize this opportunity to change our lifestyle from an unhealthy to a healthy one, then the illness would itself become a boon. These lifestyle changes relate mainly to food, sleep, rest, work, exercise and above all attitudes, which we have already discussed elsewhere.
Physicians and Health Personnel
It is important to choose one’s doctor and the best one is he who is not only technically knowledgeable (that is indeed necessary) but also one who can inspire faith and confidence. The concept of family physician had this advantage that one knew not only the patient’s case history but also his psychological make-up. He could inspire trust most readily. The concept is now being revived again after suffering a period of eclipse under a heavy techno-savvy and commercially driven modern hospital setting. In such a setting it is often the machine that speaks rather than a doctor and healing is replaced by repairing a part or even simply changing it much as a mechanic would do with a car! The result is that patients keep returning again and again with one problem or the other and we keep playing the juggler rather than the doctor. It is also necessary to emphasize that this trust is more difficult to develop if one keeps changing the physician and does doctor shopping. The link that forms itself between a healer and a patient is more than that of prescribing medicines. There is invariably an interchange of the personalities and if we change the physician too frequently, it confuses the consciousness of the patient. Besides, even at a pragmatic level, it is simple to understand that medicine is not an exact science and unlike mathematics there may be and often is a divergence of opinions between two physicians. This divergence may cause confusion and loss of trust in the patient if he consults two or more doctors who give different advices.
The Atmosphere of Hospitals
Finally, something needs to be said about the atmosphere of hospitals which often become harbingers of diseases rather than of health. These places are often full of a sticky atmosphere, subtle yet concrete enough to be felt by anyone even slightly sensitive to these things, full of fear and pain and grief and suffering coupled with the formations of diseases. Since it is beyond the scope of a patient to change the atmosphere of a hospital, the best he can do is to choose at least a cleaner place, to create his own little corner of fresh air and healing vibrations and above all to keep the stay at a minimum.
Opening to Grace
All our methods — physical, psychological, occult — rely on the powers of the mind, vital and body. They have their utility and sometimes seem more effective, but their utility is a limited one. Their powers are derivative much like the light of the moon that is derived from the sun. The One original power that stands behind all these, the One original power that these other powers draw sustenance from or seek to imitate is the power of the Spirit, the power that flows from that mysterious fiat of Grace that leans down upon earth to heal and to succour. The Supreme Grace spreads its wings upon earth as a healing balm amidst the evolutionary stress and strain of our all too frail and fragile human life. It often works unseen, masked by other powers, since few and rare are those who can withstand its direct intervention. For, the Supreme Grace not only heals but also helps us to progress through the door of difficulty to a higher consciousness. It uses our crisis for liberation, our weakness to foster strength, our pain to break the resistance to Light within us. Once allowed to intervene, it not only cancels our present destiny but can also alter the balance of our future destiny. The Grace can completely annul the law of Karma. The action of the highest Grace, however, cannot be bound to any rule or frame or system or method. It does not necessarily favour the believer and leave the sinner for It acts with another vision than our dualistic mental consciousness. Yet there are certain things that can move It to act with a rapidity and lend a certain intensity to Its action. These things can be considered as individual factors that facilitate the action of Grace within us. In a general sense these factors are helpful to facilitate the healing action of any higher consciousness, including that which comes from the lesser ranges of the spirit, yet those that go beyond the human mind and its present capacities and powers.
Faith: We have already alluded to this before. It is the single common factor that underlies all healing processes, whether they be physical, psychological, occult or spiritual. Faith can cure in itself and alone, provided it is an integral faith right down to the very cells of the body. Such a faith is rare except in very young children who have not yet been corrupted by adult experience. That is one reason why healing is faster in children and even why sometimes they can be immune under circumstances which would ordinarily be fatal for others. This does not mean that faith can alter the cosmic law or grant immortality to children. Yet it is one of the most potent factors to activate and receive the Higher Will. In fact, an unshakable faith that one will be cured may well be the sign that the thing has been sanctioned by a Higher Power since true faith is a spontaneous and instinctive knowledge in the soul. This faith can be cultivated, even asked for. However, one should not confuse this faith with religious beliefs and non-beliefs which are something very outward, often mechanically professed without a soul touch and therefore with a very limited utility. Yet even this little can be used by the Grace to heal and help. This must not be mixed up with mass healing rituals of certain sects or religions which raises a lot of optimistic expectation and denial, releases a lot of vital energy in the atmosphere supported by a collective belief in the efficacy of healing that is common in such gatherings. The action of Grace, even when seemingly instantaneous and miraculous carries with it always an atmosphere of Peace and Calm, a deep certitude that is not based on any show or propaganda of a cult. The Divine surely does not need that. Yet for those who have felt It, Its action can be felt as something concrete, like a relaxing balm that suddenly opens up that part that is doubled up and penetrates it and cures it in a very palpable way.
Openness and Receptivity: The Grace is there with all but few are open to Its undiminished action. We close ourselves with doubt, with our so-called scientific knowledge that sees a very small slice of truth and takes it for the whole. We close ourselves by harbouring subconscious suggestions and resistances to the contrary. We close ourselves through fear and anxiety. We close ourselves through impatience and lack of trust. For not always can the action be instantaneous. Very often the action of a higher consciousness may even apparently worsen the symptoms initially, since its touch raises the hidden resistances within us. We have only to become just a little conscious of our thoughts and our fears and anxieties to understand how much resistance we offer ourselves to the healing action of Grace. To open ourselves to Grace and the higher consciousness we must first learn to relax and widen the affected part. We can do this by conscious suggestion or mental imagery or simply by putting a gentle will to relax and open the part to Light and Grace. We can open ourselves through a certain intensity of faith and trust. We can open ourselves by a certain prayer that wells up spontaneously from the heart as a cry for help just as a child would call his mother with full trust and confidence that the mother will come. It does not matter what language or arrangements of words that the seeker uses, for the Divine is not bound by any such mechanical law or formulation and knows Himself in the heart of the seeker. We can open ourselves through aspiration that rises up as a quiet but intense flame and carries with it the certitude of response. We can open ourselves through loving surrender, placing the entire responsibility of our life and death in the Hands of the Divine so that His Will may be done in us. But whatever be the method we use, we must know how to wait and not grudge the time taken. To learn to wait is to put time on one’s side. This is especially necessary with regard to the action of Grace since no matter how much we may grow in wisdom and clarity of thought, we will never be able to comprehend the All-seeing action of Grace that does for us what is the very best, indeed the very best given our present inner and outer circumstances. And this very best is from every possible point of view and not merely from the point of view of our transient ephemeral existence to which we are so terribly and so ignorantly attached.
Will and Effort: A common confusion is whether to use our will or not or any other method or system of therapy when we invoke Grace. The answer is actually very simple. It is true that if our faith and receptivity is integral, then nothing else may be needed. Nevertheless we must not deceive ourselves, that is, on the one side be full of fear and anxiety inwardly while outwardly profess that we have faith. No one else can know but we ourselves if we look carefully. And even when we have faith in the one part, we may lack it in another, especially the unconscious parts in us, the many hidden areas of doubt such as the subconscious will that resist the action of Grace. For, the body especially has evolved through much struggle and therefore has upon it the stamp of a certain defeatist that lurks in its subconscious memory. It anticipates trouble and apprehends the worst, especially the physical mind of man. In such cases, there is no harm in taking some material support, some gentle medicine or use a method as a support to the action of a higher Will. The only caution is that if the medicine or the method has wrong effects, then the higher Force has to do an additional work. It is necessary, therefore, to choose even this material support from a right source including the physician who works best when he is not only one with a sound knowledge of his subject but also open to the Grace and has faith.
To conclude we may say that there is a lot more that we can do about our illness than we imagine or medical science would make us believe. What we need to understand is that first illness is a call for change. It provides us with valuable information that we can use for our evolutionary transformation. Instead of fighting it violently, if we can learn from it, then we can even turn it to our advantage. An illness only indicates our present imperfection, our present ignorance and limitation, and not any law of punishment from God. It is a spur to change just as death and suffering are spurs to change. Illness like suffering holds out before our sight the points that need to be shaped and reshaped under the transforming action of Grace. The final remedy also lies in this — to respond whole-heartedly to the pressure of transformation and to consent willingly in all our parts to the action of Grace. Illness is only the point of resistance that comes out in the process — the transcript of inner conflict between parts that are open and respond to the Light and parts that do not. Or to put it differently, our body is the field in which the great battle of the future is being fought out. Disease and death are merely passing events of this battle. But its result is inevitable victory. Once purified of all the subconscient dross, humanity shall emerge into the greater Light of consciousness, into a greater knowledge and power and with it there shall come the end of suffering and ignorance and also as a consequence the end of disease and death. But till that happens and even as we strive for the true conquest through growth of consciousness, we must labour through whatever means to keep this earth free from suffering, from the pangs of illness, push the frontiers of ignorance and of death and carve a path for the victory of Truth. For indeed Truth cures.