Conventional modern medicine has made great strides, the main progress having been focused on specially formulated chemical substances and sophisticated surgical techniques with their high-tech electronic aids.
This has led to some truly amazing advances, but it has also resulted in specialisation and an approach to the whole subject of ‘health and wholeness’ which has been increasingly concerned with the ‘point of pain’ rather than the ‘person in pain’. This can result in the treatment of symptoms whilst an underlying cause may go undetected.
The person in pain
The human spirit that thinks, feels and experiences is neither chemical nor computerised, but a living consciousness with non-physical (as well as physical) dimensions. The realisation that beauty is more than skin deep is equally true of health. The whole person is more than the outer physical shell.
There is increasing reason to question the underlying conviction of conventional medicine that ultimately all disorders have a physical cause that can be treated by surgery or chemistry.
Emanuel Swedenborg maintained that there is an intimate relationship between the human spirit and the human body; between the spiritual plane and the natural plane of
life. The spiritual plane is the plane of causes; the natural that of effects.
For anything to come into being it will have a spiritual origin. In the case of diseases this can be due to a spiritual condition within ourselves or the spiritual environment around us, or a combination of both. This is not to say
that it is all in the mind; very far from it.
A magnificent cathedral is not only in the mind, but its origin was in the mind. Its bricks and stones are a natural expression of those who built it; their sense of a sacred space – a deeply felt spiritual reality of feeling, thought and imagination. If this is true of the buildings we inhabit, is it not very probable that it is equally true of the bodies we live in – the temple of the human soul?
To change a house to suit our needs requires thought and imagination as well as the right materials. It is surely reasonable to expect that both physical and spiritual action are needed to complement each other in health care too.
Inner and outer health
Emanuel Swedenborg, writing during the time of the early beginnings of conventional medicine, whilst accepting it has value, points to deeper spiritual causes:
“Things existing in the natural world are nothing else than effects; their causes exist in the spiritual world. … If the natural part of a person’s being were separated from the spiritual part it would be separated from the entire cause
from which it has its being and so from all that brings it life. Even so, this does not make it impossible for a person to be healed by natural remedies, for the Lord’s providence works in co-operation with means such as these.”
(Arcana Coelestia sections 5711, 5713)
For some, the priority is physical health, with health and wholeness of spirit, whilst acknowledged as important, seen as of lesser importance. Swedenborg takes a very different view. He looks at the larger perspective of life that only has its early beginnings on the earth-plane of existence. He seeks to show us the over-riding importance of the health and wholeness of the spirit or soul which lives on long after our bodily outer shell.
Divine Providence, he maintains, is concerned with our physical health, but this is of secondary importance compared with the inner needs of the heart, mind and life itself which are not material at all, but spiritual.
The placebo effect
Modern medicine well recognises that disease, stress and anxiety are significant health risks, and the list of ‘stress-related’ illnesses includes digestive, coronary and cancerous conditions. Too often, however, the positive placebo
effect, where recovery takes place through faith in the treatment, even if phoney, is simply seen as something to eliminate in a clinical trial. With notable exceptions few have looked at this as a means of healing, when it is unquestionably powerful in its potential effect.
In looking to use and understand this ‘effect’, a constantly recurring theme in Swedenborg’s writings needs to be reconsidered. He maintains there is a corresponding link between spiritual and natural levels of being. Many
recognise that effects emanating from our inner state, very similar to the placebo effect, work in a variety of ways on our health.
Consider how the ‘spiritual pollution’ of personality caused by unresolved conflicts, worry, hatred, envy and grief undermines not just spiritual well-being but, in time, physical health also. On the positive side few deny the effects of love, humility, forgiveness, peace and prayer in the promotion of health at all levels of our being. It is high time we accepted the challenge to outgrow the myth that our state of health is no more than the state of of the molecules of which the body is composed, and face the importance of developing inner health and wholeness. Diet has its place, but so does devotion, faith and forgiveness.
It is not a case of ‘either/or’ but the holistic ‘both/and’ that accepts and affirms the spiritual dimension in healing.
Those who are not healed
To penetrate the problem of those who ‘do the right things’ yet still do find healing, whilst others do, we need Swedenborg’s clearer understanding of underlying causes, and the relationship between inner and outer, between
spiritual and material. Spiritual growth and the unfolding of the real meaning of our lives involves light and dark, good and bad, health and dis-ease.
All our experiences serve a use and for the many who cry ‘why me’ there are a few, who like the Christ, say ‘why not me’. Whilst Swedenborg does not maintain ‘these things are sent to try us’, he is clear that they are only permitted if
it is possible for some eternal benefit to our spiritual health to result.
Copyright 2012 Clifford Curry