Posted on 24 September 2013, 14:38
When we think about spiritual healing, we are often thinking in dualist terms: We think of God in the sky somewhere, answering our prayers; or if we are thinking of Hindu Akashic Records, Sheldrake’s memory fields, Plato’s Ideal Forms or David Bohm’s Implicate universe, we visualise it all as somewhere at a distance, somehow acting in our lives “down here on earth.” Old habits die hard, and if we can agree that the basis of all things is timeless, spaceless Mind, we need to work at putting these old mental pictures to one side. We have also to consider whether the weighing and measuring that belongs to science is as much a creation of mind as the physical world it measures. Can Mind be measured? I think not. Do language, symbols, archetypes, myths, hopes and fears create in the physical? Very likely. We need to take these things into consideration, whether we are thinking of disease in human beings, or things in general. With regard to medicine and disease, I have found a book by a medical doctor friend very helpful. He writes:
“Speaking from the perspective of the whole, our being is spiritual, is subjective, is material, is relational, is conscious, and is unconscious… I am sure there are spiritual realities or dimensions that are mostly invisible. But I resist too much division into the visible and invisible when it comes to spirit. Such division can imply that the ordinary world, the visible world, the world of matter and things, is fundamentally empty of spirit.”
Page 192 MEANING-full DISEASE: How personal experience and meanings cause and maintain physical illness. Brian Broom. 2007 (below).
Thus, in thinking about disease, Prof Broom feels compelled to see it as an aspect of an unbroken spiritual/physical whole. We cannot pretend that our thoughts and emotions (and may be much else) have nothing to do with the disease from which we may suffer, or that Sheldrake’s memory fields, the Akashic records, (however we describe memory apart from the brain,) are not involved. Since reality is one undivided spiritual/physical whole, everything affects everything.
This is not to put to one side normal medical enquiry. If we consume much sugar, and become obese, we are likely to suffer from diabetes. But if we start asking why we consume too much sugar, our answers may become more complicated. They will involve thinking about our personal relationships, our spiritual maturity, the advertising industry and so on. In the end we find everything is interconnected. But Broom sees our language as one factor that fights against exploring and understanding things in the widest context. He writes:
“The separation of mind and body is at some level an artefact or by-product of human language-based handling of human experience which is nevertheless fundamentally unified.
But is not only the person that gets divided or “constructed” through language making. Lakoff and Johnson (ibid p.19-20) makes a further point that our experience of external reality, the world (not just the body and the mind), is also carved up into certain categories because we have the peculiar types of sensory perception (vision etc.) that we have.” (p.44)
While I was thinking about all this, I found a passage in a book on Celtic spirituality that appealed to me. For spirituality is very much part of Broom’s thinking about Meaning-full disease. Here is the passage:
“For too long, we have believed that the divine is outside us. This belief has strained our longing disastrously. This is so lonely since it is human longing that makes us holy. The most beautiful thing about us is our longing; for longing is spiritual and has great depth and wisdom. If you focus your longing on the faraway Divinity, you put an unfair a strain on your longing. Thus, it often happens that the longing reaches out towards the distant divine, but, because it overstrains its self, its bends back to become cynicism, emptiness, or negativity. This can destroy your sensibility. Yet we do not need to put any strain whatever on our longing. If we believe that the body is in the soul and the soul is divine ground, then the presence of the divine is completely here, close with us. Being in the Soul, the body makes the sensors thresholds of soul. [pp.84-5 Anam Cara, Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World: John O’Donohue]
This is how we should ideally see things. But Broom is daunted by the seeming impossibility of doing so.
“I actually wonder to whether a thoroughgoing non-dualistic conceptualisation is actually beyond the reach of ordinary human consciousness, simply because of the nature of thought and language. The activity of ‘talking about’ something is, in essence, a dualistic activity in the sense that talking always involves selecting one aspect, and therefore not another aspect. It is true that such language making involves the putting of things together. Metaphors, symbols, and other kinds of imaging… Language rests upon the dividing of things.” [Broom: ibid. p.135]
He comments: “We are nondualistic essentially, but language and thought are dualistic and therefore it is hard to get away from this dualism except by suspending thought and language. What we can do is become relatively more nondualistic in attitude and posture, and we should do so because that is the way things are.”
So when we speak of disease being full of meaning, we must affirm both that the asthma that the patient endures may be an allergic reaction to a particular substance, or it may be a bodily expression of grief, whatever the case, the analysis, the search for local causes cannot come to an end. We can best think of a God who is in all through all and above all.
In practice, Broom has found that physical healing from a disease has often occurred through face to face counselling. Once the underlying spiritual or emotional distress is acknowledged and explored through several counselling sessions, the symptoms of disease have often disappeared. Although he does not say so in his book, Broom has in at least two cases, found tumours to disappear in apparently inoperable cases of cancer, in the context of counselling and prayer. As an adjunct professor of MindBody Health Care (he is an immunologist and psychotherapist) he does not say this lightly. In the counselling room there is an encounter between two people, more than an interview between a professional and a “case”, and healing is often the result.
Space prevents relating long case histories here, but readers may find a sample if they follow a link at the end of this blog. But I can include this passage from Broom’s book:
“Many years ago I visited Canon Jim Glennon at the Anglican Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. I had read of the weekly healing services be conducted there, and was interested to explore his approach. The healing service I attended involve the congregation of perhaps 3 to 500 people, and, frankly, it seemed a rather ordinary Anglican service. But I was fascinated by the story he proffered as we engaged in a discussion on how he got into the healing ministry.
“He had been visiting a parishioner in hospital. She had ovarian cancer, and it also advanced an extensive that she had what is called a frozen pelvis, that is, the solid tumour filled the pelvis. She asked him to pray for her, which he did, and then left. That night she experienced a sense of burning in the pelvis that went on for hours. The next morning she was taken to the operating theatre for insertion of radium implants, to provide radiotherapy treatment of the tumour.
But, first, she was examined, and to the surgeon’s astonishment the tumour was gone, and the procedure was abandoned.
“Spontaneous remissions of cancer are well documented (O’Regan and Hirschberg 1993), and I had no reason to doubt the veracity of Glennon’s story. I have pondered this many times, especially as I have come to realise that ‘matter’, as we know it through the five senses, appears very structured and stable, but can be equally well described as energy based and semi-stable.” [Broom, ibid. p.197] Broom continues on with reference to David Bohm’s Implicate and
Some of the case studies from Brian Broom’s book suggest that experiences, thoughts, and emotions play their part in the generation of disease:
Here is a video of a patient of Dr Broom, describing the insights that led to her recovering from a serious illness: http://www.juliecee.com/#!story-doctors/ceui
Perhaps the first person that we think of when we consider the connection between traumatic experiences and disease is Dr Larry Dossey (below). Here is his homepage which contains a wealth of material for profitable study:
Here is a critique of Larry Dossey’s work. We may or may not agree with what is said, but such critiques can certainly point up important issues.
Michael Cocks edits the journal, Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.