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CHAPTER IX

COUÉ AND MRS. EDDY

"There is a region of the man which is never sick; to call out the reign of that region and make it supreme, is to make the sick man well."

    THESE words of Hufeland, the great German philanthropist-physician, strike the keynote to all mental and psychic therapy. They apply equally to the faith cures of the heathen world, the miracles of Christ, and the works of Mrs. Eddy and her disciples; and they underly the theories of Paracelsus of the sixteenth century, as well as the Autosuggestion of M. Emile Coué at the present time.

    The many forms of mind cure, past and present, have sprung from the varying opinions as to the nature of "the region which is never sick," and the best method of making it operative in "making the sick man well." T. J. Hudson, in his "Law of Psychic Phenomena," has given perhaps the most comprehensive, the most coldly intellectual analysis of the whole subject, that for fairness, accuracy and sound logic, has not been improved upon by any succeeding writer. He classifies the different systems as Faith Cure, Mind Cure, Christian Science, Spiritualism, Mesmerism, and Suggestive Hypnotism. Since Hudson's day, there have been added to these the theories of Freud and Coué.

    In the "Law of Psychic Phenomena," page 144, Hudson says:

    "That there resides in mankind a psychic power over the functions and sensations of the body, and that that power can be invoked at will under certain conditions and applied to the alleviation of human suffering, no longer admits of a rational doubt. The history of all nations presents an unbroken line of testimony in support of the truth of this proposition."

    In the infancy of the race, this psychic healing was believed to come directly from God, whether featured as the One Omnipotence, the Jehovah of Judaism, or the plural deities of heathen mythology. The means for invoking the divine healing were prayer, ceremonies, incantations, laying on of hands, amulets, talismans, relics and images. Biblical scoffers who regard belief in any Scriptural event as evidence of childish credulity, will no doubt reject the story of Moses staying the plague among the wandering Israelites by lifting up the brazen serpent for them to gaze upon; even though they may accept the incident in Roman history related by Livy, that once when Rome was in the clutch of a pestilence the gods of healing, Apollo, Latona, Isis and Asklepios (Esculapius), were carried on portable couches through the streets and exposed to public view in temples and public buildings, and that immediately the plague began to abate.

    But even those who hold both these historic "miracles" to be legendary and fictitious, will accept quite gravely and implicitly the ipse dixit of a venal health-board official, that a smallpox epidemic can be, or has been, stopped by injecting calf-pus into human blood-streams; and that diphtheria can be cured or prevented by an injection of poisoned horse-juice! Either of these approved and standardized medical procedures has much less basis of fact and reason than the miraculous events above cited; yet people supposed to be intelligent and well-educated, and who call themselves rational, while sneering at the superstitious credulity of the ancient world, will calmly swallow these much more preposterous medical superstitions upon the sole authority of men who have a direct pecuniary interest in foisting them upon a gullible public.

    Wherever it can be shown that recovery or "cure" followed the administration of vaccination or antitoxin, the explanation is precisely that which could have been given for the miraculous happenings of the Bible and of the Roman legend—no matter whether they happened or not. The same working principle of cure was present to account for them all. This working principle is what Hudson calls "the essential mental condition prerequisite to the success of every experiment in psycho-therapeutics." It was enunciated by Christ in the sayings, "Thy faith hath made thee whole," and "According to your faith be it unto you"; and even of the Master psycho-therapist of all times it was recorded: "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." (Matthew XIII. 58.)

    In modern times most of the miraculous cures performed by Christ were duplicated at the famous Catholic shrine of Lourdes in the French Pyrenees, where in 1858 the Blessed Virgin appeared to fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubiroux in a grotto, and pointed out to her a miraculous spring there; bade her go tell the priests to build a chapel on the spot and order thither processions of the sick to be healed in its waters. The French pilgrimages to Lourdes began in 1873, and by 1901 the Church of the Rosary was completed and consecrated by Leo XIII. In 1908, at the end of the fiftieth anniversary of the vision, about 5,000,000 pilgrims had visited the shrine and 4,000 cures recorded by the Bureau des Constatations which stands near the grotto for the purpose of checking the certificates of maladies and the certificates of cures.

    From 200 to 300 physicians annually visit this miraculous clinic, and the diseases other than nervous disorders reported as cured are: tuberculosis, tumors, cancer, deafness, blindness, paralysis, etc. The Annales des Sciences Physiques, a skeptical review whose chief editor is Dr. Richet, a member of the Medical Faculty of Paris, said concerning these Lourdes cures: "On reading the reports, unprejudiced minds cannot but be convinced that the facts stated are authentic."

    The usual medical attitude toward the "miracle" cures, however, is one of scoffing incredulity; and the average M.D. will tell you that "only imaginary ills" are cured by such methods. But they offer us no proof that the ills they profess to cure are not "imaginary" also. Only the occasional medical man of broader vision, like William Osier or Richard C. Cabot, recognizes the scientific principle in the so-called religious cures. "If Nature, assisted by the proper mental and emotional moods," says Cabot, "is capable of curing an ulcer in three or four weeks, why isn't it possible for the same force to heal a similar ulcer in a few minutes when the curative processes have been speeded up abnormally by the subject's passing through an intense religious experience?"

    Osier anticipated Coué by some years in saying that a drug perfectly worthless in itself, might be useful in effecting a cure if the patient had faith in the drug; because then its administration might be necessary to arouse in him "the feeling of buoyant expectancy which is the real curative agent."

    Christian Science, which has also been the object of much medical pooh-poohing, numbers its followers to-day by the hundred thousands, including many intelligent and cultured persons. Concerning it, T. J. Hudson, while rejecting its main tenet—the unreality of matter, nevertheless testifies: "The cures effected by Christian Science practitioners are of daily occurrence, of the most marvellous character, and as well attested as any fact in history or science."

    To account for all these psychic phenomena, Hudson says: "There must be some underlying principle which is common to them all, and which it is the task of science to discover." This principle, he affirms, rests on three fundamental propositions. (1) That we have two minds—objective and subjective; (2) The subjective mind is constantly amenable to control by the power of suggestion; and (3) that the subjective mind has absolute control of the functions, conditions, and sensations of the body.

    The first and second of these propositions, Hudson says are proven by the phenomena of dreams and of hypnotism; while the third is evidenced by the fact that perfect anæsthesia can be produced in a subject entirely by suggestion. He says hundreds of cases are recorded of severe surgical operations performed without pain upon persons in the hypnotic state. The last of what we may term these three psycho-therapeutic "fundamentals," seems more open to cavil than the first and second. The commonly observed phenomena of dreams and of hypnosis (magic sleep) certainly indicate that if we have not two distinct minds—which some deny—we have at least two distinct compartments of the same mind, namely, the conscious and subconscious. It seems to be mainly a difference of terminology.

    But however we may choose to designate our dual mentality, all experience goes to show that any idea which takes and keeps exclusive possession of the subconscious, or subjective mind, becomes a reality for the person holding it. All will agree that the objective, or conscious mind gets its knowledge through the medium of the five senses, and that it may reason about the facts thus obtained both inductively and deductively. It questions, compares, and draws conclusions. Now if we accept also the psychologic premise that the subjective mind can only reason deductively; that it takes without question whatever the objective mind presents, and carries it relentlessly forward to a deductive conclusion; then clearly the only problem of psycho-therapy is to maintain a synchronous belief between the subjective and objective mind concerning a given idea. Thus, if the thought of health can be made to occupy the subconscious mind continuously, and uninterruptedly, inevitably health will ensue in the body and will be maintained so long as the thought of health rules the subconscious. But if because of the actual presence of pain in the objective consciousness, the subjective mind receives the suggestion of disease, why then the health suggestion is all off, being neutralized and destroyed by the contrary suggestion; even as an acid and alkali are mutually destructive, with the residuary balance going to the stronger force.

    This was the teaching of Troward, and the expedient proposed by the exponents of his school for keeping unhappy thoughts out of the subconscious mind, was by the strong exercise of conscious willpower. Christian Science met the difficulty by denying the existence of pain, sickness or unhappiness, except as an erroneous belief; and by strong affirmations that "All is Spirit, All is God, and God is love, joy and peace."

    Then came M. Emile Coué to say the strenuous putting forth of will-power for the control of subconscious activities was all wrong, and that the imagination was the thing. He formulated his health philosophy in certain maxims and aphorisms which have become world famous. "It is then the imagination, and not the will, which is the most important faculty of man." "Whenever the will and the imagination are in conflict, it is the imagination which wins." "When the will and the imagination are in agreement, one does not add to the other, but one is multiplied by the other." He controverts the old saying, "Things are not what they seem," with the converse proposition, "Things are not for us what they are, but what they seem," and he says, "this explains the contradictory evidence of people speaking in all good faith." This is certainly a more charitable explanation than the one usually given by persons of strong convictions for the other fellow's contrary belief—that "he must be either a knave or a fool."

    Coué's scheme for outwitting the objective mind's strong tendency to send down into the subconscious unhappy suggestions of pain, disease and misfortune, is to take this objective sentinel on the threshold at his drowsy times—when just going to sleep or just awaking—and by insistent iteration of the thing we desire, hypnotize him, so to speak, into accepting it for transmission to the subliminal. Once the idea of "getting better and better each day in every way" is securely lodged in the subliminal region, we may rest in assured confidence on the fact that all the mysterious forces of the universe, not alone those which control bodily functions and metabolism, but also social and spiritual betterment, will be set into operation for the accomplishment of our desire. "Every thought entirely filling our mind becomes true for us and tends to transform itself into action," says Coué, and adds: "Contrary to general opinion, suggestion or autosuggestion can bring about the cure of organic lesions."

    All of which is so very contrary and repugnant to general medical opinion that the editor of the Journal of the A.M.A., in an October, 1922 issue, attempts to hold the author of it up to public derision. He calls the apostle of autosuggestion "a purveyor of cloudy stuff; one who is not a physician, but a former apothecary, who has in later years devoted himself to hypnotism and suggestion."

    A bit queer, isn't it, how "he is not a physician" becomes such a damnable fact for any one they are seeking to discredit, when the two main cornerstones of modern medical faith, Pasteur and Jenner, were not physicians either, nor even good apothecaries ! Pasteur was a French pharmacist, with nothing like the ability or the education of Coué; while Jenner was a country surgeon in the days when surgeons were classed with barbers, and owes his fame and prestige entirely to the successful peddling of an ignorant milk-maid tradition !

    The writer of the aforesaid A.M.A. editorial offered nothing in refutation of M. Coué's philosophy further than to quote mockingly its main tenets and maxims, in the strong confidence, apparently, that medical derision alone would suffice to make the absurdity of Couéism immediately manifest to others. Curiously enough, in this attitude he was himself exhibiting the truth of one of the Coué tenets. The thought of the importance and finality of medical opinion has for such a long time held exclusive possession of the medical subconsciousness, that the delusion persists with many doctors that the laity will accept unquestioningly any medical dictum put forth with sufficient assurance.

    This was unhappily true in the past, almost without exception; and is to some extent true in the present. Time was when the whole world crawled to the allopath's door, "like a Congo native to the tent of a witch doctor"—to borrow Heywood Broun's happy simile for depicting the plight of himself and other slaves of medical tradition. But just now an aroused and doubting laity is frankly inspecting other modes of therapeutic faith, and reserving to itself the right to judge of Couéism, Christian Science, and other healing methods, in the light of the practical question, "What can it do?"

    Some allopaths have shown a quickened apprehension of this change in the lay attitude toward their school, and some have even evinced a disposition to change their procedure to conform more to the present lay notions about health. But not so the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. He says:

    "Despite Coué's assurance that every illness whatsoever can yield to autosuggestion, the prudent physician will go on feeding arsenic and mercury to the pale spirochete, quinine to the ubiquitous plasmodium, and antitoxin to the terrifying bacillus of Loeffler."

    And the A.M.A. journalist cannot see that it is precisely because the lay public have learned that orthodox medicine will go on perpetrating these barbarous stupidities which he has enumerated—that these are all it knows and all it wants to know —that they have deserted its standards for more rational methods of health promotion. Those who believe that "feeding quinine to the ubiquitous malaria germ," has afflicted thousands with deafness, color-blindedness, and gastric catarrh; who see in the antitoxin inoculation the probable cause of the great increase in spinal meningitis, infantile paralysis, and many forms of anaphylaxis; those who contemplate with shuddering horror the multitudes of broken men—wrecked through the twofold agency of vaccination and mercurial poisoning—dragging the ball and chain of imbecility or insanity either in or out of mad-houses; these will not be greatly cheered by the A. M. A. assurance that its ghastly program is to be perpetuated. Nor will they be turned aside from the investigation of Couéism or any other therapy, by medical jeers or denunciation.

    Emile Coué, founder of the Auto-suggestion School of healing, and master of the famous Nancy Clinic, was born in Troyes, France, February 26, 1857, the son of a railroad worker, and attained his present eminence through hard work. He is a self-made man in the full American sense. He studied at a small college until he was fifteen, learning some Latin which was afterwards useful to him in the pharmacy business. At sixteen he took a B.A. degree, and at eighteen a B.S. He then had to do his stint of military service for a year, and at the age of nineteen his father found employment for him with a pharmacist with whom he served a three-years' apprenticeship, his only pay being board and lodging. He next went to the University of Paris to take his degree in pharmacy, and helped to pay his way by winning a Government fellowship worth 1,200 francs a month. After that he was a pharmaceutical interne in Necker Hospital for a while. Later he was offered a partnership with M. Chominot, a druggist at Troyes, who also proposed to will the business to Coué at his death. He died, however, before executing this bequest, but his widow, with rare fidelity, kept faith with the terms of her husband's verbal agreement with Coué, who stepped right into the drug-store where he remained for fourteen years. Meantime, he had married the daughter of a wealthy horticulturist, and in 1896 he retired.

    As a pharmacist with discernment far above the average, Coué learned the worthlessness of most drugs. And yet he saw sick people take these drugs in which he knew there was no intrinsic virtue, and get better. This set him to wondering, speculating and reasoning about some other active principle at work to account for the improvement. There was at Nancy a School of Hypnotism, founded by Ambroise Liébeault, who assisted by Hyppolite Bernheim, Albert Moll, of Berlin, and others, had taken the ideas of Mesmer and of Braid and carried them forward to other conclusions of his own. There had always been much interest in the subject in France since Mesmer's sensational cures caused the investigation by the Academy and the Commission on which Benjamin Franklin served in 1784.

    The Mesmeric method of inducing hypnosis was by manipulative stroking from the head downward, gazing fixedly into the subject's eyes, and strongly willing him to sleep. Braid, the Englishman from Manchester, demonstrated that the same result could be obtained by causing the subject to gaze steadily at some bright object held before his eyes. Liébeault confirmed all these experiments, and then showed that the hypnotic state could also be induced by suggestion alone, and that after its induction, all the observable phenomena were entirely due to suggestion in some form. The fact that the subjective mind is constantly amenable to control by the power of suggestion, constitutes the grand basic principle of all psychological science, and the Nancy School appears to be entitled to the credit for this important discovery.

    Emile Coué became a pupil of Liébeault and Bern-heim, and received from them his first instruction about mental suggestibility; but like all keen and original minds, he went beyond his first teachers. He perceived that autosuggestion, or self-suggestion, was just as potent in controlling the subjective mind as the suggestions of another; and by teaching his patients how to invoke this power within themselves, he became the great apostle of self-reliance and self-help in the cure of disease. On this principle he established his clinic in Nancy, where in 1921, 35,000 afflicted ones came to consult him. But because he tells his patients "It is not in me, but in you the power resides which heals you," he refuses to make any charge or accept any pay for his services.

    One can readily see "the irreconcilable conflict" between the Coué doctrine and the medical system; and despite the Nancy philosopher's evident desire to placate the medical profession, and his wish to have medical sponsorship for his idea, the two have no common meeting-ground. It was not by preaching self-help and self-cure, nor yet by rendering free service, that the medical system has waxed rich and powerful. On the contrary: "Consult your doctor early and late. Throw all your weight on him, and do as he says. Take no thought for yourselves. Pay him all you can afford, and if that does not satisfy him, he will try to get it out of the next one." These are the established maxims of allopathy, and they haven't even a speaking acquaintance with the maxims of Coué.

    There is a popular notion that Couéism has much in common with Christian Science, and many believe that there is the same working principle in their modes of healing. This, however, is denied, both by Coué and by the authorized spokesmen for the therapeutic faith of Mrs. Eddy. Coué disclaims any religious element in his method, and Christian Scientists deny that they work by mental suggestion.

    The principle of mental suggestibility is, of course, present and operative in every kind of propaganda or teaching—inevitably so. But if Christian Scientists mean—as they probably do mean—that they do not invoke it nor make conscious use of it in their healing efforts, they are unquestionably right in what they say. The Christian Science aim is to help the sick ones realize their oneness with Infinite life, health, truth and power; and by shutting out all thought of their opposites, they would make this realization easier and more complete. Coué criticizes the Christian Scientist expedient of denying the fact of pain or disease, upon the ground that "this only arouses the objective mind to more active contradiction and throws an unnecessary burden on the subjective." But the disciples of Mrs. Eddy say that such denial is a condition precedent to realizing the oneness of the finite mind with the God Mind, which is the real healing agent.

    It is interesting to note that Christian Science, like Autosuggestion, had an early association with hypnotism, which both afterwards repudiated, though for different reasons. Coué gave up the hypnotic expedient for talking straight at the subjective mind without the annoyance of objective contradiction, because that method necessitated the offices of another, and interfered with his plan for developing and perfecting the method of autosuggestion. Mrs. Eddy, on the other hand, turned against Mesmerism or "magnetic healing," even after admitting its efficacy in relieving her of a distressing malady—through the ministrations of Dr. Phineas Quimby, a noted hypnotist of Portland, Maine, in the early 6o's—because she came to see in this exercise of animal magnetism one of "the powers of darkness," wholly inconsistent with her Christian faith and principles.

    For Mrs. Eddy was an intensely religious person of the perfervid, though kindly type; the descendant of six generations of New England Puritans and a refined product of New England culture and asceticism. This much we gather from Miss Wilbur's story of her life; also that she was born at Bow, N. H., five miles from Concord, and that she was the youngest of six children. Although she is portrayed by her biographer as a gentle, lovable character, her life from its beginning almost to its close in 1910, appears to have been a stormy one, marked by three incursions into matrimony and torn by many dissensions and vicissitudes. She received the Christian Science revelation, it is said, in 1866, at Lynn, Mass., shortly after her second husband's desertion, and almost ten years later she wrote "Science and Health; with Key to the Scriptures," which is the Christian Science Bible.

    Whatever one may think of the cardinal tenet of the Christian Science faith, namely, the non-existence or unreality of matter; and regardless of the varying opinions about its founder, there is no gainsaying its phenomenal growth and power as a therapeutic sect, which organized less than fifty years ago (in 1879), now encircles the globe with more than 2,000 churches and nearly 8,000 practitioners. Few persons (outside of medical circles) will deny also that Christian Science has been a wholesome influence in a community. It has improved some people's manners, if nothing else. Its greatest service, in our view, has been rendered in teaching the people to overcome fear and to withstand the constant medical appeal to fear; and in helping to fight the battles of medical freedom.

    Thousands who have tried out the Coué formulas, are to-day attesting their practical value in banishing illness and securing other results. Personally, I do maintain health; but as a supplement or concomitant not believe that autosuggestion alone is sufficient to to an intelligent hygienic regimen, it is invaluable and well worth any one's giving it a trial. The principle of autosuggestion is just as potent for bringing bad results as good ones, of course, and when divorced from religion or any sense of moral responsibility might quite conceivably work irreparable damage. This seems to constitute a sufficient argument against taking too literally M. Coué's injunction to leave the will entirely out of the equation and surrender one self unreservedly to the imagination. Surely if there is God in anything, there is God in an enlightened human will-power guiding and directing human conduct.

    Strange that faith cure, or autosuggestion should be sneered at by the medical profession who use both constantly in their business, and without which they could do nothing at all. Their reputed "cures" are entirely due to the principle of self-hypnosis, and their failures which far outnumber their "cures," can be accounted for by the fact that the suggestibility or self-hypnosis has more to work against—encounters more "objective contradiction"—in the case of medical practice, with its destructive drug poisons, serum poisons and crippling operations, than when grappling with the systemic malady alone.

    Touching the inconsistency of rejecting Christian dogmas as contemptible superstitions, while accepting vaccination and vivisection as enlightened practices, Bernard Shaw says: "Which is the saner rite? The one which carried little children to be baptized of water and the Spirit, or the one that sent the police to force their parents to have the most villainous racial poison we know thrust into their veins?"' 

     

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