This section is from the book "Handbook Of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science", by Henry S. Munro. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science.
Children, as well as men and women, who are not sufficiently educated to think for themselves upon these questions are, when the emotions are stirred, suggestible in the highest degree, and any method of coercion which incites fear, plays upon the imagination, and dethrones reason is prostitution of body and mind. One neurotic boy of my knowledge remained in a subconscious state all night long, and his nervous system never reacted from the shock or sense impressions of that experience. He was weak-minded and hysterical ever afterward, and finally became insane and died in the asylum. A neurotic woman, after having been subject to religious excitement for several days, began having cataleptic seizures, and had kept this up constantly every day for two years, being all the while in a state of religious fervor, and was frequently visited by her minister, who would talk and pray with her, thus keeping up this morbid, psychoneurotic condition.
It has been my experience to be called in consultation to see two persons, ill with an acute disease, who died as a result of the effect of having been for several days subjected to the injurious sense impressions produced by a fanatical, emotional revivalist. The timely use of suggestion to drive back these perverted mental states and plant new sense impressions in their stead would, no doubt, have altered the results, but neither of these patients was amenable to treatment at the time I visited them.
The conviction of sin, and fear of hell and the awfulness of the "judgment day," were impressed upon them until every organic function had been disturbed, they had been unable to sleep, food and medicine had not been assimilated, and they died of diseases from which under different conditions they should have made a speedy and sure recovery. Such has been the experience of hundreds of physicians of my acquaintance as a result of emotional, religious excitement.
But, aside from the danger that such pernicious influences exert upon life itself, the positive harm to the development and growth of body and mind is the worst. To speak plainly, the effect upon the entire individual is identical with that of excessive sexual intercourse, and it is questionable if the results upon mind and body of sexual excesses are not even less injurious.
Every intellectual state is accompanied by definite physical manifestations. The physical concomitants of such psychical states as where the individual is under the sway of emotional religious excitement are vasomotor phenomena, respiratory phenomena, and motor phenomena, or phenomena of expression.
The vascular modifications that take place are felt in the form of arterial pulsations, heaviness, and a sense of choking, all of which are usually ascribed to being "the power of the holy spirit" acting upon the individual. They all denote a state of tension of the organism and of concentration of effort. Such emotion is contagious. Mental states beget similar mental states in others who are so situated as to receive sense impressions from those thus affected. The tension produced upon the nervous system and the physical reaction to such experiences for several days in succession leaves such individuals nervous and weak, with all bodily functions disturbed. Sleep is hindered, and they are often pale and indifferent to interest in all other things except religious matters.
We all realize that this is nothing more than a condition of hysteria, but such hysteria is contagious, and when often repeated forms a habit, and such habits are positively injurious. To be exposed to such influences interferes with the growth of both mind and body of children, and the habit of having one's psychic life controlled and played upon by an emotional enthusiast, in the personality of an individual of the opposite sex, is positively destructive to the essential conditions of a happy marriage relation.
To educate an individual to be guided and controlled by emotion or passion in religious matters, and expect him to exercise reason and judgment in reference to other phases of his life's conduct, would mean to teach him to act directly contrary to his religious teaching.
The overexpenditure of nervous energy from such emotional religious experiences and the habit of being psychically aroused by such experiences reduces the individual to a condition of mental and physical inertness. It is horrible to contemplate, but there are thousands of ardent female religious devotees whose psychic life is so dominated and controlled by their church executive or "spiritual adviser" that their husbands find no more place in their higher nature than a dog finds comfort upon the grave of his buried master.
This state of affairs reduces such marriage relations into nothing less than legalized prostitution. Whoever holds the attention of an individual, stirs his emotions, and directs his thoughts, govern his actions and controls his life both consciously and subconsciously, and when married women are so dominated and controlled, the higher social affiliations and more complete amalgamation of personalities between man and his wife are rendered impossible. Such marriages, then, are a fraud and a farce, and the result is unhappiness and nervousness, functional disorders and disease. Such practices might be excused in old maids and widows who are safely beyond the danger of ever getting married and who have no ambition to attain in life, but no growing young man or woman, or wife or prospective mother should be exposed to their pernicious influences.
Adolescence, especially, should be kept free from an environment of religious fervor, which holds the constant attention of the individual and causes a useless expenditure of nervous energy to the neglect of the development of all other physical and mental attributes that should be cultivated by directing the person's life into the normal, healthful, useful lines of thought and action.
The religious training of a great many individuals has but served to educate them into a psychoneurotic disease, which practically disqualifies them for the duties and responsibilities of life. To maintain a robust, vigorous state of health and physical well-being while adhering to such religious practices is an absolute impossibility.
It is from this class of religious neurotics that Christian science largely draws its membership, and its dogma of negation and affirmation is only a suggestive means to drive back morbid states of consciousness produced by sense impressions made in times gone by and forgotten, and to replace these by conceptions, ideas, sense impressions, or ssuggestions that give rise to a new consciousness, to mental states that are more pleasant, more hopeful, less emotional, more optimistic and cheerful, and these react favorably upon the body. "With all its absurdity, Christian science is a stepping-stone, perhaps not an indispensable one, to the evolution and revision that is today taking place in the religious philosophies of the world. To the man who is broad enough, and generous enough, and wise enough to detect the kernel of psychological truth buried within its capsule of religious dogma, this cult serves as an illustration for an important lesson - namely, that the mind and the influence exerted upon it through religious worship plays an important role in the cause of disease and the maintenance of health.
People are not to be blamed for their religious beliefs or habits of conduct in life. As a rule, they are creatures of circumstance, fettered by environment, unfortunate heredity, and deficient educational advantages.
The clue to the situation was unconsciously admitted by a country clergyman in the South, who, in discussing the evolution that is taking place in religious ideals among the more enlightened centers of our country and the part that education exercises in shaping our religious beliefs, answered, "Yes, but we care nothing about such ideals and education down here." And so it is with every one in reference to his philosophic and religious convictions. He instinctively feels that he is right from his viewpoint, and he is. His religion fills an essential need to his life, and he has as much right to it as he has to life itself. And so has the individual who has acquired a broader perspective the same right to reject the false, worn out, and useless, and to interpret the problems of life for himself.
We are still only half civilized. Ten million years of growth, evolution, and development will not have remedied all the consequences of the ignorance that exists today.
Institutions, organizations, and religions are a necessity. When they do not interfere with individual liberty and expression, they are useful. The majority of people are incapable of thinking and reasoning for themselves. They have not as yet acquired strength of intellect and knowledge of the universe sufficient to give them the confidence to take their lives into their own hands.
To them the power, strength, authority, and privileges of the self-conscious ego are as much a stranger, and as intangible and useless in the choice as to what shall govern and control their life, as if they never existed. Indeed, such a self-consciousness to them does not exist, for this quality of human personality is also developed according to the general laws of existence through heredity, environment, and education.
However, individual responsibility can not be evaded. Men and women who know better, and have evolved moral courage sufficient to give them the impulse to act up to their convictions, are impelled by immutable law under which they can not decide to do otherwise than press forward, and onward, and upward, and they are increasing their strength day by day according to the law of development by use.
We live in a new age and are confronted by new conditions. New opportunities are thrust upon us. We must live up to our privileges or take the consequences. We must turn opportunities to good account. We must each go our route. We can not live and do as any other individual in this world today or in any age has done.
The great need of the world is men and women to interpret life and its meaning in the light of modern education and enlightenment; such as will speak out aloud and tell the truth as the more enlightened people of this day see it, and who will not be intimidated by the bulwarks set in our way of progress by the ignorance and superstition of ages past and gone.
At least to us, as physicians, there is no other time but now, and no other place but here, and a billion of years will not make it otherwise.