They insist upon the discharge of the family physician, and the destruction of all the medicines in the house, before they will undertake to effect a cure by mental processes. It frequently happens that the patient is not sufficiently well grounded in the new faith, or is afflicted with some disease not readily reached by mental processes, and dies on their hands, when perhaps he might have been saved by the combined efforts of the family doctor and the Christian scientist. Be that as it may, when the patient dies under such circumstances, the Christian scientist must needs bear the brunt of popular condemnation. It goes without saying that one such case does more to retard the progress of mental therapeutics in popular estimation than a thousand miraculous cures can do to promote it. Again, much harm is done to the cause of mental healing by claiming for it too wide a field of usefulness. Theoretically, all the diseases which flesh is heir to are curable by mental processes. Practically, the range of its usefulness is comparatively limited. The lines of its field are not clearly defined, however, for the reason that so much depends on the idiosyncrasies of each individual patient.
A disease which can be cured in one case refuses to yield in another, the mental attitudes of the patients not being the same. Besides, the mental environment of the patient has much to do with his amenability to control by mental processes. In an atmosphere of incredulity, doubt, and prejudice, a patient stands little chance of being benefited, however strong may be his own faith in mental therapeutics. Every doubt existing in the minds of those surrounding him is inevitably conveyed telepathically to his subjective mind, and operates as an adverse suggestion of irresistible potentiality. It requires a very strong will, perfect faith, and constant affirmative auto-suggestion on the part of the patient to overcome the adverse influence of an environment of incredulity and doubt, even though no word of that doubt is expressed in presence of the patient. It goes without saying that it is next to impossible for a sick person to possess the necessary mental force to overcome such adverse conditions. Obviously, the mental healer who undertakes a case under such circumstances, procures the discharge of the family physician, and prohibits the patient from using medicines, assumes a very grave respon-sibility, and does so at the risk of the patient's life and hit own reputation.
Success in mental healing depends upon proper mental conditions, just as success in healing by physical agencies depends upon proper physical conditions. This is a self-evident proposition, which the average mental healer is slow to understand and appreciate.
The success of the physician depends as largely upon his knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of his patient, his personal habits, his mode of living, his susceptibility to the influence of medicines, etc., as upon a correct diagnosis and medicinal treatment of the disease. In like manner the success of the mental healer depends largely upon his knowledge of his patient's habits of thought, his beliefs, his prejudices, and, above all, his mental environment.
These remarks apply to all methods of mental healing; and, for the purposes of this book, Christian science may be taken as a representative of all systems of healing by mental suggestion, as distinguished from oral suggestion.
Hypnotism, as practised by the Nancy school, may stand as the representative of mental treatment of disease by purely oral suggestion. The following extract from Professor Bernheim's able work on "Suggestive Therapeutics" (chapter i (Introductory).) embraces the essential features of the methods of inducing sleep practised by that school:
"I begin by saying to the patient that I believe benefit is to be derived from the use of suggestive therapeutics; that it is possible to cure or to relieve him by hypnotism; that there is nothing either hurtful or strange about it; that it is an ordinary sleep, or torpor, which can be induced in every one, and that this quiet, beneficial condition restores the equilibrium of the nervous system, etc. If necessary, I hypnotize one or two sub-jects in his presence, in order to show him that there is nothing painful in this condition, and that it is not accompanied with any unusal sensation. When I have thus banished from his mind the idea of magnetism and the somewhat mysterious fear that attaches to that unknown condition, above all when he has seen patients cured or benefited by the means in question, he is no longer suspicious, but gives himself up. Then I say, 'Look at me, and think of nothing but sleep. Your eyelids begin to feel heavy, your eyes tired. They begin to wink, they are getting moist, you cannot see distinctly. They are closed.' Some patients close their eyes and are asleep immediately. With others, I have to repeat, lay more stress on what I say, and even make gestures. It makes little difference what sort of gesture is made.
I hold two fingers of my right hand before the patient's eyes and ask him to look at them, or pass both hands several times before his eyes, or persuade him to fix his eyes upon mine, endeavoring, at the same time, to concentrate his attention upon the idea of sleep. I say, ' Your lids are closing, you cannot open them again. Your arms feel heavy, so do your legs. You cannot feel anything. Your hands are motionless. You see nothing, you are going to sleep.' And I add, in a commanding tone, ' Sleep.' This word often turns the balance. The eyes close, and the patient sleeps, or is at least influenced. I use the word ' sleep,' in order to obtain as far as possible over the patients a suggestive influence which shall bring about sleep, or a state closely approaching it; for sleep, properly so called, does not always occur. If the patients have no inclination to sleep, and show no drowsiness, I take care to say that sleep is not essential; that the hypnotic influence, whence comes the benefit, may exist without sleep; that many patients are hypnotized, although they do not sleep.