THE SPIRIT OF THE NEW THOUGHT
THE GOSPEL OF HEALING
BY J. W. WINKLEY, M.D.
[Dr. Winkley, formerly a Unitarian minister, and at one time a student of Christian Science, was the leader in establishing conferences, in Boston, on "Mental Science," as the New Thought was then called, also in gathering the group of Sunday worshipers who organized the Church of the Divine Unity, in 1886. Later he was associated with The Mental Healing Monthly, the first New Thought periodical, and was a prime mover in establishing the Metaphysical Club. His last service to the cause he loved so well was the editing and publishing of Practical Ideals, a periodical devoted to New Thought interests.]
It is proposed to discuss here the question so often raised -- Is this healing of our day by mental or spiritual means Christian? The scientific man may ask very naturally, Can it be considered scientifically? The inquiries are also often made: Is it practical? Is it right morally? So the Christian Church may very properly ask, Does it belong to Christianity? Has it the sanction and authority of Christ? The scientific character of the healing can be left to the scientists. The question of the practicality and the beneficence of the healing may be known "by its fruits." To determine, however, whether or not the heal ing is Christian, one must decide what Jesus Christ himself taught -- what he, as its author, gave to the world as Christianity. Christians of every name and denomination will agree, of course, that his teaching, commands, and precepts; his practice, life, and example, together make up Christianity.
What, then, is Christianity as Jesus gave it in his teaching, acts, and life? One thing is plain -- Jesus taught or preached his word of truth. But another fact is equally plain -- he did what are called "works" in the language of the New Testament, or healing in the language of today. The Christ, in fact, gave himself largely, as the gospel records tell us, to "healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people" during his public life; indeed, he laid great stress upon these works as an essential part of his mission. They were very prominent in the ministry of Jesus. They made up, with his preaching, his whole public work. In fact, he did nothing else. Just consider the noteworthy fact: he founded no institutions, asylums, or hospitals; organized no charities, founded no religious orders or societies of any kind. He did not even establish a church; nor did he leave directions for the formation of any of these. But he did go about "doing good," doing healing -- the works of Him that sent him. Further, what were his commands to his followers? Surely it is safe to affirm that in Christ's instructions to his disciples he made the ministry of healing more prominent if anything than the ministry of preaching. He charged them, when he commissioned and sent them forth, to "heal the sick." This was a direct, plain, emphatic command given to his followers of all times. It cannot be denied that Jesus urged and emphasized the gospel works no less positively than the gospel word.
Now, if these conclusions are correct, it becomes of interest and moment to inquire whether these important instructions of the Master have been obeyed. Has the Christian Church as a body, have the ministers of the Church generally, carried out, or are they now carrying out, the full commands of Christ if they neglect to do the works? Surely, the answer to this question must be in the main a negative one. Who, then, are fulfilling -- who are practising this part of Christianity? It seems certain that no unprejudiced person will deny that the doers of the works today, including all sections of them -- the so-called Faith-curists, Mind-curers, Christian Scientists, mental healers, etc.-- in their way and according to their light, have tried and are trying sincerely, honestly, earnestly to obey the command of the great Physician. These healers by spiritual means have their limitations; they may fall short in their efforts often; their healing may not be equal or even exactly to the Master's. But we submit that, inasmuch as they have earnestly and in good faith endeavored to obey his command to do the works, they are entitled to stand as his true followers, and that their works of healing are Christian indeed. Yet we have heard Christian ministers characterize as impiety, even blasphemy, their endeavor to follow in the footsteps and do the behests of the great Teacher.
It is well to ask here why it is that the Christian Church in the main -- why the Christian clergy as a body -- all these centuries past have ignored the Master's command, and neglected to do the works he enjoined. Is it because the works were of no importance in their eyes, of no essential value, and that therefore there was no need of their continuance? Then why did Jesus lay so great stress upon them? This would clearly indicate that he himself deemed them of vital importance, of even transcendent worth. He devoted to the doing of them almost his whole ministry; and that was largely what he set his disciples about, and directed them to do in their future ministry.
Is it not possible that some great truths or principles or laws were disclosed by the works -- were thereby illustrated and enforced; truths, principles, or laws, moral and spiritual, of far-reaching and transcendent import, far above and beyond all mere phsysical healing or cure of any bodily disease? It does certainly appear so. And those who have essayed to do works of healing in our day have evidently caught a glimpse of those wondrous revealings -- have learned something of their deep significance and of their inestimable value. What are those revelations ?
First of all, perhaps, the healing brings home forcibly to the mind as indeed a fact that which has ever gladdened the hearts of religious people to find reason to believe and evidence to prove, namely, what is often attempted to express by the words "the supremacy of the Spirit," which should surely find appreciation with us all in these days of gross materialism. All this healing, done by immaterial or spiritual means, showing the power of the mind over the body, telling of the omnipotence of spirit over all things, is wholly against the prevalent doctrines of materialism, and on .the side of the highest spiritual philosophy.
Next, is it not plain from the accounts in the Gospels that Jesus thought the works made manifest the existence and power of the Infinite Spirit and were a revelation indeed of God, the Father? In fact he said so again and again. He apparently emphasized the works for one reason as tangible evidence that the infinite One, and He alone, is the real Healer of disease -- the one and only healing Power; that He is ever ready and lovingly desirous to restore and save His children from their bodily infirmities, as He is to remedy, by the same gracious power, their ills of mind and heart and soul. And so again today the existence, the reality of God, and withal a higher conception of Him, are thus impressed upon the mind; His immanence upon the consciousness; yea, His goodness and His love are made manifest by His life-giving and restorative power in the healing.
Again, it is the united testimony, probably, of those engaged in the practical healing, as well as of all subjects of the cure, that they gain by it a new estimate of man. They see or experience the power of the spirit over the body. That points unmistakably to man's other and higher spiritual powers and potentialities, which only need to be aroused and drawn out. They learn that health, physical as well as mental and moral health, is within man, and not something to be imported from without. That fact opens their eyes to the other and grander possessions -- attributes, qualities, and powers wrapped up in him, and which only need unfolding to become manifest and effective. They are brought to realize, as never before or in any other way, that man is truly created in the "image of God." It is made a living truth to them that mankind are His children, His offspring, sons and daughters of His, partakers of His nature, sharers in His power, possessors of His life, and joined to Him in oneness. In other words, the essential goodness and the inherent greatness of man -- his divine, yea, deific nature -- are thus revealed. And thus it is that the real spiritual character, the God-nature of man, so opens up in the light and through the application of the healing as to give in very truth a new revelation of Him. The gospel works of Jesus, as his gospel word, were indeed a wondrous revelation of man, the child, not less than of God, the Father.
And yet, again, it is the experience surely of all mental physicians that, to cure physical disease of moral origin effectively, it is necessary first to remove the moral disorder that is causative and primary. From this fact is deduced naturally as readily the broad fundamental truth of the moral or spiritual basis of physical health -- that goodness, virtue, affection, faith, and moral qualities generally are basic health, and on the other hand that vice, immorality, selfishness, and sin are the primary disorders.
Once more, the truth akin to the one above, more or less clearly seen, is that sympathy and affection -- true, deep, and vital -- are the most powerful lever to move, convert, and transform the patient: to bring forth to life and wholeness the man, the real man. All your experience in healing, it is safe to affirm, friends, teaches you that this is true: that unselfish love -- and the true is unselfish -- is the fundamental and transcendent spiritual power; the primal attribute of God; the root, basic quality in man, from which all others spring. And, oppositely, it is beginning to be plain to all men that selfishness is the root, the primary disorder, from which all other and minor moral ills arise -- hate, anger, fear, cowardice, ill-will, malice, injustice, and wrong: all vices, crime, and sin. Yes, verily, selfishness is the great world disorder from which the human race has suffered and still suffers.
But time will hardly allow of even a brief mention of the great truths revealed by the healing gospel. There are others of scarcely less moment, perhaps. The all-beneficence of the healing power, experienced in the cure by the subject of it, impresses forcibly the mind and wins irresistibly the heart to believe with a great faith in the "Eternal Goodness," the burden of our poet Whittier's beautiful song -- that God, the Father, is Goodness Absolute, as says the Hindu, and that Infinite Goodness and Love are at the center of the Universe, at the heart of God and man.
Another fact fraught with deep significance is learned in the simple physical healing, namely, that mind, or thought, has the power to reach mind, by virtue, it would seem, of a natural inner relationship and independent of all external media. When en rapport, soul touches soul. Yes, spirit can come into union and communion with spirit when exalted by faith and inspired by affection. This seems to reveal clearly and conclusively that "unity of Spirit" is a reality; that indeed "all Mind is one:" A momentous truth!
And, friends, you who have had experience in the application of this spiritual therapeutic method will doubtless testify that it has solved for you, or goes far to solve for you, many other problems. For instance, it has helped you, in some measure at least, to a solution of the great problem of evil. And, again, it has aided you, immensely to your own personal, practical benefit, to solve the problem of happiness. And it will be your testimony probably that it has helped you to a solution of the still more important problem of immortality. That being made conscious -- being made to feel, by its teaching, that you, as all men, are immortal here and now -- doubt of future immortality falls away; yea, future immortality loses largely its meaning.
Now, friends, if the healing in your hands is found to have anything near the profound meaning here represented, then can we not believe that the works wrought by Jesus had all this and much more and greater significance; that he knew it well, and emphasized and enjoined the works so predominantly for that reason; that they were, and he expected them to be, a revelation to man of the highest spiritual truths, principles, and laws?
Finally, to sum up the whole matter, may we not conclude -- is it not the simple truth -- that Jesus' gospel was a twofold dispensation, namely, his word of truth to be preached and his works of healing to be performed? One was the word to be made known, the other the works to be put into practice. And they were to go inseparably together -- the two halves of his Christianity that made and make the rounded whole.
We have said that Jesus did not found asylums, hospitals, reformatories, or penal or charitable institutions. Did he not do something possibly of greater importance? Is it not possible that, if this other half of the whole of his Christianity -- the works -- had been carried with the word "into all the world," the asylums, hospitals, reformatories, and even prisons would have been rendered largely unnecessary? Might not the evils for which they exist have been largely cured or prevented?