Perhaps I should call this . . .
THE “MIND” IN MINDBODY AND OTHER CRAZY THINGS . . .
Perhaps Swedenborg was conversing with me!
Sometimes I think I am writing these or at least closing up such projects in the 2AM cosmos. This item I just “discovered” on an old disk that was transferred to the new backup.
This was in fact the way I sometimes wrote back in the early to mid-1990s, but this essay is from about February 2002, a midwintertime when one is likely to have reasons to stay inside and write due to the cold weather in Portland, Oregon.
But this is also after I entered into the MPH program, having already taken some MindBody classes as my introductory classes. I vaguely recall trying to close up some research I was doing on the history of Mindbody health philosophy when this came together.
When we listen to those who promote themselves,
we chance missing those who preach truths
Three interpretations of “mind” in mindbody exist. The biomedical model interprets mind as a consequence of natural events in the brain and body documented and interpreted by scientists. The metaphysical/energy model of mind adds to this paradigm popular philosophical and/or alternative scientific interpretations of these physical events. The spiritual/religious model emphasizes the value of certain philosophical paradigms in defining any possible connection or relationship that exists between the body, as part of the physical world, and the mind as part of some other world or state of being. Each of these interpretations has a complex history, significant parts of which often overlap with each other. At times one of these models appear to be most correct or true, and the others less significant or invalid. The decision an individual makes in choosing a paradigm to believe in is primarily culturally- and philosophically-based phenomenon, relying more upon internal belief systems and perspectives than simply knowledge. This personal approach to defining the mind-body relation exists amongst believers for each of these three paradigms. Differentiating one from the other is more a personal and cultural decision based on interpretations and paradigms than a decision made based solely on indisputable findings and conclusions. Relationships between these different interpretation of “mind” therefore illustrate the role of “spirituality” and “spirit” in the definition of mindbody relations.
The Medical/Biomedical Model.
The biomedical model is based on a physical interpretation of mind. In essence, it states that “mind” is a consequence of the physical body experience and that the mind-body relationship is a result of events taking place in and around the physical body. The conclusions drawn from our perceptions of these events in turn determine how we define the components of any mind-body relationship felt to exist. For this reason, any relationship perceived between mind and body is considered a phenomenon of human perception and thought. Deductions made about experience constitute the argument for or against such a relationship.
Based on this method of reasoning, followers of the biomedical model interpret “spiritualism” as construct of the personal experience. These constructs are based on individual and group belief systems or philosophies, and are, for the most part, considered consequences of our thinking. In essence, it is argued that “spiritualism” is generated by the brain and the belief in “spirit” exists because one simply believes it exists. As a consequence, this individual expresses a faith in this belief, without need for proof, and develops his/her belief system from values extracted both personally and socially in view of biomedical conclusions already existing.
Since the biomedical model of mindbody is based on a broad, complex series of beliefs constructed from scientific paradigms, mindbody is considered a consequence of human thoughts that evolve due to perceptions and analyses made about individual experiences. These conclusions are then related to the common belief system or psychosocial interpretations and beliefs. To the biomedical physician, “mind” is simply a result of how the nervous system is constructed and integrates its parts. Biomedical explanations for mindbody often detail activities taking place in specific parts of the brain and nervous system, and in more recent years other parts of the body. This explanation focused on the body and its parts has changed slowly over time, due to changes in interpretations made of how the body acts based on observations and acceptance and explanation of their happening.
Historic Background. If we equate the history of biomedicine with the history of medicine in general, we find significant portions of early Western philosophies played important roles in assisting physicians along their path of understanding. Until Descartes contemplated this question during the late sixteenth century, mind and body were not clearly differentiated from each other. By effectively severing any possible connection between mind and body, Descartes provided the opportunity for other s to explore each of these topics as separate entities, a belief conferring with religious supporters for the time. Throughout the Renaissance Period and subsequent years, as scientists documented the anatomic makings of the human body, philosophers continued to write about the Aristotelian notion that body exsits as an entity distinct from the “soul,” and the “soul” different from “spirit.” But with a better understanding of the body’s structures came queries into the reasons for this complex make-up of these features, allowing one of the more significant discoveries to be made during this time about the discovery of the autonomic nervous system, a series of nerves and ganglia lying parallel to and alongside the spinal column.
In traditional thinking, the spinal cord itself could be argued as an extension of the brainstem and one possible “location for mind”, the cerebrum. This led anatomists to ponder: what purpose did a parallel nervous system serve? For this reason, both early anatomists and religious writers began interpretingd this structure as an important mind-body link, leading to the development of a long-lasting philosophical argument based on the natural sciences, not just metaphysical arguments.
The two earliest systems in conflict with each other were the naturalistic interpretations of physical substance inherent to Galenic tradition and the tendency for Natural Philosophy to search out other reasons. According to British Physician William Cullen in 1789, experimentation and induction became the new way to philosophize illness and disease during the Renaissance period of scientific investigation. With the discovery of circulation came a more complete description of the “Organic System,” and associations made between bodily fluids and disease, in turn lending interpretations of two types of physicians to form: Galenists and Chemists. One consequence of this argument were physicians who believed in the Corpuscularan theory; they argued that structural make up rather than chemical blood content was responsible for disease development. The Chemist in turn assigned somewhat speculative features of blood to be responsible for disease—the hard to discern, much less prove, chemical content of blood and its behavior in spreading pathogens throughout the body.
For this reason, medicine remained very much a divisive profession, with conflicting experts standing aloof in opposing parts of the same field. For this reason, one of Descartes more important influences on medicine was able to occur. Namely, Descartes writings were both philosophical and logical. The philosophical portion of his essays were mainly derived from his internal reasoning, a culturally-borne manner of thinking and presenting evidence. At the same time, Descartes strived to produce highly logical reasoning, as exemplified by his the use of numerics and mathematical logic to define the Cartesian make-up of matter and space. This argument satisfied both the Galenists and Chemists; in the words of Cullen, “the philosophy of Des Cartes readily united with both.” (Cullen, 1805, viii). For this reason, both Humoural and Chemical Pathology theories became popular by the late eighteenth century, and were very much interpreted as one and the same, with observed chemical influence relating to humoural theory.
As Cullen also notes, physicians had the opportunity to argue other reasons to support or deny Descartes such claims to success and support throughout the eighteenth century. Whereas Descartes’s theory supported the mechanistic theories of Galenical physicians, Georg Ernst Stahl’s (1660-1734) theory stated “the rational soul of an governs the whole oeconomy of the body . . . animal oeconomy has in itself a power or condition, by which, in many instances, it resists the injuries which threaten it; and by which it also, on many occasions, corrects or removes the disorders induced or arising in it.” (Cullen, 1805, ix). In this theory, Stahl proposes that “the soul acts independently of the state of the body “ and that due to its own intelligence is capable of inducing a cure. This combination of soul and life force as a single entity or state has been termed “animism” (1737) and much later the élan vital of Bergson and the “vital principle” or “vital force” of contemporary thinking. In this philosophy, the body remains the machine, which Galenists and Chemists ascribe medicines for, but also has an immortal soul, not normally dealt with by these physicians.
Stahl’s theory is in part a rebirth of part of Jean Baptiste van Helmont’s (1577-1644) alchemical-based philosophy, which defined the “sensitive soul” as the cause for many problems (Garrison, 1927, 312). Helmont, a Belgian mystic, believed in the spirit or blas which oversaw the actions and experiences of the body and noted the value of “gas” emanating from and transfusing throughout the body in guiding and directing the vitality of the body. This theory in turn helped some physicians re-define the spiritual being or entia of being. This entia had it animalist and humanistic features, and its human version a form differing between sexes. The entia of venus or ens veneris, for example, was not only interpretable as an astrological concept associated with the chemical (or other pseudo-electric) powers of the planet Venus, but also a “power” associated with the woman and her body. This ens in turn passes throughout the female body as energy (“gas” or blas), assisting the body in becoming a human being with expression, feelings, and spirit (spirit of Mars or en martis was the spirit of men). By the early eighteenth century, Robert Boyle successfully argued this philosophy without enabling its astrological component to intervene. As a result, the ens veneris, once associated with copper, was reinterpreted as a variation of ens martis, and whereas red copper salts (the Venetian metal copper is converted from “green” to red to heal the blood) were traditionally used to produce a cure for ens veneris-related feminine problems (late menses and the like), Boyle successfully turned this formula into one of ens martis (later, iron tonics) for healing these same problems.
Stahl’s theory and its offshoots troubled true Chemical, natural philosophy doctors like Cullen. Yet, its popularity remained throughout the eighteenth century, and was highly promoted by other highly respected physicians, helping to further separate physicians into opposing philosophical groups. Richard Mead (1673-1754) of England for example, argued that a relationship between the nervous energy and electricity existed, using this reasoning to study the causes for disease induced astrologically and “astrometeorologically”, as well as diseases brought about by the “spirit” of “venomous exhalations,” vipers, mad dogs and tarantulas (Mead 1797). Robert Whytt (1714-1766), a student of Stahl, wrote On the Vital and Other Involuntary Motions of Animals (Edinburgh 1751), affirming the possibility of a “rational soul” based on his ability to demonstrate reflex activity in a body in spite of a severed spinal cord. The “soul” responsible for this activity, he claimed, existed throughout the body, in spite of decapitation or loss of other body parts (Garrison, 1929, 326).
Yet another “naturalistic interpretation” of these philosophies focused on “Nature curing diseases,” troubling Cullen further, i.e. “the so much vaunted Hippocratic method of curing, has often had a baneful influence on the practice of Physic . . . leading physicians into, or continuing them in, a weak and feeble practice.” (Cullen, 1805, x). In this comment, Cullen refers to the impact of nature and natural philosophy on theologian medical writers. In Derham’s Physico-Theology: Or, a Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God . . . (London, 1749, Vol. 2, p.120), for example, it is argued that the body as a product of God and therefore presents to anatomists a mechanistic and purposeful construction. Such an argument adhered very much to Descartes’s teachings, for it blends together the mechanistic and chemical causes then argued for illness.
Derham’s argument also posed an important deviation from traditional naturalistic interpretations of God, nature and disease. Derham focused on the value of human emotion in disease diagnosis and alleviation. Following a series of discourses on God’s creatures, he begins his analysis of the human body, its complexity and highly integrated interplay between living parts, and then discusses soul and body separately. Like most religious leaders, Derham admits his belief in a “consent between parts”–parts which are positioned the way they are for a logical reason, relying upon some Bible prose of St. Paul to argue this reasoning: “The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of thee: nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you. But such is the consent of all the parts . . . the members should have the same care for one another . . . whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured (or afflicted with any good) all the members rejoice [and sympathize] with it.”
An important part of Derham’s philosophy is the notion that there is a mutual accord, consent and sympathy between different parts of the body. According to Derham, as well as many physicians, this interaction is “made by the commerce of nerves, and their artificial positions, and curious ramifications throughout the whole body . . .” Ultimately, scientists would claim this develop of body was the result of natural events, to Derham it was due to “the wisdom and benignity of the great Creator.” (121-2). The argument between religious writers like Derham and scientists ensued due to the lack of absoluteness on behalf of scientists’ conclusions. In fact, many of the deductions scientists were making were merely personal opinions, based on loosely woven observations and facts. Likewise, interpretations of religious scholars focused on the same physical observations, but explained them using different paradigms.
The observation of the nerves emerging from the spinal column, some with ascending portions and others descending portions, were interpreted a number of ways by observors. Anatomists referred to these nerves as “sympathetic nerves,” due to their sympathy and parallelism with the spinal column. Derham defined these nerves as the connector to the “the great sympathy,” falling short of accurately defining the connection between body and mind then argued by other anatomists and scientists.
By the early 18th century, Par Vagum and other nerves were known to make numerous important visceral and somatic connections. Scientists were interested in the interaction these nerves had with somatic structures, in particular the interactions between lower cranial nerves and the body. Derham’s focus however was on “the fifth pair of nerves,” the trigeminal nerve and its interactions with facial muscles in the form of human expression. Derham argued this nerve was in control of “the great consent and sympathy” an individual expresses. Emotions impacted the face by causing changes in expression conceived of in the cerebrum or brain, by transmitted to the face through these nerves. To Derham, this nervous activity demonstrated the effect of feelings within the soul (located in the Precordeia), as sensed by the Brain, and then communicated through human expression and eliciting effects upon the physical body. Most importantly, all of these events occurred together and acted in sympathy with each other.
Anatomists of course disagreed with Derham’s hypothesis. Through experimentation, they were able to demonstrate, without argument, that the body’s closest connection with the central nervous system and cerebrum was the tenth cranial nerve. Ultimately, sympathetic responses would be associated with this less noticeable cranial nerve, the sympathetic or vagal nerve.
Another medical theory or philosophy possibly derived from Stahl’s theory for soul (mind?) and body was John Brown’s (1735-1788) (Brunonian) theory, which viewed life itself as a function of “excitability.” To Brown and his followers, life was the simple result of biological activity resulting in excitement of the ‘vital condition’, nothing more. The lack of the ‘vital condition’ (as opposed to vital energy or force) constitutes non-existence. Disease was caused by changes of the normal stage of excitement; medications served to increase or reduce these changes (Garrison 1929, pp. 314-5).
Countering Brown’s theory was Albrecht von Haller’s (1708-1777) theory of “irritability.” Haller was able to differentiate between nerve impulse and the resulting contractions of muscles that ensued, enabling him to develop acceptable theories for heart disease and digestive ailments. Haller interpreted the nervous system as a connection to these and other organs, resulting in disease whenever irritation ensued. His most important argument and “test” against the notion of a “soul” in the central nervous system was lesioning the nerves, only to observe no change in the psychic condition of the body detached from this soul.
By the dawn of the nineteenth century, physicians supported Brown’s Theory and believed the autonomic nervous system formed the important life-required connections between the central nervous system and corpus. In his Practice of Physic (New York, 1805), William Cullen strongly believed in the power of human emotion or “Passions,” and in the ability for disease to cause “a diminution of the energy of the brain” (p. 36). Following through with the popular eighteenth century paradigm—the notion that proximal and remote causes for disease exist—he noted that diseases like hepatitis, asthma and menstrual irregularity may not only be due to bodily or “internal” cause, but also a remote cause (predisposed cause, in which illness results from exposure to some causative agent) like “passions of the mind.” According to Cullen, “nervous power” was important to brain activity. Human experience like sensory stimuli and activities, by altering blood flow, in turn influences activities within the brain. In such cases, the “mobility of the nervous power” may become excessive (i.e. seizures), or cease (i.e. mild melancholy with sleep). The connection of this nervous power to the body in effect constitutes Cullen’s interpretation of the mindbody connection: Passions enter the mind, but then create nervous power which effects the body. Likewise, following any excitement of emotions or physical activity, nervous power may excite the “energy of the brain,” (p. 407) and in turn cause “mental irritation.” In the case of seizures, Cullen mentions the ability of these changes in nervous power to in turn influence a part of the body in “sympathic” form (p. 414).
Cullen relates the notion of “mind” to the thought process. To Cullen, mind and disease are related because disease effects thinking and vice versa. In the case of treating mania for example, Cullen writes “I have been informed that some maniacs have been cured by being compelled to constant and even hard labor; and as a forced attention to the conduct of any bodily exercise is a very certain means of diverting the mind from pursuing any train of thought, it is highly probable that such exercise may be useful in many cases of mania.” (p. 491). In his writing about melancholy, Cullen notes the state of mind and the brain to go hand-in-hand, i.e “the state of the mind, and the state of the brain corresponding to it, that is the chief object of our present consideration.” His argument for this assumes the mind bears temperament, in turn relating to and influencing the physical make up of the brain (especially its hardness and fluid content on autopsy), and finally affecting the brain’s susceptibility to “a higher degree of excitement.” (p. 497).
According to an American contemporary of Cullen, this philosophy came to be known as the “Great Sympathetick Nerve” Theory (Thomas Trotter 1808) and formed the crux of anatomical arguments supporting possible mindbody connections, thereby countering the popular Brunonian (Brown’s) theory for disease which interpreted it as a result of “nervous excitement.” In View of the Nervous Temperament by Trotter (Troy, NY, 1808), the distinction between mind and body is clearly defined. Each and every disease-causing agent had the potential of influencing either the mind or body. According to Trotter, environmental causes for disease place stresses on the body in the form of “nervous irritations,” whereas excessive behaviors were blamed for diseases of the Mind. This distinction between body and mind remained apparent throughout many writings. Still, since the mind and body expressed “sympathy,” agents responsible for illness in one component are in turn capable of influencing the other component.
Throughout these mindbody arguments, the “humours” of the natural science world remained akin to spirit” of the philosophical religious world. For this reason, humoural philosophy helped bridge the gap developing between our understanding of physiologically (body)- versus mentally (mind) -induced ailments. Each of these four humours (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, black bile) had their matching components in each type of ailment, enabling further development of the emotional arguments being posed for pathogenesis. In turn, the facilitated further definition of the possible mind-body relation. In Peter Townsend’s Dissertation of the Influence of Passions in the Production and Modification of Disease (1816), the emotional or mental causes, such as overwhelming pleasure (joy), extreme sadness (grief), fear or anger were felt to bring on disease. (p. 11). Of the “attributes of the mind” known as “Passions,” he wrote: “[They] are merely the intense exertion of some of these modifications of attraction; or where that attraction is no longer obedient to the direction of Reason” (p. 12). The victim of the Passions experiences “a sudden and violent commotion of the mind,” along with changes in voice, gesture and expression, developing a state of being in which he is no longer a “master of himself.”
Relating this interpretation to Trotter’s interpretation, we find “mental disorders” defined as results of “disposition of mind,” an imbalance in thinking in which the individual is behaving erratically and passing wrongful judgments “which arise from the mind [as] disorders of passions.” Disorders arising from the body, in turn, stem from “all those causes which affect particular organs of the body.” (p. 177, 199-200). The imbalance in the mind, responsible for “passions,” consists of “deranged sensations” for which the term “moral cause” is assigned. Likewise, “Physickal” diseases of the “Great Sympathetick Nerve” were claimed to be induced by “inverted sympathies” of this organ. To Trotter and other early 19th century physicians, the “Great Sympathetick Nerve” can cause physiological effects to ensue in certain illnesses, resulting in “one great circle of feeling, actions and motions” expressive of the illness (ibid 234).
These late eighteenth/early nineteenth century perspectives of mindbody relations strengthened Descartes’s proposal to disconnect the two philosophies regarding states of being. The Great Sympathetic Nerve or autonomic nervous system theory remained the focus of many arguments for and against mindbody discipline, enabling diseases with known somatic cause to also have possible mental or “moral” cause. “Immoral” beliefs, thoughts and behaviors were in turn considered as pathogenic as improper physical activity and lifestyle. For this reason, medical literature is filled with articles defining moral cause for illnesses throughout the nineteenth century. The most common diseases of moral or mental cause include asthma, seizures and hysteria, each of which have modern interpretations, some bearing changes in nomenclature due to changes in culturally-defined perception of the “disease” (i.e. past hysteria cases are now often identical with premenstrual syndrome cases).
In J.R. Parks’s “On the Influence of Mental Impressions in producing Change in Function in the Living Body” (1818), “the influence of the passions of bodily frame” may arise due to “mental emotions” like fear, grief, joy, anger, and love. He notes the common philosophy then cited, which states the response of the body to be “primarily exerted upon the action of the heart.” This effect may be stimulating or sedative. Robert Whytt’s (1714-1766) philosophy of the body existing as a “sentient being” formed an important part of Parks’s philosophy. Impressions “inconsciously made upon internal its organs” were responsible for this mindbody effect. Parks’s important conclusion was that mental impressions act upon “the brain or organ of mind,” due to the ability of the brain to interweave “reflex consciousness” (thought) with “moral feelings” (feeling). More importantly, subsequent influences involving other parts of the body are considered secondary to this initial cerebral-sensory interaction response, and represent a “vascular sympathy” effect. However, Parks philosophy falters scientifically due only to what remained unknown to physicians. Parks suspects this interaction occurred due to simple changes in blood circulation to the related body parts; the possibility of an autonomic nervous system response was not noted.
Faith. Two years later, John Stearns, a physician and president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, gave an Address to the Society entitled “On the Influence of the Mind upon the Body in the Production and Cure of Diseases” (Albany, 1820). To Stearns, the chief role of the doctor was to treat illnesses of the body, whereas the metaphysician was responsible for explaining “the operations of the mind.” Stearns drew an important distinction between regular doctors and metaphysicians, writing “the metaphysician often passes the confines of common sense, and envelopes the whole in a mystery, which reason cannot penetrate nor comprehend.” Stearns noted his greater trust in traditional writers like Newton and Locke than recent metaphysicians. The contemporary theories he felt “may amuse the metaphysician, but can never aid the practitioner.” Still, understanding the mind required the physician to understand the faculties of the mind and their relation to the methods of reasoning and acquisitions of ideas. Most importantly, Stearns recognized man to consist of “an entire compound of soul and body, inseparably and indissolubly connected.” For this reason, he argued the physician can solve the problems of the mind by way of more effectively treating the body. He viewed the body and mind as harmonious states of being, in sympathy with each other, although he didn’t use such a term. More importantly, his extensive reference to religious writings throughout this Address suggest he was not atheistic. He reviewed emotional states to such an extent, that notes about Holiness, felicity, and religious law are found throughout the presentation.
Recalling Benjamin Rush’s philosophy from a decade earlier–“the Maniac may be perfectly subdued by an eye properly graduated”—Stearns suggested the value of understanding power of the mind itself as a healer and an operator of spirit (i.e. animal spirit or passion)—the substance within that may separate the mind from the body. This argument enabled physicians to argue their distinction from other “doctors” serving as pastors and reverends. Most importantly, Stearns and others during the first decades of American nineteenth century medicine effectively drew boundaries between physicians and metaphysicians. In a “Commencement Address” dated April 4, 1826, Dr. David Hosack of the New York College of Medicine stated “In Medicine, as in religion, we cannot serve two masters: nor can the physician, while in practice, consistently take upon himself the duties of another occupation or profession.” (Robbins 1964).
By the 1820s, perception and “faith” came to be argued as important reasons for the efficiency of older, out of date practices based on old philosophies, and the increasingly popular “faith healing” of the nineteenth century in the United States. Stearns used the argument to explain earlier successes. Most importantly, the notion of “spirit” as a healing agent is given this naturalistic interpretation by physicians now strongly influenced by the French Revolution and immigration of French scientists and “rationalists” of the United States.
Faith-related “spiritual healing” arguments can be argued as those which define the location of “soul” and “spirit” relative to the illness of the body. An early example of this argument is represented by the initial popularity of blood transfusions, recipients believing in the transfer of soul or spirit, and so influencing the brain and life (Pierre Dionis, died 1718). During the early 1700s, blood transfusion was a fashionable practice designed to revitalize the body (well before immune response was ever known to exist), but due to obvious immune problems, recipients died, not from physical problems but instead from “mental derangement” according to their physicians.
Another “faith” of naturalist origin pertains to the development of physiognomy and phrenology. In these professions, body form is interpreted as an indicator of personality or an individual’s psychology. Popularized during the Renaissance, and re-popularized during the early nineteenth century, this philosophical argument blamed particular behavioral tendencies on a given physical form, but since behavior was in effect the result of human passions, emotions, and the sympathetic nerve complex, some pre-determinism existed in this philosophical medicine paradigm. Most importantly, the possible scientific validity to this interpretation of people has always had some links to regular medicine, even during its least popular periods. Contemporary anthropology writings review extensively the value of attaching cultural systems to physical anthropology-defined anatomical measurements. Some of the psychology studies have evaluated the palmology of schizophrenics in search of a behavioral indicator. The behavior of criminals is often correlated with unique facial features, ranging from eyebrow ridges to cheekbones possibly influenced by behavior and endocrine physiology. Take for example, French psychologist Philippe Pinel, most famous for studying people in asylums and removing them from inhumane chains and shackles, noted a relationship between skull size and “idiot” traits. Chiropody, the foot-related parallel to palmology, defined individuals based on physical solar features, in turn linked to physical well-being, behavior and emotions; it has since been redefined twice—forming podiatry, a more anatomically, physiologically based discipline, and in parallel fashion, Foot Massage/Acupuncture, a merging of Oriental tradition with Western philosophy.
Faking disease, or inducing by way of the influences of the mind, was well-noted during the century before. The relationship between “passions” and disease involved the following emotional experiences: fear, grief, anger, joy, envy, love, and avarice. This discipline, made popular by Aristotle, remained a popular argument for early psychology and human behavior reasoning taught and practiced by American physicians during the early 1800s. Examples of how such influences may be used to treat certain medical concerns or problems are numerous, for example, the common practice of eliciting “fear” to stop hiccups.
Yet another example of faith-induced healing proposed by Stearns involved the effective use of metallic tractors by a Connecticut physician during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This device, a wooden handled pair of metal forceps with each forcep consisting of a different metal, was felt to induce a galvanic-electric effect on or around the patient. Were it not for the separation of its inventor and his relatives from the regular medical profession, the term “quackery” would not have been assigned so firmly to such practices. In fact, this use of tractors varied only slightly in non-scientism from the popular teachings of phrenology and the paradigm of hypnotism then professed by popular universities in New Haven (Yale), Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania), and New York.
Stern, a professor of the New York City College of Medicine, uses this recent history to pass along his “Faith theory” for healing “Nothing but the credibility of patients could render successful the operation of metallic tractors . . . The success of a physician is reposed in him by his patients. . . . Faith imparts a peculiar energy and tone to the system, and often performs half of the cure, before the physician prescribes for the disease.” The want of faith is a strong healing element, and the excitement attached to this wanting, like during a religious experience, may account for the performance of miraculous healings and cures. Religious thinking will excite the system, calm boisterousness within, invigorate health, and restore balance; alternatively, the impious mind risks suffering.
Psychosomaticism. The psychosomatic link between mind and body began to be discussed as such about the same time Stearn’s belief in faith was published. In 1826, British physician Sir Astley P. Cooper defined a mind-body association in cancer victims. In his treatise Lectures . . . on the Principles and Practice of Surgery he noted an association between the development of carcinoma of the rectum of his patients and their display of “mental distress,” leading him to write:
“I should have observed that one of the most frequent causes of breast cancer is grief or anxiety of the mind. . . . It arrests the progress of secretion, produces irritative fever, and becomes the forerunner of scirrhous tubercle. . . The mind acts on the body, the secretions are arrested, and the result is the formation of scirrhous. Look then in this complaint, not only at altering the state of the constitution, but relieve the mind, and remove if possible the anxiety under which the patient labors” (From Stainbrook, 1952).
Seven years later, Marshall Hall published his own impressions on the sympathetic nerve and excitation theories for mind-body influences. After defining his interpretation of reflex activities and “excito-motor acts,” he proposed a neuromuscular theory. He proposed that when nerves are irritated, the result is movements in musculature which are independent of sensation or volition. This became the basis for Hall’s acceptance of “unconscious excito-motor acts.” In essence, the recognition of unconscious influences upon the conscious mind and physical body was better understood by this time.
The association of specific diseases with specific bodily influences (including central nervous system or brain influences). In Sir Benjamin C. Brodie’s (1783-1862) Pathological and Surgical Observations of the Diseases of the Joints. (London: Longman, 1836). Defined “Brodie’s Knee” a syndrome consisting of a joint disease associated with the development of “hysteria”; the arthritis is a consequence of the nervous disorder.
Emotion. A decade into the popularization of Stearn’s philosophy, Jonas Malden’s review “Upon the Reciprocal Influence of the Mind and Body” (1833) was published. Malden believed “the cure of disease may depend upon the proper management of the mind.” According to Malden, not only does the ability to distinguish between the laws of the body and the mind exist, but also an ability for each to operate separately of the other as well as conjoined. Malden writes “as far as our minds are concerned, our bodies are outside of ourselves.”
According to Malden, as the body grows and develops, the person learns about this body. Beginning as an infant, we learn that feelings and senses teach us about the experience of a body. This represents a materialistic influence on mind, which with aging develops into an assortment of emotions. In sum, Malden’s theory is simple. He favors improving the impact of experience on emotions and thoughts and finally the body. Religious thinking plays a very important role in this experience. He concludes the influence of emotions and states of mind on bodily functions, and vice versa need to be made a part of the practice of medicine.
This recognition of the influence of emotions on disease formed an important part of the “nervous influence” paradigm by the late 1830s. Allen’s study of asthma and the effects of mental emotions represents an early example of specific disease-emotion/mindbody association (Allen 1839). That same year, Forbes Winslow presented “Influence of the Mind on Disease” for the Westminster Medical Society (Winslow 1839), expressing the need for more frequent and accurate observations of patients and their mental habits, with the hopes of illiciting a “healthy balance” of living habits. A few years later, one of the more vocal researchers on mindbody interactions, James Braid, wrote “The Power of the Mind over the Body” (1846), in which the definition and purpose of “hypnotism” is defined.
Iatros Philosophos Isotheos (Hippocrates). A common regular medical theme for mind-body interaction during the late nineteenth century focused on the developing field of psychotherapy, and the transfer of focus from mind-body to body-mind relationships. According to psychotherapist Alfred Schofield (1902), “The action of mind upon body is at least threefold—physiological, pathological, and therapeutical.” Schofield’s emphasis on Western medical tradition—the interpretations of an individual’s physiological and pathological cause for disease in relation to therapeutical measures to be taken to prevent “mental factors” from exerting effects—was common to some therapists. Psychotherapy enabled medicine to develop another reason to introduce new physical cures for disease, including psychiatric disease. This physical curative agent was psychotherapy medication, which by the late nineteenth century suffered greatly from opium abuse, while at the same time benefiting greatly due to the development of several effective chemical remedies like lithium and anti-seizure medications. For this reason, Schofield’s historical review of the mind-body discipline focused on the physical body, the influence of thought on the “vegetative” state of the body. Emphasizing the role of “unconsciousness” on physical being, he argues the need to assist people with their intellectual and emotional state, assisting the body in its physiological processes (mainly issues related to sleep, nutrition, emotions, activity, bloodflow and respiration), re-stating Sir W. B Richardson “We have examples of the mind as a causal factor in most organic diseases.”
Around the turn of the century, a revival of phrenological, physiognomonic thinking ensued, with such skills used to define future occupations and identify criminals. Whereas during the early nineteenth century, human constitution was defined by location of heredity and place of raising (an acclimation-adaptation theory), body came to be interpreted as an indicator of mind by 1900. The early body-mind theories defined people in humoural concepts, such as sanguine, bilious (choleric), melancholic, and phlegmatic; each of these had attached temperaments (influential emotions and passions) and related personality types. By the 1930s, temperaments were redefined based on the nerve-glandular-hypothalamus relationship. Viola’s teachings (1933) professed three types of people to exist: megalosplanchic (euphoric, energetic), normotypic, and microsplanchic (easily depressed, low energy). A more complex typology of the body and its personality differentiated cyclothymic from schizothymic types in relation to four different classes for body size and shape (ranging from plump or pyknic to athletic). This in turn was related to disease types that affected these people. Another anthropometric means for measurement, defined by W. H. Sheldon, emphasized numerous somatic structure measurements, defining body types ranging from endomorphic (massive stomach/abdominal inner organs), to mesomorphic to ectomorphic (linear, flat, fragile). The temperaments attached to this paradigm of body-mind typology focused on visceral, somatic and cerebral components—behaviors related to each in the then-current psychological teaching. Numerous personality types were defined based on a questionnaire, which in turn were linked to somatic morphology.
Most important to note is the two extremes in philosophy which this belief system presents us with. Physiognomy, an early 16th C. Renaissance belief, and the later early 19th C. philosophy underlying phrenology and similar teachings focused heavily upon physical anthropologic features to define individuals. This physical anthropology belief, once strongly supported by Yale University and other upper echelons in science and medicine, later became the scientific paradigm introducing the study of anthropology and a scientific discipline, not just a sociological, ethnographic discipline. This redefinition of physiognomy into the study of personality typology depicts a cultural belief system which at the time placed important emphases on and assigned high value to predicting individual character types. Important value was assigned to physical world measurements, instead of the other cultural paradigm–psychological ideology and theory. This body-mind interpretation greatly differed from the mind-body interpretations developed just twenty years later.
The Hypothalamus and Stress. Throughout the early twentieth century, mind-body relationships focused more intricately on the role of endocrine systems in disease development and change. With the documentation of sympathetic-like responses related to endocrine tissue (adrenalin), a corporeal equivalent to the ever-important autonomic nervous system was discovered, in essence completing the mindbody physiological connection many physicians had sought out. In 1950, C. Albert Seguin defined psychosomatic phenomena as consequences of a neuro-endocrine response engaging the hypothalamus. Most importantly, Seguin focused on the ability of the mind to convert certain thought patterns into particular pathogenic somatic responses. This “conversion” process in term enabled unconscious dwellings to surface in the body in the form of disease. The long term consequence of such activities, referred to as “the secondary effect,” is the development of common diseases like peptic ulcer, colitis, and hypertension.
Whereas Seguin’s philosophy focused on the influence of the Freudian concept of mind on the central nervous system and body, a more biological interpretation of psychological events was developing as part of an organism-centered homeostasis theory. In particular, the influence of the emotional response to stress became an important center of focus, enabling a highly popular mindbody theory to be published in the early 1960s by Hans Selye. The Stress theory for seemed to balance portions of the early “Great Sympathetic Nerve” theory with those of early twentieth century emotions theories. By focusing on balance–homeostasis-induced health versus pathogen-related, heterostasis-induced disease—Selye’s model enabled numerous somatic features to be incorporated into the paradigm. Aside from mentioning basic common-sense healthy features like nutrition and physical activity, Selye introduces the notion that one emotional response in particular—stress—is very important to being, developing inner and emotional strength, and continued ecological, evolutionary existence. Interestingly, Selye retains some of Sigmund Freud;s old-time thinking, by then nearing its end in modern psychologist training programs. He defines the value of ego and motivation in assisting in one’s physical and mental development. Adaptability of the ego state forms an important part of one’s Selye-defined psychosomatic healing discipline. In essence, one has to learn to live in balance with stress, trading stressors that are healthy for those which are not healthy. By accomplishing this, the adrenal and related adrenalcorticotrophic hormone response “exercise” the body’s life functions both neurochemically and somatochemically.
From Psychosomaticism to Psychoneuroimmunology.
Modern Culture and Disease. Current and past practices have changed little in effect, only in reasoning. Exercise of the mind such as by learning mathematics, and engaging in dance or horseback riding to allay excess physical desires and emotions, were also recommended treatments.
A state of mind
The fact that mental illness diseases are voted into the International Classification of Diseases is strong evidence for the cultural belief system requirement of disease definition and diagnosis. In other words, a disease of a particular type which once existed may no longer exist one or two generations later as an actual entity within ICD due to changes in the biomedical paradigm. For this reason, homosexuality is no longer listed as a sexual disorder, and women no longer suffer “hysteria” as part of their menstrual cycle, but rather can psychologically and culturally develop the syndrome of PMS.
Since there is no absolute means to test for psychiatric diseases, it is highly dependent on cultural definition, i.e. the interpretation of this condition in the eyes of trained physicians.
Transformation of Common Belief. One of the more important lessons we are taught by reviewing this ever-changing regular medical (now biomedical) paradigm is that much of current medicine is practices based on theory and hypothesis. If the theories underlying regular medicine were true, then the most likely cause for disease could be correctly explained, leading to ultimately effective treatment. Past evidence for this portion of the paradigm is the success regular physicians had with eradicating measles and small pox, and reducing or eliminating numerous infectious and pathogenic organism-induced diseases. In such pathologies, cause and effects were well documented, enabling adequate prevention programs to be produced in less than a century for most of these diseases. Diseases for which a cause cannot be assigned, are diagnosed and prognosed based on speculation, observation, hypothesis and theory.
The speculated theory of a physician is the most common form of belief to be passed on, unchanged or moderately changed, from one generation to the next. In many cases, multiple theories and prognoses exist for a given therapeutic paradigm, which sometimes convert to therapeutic programs designed for use based on just a few theories or, better yet, a single theory. The popular uses of herbs demonstrate this type of development in biomedical paradigms.
A single herb typically has a history consisting of a number of uses. This multi-faceted nature of the herb makes it highly likely that something resembling one of these uses, or the organ system related to such a use, will be found to possibly be true. More importantly, since a single herb is studied by multiple pharmacists, a likelihood of discovery of some possible use becomes even more likely to ensue. Adding to this many-to-one/one-to-many issue with valuing the potential of herbal remedies is the likelihood that something of potential value will be found based simply on the sociocultural reaction to such studies. More important than the pharmacological proof for assigning value to an herb is the biomedical culture defined value ascribed to assorted documents detailing the “importance” of this herb in a given pre-biomedical society at a given pre-biomedical time. In other words, the more a given herb has published information about it (anthropological, narrative, ethnographic, phytochemical, etc.), the more likely that herb will become popular and ultimately have the biomedical “proof” for its efficacy unveiled by some pharmacist or plant chemist.
Reliance on chemical reasoning for therapeutic efficacy is a construct primarily of biomedicine. For most historical medicinal uses for plants, earlier paradigms are rewritten in biomedical terms, modifying definitions of how and why a plant works such that it conforms with biomedical reasoning, leaving the researcher with a biomedical “theory.” Such changes in reasoning typically result in transformed belief systems. An early theory which relied upon the four humours or doctrine of signatures to define a given use is changed to a theory with chemical and histopathological reasoning. This reasoning is transformed so that it fits the more acceptable paradigm for the time, no more, no less.
Native American plant medicine use exemplifies this type of herbal medicine history and speculative reasoning attached to such learnings. In Native American philosophy, some illness is due to “invasion of animal spirits.” A plant resembling that animal is defined by the Creator as a cure for such illnesses. In the case of fever and febrile convulsion, snake spirit was a cause—in particular the “spirit” (venom) resulting in convulsions. For this reason, plants with roots or flowers resembling parts of a snake (its head, mouth, fangs, rattling tail, scaled skin, etc. etc.) becomes an important remedy. The use of this plant for treating illness, and the efficacy observed by explorers and colonists, were rewritten in European terms–a humoural theory would be given for why the plant works. With the development of chemistry in the early 1800s, this theory again undergoes change as physicians find chemical reasoning for its efficacy—the chemical becomes attached to the therapeutic reasoning presented.
Modern medicine in turn relies primarily upon the chemical theory to produce their results. In some cases, tannins are defined as a reason for efficacy, even when the concentration of such is insufficient. The use of skullcap to treat epilepsy is a result of modifying the original belief that this snakeroot treated snakebites and tits related convulsions. The muscle pain related to snakebites is how and why black cohosh became a popular remedy; its use has since been modified from treating venom induced muscle spasm, to smooth-muscle induced uterine pain (very recently, pharmacologists have tried to assign value to this reasoning by identifying the compound responsible for such a cure). Regarding the use of the popular plant Plantain to treat boils and abscesses, tannins have been used to explain why Plantain kills germs, even though minimal amounts of tannins exist in the poultice produced with it; in fact the original use for this plant was not to kill bacterium, but rather cause an infection to erupt in a full-blown weeping and cleanable abscess.
In sum, biomedicine excels in the production of theory and hypothesis, with which experimenters construct proofs designed to further support their paradigms, of differentiate (assign further proof) to one theory over another. Both regular medicine (prior to 1980) and biomedicine (since 1980) rely heavily upon theories that serve as support for ongoing current research programs. Many of the underlying hypotheses, theories, and resulting treatments will change in just a few decades. Physicians like to ascribe reasons for such changes by detailing improvements made with the passage of time. Yet, much of the past relied upon medicine that today is considered untrue. Most likely, today’s biomedical paradigms for disease will either remain unproven or modified just a few decades from now.
The Metaphysical/Energy Model.
Unlike the biomedical view of man as a body that has an “invented mind,” the metaphysical interpretation of this relationship follows the paradigm that an individual is, as expressed by Mental Scientist Frederick Bailes (1941), “a mind operating through a body.” Most modern metaphysical interpretations of mindbody accept the findings of science, extending the meaning or adding a cultural interpretation of scientific explanation to support one or more of basic metaphysical claims. Such theories in general involve the use of some form of energy to explain the mind-body interaction, relying on arguments based on the natural laws defined by scientists. In addition, Metaphysicists often go beyond the norm of scientism, developing insights into certain portions of scientific beliefs not completely explained by basic observation. For this reason, metaphysically-defined beliefs, especially any belief related to “spiritualism,” produce further avenues of research for other followers of this “science.” In general, these extensions of the naturalistic, positivist perception produced by science—the metaphysical claims–are considered speculative and not fully proven. Whereas science is often referred to as positivism, metaphysical claims are at best considered “possibilist,” straddling both fields of research in favor of the more naturalistic views of science.
Natural theologians were the first to promote these naturalistic claims. During the seventeenth century, the possibility of a “natural” form of God or “spirit” came to mind when a Dutch physician developed the first condensor—the Leyden’s Jar–a device which could produce and store the “electric force.” For several decades, possible implications and uses for the Leyden Jar became popular topics of discussion. This Leyden Jar for a brief while took its place in the academic hospital setting, but never really gathered much support for its use outside of the United Netherlands. Still, this proof of an invisible force, possibly of value in the development of life itself, gave way to the support and interest in similar philosophies of foreign origin. It is perhaps no coincidence that during this time the Dutch also developed a strong interest in the practice of acupuncture noted by French Jesuit missionaries and the notion of chi being promoted by Oriental practitioners, or that early Quaker philosophy came to be, based on an Divine “heat,” “energy” or “light” based definition for God and God’s place in the simple four-element based universe.
Still, the Leyden Jar alone was not adequate proof for any sort of God-related life force. It did however satisfy a number of new thinkers in religion, science and metaphysics. Most importantly, it led to the development of a number of unique interpretations of the Universe, enabling even the astrologers to become popular again for a brief period of time. By 1660 for example, astrologer crossed over into the religious discipline for a short time, due to the naturalistic argument claiming God’s presentation and proof of being existed throughout nature, even in the stars. During such a time, this enabled Christian Astrology to become popular (its monks residing in the wilderness with telescopes for the reason of gazing at the stars, waiting for Christ to return to Earth by walking down from heaven from one of the stars). Likewise, this public perception of God enabled herbal astrologer Nicolas Culpeper to became popular, interpreting the astrology of herbs as a meaningful message from Heaven designed for interpretation by learned, devote Christian naturalistic followers. Furthermore, scientists were not exempt from being religious due to their arguments with such metaphysical interpretations. Robert Boyle, one of the more important chemists for this time, as he redefined alchemy and the chemistry thoughts attached to such a discipline, remained a devoted Christian not so supporting of the astrologist Christian naturalist communities then forming.
This early mixed discpline, naturalist theologian/pure Christian environment gave way to the development of Protestantism and various reformations thereof, but more importantly set the stage for the development of Christian models of some form of Universal Energy, be that energy truly representative of God or not. This Universal Energy, and proofs thereof that ensued, set the stage for affirming this physical science interpretation of the person, the planet and the universe. An agnostic interpretation of such energy was made possible, as well as the soon to become popular atheistic interpretations of the same.
Franz Anton Mesmer became one of the first highly publicized speakers and writers promoting this ideology, providing evidence for such claims that a Universal form of energy existed. It didn’t matter, however, that Mesmer, along with most scientists, knew little about this energy, except that such a form of force existed. For this reason, Mesmer and scientists tried to develop a theory which unified this energy concept into a God-like universal power present throughout life and all non-living entities. In his explanation of his discovery of this power, Mesmer uses all other paradigms then popular to define this substance. He recognizes its universality and invisibility, but representability in the form of heat (as a humour), true magnetism (our magnetic field theory), static electricity (which he termed magnetism), and early galvanism developed by modifying the Leyden Jar formula. Moreover, since Mesmer was familiar with the ongoing medical dispute about the reason for the existing parts of the nervous system (including brain, nerves, plexus and ganglia), he equated this magnetism with the irritant-stimulant effect of the nerve upon the muscle and within the muscle fiber alone. Whereas typical anatomists like to argue that muscle activity represented a living force, that kept the body moving, the heart pumping, the intestine and uterus contracting, and the blood vessel tight with an adequate flow-inducing pressure, Mesmer’s argument was that these forms of energy, along with the power of sense, vision and other nervous system components existed due to the possession of this universal energy component. Mesmer’s acceptance of the value of a dream-state of consciousness (which he termed a “crisis” state), enabled him to develop a paradigm for the conscious/subconscious state of being, reasoning he assigned to one’s ability to dream and connect to both the past and the future. Mesmer’s description of this “ethereal” state became popular several times during the late 18th century and again during the early nineteenth century as similar arguments formed popular explanations for cure inducible via the use of different metals (the American forceps), the first galvanic device (battery), and ultimately hypnotism.
Most interesting is how this particular history of a universal energy promulgated a number of very distinct belief systems from which alternative medicine philosophies developed. This mesmerism-turned-hypnosis supported the medical beliefs in human psychology and philosophy then developing in regular medicine. The use of a magnet as a curing device, by touching and/or aligning magnets in specific ways about the body, remained popular and developed its own numerous magnetic field-related subdisciplines. This emphasis on metals and the components of a condensor (leyden Jar)-like device detailed by Mesmer several times in his discussions, gave support to the discoveries of the galvanic device about 1796.
Due to such impacts of naturalists’ perspectives on mindbody issues, most metaphysical perspectives are interpretable as healing faiths closely linked to some form of natural theology, with or without a Creator. The typical construct of such a belief begins with observations of natural events, but ends with a different interpretation of its causality. Unlike scientists, metaphysicists do not completely throw out the notion of God. Instead, they interpret God more as a form of universal energy, which has a potential to be or come in contact with. This “god-like” energy may or may not have reason for existence. In fact, any reason for its existence or implied universal order is not really the chief reason people engage in this kind of thinking. Rather, it simply assists these followers in further developing their reasoning about such a belief system.
In essence, there are, two ways metaphysicists interpret the energy responsible for any mindbody link. The ordered universe theory implies reason for existence and preconception (on behalf of some form of creator or reason for creation). At times, such reasoning approaches the notion or determinism, or worse, such as fatalism. For this reason, such a philosophy seems too simplistic or “perfect” to some, giving way to the more popular disordered universe or “chaos” theory of recent decades. More common to modern science and medicine, the chaos theory combines quantum physics arguments with the more tradition non-chaotic arguments. The philosophy is very acceptable to some due to its non-deterministic attitude in combination with theories regarding the option of individual choice. In the least, such a theory means that one’s life may in fact be predetermined, but because it has many avenues to choose from, such avenues may change each time a new choice in guidance and direction is made.
Examples of metaphysical interpretations in medical thinking which focus on mindbody interactions exist as extensions of natural philosophy and/or natural theology. In such settings, God lacks anthropicity, since such a god consists simply of energy. This energy, in turn, is a state of being that is universal or omnipresent, through which some sort of awareness or sensitivity to the complete universe becomes possible once once learns to “read” or sense this energy state. To some, this latter trait in turn represents its own state of omniscience or “potential” for them to tap into.
The metaphysical healers who tap into such “potentials” have numerous ways to define and perceive this natural substance or energy. In the early history of Western medicine, it was represented as the “Vital Force,” an energetic principle related to early interpretations of “nervous force” in Brown’s Theory (Brunonianism) of “excitement” as the cause for illness and disease. Because these energy-based theories defined by metaphysicians often overlap with biomedical models, we find that biomedical models which refuse to take on this concept, instead attach a perspective to it based on their own paradigm, in order to more “properly” define this relationship in an manner in such a way that it becomes acceptable to other practitioners.
During the early 1800s, with the influences of French Reformation, medicine and science, we find this acceptance of metaphysical paradigms approaching the philosophy of former religious leaders. As an example, the acceptance of the use of static electricity to treat particular conditions, like dystrophy and paralysis brought on by infantile fever, came to be an association of energy-based healing with the power of “God” in some more agnostic or atheistic sense. Furthermore, in the United States, a number of important social influences growing in popularity further fed the growth of this new-found paradigm. The introduction of non-religious metaphysical belief systems like those of the Rosicrucians and Ancient Celtics increased public awareness of this “energy”-related metaphysical belief system.
Enabling such a paradigm to more effectively engage the religious following to such a philosophy was the work of Quaker physicians like Shadrach Ricketson during the early 1800s. Fascinated by this possible discovery of a form of “light” representing God, Shadrach Ricketson held in esteem a person’s ability to enabled the soul of the deceased to return to its previous body from the state of “suspended animation” (i.e. by resuscitating and drowning victim), along with the remarkable ability of electric cure devices to make paralyzed muscles twitch as if coming back to life, and people come back to consciousness after a form of shock therapy was provided to them following loss of consciousness or the cessation of the activities of their lungs and heart.
“ELECTRICITY being one of the most powerful stimulants, its effects may be considered both as general and local. It promotes a free circulation of the blood, and increases animal heat and perspiration, as well as all the secretions and excretions of the body. It has been frequently used, of late, both as a preventative and cure of many diseases.
. . . “[I]t has, also, been found of the most effectual means of resuscitating persons apparently dead from drowning, suffocation, and other like causes.” (Ricketson, 1806, p. 265)
Like many Quaker doctors, Ricketson’s interpretations of these “alternative” philosophies about return to life and healing played important political roles in the development of American medicine during these years, facilitating the acceptance of previously unacceptable claims and beliefs in some cases.
Prior to 1800, each time an electrical phenomenon was documented and related to healing, both regular medicine and “irregular” medicine attempt to employ such forms of treatment and “cure.” Several times in the history of science, crossovers between professions occurred when both regular medicine and “quackery” practiced similar treatment methods. During the seventeenth century, for example, the static electric generator was perfected (1750), enabling religious leaders like John Wesley to favor its use for philosophical reasoning. Decades later, during the first half of the nineteenth, as galvanism became popular (Galvani’s discovery was 1797) galvanic devices (necklaces and bracelets) became popular topics proselytized by natural and traditional theologians during the 1840s. For example, Rev. John Bovee Dods, founder of “Electric Psychology,” became highly popular along the east coast between New York and Washington, D.C. as he toured and lectured about the ability of the mind and matter to interact with one another and influence nature in general, due to the “eternal substance” – electricity – and its state of balance or imbalance in the human body. About the same time, his opponent, J. Stanley Grimes, promoted his own reinvention and renaming of Mesmerism—“Electro-Biology.”
Similar followings ensued throughout the middle and late eighteenth century. During the 1870s, the development of Faraday’s circuit (direct current devices) revitalized this interpretation of “electric force,” and again during the late 1880s and early 1890s with the development and perfection of the alternating current-related electrotherapy devices. This notion of electricity helped form the early arguments supporting and promoting late 19th century practices in chiropractic theory (spinal column-parasympathetic energy balance), chiropody, and solar therapy, which with the continuation of mechanical arguments for similar practices, enabled followers to later revert to the more modern physical, mechanotherapeutic arguments in use.
Most importantly, electricity is not the only form of energy metaphysicists were attracted to by the late nineteenth century. Discovery of the X-Ray, Ultraviolet light, Kirlian energy, Auras, and most recently Quantum energy, influenced the development of new forms of healing during this time. Likewise, other cultural theories which had similar philosophical premises became popular, due primarily to their resemblances Western science-based interpretations of a possible universal energy or “vital force.” The most popular medical following for this time was Chinese medicine, based on Chinese concept of chi (for Japanese, qi). Very recently Western paradigms accomplishing much the same argument have become highly popular due to the “subtle energy” concept, which unifies some of these concepts defining the power of the body, life and health. The most popular recent re-interpretations of the metaphysical “mind” engages the concepts of Universal or Quantum Energy into such reasoning. By defining “Mind” as a link to and its effects responses to changes in individual thinking, developers and perpetuators of this theory are able to design new therapeutic programs which make use of such lines of reasoning.
The Homeopathic Mind. It is no coincidence that Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, developed his philosophy of this healing faith during the late 18th century. Since the mid-eighteenth century, physicians argued about the value of vaccinations. Small pox in particular was of great concern to physicians due to the likelihood that vaccinated individuals might come down with a full-fledged small pox infection, and possibly die rather than be simply scarred for life. The development of the vaccination process, in which a pock (scarred inflamed tissue) on the skin is scraped for a substance to be introduced to other non-infected individuals by way of scratch marks, was heavily-argued by practitioners for and against this preventive medical practice. Until the development of the much milder, less infectious vaccination process using the closely related cow pock substance (ca. 1810), vaccination seemed a highly risky process.
Why the vaccination process worked was totally unknown to even the most learned medical professionals. Suspicions included the notion that some material substance was responsible for this form of prevention. Still, with a strong ongoing following of Mesmer’s interpretation of the Universal and biological electricity force, some physicians couldn’t help but conclude that vaccinations worked for much the same reason as many other forms of traditional humoural, electric and even the newly popular mesmeric therapies worked on their patients. Few physicians doubted that some form of energy much like or identical to an “electric” force existed. This concept was easily convertible to energy-related disciplines in which substance or matter was considered of equal to much lesser importance than the healing force at hand. Samuel Hahnemann most likely engaged such reasoning in his evaluation of the validity and efficacy of mesmeric and electric healing claims. These claims, or at least their activities, demonstrated the validity to Mesmer’s argument that even small substances like the bar magnet or piece of Iron bore the an energy potential matching that of a much larger entity—the Universe.
As a result, one can easily imagine Hahnemann’s self-devoted speculation that such reasons why vaccinations worked, could be similar if not identical to why small amounts of medicines may work. The fact that the cause for small pox—as portrayed by the flaked scab used to infect other people—required a seemingly infinitesimal amount to infect the entire body and produce hundreds of scabs on other people suggested to Hahnemann that energy itself was at play in creating the vaccination, not just the material formed by the scab. As a result, by 1820, Hahnemann’s formulated and began strongly promoting his like-treat-like or similibus curantur similis philosophy. Most importantly, the symptomatology of a given condition, like Mesmer had already conjectured decdades before, produced a “crisis state” which not only defined the cause for the illness but also help physicians better understand a patients given unbalanced health state. Such philosophy differed little from the basic teachings of regular medicine to this point in time. For centuries, regular physicians argued imbalance as a cause for disease, although not involving energy states in the body or its substances but rather an imbalance of the humours. To treat an illness, Hahnemann suggested a physician give the patient substances which cause the symptoms of disease to further present in their entirety, to such an extent that the disease along with these symptoms rapidly dissipate.
Hahnemann’s original hypothesis focused on concepts similar to if not derived directly from Mesmer’s philosophy. For decades, these ways of treatment remained focused on physical substance bearing strongly innate powers, even when these medicines are taken in small amounts. This philosophy was strengthened by the 1840s by the popularization of Swedenborg’s writings. Familiar to the religious world by 1825, the 1830s enabled Swedenborg’s teachings to penetrate the United States population of readers. The simultaneous introduction of Homeopathy by German immigrants to German communities in Pennsylvania and New York enabled the more learned physicians to realize the similarities between earlier humour and vital force teachings, mesmerism, and the now-popular Hahnemannian claims. Still more important were Swedenborg’s writings on angels and powers residing in particular body tissues or parts. A simple modification of such a hypothesis was easily argued by devoted Hahnemannians. As a result, homeopathy became a very popular healing faith in the eastern states, especially in communities where non-denominational Swedenborgian “churches” were forming.
The concept of “mind” in Swedenborgianism, like the “mind” is Hahnemannianism, remained unexplained, even during these popular years. Still, the notion of a spirit-like entity was most important to the formation and continuation of these two highly popular disciplines. Whereas Swedenborgianism has since developed more fully as a philosophical system, reminiscent of and supplementary to individual spiritual and theosophical followings, homeopathy became one of the most important and politically efficient forms of “irregular” medical thinking by the 1850s. Homeopathic institutes quickly outnumbers regular medical schools in many cities. Their graduates replaced, supplemented, and complemented all of the “regular doctors.” Most indicative of this rapidly growing success of this spiritual (energy-related) healing field was its ability to successfully establish a national association in 1846, forcing regular doctors to once again attempt to produce a national medical association (now the AMA), which finally succeeded in 1848.
The social and professional values attributed to beliefs in homeopathy grew further with each discovery of a new healing force during the decades to come, for example other proofs and forms of electrical biology, such as nerve conduction, the development of the faraday circuit, more effective studies of magnetism, the development of the electric field, the invention of the x-ray emitter, and the documentation of the nervous activities with the heart and brain). Equally significant were the attempts to retain the political and economic connections developed over the decades between medicine and religion, by way of forming religiously-funded hospital and medical school training programs. It is no coincidence perhaps that a typical medical school set-up in Portland during the 1880s consisted of regular and “irregular” medical wards. The Good Samaritan Hospital strongly supported the homeopathic doctrines, arguing with its regular doctors on one occasion, resulting in their expulsion from the hospital and teaching/dissection labs, forcing these regular to finish their training in their competitor’s teaching hospital, where “electrotherapy” was taught and heavily promoted rather than homeopathy.
It was perhaps no coincidence that Oregon’s homeopathic school was supported heavily by a Good Samaritan nunnery and nursing school. The largest number of Christian Scientists resided in its immediate neighborhood, where their largest Church and school was raised. This formed an interesting community in the Northwest part of this city, where metaphysics played an important role in the healing process. This homeopathic institute made a brief attempt to relocate in the allopathic-rich community of downtown Portland, to no avail. This ultimately led to their removal across the river, at the border of North and Northeast Portland.
This continuation of faith in the value of spiritual healing practices by Oregonians remained apparent for decades. The closure of homeopathy as a board-directed state-sponsored form of healing occurred in 1933, with the closure of a Portland, Oregon homeopathic hospital. Between 1895 and 1935, repeated efforts were made to overpower the politics of spiritual medicine in Portland, Oregon, efforts made primarily by American Medical Association authors engaged in lecture circuits and Oregon physicians more supportive of the allopathic regimens and their underlying philosophies and therapeutic claims or beliefs. During such a period of intellectual disputes, the notion of mind took a back seat to politics, the revival of mechanotherapy, and the redefinition of spiritual-like beliefs as physical therapeutic beliefs, i.e. the once-popular “electromagnetic” field therapies of chiropractics became mechanotherapeutic, anatomical based arguments. As noted earlier, this focus on the physical constructs of patients—the body-mind relationship—enabled old philosophical constructs like physiognomy and phrenology to re-emerge as psychological “typology.”
Oriental Chi and Energy as Mind. As a spiritual, non-theological argument, we find many current popular healing faiths defining their systems based solely on universal energy. During the 1940s, German practitioner Reinhard Voll interpreted the Oriental concept of chi as analogous to, if not identical to, bioelectric fields of the human body. Using ohmmeters to measure electrical conductivity within body tissues, he tried to demonstrate proof that this form of electricity tended to travel along certain channels analogous to the acupuncture meridians, with acupuncture points representing places where this energy flowed onto or next to the body’s surface. With this argument, the philosophy of “electroacupuncture according to Voll” (EAV) developed, a philosophy similar if not identical to those of “electrodermal screening” (EDS) and “bioelectrotherapy.” An additional offshoot of this philosophical-medical argument, focused more on the mental aspects of illness, defining the “Thought Field Therapy” discipline (Goldenberg 2002).
A more theosophical approach to this philosophy involves arguments favoring religious-based metaphysical practices. Touch Therapists for example mimic the laying of hands of the Bible, but use subtle energy theory to provide reason for the ability of such a healer to cause or lead to “healings.” Believers in Distance or Non-Local Healing through prayer conceptualize prayer as a form of energy capable of interacting with universal energy or state of being, this influence in turn resulting in a “healing response” experienced on behalf of the recipient. The whirling practiced by Sufis and Speaking in Tongues by Pentecostals represent different forms of displaying one’s interaction with this metaphysical power, producing a state of mysticism and ecstasy capable of reducing or eliminating all sorts of body and mind problems brought on by lack of the interconnectivity of each with each other, the soul, and the Universe. Likewise, the practice of Kabbalism, to some Jewish groups, represents a form of agnostic- or atheistic-universal energy based healing therapy.
Even more esoteric variations on this energy-related view of the human body include the focus on DNA-related chemical energy fields, arguing that DNA memory is not just elemental or molecular-based, but also electromagnetic field based, that field formed by the array of nucleic acids (and proteins?) definitive of a human cell’s genome. For this reason, cell-related memory and the notion of connectivity with much more broadly dispersed universal powers typically forms an important part of these types of living beliefs. In this case, mind is a memory and energy depicted by a substances molecular and elementary existence. Even sub-atomic particles and energies play important roles in the development of these paradigms.
The paradigms these molecular and sub-molecular philosophical arguments result in are definitive of some of the most popular religious-like metaphysical paradigm currently existing. Agnostic and atheistic, or better stated scientistic metaphysical healers and teachings include the quantum energy/quantum theology theorists. These writers define their construct of God and/or the God image relying upon energy-based physical forms. For this reason, disciplines in distant healing exist, and even the most atheistic, Hinduists and atomists, become attracted to such a discipline. For such reasons, the once-primarily religious laying-on-of-hands concept has become converted to more agnostic, scientific paradigms like energy-field and Universal energy-related practices, in which the therapeutic touch healer serves as a conduction or communicator (intermediary) for such powers, energy and stored up life force potentials. Likewise, the notion of prayer cure becomes possible because its initiators (the prayer-giver(s) and recipient) and intermediary (a power or energy in the God-like Universe) take advantage of this “subtle” (yet unproven) power or energy.
Metaphysical models fall short of religion in that they avoid humanizing the “god” concept. In general, followers of these models focus on universal energy concepts and their ability to tap into this energy, attributes which many such practitioners try to relate back to Mesmer’s first writings and the Oriental notion of chi. More importantly, metaphysical practices enable scientism to continue to present itself throughout the professional practice. Science in part provides the reasons needed to argue any unbelievable claims. In sum, science alone cannot explain metaphysical medicine, but rather, unknown or as-of-yet undiscovered reasons exist to explain certain parts of this discipline. Since these reasons approach scientific reasoning, such followers “ground” themselves and their claims based on these paradigms.
The Spiritual/Religious Model
Belief in spirit and soul are an important part of the earliest history of hominids. The ability to understand and design one’s own philosophy about this possibility has for millenia been considered the indicator of humanity, the defining difference between man, other animals, plants, and immaterial objects. Spirit and soul are distinctly different concepts. Yet, each is closely related to the other in traditional philosophy. The place of mind in such philosophical paradigms can vary just as much. To many, mind is situated somewhere between body and soul, either as a source of connection between these two components, or as a link to another state of being which in turn connects the human soul with the corresponding spirit and body.
The relationship between mind and emotions is different. Mind produces, portrays and understands the meaning of emotion. But since animals are also known to exhibit emotional behaviors, this connection itself is considered an essential part of the living animal as well. For further definition of life’s differences, emotions are not popularly viewed as definitive of plants.
Mind in mankind differs from mind in animals in that it exists as a summation of all knowledge and a certain form of wisdom, which only humans possess. Whereas the animal mind possesses knowledge based on instinct and experience, the mind of humans also possesses a sense of intuition, imagination, wisdom, and the ability to sensibly combine these concepts in order to more fully understand concepts few if any animals mentally and cognitively produce. Due to all this unique feature of the human mind, mind is arguably distinct and different from the brain. One’s mind is not a simple summation of thoughts and beliefs. It is not the total thought processes an individual experiences. Rather, mind exists as a holistic, comprehensive part of the human being which other human beings lack full awareness, connection to, and knowledge of. In other words, people may store identical data in the individual’s brain. How the mind perceives this data and reacts to it differs from one individual to the next, in both time and space. The same individual, experiencing the same input, at different times, will most likely not react to that same stimulus in an identical fashion. Likewise, the same experience in a different place, will not produce the same results. More importantly, these same predictions hold true for how individuals who were once physically-identical people (identical twins) react to the same stimulus. Identical in the womb, when they come out, differences in reaction to the surrounding environment will and must exist, not because each brain is different, but because each mind is different. These differences may exist due to development (therefore physical) differences in tissues, or subcomponents of the two nervous systems. More often, as time progresses, knowledge and reaction to this knowledge of the experience—activities definitive of mind—are responsible for these differences.
Such differences between identical twins are noticeable from the beginning of their extrauterine life. These differences exist due to personal reactions to identical life features (a cradle or two that seem identical to each other). This suggests that an important non-genetic, non-corporeal aspect of living behavior and reaction to stimuli exists. In other words, decisions and actions taken in life are based on something other than just the Pavlovian stimuli they grow up with, an ideology popular to scientific reasoning of the mind as a simply the mechanism of the brain. For this reason, it can be argued that something exist in the body which is unique to that body, so unique that even though it has an identical counterpart, its forms just one unique individual, who in spite of identical genes, has a unique understanding, will, and reactivity to events transpiring in life. In other words, each of the identical individuals has a unique “mind.”
What does such a mind consist of? What are its stimuli? Naturally (or environmentally) occuring stimuli alone cannot result in the manufacture of a pair of identical organisms. The stimuli for this mind are the activities that are not measured by regular science. They are cognitive based stimuli, beliefs and actualities, which together impact the decision making process which the underlying physical structure—the brain and is emotional limbic system—engage in.
How does this kind of mind react to spirit, essence, or both? Spirit is some form of non-physical entity or condition related to the body of an individual. Essence is merely the smallest, identical substance representing its whole, in such a concentration (either small “volume” but dense, or small quantity by equivalent to the entire being it represents). Essence can be explained as a being that represents its much larger entity. Spirit is something which in non-material but existing either in concept or in a form that we produce based on our understanding of such a concept. Mind, due to its sense of reasoning and cognition, is capable of connecting to both entity and spirit, the latter more subliminally however. Mind understands an individual’s comprehension of things, and projects from that new meaning. Mind adds spirit to its equation for reasoning in order fill in for the missing links of information, knowledge which imagination produced based on incoming knowledge and stimuli.
So, with this interpretation of mind comes a paradigm common to many spiritualists and religiophiles. Both of these belief systems/paradigms construct their reasoning based on reasoning and imagination. Imagination can in fact be quite foreseeing and productive. Other times, that which is imagined is simply non-existent, except as a thought which we understand as possibly true. Imagination and creation are both essential components for the production of a paradigm. Imagination also allows for a paradigm to propagate from one person to the next. Mind is the way the brain holds this “imagined” knowledge in some form of near-permanent storage. Minds interconnect when two or more people, each with their own minds, agree to a particular paradigm because it matches their understanding of things (their knowledge).
The mind of a medicine person consummates his/her training in medicine. It is stored in a mind which produces concepts to fill in for missing spaces in the line of reasoning. The mind of a pastor works much the same way. The pastor’s understanding of life and existence is quite different from that in possession of a medical person. But like the medic, the pastor stores his/her knowledge in some form of mind-set. The reaction he/she takes to this knowledge is in turn wisdom, when it goes beyond the already learned concepts. Like the wisdom of a physician, who comes upon a new way to perform the surgery or assess the patient’s symptoms, the wisdom of a theologian or spiritualist relies upon knowledge, insight and experience to draw a new, creative conclusion. Both individuals produce a real explanation for something each relies strongly upon theoretical reasoning to explain. Both are truths to themselves, although not necessarily to each other. Which one of the two becomes accepted as “truth” by the recipient of this knowledge (their patient), is capable of producing the best outcome for that individual—for one mind is in agreement with the other concerning the most appropriate actions to take, based on knowledge and experience of both intellectual domains.
Still, this argument of “mind” does not fully argue a reason to accept “spirit,” except as the result of some sort of imagination used to fill in the missing parts of some logical explanation. We see “spirit” or something akin to spirit contained in organisms which is responsible for their individuality, ability to react differently to an identical stimulus because of their uniqueness (like flying butterflies all reacting to the same net swashed at them by a child). Were this unique being able to imagine, we might wish to conclude that it has a “mind.” Instead, many philosophers turn to spirit to give cause for this phenomenon. Since each butterfly has a different “spirit” or representation of animal spirit, each reacts in its own unique way to the stimulus.
This interpretation of spirit as substance possessed by non-human entities represents a basic theme rooted in most versions of natural philosophy and natural theology published. Some forms of natural theology allow “spirit” to be assigned to non-living entities, like rocks, water and even geographical features. Others retain this mention of spirit as related to a pre-defining living thing like and plant or animal. Mesmer defined this spirit (without really calling it such) as a form of omnipresent energy, in different forms defined by the substance in which it exist.
Another interpretation of spirit gives spirit a more human-like quality, like the contemporary Western view of angels and archangels. Yet another interpretation bridges the gap between definable substance and being. Interpretations of spirits as energetic beings, represented in human-like form for reasons of clarity and understanding, is common to many of the more common religious philosophies. Yet many paradigms have existed in the past which enable these spirits to be explained as some variation on an energy-form of existence, or perhaps a form of existence typical only of another “dimension” or state of being. Spiritual and Religious philosophies bridge the gap between metaphysics and philosophy/religion by defining a humanistic aspect of the spiritual being or state, assigning that spirit its own ability to make decisions and take logical steps or actions. In the metaphysical philosophy, spirit is nothing more than a simple omnipresent form of energy, which one can tap into and make use of. In Spiritual/Religious healing faiths, that spirit has a purpose and engages in purposeful movements or activities. Its omnipresence is indicated by its presence in people, past people, non-human beings (angels, etc.), and perhaps animals, plants, stones, etc.
A very popular interpretation of such omnipresence is discussed time and time again by historians as a product of witches, alchemists, and scientists who believed each substance in nature had a spirit (there are also those who are simply metaphysicians, without human quality assigned to those spirits). This pantheistic interpretation of creation and the Creator is common to natural theologians. If those individuals assign each object and individual as containing that being or entity within as part of some universal being or form of energy, religious scholars interpret them as panentheists (global or universal, and within).
Seventeenth century chemist and alchemist (typically part of any 17th century study) Paracelsus not only believed in “Universal Energy,” different forms of energy possessed by different things, and “sympathetic forces,” but also believed in angel-like “elemental creatures” or spiritual beings living in a way and form different than animals and man, representing and resulting in the actions and activities of the basic universal substances, namely water (nymphs), earth (sylphs), air (pygmies) and fire (salamanders). These beings exist, become visible and interact with us for reasons preconceived by “God.” Paracelsus’s interpretation of these beings is much like the angels and their roles conceptualized by Swedish Scientist and Philosopher Emmanuel Swedenborg. In his discussions with these “angels” from another world (dimension), Swedenborg learned that each part of the body he learned about during his anatomy and physiology classes had representative angels guarding over their health and activities. He in turn defined ways to alleviate illness by means of interacting with these angels within. A Westernization of this theological interpretation of how to heal oneself may be re-written by contemporary scientists, physicians, and healers as some variation on their body-mind interaction, in which the mind and brain look to the area of need (i.e. through biofeedback and visual imagery), imagining the destruction of the ill-fated substances, tissues, or organs by some other being or object (i.e. the eating of cancer tissue by a crab, or more accurately, immune cell). One’s mind and mindset enable such steps to occur, in turn allowing a much-needed reaction to ensue, such as the healing of an illness, be it by way of a nymph, angel or self-directed immune cell.
Whereas natural theologians often assign “God” a less-than-human quality, other theological/spiritual interpreters are quite relaxed with the notion of enabling the human-like being of God to exist. For these people, the mind’s influence upon the body exists due to the individual mind interacting with the “Universal Mind,” “God’s Mind,” or “Collective Consciousness.” Recall, each individual mind is its own entity, which in turn due to its non-physical existence, is capable of interacting with others of its kind. However, this interaction is limited to connectivity with a “higher power” or entity of existence. In this paradigm it is very difficult, if not impossible, for individual human minds to interact with each other (a paradigm lacking from those of metaphysicians). This limit is posed philosophically with the argument that a “greater mind” chooses to accept or refuse this form of interconnectivity for the individual mind. This argument also interprets the individual mind as part of a greater whole. This holistic of “Universal Mind” in turn assigns external controllability, but prevents fatalism from creeping in by suggesting that one is in the end ultimately responsible for his/her fate.
There are certain limits religious advocates assign to particular mind-body relations believed to exist by other mindbody thinkers. In particular, the religious therapist has a tendency at times to wish to denounce particular beliefs. Traditional theologians interpret some mindbody interpretations and interpretations of demonic form or similar not-so-healthy living practices this is especially true for Christianity). In essence, the humanization of particular parts of the religious experience (by adding a focus on human and extrahuman features and conditions, like those of Jesus Christ) gives reason for particular followings to condemn features already labeled improper by prior writings. Further, Christians who interpret the traditional writings as parables, become more open to the alternative interpretations of how to perform Christian healing or employ “God’s Power” or “Jesus’s Power” in this process. Even later Christian faiths learned to assimilate these new findings even more (just like the traditional Christians have come to accept the theory of evolution and fossilized non-Eden animal findings). They did this by redefining God’s Powers further and one’s ability to make use of these powers. The New Thought Christian movement combined certain parts of the mesmeric/hypnotism philosophy with Jesus’s activities and their outcomes. Mary Baker Eddy, a Phineas Quimby-trained hypnotist, eliminated the need for a hypnotist to heal one’s self, eliciting healing by way of self-hypnosis or what she came to define as a change in mind-set.
Other recent Christian faith-healing followings take a semi-traditional approach, reinterpreting the Bible in some newly defined way. These faith-groups seem to like to modify classical beliefs. With the elimination of humours and physiognomy theories by biomedical doctors came the development of a Christian physiognomic theory popularly taught to missionary healers. In this philosophy, four types of people are defined (phlegmatic, cholic, melancholic, sanguine) and four matching physiognomonic (especially facial) features. This philosophy in turn is taught to individuals as a means to develop their first impression, not necessarily as a means to define what diseases exist or have to be cured. More importantly, this methodology is used to define character type, serving as a form of psychotherapeutic analysis akin to the Meyer-Briggs scale and the like.
More traditional Christian religious health educators and care providers try to fit in with the Western biomedical practice paradigm. They view their purpose as an extension of the roles of other health assistants, ranging from physicians and nurses to therapists and technicians. For this reason, they add to the value of regular biomedical practices, instead of replacing it. However, one additional outcome of this philosophy is the reduction in value assigned to various other forms of complementary/alternative medicine. Like the traditionalists noted earlier, they often view such practices as naturopathy, herbalism, chiropractics, and iridology as ineffective and risky.
Overall, this last group’s concept of mind remains unclear at times. Mind is sometimes looked upon as nothing more than a humanistic interpretation of the brain, which assigns meaning to the human brain in order to differentiate us more from other life forms in “the Garden of Eden.” Other times, they accept the concept of mind as a way of connecting with “God” or the like. This “God” in turn may exist as traditional writings teach, or as the Existentialist and Logotherapist interpret It to exist, that is as some form of Being (Moses’s I Am or Abraham Maslow’s Thou), due to which, we live to make sense of life and find reason for each of our experiences.
The Search for Meaning
Why consider using this model of differentiating between healing faiths?
Whenever disagreements ensue between individuals and groups of people adhering to different beliefs, perpetuators of these arguments tend to polarize towards one of these three constructs. These three basic philosophical pathways have a long history in the development of human civilization. If we assume that religion developed at first from the natural theological perspective, we find the subsequent development of more humanized versions of religious philosophy demonstrates just how this sense of God and Diety become more anthropomorphic and humanistic. From this naturalist perspective it is easy to argue a way in which the development of paganism ensued, for example—the forces of nature are interpreted in imaginative ways since so little is known about these forces. Likewise the humanization of these “paganistic” interpretations give way to other natural theological arguments , like agnosticism and atheism and similar products of the biomedical model of mind and spirit. Other more traditional philosophies continue to surface as well, like the universal energy or Chi-based principles of Confucianism and the counterarguments defined by Hinduism and Buddhism. The personification of “God” by way of Judeo-Christian and Islamic philosophies demonstrated another tract such philosophies tend to follow. With the increase in human understanding of life, life’s purpose (or lack thereof) and the importance of human interactions, the definition of a human “God” becomes alluring. Finally, due to the development of scientism, a number of scientific principles or laws interfere with some of these religious principles, enabling some of the more popular metaphysical beliefs to form in particular societies.
If we assume for the moment that all of these paradigms bear meaning, purpose and “truth”, another paradigm can be formed which defines purpose and relevancy for all three of these paradigms important to human evolution and survival. Like the dominant Mendelian genotype, variety prevents extinction of both living beings and the knowledge and experiences possessed by these beings. This Neo-Darwinian interpretation of religion serves to avoid laying blame on any form of healing faith. More importantly, it demonstrates the possibility that some sort of equality exists regarding the values and social purpose of followers of these paradigms. Were it not for this variety in living beings, our fullest understanding and ability to correlate this knowledge would not exist.
A sociological systems model of the three interpretations of the mind in respect to spirit and body can be argued. This model is based on a definition of “mind” as interactions between people and groups of people—the mind of a given community or cultural system. In this mind-set, individual beliefs exist and interact within individuals, between individuals and between groups of similar thinkers within a given community. With respect to the value of such a mind-body model in medicine, this sociocultural mind model applies certain principles from one faith for the purpose of improving all other faiths. More importantly, since all faiths are, in theory, equal in power and ability in any given human setting, each has the ability to promote growth and development of the social system (society) as a whole. Other cultural knowledge, in essence, is considered as valuable as the knowledge and cultural attitudes promoted and portrayed by the politically and socioeconomically ruling practice of biomedicine. For this reason, religion, spirituality and the products of the electrochemical, mechanistic brain each play important roles in medicine that have to be allowed to fully interact with each other.
Most illustrative of this paradigm of the mind is the neural networking model often used by sociologists to define human interactions and assign meaning to each of these interactions. In this model, it is assumed a patient who is ill requires the best treatment, not just the best biomedical treatment, but also the best social and cultural treatment. The physiological mind-body relations defined by biomedicine provide a long history of reasoning as to why such an approach would be healthy to the human body; the biomedical focus on this paradigm also eliminates any possibility that other reasons for healing may take place. On the other hand, the metaphysical model provides insight into other reasons potentially important to a given individual, insights biomedicine cannot and does not typically provide. Likewise, the spiritual-religious model of human interaction provides much needed community support, a social component of medicine often missing or not at its best in the one-on-one, and often one-to-many (one-illness/many theories) interpretation of illness definitive of biomedical practice.
One of the better examples of an event that depicts the differences in these two groups is the notion of a “miracle.” Depending on the mindset of the observers and individuals experiencing such an event, one or more theories can be posed for a miracle experience. In this sociocultural model, it is assumed each theory is equally correct, especially those which are meaningful to the recipient. Since the individual’s mind in effect defines how such an event can be interpreted and influential on his/her life for years to come, differences between biomedicine, metaphysical medicine and spiritual/theological medicine enable validity and meaning for such experiences to become more clearly defined, through whatever route possible.
In regard to “miracles,” biomedicine is considered the standard of medicine, and is based on a system of beliefs that is forever changing due to its lack of total understanding. Nevertheless, biomedicine states that only natural law may explain how and why a given inexplicable healing event happens. Metaphysicians add to the biomedical science paradigm by extending biomedical reasoning to include alternative arguments for the same. Natural Spiritualists and theologians assign human-based, mankind-centered reasoning to healing activities not explainable through biomedicine. Each has their own interpretation of how “miracles” happen. In addition, as time passes, a particular miraculous event may be assigned different reasons for its happening. Most importantly, the scientific validity of such an event happening often becomes the focus of explanations. How the theory for such an event changes with time teaches us how and why particular healing faiths become scientifically valid and part of biomedicine, whereas others remain distanced from traditional biomedical and pastoral counseling practice.
The experience of personality disorders provide still more examples of the impact of cultural definitions on an individual labeled “ill” in the Western biomedical model. One of the most important authors of the metaphysical world, Emmanuel Swedenborg, suffered schizophrenia according to the Western paradigm. However, this would not be Swedenborg’s own interpretation of his meaningful experiences, since they consisted primarily of conversing with angels. Followers of the Spiritual/Religious paradigm would take this claim most seriously, in spite of begrudging agnostic or atheistic late seventeenth/early nineteenth century physicians. Most recently, followers of the metaphysical world and its paradigms tend towards assigning some sort of quantum energy, timeless healing principle to their explanation for this health-related process. Swedenborg lived a fairly long life, without suffering a dissociation from community typical of schizophrenics raised under the Western biomedical paradigm.
To the Alaskan Inuit and Navajo Indian, epilepsy has a positive influence on life. In the case of Inuit culture, their own cultural variation of epilepsy is best defined as pibloktoq, a condition outgrown by most of its shamans-to-be. To the Navajo Indian, epilepsy represented an illness absent of Western criticism until attempted assimilation created problems during the middle twentieth century. This illness once defined the steeping stone towards their own form of shamanism, a perception of the condition which changed as Western philosophy began to influence parent’s reactions to the diagnosis by Western biomedical physicians.
Even the Western field of medicine has its own culturally-defined flaws in interpreting the condition of epilepsy. Hippocrates defined epilepsy as a condition induced by natural causes, opposing the popular theory blaming seizures on demon possession. As the meaning and values assigned to this natural condition changed, so to did popular social interpretation of the condition. By the eighteenth century, European physicians held beliefs opposing those of the missionaries and reverends, assigning natural causes based on speculation of body condition and vital force-like features. During the late eighteenth century, Mesmer defined this condition as a “crisis” in need of resolution.
Still, as Western medical knowledge changed during the nineteenth century, so too did the definition of epilepsy changed and its cultural meaning. A mid-nineteenth century neurologist, J. Russell Reynolds, once wrote about seizures as problem growing in incidence and complexity, in some ways a condition developing in parallel with the development of the American allopathic medical system. With further delineation of mental diseases into new paradigms greatly different from the old interpretation of mental illness as either “mania” and “passion,” we find interpretations of epilepsy as either the cause for creativity and imagination, or personality destruction and death. Since then, the second cultural paradigm of epilepsy has strengthened its position in this biomedical definition and interpretation of the seizure phenomenon. Such cultural reasoning in turn gives reason for the social and medical treatments of this condition still in existence. Most importantly, this present biomedically-defined cultural interpretation of epilepsy is simply a paradigm conflicting with other paradigms about the same state of “crisis” and being. Counterarguments to this paradigm, no longer popularized by Western biomedicine, include Roger Barois’s Les epileptiques de genie dans l’histoire et la litterature (Paris, 1922), and John Ernst Bryant’s Genius and Epilepsy. (Concord, Mass., 1953).
Is a given illness a delusion of members of one’s own sociocultural setting? Is it a delusion of self along with attached limitations and goals?
The definition of a given living state is primarily defined by our interpretations of such experiences. From these experiences (i.e. experimental observations made by experts and physicians), conclusions are drawn based solely on contemporary belief systems. Throughout history, belief systems change, as do perceived causes for illness and wellness states of being. Physical states of illness, once an obvious cause is deduced, can be reduced in severity and perhaps even cured. Physical states for which explanations are lacking, as well as non-physical states of illness, have yet to be explained by a single medical paradigm. When biomedicine cannot explain the cause for an illness, cures become wanting. For this reason, other cultural paradigms and avenues need to be taken to develop a broader understanding of a given medical condition. Along the way, such an approach to determining options and defining possible approaches and outcomes may enable a simple biomedical version of the mindbody healing process to ensue. Yet another positive outcome may ensue if non-biomedical options are explored as well. Since individuals, people and communities (cultures) have their own distinct minds or mind-like systems, more support comes from exploring such post-diagnostic avenues.
The mind in mindbody simply refers to one’s individual assignment of the meaning to actions being taken when in crisis or “ill.” Understanding the different interpretations of mind enables mind to produce a unique outcome, which only the self possesses the potential for. Such potentials overlap at times. When other cultures become part of the therapeutic reasoning, supporting systems may be found enabling a unique individual to explore possible outcomes that a single culture or cultural paradigm alone prevents from ever happening.
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