Articles - Deb > Healing and Wellness
How to Get Well and Stay That Way
New Thought began with a nineteenth-century search for healing. Medical professionals and methods for the most part killed as many as they cured, and hurting people were hungry for more lasting, more effective, spiritually-based answers. The Renaissance/Reformation and the rise of science, while freeing people from the thrall of dogmatic religious beliefs and questionable philosophical underpinnings, was equally unbalanced in the opposite direction. Science and its laws, however poorly understood or applied, became an object of worship, a system of beliefs that brooked no opposition, allowed no room for alternative explanations or approaches.
Maine clockmaker and inventor Phineas Parkhurst Quimby had an alert, open, scientifically inclined mind. His lack of formal schooling was a blessing in disguise, for it freed him from the prejudiced thinking of the professionals whom he referred to as "priests and doctors", those who had implanted in Quimby’s patients the toxic ideas that had led to their various illnesses.
Quimby became interested in mesmerism, which was the latest scientific wrinkle of the day and which eventually led to the serious science of clinical hypnosis. He quickly found that his approach was healing people of a range of ailments, and he also realized that the explanation of mesmerism that he had been given was erroneous. In a nutshell, he attributed his success as a healer to "mind acting upon mind". In his professional career he healed some 12,000 patients of physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments. He could be said to have been the first practitioner of complementary medicine, assisting a physician in the removal of a needle from a woman’s arm by the use of mesmerism (hypnosis) instead of an anaesthetic. He believed that he had rediscovered the lost healing methods of Jesus. His writings are often difficult to read because he lacked the vocabulary to describe clearly what he was talking about, but the evidence of the power of his findings survives, despite numerous efforts to discredit him or his work.
Quimby did not seek to found a movement, whether for healing or for spirituality. The only student interested in carrying on his healing work was one whom he distrusted and restrained from working during his lifetime. After his death, which she lamented while praising him for healing her and others, she published his work, charging large sums of money for it; then gradually replaced more and more of it with her own ideas and distorted metaphysical teachings. Her dissident students, along with a few other Quimby patients, formed what later became known as the New Thought movement.
The movement quickly expanded to include prosperity teachings as well as healing of body, mind, and relationships. However, like so many other movements, the farther it got from its founders, the more diluted its teachings became and the rarer the seemingly miraculous healings it led to. Today, much of what one reads in publications from various branches of New Thought (the main ones being Divine Science, Unity, and Religious Science/Science of Mind) is of successful outcomes of some conventional medical treatment. Desirable though this may be, it is second best: illness manifests in the body only after a long period of incubation in the mind, where it is more easily remedied. New Thought serves us best by prevention rather than by remediation: yes, God mediates, but God also orchestrates; God offers us perfect possibilities tailor-made for us in each moment of our existence.
Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore once stated flatly that poverty was a sin (from a Greek word that means missing the mark). He could just as well have said the same thing about illness. God wills for all of us to be well, or to be healed if we have somehow departed from wellness. Fillmore himself demonstrated an incredible amount of healing from a tubercular hip that had resulted from a skating accident in childhood, and his wife Myrtle, was healed of what was thought to be hereditary tuberculosis. These healings occurred through their use of the New Thought practices of denial and affirmation on a daily basis, coupled with visualization and—the one thing most New Thoughters tend to neglect—daily living in accord with principles of wellness: wholesome food and water, exercise, rest, and contact with God through some sort of meditation technique.
Most important of all, the Fillmores, Quimby (who had had his own health challenges to overcome), Malinda Cramer, Nona Brooks, Emilie Cady, and other early New Thoughters had one thing in common: they all sincerely wanted to be healed. Illness almost always brings some sort of secondary gain: attention, love, avoidance of some hated task or situation. High-level, enduring wellness must become more important to the sufferer than these other gains, important enough to motivate him or her to do the work in mind and of body that leads to healing, or even lasting cure. Too many people pay the doctor or other healer, then fail to change the old habits or adopt the new habits of mind and body that lead to wellness. You can’t expect the doctor to do the exercises or give up junk food or think only positive thoughts, and get well yourself; it doesn’t work that way! "If it’s going to be, it’s up to me."
It’s also important to persevere; you probably didn’t get sick overnight, and it takes a while to reverse the damage done to the physical body. Seemingly instantaneous cures are usually the result of a long period of work in mind and on body, or they do not last. In the famous story of the healing of the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda, Jesus first asks the man, "Wilt thou be made whole?" In other words, do you sincerely want to be healed? The man instantly started whining and making excuses for his illness. Jesus simply said, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." The man was healed immediately, took up his pallet, and walked. Later, Jesus found him in the temple, and told him, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." For the cure to be permanent, the patient must change his mind and keep it changed.
We have made amazing strides in medical science and in psychology, but it all boils down to these simple first-century principles. We must be sincerely looking for healing and willing to do what is necessary to create and sustain it, with God’s help. God is always willing our highest good, but we must accept it by doing our part.