Do you carry a chestnut or a potato in your pocket, or wear a special ring upon your finger to ward off rheumatism? Thousands of people—vastly more than are willing to admit it—do these and similar things, having a greater or less belief in their efficacy. And no matter how absurd, they have just as much power for good as belief bestows upon them.
Common report and the testimony of others who have received benefit from unusual things awaken some degree of faith, expectation and mysticism. Without stopping to inquire how the result comes, we pocket the chestnut or potato, or wear the ring, and expect an improvement, and it often follows. Rub a wart with a split bean or pea, and throw the same away, and upon its decay the wart will disappear—if you expect such a result; and thousands have had such an experience, especially during the years of childhood.
It would be absurd to believe seriously that such remedies, in and of themselves, exert any healing influence. Probably no intelligent person will claim any direct chemical or medicinal action or physical influence whatever in such cases, to change or heal the disordered conditions of body.
But looking back at some of the amusing and grotesque remedies of the past, we find that the illustrations already mentioned are only faint survivals and imitations of what has been. Let us note a few of the immense variety of panaceas which at one time or another have been accepted and faithfully used in their turn.
Doubtless the faith involved, or rather the thought of the halter and its history, often entirely displaced the thought of pain, and so the disorder was forgotten. Here is another: "Moss growing upon a human skull, if dried and powdered and taken as a snuff, is no less efficacious."
Dr. Samuel Turner, who wrote upon diseases of the skin, notices a prevalent charm among old women for the shingles: "The blood of a black cat, taken from the tail, and smeared on the part affected."
The chips of a gallows tied on a string, and worn around the neck, was an accepted remedy for ague.
Spiders were in great repute as remedies. Burton, the writer of "The Anatomy of Melancholy," was at first dubious as to the efficacy of the spider as a remedy, though he states that he had seen them used by his mother, "whom I know to have excellent skill in chirurgery, sore eyes and aches; till at length," says he, "rambling amongst authors as I often do, I found this very medicine approved and endorsed by several of them, I began to have a better opinion of it."
For stopping hemorrhages, all sorts of things were used. John Bell says that for this purpose, "they tied live toads behind the ears, or under their armpits, or to the soles of the feet, or held them in the hand until they grew warm."
The examples mentioned form but a mere suggestion of the loathsome and disgusting living things, concoctions and mixtures, employed for the healing of almost every imaginable malady.
Another extensive category of remedies, used more especially among aboriginal tribes, consists of incantations, dances, the beating of drums, the use of other noisy instruments, and no end of other curious and nondescript means to arouse the mind and turn it into a new channel.
In varying degree, and just in proportion that startling and mysterious things awaken faith and expectation, they accomplish their purpose, at least temporarily. They change bodily conditions through the mind and consciousness. They cause a strong surge of new psychic activity which displaces the sense of pain and disorder. The helpful result was plain, but the working of the process was a mystery. But it is entirely evident that all the results were gained through the unconscious exercise of various grades of faith and expectation.
The world in all ages and under all conditions has been full of healing through mind without being aware of its first principles. Strangely enough also, the present scientific age fails correctly to interpret the experiences of the past, giving them no philosophical explanation, but simply dumping them upon the ash heap of wholesale superstition. An intelligent hypothesis of much concerning the past phenomena of life is yet to be generally admitted and understood.
The peoples and aboriginal tribes of the past, though intellectually childlike and undeveloped, were not fools or destitute of common sense. They were keen and intuitive in the recognition of actual results. There has been some wisdom in every generation.
It may be predicted confidently that the time will come when many of the nauseous drugs of today will be relegated to the same category as the more grotesque examples already enumerated. Their seeming efficacy largely comes from professional authority and common confidence.
It follows that faith cure, instead of being a rare and unique accomplishment, has been of universal even though hidden application. Being within ourselves, it is a force so near that we look right through and beyond it. All the credit is bestowed upon some object outside. It is true that the lower orders of faith require some seen object or fulcrum upon which to rest.
But, though working within, the power of an intelligent faith does not belong to the lower selfhood or consciousness. Primarily it is the divine power working in man, though it potentially becomes his own to the degree that his higher selfhood is unfolded.
The Prophet of Nazareth, whose knowledge of human nature was supreme, over and over again proclaimed that "wonderful works" were possible just in accord with the measure of faith exercised.
The great present necessity is the recognition of the scientific and orderly nature of an intelligent faith, and of its practical cultivation in accord with spiritual and psychological law. This should take the place of its unintelligent, falsely based, and uncertain substitutes.
It is true that a faith may be genuine and at the same time wrongly based. Such a faith is likely to lose its power and gradually give place to doubt and uncertainty after the earlier unquestioned belief and compliance. Barrenness gradually follows the first seemingly successful accomplishment.
Faith of some sort is so fundamental that it clothes itself in every variety of habit, and hides in every nook and corner of human experience.
A bigoted faith will tend to purify itself, and therefore is far better than no faith at all. Believe something, for faithlessness is the most negative and hopeless of all the states of the soul.
For many hundred years the "king's touch," so long as sanctioned and regarded as wise and regular by the Church, the medical profession, press and people, cured its hundreds of thousands of the "king's evil" (scrofula), and the ritual for "Touching" remained in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England until A.D. 1719.
Fetishism in innumerable grades and qualities abides in unfolding human nature. In its various stages of advancement the mind demands its fetish, and demand will always command supply. There must be something to lean upon, and it must possess both mystery and power in the eyes of its subject and beholder.
The New Thought, in its purity, teaches that faith should be lifted from things which are seen and temporal to the unseen, spiritual and eternal. Such a faith is as scientific as it is religious. It cannot be invoked on demand, but must grow through well-defined laws. It increasingly includes positive strength.
Even in the domain of nature, the great powers and forces are those which are unseen. It is only their effects which are visible.
It is the mission of the New Thought to elevate faith, broaden its scope, and make it practical. Through well-ascertained methods of meditation and concentration, its validity and expansion may be made certain and continuous.
Real faith has substance and momentum. Many have wrongly regarded it as composed of uncertain hope, more or less mixed with credulity.
Faith is an ideal of Reality. In proportion as its mental picture is firmly held, it tends toward outward visibility and expression.
Lift your trust and dependence from low, false, and uncertain resting places to that which is positive and divine, and full realization will rise up and meet you in your ever brightening pathway.