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Intelligent Physiological Designing

Any study of the correspondence or relativity between mind and body must include factors which are subtle and complex, if not elusive. Like other many-sided problems, it should be approached impartially and without that bias which colors any effort to make facts bend to some preconceived theory or system. Never before the present time was the value of truth, for its own sake, so highly appreciated. The world is hungry, not merely for facts, but for their true interpretation. Phenomena are mainly significant as being the index and expression of orderly law which is back of them. To modern inquiry, it is no longer a finality to reply that they are strange, unaccountable or even supernatural. The latter has come to be regarded as only the higher zone of the natural. The philosophical mind at once feels impelled to follow back, link by link, the chain of causation through superficial occasions and secondary origination, toward primary and foundation sources. The study of natural law, now so generally admitted to be universal, is not only interesting, but it also lends itself to practical utilization. If we are consciously or unconsciously making architectural drawings of that which is to be built in outward form, we should try to improve ourselves in such an art. The age demands that truth shall be applied truth, and no other test will be accepted.

Psychology and physiology are terms which designate two related and most intimate sides of the human unit. Employed apart, one cognizes man as mind, and the other as body. If both are supplementary factors, any study of either by itself or out of relation must be, in degree, misleading.

There are two general, though not always sharply defined schools of thought concerning the essential nature of man. One adheres to a philosophy which is primarily materialistic, while the fundamental basis of the other is psychical, idealistic and spiritual. The first defines man, essentially as a physical being, though highest in the scale of organization. The material organism is taken to be the basic source of his mind or soul. Conventional biology which considers organization, structure, development and function, deals with animate matter, and not with psychology. As regarded by institutional philosophy, man, as a term, means the seen form which of course possesses a subtle complex property called mind. Mental activity is rated as brain activity. Intellection is virtually regarded as the result or manifestation of concordant material organization. Expressed concretely and personally it would be, "I am body, but have a soul." The latter is taken to be the dependent, for that which is a property cannot be otherwise.

The basic principles of the other philosophy may be outlined briefly as follows:—Man is essentially a psychical and spiritual being. Expressed individually it would be: "I am soul and have a body." The visible form is man's outward correspondence and expression, but in reality it forms no part of his real being. His mind, soul or life forces have grasped suitable material and molded and erected the body as a sensuous response to physical environment. A figure on the blackboard is not the cause, but the index or articulation of the reality of number. The body is composed of material which has previously served other orders of life, and will continue this subsidiary office in the future. He who has the present grasp of it is one of a long series. An individuated dynamic entity has taken it into his service. It is now a stringed instrument to be played upon by its proprietor. Normally, he is to make it useful, and rule and fashion it as the potter does the clay.

The two different philosophies noted, bestow a widely different emphasis upon the inner and the outer, the unseen and the seen, idealism and realism, regulation and authority from within, or without, and therefore never have been mutually reconcilable. There is a more or less distinct line of cleavage between them which runs through all religious, philosophical, social and educational systems. Occupying as they do diverse viewpoints, their varying interpretations, when applied to life, purpose, health, conduct and destiny have profound significance. In the light of these generalizations we may now proceed more specifically.

The vital physiological processes in the human organism are divided into two general classes. One embraces those activities which are conscious, or under the direct supervision of the will. These include eating drinking, walking, talking, hearing and the ordinary exercises of the senses. But the other class, which takes in all the unconscious, or more properly the subconscious processes, is far more numerous and complex. Among them are the digestion, assimilation, circulation of the blood and all the multiform activities of the sympathetic nervous system with their innumerable delicate relations. These form a wonderful interdependent manufacturing plant, which in an orderly way converts food and drink into blood, bone, brain, muscle, fat and all the various secretions of the body. All these marvelously subtle processes go on, hidden from observation, from those most vital and important, down to the minutest sweat gland, and molecule of the whole economy. It is impossible for us to imagine any mechanism so intricate, finely adjusted and altogether wonderful. Could we look in upon it appreciatively we would be astounded. If the conscious mind be put at rest by sleep, or an anesthetic, these complex activities continue. What dynamic intelligence directs them? Orderly mind or soul, but all goes on below the surface of consciousness. Normally, no mistakes are made. Every element which is taken in, through an amazing power of selection, goes to its fitting place and fulfills its proper function, and this not only specifically, but with perfect synchronism and unitary cooperation. All these innumerable concurrent movements we ordinarily include under the simple term, "life." But how much it means!

Although the subconscious operations go on seemingly without observation, a closer study reveals that they shade into the conscious counterpart, and that both are necessary to unitary completeness. Let us note some of their joint phenomena. From some cause, intense fear startles the conscious mind. What are the results? The heartbeat is quickened to a flutter, every muscle trembles, tears start unbidden, the sweat glands pour out a cold perspiration, the blood leaves the surface, kidney-action is intensified, the extremities lose their warmth and the saliva dries up. Do these cause the fear, or vice versa? Be the emotion well founded or purely imaginary, the delicate mechanism is thrown into the utmost confusion. Not unlike a heavy blow, its effects are often lasting. We name it after its material result and call it a "nervous shock." It is really a psychical perturbation, though it causes a nervous shock. Even a recurrence of its mental picture from memory, long after, will often send a responsive shudder through the whole physical organism.

The facts noted are perfectly familiar, but the underlying law with its logical tendencies and deductions is largely unrecognized. If a great, though brief fear will produce such phenomena, all lesser fears will act to some extent in the same direction. If in a moderate degree anxiety and worry become continued and habitual, they may have even more harmful and permanent sequences. Careful observation and experience also show that anger, jealousy, grief, guilt, hatred, suspicion and every other inharmonious passion or emotion, by a positive law act in the same direction. They are like sand thrown into the bearings of delicate machinery, when oil is needed. Friction and derangement follow. Intense anger is sometimes fatal in a moment. Pessimism and even selfishness belong to the same unwholesome category, though their action may be so complex and slow as to be distinctively untraceable. Psychical agitations send a tumult through the ganglionic nerve-centers which transmit the disturbance outward to the extreme limits of the organism. Now if the average human consciousness be the highway for an unending procession of inharmonies, as all signs indicate, where can perfect health be expected?

We here are brought to a parting of ways between the two philosophies first outlined. The psychical, while admitting that occasions and secondary causes may be from without, holds that the realm of primary causation is in mind. The materialistic school finds it to be in the physical part, per se. The modern germ-theory for the origin of disease is an obvious product of the latter philosophy. There is however at least a respectable minority of the medical profession who incline to the view that germs are a concomitant, or even a result, rather than the primary cause of disorder. If states of mind are back of physical pathological conditions, the minute organisms are clearly secondary. Many of them are admittedly beneficent as scavengers, but those which are specifically harmful only come where the soil and conditions invite them.

A few years ago it was stated that an eminent scientist in Vienna swallowed a considerable amount of cholera-germs and that they proved innocuous. His positive and conscious fearlessness furnished no physical susceptibility. But in ordinary cases there may be subconscious fear which would leave the door open to contagions, even if they were taken in unconsciously. Therefore a negative condition may prove to be a standing invitation to current neighboring ills, even where no specific fear or expectation exists. Not everyone who is exposed to a contagion responds, for to an organism of positive and wholesome vigor, it is but a negative. Specific germs do not arbitrarily find a lodgment where conditions do not invite, and this shows them to be secondary. But it is provisionally important that they be destroyed, for the reason that congenial soil does exist on every side. It follows that the highest ideal is to close the door of primary susceptibility. As fast as that is done, the harmful germ will perish from lack of subsistence.

Having noted some psychical destroyers of physical harmony, let us inquire concerning its kindly preservers. If one class will pull down, or always tend in that direction, logic and experience should show that the opposite will build up. Both professional and lay opinion is substantially unanimous concerning the potency of what is termed "faith" in this direction. Fear and faith are respectively the negative and positive poles of mind. The unnumbered cures resulting from a strong, even though superstitious belief of a divine or miraculous efficacy residing in some shrine, holy bone, consecrated relic, king's touch or mystical ceremony, will hardly be questioned. The potency of bread-pills and water hypodermics, under favorable conditions, has also been abundantly demonstrated. The law under which the imagination becomes so potent, remains without systematic interpretation and utilization, and conventional interest in its working does not usually penetrate below the mere surface of events which are soon forgotten. The imaging faculty has been regarded commonly as elusive, capricious and hardly worthy of serious study. But if it have a creative power which may be greatly harmful or helpful its possibilities should be investigated. When a positive ideal, or mental picture can be formed which, for the time being at least, takes possession of the consciousness, we find that it rules out or displaces its opposites and negatives. This determinate ideal, faith, fear or whatever it be, tends to outward articulation. "The word is made flesh," and "as is the inner so is the outer." It is simply a natural physiological sequence without an iota of magic or miracle.

In a scientific sense, faith may be defined as psychical energy, and this under favoring conditions may be set in motion by pure superstition. The momentum of a stone which is rolling down hill is the same whether it were started by accident or design. But besides that peculiar emotion termed faith, it is found that other wholesome and positive emotions and ideals take hold of the subconscious physiological processes. Among them are love, courage, optimism, purity, harmony, altruism, but above all, a cultivated sense of a normal divine immanence, as Omnipresent Good. This should be regarded, not merely as moral and religious truth, but as having a scientific and evolutionary basis in the nature of things. Exhaustive chemical and mechanical tests in the laboratory have detected in minute detail, the invigorative effects of these positive states of consciousness. The submerged bodily activities respond to psychical suggestion with an exactitude which can only be interpreted as a law.

It is true, however, that, specifically, these unseen dynamics are elusive and difficult to trace and measure on the phenomenal plane. For instance, no one can dogmatically affirm what proportion of that immunity from smallpox which comes from vaccination is due to the operation per se, or how much is resident in the permanent feeling of ensured protection. This positive consciousness—which amounts to a virtual and abiding auto-suggestion of the fact—is also reinforced by general surrounding belief in the specific immunity. There are helpful as well as harmful psychical contagions. In conventional therapeutics the subtle mental factors are always present. Were it possible entirely to eliminate from the patient his confidence, or faith, in physician, remedy, nurse and friends, then, and only then could the inherent potency of the specific that is employed be estimated. It is well understood among the profession that the practitioner in whom the patient has no confidence is heavily handicapped. The limited period of usefulness which many widely heralded remedies seem to possess is also significant. As the novelty of their advertised power wears away, their efficacy appears to suffer a corresponding deterioration, and they join the great procession which has already gone to oblivion. But something new replaces them.

The more exhaustive the investigation, the more positive the conclusion appears that the reign of psychological forces is imperious. The body is like a musical instrument of untold delicacy, whose strings may be stirred by vibrations of sweetness and harmony, or swept by discord and jangling.

But one more phase of the subject can here be considered, and that involves the degree of the practical application of these principles to everyday life and experience. The great need of the world is applied truth. In this age of rapid progress in so many directions, therapeutics will not long lag behind. The marked increase of insanity, the manifest prevalence of neurasthenia and its numerous pathological relatives, the general exacting tension of modern life, with a too prevalent pessimism and materialism—all these present grave problems. The medical profession includes many noble and conscientious men who doubtless will not hesitate to supplement conventional systems with their reasonable psychic interrelations as rapidly as their validity can be demonstrated. Intelligent and broad-minded investigation is all that is needed. The hints which follow regarding practical utilization, are submitted as sound and logical deductions from the well-founded philosophy already presented. In addition, the writer offers them as the mature result of a long, careful and conservative study of concrete personal experiences, the data of which have been carefully collected.

The old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is well founded. It follows that the ideal to be sought is such a degree of physical, mental and spiritual poise as shall render disorderly conditions more infrequent and exceptional. Rational, physical hygiene is important, but it is far from all. What the average man needs is not so much some strange curative specific, as an intelligent and growing nonsusceptibility to current ills. Life should increasingly become a luxury, and not a "tale of woe" to be endured. Living, per se should be an exuberant joy. The weeds of melancholia, and asceticism as well, should be given no soil or moisture, and robust vigor and harmony blend and unify the three zones of man's nature. Nine-tenths of our ills are of our own ignorant or unconscious creating, but as a rule we do not have an inkling of this until well along in life. Said Marcus Aurelius:—"The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it."

Can we gradually re-form our thoughts—or in other words refurnish our mental dwelling-places—or must we take them as they chance along? As well ask if the pilot must always go exactly with the wind. The same "faith" or state of mind that tends to restore, also would tend to prevent, therefore the two involve but one principle. Psychical harmony, upon which physical harmony must largely depend, requires subjective hospitality to the inner truths of being.

If, as already shown, faith be potent for good, how is the average man to invoke its aid? Is it synonymous with credulity and superstition? Under modern conditions these are rapidly disappearing and there are few who do not believe, not only in cosmic law, but in an orderly moral economy. Does it follow that faith among men is soon to become extinct? Has the Creator put a premium upon ignorance and self-delusion to the extent of making them more valuable as restorative agents than knowledge? No! faith has its logic and laws. Its definition must be broadened from a supposed blind expectant emotion, to a lawful and intelligible, determinate, psychical energy. A scientific faith is not the hope of things not seen, but the "evidence of things that are not seen." For a certain class of minds, the shrine or holy relic may be available today, but disillusion may supervene by tomorrow. The question then recurs; how then shall the intelligent man proceed through the right use of psychological forces to get that grasp and control of the seen organism which is so desirable? It can come but gradually and must be a cultivated growth. Through a persevering thought-habit it is possible consciously to identify the ego with the real mind, man or soul, rather than the visible form, and thereby realize a growing sense of control. The normality of the executive rule of the higher and real will grow more pronounced, and gradually become a familiar feeling.

Through a law of mind, now well recognized, the simple repetition of ideals or suggestions with some concentration upon them, tends to make them graphic and dominant in the consciousness. To illustrate, let us suppose that physical sensation reports to the ego: "You are ill," or "You are very weak." Is he obliged to surrender at once and regard its testimony as final? If, as before noted, causation be mainly psychical, and it be normal for the mind to lead and the body to express, why not try changing the thought-current? Let it be turned most intensely in the opposite direction. Let him reply, mentally, with emphasis, "I (the real ego) am well!" "I am strong!" "I rule the body!" and repeat and affirm these and similar auto-suggestions, even if at first mechanically, and he will gradually change his consciousness concerning himself. For reasons already noted, the tendency will be for the body to fall into line and express the ideals. The executive thus assumes rightful control in his legitimate kingdom. The leadership becomes that of the man rather than the instrument. Is this not logical? But can this employment of ideals be thorough and entirely successful upon the first trial? As well ask if a child who is just learning the alphabet can read a poem. A thought-habit, like any other habit is only formed through systematic persistence. But he who discerns the law and earnestly tries to utilize it will be a thousand times rewarded. The affirmation of wholesome suggestions should begin long before their seeming necessity. They then become one's most intimate companions, and the order of their action is from within, outward. The law that one becomes or grows like his ruling ideals has long been known, but it rarely has been utilized.

There is a great racial current of fears, forebodings, morbid depressions and peculiar personal weaknesses that, altogether, have a powerful momentum to carry us downward. It will not do to drift, but we must row against the prevailing materialistic tide. Suggestion, by the most conservative authorities is conceded to be of wonderful potency. But it need not be hypnotic, dependent and from without, but voluntary, independent, idealistic and from within. At length its quality becomes so ever-present and familiar that its trend and spirit install themselves securely in the consciousness. The specific impulses finally become a calm and harmonious state of mind. This is the "faith," which then may be defined as attained psychical and spiritual momentum towards ideal conditions. Thought, scientifically regulated, is the motive power in the background.

It is not easy to present unfamiliar principles so that to some, at least, they will not seem visionary, but their general recognition is surely coming before the twentieth century is far advanced. The onward evolutionary drift, while slow, is very certain. It is quite proper that conservatism should prevail, so that all new departures, if extreme, may be tested by experience and criticism, and thus have any possible excrescences polished off before having general hospitality accorded to them.

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Henry Wood

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