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Impressive Personality





As a matter of fact, it is easy to comprehend, even from the
comparatively scanty details that we have of habits and methods of the
great physicians, that their effect upon their patients was always
largely a matter of impressive personality. Any one who, from a
pharmaceutical standpoint, knows how inefficient were many of the
remedies that great physicians depended on, yet how effective they
seemed to be to their patients, and even to themselves, will
appreciate the factor of personal magnetism that entered into their
employment. It is not alone in the olden time that great physicians
have been almost worshiped. For their patients they have at all times
been men of exalted knowledge, masters of secrets and comforters of
the afflicted, just as was the first great physician of whom we have
any account, I-em-Hetep, in Egypt nearly six thousand years ago. Such
men as Hippocrates, as Galen, as Sydenham and Boerhaave, and Van
Swieten, accomplished curative results far beyond the therapeutics of
their time. The loving admiration of patients and of their disciples
shows how strong were their personalities and gives us, almost better
than the writings they have left to us, the secret of their successes
as practitioners of medicine.

A Great Modern Physician's Influence.--It is interesting to study in
the lives of great physicians the details which illustrate their
personal influence, their consciousness of it and how deliberately
they used it. A typical example very close to us, whose reputation was
still fresh while I was at the University of Paris, was Professor
Charcot. He had made great discoveries in nervous pathology. To a
great extent he had revolutionized our knowledge of nervous diseases
and added many new chapters to this rather obscure department of
medicine. Far from making the treatment of nervous diseases easier
than before, or giving more assurance to the physician who dealt with
them, his discoveries, however, had just the opposite effect. His work
emphasized that practically all of the so-called nervous diseases were
due to degenerations in the central nervous system, which no medicine
could be expected to relieve in any way, and which nothing short of
the impossible re-creation of damaged parts could ever cure. His
studies included organic degenerations of other organs, and in his
treatise on "Diseases of the Old" it is made clear that many of the
symptoms of old age are due to organic lesions for which no cure can
ever be expected. This would seem to discourage treatment, yet somehow
Charcot became a great practicing physician as well as a medical
scientist and pathologist.

His success was due to his personal influence over his patients. In
spite of the unfavorable prognosis that he had to give in so many
cases, he was able by suggestion to help many patients with regard to
their course of life, and to reassure them, so that many adventitious
neurotic symptoms not due to their underlying nervous disease, but to
their solicitude about themselves, disappeared. Very few people who
came to him went away without feeling that his advice had been very
valuable to them and without experiencing, as a rule, after they had
followed his advice, that they were much better than they had been
before. It was for the neurotic conditions associated with nervous
affections that Charcot's personal influence over patients was of the
greatest therapeutic significance.

He himself recognized this and did not hesitate to use it to its
fullest extent. Towards the end of his life, the method by which his
patients were presented to him was calculated to make their relation
to him, above all, a very personal one, and to give his influence the
fullest weight. Nervous patients who came to see him, were each in his
turn invited from the general waiting-room into a small ante-room just
outside of Charcot's office and there, in silence and dim light,
asked to await the summons of the physician himself. When the time
came for him to call them in, the folding doors between the rooms
opened and he stood in a blaze of light inviting them to enter. Many a
neurotic patient despairing of relief for symptoms that had lasted
long in spite of the treatment of many other physicians, felt at once
that here, in this kindly, gentle-voiced man standing so prominently
in the light, was surely the long looked-for physician who would heal
whatever ills there were. They came fully impressed with his power to
heal, and all the valuable influence of auto-suggestion was enlisted
on the side of their physician.

What is true in the regular practice of medicine can be seen much more
clearly in the history of those who were not physicians, but who,
nevertheless, by personal magnetism, succeeded in curing various ills,
or at least in lifting up patients so that they used their own natural
powers of recovery to much better advantage than would have been
possible if left unaided.

Every successful healer has had this same personal influence, personal
magnetism, call it what we will, which his patients have thought
helpful to them through some direct communication, but which he
himself, if he seriously studied it, and which every other thorough
student of the question must realize, was due only to his power to
call out the latent vitality of his patients. The mystery is not one
of teledynamics, a transfer of energy from the operator, but one of
awakening dormant faculties in the subject. Just why they should be
dormant, since the patient so much wants to use them if he only could,
is hard to understand. They do, however, lie dormant until the call of
another strong personality wakens them to activity. Many people are so
constituted that they cannot do effective work except under the
direction of others. They lack initiative, though they may fill
secondary places very well, indeed, much better often than the man of
initiative who so frequently lacks capacity for details. In the same
way many people are not able to bring out to the full all their own
energies, even for their own bodily needs, unless under the guidance
and influence of others; hence the stories of the healers that we have
all down the centuries, and who have a definite place in the history
of humanity and of medicine.


A Modern Healer.--A typical instance of the really marvelous power of
mental influence over the minds of sufferers from many kinds of ills,
is found in the career of the well-known Father Kneipp. For more than
twenty-five years he had attracted the attention of Europe, and had
made the little town of Woerishofen well known all over the world
because of the cures effected there by him. The exactly proper phrase
is effected by him because it is clear to anyone who has studied the
therapeutic methods he employed, that it was not these, or at least
not these alone, that enabled him to cure so many ailments which had
resisted the efforts of some of the best physicians in Europe. It was
his magnetic personality which won patients to the persuasion that
they must get better because he said so, and then to the following out
of certain very simple natural rules of life, and certain quite as
simple remedial measures, which acted as alteratives and enabled
patients to tap reservoirs of vitality, of which they themselves were
unconscious, but which, supplying energies to overcome tendencies to
various symptomatic conditions, brought about cures.



Pfarrer Kneipp had himself suffered from consumption, had been
practically given up and then, as is the case of many another, had
taken himself in hand, had secured much more outdoor air than before,
and more abundant nutrition, until gradually his ailment was overcome.
It is true that he used various hydrotherapeutic measures, some of
them, as he confessed afterwards, to an excess, both as regards the
temperature of water and the length of the application of it, that
might have seriously hurt him if he had been less robust, but it was
not so much his hydrotherapy as his own determination to get better
and to live a little closer to nature that led to his cure. Then he
became the apostle of cold water and of many natural remedial
measures, and as a consequence, healer of all forms of ills in the
many thousands who flocked to consult him in the little South German
town. He made his patients get up early in the morning, get out in the
air shortly after rising, the excuse, or, as he declared it, the
reason being that they were to walk with bare feet in the dewy grass.
After this he had them eat heartily of simple food, of such variety
and in such quantity as relieved them of constipation, made them use
water, internally and externally, in abundance, and after a time, sent
most of them on their way rejoicing that they had been cured from
chronic ills.

Some of the highest in Europe came to him; the Empress of Austria was
his patient, and he was asked to prescribe for the Pope; reigning
princes and all the lesser order of the nobility were included among
his patients. Several of the Rothschild family went to him and where
they went, of course, others flocked. Very few failed to be benefited.
People less educated, and less rich in the world's goods than these,
came also, and went away relieved. After a time Kneipp societies were
founded all over Europe and even spread through America. These
consisted of organizations of men and women who encouraged each other
to keep up the Kneipp practices. With his death there has come a
decline in interest in Kneipp methods. He, himself, was sure that his
remedies and recommendations were the important curative factors. Now
it has become clear that it was mainly his forceful personality, his
power to lift patients above their ills, and enable them to use mental
resources or vital forces that they could not use until encouraged by
him with the thought that they would surely get better. In the
atmosphere he thus created, they seemed to borrow something of his
overmastering personality. It can not be too often repeated that this
is the secret of the success of the great world healers. They do not
transfer force to others, but they enable others to use their own
forces more successfully.


An Ancient Healer.--Let us compare some of the details of the career
of Father Kneipp with the story we have of one Aristides, who, as the
result of dreams that came to him while practicing the cult of
AEsculapius and the injunctions contained in these dreams, was cured
of many ills, and afterward delivered a series of sacred orations.
Aristides is one of the first of the large group of literary men, much
interested in their own health and their own ills, whose writings have
been preserved for us. He was intensely proud of the number and
variety of his ills, and he was perhaps conceited about the curious
ways in which some of them had been cured. Traveling in the winter
time he caught a chill; then he suffered from earache and in the midst
of a storm developed fever, asthma and toothache. Arrived in Rome, he
had severe internal sufferings, shivering fits and want of breath.
Treatment by the Roman doctor only aggravated his sufferings. A
stormy voyage home made him worse. When, at last, he arrived in
Smyrna, the doctors gathered round him, and were astonished at the
manifold nature of the disease. They could do nothing for him.

Suffering from all these ills (which remind one of a modern literary
man who has got his mind on his stomach and his body on his mind),
Aristides went to a number of the old temple hospitals and received
suggestions in sleep from AEsculapius. These he has described in what
are called his sacred orations. In them we have every phase of modern
therapy that has the strong element of suggestion in it. Like Pfarrer
Kneipp, he tried very cold baths and was benefited by them. Walking in
the dewy grass in his bare feet was another recommendation that had
come to him in a dream. Occasionally he would run rapidly for a
considerable distance, and then when heated plunge into a cold bath.
We have many complaints of his fever and stomach troubles. Mud-baths
were also recommended to him and, of course, tried with benefit for a
time. Sand baths later proved to be beneficial. For rheumatism a cold
bath, after running almost naked in the cold north wind, proved
successful when other remedies failed. Aristides wrote out his
experiences, and his writings had great influence over generations of
patients and maintained the influence of the old Greek temples as cure
houses long after the general acceptance of Christianity. As the
result of his writings, no matter how bizarre a dream might be, some
interpretation of a therapeutic nature was found from it.


Constancy of the Law of Personal Influence.--Indeed, there has
apparently never been a time when some strong character, full of
religious enthusiasm and of high purpose, strong in the confidence of
men, has not succeeded in accomplishing wonderful curative results by
the reassurance that comes from a renewal of faith in the goodness of
Providence. There are, for instance, a number of stories which show
John Wesley's power to help men to tap the reservoir of surplus energy
that all of us have within us, but that somehow we do not succeed in
making use of, unless some strong mental influence is brought to bear
on us. Practically every religious man who has had the love and the
veneration and the respect of those around him has succeeded in
accomplishing the cures that many people in recent years have been
prone to regard as rather novel phenomena in the history of
psychology. Men like St. Philip Neri, St. Francis Xavier, and St.
Francis of Assisi, and St. Bernard, have many stories told of them
which show how much they were able to help fellow mortals by enabling
them to make use, even in a physical way, of their own highest and
best powers. Their lives show how much more they did.

Nor is this power confined to men. In nearly every century we have the
story, also, of wonderfully strong women, leaders of their time, who
inspired the profound confidence and veneration of those around them,
and who were enabled, by their own strength of character, to help
people physically as well as morally. The Life of St. Catherine of
Siena is full of such instances. She spent her life mainly in caring
for the sick and the distressed at the hospital in Siena, and the
beautiful hospital there was completed largely as a monument to her.
During her lifetime marvelous cures occurred that in many cases were
evidently due to her power over the minds of people. The life of
St. Teresa has a number of similar examples, and Joan of Arc, in her
lifetime, lifted many a dispirited man into vigorous strength because
of her own abounding personality and the physical reaction which
contact with her enthusiasm brought.


Modern Examples.--Nor did such occurrences come only in older and less
sophisticated centuries than ours. John Wesley is close enough to our
time to negative any such impression, but there are many other
examples. There is Pastor Gassner, whose cures remind Prof.
Muensterberg of the Emanuel movement at the present time, but there are
also a number of strong, religious characters whose influence was
exercised in the alleviation of physical ills during the nineteenth
century. The name of Father Matthew, the Irish "Apostle of
Temperance," as he was called, is mainly connected with wonderful
cures of the worst forms of alcoholic addiction. Physicians know how
difficult such cases are to cure, yet there are many thousands of what
were apparently hopeless cases to Father Matthew's credit. It may be
remarked that this is one of the ills that modern mental treatment
claims most success with. Besides these morbid habits there are,
however, other cases, told in detail, in which Father Matthew's
influence enabled people to shake off headaches, to get rid of
illusions, to overcome hysteria, and even to relieve other and much
more physical affections. Animal magnetism was the subject of much
thought in his lifetime (nineteenth century), so that it is not
surprising that Mr. John Francis McGuire, a member of the English
Parliament, who wrote Father Matthew's life in 1864, declared that
"Father Matthew possessed in a large degree the power of animal
magnetism, and great relief was afforded by him to people suffering
from various affections; and in some cases I was satisfied that
permanent good was effected by his administrations."

Another strong man of this same kind was Prince Alexander of
Hohenlohe. Though a prince he had become a clergyman and spent his
life in the service of the poor. Shortly after he became a priest he
went through a great epidemic, fearlessly caring for his poor people,
and as a consequence inspired them with so much confidence that ever
after they came to him with all their ills. He was able to help, not
only the poor, but also many of the nobility. Some of the things
reported as accomplished through his influence show extraordinary
power. His usual method was to endeavor to inspire in the people who
came to him a faith in their cure, and then after a time the cure was
actually accomplished.

During the recent troubles in Russia, attention was called to the fact
that the famous Father John of Cronstadt, the hero of Bloody Sunday,
was looked up to with so much respect and veneration that many people
found themselves helped physically by contact with him. There are a
number of interesting stories of cures of ills of various kinds, some
of them exclusively mental, but many of them fundamentally physical,
which took place as a consequence of the new spirit of hope infused
into people because of their confidence in Father John. His subsequent
history seems to indicate that this was evidently due to the forceful
personality of the man rather than to any special religious influence.
His influence was not limited to the ignorant masses in Russia, for
some of the cures reported occurred in families of the better class,
thoroughly capable of judging the character of the man apart from his
religion.





Next: Success In Healing

Previous: Influence Of The Personality In Therapeutics



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