Arabian Mental Medicine





The Arabian physicians who succeeded to the traditions of Greek

medicine preserved also those relating to psychotherapy. Rhazes, the

first of the great Arabian physicians, has a number of aphorisms that

show his interest in and recognition of the value of mental healing.

He insisted that "doctors ought to console their patients even though

the signs of death are impending. For the bodies of men follow their

spirits." He believed that the most important function of the

physician was "to strengthen the natural vitality for, if you add to

that you will remove a great many ills, but if you lessen it by the

drugs which you employ you add to the patient's danger." "Truth in

medicine," he said, "is a goal which cannot be absolutely reached, and

the art of healing, as it is described in books, is far beneath

the practical experience of a skillful, thoughtful physician."

Manifestly he realized the importance of the influence of the

physician over the individual patient.



His greatest successor among the Arab physicians, Avicenna (eleventh

century), "the Hippocrates and the Galen of the Arabians," as Whewell

called him, has some striking tributes to what he recognized as the

influence of the mind on the body. He appreciated that not only might

the mind heal or injure its own body, but that it might influence

other bodies, through their minds, for weal or woe. He says: "The

imagination of man can act not only on his own body, but even on other

and very distinct bodies. It can fascinate and modify them, make them

ill or restore them to health." In this, of course, he is yielding to

the dominant mystical belief that man can work harm to others, which

subsequently, under the name of witchcraft, came to occupy so

prominent a place for ill in European history. But at the same time it

is evident that his opinions are founded on his knowledge of the

influence of mind on body, as he had seen its action in medicine. From

him we have the expression: "At times the confidence of the patient in

the physician has more influence over the disease than the medicine

given for it."





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