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


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