This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
A point of difference between Faith Healers and Mind Curers is worthy of observation. Faith Healers require the patient to have faith; Mind Curers make a boast of the fact that faith is not necessary. A close analysis, however, shows that this boast is vain. Before they are sent for there is usually some faith, aud often much, combined with a distrust of other systems. This was, as some of their authorities affirm, the case when they began. Sufficient time has elapsed to develop a constituency who employ no other methods. If there is no faith, there must be a distrust of other forms of practice, or there would be no reason for turning to the new. Where there is no faith on the part of the patient, usually his friends believe, and have induced him to make the experiment. Thus he is surrounded by an atmosphere of faith which is so important that all tho writers attach great weight to it.
Friends and attendants who are believers in Mental cure, and know what sort of a mental atmosphere is favorable to restoring health, may do much to help the metaphysician in his work. But, unfortunately, this is seldom the case ; ami the friends are usually ignorant on the subject, and innocently burdening tho invalid with just that kind of hurtful sympathy which keeps him under a cloud of depression. When such is the case, their absence is more helpful than their presence, and it is desirable to be alone with the patient while treating him.— Makston.
Some even go so far as to say that they should be, if possible, removed from the society of those who do not believe.
But a favorable atmosphere exists to some extent among those who have induced an unbelieving invalid to send for a mental healer. Assuming that the healer has arrived, it is easy to see how faith is engendered. She takes her seat, and after a few unimportant questions becomes silent. The thoughts that wander through the mind of the invalid, as told me by a patient of thorough intelligence, an alumnus of one of the first universities of this country, were such as these: "Can there be anything in this? I don't believe there is, and yet a great many people are believing in it, and some most wonderful cures have taken place. There is Mrs.-. I know that she was given up to die by our best physicians, and I know that she is well." Then the eye will turn to the face of the metaphysician, who seems looking at far-off things and wrestling with some problem not yet solved, but of the certainty of the solution of which she has no doubt. Sometimes the practitioners cover their eyes, and this would add to the effect in many temperaments. The fifteen minutes pass and leave the unbeliever passive; as a quotation elsewhere describes it, "less cantankerous".
The encouraging words of the healer on departing are not without effect, differing as they do from the uncertain or preternaturally solemn forthgivings, or ill-concealed misgivings, of many ordinary physicians. There are no medicines to take, no symptoms to watch, and only the certainty of recovery to be dwelt upon. Whatever the appetite calls for is to be eaten without anxiety as to the consequences, and if there be no appetite there is to be no eating and no anxiety as to the result of abstinence.
The effect of the treatment having been pleasant, the patient rather longs than otherwise for the next day to come, and for the next. If the disease be one that under ordinary circumstances would require an operation, the dreadful image of the surgeon's knife no longer appals the patient's mind. The invalid discovers that he does not die, that he sleeps a little better; certainly he is not aroused to take medicine, aud there is no fear that he will take cold; he feels decidedly better at the next visit, and now faith is not only born but turned into sight. His friends assure him that he is better, and he tells them that he is so.
Perhaps the most potent cause in awakening faith is the sublime audacity displayed by the practitioner who dares to dispense with drugs, manipulation, hygiene, prayer, and religious ceremony. That spectacle would infallibly produce either such opposition and contempt as would result in the termination of the experiment, or faith. It is impossible to be in a negative position in its presence, where the responsibilities of life and death are assumed.
As for " absent treatments," these are based on the theory that to think of another entirely and abstractedly occasions a spiritual presence of that other. " Distance is annihilated, and his living image and inner personality seem to stand before us, and what we say to it we say to him".
These persons catch up and incorporate with their theories the yet immature investigations of the Society for Psychical Research, in which it is claimed that a sensitive subject can form in the mind a distinct mental picture or idea of words and letters which had been in the mind of an agent. Healers endeavor to extend those phenomena so as to make them annihilate space; and, according to them, "it is as easy to affect a person in the interior of Africa by a mental influence, as in the same room." Here tiny affiliate with the whole mass of superstitions which accumulated in the early history of the human race, and reappear in certain temperaments in each generation. Whether such a thing as thought-transference exists, there is not space here to inquire; nor is it necessary, for the effects of the " absent treatment," so called, can all be accounted for without any such assumption.
Patients thus treated know or they do not know that they are being treated. When they know, there is nothing to explain, for it is the same as if patient and practitioner were in each other's presence. All the mental operations, as well as the original force of nature, proceed under the conviction that they are being treated by a mental healer. If they do not know the entire field of coincidence and the vis medicatrix naturce remain inviolate; and to determine that there is any connection between the alleged treatment and the change in the condition of the patient would require a vast number of cases and detailed coincidence of time and symptom, for which these practitioners do not display ability, and for which, on their own testimony, they have had no opportunity. Indeed, their theories are such as to make all investigation superfluous and tedious.