13. Conclusion: The Soul
Those who turned to this book in the expectation of finding a cut-and-dried explanation for the existence of some healing capacity in man are bound to be disappointed. As a sop to the rational man who finds talk of extended awareness (not to mention discarnate existence) both distasteful and unsettling, may I stress yet again that healing works, regardless of belief and that at least some aspects of this phenomenon are coming within the grasp of science.
Biofeedback, the work with trypsin and probably Kirlian photography show that purported healing has measurable correlates. This, however, is not and never will be the whole story. Healing is only one aspect of human potential which Western man, for reasons of mental conditioning, is reluctant to look at. He is like one of the inhabitants of Plato’s cave, an allegory in The Republic which is perhaps worth quoting,  even for the many who know it already.
‘Let me show in allegory how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened. Imagine human beings living in an underground cave, which has a mouth open toward the light and reaching all along the cave. Here they have been from childhood. They have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move and can only see the wall of the cave before them, being prevented by the chains from turning their heads. Above and behind them at a distance the fire of the sun is blazing and between the sun and the prisoners there is a raised way and a low wall built along the way. And do you see men passing along the way carrying all sorts of vessels and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials which appear as shadows on the wall of the cave facing the prisoners? Some of them are talking, others silent.’
‘You have shown me a strange image and they are strange prisoners’, Glaucon replies.
‘Like ourselves, and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows which the sun throws on the opposite wall of the cave, of the men and the objects which are being carried. If they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were seeing as realities what was before them? And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side. Would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow? To them the truth would be literally but the shadows of images.
‘At first, when any one of the prisoners is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn around and walk and look towards the light he will suffer sharp pain and he will be unable to see the reality of which in his former state he had seen the shadow. Conceive of someone saying to him that what he saw before was an illusion. Would he not be perplexed? Would he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him? If he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away? He will take refuge in the shadows which he can see and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
‘He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. Last of all, he will be able to see the sun. He will then proceed to argue that the sun is he who gives the seasons and the years and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold.
‘When he remembered his old habitation and the wisdom of the cave and his fellow prisoners, do you suppose that he would congratulate himself on the change and pity them? Imagine once more such an individual coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation. Would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
‘If there were contests and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the cave, while his sight was still weak, would he not seem ridiculous? They would say of him, “Up he went and down he came without his eyes”, and that it would be better not even to think of ascending. If anyone tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender and they would put him to death.’
I hope I am not labouring the point if I elaborate Plato’s analogy for my own purposes. Science and technology have already placed man, at least intellectually, a little closer to the entrance of the cave, in a new environment which is pure energy moving in swift and ever-changing patterns of frequency. His concepts of his world built on the experience of a limited use of five senses is no longer adequate and, in many cases, no longer valid.
Let us assume that by ‘extending our awareness’ we are like an inhabitant of the cave who comes back and demonstrates that he can play football or stand on his head. His fellows will find this ‘unnatural’. I would maintain that much that is currently considered ‘unnatural’, be it healing, clairvoyance, telepathy, levitation, mediumship, the ability such as that of Uri Geller to move or affect objects without touching them, or any of the phenomena described consistently throughout the millennia are similarly not ‘unnatural’, they are simply latent capabilities awaiting rediscovery.
Those who return to the cave and talk about or demonstrate their new-found discoveries may well call them different things. The amount they have learnt will vary, and the use they make of their discoveries is equally a matter of choice. Thus we have arguments over terminology, though the phenomena themselves are unchanging. ‘Psychic’ and ‘medium’ are now almost dirty words to some people, but synonyms are becoming acceptable. ‘Parapsychology’ is almost respectable. Shafica Karagulla  came to the conclusion after much research that many people demonstrate ‘higher sense perception’, in which she includes clairvoyant diagnosis, the ability to see and affect energy fields and telepathic assistance. Her research is fascinating and we can, I hope, look forward to additional enlightenment from the Higher Sense Perception Research Foundation in Beverley Hills. Karagulla differentiates between the ways people use their abilities, but the abilities themselves, whether they be called ‘higher sense perception’, ‘extra sensory perception’, ‘psychic’ or anything else remain identical. As already mentioned, I myself prefer the term ‘extended sensory perception’.
Some may return to the cave having mastered only a little of a skill and with a very poor understanding of what they have seen. They can do party tricks which are of no particular use to anyone except at a sensational level of entertainment. Their explanations can be misleading. Some may have attained a greater understanding but few if any will comprehend the full complexity of the outside world they have visited. They cannot become versed in physics, biology, biochemistry and all the other spheres of knowledge let alone in the arts all at once. At the moment, we have good reason to mistrust those who claim to have a monopoly of the truth, and to be particularly suspicious of those who have not visited the outside world or at least paid only fleeting visits and yet set up dogmatic institutions claiming to be the only authority on the subject. No amount of teaching by those who have ventured out of the cave, no matter how enlightened, coherent and undogmatic they may be, can take the place of personal experience.
Plato assumed that our allegorical cave dweller comes straight out of the gloom into brilliant, blinding sunlight. He assumes that he will quickly realise that the sun is ‘…..in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold’. The idea of power, of energy preceding and permeating all life in our universe is not new. Light has always been the symbol of greater understanding, of ‘enlightenment’. There are many who observe the power of the sun without experiencing a qualitative change in their understanding or consciousness. Many others, however, try to describe in their different ways their individual experience of being part of a greater, enlightened cosmic consciousness. Their experiences are variously described as religious, transcendental and spiritual. William James  and more recently Alister Hardy  have studied these ‘subjective’ experiences with considerable erudition. They analyse profound similarities in the types of experience and James concludes that ‘… . so long as we deal with the cosmic and general, we deal only with the symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term’. This is to insist that in such studies there is no possibility of eliminating a subjective component. Should it be thought that a subjective component invalidates the studies, it should be remembered that even the physicists now conclude that no experiment in the subatomic field can be totally objective as the observer is always automatically involved in an essential way.
Many others describe experiences similar to the visionaries and the yogis through the use of drugs. There is often the fear of the mysterium tremens (the blinding sunlight?) and the feeling of losing the ‘self’ and entering a transcendental world. With these qualitative changes of consciousness comes an ethical conception, or perhaps a ‘spiritual’ perception which goes beyond ethics. Koestler  may say a little drily that’… the need for self-transcendence through some form of “peak experience” ‘…is inherent in man’s condition…’ and that ‘…transcendental beliefs are derived from certain ever-recurrent archetypal patterns which evoke instant emotive responses…’, but he is observing both a need and a reality. The result is the ever-recurring theme that man aspires to union with a spiritual force and that only when he recognises this can he live to the full. Aldous Huxley  put it another way:
the quietists may not practise contemplation in its fullness, but if they practise it at all, they may bring back enlightened reports of another, a transcendent country of the mind; and if they practise it in the height, they will become conduits through which some beneficent influence can flow out of that other country into a world of darkened selves, chronically dying for lack of it.
Here we have the view that some ‘beneficent influence’ can flow through man to his fellow humans. This ‘beneficent influence’ can be seen both as ‘enlightenment’, and also some more concrete ‘stuff’ with power to affect the material world. This has always been the religions’ point about prayer. Frederic W. H. Myers, in a letter to a friend quoted by William James,  is explicit.
I am glad that you have asked me about prayer, because I have rather strong ideas on the subject. First consider the facts. There exists around us a spiritual universe and that universe is in actual relation with the material. From the spiritual universe comes the energy which maintains the material; the energy which makes the life of each individual spirit…
Plainly we must endeavour to draw in as much spiritual life as possible, and we must place our minds in any attitude which experience shows favourable to such indrawal. Prayer is the general name for that attitude of open and earnest expectancy. If we then ask to whom we pray, the answer (strangely enough) must be that that does not much matter. The prayer is not indeed a purely subjective thing, it means a real increase in intensity of absorption of spiritual power or grace but we do not know enough of what takes place in the spiritual world to know how that prayer operates.
The point he makes is that in prayer (and, in my view, potentially in any of the other means of extending awareness) spiritual energy, which otherwise would slumber, does become active and spiritual work of some kind is effected in the physical world.
It is important that in Myer’s words the spiritual world ‘is in actual relation to the material’ and in some aspects presumably permeates physical forces. In other words, we can observe and measure these physical forces without considering the spiritual power which permeates them. In relation to healing, some facets may be scientifically measurable, but in my view are dependent upon the spiritual order whether this is recognised or not. If I may hark back once more to Plato’s troglodytes, it is quite possible that an individual could come out of the cave on a day when the sun was hidden behind the clouds. He could go back and recount what he had seen and show what he had learnt, but he would not realise that there was any ‘guardian of all that is in the visible world’ or ‘a cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold’.
It is important to distinguish between the sun’s energy and power and its blinding light. Power is of itself neutral, it is. We can harness it, whatever classification of energy it may be, to heal or harm. It is our motivation and state of understanding or enlightenment which determine the use to which we put it. We may even put it to beneficial use with little or no real spiritual aspiration. The Master, Jesus, pointed out the distinction between power and spiritual enlightenment when he talked of ‘false Christs’. Such men would be able to harness power, to perform ‘miracles’. From the point of view of those who received help and healing this would be a very good thing, but from the point of view of pointing out man’s real goal authoritatively and helping him to spiritual advancement, their teaching would be misleading. The Tibetans recognise a similar distinction. They consider the attainment of ‘psychic’ power as well within the capacity of man and extremely beneficial if used properly. They stress that such attainment is not an end in itself as it should lead to spiritual growth. If it does become an end in itself then it can constitute a distraction from the true path.
Much that man is currently studying leads to some inkling of a spiritual world. Scientists in various fields and psychologists frequently find their work leading them into unexpected dimensions. The Wrekin Trust, now runs an annual conference entitled ‘Mystics and Scientists’, two groups who for years have been thought totally opposed and now find themselves grappling with similar experiences. The 1982 conference included the eminent neurophysiologist and Nobel prize winner Sir John Eccles FRS, who argues not only that mind has an existence independent of the brain but also that human evolution is not a series of fortuitous accidents and that we are creatures with some supernatural meaning! Dr Lawrence Le Shan  is another who points out the underlying similarities of understanding between widely divergent disciplines in his book Clairvoyant Reality.
The spiritual renaissance, as we could call it, gains additional momentum from the re-emergence not only of religious practices but of physical disciplines originating in the East. Many people, perturbed by the physiological effects of sedentary urban life take up ‘exercise classes’. The physiological effects of yoga, T’ai Chi and a multitude of other disciplines are undoubtedly extremely helpful, but once again the student, whether he intended it or not, is lead towards a recognition of spiritual reality. Man is body, mind and spirit and he can operate in wholeness, in an integration of all his potential. This way lies the only fully effective path to freedom from ‘dis-ease’. You may regard soul and spirit as aspects of mind or as separate entities in themselves. Some schools of thought consider soul and spirit as the same thing, others distinguish between them and create further sub-divisions. The distinctions do not matter very much at this point. The important thing is to recognise the broad dimensions of man and the interplay between them. By changing one we may change another. The work with biofeedback instruments is only one of the many areas of research which are showing the physiological reality of the effect of mind. The very acceptance of psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy shows that orthodox medicine is already at least recognising that mechanical failure in the body cannot be totally divorced from emotional and mental well-being. There are many others who claim that the search for true health, be it of individuals or of society, is tied up with the search for the soul.
We desperately need all the medical skills available today and healing should not be seen as a substitute. It is essentially complementary. While some research (with, I hope, very much more to follow) corroborates that healing which recognises mind and spirit can help at a physiological level, it is perhaps the concept of wholeness that is most important. We lost sight of wholeness many centuries ago when religion and medicine separated. The entire well-being of man used to be embraced within the temple, but we lost this integration when certain types of knowledge came to be seen as secular and scientific and were approached separately. It would seem that untiring research in all aspects of knowledge is leading towards a dawning recognition that the old concepts of wholeness are a reality.
I believe that we can approach wholeness from any angle. The vicious circle of illness, unhappiness, strain, dissatisfaction, unrest and all the malaise of modern man can be broken at innumerable points and for this we need all the specialist skills that are available. Whilst in many cases the easiest place to start is the relief of physical symptoms, we must keep in sight the vision of man in his entirety. I would question his order of priorities, but Plato  expressed the necessity of a coordinated approach towards the whole person when he said:
The cure of the part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole. No attempt should be made to cure the body without the soul, and, if the head and body are to be healthy, you must begin by curing the mind. That is the first thing. Let no-one persuade you to cure the body until he has first given you his soul to be cured. For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians first separate the soul from the body.
1. Plato. The Republic. Pan Books, 1981.
2. Karagulla, Shafica. Breakthrough to Creativity. De Vorss, 1967.
3. James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. The Gifford Lectures, delivered at Edinburgh 1901-2. First issued in the Fontana Library, 1960.
4. Hardy, Sir Alister. The Spiritual Nature of Man. Oxford University Press, 1979.
5. Koestler, Arthur. The Ghost in the Machine. Hutchinson, 1976.
6. Huxley, Aldous. The Doors of Perception. Panther, 1977.
7. Eccles, Sir John Carew. ‘The Human Mystery’. Gifford Lectures, 1977-78. Springer International, 1979.
8. Le Shan, Dr Lawrence. Clairvoyant Reality. Turnstone Press, 1980.
A straightforward look into
all aspects of the healing phenomenon
© Bruce MacManaway, 1983. This book may be quoted from and printed out in single copies only for personal use and study, without permission.
For publication on websites or for printing in larger quantities or for commercial gain please e-mail Patrick MacManaway for permission.