This book had been written and intended mainly for the clinicians in the light of general practice as well as those who are interested in healing people. The author deals with many cases of his clinical experience in view of treating the root of many problems and diseases based on touching one's heart and spirit. Combined with some direct quotations, i will try to engage with Tournier's insight by the chapter by chapter.
The best clinical practitioners have always spontaneously exercised this beneficent influence over their patients, but at a time when a medicine is making such great technical progress, we are in danger of forgetting its importance.
He quotes Prof. Jacques Dor. ‘Surgery of the Person’:
Surgery is not only a technical discipline, but also an encounter between human beings, a mutual relationship, and understanding between two persons in the full sense of the term-namely the physical, psychical, and spiritual unity of man.
As a doctor, he has this desire: 'The more I have to deal with the human distress, the more I study men’s lives with a passionate desire to understand and help them, the more I seek to throw light on the reciprocal reactions of body, mind, and spirit, the more do I understand the difficulty of practicing medicine sincerely. '
The doctor sets out to try to save men's lives. But if he does not succeed at the same time in showing them how to overcome the difficulties they will meet afterward, his task remains incomplete.
There is indeed nothing more wonderful to a doctor than to save a life. But what happens to it afterward? And how many people, for lack of having received something more than healing from their doctor, proceed to spoil the life just given back to them?
By this statement, one must practice the whole person treatment and healing not just the disease or illness but the patients' basic problems in their inner self.
That is why the author talks in length about the mode of life, which is the most important factor that determines our health.
"Most illnesses do not, as is generally thought, come like a bolt out of the blue. The ground is prepared for years through faulty diet, intemperance, overwork, and moral conflicts, slowly eroding the subject's vitality. And when at last illness suddenly shows itself, it would be a most superficial medicine which treated it without going back to it remote causes, to all that I shall here call personal problems... There are personal problems in every life. There are secret tragedies in every heart." By these statement the writer asks us to delve into the deep psyche, or inner self of every patient the doctor sees which is very difficult in real life situation in the consulting room.
"Man does not die," a doctor has remarked. "He kills himself." - a true explanation of wretched situation every man and woman has.
This book is devoted to the study of the very complex relationships which always exist between our personal problems and our health.
God has a purpose for our life, as for the world. And if the world is sick today because it is disobeying God’s laws, men too are sick because they do not live in accordance with God’s purpose.
The writer defines the highest role of a doctor is to help men to discern what is God’s purpose for their lives and to conform therewith. In this regard, every Christian has the healing power if one realises the above clause.
Every act of physical, psychological, or moral disobedience of God’s purpose is is an act of wrong living, has its inevitable consequences. Moreover, it does not compromise only the health of the person who commits it, but also of that of other persons, and that of his descendants.
“Treat the patient, not the disease.”
But to treat the patient and not the disease means penetrating into these personal problems, which our patients often hide from us in order to keep them hidden from themselves.
It often thus happens that our patients are aware of the deep moral causes of the ills they tell us of, and are even perhaps burning with the desire to confess them to us, but cannot overcome their inner resistance, and eagerly grasp at the physiological explanation which we offer them.
To treat the patient rather than disease means helping out patients to resolve the problems. And this solution is often to be found only on the spiritual level. But in this current modern society, this kind of doctor's approach is forbidden by regulation as the treating doctor may not show any inclination to a certain religion which may infuriate people of different religions.
If the doctor questions him about his mode of life, his moral attitudes, his behaviour as regards the other members of his family, he does not at once see the possible relationship between these matters and the illness from which he is suffering.
And if he accepts the technical treatment undertaken by the doctor, he is less willing to follow his advice about his manner of life.
In the above statement, the writer asks us to dig into a much wider scope of patient's life in the management of patients, which often is out of question in terms of time and heavy loads the doctor is burdened of.
Many doctors nowadays feel with a certain sense of bitterness that the result of their efforts are not in proportion to the technical methods at their disposal. One sign of this is the renewed interest being taken in the idea of the “terrain.” The discovery of Pasteur of the germs causing the disease and the means to cure them.
All doctors know how difficult it is to get discipline and submission from a capricious and self-willed personality. It is no use exhorting, blaming, or issuing orders. The whole being of the patient must undergo a real revolution which is a real challenge and often is out of the doctor's capacity.
The medical superintendent of another sanitarium once remarked to me, on this subject: “You are surely right, but we specialists are too wrapped up in our technical work. What we need is a doctor alongside us to treat the souls of our patients.” But would it not be better if every doctor, however specialised, treated the whole “person” of his patient? This would be the true answer to the disadvantages of over-specialisation.
Among wrong physical modes of life, alongside overwork and lack of exercise, wrong eating plays an important part: diet that contains too much meat or too much sweet food, or that are too acid: or overuse of alcohol- in short, diet governed by gluttony. In God’s plan of creation there is a proper diet for man and man cannot neglect with impunity.
But moral faults also play a considerable part. Many patients are cured of being freed from fear, worry and resentment. Dr. Swain claims that at least 60per cent of arthritis cases have their origin in a moral conflict.
Just as in septicaemia a localisation of the infection is the first step toward healing, so a localised neuritis is a symptom of the healing of a nervous depression.
At the beginning of this century, medicine, with its tendency toward organicism, tried to give precise anatomicopathological definition of angina pectoris, corresponding to no less precise theories of pathogenesis. The problem was, it seemed, proving wonderfully simple. Unfortunately, there were quite a number of patients who did not fit into these theoretical categories, and these were the very patients in whom moral factors played on an obvious part. Lian reminds us that angina pectoris is merely a syndrome, susceptible of being provoked by various causes, moral as well as physical- and often both in combination.
In his turn, Laubry takes up whole question, the cautiousness of his conclusions being in marked contrast with the rigidity of former classifications. He stresses the complexity of the factors involved and speaks of the pathogenic role played by the “thousand injuries in life.”
An honest person does not seek to make illness an excuse, but he does expect that some medicine or expedient of hygiene will bring him inner peace, without any effort on his part...How many lazy people honestly imagine that their stomachs are to blame for their spoiled lives!
Pathology and physiology, useful and comforting as they are to man, are not what people vainly think them to be: they will play their part only in so far as men are willing to do their best to put their lives right. Little liver pills cannot take their place of personal effort.
Gluttony plays an important part. It is the commonest cause of dietary excesses whose effect the doctor observed daily. ( richly cooked foods, too much meat, pork sweets, chocolate cakes, spicy, alcohol, tobacco).
Gluttony is not confined to food, for any exaggerated predilection can be described as gluttony: idleness, too great love of one’s bed, intellectual gluttony, sentimentality, self-pity, sex, ambition and greed for fame.
I have seen people’s lives suddenly develop richly, both physically and spiritually, from the day they become liberated from a passion for tobacco or chocolate or alcohol. Wherever discipline is found to be most difficult, that is the battlefield on which the reformation of a person’s life must be fought out.
Gluttony is not the only cause of bad eating habits. Fashion, social prejudice, self-conceit, and laziness play an important part.
The author cites many scholars and medical doctors who dealt with and refined those characteristics in order to treat the patients according to their characteristics which I find fascinating and yet so far removed from modern medical practice.
Various forms of flight are described. This is a form of running away from reality when one does not feel strong enough to handle vital problems or felt defeated by them. These flights create more problems further away from solving the main problems, quite often occurring sub/unconsciously.
Living with God means living the present hour, putting our whole heart into what he expects of us in the present hour, and leaving the past and future to him, to whom they belong.
There are cases about the flight into diseases, into alcoholism, gambling not to mention recreational and addictive drugs and even into religion.
They are the visible symptoms of personal moral problems such as feelings of inferiority, shyness, idleness, sexual difficulties, and weak will.
Overwork and Idleness.
One of the most important problems is overwork. Modern society is dominated by busyness- noise, newspapers, social media radio and speed- leading to the loss of sense of inner meditation, of reflection and thoughtful action. Often people's minds are over tense, too oughts and tasks to perform, leading to anxiety and insomnia.
A disciplined life is in all spheres is one of the important conditions of physical, emotional and psychological health. To rest under God's guidance is the first condition of really effective rest.
Carton: the law of three rests- first is annual rest, e.g. winter holiday. Secondly, weekly rest: Sunday, lastly nocturnal rest.
The opposite of flight into overwork is a flight into passivity, withdrawal, negativism and idleness: laziness, lack of exercise leading to obesity and physical weakness.
Dr. Tournier talks about the suffering in view of Christianity when other forms of explanation have failed. In fact doctors try hard only to ease the suffering itself with the aids of medications or superficial counselling.
The author proposes to show that the spiritual message of the Holy Scripture is the only true answer to the problems of men's lives. In spite of all their efforts, man's heart remains divided. Even if God's law is revealed, people do not succeed in keeping it without backsliding.
The Bible alone gives a true answer to the incomprehensible mystery of suffering. The doctor's life is devoted to the relief of man's sufferings. Suffering is often, but not always, bound up with our disobedience and wrong modes of living. Jesus, who delivers from their faults, who in order to heal the paralytic said to him,"Your sins are forgiven"(Matt9:2).
The Christian answer to suffering is acceptance. Through acceptance, suffering bears spiritual fruit- and even psychic and physical fruit as well. Resignation is passive, and acceptance is active. Resignation abandons the struggle against suffering. Acceptance strives without backsliding but also without rebellion.
There is no greater testimony to the power of Christ than that which shines from the bed of a sick person who miraculously accepts suffering. There is no attitude more impossible for men- without the miraculous intervention of Christ-than the acceptance of suffering.
There is no life exempt from suffering. Dr. Carton "Blessed are those who suffer." There are perhaps no lives more radiant than the lives of those who have totally accepted disease.
Dr. Sauerbach-"Faith deep -rooted in the soul has more efficacy than all philosophical knowledge. Pain and suffering find their liberating meaning only in the Christian faith. Christian s see suffering as a means by God to lead man along the holy road of affliction. An instrument for the purification and edifying of the Christian faith.
Accepting suffering, bereavement, and disease does not mean taking pleasure in them, steeling oneself against them, or hoping that distractions or the passage of time will make us to forget them. It means offering them to God so that he can make them bring forth fruit. One does not arrive at this through reasoning, nor is it to be understood through logic; it is the experience of the grace of God.
The Christian message of acceptance is not an answer only to exceptional suffering. It applies to hundreds of different aspects of daily life. Knowing how to grow older, and accepting it, can be as great a problem at twenty as it is at fifty or eighty. There is serenity proper to their age.
Acceptance of one's parents and the current situations, one's own body and life.
Accepting our parents means accepting the heredity people have passed on to us for generations.- one of the difficulties in changing lives or lifestyles.
For many principal source of physical and mental illness is this constant revolt against injustice. Love surpasses injustice. We have no right to expect that those around us to be perfect. Accepting one's life means also accepting the sins of others which cause us suffering accepting their nerves, their reactions, their enthusiasms.
Happiness, inner harmony, acceptance of our own lives, the solving of conflicts with others, satisfaction in work, victory over sin, over idleness, and over selfishness have doubtless more influence in our vitality than all the other physical factor of diet, heredity, constitution or rest.
Spiritual strength is the greatest strength in the world. Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a quality of life, a physical, psychical, and spiritual unfolding, an exaltation of personal dynamism.
The re-education of people, showing them how to rediscover what was once the source of their physical as well as their moral strength, is a task that doctors scarcely dared to undertake. Spiritual renewal of people and patients would be the complement of all these efforts, would increase its effectiveness, and ensure its lasting success.
What made our forefathers strong was the spirit that animated them, the austerity of their lives, their endurance of hardship, the solidity of their family life, and the ardour of their dedication to God.
The main aim of this book is not to write a treatise on psychology, philosophy, or theology, but to help people to discover a new physical and spiritual health through submitting itself afresh to the sovereignty of God.
Geneva medical conference: We must take an entirely new view of the prevention of disease. The scientific method is to find the primary cause. Malnutrition, a falling birthrate, the use of narcotics, etc are all symptoms of a primary cause in the nation, namely, moral deficiency.
The health of a nation depends on the discipline and altruism of all its citizens—moral health, spiritual health, and physical health from one individual whole.
The spiritual activity of man is no less real than the physical and chemical phenomenon of his body, and its importance is much greater. In a lecture on "The Doctor and Soul-healing," Sauerbach said "There is no true medical art in the absence of an attitude of submission to God. It is the attempt to preserve spiritual and moral neutrality which has rendered doctors powerless to fulfill their role as guides. The moral authority of the doctor is the key to all psychotherapy.
Laws of Life.
The doctor's task is to teach the physical and spiritual laws of normal life. Pythagoras: the noblest task in this world was to teach how to live. To live in accordance with God's purpose for men.
"Health as a harmony, and disease as a loss of equilibrium. "
For Hippocrates, medicine is an art rather than a science, an art founded on an understanding of man as an individual and not as a generalisation.
"Pneuma" which God gives to man; and the chief function of medicine is to place man in conditions of life which will no longer run counter to nature. " When one has fallen ill, one must change one's way of life."
"There are two rules for remaining healthy:to eat less than one might eat, and to work." The importance of meditation. "Meditation is for spirit what walking is for the body." The spiritual view of medicine, which would heal men by bringing them back to obedience to God.
Dr. Bircher-Benner's method consisted of the re-education of the mind, coupled with discipline, exercise, hygiene and proper diet. Dr. Schlemmer "medicine is the art of giving advice on how to live. " There are laws of life which cannot be infringed without danger to health.
Civilisation, in search for material comfort, constantly tends to annul them. One cannot with impunity turn night into day, keep oneself too warm in winter, go everywhere in a car, eat whatever one wishes, or live in conflict with others. The Bible commands man to work:
" Six days shall you labour". Work is one of the most prerequisites of health. The Bible also commands rest: "The seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God, in it you shall not do any work."
Lastly, the Bible lays down a most important rule of health: Periodical fasting.
For practicality, this advice for the working medical doctors is foreign to many as this fasting may not be directly related to the treatment apart from treating food-related sickness.
From the next chapter on, the author deals with the workings of the deeper spiritual dimension in which most present-day doctors hardly practiced.
The Bible is more than a collection of divine laws to which men ought to try to conform. This would be to fall into the error of legalism, formalism, or moralism. Moral effort of this kind has nothing to do with the miraculous transformation brought about by Christ in person who opens his heart to him. The gospel is not a call to the effort but to faith.
Legalism means slavery to ‘principles’ and continual effort to satisfy the imperious demands of a moral code. True liberation through Jesus Christ is a very rare thing due to the lack of faith.
The doctor sees plenty of these religious people ravaged by inexplicable inner conflicts.
Nothing is further than from the spirit of Christ than exhorting a person sick in mind to make the effort of will of which he is incapable. On the other hand, to lead him into personal contact with Jesus Christ will be able to help him find the supernatural strength which will bring him victories his own efforts could never have won for him.
It is no light matter to struggle against sin! The source of all reformation of life is in personal fellowship with Jesus Christ. This is why I feel that the deepest meaning of medicine is still not in ‘counseling lives,’ but in leading the sick to this personal encounter with Jesus Christ, so that accepting it, they may discover a new quality of life, discern God’s will for them, and receive the supernatural strength they need in order to obey it.
Dr. Henry Bon. Indeed the very aim of medicine- the preservation of life, the fight against death-is a metaphysical aim. The meaning or definition of life and death would give a fundamental understanding of human beings and of the basic treatment strategy.
Advice acts from without. The spiritual revolution takes place within. The spiritual renewal comes only from meeting God face to face. There are difficulties in our lives that cannot be overcome by an effort of the will, problems that cannot be solved by the exercise of reason and faults that time cannot efface.
The intellect,’ Bergson wrote, ‘is characterised by a natural inability to comprehend life.’
Science on which our civilisation is founded proceeds by analysis only, and life always eludes analysis. The problem is a demonstration of the impotence of intelligence and technique when they are divorced from inspiration.
In prayer and meditation, we see quite simple things in our lives which our intelligence has failed to perceive. We are also inspired to act: for true life is made up of an alteration between meditation and action. They are complimentary; meditation leads to action, and action is matured in meditation.
"My experience," an old man writes, "is that my physical health is in direct ratio with my moral and spiritual health."
"There are no problems. There are only sins." I see that behind all "personal problems" there lies, quite simply, sin. "People no longer want to know about good and evil....
Sin is rejected as one of those outworn ideas which in a century of intelligence ought to be dead and buried."
Cartesianism has brought about a fundamental divorce between the spiritual and the material, and this is the disease from which our modern world is suffering. This is because in God's plan for the world spiritual and material are one.
Christ's attitude to this problem of connection between sin and disease is quite clear. He indicates that his power to forgive sins and that of healing the sick are two different aspects of a single ministry. Still, Jesus wanted to avoid the connection between sin and disease being used hypocritically to condemn the sick ad especially sinful, adding the comment, " Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Thus Christ calls men to recognize more clearly their own sin when they see the evils from which mankind suffers and not to use these ills as the occasion for passing judgment on other people. The fact that in denying the reality of sin, by giving people to understand that a fault of character is due to the malfunctioning of an endocrine gland or by calling some impure temptation a 'psychological complex.' science destroys man's sense of moral responsibility.
There are two points of view from which each of life's problems may be seen, both of them true: that of the scientific explanation and that of moral responsibility. Only those who have a conviction of sin find a spiritual answer to their anguish, even if their life remains full of suffering. It is when in meditation and in the penetrating presence of Christ, we face up to the moral demands of the gospel that we measure our sin and see the fundamental part it plays in our lives. Soul-healing means bringing souls into contact with Christ.
N.J. Mathieu writes of this "feeling of guilt and sin" that it is the "superior form of knowledge. "
In denying sin and moral responsibility, science has lost the sense of man's inner drama.
Freud confirms Christian teaching by showing that all the psychological conflicts suffered by men stem from a violation of Christ's commands.
Meditation and confession bring up up to the surface all kinds of repressed memories.
Christian confession leads to the same psychological liberation as do the best psychoanalytical techniques. The better a man succeeds in becoming honest with himself, there clearly he will see himself, and his field of consciousness will expand more on how to look his faults in the face. So meditation in the sight of God, and letting oneself be inspired by him, leads to a progressive extension of the field of consciousness. The greatest service we can render to a patient is to teach him by our own example how to meditate.
When the analysts help a person to see more clearly the mechanisms in his mind, the motives of impurity, selfishness, and dishonesty, they are really practicing soul-healing. There lies the secret of their success for to help someone to become more honest with himself is to bring him nearer to God.
Freud would say that Christians practice psychoanalysis without realising it. One may also say that Freud practiced soul-healing without realising it. But then, Christianity is never a matter of method, but of spirit. Those who find meditation hardest to practice are the intellectuals- often assailed by doubts and wonder if their thoughts are coming from God whereas the simple-minded are easier.
Nothing is better for the mind than a few days spent in solitude and devoted entirely to meditation and to the pooling of thoughts discovered in this way. Often forgiveness can be seen to be the treatment for pathological expansion of the field of consciousness.
Thus through the repentance and forgiveness to which it leads, Christian soul-healing provides the answer to all the disorders of the field of consciousness: contraction, expansion in a repeat of other people, expansion in respect to oneself, and displacement.
Finding out what is wrong with our lives is a means, and not an end. It is a negative phase of the inner life, which ought to prepare the way for a positive phase.
“Our conscience tells us what we must not do, but God tells us what we must do.. God has a plan for each one of us."
To discern this plan through seeking day by day to know his will is to find the true purpose of our lives. Having an aim in life is a fundamental condition of physical, moral, and spiritual health. We constantly see sick people whose physical resistance is giving way because they have no longer any aim in life, nothing to do that interests them. - young people who are uncertain of their vocation and, as a result, are full of self-doubt.
God’s plan for anyone is to be found. A person who is convinced of this fact is freed from all prejudice concerning the relative value of one job against another.
People ask God some questions and are disturbed at getting no answer, beginning to think that God has no plan for them. It is generally because the question has been put too superficially. When we are face to face with God the important thing is the questions God asks of us, rather than those we put to him. The two aspects of meditation of which I have spoken are bound up together: the ability to perceive clearly both our faults and our vocation.
God’s purpose for society is realised by men who take up in it the position that God has prepared for them, and for which he has filled them through the talents which which he has endowed them.
A condition of vocation-any vocation- is a real motive force in a person’s life, ensuring full physical development, psychic equilibrium, and spiritual joy.
A diet governed by God, and not by gluttony or fashion: sleep, rest, and holidays dictated by God, and not by laziness or selfishness: a career, work, and physical recreation. Guided by God and not by ambition or fear: a sex life, marriage, and family life directed by God and not by the desire or personal gratification or by jealousy: personal discipline in the use of our time, in imagination and thoughts, imposed by God and not by caprice or the need to escape- these are the fundamental conditions of health both physical and psychological.
Throughout the church’s history, all the saints who have exercised a profound influence on humanity have been Men and women who, breaking away from the convention of society, and even from the customs of church peoples, have obeyed God’s commands which their contemporaries often failed to understand.
I believe then that one of the tasks of the doctor is to help his patients to see what is God’s will for them, and to show them how to win the victories of obedience.
But no one can lead others along this road without travelling along it himself.
Medicine has progressed tremendously with the means to diagnose and treat. The world does not need a new medicine: it needs doctors who know how to pray and obey God in their own live. In such hands, medicine with all its modern resources will bring forth its fruits in abundance.
He touches on the mental disorders brought about by a religious experience -spiritual experience be due to the victims of mental disorders. -very possible. The same is true of miraculous cures- they are rather a special case among the subjects that have a bearing on the relationship between medicine and religion.
We betray the spiritual cause if we allow ourselves to be deceived by people who think their lives have changed because their state of mind has changed, without any real fruit being borne in their daily lives- often their conversion has been purely intellectual. Our concrete acts of obedience have no virtue in themselves. Their sole significance is that they are the sign of our faith. But without that sign the impulse of the heart is no more than a naive illusion.
There are three roads in front of every mane: reality without God, which is the dissociation of the materialists: God without reality, which is the dissociation of the pseudo-mystics: and lastly, God with reality, which is the Christian faith.
The people of this world today are tired of an intellectualised culture which makes great discoveries, does fine things in theory, but has ceased to help them in leading their real lives.
The great task to which God is calling our generation is the reconciliation of the spiritual and the material, the breaking down of the wall of partition which separates them.
Giving one’s life to God means becoming disciplined materially as well as mentally which means becoming real and concrete.
The real meaning this book is that it should be a contribution in the medical sphere to the spiritual renewal which the world needs.
This book had been written during the first and second world wars- written and compiled during his empty hours of his military life.
The disappointment of these last “interwar” year have clearly shown us that peace is not to be ensured by means of a few legal phrases, pacts or declarations which will never build a world. Every man’s life must be reformed.
A new world will not be built in the air, but stone any stone. It will result from the daily action of devoted people who have experienced in their ow lives the power of Jesus Christ.
Ps. After finishing the reading of this book, the author’s teaching and intentions are profound although some area of medicine is in the form of spiritual healing which nowadays are not being practiced well or in their proper perspectives. Healing oneself first and then heal the others. As shown in the life of Jesus who often went away alone to pray alone, with God, in order to achieve his tasks and the final goal of sacrificing himself on the cross, we are to isolate ourselves in solitude in prayer and meditation to achieve what God had intended in our lives.
Reviewer Kisup Kim