No one doubts—certainly not I—that the mind exercises a powerful influence over the body. From the beginning of time, the sorcerer, the interpreter of dreams, the fortune-teller, the charlatan, the quack, the wild medicine-man, the educated physician, the mesmerist, and the hypnotist have made use of the client’s imagination to help them in their work. They have all recognised the potency and availability of that force. Physicians cure many patients with a bread pill; they know that where the disease is only a fancy, the patient’s confidence in the doctor will make the bread pill effective.
Faith in the doctor. Perhaps that is the entire thing. It seems to look like it. In old times the King cured the king’s evil by the touch of the royal hand. He frequently made extraordinary cures. Could his footman have done it? No—not in his own clothes. Disguised as the King, could he have done it? I think we may not doubt it. I think we may feel sure that it was not the King’s touch that made the cure in any instance, but the patient’s faith in the efficacy of a King’s touch. Genuine and remarkable cures have been achieved through contact with the relics of a saint. Is it not likely that any other bones would have done as well if the substitution had been concealed from the patient? When I was a boy, a farmer’s wife who lived five miles from our village, had great fame as a faith-doctor—that was what she called herself. Sufferers came to her from all around, and she laid her hand upon them and said, ’Have faith —it is all that is necessary,’ and they went away well of their ailments. She was not a religious woman, and pretended to no occult powers. She said that the patient’s faith in her did the work. Several times I saw her make immediate cures of severe toothaches. My mother was the patient. In Austria there is a peasant who drives a great trade in this sort of industry and has both the high and the low for patients. He gets into prison every now and then for practising without a diploma, but his business is as brisk as ever when he gets out, for his work is unquestionably successful and keeps his reputation high. In Bavaria there is a man who performed so many great cures that he had to retire from his profession of stage-carpentering in order to meet the demand of his constantly increasing body of customers. He goes on from year to year doing his miracles, and has become very rich. He pretends to no religious helps, no supernatural aids, but thinks there is something in his make-up which inspires the confidence of his patients, and that it is this confidence which does the work and not some mysterious power issuing from himself.
Within the last quarter of a century, in America, several sects of curers have appeared under various names and have done notable things in the way of healing ailments without the use of medicines. There are the Mind Cure, the Faith Cure, the Prayer Cure, the Mental-Science Cure, and the Christian-Science Cure; and apparently they all do their miracles with the same old powerful instrument—the patient’s imagination. Differing names, but no difference in the process. But they do not give that instrument the credit; each sect claims that its way differs from the ways of the others.