THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 6, April, 1946
(Pages 210-214; Size: 16K)
(Number 40 of a 57-part series)



How direct and deadly can be the connection between thought and physical disintegration is shown in an article published under the unimpeachably respectable auspices of a scientific journal. In Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering for July, 1945, a prominent chemical engineer executive, styling himself "Henry Ross, Chemical Engineer, Mythical Chemical Co., New York," -- his true identity being suppressed, the editors said, "for obvious reasons" -- described the destruction through psycho-mental processes which befell eleven executives in his own concern. The article was deemed of sufficient importance for it to be extracted and issued to the executives of one of the largest research companies in the United States. Such organizations are not given to mysticism nor to the circulation of merely interesting articles to their supervisors. In this case it was a matter of deep concern over the facts revealed, which bore direct correspondence to happenings already experienced in that company.

"Henry Ross" describes an intensive safety campaign carried out through two decades by his company, which reduced the accident rate by nine-tenths. The company, proud and complacent, then met with a course of events which proved at least as deadly as any physical carelessness.

"George Brown," head of the shipping department, had difficulties with a new manager, broke a life-long habit of abstinence and became an alcoholic within a few months. "Charlie Smith," an extremely conscientious man, was in the habit of taking work home at night. He died at 47 of cerebral hemorrhage, which was traced to deposits of cholesterol in the walls of his blood vessels -- a phenomenon now known to be due to emotional stress. It was estimated that his loss cost the company about a hundred thousand dollars.

"Ben Jones" had been on the payroll for twenty-five years, enjoyed a high salary and a high standing. His position in the company was secure. But "Jones" had had a home and school environment where efforts were stimulated and rewarded by much praise from parents and teachers. He had graduated at the head of his class. The more cold-blooded inducements of money and high position offered by his employers were insufficient. He was "psychologically underpaid." Worried about his standing, at 46 he developed arthritis -- a common result of emotional stress. The company physician, unable to find any physical cause, informed him that to be cured he must "stop worrying." "Jones" then began to worry for fear that he could not stop worrying. He "faded away to a stiffened shadow" and was retired in total physical disability at 48.

(According to a medical authority, one of the factors in the production of arthritis is the closure of the capillary arteries leading to the bones and tissues of the joints, the latter effect being a result of fear and worry. Constriction of these arteries starves the parts in question. Cold, also, may be associated with mental stress as a cause, for low temperature has a similar effect on the arteries. An occult connection between fear and cold is indicated by the fact that both are "contractive" forces, one physical, the other metaphysical; so that their association in the production of disease is not remarkable.)

"Philip Sims," in charge of the electrical department, had become an electrical engineer only because his father had forced him to do so. His actual loves were music and gardening. This man must have been a near-genius, because in spite of dislike for his occupation, he had enough surplus talent to be an outstanding success at it.

"His downfall began when a quick-witted young assistant, with a gift for merchandising his own talents, began capitalizing on the little openings on Phil's periphery, or so Phil imagined."

"Sims" came down with stomach ulcers and survived through an operation which left him in such poor condition that an assistant succeeded to the job. The writer remarks that the Company's physicians were well acquainted with the acid (ulcer-producing) aspect of fear reactions, but their job was merely to "break out the cutlery when the situation became critical."

Altogether, this company had eleven similar (recognized) cases. Each victim was in some kind of mental conflict. "All were extremely conscientious men, gifted in imagination or drive. Many had come up the hard way. All entertained some off-the-job frustration (and who doesn't?) or some ingrown carry-over from childhood, which in diverse ways the job magnified to a critical degree. Even the wholly admirable retirement plan set up an adverse element in some by blocking a therapeutic change of environment."

William Benton, President of the University of Chicago, is quoted as remarking that "Many of the big corporations tend to operate against the man with imagination and drive. The bigger the crowd, the harder it is to be seen in it. One's superiors are often concerned with promoting themselves or with hanging on to what they've got. Their job is to keep their departments running the way they have always run. The unspoken slogan of many a big business is 'Don't rock the boat'."

A direct correlation between specific diseases and specific mental reactions is being increasingly noted, largely as a result of the advance of psychosomatic medicine. Modern medical works attempt to distinguish -- especially in nervous diseases -- between those which are "organic" (due to actual injuries, infections, or lesions) and those which are wholly "psychic." Admittedly, the symptoms are similar or identical in many cases. Among such diseases are arthritis, neuritis, neuralgia, and others. In the analysis of causation, one sees purely physical causes lumped together with those of a psychic nature, indicating that physicians have difficulty in distinguishing between them. Intelligent lay observation indicates that psychic and physical causes often operate simultaneously to bring on a certain condition: i.e., in "muscular rheumatism," cold, dampness, and mental stress will sometimes be found to operate all at once to produce the condition of ill-health.

This makes more sense to the Theosophist than to others, since he regards internal and external conditions as both being karma, and there is no reason why both manifestations should not come due at once.

In sciatica, cold, dampness, hard chairs, constipation, and mental stress are given as causative agents. In this incongruous list, it is apparent that some causes are correlative; since, for instance, mental stress causes constipation, this and sciatica may be regarded as cognates rather than causally linked. A similar relation exists between constipation and headaches.

As pointed out by Paracelsus and by H. P. Blavatsky, the electro-magnetic conditions of the earth are powerful factors in sickness and health. They are also significant in terms of psychology. Are "cold and wet" really conducive to rheumatism, or are certain electro-magnetic changes, correlated with such weather, responsible? (Little of the operation of these forces is known to science as yet.) Again, how much does cloudiness, that potent producer of mental depression, contribute to precipitating the effects? Of course, a purely physical (yet necessarily Karmic) external condition can drive to the physical plane an affliction hitherto psychic and internal.

What is the effect of simply an uncongenial environment? A man forced to live in the city, but having all his affinities for the mountains, will sometimes arrive at his vacation spot full of weariness, aches and pains, hardly able to drive his car home from the office -- but upon reaching the high country, he shoulders a heavy pack and climbs the peaks, happy and strong.

Psychosomatic medicine has found that mental conflict results in nerve inflammations or often in spastic muscular conditions; that is to say, muscles pulling against each other when they should be working together. Hatred for an inaccessible enemy results in self-punishment, the subconscious infliction of pain, as a substitute for inflicting punishment on the enemy. Likewise, the coexistence of hatred and love, loyalty, or respect all for the same individual (a frequent situation in families), may produce muscular stress and lack of coordination. This is due to the conflicting neural impulses, both to strike and to refrain from striking.

Some physicians are recognizing that there is no true distinction between "psychic" and "organic" diseases, and that the former can produce the latter. (Of course, it is also true that once the "organic" stage has set in, brooding over it reproduces and aggravates the psychic stage in a vicious circle.)

As to the role of "infections," the standing medical puzzle of natural immunity can logically be solved as one of psychic immunity. Bacteria cannot grow except where the psychic field is ready, or, as some would put it, a bacterial growth is the outcome of the disease, not the reverse. Why then do antiseptics and germicides seem to work? Perhaps more because of their suggestive effect than from direct physical effects.

A few specialists in psychosomatic medicine now appreciate the tremendous influence of suggestion in orthodox medicine (drug medicine and surgery). It will one day be recognized that a major element in nearly all curative processes is precisely suggestion, and that most of the accompanying paraphernalia constitutes merely the magic ritual necessary to make the psychic impression; whether that ritual be sulfa drugs, vaccination, or the knife. The important suggestive effect is that produced on the so-called "subconscious" mind, and drastic means may be necessary to convey the impression. It may seem far-fetched to "suggest" that if a suggestion as convincing as a surgeon's knife could be applied without cutting, the body itself would be able to cure a case of acute appendicitis. But we think that idea will not seem as extreme in a few years as it does now. If thought, as Dr. Carrel has noted, "can generate organic lesions," it must be able to heal them as well.

It is notable that marvelous results are frequently obtained in the initial vogue of a new drug; then, as incidents of failure are recorded here and there, skepticism gradually creeps in, and the percentage of cures falls off, until at last the drug is largely superseded by something new. It might be startling to correlate the volume of cures by a new drug with the prestige of its discoverers, and the fanfare with which it is exploited! Tooth-pulling as a means of removing "focal infections" once brought many persons back from the brink of the grave, according to all orthodox testimony. But this method has now greatly declined in popularity.

How should we distinguish between an "accident" and a "disease?" Actually, there is often a clearer connection between an "accident" and a psychic impulse than between a disease and a psychic impulse. How often, perhaps, is an "accidental" mutilation a sub-conscious shedding of an offending member? "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out," is perhaps often drastically obeyed by the too-literal "sub-conscious!" Perhaps this will be better understood when the symbolism of the various organs and members is comprehended.

This tendency toward self-mutilation and the self-production of disease is of course part of the enginery of Karma. But it also illustrates a highly hopeful aspect, in that when such tendencies are uncovered and recognized by the victim, he is frequently able to divert them into less destructive channels. A possible psychiatry of the future, endowed with Theosophical ethics and knowledge, may have a great part to play in the world.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


W.Q.J.--Atmospheric and electrical changes occur at all times, and are intensified at certain periods. The changes of the great cycles -- from one to another -- make all sorts of upheavals possible. The sun moving slowly in his great orbit carries the small earth's path out into new fields of space where entirely new cosmic conditions are met with, and the sun also goes through alterations of place and state. These latter must affect our atmosphere and electrical condition, for it is held by some theosophists that the sun is our great source of electricity. Science has lately admitted the possibility of there being an actual connection between the spots on the sun and our great electric storms; the old Hindu astrologers always asserted this, for they claimed that, as the sun altered, so did the condition of the earth. But it would be premature to definitely state either that the sun alone causes the changes, or that they are due to a different situation of the earth in her great path through space. 

--The Theosophical Forum, October, 1890

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