A Reasonable Expectation of Miracles

“Science is the tool of the Western mind and with it more doors can be opened than with bare hands.  It is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.”
Carl G. Jung

Perhaps there is more magic in our lives than we realize. When Western Civilization embraced science and reason, magic and miracles became targets of derision. Only the gullible believed in them, we were told. Everything could be explained through science and reason. That approach has served pretty well. Scientists have made incredible advances in technology and medicine, charlatans do not so easily take us in, and we don’t lose a lot of sleep if someone curses us. On the other hand, we may be missing out on opportunities for wonder. We may be neglecting sources of power in our lives.

Science recognizes the placebo effect, even though it can’t quite explain it. In medical research, when you test a medication, you have to take into account the fact that a significant percent of people given a fake pill will get better from taking it. The number is often 30%. Similarly, people will get side effects from a fake pill when there is nothing in it to cause those ill effects. The suggestion that the pill will do something powerfully affects many people whether negatively or positively.

Here is a story of a similar process that reveals how thinking works on our bodies. A man was treated with chemotherapy for cancer. One of the side effects of the chemo was sensitivity to cold. The doctor warned him not to touch or drink anything cold, because it could damage his nerves. Forgetting that warning, he drank ice water and developed numbness in the back of his throat. After the chemo was over, he was healthy and the numbness went away. A year and a half later, routine follow up tests showed what appeared to be a small tumor. After talking to the doctor, thinking about cancer again and reflecting on the treatments likely to come, he took a drink from a cold can of soda pop. Instantly, there was that numbness in the back of his throat again. Clearly, memory and suggestion had created a physical sensation that should not have been.

This raises the question: How else do we affect our health and other aspects of our experience with thought, imagery, suggestion and expectation? Certainly, anxiety can be stimulated with subtle thoughts. Panic attacks—extreme anxiety states, can be triggered by a smell, a sensation or a thought that never reaches full awareness. What about disease? How much do we make ourselves sick with the way we think about our bodies and our lives? Stress clearly has a role in illness, but what about the beliefs we have about our health and our destiny? Do we stay in unhappy jobs and relationships because we can’t imagine anything better? Does our lack of affluence reflect an expectation that we must always struggle with money; that perhaps we don’t deserve more?

We cage ourselves in our thinking patterns and come to believe that nothing exists for us outside the cage. The truth is that our minds are tremendously powerful forces, but they need to be given their freedom in order to be harnessed. Sounds like a paradox. In order to free our minds we need to be able to live in the realm of paradox. We need to be able to consider questions such as:
This universe is a big place and there is much in it we don’t understand. Many things happen to people that can’t be explained. The sick get better, the dying don’t die, catastrophes are surprisingly averted, and boons are bestowed unexpectedly. Sometimes these are freak accidents and sometimes, perhaps our mental state affects the outcome. What have we got to lose by visualizing and affirming the conditions we would like to exist in our lives?

Back to the Interlude Home Page


© 2006 Tom Barrett