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Chapter 23 The Sanative Power of Words

One of the principal mediums through which mind acts upon mind, is that of words, spoken or written. Words are the representatives of ideas, the outward manifestation of thought, and the ultimation of a hidden spiritual power. They are things that have life in them, which is communicable by them. They are not mere empty sounds, like the sighing of the wind or the noise of a waterfall. If this were the case, they would be of no more consequence than the breath expended in producing them. The whole soul is sometimes in the words we utter, especially when, to use a common expression, they come from the heart, that is, from the love or life. The outward material organism is not the man, and is no necessary part of humanity. It is the mind that makes the man. This is composed of the two departments of the love and the intellect, and a more outward manifestation of these is affection and thought. These are ultimated or expressed in the words we utter. Thus they are charged with the very life of man — the vital force of the soul. They affect not only the tympanum, but they sink into the interior depths of our being. They are not like the leaves loosened from the trees by an autumn wind, and strewed upon the bosom of a quiet lake to float upon its surface; but there is in them a spiritual gravity, which causes them to sink into the hidden depths of the spirit.

Words are the index of character. They enclose within them our thoughts, and the tone with which they are uttered indicates the state of the affections. In another world, the utterance of a single word reveals to the intuitions of angelic spirits the ruling love that lurks within it, and with the knowledge of this is laid open the life and character. In the effect they perceive the cause. The heart, that is the love, is the fountain; words are the stream. If the fountain is clear as crystal, the issuing rill will be the water of life. If the heart be like the bitter well of Mara, there will not be sweetness in the words. Even idle or aimless words, and mere fashionable talk, which are like the bubbles or foam floating on the current of the stream of life, though they may assume the most beautiful forms, and steal the tints of the rainbow, will be internally like the heart whence they proceed. For bubbles are formed from the stream, and partake of its general qualities.

Jesus declared a great truth when he affirmed, that “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” The Greek word here rendered abundance, signifies a redundant fullness that overflows. When the heart is full of love, it overflows in kind and gentle words. When a man is full of anger, he is like the volcanic wells of Iceland, and boils over in scalding words. If there is melancholy in the heart, and the soul is full of it, there is a dirge-like strain in the tone of the voice, like the sighing of the midnight winds in the leafless trees of a cemetery in winter. If joy and heavenly peace pervade a man’s inner being, the cheerful music of his voice will mix and mingle with the grand chorus of bliss in the angelic realms. We do not mean, that to the blunted perceptions of most men, a person’s words will always reveal his ruling love and inward character. They may fall from the lips like spurious coin from the mint of the counterfeiter, and the gilded brass may have the ring of the genuine metal, but our angelic intuitions will penetrate the thin covering. As men become more intuitional, the personation of the good by the evil, in the drama of life, will terminate. Evil will be detected, even though it may throw around it the costume of fair words.

Words are wonderfully mysterious things. When uttered in the presence of mind, they do not waste themselves upon the illimitable and desert air, but cleave to the soul of him who hears them like nails driven into the walls of the house. Who has not been troubled by the involuntary recurrence to his memory of the vile utterances of evil doers which he heard long years ago in his youth. They light down like a flock of harpies, to pollute, it may be, a heavenly feast. They come unbidden to mingle with our holiest meditations, and perhaps even with our prayers.

“Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain,

Our thoughts are linked by many a hidden chain;

Awake but one, and lo, what myriads rise!

Each stamps its image as the other flies.”

Thus it is with the words we heard in our childhood, either good or bad. In afterlife, touch but one and a whole cloud of them will arise, like aquatic birds from a lake in the mountains.

There is a lasting sanative spiritual influence in words of love and sympathy. There are coloring subatances so diffusive that a minute and almost inestimable quantity will tinge a large body of water. So a few kind words will sometimes give coloring to a person’s whole life. I am not speaking of that heartless sentimentality which dismisses the poor soul from its door with the hollow wish, “Be ye warmed and be ye filled,” and that offers to its neighbor, who sits dumb with his overwhelming grief, its empty cant phrases committed to memory. Lore is the animating soul of kind words, and through their medium we may communicate our own mental states, our inmost life, to strengthen and invigorate those that need our help. But to him whose affections are blasted and cold from some great calamity that has crushed through his heart-strings, we may say never so many times, “Be ye warmed,” but if our words do not spring from a heart glowing with genuine love, there is no heat in them. They impinge against the affiicted spirit like the frost crystals of a winter’s day. They may shine and glitter, but they chill the life’s blood of him who speaks or hears them. In all loving words there is a therapeutic force, and a divine life. Truth, when it is the outward envelope of a living love inclosed as a vitalilzing spark within it, when ultimated in words and deposited in the mind of another, never fades from his memory so that it cannot be recalled. It may for a season be forgotten, or pass from our present recollection. It may to appearance be deep beneath the accumulated rubbish of after-years. But at the quickening voice of God or of His angels, it shall start to life again, come forth from its sepulcher to consciousness, and assert its divine light to reign. It will be like characters written with invisible ink. The paper thus inscribed appears a blank, yet when held before the fire, line after line, sentence after sentence comes to view, as if penned by an invisible hand.

Truth from love is divine. It is the light of a quenchless flame. Like Milton’s angels, it is immortal in every part, and cannot die. It is one of those divine and positive realities that cannot be annihilated. The words that inclose it and through which it enters the memory, can never be erased from that imperishable tablet. Though sunk deep beneath the oblivious waves of after-years, they will sometime rise and float upon the surface. Many facts are given to show the tenacity with which the mind holds the memory of words even casually spoken. Among them we may cite the case mentioned by Coleridge, of a servant girl, who, in the delirium of a fever, was heard to repeat long sentences in Greek and Rabbinic Hebrew, languages she had never learned, and which she had only heard without attention by the minister in whose family, many years before, she had lived as a domestic. Yet those words of a strange language were stereotyped upon the mental plate. Dr. Rush also relates that the Germans of his day in Philadelphia, when dying, usually prayed in their native tongue, though they had not spoken it for fifty years, and had apparently forgotten it. Thus our words of love and kindness will have a lasting influence. They will live in the minds of some long after the monument, that marks the resting place of our ashes, shall have crumbled back to dust.

There is a lasting power also in written words. A letter or a book may be charged with the divine magnetism of a spiritual life. There is an underlying truth in the apparently extravagant assertion of William Hazlitt, that “Words are the only things that last forever.” And someone has eloquently said, “Words convey the mental treasures of one period to the generations that follow and, laden with this their precious freight, they sail safely across gulfs of time in which empires have suffered shipwreck” The wise and good of past ages, the noblest and holiest spirits that ever lived and moved among men, the world’s real heroes and benefactors, have sometimes gathered up into a few words the rich harvest of their knowledge and experience, and lauuched them upon the ocean of human life to carry their
celestial treasures to all coming ages. A book written by a good and wise man is not to be classed among things that are dead. A living soul seems to breathe and speak from its pages. The affection and thought of the author, that never can be separated from his living mind, still animate the speaking sentences. There is an intuitive perception of this in the veneration with which the sacred books of the nations are held. Mohammed is still in the Koran, and Jesus in the Gospels. The letter fixes in an outward form the still living thought of an author. In the cloistered stillness of the library that has gathered up these spiritual treasures, we seem to move along its silent halls among the spirits of the mighty dead. We fain would believe that this is not destitute of all reality.

Place a book in the hand, or on the forehead, of a person gifted with the psychometric sense, and enough of the spiritual life of the author will be still in it, to reveal his character. This hidden influence affects the delicate sensibility of the psychometer. A letter from a person written even on another continent, will be so charged with the living magnetism and spiritual force of the writer of it, as to cause the mind of the psychometer to vibrate in harmony with it, and the authors feelings of mind and body will be reproduced, and can be accurately described. Here is a subtle force which has been turned to a practical use in the cure of disease. The psychometer is only more conscious than others of this influence, in consequence of the peculiar sensitiveness of his organism. For psychometry may be defined to be the sympathetic state, and the interior sensations, as clairvoyance and clairaudience, belonging to it. All may be affected in as great a degree.

The Seeress of Prevorst used this power in delivering persons from the psychological influence of disorderly or undeveloped spirits, which is a concomitant of many diseased conditions. She employed sentences written upon paper, which were to be carried about the person. She perhaps had little knowledge of the laws governing their action, but they were successful in relieving the patient from his disordered mental states, and thus sundered the sympathetic connection between him and similarly diseased mind in the inner sphere of being. There is a law here but imperfectly understood, and not generally recognized, but which can be turned to a good account.

There is a greater power in words than men are aware of. The creative power of God is expressed by the Platonists, and by John in his Gospel, by the term Logos or Word. But this power is given to every soul made in the image of God. Frederic Von Schlegel makes the distinguishing chsracteristic of man, and the peculiar eminence of human nature, to consist in this — that to him alone among all other of earth’s creatures the word has been imparted and communicated. “In the idea of the word,” he observes, “considered as the basis of man’s dignity and peculiar destination, the internal light of consciousness and of our own understanding is undoubtedly to be included, — this word is not a mere faculty of speech, but the fertile root whence the stately trunk of all languages has sprung. But the word is not confined to this only — it next includes a living, working power — it is not merely an object and organ of knowledge — an instrument of teaching and learning, but the means of affectionate union, conciliatory accommodation, efficacious command, and even creative productiveness, as our own experience and life itself manifest each of those significations of the word; and thus it embraces the whole plenitude of the excellencies and qualities which characterize man.” In proportion as man possesses this divine principle implanted in him, he approaches the divine and angelic nature. But so far as he loses that word of life, which has been commnnicated and confided to him, he sinks down to a level with nature, and instead of dominions over nature, becomes her vassal. (Philosophy of History, p. 87.)

Jesus of Nazareth possessed this divine power in an eminent degree, and nature seemed passive under his hands. He comprehended the potential spiritual force of words, as a medium of communicating life and sanative psychological influence. He employed certain formulas or expressive sentences into which he concentrated and converged his whole mental-force, and made them the means of transmitting spiritual life to the disordered mind. Some of these pregnant utterances, always used according to the nature of the case, were these: “Go in peace; Be of good cheer, thy sins are all forgiven thee; Be it unto thee according to thy faith; I will, be thou cleansed; Peace be unto thee; Arise and walk.” Into these few words were condensed his whole mental force, and they were made to communicate his better state of feeling and thought to the sufferer.

Spiritual diseases demand psychical remedies. Thousands there are who would be better both in mind and body, if they only knew there was someone in the universe who loved them. We should demonstrate to them that God loves them, angels love them, and we love them. “Go to the poor sufferer, deserted and destitute, dying of despair; carry him stores of relief in your hand, love and pity in your eye and voice; and see how the sun-burst of joyful surprise breaks on his brow only just tinged with the vanishing skirts of dread. In millions of cases, no recipes of vegetable or mineral drugs can compare in value and power with such pharmaceutics as a grain of patience, a pennyweight of magnanimity, a drop of forgiveness, a draught of pure resolve, a hearty inhalation of friendship and faith. These and such as these, are :—

“Antidotes of medicated music, answering for mankind’s forlornest uses.”

Oftentimes, a physician accomplishes more toward the raising up of a patient, by his words of sympathy and encouragement, than by his medical prescriptions, for the reason that there is more sanative virtue in them, and they better adapted to the removal of the spiritual disturbances that aggravate, if they do not originate, the disease. Baglivi was deeply impressed with the truth of this and frankly acknowledges it. He says: “I can scarcely express how much the conversation of the physician influences even the life of the patient, and modifies his complaints. For a physician powerful in speech, and skilled in addressing the feelings of a patient, adds so much to the power of his remedies, and excites so much confidence in his treatment, as frequently to overcome dangerous diseases with very feeble remedies, which more learned doctors, languid and indifferent in speech, could not have cured with the best remedies that man could produce.”


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