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What is Healing: At What Level of Human Existence Does Healing Begin?

At what level of human existence does healing begin? "There is no sharp line of line of demarcation between the religious, spiritual, emotional, and physical—between the body and the psyche." (Morton Kelsey, Healing and Christianity, 232)

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What is Healing: At What Level of Human Existence Does Healing Begin?

  1. 1. Running head: WHAT IS HEALING 1What is Healing?At What Level of Human Existence Does Healing BeginDavid GrinsteadAtlantic UniversityFebruary 1999Author NoteDavid Grinstead is now at the Health Center of Hillsborough (http://www.youhealit.com)and Alamance Community College.Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David Grinstead,Department of Continuing Education, Alamance Community College, P.O. Box 8000, Graham,NC 27253-8000. Contact: dcgrinstead879@access.alamancecc.edu.
  2. 2. WHAT IS HEALING 2What is Healing?At What Level of Human Existence Does Healing Begin?There is no sharp line of line of demarcation between the religious, spiritual, emotional,and physical—between the body and the psyche. If it can be shown that religiouslife has a vital effect upon the total emotional life of human beings, upon whichChristians are apt to call the soul, then it may be assumed it can have a like effectupon the body of the believer. (Morton Kelsey, Healing and Christianity, 232)In May of 1997, when I spoke on behalf of the American Academy of Family Medicinein Lourdes, France, concerning prayer and the practice of medicine, I was adamant that any andall healing which does not encompass the soul is at best transitory healing.This story of Jesus illuminates and drives home this simple truth:After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he wasback home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in orout. He was teaching the Word. They brought in a paraplegic to him, carried byfour men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removedpart of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by theirbold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves.“He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.”Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are youso skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins.’ orsay, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking?’ Well, just so it’s clear that I
  3. 3. WHAT IS HEALING 3am the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both...” (he now looked at theparaplegic), “Get up. Pick up you stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him.They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’venever seen anything like this!” (Paterson, 91)Jesus could have stopped short and given to the paraplegic restoration of the body whichis what he and most of us are seeking when ill. Yet, in some way this man’s physical illness waslinked to his inner state of being. His paralysis was a symptom of an injured psyche/soul, a soulwhich needed restoration to a state of wholeness. Jesus, with his understanding of depthpsychology, went straight to the source of this man’s illness and removed the inner blockages(psychological, emotional, childhood traumas, environmental, etc.) accompanying/underlying hisparalysis.The need to restore the soul for breakthrough and thorough healing is borne out in myown life experiences. During my early twenties, I experienced heart palpitations, intestinalproblems, a nervous stomach, panic attacks, insomnia, and depression and was labeled by theMinnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) as neurotic and borderline schizophrenic.These symptoms first appeared during my senior year of high school and steadily worsened overa period of four years.During this same time, my external life turned into a real mess. I dumped my fiancée oftwo years; dated a woman I barely knew for three months, married her, and we separated 20months later; changed my college major from religion to psychology; begin the slide towards
  4. 4. WHAT IS HEALING 4agnosticism; and ultimately resigned the church where I served as an associate pastor andresigned the ministry. The end result was a protracted series of meaningless jobs, borderlinepoverty, reckless living, and a total disconnect from any Higher Spiritual Reality.It was an unexpected transpersonal experience with the risen Jesus and the subsequentapplication of a tailored twelve-step program and other spiritual disciplines that restored my soul,calmed my mind, and restored my physical health. I knew firsthand what the Psalmist meantwhen he said, “The Lord...restores my soul.” (Psalms 23: 1.3)It is my opinion that generally physical, emotional, and mental states (but not necessarilyalways) are expressed or experienced as reflections of the underlying soul’s condition. This begsthe question: What is the soul?No one can give a definition of the soul. But we know what it feels like. The soul is thesense of something higher than the ourselves, something that stirs in us thoughts,hopes, and aspirations which go out to the world of goodness, truth and beauty.The soul is a burning desire to breathe in this world of light and never to lose it—to remain children of light.” – Albert Schweitzer (Cousins, 63)SOUL in the Old Testament designates men or animals in their total being. Soul is thelife principle. Man is “body-soul”, for the Hebrews... In the New Testament theidea of soul (Greek psyche) as life principle continues but the term may mean“person”... it continues after death. (Layman’s Bible Encyclopedia, 768)The soul contains the truest of individual essence from which emerges our affective,creative, and emotional life... the true inner individuality of each and every human being that is
  5. 5. WHAT IS HEALING 5the point of contact with and the reflection of Divine Spirit. The soul is of the utmost personalresponsibility. It represents and becomes what the individual “Will” does with its unique gift oflife....there are many who feel that the soul is not at all subject to the necessities of growingpains and a long struggle to maturity. For them the soul is somethingunchangeable, equally possessed by all human beings. It is the inevitableaccomplishment of the human body, having been given by God at birth or before,and guaranteeing life after death. That notion thinks of soul as static,unchangeable, the possession once and for all of man. (Miller, 13)I strongly disagree. It is my position that the soul is not static, but dynamic. The NewTestament gives clear descriptions of:...illnesses of the soul and regards these illnesses as of more concern than illnesses of thebody. This is because the soul carries our fundamental Self, that mysterious,enduring part of us that is able to survive death and achieve union with God.(Sanford, Healing Body and Soul, 120)The soul is full of possibilities—it is not unchangeable. Physical realities andpossibilities are but a reflection of Spiritual realities and possibilities. Just as the brain and bodymay be trained, the soul may also be trained. Just as the body is born, the soul is born; just as themind and the body must grown, mature, fail and succeed, so must the soul achieve insight andskill. The body and mind can lapse into darkness, sickness, and confusion; and so too the soul.Repetitive and countless learning opportunities are needed for mental and physical developmentand also for soul development and soul maturity. (Miller, 13-14)
  6. 6. WHAT IS HEALING 6Often I have pondered my own healing(s) and restoration(s) wondering why I wassingled out for an unexpected restoration of soul, mind, and body. One night I put the questionto my dream journal and asked, “What is my life destiny, my ultimate life destiny?My dream:I and another father are at the back of my parked car with the trunk open.Scattered all around the car on the ground are small toy cars. We talk as we pickthem up and place the toy cars inside the trunk of my car. I state that Joshua (my10 year old son) left them lying on the ground scattered all around the worldwherever we have traveled.During the conversation, I state that I try to balance between the extremesof the world—neither too much nor too little. I give an example of clippingcoupons stating that sometimes I clip coupons to save money and sometimes I donot clip coupons. That it is not always the same. Also I need to be alone a lot ofthe time or I feel that I will fall apart.We speak of the news on CNN and agree that there is no new news, onlythe continuing cycle of old news of human brokenness. And that my job is touncover the potential that lies below the surface for those willing to do the work.I am to show the possibilities of what humans can be—I show what they mightbe—not the same old same ways. They must be willing to do the digging.My personal experiences of soul restoration, healing, and wholeness are grounded inspiritual practice and disciplines such as: dream work, scripture reading, journaling, meditation,contemplation, reflecting, centering prayer, and creative pursuits such as poetry, photography
  7. 7. WHAT IS HEALING 7and martial arts. Each of these varied techniques shares the common goal of making a consciousconnection with the Ground of my being.It seems that how things work is that “in our own woundedness, we can become a sourceof life for others.” (Nouwen, 72) I have never thought of myself as a leader, but this may bebased upon the “great illusion of leadership… than man can be led out of the desert by someonewho has never been there.” (Nouwen, 72) Having been there and having come back qualifies meto lead and speak with authority on the necessity of soulful healing and recovery.I have an urgent need to speak on this subject and to speak often; however, I ambefuddled by a deep desire to do so within the context of institutionalized Christianity. Mostpeople see the Church as it is and ask, “Why?”; I see the Church as it can be and ask, “Whynot?” My opinion is that the Church often fails in its mission as envisioned by Jesus:There once was a man who was giving a great feast to which he invited people. Whenit was time for the feast… he said to his servant ‘Hurry out to the streets andalleys of the town, and bring back the poor, the cripple, the blind, and the lame.’(Luke 14:16, 17)… the church has reneged on its own spiritual traditions and has succumbed to therational materialism of our day along with everyone else. For the church, as it hasbecome increasingly institutionalized, devalued and denied the reality of theindividual soul and its dreams in favor of collectivized creeds, rituals andtraditions. In putting the life of the institution above that of the soul, the churchsought to mold the individual to the life of the institution. This left the church
  8. 8. WHAT IS HEALING 8devoid of its spiritual basis, and open to the same materialism and rationalism thatgripped the rest of the world. (Sanford, Dreams and Healing, 8)My healing experiences are grounded in Christian and Western Spirituality. This is whatI know and from whence I know; therefore, it is the world view from which I am most qualifiedto speak with authority.My contemporaries, being greatly influenced by the same basic cultural and otherWestern environmental forces, cannot easily divorce their soul’s recovery or growth from theirprimary spiritual influences. Such is ingrained, yet: “There are very few spiritual directors orclasses in how to pray in most modern churches, Catholic or Protestant; many people today areturning to the wisdom of the East.” (Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence, 12) This explains theno-growth or declining membership dilemma of the traditional churches such as the UnitedMethodist in which I am active:While traditional churches treat miracles gingerly, it is surely no coincidence that thefastest-growing movement in Christendom places miracles squarely at the centerof worship. The growth rate of the “post-denominational” churches—theCharismatics and Pentecostals—now surpass that of the Southern Baptists.“People don’t come to listen,” explains Peter Wagner, a professor of churchgrowth at Fuller Theological Seminary, “They come to do.” The miracles takemany forms: besides healing, there are members who have visions, or speak intongues, or collapse on the ground when seized by the power of the Holy Spirit.(Time, April 10, 1995, 68)
  9. 9. WHAT IS HEALING 9I have struggled to bond and connect with others from within the traditional Church butthe fruits of my efforts have produced slim to none pickings. “Except for Pentecostal seminaries,less than half a dozen offer any courses in the religious dimensions of healing. In mostseminaries the subject is dismissed with scorn.” (Kelsey, Healing and Christianity, 3) Beingneither Charismatic nor Pentecostal, I chose to study at Atlantic University instead of amainstream divinity school.My work at Atlantic University will soon be complete. Thereafter, I hope to begin aprogressive sharing of what I have learned and mastered in the areas of soul restoration,recovery, and healing. This poem which I wrote captures the essence of my dream:A space, a special place, out of reach of regular means…techniques long ago turnedsacred cows. Historical ways of doing things not meant to heal those outside themain stream. How many? Many seek the way, only to be turned away draggingand pushing broken bodies, minds and spirits along litter covered and barrencultural by-ways. A space, a sacred place! The essence of One will make thisspace a very special place for those of us who stand, lean, sit, and lay outside themain stream; cultural oddities embracing the light finding healing for brokenbodies, minds and spirits. We will find our way to this space, a very specialplace.
  10. 10. WHAT IS HEALING 10ReferencesCousins, N (1984). The words of Albert Schweitzer. New York: Newmarket PressKelsey, M. T. (1995). Healing and Christianity: a classic study. San Francisco: Harper & RowKelsey, M. T. (1997). The other side of silence. New York: PaulistMiller, S. H. (1951). The life of the soul. London: Word BooksNouwen, H. J. M. (1990) The wounded healer. New York: DoubledayPeterson, E. H. (1995) The message: the new testament psalms and proverbs in contemporarylanguage. Colorado Springs, Colorado: NewPress PublishingSanford, J. A. (1978) Dreams and healing. Mahwah, N.J.: PaulistSanford, J. A. (1992) Healing body and soul: the meaning of illness in the New Testament and inpsychotherapy Louisville: WestminsterThe Southwestern Company (1964). The layman’s bible encyclopedia. Nashville: Southwestern(1962) The Oxford annotated bible: revised standard version. New York: Oxford UniversityPress(1995, April 10). Time Magazine, 68.