After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you. (John 5:1-14)
“What we know of disease,” says Dr. Edward Bach, the discoverer of flower essences as a path to healing, “is the terminal stage of a much deeper disorder, and to ensure complete success in treatment it is obvious that dealing with the final result alone will not be wholly effective unless the basic cause is removed. There is one primary error which man can make and that is action against unity.”
What is health? What is happiness? Is there is any better definition for health and happiness than that health is the harmony of body, soul and spirit—or the harmony of doing, feeling and thinking – these flowing from the heart of one’s knowing, happiness being one’s experience of that harmony? Dostoevsky was perhaps more right than even he knew when he said that, in life, you can walk away from everything except yourself. If what we do aligns with what we desire, and if what we desire aligns with what we truly feel, and if what we truly feel aligns with what we know in our heart of hearts ideally we ought to be doing, and if this aligns also with the direction our thinking says we should be taking toward that ideal, why then, as regards our personal life, how can we be anything less than happy, no matter what our outward circumstances may be, and this happiness must be the sure sign of authentic good health. And, finding ourselves in this state of inner unity, so much more can we help bring unity to humanity and the Earth, whose lot, we will easily admit, is by all accounts significantly less than happy.
To see and to hear, to think, to “ought”, to feel, to desire, to be able to do, and – finally – to do are, each of them, different things. Seeing what is before us, we may know in our soul what we ought to do, yet not have any desire to do it. On the other hand, we may desire to do something that we really feel we should not do – and if we are able to do it, we might go right ahead and do it, only to regret it afterwards. It may also be the case that out of a sense of duty we do what we think we ought to do, yet at the same time we may not feel at all happy in discharging that duty. Moreover, it is quite possible that we may know that we ought to do something, having even a desire to do it, yet when it comes down to accomplishing it, that we are not actually able, whether because of some inner flaw or lack or because of an outer hindrance, to see it through.
Each of these inharmonious situations disturbs our own unity as a human person. And all of these disturbances, except in some cases the last, work harm on the unity of the “likeness and image of God” within us, which we could identify as the everyday personality (or “likeness”, such as it may somehow — in some little way –manage to be) and the higher self (or “image”, which is perfect and eternal). When we are not in unity with ourselves, we simply cannot be at peace with world or self, and any happiness we might claim on our behalf must remain largely self-deceptive. And just as, despite ourselves, we might habitually breech our own unity of person, so likewise might we habitually disturb our unity with other human persons, with the beings of nature, and with the higher beings of the spiritual realm. The transgression of the personality against unity, whether the harm be to the unity with the higher self or the unity of self with others, is without doubt the prime cause of illness, whether the harm has been done in this lifetime or in another lifetime. Call it ignorance or call it folly, call it obtuseness or call it sin, the personality’s clear inclination to deny and violate its unity with the higher self and just as readily to deny and violate its unity with other selves and the beings of nature can be seen as the fundamental cause of all illness, inner or outer. Germs can be really only a secondary cause, just as genetics can only be. And if God does not will the healing? But God, perfect Unity-of-Love, God who is Love, wills one thing and one thing only: the complete healing, and therefore the complete happiness – without exception – of every single being in the universe.
There are many types of disunity in relationships making the need of healing evident, e.g., the relationship between mother and daughter, exemplified in the healing of the Syrophoenician woman; between father and son in the healing of the nobleman’s son; between mother and son in the raising of the youth of Nain; between father and daughter in the raising of the daughter of Jairus; and so on. There may be a significant lack or disturbance in the marriage relation of a couple, where the changing of water into wine at the wedding at Cana is the needed remedy. Here, the “water” of routine and indifference can be changed into “the best wine saved for the last”.
Another type of disunity to reckon with is, as we have already said, where there is a fundamental contradiction between a person’s higher self and lower self, or contradiction within a personality’s thinking, feeling and willing, exemplified in the paralyzed man who for 38 years waited for healing beside the pool at Bethesda. Paralysis is not a physical condition only. Paralysis begins in the soul, slowly taking hold of its life of willing, feeling, and thinking. Here the important question may be: Do I really want to be made whole? After all, being able to take up one’s bed and walk implies acceptance of new responsibilities. The less paralyzed we become, the more responsibilities inevitably will come our way. But what are these responsibilities if not the very milestones, the easily decipherable signs, of our divine mission in the world?
As Edward Bach says in his essay “Free Thyself”:
Health is our heritage, our right. It is the complete and full union between soul, mind and body; and this is no difficult far-away ideal to attain, but one so easy and natural that many of us have overlooked it.
All earthly things are but the interpretation of things spiritual. The smallest most insignificant occurrence has a Divine purpose behind it.
We each have a Divine mission in this world, and our souls use our minds and bodies as instruments to do this work, so that when all three are working in unison the result is perfect health and perfect happiness.
A Divine mission means no sacrifice, no retiring from the world, no rejecting of the joys of beauty and nature; on the contrary, it means a fuller and greater enjoyment of all things: it means doing the work that we love to do with all our heart and soul, whether it be housekeeping, farming, painting, acting, or serving our [fellows] in shops or houses. And this work, whatever it may be, if we love it above all else, is the definite command of our soul, the work we have to do in this world, and in which alone we can be our true selves, interpreting in an ordinary materialistic way the message of that true self.
We can judge, therefore, by our health and by our happiness, how well we are interpreting this message.
In the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican liturgical calendars, today is the feast day of Saint Gregory of Nyssa (c.330 – 395). Greatly influenced by Origen and Plato, he wrote numerous theological treatises, which are considered by the above branches of the Catholic Church to be a true exposition of the faith of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic” faith. But whereas Platonic metaphysics holds that stability is perfection and change is for the worse, Gregory in contrast argues the ideal of human perfection as constant progress in virtue and godliness.
In his theology, God has always been perfect and has never changed, and never will. Humanity fell from grace in the Garden of Eden, but rather than return to an unchanging state, humanity’s goal is to become more and more perfect, more divine, going “from glory to glory”, even though humanity will never wholly understand, much less completely attain, divine transcendence. This idea has had a profound influence on the Eastern Orthodox teaching regarding theosis or “divinization”. While the question of salvation or damnation has over centuries traditionally been believed to be settled at the moment of death, Gregory argues that nobody is known to have been forever condemned and so prayers can and should be offered for absolutely all the dead, even for those who seem to have been the greatest of sinners. Over the last number of decades, the theological ideas of Gregory of Nyssa have received much attention from prominent Roman Catholic and Anglican theologians: the late Hans Urs von Balthazar may be noted in particular, whose influential theology owes much to the writings of this Church father.
Like Edward Bach, Saint Gregory of Nyssa sees that “there is one primary error which man can make and that is action against unity.” Like Bach, he sees but one primal remedy for it, as we find in these words taken from his “Oration on the Fifth Beatitude”:
Just as he who looks at the sun in a mirror, even if he does not fix his eyes on the sky itself, nevertheless sees the sun in the mirrors brightness, so you also, even if your eyes could not bear the light, possess within yourselves what you desire, if you return to the grace of the image that was placed in you from the beginning.
To return to the grace of the image that was placed in me from the beginning, so that the paralyzed man — who has lain long within me who knows how many lifetimes — might at last rise, take up his bed, and walk.
Pax et Bonum,