A 74-year-old woman’s lower right leg was covered in waxy lumps, eruptions of angry red and livid purple. Tests confirmed the worst suspicions: it was carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. Despite receiving no treatment over a period of a few months the tumours miraculously disappeared. There was nothing in the biopsies, or the scans. The patient believed it was the hand of God; she had kissed a religious relic just before what she saw as miraculous healing set in. However, medics call this a rare case of spontaneous remission although they cannot account for it scientifically.
Like the patient, believers in faith healing assert that the miraculous curing of disease and disability can be brought about through prayer and/or other religious rituals that, they say stimulate a divine presence and power. The term miracle means an event that is contrary to natural law. There have been claims that faith can cure blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS, and many other disorders and injuries.
Attitude of religious people to miraculous healing
Miraculous healing was said to happen in biblical times like Christ’s healing of the blind, deaf, lame and other diseased people. If it really happened then, why not also now?
One might wonder about the many millions of Catholics who have made their pilgrimage to Lourdes over the years where the waters are alleged to have miraculous healing powers. Some amazing recoveries have been claimed as miraculous cures but little is said about the vast majority who make no dramatic improvement.
When most don’t get miraculous healing does this make them doubt their religion? Or do they assume they are not good enough for God to want to heal them?
The lack of cure didn’t put off the 72 percent of Americans in 2004 who said, according to a Newsweek poll, they believed that praying to God can cure someone, even if science says the person doesn’t stand a chance.
Can this be true or is it just wishful thinking? Is this attitude just a historical remnant of a pre-scientific age when the Christian church depended on the belief in miracles and superstition? Aren’t people today in secular society more likely to be more rational about such things?
Miraculous events in biblical times
According to Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, in biblical times, there was less capability than now of perceiving the deeper side of life without myths to engage and illuminate the mind. These narratives were usually believed as literally true and people were more naturally-minded. Many needed to believe in miraculous events as a way of thinking about a higher power.
The followers of Christ believed in their leader’s bodily resurrection only because they said that he came to eat with them after his death. According to the Gospel account, one of them, Thomas, was not even convinced until he was allowed to personally examine the wounds in Christ’s hands and side that had been inflicted during the crucifixion.
If miracles were to take place today, such events would soon dominate the mass media and be regularly seen on television news, and nearly everyone would be compelled to believe in supernatural power even against their inclinations. Swedenborg argues that such compulsion would take away our freedom to think clearly about the pros and cons of a spiritual orientation to life.
Belief compelled by miraculous events
I would suggest that in the 21st century we live in new times when we are able to explore rational ideas and have the freedom to hold reasonable doubts. Swedenborg’s point is that it is only in this free way can we really sense and willingly take on board the idea of a higher degree of reality that transcends the material world. Belief freely adopted endures in the heart. It lasts because it is not based on what is sensational, or what others say but comes from an inner acceptance and commitment to a different way of life.
This freedom is said to be vitally important. It allows us to adopt what beliefs we choose and within social boundaries conduct our private lives as we please. It permits us to observe what we get up to and form our own assessment of our conduct as we wish either from the perspective of the world or from our idea of higher values. It allows us to take responsibility for what we do and feel remorse and try to reform only if we so choose.
This is the freedom of thought we have when looking up at the night sky to stand in awe at its vast majesty. To feel wonder at the spell of the sea with its fathomless depths. To marvel about the dreams that fill every period of sleep and what might be their personal meaning. For some people the very breath they take each day of their life is amazing and life itself is a miracle. They don’t need it proved to them by supernatural events that defy any rational explanation.
Seeing the miraculous in the ordinary
The body heals itself. When a virus invades it, the body sets up a process to repel the invader and, after illness, recovery sets in. Medicine and other therapies help this process that according to religious people originates from a God of healing love and wisdom. They say if you put your faith in this miraculous Source it opens your mind to an inner world that goes beyond time and place taking you to quite a different level. This is a kind of faith healing although not what is usually meant by the term.
Your spiritual beliefs may affect your chances of recovery from disease not through a miraculous cure but rather by connecting you with what you perceive as the loving essence of life, encouraging your moderate healthy life style and providing social support and thus emotional help that can only improve your mental state and immune system. Is it this spiritual inflow rather than a supernatural event that can nurture your healing?
“Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.” (Marianne Williamson spiritual writer)
Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands
Posted on28th February 2016