The Quest for Wholeness

The Healing Experience

Chapter 1

It was a warm, sunny summer day in August 1962 when I entered the portals of a church in Brighton situated close to the sea-front. A life-long sufferer from hay fever, this particular year I had seen the worst of my affliction. It was the intractable blockage of my nose that provided the major part of my distress: being an habitual nose-breather, I had considerable difficulty in sleeping, since I found it well-nigh impossible to keep my mouth continuously open as an alternative passage for air to and from the lungs. To assuage the distress I had tried various remedies; a nose-spray was best, but provided only temporary relief.

The cool tranquillity of the church contrasted with the bright heat and the noisy traffic outside. I sat in a pew near the front, in company with about twenty other people as we awaited the ministrations of Constance Peters. She had served in the ministry of healing for many years, having been licensed by the Bishop of Chichester to perform her work in the ambit of the Church. As we waited, I glanced at my watch: it was about 2 p.m. and I had an appointment in London at 4.30 p.m. And then the service commenced. It was extremely simple, for the congregation were nearly all members of the Fellowship that Constance had founded and so knew the proceedings quite well.

After a hymn and some prayers, she proceeded to move around the church, laying her hands on each of us in turn - all sitting in the pews rather than kneeling at the altar-rail. Very soon my impatience mounted at the length of time she took over each person; if she continued at that rate I would certainly not be able to arrive at my destination in time! My agitation slowly intensified, and I nearly yielded to the temptation of quitting the service and driving back to London at once. It was courtesy rather than piety that kept me sitting in my pew. As Constance came to me, an inner voice told me to relax completely, and as I obeyed, I felt the presence of her hands over the top of my head. She did not appear to effect direct contact; rather, a warm vibration seemed to flow from her hands and penetrate through my scalp to the very centre of my head, clearing all blockages whether physical or spiritual. It was as if an electric radiator were operating directly above my head. The power that seemed to pour from Constance's hands was of shattering intensity; at once I felt my running nose dry up and the obstruction to free breathing slacken and abate.

After Constance had ended her ministry to each one of us, the priest in charge of the church laid his hands on us also - it was a cold, clammy touch devoid of any manifest healing radiation. As soon as the service had ended, having given heartfelt thanks to Constance and the priest, I drove back to London, arriving in time for my next appointment. An important aspect of this episode was my mental and emotional distance from the healing: until the very last moment, when I submitted in humble faith, allowing God to work his own healing in me. There was no question of "suggestion", the insinuation of a belief or impulse into the mind of a credulous or gullible person, such as occurs classically under hypnosis but is also seen in mass rallies where there is a fervent emotional or religious current issuing from a directing master figure. My mind was engaged in considering the difficult journey ahead of me, not the healing power of God. The experience was indeed one of grace, an unmerited favour of God, that led to the completely unexpected amelioration of a physical handicap and a new directive in my life. Indeed, this experience was to prove crucial to the establishment of a healing ministry that I was soon to undertake.

The hay fever never returned with such vehemence, though the hypersensitivity to certain pollens persisted, albeit at a greatly reduced intensity. Above all, the nasal obstructive element of the condition subsided, so that I was able to breathe comfortably and sleep far more soundly than I had throughout many previous summers. In other words, there was an amazing improvement which was sustained, but not a complete cure. With the passage of years there has been a fine stabilization; there are only slight symptoms in the summer. Of course, I am aware that some allergic conditions do tend to lessen in severity with the ageing process, but the dramatic healing I received that afternoon showed me quite clearly that a higher spiritual healing was superimposed upon the healing power inherent in the body.

It was noteworthy also that the priest by whose courtesy the healing service took place in the precincts of his church, possessed no obvious gift himself. If anything, I would judge that he would dampen rather than ignite the healing fire of God, despite his ordination. Spiritual gifts are conferred in ways that we do not understand, so that no one can give an authoritative explanation of any particular phenomenon.

About a year later I attended another healing service conducted by Constance, and this time I was conscious of no special emanation despite my full awareness and outflowing faith. It was evident, as Constance herself told me, that my healing was a unique event. It occurred on one occasion, and for me only. I doubt whether any of the other members of that congregation at the Brighton church felt anything special or came away aware of being unusually blessed. But no doubt a deeper healing grace was bestowed on all of them so that they were more able to cope with their individual problems day by day than they had been previously. This less spectacular element in healing is seldom considered, since its dividends are less immediate and no great benefit appears to accrue, at least in the short term. Furthermore, they do not boost the ego of the healer, nor do they serve to prove the existence of God in any tangible way. A generation that looks for signs, as Jesus implied, may arrive with nothing substantial but only voluminous froth. The ultimate sign will be that of Jonah, whose ministry produced a change in heart of his audience, the pagan Ninevites, and whose survival in the belly of the sea-monster prefigured the resurrection of Christ (Luke 11: 29-32 and Matthew 12:38-41).

This thought brings us to consider a deeper type of healing, one primarily involving the soul, by which I mean the inner self that shows itself in decisions of moral and aesthetic value. I think here of another great friend, Mary Macaulay. A Canadian by birth, she served in Europe during the First World War. She then returned to America, where she undertook social work, all the time consorting with sources of spiritual enlightenment far beyond the scope of her secular field of activity. She was seeking some deeper understanding of the unhappiness so constantly encountered in the people she was assisting. Later on she came back to England, where she was in demand as a lecturer on normal psychological development. She spoke to women's groups, older schoolchildren, religious organizations and training colleges. She did not hesitate to proclaim her faith in the essentially spiritual nature of the human being. This point of view placed her somewhat out of court with the academic establishment of that time, while her open, eclectic view of spirituality - now taken largely for granted except in fundamentalistic quarters - failed to satisfy the complacent assurance of the pious. Her approach certainly went beyond the limits of speculation countenanced in conventional secular society. The acceptable landmarks of debate so easily solidify into walls that serve to reassure the complacent type of person in his or her intellectual prison, and Mary was set to extend these points of departure.

And so this courageous woman remained an outsider, a voice crying out in the wilderness of a social order poised between an arrogant agnosticism and a religious triumphalism. In due course she founded an adult education centre of her own where she could teach and counsel without interference. She was supported by a loyal group of followers, undistinguished academically and socially, but dedicated to her work. While her lectures were often applauded by people in greater authority, these - despite immediate promises - did nothing to further her work.

I came into contact with her a few years before the healing experience in Brighton I have already described. At that time I was in a state of despondency. My own peculiar insights into reality seemed to be at such variance with those of the medical establishment of which I was a member - the desire to enter heterodox fields was, and still is, basically alien to my way of life - that I doubted whether there was any substantial future ahead of me. Still young, I could not bear to envisage a future of dull compliance on the lower rungs of the professional ladder, for I knew only too well that I was most unlikely to rise to any position of professional significance, and only the loneliness of futility lay in store for me. I had been told of Mary's lectures by someone who lived in the same house as I, and so I went with trepidation as well as curiosity. I need not have been afraid, for the atmosphere of the room in which she was speaking had a calm assurance about it that I had never encountered in my professional or social life. Mary flowed out in a wisdom that far transcended mere intellectual brilliance; she spoke from the soul (whose bodily counterpart is, perhaps, the heart) rather than merely the head. I was accepted as I was, a fellow-human being with gifts unique to my particular identity for the destiny in store for me.

Though fields of speculation concerning the origin and destination of the human soul were fully explored - and the mystery of creation cannot be solved until we have been enabled to move beyond creature form to spiritual essence - I knew I was in the right milieu for further advancement of knowledge as well as actualization of my own personality. Yet none of the small audience could be termed intellectual; they were concerned about the welfare of their own family or the meaning behind their own travail. No categorical answer was - indeed, could in truth be - forthcoming, since we were all, including Mary herself, merely sojourners on the way of mortality whose end is death and becoming. And yet the simple ignorance was enfolded in a love so great that we all, including Mary, were lifted to a sphere of understanding that made the views of the agnostic world a morass of learned ignorance. It was interesting that the teaching was basically common sense illuminated by the voices of well-known figures in the spiritual and psychodynamic fields. Bizarre, exclusive, esoteric teaching did not figure in the discourse, even if such bold speculations as transcend mere human knowledge did illuminate the talk and the questions that followed from it.

The one observation that flowed out of the whole discussion was the unitary nature of the human being: body, mind (the reasoning faculty), soul (the feeling, evaluating aspect) and spirit (the centre of thrusting onward growth animated by the Spirit of God) are integrated into a whole person. Therefore healing that is real cannot bypass any of these four functions of human personality. The healing I was subsequently to experience in Brighton at the hands of Constance Peters, while emphasizing the bodily aspect of personality, was to enrich the immaterial aspects of mind, soul and spirit also. My subsequent connexion with Mary's education centre was to acquaint me more intimately with her mode of thought and that of the people around her. As I learned more, so I was able to see the deficiency as well as the strength in what she believed and taught. By contrast, Constance's teaching had a traditional biblical basis with a strong flavouring of positive thinking. She would not countenance the negative thought that any of her circle might not recover completely after an illness or surgical operation. As her experience broadened, so did her patronage of spiritual literature become more eclectic and her dependence on church support grow less. One must object, however, that an obvious weakness of positive thinking preached as an essential prerequisite for healing work is that on some occasions healing does not occur, despite devout prayer and exemplary optimism in the face of adversity. We cannot manipulate the Holy Spirit, the primary agent of all healing, whether spiritual or medical, to suit ourselves. Indeed, we have instead to be available to be used by God for ventures so precarious in essence that only his grace can see us through the void of darkness. In a rather similar way, Mary's approach was flawed by her own special type of dogmatism that often could not tolerate any opposition no matter how constructive it tried to be. Clinging is the particular vice of us here on earth; slowly indeed do we learn the lesson of renunciation, usually only when retirement enfolds us and death beckons us to its unknown realms.

My third experience of healing concerned Ronald Beesley, a powerful psychic healer who also taught a holistic type of philosophy with strongly esoteric overtones. I had first met him at a conference, and his psychic gifts impressed me at once. He asked me directly when I would commence the work I had been called to do, to wake up and declare myself fully for the destiny in front of me. This happened slightly earlier than the first healing episode I have described, and while I was in the midst of my involvement with Mary's education centre. I spent two weeks at his delightful "centre" in the country in the early spring of 1963. At this time my professional work was in serious jeopardy because of the malice of a senior colleague who had power over my future career. I surrendered everything to God, and in the centre I met about twelve people, of various undistinguished backgrounds, engaged in a similar search for wholeness. If I had been uncooperative in the healing service at Brighton until the very last moment, here I was all agog, almost to the extent of suggestibility. I was later amazed how easily I had surrendered my critical faculties in a desire for inner enlightenment and outer healing. The course itself was memorable for the beauty of the late March and early April countryside no less than for the warmth and openness of Ronald, his assistants, and my fellow-students. We were regaled with an esoteric view of the nature of the human personality that owed much to Hindu and various theosophical insights. Ronald had only modest educational attainments, due to the poverty of his background, but he was an inspirational speaker of such conviction that to question any of his statements would have seemed well nigh sacrilegious. In fact, the burden of what he said had an inner ring of truth apart from basic common sense.

He claimed to have a deeper knowledge of each of us - a property common to mediums generally, and he was in fact a medium of intense potency. And yet when I pondered over his character delineations both of me personally and the others generally, I could not fail to see how pretentiously imprecise they really were. In a state of suggestibility, especially when this is consciously induced, one can be talked into believing anything. Ronald did indeed have a fine pair of hands that could both heal and manipulate on the much-used orthopaedic couch, but on this occasion no startling organic cures showed themselves among us. He did seem to effect a slight raising of the fallen arches of my feet which was then sustained by the rather uncomfortable arch supports he provided, but in fact the effect was only small, and it was later to be reversed so much that the final condition has been, if anything, worse than the original. One has, however, with due respect to remember that dropped arches and other orthopaedic deformities do tend to deteriorate with the ageing process. We were all, in fact, treated to a psychic display with esoteric overtones of great potency, but few of us came away manifestly healed of any infirmities that might have afflicted us beforehand.

The strength of that fortnight, using the hindsight that has accrued over many years' experience in the healing field, was one of establishing a creative relationship with the teacher and one's fellow-students. Relationships are the very basis of healing, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit works between soul and soul through the universal Spirit shared by all souls. I had in that fortnight been given my marching orders with the blessing of that far from orthodox teacher, and in September of the same year was to establish my own "centre" in a humble room in a rather unattractive part of London. I had made a vow to God that I would never charge for my services, and so I could not afford anything more capacious at that time. As is so often the case, my financial position gradually improved sufficiently for me to work in more adequate quarters, but I shall never forget my early period of practice when I learned that what I had to give flowed from my depths in attentive conversation with those who had come to visit me. The laying-on of hands, performed in a stillness of rapt prayer, was the zenith of the session but not necessarily more important than the period of counselling that had preceded it.

As regards the gifted man himself who had, as it were, initiated me into the ministry of healing, Ronald was somewhat embittered. His amazing psychic gifts were spurned by the Church, who had few qualms in identifying them with demonic powers. The medical profession had no use for unorthodox methods of healing - today its approach is more open, but its conclusions are still heavily prejudiced against the validity of any method that cannot be accounted for in terms of reason. This "reason" is synonymous with the logic-chopping function of the mind rather than the enlightened outpouring of the soul in direct communication with sources of inspiration beyond human understanding. The origin of these sources is the Spirit of God, the "pneuma" of New Testament writers, especially St Paul. It is also identified with the enlightened mind, the "nous" of the Wisdom tradition of the Bible, which is seen by St John to be manifested in the flesh by Jesus himself (John 6:35 and 7:38 are symbolic texts that illuminate the Wisdom of God as incarnated in Jesus). The point of the matter is that spiritual healing cannot be neatly reduced to rational categories summarily analysed by the discursive mind. Instead, the healing wrought by the Spirit broadens the mind and opens to its gaze immense vistas of potentiality foreign to the purely material agencies of education that necessarily dominate our secular environment.

Indeed, we are obliged to work under the limitations and control of the body while in this world, a world of heavy, often inert matter, yet holy at the same time. In other words the earth contains its own validity, and the Spirit of God incarnates perpetually in order to raise it up from torpid inertia to radiant life that finds its end in a transfiguration of shattering vibrancy calling the very dead to renewed life. The limitation of the healer I have described was his hostile attitude to the medical profession and the Church - understandable as this was, considering their insensitive attitude to him. But in the end we have to move beyond prejudice, both our own and that of others directed against us, so as to embrace the full gamut of God's providential care for us. In the end we cannot evade the spiritual issues of life, and these are most carefully preserved and guarded by the various religious traditions that have come down to us. Polluted as they so often have been by venal, power-seeking professional agents, they still preserve the essence of faith that has been revealed in the lives of the saints of the tradition. It is indeed their witness that has kept the tradition alive when everything was falling to pieces around it. But at the same time the material agencies have their own validity, and are spurned only to our own cost.

The essence of healing is catholicity, an all-embracing sympathy that rejects nothing of help wherever it may come. This is the true holism that is so widely canvassed at the present time, yet so often repudiated by its very exponents in their personal prejudices against any factor they do not like to consider in the search for truth. There is no other field of human endeavour that lays bare one's inner nature with all its weaknesses so clearly as the healing ministry. But it is also an endeavour that fulfils the innate nobility of human nature as it aspires painfully to the vision of God.

Chapter 2
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