I recently came across a book by a Belgian mystic, Christiane Berlandt. Entitled, ‘The Key to Self-Liberation,’ it promises to reveal the symbolism of the main organs (heart, lungs etc.) and other parts of the body (e.g. fingers, chin), plus the psychological origin of a thousand diseases. First published (by the author herself) in 1993, it is a weighty tome of over 700 pages.
There’s nothing new about such works, of course. Louise Hay has been ploughing this furrow for many years, ever since her multi-million selling book, ‘You Can heal Your Life’ was published in 1984. Grounded in the American 19th Century New Thought tradition, she states that we are all responsible for our own experiences, releasing resentment will dissolve even cancer, and we create every so-called ‘illness’ in our body. Now there may be some truth in these for some people, but for a scientific truth to be true it must true for everyone, everywhere and for all time – and there’s not a shred of evidence that any of these statements is universally true.
Sometimes Ms Hay’s well-meaning diagnoses are trite, to say the least. ‘When there are problems with the ears,’ she writes, ‘it usually means something is going on you do not want to hear.’ (Tell that to a child born hearing-impaired.) ‘Deafness represents long-standing refusal to listen to someone.’ (Tell that to a factory worker denied proper ear protection.) ‘Problems with the eyes usually means there is something we do not want to see.’ ‘The arms represent our ability and capacity to embrace the experiences of life.’ (Tell that to a thalidomide victim or a soldier who has had his arms blown off in a war.) ‘Prostate problems have a lot to do with self-worth and also believing that as he gets older he becomes less of a man.’ Bollocks!
I find Debbie Shapiro’s work more satisfying and very sincere; however she is not immune from the same unproven statements so prevalent in Ms Hay’s work. I opened her book, ‘Your Body Speaks Your Mind’, at random. On page 125 I found, ‘The ribs surround and protect the organs in the chest,’ I read, ‘so they are like your sentinels, guarding your inner being.’ ‘If you have bruised or broken ribs, you need to ask yourself if you have let your guard down and allowed someone to get closer than you would prefer….’ Now I broke two ribs not long ago, and thought long and hard about this. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I couldn’t think of a single way this statement might be true.
Another work along the same lines is Lise Bourbeau’s ‘Love Yourself’ – 350,000 copies sold, according to the banner on the cover, ‘The most complete book on metaphysical causes of illness and diseases.’ ‘She is certain that any physical problem is simply the outward manifestation of dis-ease on psychological or emotional levels.’ I looked up ‘ribs’: a fractured rib, she writes, indicates that ‘the person has lost his armor, that he is unprotected and unable to defend himself.’ Impressive – she broadly agrees with Debbie Shapiro.
What does Ms Beerlandt have to say about the ears, ribs and prostate? Lots. Ears are about listening to our deepest selves; broken ribs about life being more than we can handle; and prostate about self-worth and daring to be yourself. Not much agreement there. Indeed, she puts almost every ailment down to some degree of anxiety, lack of self-awareness or low self-esteem.
Now I have no problem with the notion that the mind affects the body; indeed, I’d go even further and suggest that they are one, integral, inseparable. It’s common sense (and scientifically verifiable) that people who are under mental, emotional or physical stress, depressed, suffering from low self-esteem and so on are more likely to get ill. But human beings are different from each other. How can we say that one person’s, say, broken leg has the same root cause as another’s? How can we discount environmental and lifestyle factors, which we know have a huge impact on health? How can anyone seriously say that we – all of us, everywhere, at all times – create every so-called ‘illness’ in our body? Nice theory, but simply not true.
So where does Ms Beerlandt get her ‘evidence’? Now here’s the remarkable thing. She claims to ‘draw information from an inner source,’ ‘listening deep inside me via my heart and consciousness, to the deep language of life itself.’ (My italics). She writes, ‘the contents have nothing to do with scientific observation, but neither with channelling or guides…. I offer only deep, called-up information….’ What does this mean? That she dreamed it? Or just made it up?
For the record, I am absolutely convinced that the mind and body are interrelated. I agree without question that we can, in certain circumstances, create illnesses through our self-talk, beliefs and emotions. I agree wholeheartedly with those who say that, in certain circumstances, we can heal the body using the power of our minds because I have studied the evidence and met people who have actually done so. But, sorry, when someone purports to convince me that when people have problems in certain parts of the body they can listen to the ‘deep language of life’ and tell me the cause, I’m sceptical.
© David Lawrence Preston, 28.3.2016
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