Bibliotherapy

Our Ancestor Asclepius Knew How To Bring Love And Concord

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA are two excerpts from Carl Alfred Meier’s seminal testament and legacy, the ‘Healing, Dream and Ritual, ancient incubation and modern psychotherapy’, Daimon Verlag, 2009 third edition.

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‘The physician ought to be able to bring about love and reconciliation between the most antithetic elements in the body…Our Ancestor Asclepius knew how to bring love and concord to these opposites, and he it was, as poets say and I believe, who founded our art’. Plato, ‘Symposium’. 186d.

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‘What have ancient healing cults to do with modern psychology? In antiquity anyone dedicating himself to the cult of a particular deity was called a ‘therapeutes’. This is what doctors claim to be. Later, in the Hellenistic and early Christian times, some ascetic called themselves ‘therapists’ without assigning any medical meaning to the term. This points to the close relation between cult and cure in Antiquity.

But is modern psychotherapy a cult? This accusation has been raised against Jungian analytical psychology all too often. Even more it is accused of being an esoteric secret society. Any examination of Jung’s tremendous opus shows that, perhaps more than any other great man of our profession, he labored unremittingly to describe and elaborate the results of this research and practice. Truly Jung’s work is not willfully mysterious or esoteric. Anyone is of course free to believe this superstition and put Jung on his private Index.

Jung has empirically discovered something which offers a close point of contact with the ancient healing cults. He has established two facts:

1. The human psyche has an autochthonous spiritual function.

2. No patient in the second half of life has been cured without that patient’s finding an approach to this spiritual function.

It might be assumed that, after such findings, theologians would have flocked to Jung’s consulting room; but this has not happened. Naturally, theologians may not need this healing. But they might at least be glad that an experimentally proved ‘theologia naturalis’ existed. Why does such a reaction fail to occur? The problem is not simple, and the answer, too, varies. But for the medical psychologist Jung’s results are most interesting, if only because they are highly relevant to this professional work. Morbid symptoms give the immediate impression of remoteness from God. This idea is expressed in the German language when one inquires about the nature of an illness by asking: ‘Was fehlt Ihnen?’ (‘What do you lack?’). In the Greek and Roman Asclepieia the answer given was entirely unambiguous, since the healing consisted in some epiphany of the god in any one of his forms, in a waking vision or a dream. Whatever the patient ‘lacked’ was thereupon obviously integrated and the cure was completed.

But if a cure, at least in the field of neurosis, depends upon the recognition of the spiritual function of the soul, then the conclusion may be drawn that it is remoteness from God which is the ‘causa’ for the effects termed ‘neurosis’. The re-introduction of the spiritual function would them serve as a causal therapy. In other words, what many of Jung’s patients ‘lacked’ was exactly this spiritual function and its conscious recognition.’

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‘…The question then arises: How does Jung define healing? Unfortunately, he does not define it explicitly, but it is clear from many passages in his works that he does not mean the healing of symptoms. Symptoms are healed everyday in the offices of doctors of all sorts, and are set down as cured by doctor and patient alike, whether the result meets Jung’s criteria or not. Neurotic symptoms, too, disappear on occasion, because of, or in spite of, every kind of therapy or nontherapy. Jung has in mind the goal of leading the patient to understand the meaning of his life, of his suffering, of his being what he is. With this insight would surely come a well-established spiritual attitude, and in the result would be not merely a remission but a real cure, which could also be called a transformation.

The goal can be formulated in another way. The illness is creatively reshaped by successfully combatting it and incorporating it meaningfully into the totality of the patient’s life, with the patient really understanding and learning the lesson. Only then will danger of a relapse be avoided.

But this goal is an achievement not easily attained. The illness must yield a meaning. This is the age-old pious concept that behind the sickness a meaning lies hidden which demands recognition-philosophically-the ‘causa finalis’.’

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