The healing power of mind
It’s easy to underestimate the power of our minds—beliefs, attitudes, emotions—and their impact on our health and physical well being. An example that science fully acknowledges is the power of the placebo. For example, it is well known that drugs used to alleviate depression are just slightly more effective than placebos. In other words, the mere belief in the healing power of something can produce health benefits. So, in fact, there is a whole literature of healing phenomena associated with religious beliefs at shrines, with relics, in the context of prayer, etc.
Sometimes we find cases where the effects prompt us to believe in healing miracles. One of the weirdest but well documented mind-body phenomena involves effects on dead bodies, specifically, on the bodies of people who in life were known for their spiritual gifts and intensity. I’m referring to the phenomenon of incorruption. There are cases of spiritually evolved persons whose dead bodies do not follow the natural pattern of decomposition. For example, there is the case of Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879) whose dead body has remained intact for over a hundred years, without any artificial embalming techniques.
I’m raising this question because of a recent report of Ruth Graham in the New York Times (Sept 9, 2023) of an apparent case of such bodily incorruption in America. It happened to Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster from the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, a small order located in the hills north of Kansas city. Four years after her death it was decided to move her body to a more conspicuous place inside the church. Upon opening her coffin and expecting to find dust and bones, they found Wilhelmina (who was Black) with her body and face intact. This was immediately construed as a possible miracle of incorruption, and since then she has drawn thousands of visitors from all parts to witness the extraordinary phenomenon.
Only in an odd sense can we describe this as a case that proves the healing power of mind. What it does seem to illustrate is the power of the mind to symbolically point to the power of the mind suspending the normal effects of bodily death. There are, moreover, also numerous accounts of healings of living bodies that challenge science. But that’s another side of the story of the potential creative power of our minds. For a full account of the extraordinary creative powers of the human mind, you might try reading Smile of the Universe: Miracles in an Age of Disbelief. Available from Anomalist Books or Amazon. (Author, myself.)