Starr Daily—Love Can Open Prison Doors

Love and The Prison Door of Disease

CHAPTER VI

All bodily disease which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part.
Hawthorne.

IF THIS chapter might later appear to have been misnamed, I can assure the reader that such is not the case. Love operating through me made it possible to break down natural human restraints, obtain confidence in the cases described, and thus get to the real causes that were responsible for the diseases manifest.

My experiences in the prison hospital included many of such cases. Most of them I was able to cure without the use of drugs. Some I failed to cure, because the conditioning habit of morbidity had become so deeply rooted in the subconscious life of the patient that my inventive resources failed to uncover an effective means of treatment.

Before I get farther into the chapter, I wish to make it understood now that in neither of the first two cases mentioned here was there an organic basis for the diseases treated. In each case the underlying cause was a mental one or ones. During that time and since, I’ve treated and cured scores of sick and crippled people of every conceivable kind and degree of affliction. And in every case where I was able to effect a cure the manifestation of affliction was hysterical and not organic. I have never been able to effect a cure in purely organic cases. I do not, however, wish to infer that such cures cannot be accomplished by others; but that they haven’t been accomplished by me, and certainly in making this statement a great mistake would be made by any one accepting it as a general rule rather than a particular one. I can and do, nevertheless, offer it as my belief that at least half of the sickness in America, especially, is due to unwholesome mental habits, such as destructive suggestibility. The following case will illustrate clearly what I mean.

The man in question was highly intelligent, very sensitive, and extremely cocksure about his own opinions.

He was carried into the hospital late one night suffering from extreme pain in the abdomen. He said to me as I helped him remove his clothing, “I know what’s the matter with me. But don’t say anything. I want to see if the doctor knows.”

When the doctor reached him and made his examination, he diagnosed the pain as gall colic. “You’re absolutely right, doctor,” the patient said, “I’m lousy with gall-stones.” He manifested every possible symptom of this disease.

Since the case seemed to call for an immediate operation, the surgeon was called from his bed. He reached the prison hospital in no pleasant frame of mind. He examined the patient carefully, and later announced that the fellow was suffering from the effects of an exaggerated imagination; that what he needed was a metaphysical practitioner instead of a surgeon.

“Still,” he added, “if you can’t find any other way to reach him, we may have to operate as a gesture in order to save his life. If he gets any worse by morning give me a ring.”

“See what you can do,” the hospital physician said to me, and I started on the trail of the mental quirk that had brought the fellow’s trouble about.

In the first place the man was suffering severe pain, and to this I responded with a whole-hearted sympathy. I made an effort to do what I could, in a physical way, for him, while at the same time I was planning how best I might approach him in my effort to help him in a mental way.

By careful and tactful leads I succeeded in getting him to talk about himself and his opinions between grunts and groans. I assumed the role of a poorly informed but sympathetic listener, eager to profit by the sage advice I well knew he was capable of giving me. Thus he revealed in due time that he had been an inveterate reader of newspaper health articles.

He was that type of susceptible person to whom health information was quite as likely as not to prove a liability instead of an asset. Indeed to one of these articles he had unwittingly fallen prey. The article had been written by a famous doctor on the subject of gall-stones.

At the time he read the article there was a slight but annoying muscular pain in the abdominal region where gall-colic occurs. The pain appeared to him to be identical with that described by the writer. So he promptly grew alarmed and began to diagnose his own case, which was of course gall-stones. And by the time he reached the hospital all the symptoms of this disease were reflected in his physical organism.

Now that I had the cause, it became a complicated problem as to how I might eradicate it. Obviously I could not do it by the use of reason or suggestion. By making myself a pupil of his, as it were, I had destroyed the opportunity to make a sudden right-about face and become his teacher. Besides, he was entirely too opinionated to be convinced against his will. There was nothing to do, therefore, but let him cure himself, while I did the directing, although I appeared not to be doing so.

As I pondered on a method, a brilliant idea occurred to me. In my room was a book written by a doctor who advocated fasting in the cure and prevention of disease. Later in the morning, I paused at his door to inquire after him, and I had the book in my hand. He asked me the title of it. I told him, and mentioned casually that I had just been reading the chapter on gall-stones. As I expected he asked to see it. I gave him the book, and went on about my duties. When again I had returned his eyes were burning with enthusiasm.

“Here’s a doctor that knows his business,” he said. “If I could get the treatment prescribed here I could cure myself.”

“Well,” I replied, “they don’t allow any unorthodox treatment here in the hospital. But I’m willing to trust you and take a chance.” This statement pleased him. “You tell me what to do,” I added, “and I’ll follow instructions.”

Thus it was I took four ounces of olive oil and four ounces of orange juice, whipped them together, and gave it to him at six that morning. During the day he refused food. At seven that night, when I came on duty again, he instructed me to give him a high warm enema, which I did. As I well knew it would, this brought away a great quantity of hard green pellets of bile. We secured seventy-seven of these small pellets in all. Immediately following this demonstration, every symptom of gall-stone trouble left the man. He remained in the hospital, however, for six more days fasting on orange juice according to the advice given in the book. Then he pronounced himself cured and returned to his cell. Until I left the prison this fellow carried a dozen or so of these bile pellets around in a match box and never passed up an opportunity to display them to any one who was curious to know just what a gallstone really looked like.

In this instance I might also add, that the case described above was only one of several encountered during my hospital experience whose causes were traced back to the reading of health articles, medical books, patent medicine circulars and the like.

Several years ago the press conducted a vigorous educational campaign against cancer. As a direct result of reading these informational articles and editorials, two prisoners developed typical symptoms of stomach cancer, one of which died a lingering painful death, and the other I treated and cured by convincing him I possessed curative powers in my hands, which I placed over the affected regions and advised him to feel the flow of curative magnetism pouring from my hands to the cancerous growth. His own belief, or if you’d rather, his own faith in the efficacy of my apparent power did the work by replacing in his mind a well thought instead of the sick one he had been entertaining.

Before taking up case number two I wish to take issue with many people who deplore the use of deception in any form or for any reason. In nearly all mental treatments, deceptions, ruses of some kind, must be resorted to in order to get the cause of the trouble and apply an effective counteractant. The creative principle does not recognize the right or wrong of anything. But the use that man makes of a thing determines its moral quality. Any vice may be turned into a virtue by reversing its trend and setting it in motion toward the ends of virtue.

Case number two was undoubtedly the most amazing example I’ve ever seen or heard about in the realm of hysterically induced physical disabilities. He was an absolute wreck. He was brought from the court room to the prison on a stretcher to begin an indeterminate sentence. It had been predicted at the time that he would cheat the law of its prey long before the board of paroles had a chance to act on his case.

His hospital chart revealed him a sufferer of paralysis of the limbs, hardening of the liver, diabetes, dropsy tendencies, arthritis, tuberculosis of the bowels, heart-leakage, neuroticism, faulty-vision and high blood pressure.

So the reader might, also, share the assumption of the time that this man was in a dying condition. Because of its relative importance, I wish to add one item that was not listed on the chart. The fellow was an illiterate and was childishly superstitious, as I soon discovered.

At the time he committed the crime, a shooting affair, for which he had been convicted, he had been in apparent good health.

It took me several nights to break through the wall of secrecy he had built up around himself. Suspicious and slow to trust, he was chary of strangers; he was on guard against anything that seemed like an approach to his inner life. I didn’t press him, but I did evoke a strong feeling of love for him, and I passed up no opportunity to express that love in tangible terms that he could not only feel but understand. Inch by inch the bars went down. Then one night he made a confession with all the naivete of a child.

In the neighborhood where he had lived all his life was an old woman who possessed strange powers of divination. She had visited him at the jail and revealed to him that he was in the clutches of The Evil One. A curse had been placed on him and a spell cast that would destroy him in a terrible way. The hands that held the gun would turn to stone, the eyes that sighted down the gun barrel would become blind, his legs would become useless, his inards like a nest of poison serpents.

Accepting this upon the infallible authority of the old woman, he promptly set his mind to the task of reflecting it all in his body. Obviously, there was but one thing to be done in his case and that was to destroy the influence of The Evil One. As in nearly all such cases it was a matter of fighting the devil with his own weapons. Logic, reason, persuasion were puny implements compared to the implements of that devil in his determination to make the sinister curse effective. Deception had brought the man’s condition about; deception would have to be resorted to in order to counteract the results of the original deception. Between two evils there is but one choice for the practitioner, the evil that can be twisted and set to work along constructive lines.

I took the doctor into my plans and obtained his permission to allow Dad Trueblood to co-operate with me. Then Dad and I worked out our campaign of attack. Since I had access to the patient’s private history, and since it was I who read all his letters for him, I had in my possession a great quantity of personal information about the man, which I turned over to Dad.

Then I began to tell the patient about an old man in this very prison who had powers even greater than those possessed by the old woman he had told me about. This old man, I told him, could even tell your fortune. I could see immediately that he was interested. After awhile I suggested that he ask the doctor if he might be permitted to see the fortune teller, and of course the doctor agreed, and sent for Dad to come over.

What a revelation it was! The patient told me afterward: “Why, he told me things no one on earth knows about but me.” Time and again Dad was sent for by the patient, and with each visit the patient’s faith in Dad’s powers mounted higher and higher until I was able to tell Dad one day, “Well, old-timer, you’ve won the most exalted prize in this world, you’ve become a god.”

“That’s good,” the old fellow said, “but there’s much to be done. I must get absolute control of the poor devil. He’s got to see me demonstrate my power over man’s strongest enemy.”

“You mean-------?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said, “he’s got to see me raise the dead.”

We carefully arranged for this great demonstration to take place in the room directly across the hall from the patient’s room.

In this room we planted an accomplice earlier in the evening, a man presumably brought over from one of the cell-houses in a dying condition. For two or three hours there was much activity around this room, hurried darting about between many whispered consultations. The reason for all of this I conveyed in a most solemn and confidential manner to my patient across the hall who, of course, had been taking it all in. Finally, at the hour of midnight the accomplice died and I carried the tragic news over to our interested spectator.

“Listen to me,” I said to him, “you stand in good with the doctor. I want you to ask him to let Dad Trueblood come over here and see what he can do. The man’s dead, I know; but I believe Dad can bring him back to life.”

“Do you reckon Dad could do that?”

I did. The patient told me to tell the doctor he would like to speak with him. A few minutes later the doctor emerged from the patient’s room and winked. And in a few more minutes the miracle man, Dad Trueblood, was in the hospital. He didn’t go directly into the death room; but he went first into the patient’s room. Very solemnly he thanked the patient for interceding on the dead man’s behalf.

“Do you think you can really bring him back to life?” the patient asked eagerly.

“I don’t think anything about it,” was Dad’s reply. “I know I can. He’s not dead, but sleeping. The Evil One has cast a spell over him and a curse on him. I am greater than The Evil One. Before my words The Evil One flies back to the darkness where he came from. I am The Evil One’s master. Before me he cannot stand. Watch!”

And the patient did watch. He watched every gesture and heard each word that fell from Dad’s lips. He saw the dead man raise up in his bed with the motion of Dad’s hand. He saw Dad back slowly toward the door and heard him say “Come” to the man who a minute before had lain cold under The Evil One’s spell. And he saw the man follow Dad into the hall and disappear down the corridor, never again to return to the bed of death.

And on a night a week later, the miracle man performed the same sort of ceremony in the room of our patient. He broke The Evil One’s spell, and that moment the hysterically produced diseases that had held the man in their grip for months fell away as though they had never been.

I once recounted this incident to a practicing metaphysician, a woman who had an excellent record of accomplishments to her credit. The end attained, she thought, was a worthy one; but to her the method employed was extremely revolting and sacrilegious. Had we employed the deceptions of our own invention instead of closely copying the methods of Jesus by which to perpetuate our deceptions, her criticism would have been withheld.

In my opinion, however, there is no valid parallel between our method and that of the Master. It is assumed that He was above the need of employing deceptive methods to accomplish His ends, and since we possessed no such development as this, we could not copy what we did not possess. I have no fear but that the Master, recognizing our limitations, would have readily condoned our means.

There is a vast difference in the attitude of a patient entering a prison hospital and one entering a hospital on the outside. On the outside, hospitals no longer hold the terror for the sick they once did. But the belief still persists among most prisoners that in the prison hospital there is a mysterious black bottle always at hand for mid-night service. One dose from this bottle and there is one less convict to provide trouble for the law.

Of all the fears that harass men in prison, the worst is the fear of dying in prison. Why this should be I don’t know. But there may be a touch of superstition connected with it. To a prisoner his prison represents a living hell on earth, and it might be that deep down within him he fears to die in this hell of sin and iniquity, because to do so might lessen his chances of escaping that other hell lying just across the border. Ninety-nine out of every hundred prisoners possess a psychopathic religious streak in them that comes to the surface in the form of fear when they become seriously ill.

“If I could only live long enough to get out,” is the plaintive cry one hears in the prison hospitals. And it’s a soul-ending cry, because of the utter hopelessness of it in most cases. It appears that in their minds is a belief that death on the outside is something of a pleasure, while on the inside it is something to be viewed with dread and trembling.

I stress this point here for the purpose of showing that the very desperation involved, sometimes proves the very factor most needed in effecting an ultimate cure, especially in cases where the causes are organic and the affliction genuine.

The following was such a case. In it there was no mental cause to be probed for and eradicated, and yet everything depended upon establishing in the patient’s mind a strong personal desire to overcome. In this instance, therefore, my duty was to discover some method whereby this desire could be planted and fostered in the patient’s mind. Consequently the resulting progress was not one of those sudden healings that occur in the lives of the hysterically afflicted; but it was a dogged, slow-moving, determined process of mind over matter, of will over the fatalistic tendency to accept a physical condition as being hopeless.

The patient was a young man of fine physique, who had always been proud of his bodily development, his masculinity, and his ability to fend for himself and for his young wife and two children. In his mind, to be crippled or deformed in any way represented the tragedy of tragedies.

He had been carried into the hospital one day from the rock quarry with both arms broken, each one in two separate places. The usual method employed in setting bones proved inadequate in his case and surgery was resorted to in the end.

The bones knitted splendidly, but there was the faintest overlapping of nerve lines, which left the boy’s arms from the elbows down log-like and lifeless. There was apparently nothing could be done about it; but the surgeon dropped a hint that if the unfortunate could be made to concentrate the full force of his will on the problem and keep trying to move the dead fingers, he might eventually succeed in bringing about a realignment of the nerve carriers and thus regain the use of his arms.

The patient, however, had been completely slayed by the tragedy. All the interest he had ever had in life seemed to have left him when the full truth of his condition was finally forced upon him. Almost daily some of his relatives visited him. At first he could hardly bear the thought of seeing his wife and children.

But by and by, unfortunately, through their strong efforts to pacify him, they succeeded in establishing in his mind a sort of dull acceptance, and he began to reconcile himself to a future of invalidism. Of course, so long as he remained in this attitude of mind, there was no use trying to reason with him about the necessity of making an effort. Every one about him did that to no avail. He would pretend to try, tire quickly, and slump back in his pillows. While I watched these futile attempts being made to arouse an interest in him, I came to the conclusion that here was no case for pandering sympathy. This fellow had to be handled with brutal frankness and infinite patience, and infinite encouragement.

To that task I dedicated myself. I pictured to him with all the powers of description I could command, the horrors of an armless future, of his being a life-long object of charity, depending on others for every crust he ate, for every rag he wore. He was forced to grit his teeth to keep from screaming while I savagely mapped out the course his life must take. In the face of it he did exactly what I wanted him to do, he became desperate, he had been stirred to the foundation of his soul. At this juncture I said: “Remember, kid, it’s up to you. If you want this sort of future you can have it. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to take it.”

My last sentence kindled fires of hope in his eyes. He could not wait to begin the battle. I patted his shoulder in appreciation of his courage. “I’ll explain how to go about it,” I told him then.

And with this I told him about the creative principle that operated throughout the universe that could be contacted by love; that if his love for his arms was strong enough to make him try ceaselessly to move his fingers, the creative principle could be made to do his bidding.

His efforts were pathetically heroic. In order to make it less difficult, I advised him to direct his will into the right hand first. For three weeks I spent every spare minute I had at his bedside giving him encouragement. Sometimes he would think he felt his fingers move. And I would say, “You’re right, they did move just a tremor.” These lies were creative lies, because they created in him greater determination and greater effort. As I watched one night my long vigil was rewarded. His thumb moved. I grabbed him around the neck and shouted. I staggered from the room blind with gratitude.

I was never to have the satisfaction of seeing much further progress than that made, however, for about this time his relatives succeeded in getting him paroled because of the injury he had received while in prison. He was the only man I’ve ever begrudged freedom. I believed then and I still believe that had I been given another month with him, his arms would have been restored. But during my remaining period in prison I heard of him from time to time. They had had him in the care of many doctors who had tried in vain to help him. He had promised me on the day he left that he would keep trying our method. But many over-indulgent hands, I’m afraid, eager to do the work that his were made to do, broke down the desperate desire I had built up in him. At any rate, the last word I had of him proved him to be no better off than he was on the day he left prison.

Always love causes something to be created. But always love must direct the creative principle toward constructive ends if such are the ends desired. I don’t say this boy’s friends and relatives consciously sought destruction for him. Indeed they did not. But the love they had for him was not the wise love that gives others the necessary stimulus and encouragement to help themselves. The mother who loves her child so much that she relieves her child of self-developing effort, is not loving constructively, and because she is not loving constructively a price will later be exacted of both her and the child. For always the creative principle creates that which it is directed to create. This is its nature. And that is what it does. It is man’s duty to use the creative principle toward constructive ends to the fullest extent of his capacity to do so. And this capacity is sometimes greater than man might at first realize. In other words, one never knows what one can do until one tries.

If every man would pause to question the course his desires were taking, and change that course if he found it to be destructive, this old world would soon notice a mighty falling off on the debit side of misery.

In this last particular I have saved a most unusual case through which to show how the creative principle, reversed, brought happiness to a man who for years had rolled himself about in a wheel-chair, grumbling at his fate; bored with the terrible monotony of his existence.

His physical handicap was of small importance compared to the sullen, brooding melancholia that made the contemplation of life far more terrible than contemplation of death. He had to be watched constantly in order to prevent him from carrying out and achieving what he had attempted on two or three occasions. A sufferer from insomnia, he would lay through the endless nights wide-eyed, cursing and grumbling; with the coming of morning he faced the day with the deadening horror of lassitude, each moment passing with the slow pace of a century. All day long he would roll himself back and forth from his room to the clock at the far end of the corridor, note the time and then curse the hands that moved so slowly around the dial.

Being irritable and constantly cranky, he had no friends. In fact, he was one man who seemed unwilling to share his misery with others. To speak to him in a friendly tone was to court immediate rebuke, and only those unfamiliar with his scathing tongue ever invited it.

He had been a patient in the hospital for nearly a year when I began my duties there. I was promptly warned against him. I was told that no one would have anything to do with him. But this well-intentioned advice, instead of prejudicing me against the man, awakened within me a compassion so great that I found it difficult to contain it. I wanted to pour it out on him in a torrential flow of words. However, I held myself in check, bided my time, studied him minutely, and watched for him to show some sign of responsiveness. My reward came one day when I saw him watching the antics of a stray dog that had somehow slipped by the guard and found its way into the prison yard. This display of interest struck me that he might be interested in a pet. I revealed my finding to the warden and got his permission to allow the man to have a small pet in his room.

I first thought of trying to secure a white mouse; but before I had a chance to make arrangements for one, a friend of mine found a young sparrow on the flag-stones of one of the cell buildings. The little fellow’s right wing was broken. I brought it into the hospital and began to set the broken member. As I worked the patient rolled up in his chair and sat watching me silently. I turned to him and said, “I think I ought to wire the bones.” And then I asked him to hold the bird while I went for the silver wire.

In a few minutes we were working together over our little cockney friend. With the operation completed, I hinted that I hated to turn the bird loose till it was well, but I didn’t have time to look after it.

“I’ll take care of it for you,” he volunteered. And how he took care of it! No bird ever got the love and attention that he lavished on Molly, as he later named her. She thrived on his care. Her wing knitted and grew strong. He taught her many little tricks. She would ride about perched on his head; she would cling to his ear and chatter, while he chattered back. She would cling to his finger and take food from his tongue.

Then one day he grew pensive and told me he had decided to give Molly her freedom. I’ll never forget that day. I went with him to the window and pushed the screen back for him. When Molly flew out, all that life held for him seemed to go with her. We watched her as she flew chattering here and there, lighting on this building and that, until finally we lost her and turned from the window. She remained away all day. But late in the afternoon I was awakened by his shout at my door. Jumping up I ran into his room. And there was Molly clinging to the outside of the screen, fussing and fluttering her wings in the utmost impatience with our stupidity and slowness in coming to her rescue.

Every day after that Molly was allowed to go out; but always about the same time in the afternoon she would reappear to be let in again. When the clock told him it was time to expect Molly home, he would roll himself to the window to welcome her.

Out of this incident I was able to establish other interests in this patient. He became an expert with needle and thread and made many beautiful things which he sold to visitors. A part of this money he set aside for charity purposes which he conducted among the hospital patients. Little things they needed that were not furnished by the prison he would buy and distribute. His name became a symbol of kindness throughout the prison. They called him a square guy, the highest compliment one convict can pay to another. And those he befriended during their stay in the hospital seldom forgot. Though he had no friends or relatives outside, on holidays, when boxes were allowed to be sent in, he was the recipient of more gifts than any one else in the prison. All of these gifts would come from his inmate friends; men fortunate enough to have friends and relatives outside to remember them, would share those remembrances with this patient.

The money he didn’t use for charity was hoarded carefully until he had saved enough to purchase a set of books on commercial draftsmanship. With these books he was busy preparing himself for a useful future when I dressed out of prison. So completely occupied was he with this and his numerous other activities, he found it necessary to budget his time, allowing so much for this thing and so much for that. He had been given permission to use a bed lamp after the regular hour for retiring, and in this way he could carry on until midnight, at which time he would go to bed. Having trained himself to induce instant sleep, he would rest perfectly for six hours, at the end of which another busy day would begin.

How different his life was from those other days of dragging torment and those endless nights of sleeplessness. Then each minute in the twenty-four hours meant just a link in an endless chain of monotony; now each minute was a gem, too precious to be wasted in destructive thought and idleness.

It was a miracle in the realm of transformation; but it was an inevitable miracle. It could have been no other way. The moment he began to use the creative principle of life in the right direction, that moment he began to displace misery with happiness. This man confided many jewels of wisdom to me before my departure, but I’ve always held the following to be his richest bit of prison philosophy.

“Don’t seek peace,” he told me, “but conflict. By conflict we grow, and growth is just another name for happiness.”


1935 Edition Printed by DeVorss & Co., Publishers
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