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DOCTOR AND MINISTER, Issue 15696, 9 January 1915
DOCTOR AND MINISTER
j [By Rev. James Milne, M.A.] I That tiie profession of the' physician is held in deservedly high repute is very much by reason of the opportunity it affords for the work of human ministry. Tho doctor, however narrowly he may regard the sphere of the operation of his skill, is necessarily brought near his patient in sympathetic relationship; and there are few ailments to which flesh is heir—if, indeed, there are any—whose treatment is not powerfully affected by the mental attitude of those suffering from the same. The close association of mind and body has been manifest for ages, but tho exact nature of this relationship between the two is to a very great extent yet shrouded in mystery. Closely allied, too, with the mind of man is the important entity of will, which again is bound up with personality. This differs largely in individuals, but undoubtedly can be cultivated. How far personality in man is human, and how far it is superhuman or divine, is one of the great questions of the day; but at least this may be asserted : that the facts pertaining to and characteristic of the ordinary working intellect do not suffice to cover the plain and simple facts of personality. There are. phenomena in life which pertain to what psychologists call the ".subconscious" mind; and there are not lacking signs which go to suggest, if they do not actually certify, it is through the subconscious that man is i linked up with the infinite. Thus through the subconscious mind psychology, as far as philosophy may. provides a basis for what theologians call the soul and spirit in man; and thus it is seen where tho work of the physician, doctor, or surgeon may be powerfully supplemented and aided by that of the priest, clergyman, or minister. The proof of this is broadly demonstrated in the fact that every man, without exception. in a sense is religious. A man may claim no church connection, he may proclaim himself as agnostic or atheist, but no proclamation may alter the fact that he is a man, and so a living spirit, with such a chasm between himsc-lf and the highest form of life in the lower -creation as may not be spanned by that existing between that same highest form and its lowest prototype. No protestation of unbelief on the part of any man can destroy the fact that in the chain of being the. hiatus between the lowest human type and, say, the best bred and most highly-trained horse or dog is tremendous, and is seen as even more remarkable when viewed in the light of capacity. It is well known that horse or dog may be trained to a certain limit of intelligence, which, however, is soon reached, and beyond which progress is impossible. It is not so with man, however uncivilised his state, and never may bounds be set to his mental development so long as he is possessed of imagination and aspiration, This means that so long as man can think and feel, so lone as he can hope and yearn, just so long will he grow in potentiality of being. which again means that he must be religious as long as he lives. It is really religion which differentiates man firm the brute creation, and lie'can no more escape from its influence than im can transform himself to the level c,f t] l? lower creation.
So, the thoughtful physician, perceiving this, understands that full diagnosis must pertain not merely to physical but also to mental conditions. As phenomena <if the active intelligence, or -.n'.ipary \-,'king mind, touch but a fringe o:' 'he
latter, the complete diagnosis must pnrtain to the vast realm of the subconscious, and here it is that the doctor or physician, to truly diagnose, must abrogate the function of the priest or minister. It may be generally admitted, a.s it will be generally recogiv'sed as true, that tlv* confession of many a sufferer to a discreet and skilful medical practitioner lias led !■> many a cure which otherwise should have been hard if not impossible to find. But while the doctor, from a seme of professional duty, may realise little difficulty in extorting confession from a patient of what careful diagnosis of his case has led him to suspect, yet he is wont to be at a 10.-s when the full cure which he would fain prescribe goes clearly beyond the :phere of medicine and pertains to that of the mmistrv.
That the work of the physician and minister of religion should be more, closely associated in the cure of sicklies" and suffering is happily becoming ever more manifest. That the Church of the future will directly recognise the work of the one a c much :<<that of the other may be take.) as a certainty. It is not without significance thai, at a recent, meeting of the Pan .Anglican Conference in London, an edict of that very representative assembly was in th* way of encouraging closer ;j ; > .-oci.itioii lietwecn the clergy and doctors in the cine of disease. Old customs, however oV>s=nlrtr. pspociaUy where thoy pnvtain to the old stereotyped professions, die hard. What an anomaly it is, e.g.. the observance to-day of that old unwritten law of etiquette as binding between minister and doctor, that the entrance of cither into tlie patient's presence is the sign for the other, should he be present, to quit! Such a procedure is so ridh vlous as to savor at once of humor and pathos. 'J"lie mere tyro in knm\ 'edge of the human svslcm knows at least that man is a unity, that if one pait of Irs organism suffer the other pruts are indiieetly affected. So, further, ino-i peorri believe there is some rehition.-hip betwi'ii that iii a patient which the doctor c.-ni minister to and that who=e speci,-:] care is the. clergyman's So much is generally admitted : but, through a tacit yet lata! misunderstanding, an impossible barrier for intercourse is placed between the tv. -,> men ministering to the same suffrirr. Snrelv the time is ripe for this great handicap on healing to be removed, and for K.rilitics being given to doctor and ndnht'T for mutual consultation concerning anv ea«e in which thev mav lie both interested. At first sight" it seems that the ideal should *bo found in the physician who was also a minister, or contrariwii-e in the minister wdio was likewise a phvsitian. JSut. upon second thoughts, the wisdom of combining the two professions in on 3 man is seen a.s open to question : and especially is this manifest in view of i the exigencies binding on each ca,-e, of ! healing, and the need for inordinate ."-kill j in both doctor and minister to affect the same efficiently and expeditiously. Further, considering how readily the'function of the. minister through prejudice might unduly and unwittingly intrude upon that of the physician, or vice versa, the argument is _ thus strengthened against the combination of the two offices in the same person. This, too, but strengthens tho argument for something being done to relieve, the anomalous position whereby the two men,- who should be in fullest sympathy with each other over a case of healing, are kept apart.
The way to such a consummation in the noble art of healing, by bringing doctor and minister to join hands, is not without its difficulties. But it is worth while fighting and waiting for. Prejudice on both sides has considerably hindered such a union. But prejudice is largely built on ignorance. Time was when the doctor 2'egarded the minister as an absolutely impractical idealist, and when the minister was wont to suspect the doctor of agnosticism or even atheism. But that time has passed, as it may be safely presumed, never to return. In the day of growing enlightenment, which is "ever more fully dawning, the relationship of doctor and minister as co-partners in the same good cause is being more clearly seen, and the feeling of brotherhood, here as, elsewhere, is more manifestly discloßUig itself.
DOCTOR AND MINISTER, Issue 15696, 9 January 1915
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