What is healing, and Who is the Healer?

Under Saturn’s Shadow The Wounding and Healing of Men
By James Hollis
Published by: Inner City Press
Pages 110-112 :

Before we can realistically address the healing of [people], we must first examine what healing means and where in our time healing agencies may be found.

Franz Kafka wrote a prophetic story at the beginning of this century titled “The Country Doctor.” A physician is called out in the middle of a raging snowstorm to attend a patient. When he arrives, the villagers are all crowded around a young man. The youth says to the physician, “Save me, save me.” The doctor examines his patient and proclaims that he can find nothing wrong; no apparent wound or diseased condition. Again, “Save me, save me,” the youth cries. The doctor looks again and sees a gaping sore in the patient’s side, with multiple rose-red layers. Worms as thick and as long as his finger wriggle to the light. After a further examination, the doctor explains that he cannot save him. The villagers are incensed and engage in a ritual divesting the doctor of his powers. They chant, circle him, strip off his vestments and throw him out into the wild. Struggling to find his way back through the darkness, the physician thinks:

That is what people are like in my district. Always expecting the impossible from the doctor. They have lost their ancient beliefs; the parson sits at home and unravels his vestments, one after another; but the doctor is supposed to be omnipotent with his merciful surgeon’s hand. Well, as it pleases them.

Kafka’s story has metaphoric and prophetic meaning. The power of the clergy has waned, supplanted by a new superstition and a new priest, in a white coat instead of black. But the new religion, medical science, cannot save either. Only upon closer examination does the symbolic rose-red wound become visible. Science, with all its marvelous powers, is powerless to heal such a wound. Thus the physician becomes another dismantled servant of a discredited divinity. Kafka warns us against placing our faith precisely where the twentieth century has placed it-in the external, quantifiable world. Our wounds are to the soul, and only that which reaches it can heal.

The physician is a servant of Physis (nature). The physician does not heal; nature heals. (Form Latin we get medicus, “healer,” mederi, “to heal” and docere, “to lead.”) When the body is broken the physician may promote conditions that facilitate healing, but cannot heal wounds to the soul.

Decades ago D. H. Lawrence realized this:

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.

And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.

I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time,

only time can help

and patience, and a certain difficult repentance.

Long, difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake

and the freeing of oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake

which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.