Synopsis of Chapter II
Mental healing has its origin in magical rites. The magician is distinct from the physician and surgeon and possesses a force unique of its kind, and around his personality has grown up an imposing mythology.
One such magician is Imhotep, of the third Egyptian Dynasty. He was fully apotheosized as the god of medicine in the Persian period. Other gods in Egypt were also celebrated for magical cures. The term denoting both magic and religion was hike, a branch of academic study. Ministered by the priests for defensive and prophylactic purposes, it co-operated in the development of the science of medicine now thought to have originated in the Nile Valley. Despite traces of sound diagnosis and humane treatment, mental diseases were often attributed to the influence of evil spirits.
This belief was also held by the Babylonians. The underlying principles of some of their rites of exorcism have been reproduced in our time, while others throw some light on the Gospel healing narratives.
The Babylonian magicians were also the great practitioners of astrology, the foundation of the history of modern psychotherapy according to Mesmerys now rejected main thesis.
The outstanding magic rite among the Greeks was incubation practised in the Asklepian temples, e.g. at Epidaurus. The temple of Cos helped the famous medical school from which we have the Hippocratic Collection. In the treatise On the Sacred Disease the superstitious view of the nature of epilepsy is denied. Plato anticipated some aspects of modern psychotherapy.
The Romans made no original contribution to the subject, which was the prerogative of aliens in Italy.
Among the Jews disease was predominantly believed to be connected with sin or was ascribed to the inscrutable Providence. Accordingly healing was conditioned by the patient}s repentance or by his faithfulness to God, the healer. But belief in spirits was common and at the time of Christ many diseases were ascribed to demons ; the Talmud's attitude was exceptional.
Priests and prophets co-operated with physicians and their chief concern was prophylactic ; their magic was holy living.