United Lodge of Theosophists, London, UK

On the Training of Healers

The Motive

The gentle practice of healing – whether physical, moral or mental – is a great art and skill and comes with the responsibility of a pure motive which is equal to its capacity.

William Judge writes that in America as long ago as 1850 many responsible practitioners of mesmeric healing saw the necessity of taking precautions to keep it “out of the hands of unprincipled persons”:

… although (Dr. Dods) had taught more than one thousand individuals whom he had put under solemn pledge not to reveal his methods to impure and immoral persons, yet some were so unprincipled as to violate their pledge and hawk the “science” about everywhere.

“Hypnotism-Mesmerism – Science Takes a Step”, Path, May 1890 by Rodriquez Undiano (penname of W. Q. Judge).

Although he was then writing about hypnotism, what he says applies today as much to other forms, for example Reiki or other such old methods now adapted and used in this, our New Age. Some of these systems are not much better than a lottery at times, for in the case of Reiki it is because its modern trainers give their practitioners authority to provide unsupervised healing after only the briefest and most superficial training (in some cases less than one month – although not an inexpensive one – to become a ‘Reiki Master’) which, for the majority of novice practitioners, will be far too short.

Only the naturally ethically and morally fit among them are not in need of a much longer period so as to learn to walk happily straight down the old but apparently narrow path of principle and self-discipline. Echoes of these old ethics comes to us from ancient sacred texts such as the Oath of Hippocrates, the father of the West’s ethics in medicine.

But if we look at the history even before Hippocrates we see he was no innovator. Indeed, the need for sound training was well-known in the old healing schools now long lost to posterity. A study of the original systems of the ancient Therapeutae or Essenes shows their apprentice-probationers going through many years of intensive full-time training in theory, technique and self-discipline in order to become a competent and pure healer, and perhaps later on, a teacher in their own right.

And in the old Druid schools of the West their aural tradition often took twenty years to master; such degrees and terms were once universal, and one still sees them still preserved in some of the current Mahayana Buddhist practices.

Now if this sounds demanding, all that can be said is that we live in the compromised times of the Kali Yug and we must do our best to choose from the healing help that is available. But we are aided to know that the sacred texts – whether from old Greece or India – teach over and again that in all life’s activities it is the motive and sincerity to benefit others that is the key factor to lasting success and the avoidance of dangerous pitfalls, to the healer as much as their patients.

It is the great acid test: the freer from the influence of money or power or immorality, the better and more fitted the healer will be to be able to do lasting good.

The therapeutic effect of right thought

Now on the question of how long lasting such a therapeutic effect can be – whether physical or mental – it is known from many accounts (such as those of Col. Olcott’s mesmeric healings) that they may only bring temporary relief, often for less than a year, even though practitioners such as Olcott may have had extraordinarily powerful personal magnetism. However the treatment can result in benefit if, during that time, sufficient strength is given to the patient for them to unremittingly work through and address the underlying causes, in which case then all may be well and turn out happily.

Take as an example Caroline Ruppert in the German Mystic’s story, which relates that she was brought to a very low condition by the negative strength of her own thoughts whose force

“… manifests itself in the guise of, either the imaginings of the sensitive (Caroline)… or the imaginings of other persons” (or indeed from other external sources such as powerful astral images).

The German Mystic’s story edited by W. Q. Judge (his commentary at the end)

Judge, writing from apparent personal knowledge and observation of the phenomena, says these elemental energies become a temporary aspect of the personality and mind of the person who imagines them, and if they continue to be fed with thoughts and vitality they will

“… more and more subvert and dominate the real self of the one who passively submits.”


It is implied that it is simply through the misuse of the imaginative power that the sufferer becomes less and less able to resist and so they may finally give in altogether to the malign influence.

It is for this reason that passivity and mediumship are said to be dangers which students of Theosophy cannot be too much alive to; they must and can learn the skills and develop the will-power to be able to eject these “passionate elementals” as Judge calls them, which are created out of one’s own ignorance by not understanding how to correct and adjust the common tendency to wrong thinking, avoiding that which is pessimistic or too negatively self-critical.

So it is that control over these elemental forces can be acquired and used consciously and firmly and with a skill acquired from guidance, training and practice. The best way is by starting out with a good intention and a clear conscience and with the confidence that one can make such changes that can bring about a happy outcome.

These are life-giving and life-saving lessons if they can be learned; they come from feeding and sustaining the positive creative mental forces – which all have at least latently – and not to let lower elemental influences feed on or vampirise them.

The metaphysical rationale

Little more need be said – both to aspiring healers and to those learning to heal themselves – than that a through study and application of the perennial philosophy must and will one day bring into flower all the transcendental virtues. The rationale for this is that such virtue is inherent in humanity’s higher principles and are shared by all human beings and this comes to those who live rightly and simply.

It is the perennial practices of patience, charity and forbearance that the emotional disturbances that occupy the deserts of the lower mind are transformed – or rather redirected – into positive and creative forces by the influences of the higher mind, which always sits above unaffected, as the old Hindu metaphor of the two birds in the tree illustrates.

The Story of Two Birds (or the higher & lower man).
From the Mandukya Upanishad

Two birds, inseparable companions, perch on the same tree, one eats the fruit sitting on the lower branch, the other looks on from the higher branch. The first bird is the personal self, feeding on the pleasures and pains of this world.

The other is the universal Self, silently witnessing all.

As long as the bird on the lower branch keeps eating the fruits of pleasure and pain (life after life) he will not see how to join his faithful and inseparable friend on the higher branch.1

Mandukya Upanishad

The metaphor of the two birds, representing the ‘link of friendship’ and active energy of the conscience and ‘higher light’ of the Ego, shows how the lower mind can gain a truer perception of right and wrong. This conscience can be maintained if the lessons of life (which come from karma) are met with internal fortitude, humility and a desire to correct them. Karma acts on the transgressor because he has broken natural laws of harmony, which are immutable, not those varying and arbitrary ones that come from personal or social beliefs.

During such a restoration, if encouragement is given to the sufferer, firmly but with empathy, then the ennobling qualities can be gradually developed.

The success of schemes like restorative justice and some of the Scandinavian prison practices of educating the whole person appear to derive much of their success from this principle, that of strengthening the channel down which the higher influences of Manas may reach the mind of one who repents. It is this influence which provides the needed strength to break the bad habits and replace the old energies of the past with a new impetus that is respectful firstly of their own life and then the wider brotherhood of humanity.

So in the metaphor the fourth principle, the lower desire-mind of Kama Manas, is saved by turning to and joining with the fifth principle, Higher Manas, the Higher Ego, the essence of our inner life said to hold in its reservoirs the sum of all the good virtues previously accumulated from an almost indefinitely long chain of past lives.

This is part of the secret healing power of the once-esoteric psychology, now made common knowledge by the modern Theosophical Movement of 1875 but which is still much in need of intelligent application so its meaning is grasped and applied ethically.


  1. The relationship is inseparable in the sense that the ‘link’ is quasi-permanent but that it can be ruptured by one who by persistent immorality breaks connection to the Higher Ego. In this case they will thus become devoid of any feelings of conscience or remorse for wrongs done; what is called a psychopathic character. This is the teaching of the loss of the soul for that one life, a sobering if too-common lesson. (The annihilation of the soul is further degree in that teaching, one we have no room to describe here.)
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