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BEARD AS MYSTIC: HER DISCIPLINE, HER GOALS, HER ADVICES
Everyman's search is the search for God. Everyman's goal is the expanded consciousness which should come through that search. Everyman's mission is the vocation or divinely appointed work in his life. A part of this mssion is a discipline and training by means of prayer and meditation to bring his awareness and, eventually, to bring his will more and more completely into accord with the Divine Will. —Preface, Everyman's MissionPhysician Rebecca Beard's midlife spiritual search brought her to Quakerism and, through her own health crisis, to a late-life career as a faith healer. With a background in science and twenty years practicing medicine, she became very excited about the new movement of "psychosomatic medicine"—what today we call "mind-body medicine." She came to believe, both through experience and new findings in psychology, that illness could be neutralized or defeated by adopting a positive attitude.
A contemporary of Norman Vincent Peale (who wrote the foreword to her second book), Beard was riding the wave of the body-mind "discovery" that followed the power-of-positive-thinking evangelists who rang in the twentieth century. This infusion of new science into her experience with healing through prayer exerted a powerful influence:
As time went on, I found myself more and more reluctant not only to make a definite prognosis of a patient's condition, but to make a diagnosis because I realized that by saying to a person, "You have a serious disorder, or a definitely diseased organ," I was implanting in his subconscious mind a positive picture which was going to be difficult for him to forget or ignore.This problem of diagnosis became, for her, the impasse that shaped her decision to completely redefine herself as healer. "The hurdle I could not get over was this one of diagnosis," she wrote. "When a physician no longer makes diagnoses, he no longer practices."
In 1947, Beard set aside her medical practice and became a faith healer. She and husband Wallace Beard moved to Wells, Vermont, where they founded Merrybrook, a "spiritual therapy" center. "This astonishing power of positive thinking is the most marvelous secret of living," she wrote, and it was this "astonishing power" that became the impetus of her new practice. Rebecca Beard entirely yielded to this concept, which she backed not with her medical training but by invoking the name and power of Christ Jesus. She believed, as did Norman Vincent Peale, whom she quoted: "If you practice believing that with the help of God you can overcome obstacles and achieve success, your will and imagination will flow forth together and, against that power, nothing negative, nothing in the nature of defeat, can stand."
Beard's first book, Everyman's Search, is primarily devoted to the practice of positive thinking and the scientific basis for psychosomatic medicine. Among her several suggestions to build a positive attitude is the advice to "Bless your body always. Speak no word of condemnation about it. Praise it, and bless it in every cell, calling upon every cell for its perfect response."
She did not view spiritual healing as miraculous, but rather the result of the body responding to a force of natural law that was only beginning to be understood. "Those of us who have studied physical science have come to have a profound faith in the underlying order of the universe and the dependability of natural law," she wrote.
Following the main text of Everyman's Search are thirty-nine pages of meditation scripts with meditation instructions and a subsequent section on group therapy and prayer groups.
Beard's second book, Everyman's Goal: The Expanded Consciousness was published a year later in 1951. This expanded consciousness, she wrote, "must come not only to individuals but to the world. . . . [It] is the next great step which mankind must take." In this volume she discussed the role of emotional conflicts in creating poor health, yielding and becoming a vessel for God's work, the power of love, and the seeds of what we now call "energy medicine." Beard was a great fan of depth psychology and group therapy (which she saw as a training ground for and a microcosm of the larger world that needs to come into unity). She wrote:
Each one must take his egocentric self and face it, looking at it . . . in order that we may discover afresh the depth psychology that lies in the teachings of Jesus. In doing this, we will find the blind spots and the prejudices within us. Then, through prayer and meditation, we can erase these enslaving habit-tracks from our subconscious minds and achieve maturity."If you have thoughts you do not like," wrote Beard, "then saturate your conscious mind with thoughts you do like." "Find the things you love to do," she encouraged, "or, a much happier thing, learn to love to do the things you have to do!"—an echo of the Zen proverb "Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water." The reward of all this inner work, she believed, is expanded consciousness, which she defined as "the upward reach toward cosmic or God consciousness."
Beard's third book in the series, Everyman's Mission: The Development of the Christ-Self, opens with a detailed account of her own very dramatic spiritual healing—after a series of heart attacks—that led to her abandonment of her medical practice in favor of the practice of spiritual therapy. Here she offered advice to those who have experienced a communion with God: "When you have had a deep religious experience, guard it carefully. Do not talk about it to any but the angels, the kings of the spirit or those who are wise with the wisdom of God."
In passing, Beard mentioned that she had entered into a practice of prayer every four hours around the clock, vaguely suggesting a goal of spiritual growth, yet later seemed to reveal a more definite goal: "The mystic, inherent in each one of us, but often submerged by so much worldly thinking and knowledge, can be brought out only by long periods of meditative silence and contemplation," she wrote.
Included in her practice to develop the Christ-self (and apparently, too, the inner mystic) was learning to control "the biological instincts as we learn to control much of our negative thinking and our emotion" in the "Christ way of mastery"—not by "suppression," but by "understanding and redemption." "We must redeem that part of us [the dark shadow within] by forgiving it and lifting it up; then we must repeat the process with those things we do not like in others." She referred to the dark night of the soul as "a wilderness period following the baptism of the Spirit" and said that, "It is the awareness of the Holy Spirit that we gain when we pass through the night-sea journey alone," and "when we pass this test, we come out into the resurrection morning victorious."
She described a crisis of inner turmoil and struggle resulting from a "piling up of negative emotions within us." "Something of the lesser self within us must die," she wrote. "The willful, imperious self which wants what it wants when it wants it, regardless of what it may cost, has to be crucified. The earth man or Adam-self must be reduced to a point where the Christ-self can be resurrected in us."
Thus, Everyman's Mission is a further development of topics introduced in the first two books in the series, additionally naming a path to the realization of the Christ-self, as well as expanding on ways to maintain the positive mind set necessary for health and for guiding others to health through prayer. An extended section of meditation scripts concludes the text of the third volume.
The Everyman's series is well written and an engrossing read for those of us interested in spiritual healing and expanded consciousness. The more than half a century that has elapsed since the three volumes were published has not eroded the value of Rebecca Beard's teachings. One could, indeed, use her advices as the backbone of a practice intended to advance development as a healer or to deepen the mystical connection with the Divine.
I can imagine how excited Beard would have been to read psychologist Paul Pearsall's account of his heart transplant (The Heart's Code, 1999), and particularly his theory, intuited from his own experience, that the heart is the human body's thinking organ and that the brain is its computer-servant. . . . And how very disappointed she would be to learn that the progress she so optimistically predicted in the closing pages of Everyman's Goal never materialized:
In fifty years, unless man's progress is set back a few thousand years by global war, we will have advanced to the place where we will not consider placing any man in public leadership who habitually harbors hate in his heart for others, or who carries grudges or who cannot control his temper. We will not dare to put immature men in high places. Only the mature minded can be trusted to guide us. We will avoid adopting policies and plans of action through emotional reactions and sentimental responses. We will outgrow our worship of swashbuckling bandits and gun-toting heroes.