Rediscovering the Health-Inducing ‘Balm of Gilead’

In our never-ending quest for better health, are there resources that we might be passing by or neglecting to fully utilize?


For those raised in the Jewish or Christian tradition, there’s a familiar passage from the Old Testament that could provide us all, regardless of faith, with some much needed guidance in our continued quest for better health:

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people (Jeremiah 22:8)?

For you trivia-types, the balm referred to in this citation is thought to be a kind of resinous gum extracted from any one of a number of flowering plants, all of which, it’s believed, possess exceptional medicinal properties. The term is also used throughout the Bible as a metaphor for the spiritual medicine required to heal the sick and suffering; a medicine that, although readily available, is all-too-rarely recognized or utilized.

Relating this idea to the health crisis confronting modern-day society, the verse might read:

“With all the medical advances being made these days, shouldn’t we be seeing less disease and suffering instead of more?”

Of course, it would be absurd to think that all the world’s ills could be wiped out with a gob of gum, no matter how exceptional or plentiful. But are there other resources available to us – underutilized, even unrecognized – that, in the interest of better health, might be put to better use?

In a seminar given recently at Saybrook University in San Francisco, clinical psychologist, Dr. Richard Katz, professor emeritus at First Nations University of Canada and author of the upcoming book, “Synergy, Healing and Empowerment: Insights from Cultural Diversity,” offered up an intriguing answer.

Drawing on years of experience studying a wide variety of cultures – everything from the Kalahari Ju/’hoansi in Africa to indigenous healers in Fiji – Katz has developed a keen appreciation for what he calls “spiritually based resources;” that is, resources that are not only available and expanding but also renewable and – perhaps best of all – accessible to everyone.

What he’s referring to, of course, is not a new kind of drug or even a new medical procedure, but a fundamentally different way of thinking about ourselves, our relationship to the universe, and to those around us.

While the rituals and methods involved with tapping into these resources vary widely from culture to culture, there are similarities in the moral sentiments they inspire: compassion, forgiveness, unconditional love, and so on. These qualities of thought not only improve our ability to function within society but have also been scientifically proven to provide a sense of mental and physical harmony, even physical healing.

Certainly there are times when things like compassion and unconditional love can seem to be in short supply; an impractical if not impossible resource to access. Perhaps then the best question to ask is, “Am I looking at a lack of love or an abundance of resentment, doubt, and fear?” One tends to marginalize and even completely obscure the other.

Although the disease and suffering the world faces can seem overwhelming, it’s important to remember that each of us has the capacity, at least in some small measure, to cultivate the proverbial “balm of Gilead” within; a healing balm capable of soothing any number of mental and physical wounds. We should have every reason, then, to expect to see better health as our capacity to recognize and utilize this resource increases and improves over time.

Eric Nelson is a Los Altos resident. His articles on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local, regional, and national online publications, including The Washington Times. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. This article published with permission by Communities @WashingtonTimes.com.

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