Touching a Soul

Rutger Bergström

Many believe that the world is divided into red, yellow, white, and black, into animals, bushes, and trees, moon, sun, and stars, poverty and riches. But it is all a oneness or, as a thoughtful man once said, if we can approach high and low on the same plane, we have adopted the right attitude toward life. I don't believe stereotyped religious attitudes can give people what they need in terms of compassion and understanding. If we surround ourselves only with holy and pleasant speech, it may be possible sometimes to become convinced that we are led into that way of being perhaps because it serves our selfish nature best. An episode occurs to mind, suggesting a deeper approach.

Many years ago, in the 1930s, a very skillful artist lived in Gothenburg. That he had real talent has been confirmed since many famous artists have expressed their great appreciation of his paintings. But when he lived he wrestled with great problems and landed into the world of illness, becoming schizophrenic. For seven years while in his prime he was an inmate of a mental hospital outside Gothenburg. There he was locked up in the violent ward living almost like an animal. During these vicissitudes the artist was, as it were, absent, away from this world, and must have had no idea of what was happening around him.

One day his sister and her little boy visited him; they had to have an attendant in case the man became violent. So the sick brother met his sister in a park at the hospital with the guard beside them. Somehow the sister and the guard entered into conversation and for a moment forgot the little boy who had been warned not to go too near the patient. Then what did they see? The boy was holding the painter's hand, tugging and pulling at him, and for the first time in years the attendant saw a smile appear on the patient's lips. So they let the boy and his uncle be.

The visit was not long, but that moment marked a turning point toward recovery. Slowly the artist became aware of his surroundings; he began carefully to make little flowers and other figures; his strength and health began to return ever so slowly, so that eventually he was declared well and discharged. Then commenced a period of intense artistic creativity.

When I first heard this true story I thought: "How much do we really know of the significance radiated by a healthy soul-life?" The schizophrenic began to recover after his contact with the child. Was it the artist's soul or the child's that performed the magic? There is much that we do not yet understand, but there will come a day when psychiatrists, psychologists, and soul-searchers will be forced to the insight of how extremely central the inner spiritual life is in both health and disease.

(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 2006; copyright © 2006 Theosophical University Press)

Inspirational Menu

Stars and atoms bring us face to face with an immense symphony. Those who only see the orchestra without hearing anything are deaf. Behind the visible world our minds must feel the presence of the invisible world upon which we are based. All that we see is an appearance: the real is the invisible force, the energy, which moves all and carries all through infinity and eternity. Camille Flammarion