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DELIBERATELY CAUSED BODILY DAMAGE

DELIBERATELY CAUSED BODILY DAMAGE

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Deliberately Caused Bodily Damage
 ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES, SEPTEMBER 1998, VOL. 4, NO. 5 11
DELIBERATELY CAUSED BODILY DAMAGE
Larry Dossey,
MD
NOTESONTHEJOURNEY 
 My feast of joy is but a dish of pain
.…—Chidiock Tichborne (note 1)
W
hen my wife Barbara and I moved to north-ern New Mexico almost 10 years ago, I dis-c ov e red that the chiles used in the localrest aurants were so hot they were actually painful, and I ate many a meal with a tear-ful grimace. Then, after a few months of masochistic culinaryexperiences, things began to change. I noticed that my aversionto hot chiles was diminishing and that I was actually beginningto enjoy the piquant tastes. My pain was gradually being trans-formed into pleasure. Barbara and I boldly began to seek outre st a urants with the hottest salsas and seasonings, arro g a n t l ydisdaining establishments that served milder concoctions. Webecame confirmed “chile heads,” as chile aficionados are calledin these parts. To this day, when on extended travels, we talkfondly of the fiery food we are missing back home and the chilew i t h d rawal symptoms we imagine we are experiencing. Onreturning we waste no time seeking out our favorite restaurant for a “chile fix.”
PAIN AND MEANING
There was a faith-healer of Deal Who said, ‘Although pain isn’t real, If I sit on a pin And it punctures my skin, I dislike what I fancy I feel.’  —
Anonymous
1
My experience with the punishing chiles of New Mexicoshows not only that “one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure,”but also that the same person can respond to the same experi-ence differently on different occasions.When we try to make pain an absolute—when we say that aparticular experience is
always
painful, or that another is invari-ably pleasant—we run into problems. In an attempt to explainhis ideas to the public, Einstein once said, “Put your hand on ahot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pret-ty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.
That’s
relativity”(note 2). Einstein’s point was that our sense of time is relat i ve and connected to whether we are experiencing pain or pleasure.But pleasure and pain, like time, also are relative. For example, if E i n s t e i n ’s subject is fre ezing, or if he is extremely shy aro u n dwomen, he might find the hot stove to be a more pleasant experi-ence than the girl.Whether we find an experience painful or pleasant dependslargely on what it
means
to us. And meaning is shaped by 3major factors: (1) the entire previous
life experience
we bring to ap articular moment, (2) our
expectations
about what lies ahead,and (3) the particular
context 
in which an event takes place.For example, in the lore of hypnosis, it is well known thatwhen a hypnotized subject thinks he is being touched by a burningmatch, a blister will often erupt, even though he is being touchedwith an ice cube. The subject is responding to his past experienceswith matches and fire as well as to his expectation of being burned,all filtered through the context of the hypnotic state.To see how meaning and pain intersect, let’s look at severaldifferent scenarios.
MEANINGLESS PAIN: TORTURE
The wish to hurt, the momentary intoxication with pain, isthe loophole through which the pervert climbs into the minds of ordinary men.
—Jacob Bronowski
2
I confess that I have a perverse fascination with tortu re. Iam simply astonished at how, throughout re c o rded history,there have always been humans who have devoted their intelli- gence, energy, and creativity to the single-minded task of how tomake others feel pain. I have toured torture chambers in Europeand England and have explored at length the extensive literatureon this subject. But I can tolerate exposure to the lore of tortureonly in small doses. After an hour of reading Sw a i n ’s
T h e Pleasures of the Torture Chamber 
,
3
Plaidy’s
The Spanish Inquisition
,
4
Ru t h v e n ’s
To r t u re: The Grand Conspira cy
,
5
or Mannix’s
T h e Hi s t ory of To u re
,
6
I invariably recoil as I consider how tort urehas so often been applied in the name of God, with pro f ess e dlove, for the victim’s “own good.” When I reflect on the fact thatit is
humans
who elevated torture to an art form and that tortureis rare in the nonhuman world, I begin to feel the stain of shamethat torture has left on our collective psyche. However, in spite of the revulsion I feel, I invariably return for another look, because
 
12ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES, SEPTEMBER 1998, VOL. 4, NO. 5
Deliberately Caused Bodily Damage
I sense that in this despicable behavior there are lessons I need tolearn about myself and others.Of particular interest to me is how anyone survives suchh orre n dous ordeals. I do not believe surv ival of torture is pri- marily due to physical hardiness, but to something more subtle.Some say that hatred or the desire for vengeance tow ard one’stormentors carries the victim through—the attitude ascribed toBen Hur when he was condemned as a Roman galley slave in then ovel by General Lew Wall a ce .
7
But the sense of meaning andpurpose—the certainty that I
must 
survive for some good rea- son—seems to explain survival better than any other factor.During the Spanish Inquisition, William Lithgow, a Scot,found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time: Málaga in16 2 0. He came to do business in Spain but was arrested as aProtestant spy and subjected to tortu re. He somehow surv i ved his ordeal and gave the following account
6(pp64-65)
:I was stripped to the skin and mounted on the rack (thiswas a vertical rack upright against the wall) where I washung with two small cords. Thus being hoisted to theappointed height, my tormentor drew my legs through thetwo sides of the three-planked rack, tied a cord about each of my ankles and then drew the cords upwards, bending for-ward my two knees against the two planks until the sinews of my hams burst asunder. So I hung for a large hour.Then the tormentor laying my right arm above the left,wrapped a cord over both arms seven times and then lyingdown on his back and bracing his feet in my belly, pulleduntil the seven several cords combined in one place on myarm cutting the sinews and flesh to the bare bones whichhas lamed me so still and will be forever. Now my eyes began to start, my mouth to foam andf roth, and my teeth to chatter like a dru m m e r ’s sticks. Butnotwithstanding my shivering lips, my groaning, theblood springing from my arms, broken sinews, hams andknees, still they struck me in the face with cudgels to stopmy scre a m s .This their incessant imploration: ‘Confess, confess, con-fess in time for thine inevitable torments ensue.’ But all Icould say was ‘I am innocent, O Jesus, have mercy on me!’Then my trembling body was laid upon the face of a flatrack with my head dow n w a rd, inclosed within a circ l e dhole, my belly upmost, my arms and feet pinioned, for I wasto receive my main torments. Now ropes were passed overthe calf of my leg, the middle of my thigh, and the great of my arm, and these ropes fastened to pins. I received seventortures, each torture consisting of three complete windingsof the pins.Then the tormentor got a pot full of water in the bottomof which was a small hole through which he poured thewater into my mouth. At first I gladly received it, such wasthe scorching drought of my tormenting pain and likewise Ihad drunk nothing for three days before. But when I saw hewas trying to force the water down me, I closed my lips.Then my teeth were set asunder with a pair of iron cadges.Soon my belly began waxing like a great drum, a suffocatingpain as my head was hanging dow n w a rds and the wat e rreingorging itself in my throat, it strangled and swallowed up my breath.I was six hours upon this rack and between each set of tortures I was questioned for half and hour, each half-hour ahell. By ten o’clock that night, they had inflicted sixty sever-al torments but still continued for another half-h o u ralthough my body was begored with blood, cut thro u g hevery part, my bones crushed or bruised and I was roaring,howling, foaming, bellowing, and gnashing my teeth. Trueit is, it passeth the capacity of man to conceive the pain Iexperienced or my anxiety of mind.When they took me from the rack, the water gushed frommy mouth. They put irons on my broken legs and I was car-ried back to my dungeon. Every day I was threatened withfresh tortures if I did not confess and the Governor orderedthat all the vermin in the cell be swept up and piled on mynaked body and tormented me almost to death but theturnkey (a converted Moor) used to come secretely, removethe vermin and burn them in heaps with oil or doubtless Ihad been miserably eaten up and devoured by them.M i ra c u l o u s l y, Lithgow did not die. Reading between thelines, I suspect his religious faith and devotion sustained him. Ithelped him wear his Inquisitors down, and they let him go.The Inquisitors understood that the power of religious faithkept their victims alive, so they tried to shatter it. One way of doing this was to create confusion in the victim’s mind about thedistinctions between the divine and the demonic. TheDominicans, who supervised the Inquisition, were called theHounds of God”—the hellish in league with the heavenly. A par- ticularly terrifying tactic of the Inquisitors was to dress in darkhoods and drag their victims from their beds in the middle of thenightsatanic, nocturnal terrorists calling in the name of God. The strappado was one of their favorite tortures. This tech-nique involved tying the victim’s arms behind the back, thenhoisting him to the ceiling with a rope tied to the wrists and thenpassed through a pulley. If this did not elicit a confession, thevictim was dropped from the ceiling and stopped suddenly,which usually dislocated the arms from the shoulder joints.Another method was to strap 30-pound weights to the victim’slegs as he was suspended. The weights were round and oftencarved to represent
the face of an angel 
6(p78)
—again, the deliberateblurring of boundaries between the demonic and the divine.The Inquisitors concocted lurid descriptions of the eternal,hellish punishment that awaited the victims unless they con-fessed, of which the earthly tortures were only a mild foretaste.S a l vation can come only through pain,” ranted Conrad of Marburg, Germany’s most terrible torturer, whose reign of ter- ror from 1227 until 1233 was unequalled until Hitler’s.
6(p47)
The Inquisitors were equal- o p p o rtunity tort u rers whodid not discriminate based on gender. A woman accused of 
 
Deliberately Caused Bodily Damage
 ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES, SEPTEMBER 1998, VOL. 4, NO. 5 13
w i t c h c raft was delivered to a hangman in 16 31. Her punish-ments were re c o rded as follow s
6 ( p p 7 8 -79 )
:(1) The hangman binds the woman, who was pregna nt, and places her on the rack. Then he racks her till her heartwould fain break. (2) When she did not confess, he pouredoil over her head and burned it. (3) He placed sulphur inher armpits and burned it. (4) Her hands were tied behindher and she was hauled up to the ceiling and suddenlydropped. (5) The hangman and his helpers went to lunch.(6) On returning, the master hangman placed a spikedboard on her back, pulled her up to the ceiling again, thendropped her on the floor. (7) Her toes were put in a thumb-screw and the screw tightened until blood squirted out of her toes. (8) She was pinched with red-hot irons. (9) As shewould not confess, the hangman proceeded to an advancedg rade of tort ure. She was whipped and then put in a visewhich gradually closed on her for the next six hours. (1) Shewas hung up by her thumbs and flogged. This was all thatwas done on the first day.
PAIN AND POSITIVE MEANING:SURGERY WITHOUT ANESTHESIA
Sweet is pleasure after pain.
—John Dryden
8
Surgery during primitive times resembled tortu re. In both instances an individual was tied down, flesh was torn and hacked,bones were broken, limbs were severed, and people were bled.Be f o re the discov e ry of general anesthetics, surgery wasnasty, brutish, and—if you were lucky—short,” says Proessor L. R. C. Agnew of the University of California–Los AngelesSchool of Medicine. He writes: “Patients were held down orstrapped to the table; nowadays such grim proceedings seem tobe the stuff of nightmares rather than re ality. And if our adult forbears suffered grievously under the knife, for children the ter-rors must have been staggering.”
9
Although tort u re and primitive surgery resembled oneanother, the meaning attributed to them by the victim or patientwas radically different. The purpose of torture was to inflict suf-fering; the purpose of surgery was to relieve it. As a result, theagony associated with primitive surgery was attenuated. On rareoccasions it was hardly felt at all, as in the following account of an 18th-century amputation
9(pp1074-1075)
:I have lately heard of such a pretty anecdote of a sweet lit-tle girl of 9 years old that I must give it you as I think it mayinterest your little ones.Lady S’s second daughter Laura had been for monthsconfined at Clifton with a white swelling in her knee. MrB aynton [probably the noted Bristol surgeon ThomasB aynton (17 61-1820), who wrote
 D e s c r i p t i ve Account of a New Method of Treating Old Ulcers of the Legs
] attended her,and a surgeon from London, when at length they pro-nounced it necessary to amputate her leg else she would[lose] her life. Lady [S] would not bear the thought of herchild suffering such and preferred to lose her; however aftersome days she made up her mind to consent to it and twomore surgeons from London were sent for. She said the dayb e f o re they were to arrive Laura was to be told of it. MrBaynton told Lady S he
could not 
break it to the dear child.Lady S said she would take it upon herself to do that andacc ordingly went into Laura’s room; and after speaking to her most affectionately for some time, broke it to her. Thesweet child showed no agitation nor alarm when her moth-er said, ‘My love, do you think me cruel to take this resolu-tion?’ ‘No, Mamma, you could not help it.’ ‘Would yo up refer dying, my love?’ ‘Yes, Mama, for then I should beh a p py,’ but pausing added, ‘that would be taking my fateinto my
own
hands and I could not expect that God wouldsupport me in dying; God demands my leg, not my life.’This happy composure was not transitory—it lasted all that day & night. She told her mother, ‘Mamma, do you remember the day you stayed at home from church with me and talkedwith me about God; from that day I have thought much aboutHim, and loved Him, & it is [He] that now supports me, andwill support me during the operationpray for me. I will not ask you to stay in the room; it would not be good for you, butperhaps Rose (the housekeeper) will be so good.’ The next day,Thursday in Passion week, the four surgeons arrived. Lady S went into Laura’s room to acquaint her. The child shed sometears upon hearing it was so near, but soon recovering herwonted composure said, ‘Mamma, pray for me that I may glo-rify God by patience and that it may do good to Mr Baynton to see what God can do.’ Laura was taken out of bed andplaced upon a table; when they went to cover her eyes, shesaid ‘you need not do that. I will keep them shut but if you likeit, do.’ They bound on the handkerchief and began the opera-tion which the dear child bore without a word until the endwhen she gave one cry of Oh! when the great artery was taken up. To show how much she was supported even in body, a fewf l owers which she held between her fingers re m a i n e dunmoved during the operation. After it was over, Mr Baynton was expressing his aston-ishment at her composure and calmness. She said ‘Thereshould not have been one Oh! Good God supported me;two texts comforted me during the operat i o n t h ro u g hmuch tribulation you must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘if we suffer with Him we shall reign with Him.’Emily B saw her five days after the operation eating anorange in bed as if nothing had happened. Laura said shewould not change her situation or have back her leg. Shee x p ressed gre at delight to think it took place in Pa s s i o nweek, by suffering thus to be made like her Saviour.How did this 9-year-old girl sustain the amputation of a legon a kitchen table without apparent pain, with only a fresh

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