New Thought Editorials > Changing Light Bulbs


Spring 2008

Changing Light Bulbs

Nearly everybody has heard the story about Thomas Edison’s process of inventing the light bulb and how he had to go through many thousands of ways that did not work in order to discover the way that would work. The story is popular among New Thoughters because Edison’s emphasis was not on failures, but on ultimate success.

Nearly everybody has heard the supposedly true story about Michelangelo, asked how he had created the magnificent statue of David out of a plain block of marble. He replied, "I just cut away everything that wasn’t David."

Nearly everybody has also heard endless numbers of light bulb changing jokes, e.g.: "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?" "Just one, but the light bulb has to really want to be changed."

Nearly everybody who is fairly well acquainted with the New Testament will remember the story of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda with the man who had been crippled for 38 years (John 5). His first question to the man was, "Do you want to get well?"

New Thought had its modern-day beginnings as a healing movement for body, mind, and spirit; one deeply rooted in spirituality even while it acknowledged the contributions of conventional medicine as well as alternative approaches. With its treasure trove of insights and approaches, why isn’t nearly everybody who comes into contact with its teachings healed? Insights as to the answers lie above.

Edison was not beating himself up for his apparent failures. He saw each as a bit of information guiding him toward eventual success. Michelangelo was also concentrating on his desired outcome. Both men used the negative to arrive at the positive, much like the old Taoist notion that extremes of yang or yin lead to reversal into their opposites. Cartoonists use a light bulb in the bubble over the character’s head to indicate the appearance of a bright idea. A burnt-out bulb cannot shed light on anything.

But the metaphorical light bulb must really, deep down, desire change, desire wellness. Even in the old stereotype, the psychiatrist offering the talking cure knows that the patient can lie on a couch and talk forever while nothing changes except the size of the psychiatrist’s bank account. Jesus’s question to the crippled man might seem ridiculously obvious, except that the man had lain beside the source of healing for 38 years and never managed to get to the angel-stirred waters in time. Did he truly want to get well? Or had he, like many others before and since, taken his identity from his illness until he was unable to recognize, or take advantage of, solutions? All illness is psychosomatic, affecting both mind and body; and most illness is also psychogenic, originating in one’s thinking before manifesting in the body. Sooner or later, that thinking has to change if one is to be healed, whole, well.

Some people want to be healed by a particular method: physical, mental, or spiritual. This may work, but it may take much longer than if one is open to God’s leading. Having given us free will, God will not renege on God’s gift, so we must sincerely want to be healed, despite the many benefits (secondary gains) of illness that can get us out of difficulties or responsibilities. Restoration to wellness may indeed change our identity, and we must be ready to accept and guide this change. Every one of us is God’s favorite, and God desires our highest good, our greatest wellness and usefulness and happiness. Are you ready to be changed with the help of the Great Psychiatrist? Are you ready to shine brightly once more, or even for the first time? Do you really want to get well?