In our favourable review of the Tom Hooper movie A King’s Speech (starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter) we quoted from a video interview with Norman Hutchinson, author of Lionel Logue: The King’s Mentor. Logue’s Australian biographer pinpointed at least one instance of the now-famous Australian speech therapist – who, according to his son and others, was a Christian Scientist – curing a child of a speech impediment in one visit.
Reading through Caroline Bowen’s scholastic website – Lionel Logue PIONEER SPEECH THERAPIST 1880 – 1953 (COPYRIGHT © 2002 CAROLINE BOWEN) – there is an account recorded of just such an experience. (All credit to Dr. Bowen for valuing Logue’s story, and publishing it online, several years before his recent meteoric rise to household name status!) In personal correspondence to Dr. Bowen (October 30, 2010) Professor Geoffrey Elliott, of the University of Worcester, who is now the Director of Regional Engagement and editor of Research in Post-Compulsory Education, writes:
“I was treated and cured by Lionel Logue in 1952, aged three. Obviously as I was very young I don’t recall much of what happened. My late father, who was a freemason, had arranged to get me referred to Logue to treat my serious stammer, which had developed following life-saving surgery and a convalescence of six months. NHS* methods had been tried and failed. I recall being welcomed into his Harley Street consulting room. Only one visit was necessary. As I approached Logue I remember him saying ‘hop over here Geoffrey’ and being an obedient child I duly hopped across the room! My father was not allowed to be present during treatment. Dad believed that Logue used hypnosis but I have no evidence whether that is true or untrue. My next recall is of my father’s tearful thanks to Logue on my return to the waiting room, when I could speak without the wretched stutter. I shall always be indebted to that great healer.” Bowen, C. (2002). Lionel Logue: Pioneer speech therapist. Retrieved from www.speech-language-therapy.com/ll.htm on January 20, 2011.)
It is interesting that the suggestion was made (pun intended!) that Lionel Logue might have been using hypnotism. (Bowen describes “some suggestions” that he “hypnotised” his patients as “unconfirmed”.)
Although we can’t definitively say how much, if at all, Logue’s specific treatment was based on what he had learned, and loved, about the practice of Christian Science, it does at least make it highly unlikely that he was using hypnotism. In the theology and practice of Christian Science hypnotism is considered to be the reverse of Christian Science treatment, which is a healing approach based on the beneficent power of an all-loving divine Mind, God and – as the Bible says – the fact that man is made in God’s image and likeness. (Man here meaning the generic spiritual identity of every man, woman and child.).
From this standpoint, hypnotism is seen as demanding a relinquishment of one’s own mental control to another while Christian Science is exactly the opposite. This healing approach is about gaining constructive self-control of one’s own thinking and actions through an increasing spiritual self-awareness and a deepening daily living of Christian love for one’s neighbours. Sometimes this takes place with the help of a Christian Science practitioner (an experienced healer) but more often than not it occurs through one’s own thoughtful study – of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures – and through individual prayer and spiritual growth.
Hutchinson’s biography also points out how Logue cured people with his treatment who had tried hypnotism and found it didn’t help them. He highlights individuals cases where that was so, including the following, “Mr. Lionel Logue was in the Fremantle train, and a soldier, J. O’D. got in beside him. The soldier continued to read until two other men got in and spoke to him, and he leant forward and whispered to them. Mr. Logue thought the matter over, and just before he got to Fremantle he gave the soldier his card and asked him to call on him. O’D then told him his history. He was gassed at Ypres on August 29, 1917. He was told in London that he would never speak again. At Tidworth (Salisbury Plain) Hospital suggestive and hypnotic treatment was tried but failed. He reported to Mr. Logue on March 10 this year, and on April 30 he was discharged quite cured.”
It is certainly easy as a Christian Scientist to read an account like Professor Elliot’s – and to read of Logue’s profoundly compassionate and effective healing work with many returning World War 1 soldiers – and to feel that this certainly sounds like Christian Science. The continuous acceleration of public interest in Christian Science during Logue’s lifetime was based on just such quick healings being experienced by those who couldn’t be helped medically, and it was gratefully adopted by many Christians as a theology that understood and explained God’s loving nature, rather than referring to Him as “a mystery”.
However, as Dr. Bowen’s record clearly reflects, Lionel Logue used a range of techniques in his practice, including many that were definitely not Christian Science, although as the movie portrays it hypnotism was not among them. And the date of Professor Elliot’s one-visit cure coincides with the time that Logue was personally involved with spiritualism, which is also contrary to Christian Science theology and practice (as touched on in the previous blog). At this period Logue had lost his beloved wife, Myrtle, and still mourned the recent death of the King whom he held in such high regard. It may well be that like many who lost loved ones in the two world wars Logue found comfort in the idea which spiritualism espouses, that he might still be able to communicate with those dear to him who had passed away.
So the fascinating question of what exactly constituted Lionel Logue’s method must continue to intrigue.
No doubt the striking success of The King’s Speech will encourage more research on this very topic.
The video still below leads to an audio recording on Sony disc of the actual speech spoken by the real King George VI: