CREDOS: Great wisdom — II

Lincoln announced that he had just returned from the War Department, he said, where the news was “dark everywhere.” Then he took a Bible from a stand near the sofa and began to read. “A quarter of an hour passed,” Elizabeth Keckly, Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker, remembered, “and on gla-ncing at the sofa the face of the president seemed more cheerful. The dejected look was gone, and the countenance was lighted up with new resolution and hope.” Wanting to see what he was reading, Keckly pretended she had dropped something and went behind where Lincoln was sitting so she could look over his shoulder. It was the Book of Job.

Throughout history, a glance to the divine has often been the first and last impulse for suffering people. “Man is born broken,” the playwright Eugene O’Neill has written. “He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue!” Many conversion narratives include spates of melancholy — the dark night of the soul. And many secular stories of depression end with a spiritual awakening, as does Leo Tolstoy’s memoir, “My Confession,” about how a crisis of spirit became a crisis of faith, which he resolved by turning to Christianity. Today the connection between spiritual and psychological well being is often passed over by psychologists and psychiatrists, who consider themselves a branch of secular medicine and science. For most of Lincoln’s lifetime, scientists assumed there was some relationship between mental and spiritual life. —