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ON WARTS - Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)

Warts are non-cancerous skin growths that develop on different parts of the body and come in various forms. They are caused by viruses. Warts are contagious (spreadable) and very common: Most people will have one at some point in their lives. Although they can affect people of any age, warts are most common among children and teenagers.

Warts are wonderful structures. They can appear overnight on any part of the skin, like mushrooms on a damp lawn, full-grown and splendid in the complexity of their architecture. Viewed in stained sections under a microscope, they are the most specialised of cellular arrangements, constructed as though for a purpose. They sit there like turreted (small towers extending above a building) mounds (rises/mounts/hills) of dense, impenetrable (unsolvable) horn, impregnable (secure), designed for defence against the world outside. In a certain sense, warts are both useful and essential, but not for us. As it turns out, the exuberant (excited) cells of a wart are the elaborate reproductive apparatus of a virus. (Thomas, 2021)

Dr Lewis Thomas was an American physician, poet, essayist, etymologist, teacher, and researcher. In his essay On Warts, Thomas sets forth what scientists know about warts, and speculating about both causes and effects, he probes (analyses) the unsolved mysteries of these odd growths. Warts can be cured, but what no one really understands is exactly how the cure works. Is it by science or by magic?

Most warts are harmless and will go away on their own within a few weeks or months. But they can be bothersome and unattractive, and some people feel ashamed. There are a number of different treatments that can make warts go away more quickly – but they don't always work. (Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, 2019)

Many people associate warts with witches and other such unsavoury (unpleasant) characters. However, warts are not limited to those who fail common hygienic practices and are in fact quite common among the human population. Warts are an interesting virus that can appear anywhere on your skin. The exuberant (vigorous/energetic) cells of a wart are the elaborate reproductive apparatus (tools) of a wart virus. These warts can be removed by many simple solutions. Thomas discusses the fact that these warts can be removed efficiently, and effectively by hypnosis.  

The strangest thing about warts is that they tend to go away. Fully grown, nothing in the body has so much the look of toughness and permanence as a wart, and yet, inexplicably and often very abruptly, they come to the end of their lives and vanish without a trace. And they can be made to go away by something that can only be called thinking, or something like thinking. This is a special property of warts which is absolutely astonishing, more of a surprise than cloning or recombinant DNA or endorphin or acupuncture or anything else currently attracting attention in the press. It is one of the great mystifications of science: warts can be ordered of the skin by hypnotic suggestion. (Thomas, 2021)

Thomas states in his article, “ If my unconscious can figure out how to manipulate the mechanisms needed for getting around that virus, and for deploying all the various cells in the correct order for tissue rejection, then all I have to say is that my unconscious is a lot further along than I am. I wish I had a wart right now, just to see if I am that talented.” (Thomas, 2021) The unconscious mind is powerful in the sense that you give yourself thoughts and listen to opinions from others on how to treat and get rid of warts. In the treatment of warts, it is not known whether the healing response to hypnotic suggestions is due to increased immunity functions, more or less blood circulation, some unknown chemical action, or other internal processes. How the unconscious mind is able to prompt warts to disappear when conventional treatments fail is still not fully known.

Thomas notes historic research in which several patients had warts that were destroyed after a hypnosis session, where the therapist made suggestions to the patient and the warts eventually disappeared.


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. (2019, 11 7). Warts: Overview. Retrieved from NCBI Bookshelf:

Thomas, L. (2021). On Warts. In S. Lohani, Visions - A Thematic Analogy (pp. 130-137). Kathmandu, Nepal: Vidyarthi Pustak Bhandar.



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