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readers, while they may help to collect the thoughts of many who have wondered over similar and even more surprising things. It needs only be added, that the method adopted for the induction of the mesmeric state was very simple. The subject of experiment was seated, made to hold a common shilling on the left palm, requested to gaze continuously upon the coin, and exhorted to abandon himself to what sensations soever should begin to come over him. A kind of self-absorption in one monotonous act of sensation seems to be the thing that is wanted.
I. Miss B. (the K. B. of the “Palladium”) was the subject of the first experiment in this little series. She is a tall, dark, powerful woman, capable of great nervous tumult, but usually placid, mild, and even soft. Contradiction and distress carried her to the verge of distraction on one occasion. Her father was paralytic from the age of forty-three. Altogether, however, she is one of the healthiest, strongest, serenest, and most self-possessed of women, notwithstanding of these indications. After having concentrated her gaze for some minutes on the coin, her palm began to darken in hue. It deepened to a mahogany brown. The edges became even darker. When she closed her eyes, or when they were closed for her, she felt indisposed to open them. She subsided, in fact, into a pleasing half-sleep. She did not wish to come out of it; but she could lift her eyelids when she pleased. There was no catalepsy. No second person had any power over her by word or sign.
II. Mrs R., of a sanguine-lymphatic temperament, healthy, aged twenty-seven, in the eighth month of pregnancy, experienced the following things. Her palm became white and puckered, like that of a dead washerwoman, Pearly bands intersected it here and there. The Georgian head disappeared from the shilling, and a baby in miniature lay in its place. It was then found that, though she could turn her hand upon the wrist-joint, she could not raise her arm from its position by her side. She was otherwise quite her own mistress.
III. Miss M., some twenty-three years old, blond, round, lymphaticsanguine, found the edges of the shilling and of her palm become black soon after she began to peer into the coin. Speedily the whole palm was as black as darkness. À word addressed to her at once banished this effect, but silence and renewed contemplation speedily restored it. Even the left arm was free, however. Blackness of the hand and general repose, never a moment amounting to self-oblivion, were the only things produced.
IV. Susan, a tall, pale, nervous, dyspeptic cook, differed from the last subject only in finding that the left arm and hand were rigidly fixed in the position in which they had been holding the piece of money. She retained perfect self-command in all other respects.
V. Mr W., a student of design and drawing from Newcastle, seventeen years of age, nervous-lymphatic, rather fair, full, gentle, intelligent, full of promise as an artist, saw nothing unusual in his palm. The carpet beyond, however, became chequered, confused, dark, His self-consciousness remained vivid. Yet when his hands were taken and placed together for a minute or so, and when he was told he could not separate them, he found much difficulty in doing so. The difficulty diminished in proportion as he got them forced asunder. After they were a foot or so asunder, the spell was broken. I defied him to step
towards me. It was in vain. He walked steadily across the room, but it required an effort on his part. I gave him a purse to hold, and then defied him to hinder it from falling to the ground. He hindered it, but it was with the utmost difficulty. It was painful to hold it fast, it was pleasant to loosen his grasp. But for his resolution and perseverance
, it would have come to the ground. This patient described the difficulty of separating his palms, of walking towards me, and of holding the purse, as a difficulty he seemed to feel in the will rather than in the organs. It felt like a strong and constraining unwillingness to separate, to walk, to hold. The sensations of a patient have certainly little to do with the scientific question of Mesmerism, but it may be useful to record such ingenuous and thoughtful observations. It must also be remembered that the sensations of an experimentalist are equally irrelevant to an inquiry of this nature. It is to no purpose that he feels a fluid or what-not go out of him. He must also rid himself of all preconceived ideas concerning polarity, the power of his will, and all other foregone conclusions, if it really be in his heart to investigate this eccentrical sphere of nature with success.
VI. Alice, a young servant, leuco-phlegmatic, yet easily flurried, prone to hysteria, short, thick, pale, rather fair, docile, pliant, particularly attachable, first found the edges of the shilling and of her palm grow dark; the whole hand next turned black, then hand and all disappeared from her sight. She was now entranced. Yet you could partially awake her by speech. She heard you and answered, but it was in the manner following. I experimented upon her for half-an-hour, as is about to be described. On finally awaking from this state, she passed into violent hysterics; and, on recovery, she assured her mistress that, from the moment of her hand disappearing from sight, her mind was a blank as to all the curious things that transpired around and within herfrom that moment till she became hysterical, she had no memory, rather no knowledge. Such total self-negation is by no means necessary to the success of the experiments I made. The majority of Dr Darling's cases remain perfectly self-conscious, though not self-governing, in the ordinary sense of the word. The more frequent condition, in fact, is one just intermediate between that of Mr W. and this girl. This is all the better for the present case, however. It renders it less complicated on the one hand, and more typical on the other.
1. Unspoken to, unsolicited in any way, Alice was, in this state, insensible to tickling, and to little injuries that would have caused her pain when awake. I presume she might have been operated upon like Dr Esdaile's numerous subjects in India, like Dr Simpson's dead-drunk patients in Scotland. But this is a minor matter in the present condection, for the production of anæsthesia by Mesmerism, whatever Mesmerism really be, is already established on grounds that cannot be shaken. It is now one of the facts of science, and one of the most important in its probable consequences. It is what Coleridge calls a central fact; ever so many things and thoughts radiate from it in all directions. The idea of it is what Kant denominates a fontal idea; rivers of result, both practical and speculative, begin to flow from it. The discovery that insensibility, anæsthesia, or dead-drunkenness as it has just been plainly called, is safely producible by the breathing of intoxicating
vapours, as it is unsafely producible by drinking intoxicating liquors, is as nothing to it. All honour to the American physician who introduced the process of etherisation; and proportional honour to Dr Simpson for finding that chloroform is decidedly better for the purpose than ether; but the insensibility produced by these strong drinks in the state of vapour is a coarse effect in comparison with the trance of Mesmer. As a scientific truth, the former is nothing new, and it ends where it begins. As a practical thing, indeed, it has to be confessed, that it has as yet the advantage over the latter of being applicable to almost all cases with something like certainty. That is the practical superiority of chloroform. But the mesmeric trance or state—I know not what to call itreaches far beyond the surgeon's table or the bedside of the obstetrician.
2. Having been called upon once or twice in a firm voice, Alice now opened her eyes. She was then bidden shut her eyes, and she did so. She was thereupon told she could not open them, do what she might; and she strove to do so in vain. She strained with both eyelids, she raised her eyebrows, she pulled up her brow, she made every effort; but it was ludicrously in vain. After a slight wave of my hand before her face, she was informed that she could easily open her eyes then; and she opened them in a moment.
3. She was told to stretch forth her hands, and join them palm to palm. Being then assured that she could not separate them, it was to no purpose that she tried to force them asunder. A strong man endeavoured to pull them from one another, but he could not do it. I could not do it myself. They were lockfast. But, as soon as I pressed the united hands softly in mine, and said that then they should easily separate, they parted with the utmost facility.
4. I gave her a shilling and bade her grasp it tightly in her right hand. She did so; and then I defied her to hold the piece from falling. She tried to grasp it more firmly, but her fingers gradually irresistibly opened from the shilling, and it fell to the ground in about twenty seconds. The converse of this experiment was tried with success.
5. I defied her to touch my forefinger, fixed in the air within easy reach of her hand; and it was in vain she struggled to do it. On the other hand, she could not withdraw her index from mine, when she was quietly dared to do so.
6. A little book was placed upon her outstretched palms. She knew and said it was a book. No, said I, it is a bar of iron, very heavy; it weighs you down; you cannot bear it up, it will have you down. She proceeded to declare it was too heavy. She appealed to us for help; and, at last, with every natural sign of a great weight, it bore her to the ground,
7. After she had been recovered, the book still lay on the floor. She was told to lift up the book. She bent to do so, but, as soon as she touched it, I defied her to rise. She stood rooted to the ground and in that position of constraint, like a caryatid, until she was set free by a word. In fact, I fixed her in many odd and difficult postures.
8. Having more or less completely awakened her, I told her to make her hands go round one another quickly, as children do in their game of knievie-knic-knack; and she did so freely, able to stop when she chose. Indeed she did stop, thinking she had done enough; but I
bade her resume it. She did so, of course, and then I defied her to stop doing it. She resisted, she wrestled, she succeeded in slackening the pace of revolution; but round they went. A strong man also tried to oppose their spinning, but it was all in vain. Round they went, as if they were driven by steam. I could not stop them by common means any more than another. I could do it only by dismesmerising them; and the process of dismesmerisation consisted in a single waft of the hand. When I waved my hand over hers, I also said that they would then cease revolving; and they ceased.
9. I asked her if she could tell me any letter of the alphabet, and she did so. A waft of my hand before her face, with “ Now you cannot,” and she could not mention one of them. Her memory, in so far as the alphabet was concerned, was gone. She searched it in vain. The expression of innocent perplexity and futile effort on her countenance was interesting. A waft of my hand, with “ Now you can," and she could run over her A B C in a trice. A lady whom she knew and loved was placed before her. She told us the lady's name.“ Now you cannot,” and she could not for the world. The name of her master was temporarily obliterated from her mind, or rather her brain, in the
10. A glass of water was placed in her hand, and she refreshed herself with a mouthful of it. Having been asked, but only in a casual manner, she said it was very good water. A waft of my hand, with “Now it is beer,” and on tasting it she declared it was beer. By a similar process, she was made to say it was brandy, puckering up
her mouth as if it were hot. She also said she saw the glass of water get cloudy, become altogether white; and on putting it to her lips she affirmed it to be excellent milk. This kind of experiment is very
obscure. But it loses much in the telling. One needs to see it in order to do it justice. This remark indeed is applicable to all these phenomena. The celebrated Treviranus assured Coleridge that be had seen things in connection with the pretensions of Mesmer which he would not have believed unless he had seen them; and also that he could not expect any body to believe them on his word.
11. I told her she should presently become warm, very warm, hot; and she at once proceeded to show all the common signs of becoming
She said she was very warm, she seemed to grow languid; she sighed, she tried to cool herself. I said the chair on which she sat should presently grow so hot she could not bear it. Her sensations immediately rose to pain. She cried that she was burning. She at
. last stretched out her arms in anguish, and screamed for help and delivery from the hot chair. A waft and a word, and she was at her
To believe that the least mimetic of uncultivated girls could act so inimitably were a much harder thing than to believe almost any. thing else. By a similar process, if so simple a matter can be called a process, I made her grow cold, shiver, freeze; and her acting, if such it must be called, was as consummate.
12. I bade her go to sleep. I dared her not to go to sleep. She resisted, but to sleep she went. I then tried to dismesmerise her wholly. Some mesmerists use strong contrary passes, as they call them, for that effect; some blow upon the eyes and brow; some stir the atmosphere
of the patient with a handkerchief, as if they were driving away some clinging vapour or other. Dr Esdaile observes that a full current of air, coming on a deeply-entranced patient on the surgical operating table, awakes him instantly. I believe that any pungent impression on the surface of the body, or on some considerable part of it, is sufficient for the purpose. Not a local operation, not an appeal to a special sense is to be compared with a sudden impression on some considerable portion of the periphery of the nervous system, as a means of recalling the patient from this trance. Poor Alice, however, passed into a fit of hysterics during the process of awakening; and there is little wonder, for we found she was sublimely tight-laced !
And now comes the question of questions. Supposing these strange things to be true, what do they signify? what is the meaning of them? To what law do they point? How are they to be explained? In what manner are they, seemingly so eccentric and cometic, to be brought into the established system of science? By what means shall these wild facts be reduced to coherence with one another and with the theory of nature ? Above all, with the help of what clew shall the further and thorough investigation of the whole matter be prosecuted ?*
These questions are more easily put than answered, for mesmeric authors have hitherto been peculiarly vague, ambiguous, feeble and confused in their responses. "Mesmer himself attributed his effects to the action of a cosmical fluid; and this fluid has now been identified by certain of his followers with odyle, a new imponderable essence which Baron Reichenbach supposes to be the agent in his experiments on the nervous system with crystals and magnets. But there is no intelligible, one might surely say no possible, connection between either pouring an electroid fluid into a patient, or pumping it out of one, and then discovering that patient to be capable of manifesting such psychological phenomena as have just been described ; and the reader must know that such things are the least of the wonders of Mesmerism, if credible men and women by the hundred are to be trusted.
Other mesmerists take delight in referring the marvels they operate to the potency of their own particular wills. The strong will full of faith is the magical wand of these authors and thaumaturgists. But that does not solve the difficulty. It only states it in another form. Natura abhorret vacuum:—but how, why does Nature abhor a vacuum ? The faithful strong will works irresistibly upon the weak:—but why and how does it so operate? Besides, there is no experimental warrant for so purely psychological a statement of the case. In truth however, it is excessively difficult to describe even the simplest of experi
Mr Lewis talks largely of odyle. He throws it into fit recipients from his own pluperfectly odyliferous person, and that explains everything! You might as well say the moon and stars pour down a subtle, imponderable and invisible Huid called astryle, and so we go to sleep: but the sun arises and sheds abroad another fluid, no less than solyle, and so we awake! It is just the old story; words instead of thoughts: an explanation that needs to be explained; an open-sesame which no secret obeys. Dr Darling has as little to offer by way of rationale. He shows no more signs than Lewis of having manfully learned and luminously thought upon the subject. He has secrets indeed to tell you, which are no secrets. He speaks of the power of his will, and what-not. In short, he is just like the rest of those nomadic exhibitors in their principal characteristic; that is to say, he is without light-cui lumen ademptum.