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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 it reaches 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 gåve 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 o 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 same manner.
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 scure. 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 ease. 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 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 fluid 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.
ments in this complicated department in language which is altogether pure of some hypothetical tincture. The candid scientific mind is sure to feel dissatisfied with its most impartial narrative of cases. For my own part, I am extremely diffident of the descriptive paragraphs given above.
But perhaps the reader is desirous of knowing what sort of explanation I have to offer of the things which have just been set down, being willing to take the description for what it is worth. Truth to tell, I have none that is positive or complete. But we must beware of demanding too much from the mesmerist by way of a perfect rationalè. There is very little yet known concerning the more ordinary phenomena of nervous action. Who can explain the nature of sleep, of dreams, of the waking state, of perception, of memory, even in so far as these are physiological in their bearings? It is therefore too exacting to look for anything like an exhaustive theory of mesmeric facts. It is the main business of the experimentaļist to discover facts and to state them purely. Facts are always independent of theory at any rate. They are fixed, but it is generally floating and temporary. Yet it may be possible to limit our theoretic views with advantage. It may be profitable to perceive and to state with clearness the negative side of so great a question as this of Mesmerism, to descry what it is not, and perhaps to catch a hint of the direction in which the desired explanation is to be sought. Bearing these things in mind, I will venture to make a few general observations upon the experiments I have described, taking them as a graduated type of the class they belong to.
I. In the first place, there are two very distinct things for consideration. There is a state of nervous system induced upon the patient, of which the principal symptoms or marks consist in the kind of effects you can by experiment provoke in that patient; and there are these experimental effects themselves. These effects cannot be called out in a person awake, or in a person asleep; only in a person mesmerised, taking that word as correlative with the terms awake and asleep. There are then three different states of a human nervous system; that of being awake, that of being asleep, and that of being mesmerised. There may be more; but there are only these three for us at present. The phenomena manifested or producible in the waking and in the sleeping states are well known, at least as facts; and they excite no wonder, because they are familiar. The actual and potential phenomena of the mesmerised state, on the other hand, are still under discussion, are still little determined, are still little known and less believed. Just as the states of sleeping and waking are capable of all degrees of admixture with one another, so to speak, so is it possible, so does it seem to be a fact, that the state of mesmerisation may be more or less complicated with that of waking or with that of sleeping. It would even appear that a partial awakening of the subject is the essential preliminary of the most interesting experiments, somewhat as visions and dreams are phenomena transpiring in a state of transition from the sleeping to the waking state. The completed trance is one of total insensibility and self-unconsciousness, similar to the self-unconsciousness and insensibility of sleep at first sight, but discovered to differ from these by experiment.
II. The mesmeric trance cannot as yet be induced on every body.
It can be easily induced upon only a few. The native patients of Dr Esdaile in India are peculiarly facile of its reception. It is observed that weakly nervous-lymphatic temperaments are very favourable to the induction of the state in question. A certain feebleness of the nervous system, or of parts of the nervous system, may possibly be necessary, but we are not in a condition to say as much. Many cases seem to opposé such an idea; and this part of the subject is still very obscure. It now behoves experimenters to clear it up by a multitude of orderly observations. If the temperaments, the pbrenological developments, the antecedents, the morbid tendencies, the habits, the actual sanitary condition of a thousand mesmerisable subjects were carefully collated by competent observers, one might generalise some common property in them and find the clew. It may be possible to do more. It may be possible to learn the art of temporarily inducing the mesmerisable habit of body on every one by some governable agent or other; perhaps by some purely negative and harmless procedure. This is, in fact, the one great problem for the surgeon who wishes to perform painless operations, for the accoucheur, and for the mesmeric physician. Let an unmesmerisable person be tried before a meal and after one, before sleep and after it, after the exhibition of this medicine and after that, in all conceivable sets of circumstances
in short. In speaking of an unmesmerisable person, I simply mean one who does not fall easily into the trance, for I am not prepared to deny that every one is mesmerisable by perseverance, as some affirm. But the great stroke of art were to render the thing of easy and universal application. This is not the place, of course, to present any more practical and particular suggestions concerning this portion of the subject in hand.
III. As for the process of producing the state of mesmerisation in a fit and proper subject, I can only say that I imparted no fluid nor influence to the patients described above, that I knew of. I affirm this with particular emphasis regarding Alice. It was not I who mesmerised her, so far as I am aware. She mesmerised herself, to all appearanee. Sitting on a chair, gazing intently on a shilling lying in her left palm, she fell into the trance. The circle of action was complete within herself and the coin. There was no observable, certainly no intentional, operation of my nervous system upon hers. I merely went up to her and found her in a trance, of which the subsequent experimental results were some of the signs.
This tallies with the findings of Braid of Manchester. It is not a shilling that is necessary. He used the head of his pencil-case or any bright object. Darling employs some sort of zinc or pewter button, with a nodule of copper in the centre of it. The dervishes of the East gaze into their own navels. I have found a large topaz do very well. Anything will do.
It would appear, therefore, that mesmerisation is really effected by, and within the patient's own frame, just like sleep. If the contemplation of a coin, a button, a pencil-head, a crystal or a navel produces it, then it is illogical to suppose that anything is given forth from the operator who uses manipulations. Manipulation is one means of inducing the self-concentration, favourable to the lapsing of a subject into the trance. It remains to be proved that it is the best, or even a very good one.