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But good, bad or indifferent, it is clear that manipulation does not produce its effect by imparting anything; else how could a coin or a button do the very same? One might almost conclude, without hesitation, that Mr Braid is in the right. Yet it is not impossible that the contemplation of the bright object only produces a preliminary state of the system after all. It is possible that it only creates a vacuum, or opens an adit, as it were; and that then some fluid or influence rushes softly and imperceptibly into the subject from the operator or from any neighbouring organisation. This is the last refuge of the fluidist. All that I can say to it is that neither I nor my assistants were sensible of any fluid or virtue going out of us. We did nothing and we felt nothing. But suppose, for an instant, that there did proceed some strange fluid or mysterious influence from my person into that of the patient, a thing I neither intended nor observed, pray, how should such a circumstance render the state of trance more intelligible? Such a gratuitous hypothesis only complicates the affair in hand.
IV. As for the secret process whereby the contemplation of a shilling on her palm mesmerised Alice on this occasion, and as for the state wherein such mesmerisation consists, nothing is known. But neither is anything known of the process whereby fatigue produces sleep and of the state wherein such sleep consists. These two pairs of things are equally
, unknown. It were easy to speculate on the nature of sleep and also of this mesmeric trance; but it is not speculations we want, it is discoveries. In the meantime, we must be content to confess our total ignorance of both one and the other; of both common sleep and mesmeric sleep. It is only the phenomena of the mesmeric state that we can study as yet. V. These phenomena are to be considered simply as so many facts
, in the first instance. Those which are described in the present article are specimens of a few of them. Practised mesmerists could relate many more. Mesmeric authors are full of narratives far transcending ours. According to them, some entranced patients have gone in the spirit, according to the most favoured hypothetical phrase, to the other side of the world, to the sun and the moon, into the bodily structure of patients for whom they prescribe, into the thoughts of unsuspecting victims, any, where and everywhere, in short, in quest of a stolen tea-spoon or of Franklin the explorer, to diagnose your liver or to search your soul! Some of their patients float, and cannot be submerged, like the witches of another time; others rise into the air and set gravity at defiance! They speak in unknown tongues, see visions, behold the dead, confer with angels
, are seized with the gift of prophecy, and rëenact the whole miraculous world of better times! It appears also that Swedenborg
, the illuminated Swede, whose thought has organised a wide-spread church, did confidently predict that the whole world should be forcibly convinced of the realities of his angelic and saintly conferences by the
Now, whatever be the spirit of truth that lives within this body of form, the really scientific mesmerist must not be scared. We must begin from the beginning. Starting from the simple trance itself, let him multiply experiments with forethought and distinct
purpose, let him record them in plain language without enthusiam and without
fear, let him deny himself all theoretical phraseology, let him repeat every experiment many times with many witnesses, let him proceed from lower ground to higher, let him collate and compare his narratives of observation again and again, let him suspect himself at every turn, let him work patiently year after year like an exploring chemist or astronomer, let him exhaust his whole life upon his experiments if need be; let him take his life in his hand and risk his good name, his honour, his worldly fortunes, even his future fame itself, in the cause, like another Columbus or John Kepler; nay, let him assume his task as a religious burden, as a high duty; let him watch and pray. This may sound strangely in some ears, but it is true. Not until a man of capacity and genius, not perhaps until a series of such men, shall have lavished life upon the subject, shall this vast and thrice complicated chaos of truth be brought into order. Have not Copernicus, Galileo, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Newton, Herschel, Laplace, Bessell and many more en expended upon astronomy? As yet there has been only one man in Mesmerism and his name is MESMER. Reichenbach will yet approve himself the second.
VÍ. It must be unnecessary to observe that the investigator will not proceed with the laborious task of discovering, determining and describing the facts of nature in this direction without speculative views. It is impossible to carry on researches of this sort without some initiative idea. Bacon compares the busy but mechanical men, who observe and observe without some provisional theory to guide them, to a mob of idle boys who turn up every stone in the watercourse to see if there is a trout beneath it. It was Newton who said that no great discovery was ever made without a bold guess, the same Newton who proudly but nobly asserted that he alone discovers who proves. The great new observer of mesmeric truth, then, will never be without his thoughts, his sagacious conjectures, his tentative generalisations, his approximating idea, his working hypothesis. Unless he be a man of a firm and intrepid turn for scientific speculation, unless he have a wondrously keen eye for the subtler resemblances of things apparently unlike, unless in fact he be a capable theorist, he needs not adventure in this bewildering path of inquiry at all. Science suffers far more from insufficient theo retic power in her votaries than from insufficient powers of observation. But he will be cautious of his temporary theories. He will keep them beneath his feet, suffering them to have no power over him. He will be ready to immolate them at a moment's unquestionable warning from the oracle of nature. He knows that a single fact is stronger than all the theories of the world; and he will not indeed honour his thought less, but he will honour nature more. Yet, for all that, he will never be without his protemporary solutions.
Since, then, the most severe of intellectual disciplinarians, even the Baconian man of science himself, cannot possibly subsist intellectually among a crowd of novel and tantalising observations without instinctively shaping them into some notion in his mind, there is no wonder that the public intellect is athirst for some liquid thought in which these more elementary phenomena of mesmerism may be dissolved and become transparent. Everybody craves some sort of explanation, at least of the experimental results, if not of that mesmerised state of nervous system
in which they are evoked. These results are terrifying to many minds; some they perplex, others they agitate. It is accordingly desirable to say something which may settle the thoughts of people regarding them in some degree, even though it may not altogether satisfy the inquirer. It would be necessary to have all the facts of the science before us, however, to do that with any precision and breadth. This is, therefore, not the place to present a complete hypothesis or theory of mesmerism, supposing such a theory to be forthcoming, since only a very trifling portion of those facts have been brought under the notice of the reader. Inasmuch, however, as it is precisely that portion which are being at present obtruded on the attention, I had almost said the alarm, of the public at this present time by Lewis and Darling, there may now be offered a remark or two concerning them, calculated, perhaps, to dissipate confusion of ideas and also to allay anxiety. It must be carefully borne in mind, of course, that such remarks are nothing but hints; and they are certainly made with much diffidence, as well as in all sincerity.
1. It has already been affirmed that the mesmerised state was not superinduced upon the person of the girl Alice by the proceeding of any fluid or virtue from me into her, that I know of. That I know of, I say; for that is all that can be said in such a case. It is now to be affirmed, with equal emphasis, that the described experimental results did not seem to be called out in her, when thus entranced, by any volitions of mine. In the first place, I sometimes did not will the result at all, nor yet expect it to supervene. In the second, I was never conscious of a continued act of voluntation, such as one experiences when one strives to remember a forgotten name, such as one feels when one presses long against a physical impediment. In the third, I could not hinder the result after announcing it, save and except by dismesmerising her or by announcing another. I could not pull her hands asunder, though I willed it and tried it with all my might. I do not assert that voluntation on the part of the operator, as he is called, never works effects on subjects of mesmerism; only that it did not do so in these instances. All that I did was to announce, speak, or predict the result. In so far my will was concerned of course; I willed to speak, but the word spoken was the cause of the effect, not the will which originated the word. Once spoken, it was out of my reach, if I remained silent or inactive. The whole effect was wrought within the patient herself. The circle was completed by the subject nervous system and the word it heard. This seems to be an important observation, always remembering that I apply it solely to the case under examination.
2. Let us beware of demanding too much explanation even here. Can anybody render a reason for the patent and familiar fact, for example, that by beating the air into winged words, as they have been admirably described, one shall fill the mind of a hearer with images, reminiscences, thoughts, hopes, loves, aspirations, terrors, worship, self-renunciation, faith? Yet it may not be impossible, by a few words more written on this page, to bring the effect of my announcements upon the mesmerised nervous system of Alice into some intelligible connection with all that is known concerning this very phenomenon of common perception. Let us try, for the merest glimpse of something like a common nature between the new and the familiar is worth the effort.
3. What is it that transpires within the brain when one perceives a quantity of wine? We can trace the physical, external, purely optical part of the phenomenon with precision, but no more. We find an image of the thing seen painted upside down on the retina or nervous lining of the eyeball. A feasible enough conjecture can be made, perhaps, as to the process whereby that inverted image is turned upside up, but that is all. Why should that image, even when supposed to be turned, be followed by the perception of the image ? Hartley constructed a doctrine of vibrations to explain the thing, but it does not explain it: it only removes the difficulty one step further back; for how does the vibration, once it has reached the imaginary centre, produce the perception of the image on the retina ? The formula of Hartley, however, is good as a sort of algebraic statement of the merely cerebral part of the phenomenon. Let it, then, be understood as such for a little. A vibration, a motion, an influence, a something, call it x y z, passes from without inwards, inwards to the brain from the external retina, as the preliminary to the perception of every visible object.
Again, what transpires within the brain when one thinks wine as a visible object? Why, the converse of what takes place when one sees wine; the feebler converse, for one never thinks wine with the vividness wherewith one sees it; a vibration, a motion, an influence, a something sent outwards from within; not x y z, but z y x. It is a feebler converse in the state of health; but let the brain be inflamed, delirious, or the subject of certain morbid conditions well known to physicians, and that feebler converse becomes so morbidly vivid as actually to simulate the character of a perceived sensation. The object which is merely thought is projected so pungently on the retina that it is seen. It is next to impossible to convince the patient that he does 'not see what is not before his eyes at all. In many cases it is impossible. Such is a formal statement of the process whereby“ a dagger of the mind” becomes transformed within the morbid nervous system into a dagger of the senses.
It is inadequate as a real statement of perception and of spectral illusion, but it is impregnable as a formal exposition. It is figurative, but it is logically coherent and fairly carried out. It is a shadow, but it is a shadow of the truth. There is no better in science as yet.
Once more, is not the nervous system of the entranced patient temporarily in a morbid state ? Suppose, for a moment, that it is just in that kind of morbid state productive of spectral illusion ; just in that state in which an object, which is merely thought, shall be projected from within outwards on the senses as an object of actual sensation. Say that it is in a state similar to that of a patient labouring under chronic delirium tremens. In addition to that, it is also self-unconscious in some degree. You awake it more or less before you can make experiments. (Many of the phenomena take place even when the cerebrum is apparently wholly recalled to conscious activity).* Well, to such a more or less disentranced patient, you say that some water is wine. The concep
Yet this self-consciousness is observable in such cases only in the interval between experiments, properly speaking. Such patients easily emerge from the partial entrancement to which they are reduced, but they appear to be rëenchanted during the process of each experiment.
tion of wine is introduced into her. She thinks wine, and her thought of wine is quickened by the temporarily morbid state of her nervous system into the similitude of a sensible wine, a wine she can see and taste.
I think the same idea might be extended, with the requisite modifications and commixtures, to all the experimental results described above, and to many more; but I leave it with the reader in its germinal state, and he will apply it for himself. It should be remarked, however, that the apparently self-conscious state of many of Dr Darling's subjects, in the intervals of the experiments, is no objection to this view. Some subjects remain mesmerised; others come easily out of it. But the preliminaries of each experiment remesmerise them; and anything like total remesmerisation is by no means essential to the applicability of this hypothesis. Besides, it is thrown out here without the slightest pretensions to discovery or permanency. It may disarm certain wild speculations of their power in the meantime, and it is not impossible that it may suggest juster thoughts in better heads.
Though constrained by editorial necessity to be so very brief in the conveyance of these observations and hints, it is impossible to leave such a subject without commenting on a very strange aspect it is sometimes made to assume. Those highly illuminated authors, who deal with the more exalted and questionable phenomena of Mesmerism, have never been slow to insinuate, and they have frequently made bold to assert, that these phenomena are nothing more nor less than the miracles of the Church and of the Bible. Since these more mysterious mesmeric pretensions are not now in presence, and since it is not improbable that they might be rejected on their own evidence, the trial of that singular question is not competent before my readers and me, now sitting on a far humbler case. But even in connection with those less aspiring experiments, which have lately been arresting the attention and stirring up the sceptical spirit of Glasgow and Edinburgh, surmises the most sinister are being whispered in the ears of the unthinking. Certain newfangled spirits go about troubling the weak. Unstable neophytes, who never did, never do and probably never shall think a single thought for themselves, begin to mutter something about the turning of water into wine. It is evident, in fact, that their tender brains are semi-mesmerised. The genius of the place and of the hour has seized hold of them and entranced their faculties. It cannot but be so; for certes the mind that can perceive, I will not say any analogy, for analogies are everywhere, but any identity between the tasting
of water as wine by a mesmeric subject and the recorded miracle at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, is bound and bound again by an enchanter more potent than Mesmer.
Consider the two cases for a moment. The mesmeric patient, sitting spellbound, and visibly out of himself, in the midst of some eager spectators, puts his lips to a glass of water, being told that it is wine, very good and real wine; and he confesses it is so, being really and truly convinced by quasi-sensation that it is. The experimentalist does not suppose it to be wine; he does not even say as much, except to the subject of his experiment, to whom he lies for the sake of science. None of the gaping on-lookers is deceived for a moment, not even the mesmerisable. The whole affair is paltry as a scene, although intensely