Doubts of a Provincial
by J.M.A. Servan
Doubts of a Provincial, Proposed to the Physicians-Commissioners
Charged by the King with the Examination of Animal Magnetism
M. Servan, Lyon, House of Prault, 1784.
I am not a physician, nor a mesmerian; I ought then to confess that I only have of the general and particular physics, the notions very weak; suffer then here, Messieurs, the reflections of the simple common sense, & the questions of a very ignorant curiosity, but very lively. Since you have rendered your public opinion, you have wished me well to speak as myself who makes part of this public; in making to sell your assertions, you have accorded me the right to propose to you my doubts to buy; who pretends to clarify, engages to be clarified.
I know, Messieurs, how it is ridiculous to speak for oneself; but I do not know to prevent myself, for the same good of the truth, to expose you with naivete of the situation of my soul.
In this combat between the medicine and the magnetism, I am far indeed from feeling impartial; I desire, more than I can say to you, that medicine, so much accustomed to deceive itself, deceives itself then today, & that finally your report, Messieurs, is only a great error.
Alas! I have to form this wish with very good reasons: although this is important to no one, I will take nonetheless the liberty to speak to you, Messieurs, that the medicine, or if you like the better, the physicians have killed me: that which it has pleased them to abandon me of life, does not wish the pain, in truth, as I search for a term softer. The magnetism, on the contrary, relieves me; I believe even in my consciousness, that it would heal me entirely, if I had the patient and the leisure to be it; but you know enough that in this world, the thing that can do the least, it is his good feature.
Also, Messieurs, your report has distressed me, as if in a castaway you wish then to swamp me on my plank. In taking from me the resource of magnetism, you render me nothing, you leave me nothing; for you are very clear, & I believe you very truly, to respond to me that the medicine which remains then is some thing.
Have you then counted for nothing, Messieurs, to life the men of a happy illusion? as I say, a useful illusion? You have spoken of the danger of magnetism by the propagation of the convulsions; but you have said nothing of the inestimable benefit, in distracting the men of your arts and of your remedies.
I can attest to you: I have followed in the province a public treatment by the magnetism; & on fifty patients, five or six experience barely some convulsions, nothing regrettable for themselves, & less still contagious for others. But the rest, Messieurs, disgusted to the root of the soul, with all medicine, & abjured it with contempt, felt some relief by which you call the illusions of the Magnetism, our by the very real power of the good and simple nature.
No, Messieurs, no, you have not enough appreciation, even a chimera which guarantees us your fatal realities: on this point of view, the animal magnetism was in physics the most useful of the errors, as perhaps the instinct of goodwill is in morals.
But, in supposing (which I ignore) that it exists, I don’t know where, a good medicine, brings good things for there good, there are a thousand bad. Besides the medicine of the good women [midwives], which is not the worst, up to the one of the surgeons of the countryside, we are inundated with murderous formulas: our cities, our villages, our fields see to run here and there from the poisoners & poisonesses who occupy themselves at the desire to plunder the poor human race. The greatest privilege of the indigent is the exemption from this vermin born of ignorance and habit: happily for the poor patient, who has nothing but his disease, the poisons are sold, & it is necessary then for the money to kill oneself, as it is necessary to make for the burial.
In according you, Messieurs, that the magnetism comes to flee before this good medicine which can make the part of eight or ten physicians in France, we agree at least of all these false medicines with their poisons and their daggers, come to send them away before the innocence of magnetism.
Eh! rain from hence whence comes the only medicine of the priests for their parishioners, of the mothers of families for their daughter, of the fathers for their sons, of the parents for the parents, of the friends for their friends! What illusion more tender & more dear than one to heal that which one loves! & what reality more useful than to save him from an art or from an artist assassin!
Messieurs, Messieurs, if one exposed your medicine to this question of the public utility; if your commissioners have been either your old patients, or the disciples of Mesmer, just heaven! what report they could have made!
Messieurs, you have so much spoken of imagination, that you win me; & I imagine that one of the commissioners named to decide the utility of the medicine, held in his hands the horrible trumpet, & that he cried: raise you the dead, & come to testify on all the physicians. Ah! Messieurs, what terrible judgment you would submit to! What physician in the frightful apparition, in the place to hide himself, would be then at the front to recriminate against the magnetism!
Pardon, Messieurs, there acts here an object very serious to deliver itself to the mockery where your art only lends more, I have on my turn to offer you a good field for the play; for I sustain that, if as you would assure it, the physics of magnetism is only a useless illusion, the moral of it is real and very good.
I know, Messieurs, the good words that one has said on the touches of magnetism, & on certain crises which have the air a little too gay. There is nothing so pure that the men corrupted cannot spoil in touching it. As much for me, of whom the impetuous heart impetuous enough not to be always departing from our spectacles without trouble & without desire, I only have however known to see around a baquet of magnetism, a spectacle up to then uselessly desired by my heart, the spectacle of the original equality of the men & of the goodwill that I wish to believe them natural.
Yes, Messieurs, I have not been able to see without a sensible pleasure, the persons of all ranks, seated without distinction the ones next to the others, united by the same cord, holding by the hands; in this perfect equality, all believe or hope, desiring vitally to communicate reciprocally the good the most precious of life, the good without which there is no other good, the health and the life.
It will be here, Messieurs, the occasion of a good tirade of ethics, but I will spare you it, & I beg only those who have the morale, without speaking it, to apply a moment their heart to this side of magnetism.
The author of Mesmer Justified, has done well with the mind to mock all this; God pardon him! as much as the French nation, alas! it is all to be pardoned, since it makes to laugh, but otherwise, & even among us, it is then the men who like best to reflect without laughing, than to laugh without reflecting, men who do not find, after all, the greatest ridicule as to put the ridicule everywhere, & who can not be astonished enough with the miserable determination to only joke, even of the good done use, on the manner to do it.
Messieurs, we say it with some shame, we are all the same, & the centuries slip over our character as the water over a coat of wax. For six hundred years one sees the French act, to run over an extraordinary plain: the wind the lightest effaces the trace of their steps. But among these courses of children, it comes down to you, Messieurs, to make the steps of men, & to leave the deep and durable traces.
Messieurs, I dare say to you, you have lost an occasion that you may never find again, the occasion to make a great good for men, in honoring at the same time & your art & your persons.
The true object of your commission, was the public good; the government ought not to have other, & you were being its ministers: in this point of view, Messieurs, what role have you to fill! It was to you to hold, with a firm hand and the magnetism, to consider with part and with other the errors and the dangers, to indicate with a sage discernment that which comes to preserve or to remove in these two arts, & to make of it two imitators which serve to the envy their common mistress, the powerful nature: then, Messieurs, you were honoring for ever your name; for it is honorable to be equitable toward the others, it is glorious to be equitable toward them against themselves, & you were obtaining this glory
You were honoring also your art: in avowing its innumerable errors, one will believe you on these possibilities.
Finally, you were making to men an inestimable good, if you were restoring them as by the hand, with it two rival arts, in the same arms of nature.
If the magnetism is a real thing, you were able, Messieurs, to fulfill this useful and generous plan: if the magnetism is a chimera, you were able at least to offer to men a model of the scrupulous wisdom and the excessive circumspection that ought to be deployed of the judges for the interest of the unique justice; & above all for the interest of their honor when they are unfortunately suspected to be parties.
I know, Messieurs, that in this celebrated report, you have had need to surround yourselves with some academicians; I will myself well to object that the academy of sciences seemed to have already taken some commitments to not find the truth at the house of M. Mesmer; I could make you to observe also that the bodies are then more faithful to these sorts of commitments, than even the individuals. This object will be little convenient to the occasion of the academicians that you have chosen for colleagues: that are above all reproaches, & some are above all eulogy. Before the names of MM. Franklin and Bailli, all knees must ben; the one has invented much; the other has discovered much; M. Franklin belongs to the two worlds, & all the centuries seem to belong to M. Bailli: to these names are joined those of MM. le Roy and Lavoisier, men of recognized and superior merit. But, to you I say it, Messieurs, the public is insistent to separate the academic commissioners from the physician commissioners: two passages of your report have driven nearly all the minds to this idea.
You say, in a place, that the discomforts of M. Franklin have prevented him being transported to Paris, & to assist at the experiments which have been made. And in another, one reads these two words so remarkable: the commissioners, above all the physicians; have made an infinity of experiments on the different subjects.
Then one has said: all have then signed that all have seen. This is only then very probably the work of a part of the commissioners, & all the eyes are turned toward the physician commissioners. What do you wish Messieurs? that you were appearing the most interested at the work; is it astonishing that one believes you the principal workers? Suffer that I authorize myself of this likelihood to only address myself to you, Messieurs, the doubts that your report has made to be born. They are centered on three very simple objects: the first is what you have not wished to do; the second, what you have done; & the third, what you were compelled to do.
If some times it escapes me of the affirmative tones, excuse them, I protest in advance that I affirm nothing but my doubts, that which is quite different to affirm, the doctrine of magnetism.
DOUBTS: On that which you have wished to do.
You have especially refrained from two things, Messieurs: the one, to observe the magnetism at the public treatment; the other, to judge it by the cures that one attributes to it. These things, that you have avoided or disdained as dangerous or superfluous, many have regarded them as useful: it is just to consider the reasons.
It is necessary first to consider, Messieurs, that you have seemed to carry some attitude to your particular exclusion of the public treatment. It suffices, you have said, that some of you should come there from time to time to confirm the general observations, in making the news so that there has link, & in rendering account to the assembled commission.
Would I dare say to you, Messieurs? this precaution does not save the inconveniences of your voluntary banishment of a public treatment: deign to weigh my reasons.
The entire certitude of your report, Messieurs, to the eyes of the King, to the public, to even your eyes, can only result from the concert of your experiences and of your lights: as soon as you separated yourselves, as the ones saw for the others who did not see, you deceived yourselves, Messieurs, without counting the king and the public.
It was much, if this public wished to believe you that all were together; but could you flatter yourselves that it believe you separately? Could you flatter yourselves especially, that on the magnetism it believed the physicians all alone? No, Messieurs, this public is no more absolute than it was in the past; all the integrity seems to it today suspected, all the lights doubtful: it has perhaps been abuse of its experience, like the other have been abused in the past from its ignorance; & of the excess of credulity, it has fallen into the one of defiance. And you, Messieurs, in your capacity of physicians, do not come to be doubted? The imperishable memory of this public, which punishes everything, only forgetting nothing, recalls that you have deceived it on the emetic, on the quinine, on the circulation of the blood, on the inoculation, on the health, on its life, on all sorts of things; & you were hopeful, Messieurs, that it believed only you, when you were judging your enemies!...
I intend somewhat strongly the juridical forms; but I imagine that the king named ten or twelve magistrates to decide, by commission, of the life or of the death of some important personage; I know well at first (this be it said in passing) that the public rises up against this commission, gradually as a certain public rises up against yours; for the old and modern events have so unfortunately and so strongly bound together the ideas of commission and of injustice, that this lone word came as a cry of alarm for the public and the justice.
But this is not the one that it acts: let us pass on the commission. I say only that if these ten or twelve commissioners advised to delegate two or three of them to interrogate and to listen to the accused on a very important fact, and to make finally separately an examination that the king has charged them to make all together, the public, witness and judge such a maneuver, cries out, do not doubt, with indignation: there, there are the commissions of France, injustice or lightness.
I hear your response, Messieurs. I imagine, you say, that which you deny, it is that it was important to observe the public treatment.
Should one not reply to you then? If it was not important to observe the public treatment, why send there even any of you? If it was important, to the contrary, to observe, why not all go there?
But let us leave these arguments, & try to examine your motives of retreat.
One sees (in this public treatment), said the report, too many things at the same time, to see well one in particular.
Messieurs, it is not to you, but to practicing physicians constantly to mix all the physical effects, in the same activity and variety of all the moral effects; it is not to you, who, in a hospital room, have need, to not make it a cemetery, with a force of attention and of memory which frightens the human weakness; no, Messieurs, it is not to you who convene to allege the difficulty to concentrate your attention on one thing among many others. The simplest curiosity of Natural History sees in full campaign a multitude of objects at the same time & joins all its view on an insect. A motive so modest has only appeared as a pretext; the public has it wrong? it believes much less the body of the men in the defiance of themselves, as to the enmity of the others.
But when all these effects so numerous (and it is here the case) can and must offer a mutual light, when all show or can show a unique cause and that one finds, I ask if this is not then the center of these effects that it is necessary to place the eye of the observations, & if the motif that you have alleged in order to retire yourselves, was not very powerful to remain.
To this motif is joined another, that you have expressed thus: The distinguished patients, you have said, who come to the treatment for their health, can be importuned by the questions; the need to observe them can embarrass them or displease them; the commissioners themselves have been embarrassed by their discretion; that have stopped then as their assiduity was not necessary to this treatment.
Messieurs, this interest of delicate goodness, and of timid circumspection, is very feeble next to a considering a great truth. We say better: your fears were absolutely chimerical: the experience of the human heart and of the patient has not taught your questions, at the place to wound, would only flatter both the interests the dearest to hearts of men and patients; the vanity and love of life? The vanity of patient is satisfied of the attention that one offers him; and the love of life, in the attention and the questions of a physician, make always to contemplate indistinctly the idea of some relief.
In the center of the French urbanity is there one of you, Messieurs, who ignores the art a little difficult to question without embarrassment or displeasure? I repeat it then, the interest of these was yours; it was as important to them, and more than to you, to clarify on useful truth, or on fatiguing charlatanry: well beyond eluding your questions, they would have anticipated them; you have treated them as enemies, that would been your colleagues; the would have enlightened you at their turn.
Another motif, Messieurs, to concentrate long times your observations at the public treatment, it was the spectacle which struck you at first, this singular melange of people, the ones violently agitated; and the others in a perfect repose, would offer a good contrast to piquing the observers. How do you not say: if those there are visionaries who can deceive us in deceiving themselves, at least those here seem very proper to instruct us.
In effect, these extraordinary sympathies, which, according to yourselves, Messieurs, encourage the patients to look as well, in precipitating themselves the one like the other; so much of the phenomena attributed to the magnetism, & which seems to pass the phenomena observed up to the present in the animal economy; comes to may you hope well prickling on the human heart & mind; & these patients so calm, to the contrary, promise you at least to reveal to you truths on the magnetism. From all sides you were able to instruct yourselves, as men, as scholars & and as physicians; this spectacle, truly unique in its kind, offered you a good second source of useful and new observations.
I submit to your judgment a final motif to observe the magnetism in a public and very numerous treatment. When one wishes to discover a cause in observing its effects, the reason wished that one chooses, for this observation, the circumstance of the greatest energy of its effects. If you place yourselves among the effects most feeble and least sensible, the cause can escape the senses of man, which have only the objects a coarse and very limited grip; in general, far from losing these benefits, the observer multiplies them so much as it is possible; the subject who can seize with his eyes, he not only makes it finer but renders it observable as a microscope.
But, if I say truly, it was around a baquet fully numbered that it was possible to pursue the true cause of the effect attributed to the magnetism, for it was there that they deployed themselves the most energy.
My own experience and that of many others, proves to me this truth: that the intensity of the effects increases in proportion to the number of those who form the chain around the baquet; that this activity comes from the magnetism or from the imagination, is of little important to that which I sustain, it is that the observer ought to place himself first where the effect is the greatest.
However, Messieurs, you have only observed the activity of the magnetism, in the isolated subjects, or, all the more, around a baquet with very few: it seems that in order to discover a very important cause, you have intentionally chosen the circumstances where it deploys itself the least. Messieurs, one looks thus, when one fears to find.
If you say that your procedures have been avowed by M. Deslon himself, you presume well that your enemies would respond that the error of M. Deslon is not a proof against the science of M. Mesmer and that the magnetism, defeated at the house of M. Deslon, is a post strongly unfavorable, could be victorious at the house of its inventor, who would have known to choose his day in order to show himself, and his place to defend himself.
The same ideas have been pushed as the one above, as in reading your report, Messieurs, those who only know M. Deslon, have better liked to believe him a secret accomplice of medicine, than an enlightened dupe of the magnetism.
Have you not seen sometimes in history, a governor of a strong palace, with a good garrison & abundant munitions, afraid at the view of the enemy army, lose the head, capitulate, and deliver his place at the first opening of the trench? Ah well, Messieurs, the indignant partisans of the magnetism have compared M. Deslon to this governor. I believe this judgment very unjust; & in order to justify at the same time M. Deslon and you, Messieurs on your distance from the public treatment, I will say that without doubt you have taken this part by an excess of distrust against the magnetism; & that M. Deslon, on the contrary, has only left you to take it by an excess of trust for this same principle.
DOUBTS: On how you have not wished to judge magnetism by its cures.
It remains to me, Messieurs, why you have not wished to judge of the reality of the magnetism by the cures. In order to avow its existence, you have required not only from the sensible effects, but sudden and instantaneous. Assuredly, Messieurs, this manner of proceeding is expeditious and sharp; it is an advantage that one would not know to dispute; but is it good? I will dare to doubt. Where is the cause, a little far or deep, which did not infallibly escape such a system of verification.
I imagine, for example, Messieurs, that one had named you commissioners to verify the febrifuge power of quinine; you were requiring for the quinine, then as for the magnetism, of the instantaneous, sudden, & very sensible effects; in vain one would beg to take some patience, and to observer the course of things up the healing of the fever, you would be responding very victoriously: When even the healing promised would arrive, which would assure us that it came from the part of the quinine, or from the part of the nature? In this same incertitude, the probability would be for the nature. After this method of physics, you were, according to all appearance, relegating the quinine back to America.
Where are we then reduced, good God! if, for four thousand years that man in health can observe the sick man, we do not know still at all enough of the resources of the nature to discern with a sufficient probability, the cures which are from the one or from the medicine!
Nothing is more astonishing; and moreover, Messieurs, it is necessary to avow with pain, nothing perhaps, up to a certain point, is not more true: but why? but how? it is still necessary to examine.
Messieurs, for yourselves, to profit of your art, why this confusion? How is done? as much as I know, here it is: All the diseases of which the human machine can be attacked, from the simplest that nature alone surely would heal & promptly, up to the most complicated that she would heal, perhaps, but more slowly, it is only one, yes, a single one, your art overwhelms with words, with books, with formulas, and with instruments; under this enormous jumble, who could ever see the action of nature? in the middle of this babble of the art, who could hear the secret voice of nature? …. However, in spite of this jumble, in spite of this noise, she acts, she speaks, & often she heals. What does then, what says the medicine? precisely that done, as said by the fly in the admirable fable of mark: after having well buzzed around the bed of a patient: after having well tormented with the grand blows of stinger, when the efforts of nature were put back on the feet, the medicine said: I have done so much that our men finally are on equal footing.
It was then that she made more of books and more of noise than ever; medicine chanted victory in full throat; & poor nature, not a single word.
Then, Messieurs, charging under your word, the medicine of all the resurrections, & the nature of all the burials, we have come from century to century, sometimes incredulous in the health, but always weak and credulous in the illness; rather only knowing than thinking, & more often scarcely thinking at all; for all strong ignorantly, in all the times, in all real power of nature and the dangers no less real of your art.
One assures, Messieurs, that the medicine has two epochs more luminous, when she has better recognized the power of nature. These two epochs, one said, are the times of Hippocrates & ours; that is to say, the times when medicine began, & the one when she would seem to wish to end: I would believe it so, & this step appears natural to me. When an art, such as medicine is still new, it does not count much on itself, & discards less from nature; & which it is very ancient, the experience finally gets sick of itself, & tries to return to nature. Could you, Messieurs, prove finally this salutary disgust, & mediate your return! I dare to say that between these two epochs of your art, all is murdered, all is confusion. The few of physicians who are the exceptions to the general truth, would not be noticed in the crowd who offend them. Finally, that which Tiberius said of the ancient times, that Montaigne & Rousseau have said of the modern times, can be regarded as the unanimous testimony of a small number of enlightened men in all the centuries.
It is then true, Messieurs: that between your art and the nature, all is so unfortunately discordant, that one does not make for the ordinary, to whom both impute the fortune or the misfortune of the events; in order to resume on this subject I report this confusion by four principle causes.
The first comes from that which medicine has wished to take hold from all the diseases, even the simplest; she has every class, purge, bleed, etc.
The second cause of confusion is that you have wished to teach medicine by the books, & not by the practice.
The third, which comes from that one, is the crowd of systems in medicine, as the young pen gives birth and nourishes in the cabinet, systems, which come, the ones after the others, to die themselves at the side of the bed of the poor patient who has been assassinated.
Finally, the last and greatest cause of confusion, it is that one has never made the experiments truly comparative between the art & the nature. I have never said yet that one had the courage, in a great hospital, to abandon all in rank of patients to the medicine of the nature & all from another rank of similar patients to the medicine of the the physicians.
But, Messieurs, I have the temerity to advance that, as much as you would not declare cleanly the diseases of which you do not wish to mix yourselves, because they heal themselves without you; as much as you would not cease to teach in your schools, in grand robe and in beautiful Latin; as much as you would not make to print the books of systems in order to explicate some facts, or of the books with some facts to sustain a system; as much as you would not establish in any kinds of diseases, the truly comparative and truly public treatment; (notice well this word, I beg you, & by it declare that I intend a treatment where be admitted by testimony, citizens of all ranks, who could see with their own eyes, and toucher with their own hands: a treatment finally where be it completely raised this robe of medicine, who, in all that which you make, has always remained tendered like a veil between the public and the truth;) as much as you would not do any of this, you would not (if I can say it) have the true balance sheet of medicine, & you would ruin nature, to whom you wish only to give your faults, & which does not cease to claim your successes.
You seemed, Messieurs, so disposed in your report, to consider these difficulties, provided that one made the application of the magnetism like the medicine; but for me I discover there many differences: although at base I ignore that which is as magnetism, I see however that you have all the possible advantages to not confound its effects with the pure effects of nature.
1º You would guard well the application like your art, to the diseases which heal without the art.
2º Until the present, thank God, we have only a magnetism to compare to the processes of nature, in the line as from Hippocrates, there are a hundred kinds of different medicines, which all claim the honor to carry on from nature.
3º The animal magnetism considered by report to men, is only, as of present, a method of practice, in place as your medicine is only a mass of diverse methods, founded for the most part on the systems and the abstract explications.
Finally, the magnetism would offer you the most beautiful, the happiest occasion of a comparative experiment in greatness between nature and this art, or rather this new process that I speak of, Messieurs! it was the occasion to put generously your art even it to the inquisition, in giving at the same time an equal number of patients to nature, to magnetism and to medicine. What a spectacle you would offer to me so empty in their existence! What words spared, that of glory merited with the processes so pure & so noble!
Would we be then always pressed to speak and to cry, when there was acted to see, to review still! Ah! who prevented you, Messieurs, from choosing men attacked with these maladies of which an incontestable experiment showed that the healing was ver rare or very slow? Who prevented you uniting, of a part with the other, a number so great of patients, to make a complete confrontation between the magnetism, the medicine and the nature? Who prevented finally to extract from this work, as a benefit offered by you to the human race, a conclusion on these agents, certain, or at least very probable: & in the bottom line the simple probability suffices to men to determine them on the objet the most important in the which is their life itself?
I insist still, Messieurs, on this gathering of patients, & not without reason. Take well the guard, in effect, that in reasoning in your report on the difficulty to decide between the magnetism and the simple nature, you would consider each patient separately, while the experiment and the observation should embrace many at the same time. Remember you, with thanks, of this man, who, not able to join the queue with the vigorous horse, in drawing apart from the entire route, put himself to grab one horsehair after the other, & he came to the end: or I deceive myself, Messieurs, or there is your method.
To only consider, in effect, a single disease separated from all others, you could never decided with enough probability, that is was cured by the magnetism, rather than by nature; but, in lieu of only one, extend at the same time your experience on many illnesses very grave; & in a given time, compare that which one imputes to the power of the magnetism, & that which you know approximately of the of nature.
You know perhaps that nature alone has healed, against all hope, in a certain time & in a certain way, an inveterate obstruction; you would prove that, in another time and another way, this same nature had healed an unruly paralysis; you would accumulate, if you wish, twenty facts of this kind: but if, in the same time and in the same place, you see the greater part of these facts come together, would you impute them to nature, or well to some cause more powerful which resemble suddenly the cues that nature only operates from time to time & from interval to interval? would you hesitate especially, if, in this same time and this same place, you discover a new cause which acts on the animal economy?
You say to me, Messieurs, that you have seen nothing of any of this around the most celebrated baquet: I wish to believe like you; but it is precisely because you have been persuaded of seeing nothing, that it was necessary for you to admit to look: in the place that prohibiting you from looking, or have persuaded yourselves that you were afraid to see some thing. You would not take away this idea from the head of the men at the baquet; & it is yourselves, in truth, Messieurs, who have convinced them the most against you. What! they say, these men who have only spoken of their art as much as one wishes them to oppose nature, now only speak more of nature when one wishes them to oppose the magnetism! What is then this method to undo itself of its two enemies, in making to combat the one against the other?
Messieurs, in examining with impartiality the things that you have not wished to do, as useless without doubt, or as dangerous, would one not have some reasons to the contrary, to assure that they were without danger, & were not without utility? Let us pass on at present to the examination of the which you have done.
DOUTES: On what you have done.
When your report, Messieurs, appeared in the corner of my province, I waited to see the light of the noon, the day of the evidence. This day has pleased me all my life; also did I not close the eyes; but I was very unhappy, I only saw around me the vapors, & I was as much offended with doubts.
At first, I began to doubt on that which I have seen; but soon I came to doubt on that which you yourselves have seen: then I went on to doubt on that which you have wished to see. After having doubted the facts, I doubted the reasoning. But, in order not to abuse your patience, I go, if you please, to reduce everything to some principal doubts.
First, Messieurs, I doubt that you have well chosen the subject of your experiments. 2º I doubt that you have done them well. 3º I doubt, above all, that you have the right of concluding in favor of anything but the lone imagination. 4º Finally I doubt if the imagination is not even one of the phenomena of the magnetic fluid; & in that case, it is more than doubtful that you proven anything against the reality of the animal magnetism. I beg you to listen with indulgence to the motifs of my doubts.
DOUTES: Whether you have chosen well the subject of your experiments.
You have reduced yourselves, Messieurs, to only look for the existence of the magnetism in the momentary and sudden effects. I have already outlined this subject, but it is necessary to speak to you again.
I cannot, I admit to you, release my astonishment on this manner of experimenting on one cause. In truth, Messieurs, for the beings of whom the senses are limited and so coarse, of whom the attention, already so weak, is so often interrupted or divided, you would acknowledge that it is a great boldness to deny the existence of that which strikes point suddenly the sense by some marked effect.
You have this time, Messieurs, treated the science as the kings and the great lords treat their pleasures; the wish all in order & without pain, & you have wished of the certitude all in order and without pain.
Messieurs, this method wishes nothing for the pleasures; but it is much worse for the science; & if all pleasure is bought by some work all certitude costs as for the ordinary much of research and of attention.
You do not seem to have sensed this truth, when, in your report, in concluding, with a kind of impatience, that the magnetism in the most narrow limits, you say that this object was then very vast & very complicated: reassure yourselves, Messieurs, you have been put in good order, in your hands it has become so simple that it is no longer anything.
I ignore, Messieurs, whether M. Deslon ever promised to prove to you the existence of the animal magnetism by the effects momentary and direct on other persons that the extremely sensitive women or men, & by consequent suspects; I ignore also whether M. Mesmer engaged himself to any of the same with regard to his disciples or the public; but that which I can attest to you, it is that before proving on myself the action of the animal magnetism, I conversed with a student of M. Mesmer, & my first question was yours: does animal magnetism make all individuals to feel by sudden and marked effects? for on the reading of the writings which ran then the world, I was then taken. But the response of the mesmerian was very negative; he said to me that of twenty magnetized persons, at pain only one felt such effects: that among the men especially, the effects were very rare.
To this response, Messieurs, I oppose the objection that you have, since, tried to work in demonstration. One cause, I say it, which only acts on a small number of women, & leaves the men with emotion, looks much like the imagination.
The mesmerian replied to me that nearly all men feel, but later, the action of the magnetism; as no effect was, after all, more real and more sensible that the relief from the ills, & from visible or tangible ills, such as the paralysis, the obstruction, &c; which will be so pleasing to say in the face of twenty persons admitted sick to the treatment of the magnetism, & who leave healed or relieved: Messieurs, you have not felt at all the action of the magnetism, but you have not felt anything from the first; that it will then be more pleasing to sustain as by stroke of time, the imagination alone has relieved the inveterate ills in the bodies of men in whom the imagination had not been the force to cause the lease flinching, at the first attack of pretended magnetism, in this first moment of vital attention, of extraordinary attack, where the resort of the imagination holds itself strongly and can do anything.
This reasoning seems to me good enough; I delivered myself to the magnetism, & I felt nothing, but absolutely nothing all, if it is not at the end of three weeks, the relief of many of my ills.
I must avow frankly one thing, Messieurs. For I, who, not having the honor to be a physician nor academician, have no right to show myself delicate on the effects and on the cause, I have decided; & from the moment around a baquet I senses relief from an ill which had resisted twenty year by all other remedies, I conclude very approximately that this relief was an effect, and that the baquet was a cause. But, after all, perhaps I review … I leave myself: let us speak in general.
If generally, Messieurs, your formula on the proof of the existence of a cause, is not healthful in physics, it is detestable in medicine: test there, I beg you, on the most part of your remedies: I am well deceived if it does not reduce by your pharmacopeia to some pages.
In effect, Messieurs, here is that which you say: For a remedy to be useful, it is necessary at least that it be real; & for it to be declared real, it is necessary that it product sudden and instantaneous effects. Let us guard well to examine if really it cures or relieves with the times; point of delay: a slow effect will be very equivocal. General rule, we will recognize for real cause, that which acts immediately and sensibly. There is that which calls to expedite the things and to reason in good French.
You say that I exaggerate, Messieurs: in good time: but I will ask still why have a rule to judge the magnetism? it is the effect sudden and instantaneous; & another rule to judge nearly all your remedies? it is the slow and nearly insensible effect. Is it not, Messieurs, what one calls, in fact of justice and of commerce, to have weights and two measures?
All France has said it, I repeat it after her, it was not only on the instantaneous and sensible effects, that it was necessary to judge the reality, then less of the utility of the magnetism. The subject of your experience appeared to the partisans of this discovery, little equitably or little judiciously chosen, as much to me, I affirm nothing, & I review in doubt.
Suffer now that I expose to you my doubts on the manner in which you have made the experiments.
DOUTES: On the manner in which the experiments have been made.
When there acts to observes a phenomenon which must result from the impression of an exterior cause, on the organization of man, it seems to me that for the same truth, one ought to apply himself to dispose the human machine in the manner the most favorable to receive the impression of the cause, & to make for deploying its effect; that which reduced itself to say that, when one wishes to see, it is necessary to make, all his efforts of power many and well.
Thus, for example, if M. Mesmer, before magnetizing me, required me the meditation and the attention, in order to render me more sensitive, to myself and to the others, the effects of the magnetism, I would find his proposition very just, & his care very wise: & if some talker objected to me that this meditation, this attention would make me discover in myself certain effects which escaped me beforehand from the distraction; & that I courted the risk to attribute falsely these effects to the magnetism, here it is that I would take the liberty to respond to him:
“Why do you amuse yourselves to imagine that which you can observe? Experiment first, & you will say then: enter then into the greatest meditation; listen with all attention with which you are capable, all the fine sensations that excite in you the interior play of you organs; & when you will have determined well the effects of the attention and of the meditation, then submit yourself to the action of the magnetism, & compare the effects: but, in the name of heaven, do not prevent, by simple suppositions, the facts which can be useful.”
If this manner of responding was good, Messieurs, your manner of experimenting was not. You have prescribed to those who wish to prove the animal magnetism, to avoid, the attention & the meditation, & by that, perhaps, you have weakened the effects; in physics, the conditions of an experiment make the substance of the experiment the same, & often its success depends entirely on the circumstance the slightest. Sometimes the experiment has shown us, in nature, the facts of an enormous weight, as if suspended by the threads of spiders; it was necessary for the finest attention to discern them, & the most delicate hand to manage them. In general, I will dare to believe that the experimenter loses more often to the experiment, than the experiment loses to the good experimenter.
OTHER DOUBTS: On your manner of experimenting.
In continuing to reason on the manner of observing a phenomenon in the animal economy, I say that it is prudent to put the human machine in the situation the most favorable to the phenomenon that one wishes to observe, it will be to the contrary sovereignly unreasonable to trouble, in such a case, the animal economy to the point of disconcerting its ordinary operations. Such a manner of experimenting will be treated with carelessness on the part of someone who will desire sincerely to know the truth; but it will tax with bad faith, on the part of the one who will have, to the contrary, some hidden interest in annihilating this truth.
Let us make of this the application to the procedures stated by your report. You wish to prove, on a young man, the action of the magnetism communicated by a tree, & for that one, Messieurs, what did you do? you assemble the city and the court; to the eyes this formidable multitude with looks concentrated on him alone, you bandage the eyes of this young man; & after this apparatus, which must act on his imagination, trouble the course of the minds, & disconcert the play of the animal economy, which is not longer such as when they exercise in the calm and the security, you offer, in this state, the young man to the magnetism; this poor magnetism loses its effects, & you sing victory. Alas! Messieurs, that one calls to chant the Te Deum in your cathedral: the enemy does as much in his own. You believe to have tested the magnetism, & you have only made to confuse it.
I choose, as much as I can, my comparisons and my authorities in your own procedures; & certainly I have nothing better to do. Suffer then as I recall to you your method in the one of three great routes of your art, which are, as all the earth knows, to bleed, to purge, to vomit, etc.
Even then you wish to produce, in the animal economy, this phenomenon that you call purgation, after having dosed, mingled & composed by second art the cause of this effect; after having made your man to swallow this cause, be it in pills, be it in detestable drink; after having put into the intestines immediate contact with the seat of its effect, almost like a magnetizer puts his fingers in immediate contact with the epigastric region, you do not content yourself with this, & you take other cares to give to your cause the greatest explosion possible, & in fact, you do very well, if none of your patients is he not choked as you order him, in your capacity of agent, to remain in a perfect repose of mind and of body, under pain to see losing your little experiment of physics, & to make fail a medicine, that which is, like one does, the greatest misfortunes after the one of having taken it.
However, Messieurs, while the public approves you & you obey always where it purges itself, I imagine that an impertinent reasoner comes to say en face to you, and in very good company: You are all charlatans, Messieurs the Physicians, & your pretended remedies are the chimeras, with pure effects of the imagination; they have no other powers than the ones that you cause to imagine by the feeble mind in the sick bodies: do you believe, for example, that your manna purges by itself? not at all, it purges by one these three causes, or well by all the three at the same time to be known: imagination, touching, imitation.
Nothing is more simple: your grave expression, your grant words, you splendid promises excite the head & the imagination of the poor patient: the trouble with the imagination goes to strike directly on the entrails, & it finds that your man is purged without purgation.
Touching. A medicine touchy in passing the throat, & this irritation propagates into the entrails, can very well be conducted all right by the robed care,
Imitation: a cause so strong when it is general. A man who believes to be purged, soon fills his brain with ideas of men who in a similar case are going to the wardrobe; he believes to see them: the mind of imitation wins him & there purges up to the blood.
But it is nothing to say to him, my reasoner adds, it acts to prove to him, & here is how. Make a person a little sensitive to swallow, you two ounces of manna with the pinch of follicles [fruit], the tamarinds and all the composing bodies of this admirable composition that you call purgatives; this makes, let me seize the imagination of your pretended purge: in striking him with some lively & strong idea we see your purgative will purge. If I succeed as I flatter myself, I warn you, Messieurs the Physicians, that I will cry everywhere & even will print, with permission of the king, that the only imagination is that which makes to give by the robed care daily your pretended medicines.
What you would think, Messieurs, of this manner of reasoning? I can deceive myself, but with very good faith it seems to me that the magnetism has been treated with the same for of logic.
In order to illustrate, as one says, all this by an example so celebrated, permit me, Messieurs, to recall the story of Bleton; I find there striking resemblances with many of your processes. This poor Bleton in whom I believe strongly and firmly, & this one by a natural weakness from which he can not defend himself, who is to believe that which I see: this Bleton then, whom I have seen, that which one calls seen, with my own eyes seen, operating that which since one has much denied him … ah well, one has proved that he was a rascal, more or less, Messieurs, as you have proven the magnetism was a chimera.
This singular villager came to Paris, & announced himself as talented with a particular organization which rendered him sensible to the action of the subterranean water; in virtue of the known principles, & especially of received prejudices, one denied him very neatly his privilege of organization, & here as one proved him that he deceived himself or wished to deceive. On conducted the man into a great basilica; and there, before a numerous assembly, one bandaged his eyes, said to him: go to test your organization. I leave you to think, Messieurs, what came to be the state of this poor stranger: the assembly, the place, the religion, the respect, the secret terror that these ideas inspire, the impact of the vaults, the profound silence succeeding to the murmurs, & the murmur to the silence…. What did this all do? said one: all this could suffice, if you can speak thus, to disorganize Bleton, to put in his nerves, in the sensitivity which results, the differences which perhaps made as Bleton, under the same name, was really no longer the same man, the same machine, at least by report of the phenomenon of the water.
Ah! who does that which is necessary to change in the animal economy, all our reports with the exterior objects? A taste of liqueur leaked, a fiber more or less tender, more of less relaxed. The weakest cause can turn order upside down in our sensations.
What do I wish to conclude from this? what in all these experiences which take the man to subject, the man, this being so mobile, agitated, trembling as the leaf at the least breath of sentiments & of passions; it is necessary, say I, in these kinds of experiences, to choose, in order to do them well, the moments of the most profound calm; it will be necessary even to apply its industry to bring to bear these moments, to sustain and to increase, if it can, in these tests, this peace of the soul that man preserves so rarely in the continual agitation where the society immerses him, & without which however the physical order of sensation is also troubled, as the moral order sentiments is perverted.
Is this then, Messieurs, that which you have experienced? Do you wish well that I offer you an image of your report, in a very brief allegory? It is a dream that I had the other night after having read your report; I was finished, & I held it in my hands when I went to sleep. I thought to see you, Messieurs; you had assembled a number so great of spectators well chosen by yourselves; & you chimed to them nearly in this language: I will swear what I heard from you.
“Messieurs, said you, a singular man arrived into these countries, from the edge of Lake Constance, with a glass of which he did not cease to exalt the properties: they are innumerable; they extend from the sun to the earth; but among these that he attributes to it, he sustains, among others, that a patient, in looking very attentively, comes to discover in himself the seat and the degree of his ills; & that in continuing to regard himself still; he comes even to heal them, or at least to relieve them.
“You understand, Messieurs, that this man is the greatest of the impostors; for if he says truly, his glass will be all, & medicine will be nothing; that which is not possible. However, Messieurs, he acts now with nothing less than knowing, in Europe, whether one will establish public manufactures of these kinds of glasses, at the place of our schools of medicine; & the King, Messieurs, has had the goodness (from what we render him the thanks) to name of the same physicians to judge in this matter. You see well in advance, that this judgment, ought to be all done & that it is only another thing that a good blow of the hammer right in the middle of this diabolical glass.
“But, in order to observe as much be it little the forms to strike the blow, we go, for your edification & your honor, to show you, at your greatest convenience, that this stranger is only an abominable charlatan, & we come to know it. You see, Messieurs, that you will not recognize there your face ….”
After this discourse, Messieurs, it seemed to me that you made to take the glass from the stranger; & under pretext of considering it, I saw you blowing against, & tarnishing it from one end to the other; then you cried: “Approach, Messieurs, & regard … as you said it? … you see nothing … is it not true? … once, twice, you see nothing? … ah well! Messieurs, we go,with this step, to say to the King and to the public that neither you, nor we, have seen nothing at all; after what, by the grace of God, & of the King of France and of Navarre, we will break this magic mirror, &, if it is necessary, we will crush it; for as much as it be? a little morsel will remain, the fools will handle it by going to look at themselves & believe to see themselves. The expedition made, Messieurs, we will make with the medicine a profit to manage …” At these words, I believed to hear all of a sudden a horrible carillon of church clocks which sounded the interment to split the clouds. In the intervals, I heard, as in distance, the lugubrious chant of the priests, the groaning, the cries … Jesus struck with horror; I saw myself in a jolt, I perceived that I held than your report in my hand.
Messieurs, one reproaches the physicians & even men of genius, of believing all that they return; but the rest of us, common men, we return scarcely to only to what we believe.
OTHER DOUBTS: On your experiments.
You assure, Messieurs, that the magnetism is not even, as M. Mesmer has claimed, the indicator of ills. This can be, I will affirm the contrary point; but that which I dare to assure, it is that you say one without proving it by sufficient experiments, & that in this point as all others, your report proves nothing, if not a disguised but violent envy, with always proving without proofs, or with proving much with little proofs.
It is an art, Messieurs, that does not teach the rhetoric, then less the logic; the art of proving without proofs, only belonging to the women; & the physicians, the academicians even have submitted to the common law of only concluding according to the force of evidence.
I still fear to have badly read your report, Messieurs, & you have much spoken of imagination, that I have fear like my shadow: although it be, imaginary or not, it seems to me that you have contented yourselves with magnetizing once or twice two or three sick persons, who have felt nothing, & right away you have written: magnetism is then not the indicator of the ills, and that it was necessary to demonstrate it.
What virtue, good God, than the patience! & that is so rare! what science than the science to attend, & that is vast! In truth this virtue, this science seeming more rare in France than elsewhere: ah! what, Messieurs, were you not able to do magnetizing one or two months in a row some persons of whom the ills and the good faith were well taken, & observer with constancy what indications the magnetism furnished on the seat and the cause of these ills/
I, Messieurs, (for in fact of experience it is necessary to cite well, & I would name myself, if I was not one those men who have not been named) I have seen the patient not feeling the seat of their malady until after three weeks, a month & more of the assiduous attendance at the baquet.
Will I dare to cite to you, Messieurs, a gallant man who recounted to me that he was one of those unfortunates for whom the voyage of Columbus in America had been well displaced? To believe him he was there twelve years as he made some slight knowledge with the furious American established in Europe in order to avenge his country in ravaging ours. This honest man during this time, believed himself well separated from this fury for the rest of his life, & tried to live in peace as in conscience: however tormented without ceasing, languishing, dying, he did not know to whom to take himself, when the magnetism, after two months, showed to him at the finger and at the eye, this horrible enemy with which had not ceased to live.
I do not know if this fact is all exact, but it is well worth being verified. How much men in Europe will need to know just this little secret to save them, & which come running in crowds to question the magnetism as in interrogating the oracles of Apollo. God of medicine, but perhaps this idolatry will scandalize you: how ever it be. Messieurs with a little more patience at experimenting, you could have given us much more of lights; in a word, your agreeable report insinuating, insidious, perfectly written, but light and skimming the surfaces, is the work of men who appear to possess at high degree the language, the talent & the character of their dear country: but was it to make the M. Franklin, the man of all nations, & M. Bailli, the man of all times? And M. Lavoisier, M. Leroy, what were they also going to in this gallery?
DOUBTS: Whether you have drawn from your experiments just results.
After having doubted: 1º whether you have chose well your experiments: 2º whether you have done them well, permit me to doubt the that you have concluded well.
If I deceive myself, Messieurs, of your experiments, how would that be, you have drawn two consequences: the first, that the imagination alone produces the attributed effect badly related to the animal magnetism.
The second, that this kind of magnetism was only a chimera; for neither the one nor the other of these conclusions seems legitimate to me: it is necessary to examine them separately.
DOUBTS: On your first conclusion:
that the imagination alone produces the effects attributed to magnetism.
You have made the experiments, Messieurs, on which have established two propositions; the one that the effects attributed to magnetism, were produced by the imagination without the magnetism; the other that these effects were not produced by the magnetism without the imagination; & you have concluded that imagination was the only cause of these effects. Finally, Messieurs, you have made in favor of the imagination; the argument so known with the school: with this one and without that one, then because of this one: however you ignore how much it is necessary that this manner of reasoning on one cause, must be always exact.
We have an example well celebrated and very modern, the one of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his famous discourse on the danger of the arts and of the sciences: he reasoned and concluded on his object, precisely as you have on yours; I have much fear that if he reasoned as you, you would only be deceived like he. Jean-Jacques proved that with the sciences and the arts, one sees always birthing the corruption; & you have proved that with the force of imagination, one sees birthing certain effects attributed to magnetism.
Thence the citizen of Geneva proved, as he could, (but he could very much) that in removing the arts and the sciences, there was no longer corruption; & have proved, as you could that without the imagination, the claimed effects of the magnetism no longer existed. Finally Jean-Jacques concluded with these premises, that the sciences and the arts were the cause of all corruption; & with your premises you have concluded that the imagination alone was the cause of all the false effects attributed to the magnetism.
Messieurs, public opinion has put the seal on the discourse of Rousseau; she regards it as a very eloquent sophism; I will dare to believe that your report will suffer the half of this decision. But it is necessary to examine this more closely, & from the first I attach to your proposition that the imagination produces the effects imputed to the magnetism.
Someone, who, from one side, will find himself imbued with all the cures of which the public opinion has long times made honor of the animal magnetism; & from the other, will hear spoken of this proposition of your report, will imagine himself, before reading it, that you have treated and cured, or considerably relieved by the imagination, the large tumors, the inveterate obstructions, the amaurosis, the good paralyses; for you know, Messieurs, that the same cures are run by the world under the name of the magnetism.
But, will you say, one has deceived the world; & all these cures are illusions. To this, Messieurs, I take the liberty to respond to you that it will be at least necessary to well consider the illusion of these cures to acquire the right to not attempt them. That which is certain, Messieurs, it is that which results all the more, from your report, that the imagination produces also some effects of the magnetism: ah! what effects? those which from all times have seemed to belong almost exclusively with the magnetism; the trembling, the convulsions; all that which come finally from a subtle action on the very sensible and very irritable nerves; of course, your task was not difficult to fulfill, & you have traced a field of experiments where you could run without shackles.
If you have proved, Messieurs, that the imagination produces, not only some effects, but all the effects attributed to the magnetism, without any exception, & that you had wished to conclude that the imagination was the only cause; this consequence, as I have already the honor to say to you, will not be always be exact fact, for it will remain then to determine: 1º if two different cause could not produce the same effects; 2º it will remain above all to examiner whether the imagination will not be a phenomenon of the same fluid which produces the animal magnetism, & this point is important enough to return there in a moment.
But what, Messieurs, of some common effects between the imagination and the magnetism, you claim to exclude this one & admit that one without reserve! What to say of such a consequence? And suffer that I repeat it to you for this observation is important. What effects have you chose for the objects of your experiences? those which of all times are for then to say the proper domain of the imagination, the palpitations, the convulsive movements, and all those phenomena so known from the play of the nerves in the very sensitive subjects.
In truth, Messieurs, I engage myself, at this price, to show you that you only made an imaginary report when you have believed to make a very real report. How many women, have I said to you, men, physicians, & if I have not believed the profanation, I will say as much of the academicians, believe to see all that which they imagine! Alas! Messieurs, you will ignore perhaps, but learn it in the capacity of physicians, & even of men of genius; it is the reproach that the common simpleton makes of you the most often
But above all, Messieurs, are you now well assured of having a medicine? For me I am very tempted to range myself with the part of this reasoning to which I have already made to speak to you: & I am much afraid, in effect, that it is only the imagination in all your business. From one side the physician; the patient of the other, imagine both that the physician gives the power to purge a man; whence he it arrives that all in imagining this one can do, this one does.
Have you not read, Messieurs, in many authors, & above all in Montaigne, the friend of all the world, except yours; have you not read the singular stories of men purged by sole force of the imagination? It will then be permitted, at the very least, Messieurs, to doubt that your drugs have the least of the virtues that you attribute to them; that the rhubarb was veritably purgative, that ipecac was a real emetic, the quinine a febrifuge, &c. Take guard there Messieurs, this is of consequence. Never forget the sage maxim: that is necessary to handle everyone, except our enemies; this one goes without saying.
I agree, Messieurs, very frankly that your second proposition will be a little more conclusive, to know: that without imagination, the magnetism produces no more effect: it remains to see from which experiments you have deduced it. Messieurs, to whom appear always to make the same mistake, one believes always in the right to make the same reproach; & this reproach is the one of a precipitation or of a marked partiality; in truth, Messieurs, suffer that one says it to you: not only you have infinitely tightened your career, but you have traveled at full speed.
Ah! what, Messieurs, to show attentive and curious Europe, that the magnetism does nothing without the aid of the imagination, you come coldly to offer it a lone girl in chase, I do not know how, in a chaise disposed expressly, magnetized without the knowledge - by whom? would this be by the same inventor of magnetism, by M. Mesmer? - It is truly a good question from him! - Is it then at least by M. Deslon? - no more, - but finally, by whom then? - by a physician, very great magnetizer remaining; but to say from whom? - from the physicians; but at least, in presence of whom this good proof is she made necessary to doubt? - in presence of many physicians. To what are we reduced, curious poor that we are are! we would wish the animal magnetism clean, & we only ever see the physicians; always a cloud of physicians.
Finally, there then this girl was magnetized without knowing it, by a physician; but at least, for our consolation, was she magnetized in good form? I got a headache, Messieurs, in order to comprehend the posture that you have given to this girl of experiment, & I could conceive nothing, if not that she had been magnetized only from behind & without doubt very exactly the length of the spine at the back, all across a body which left nothing to perceive, & consequently exposed every man who is not a lynx, to only know it was done; I stopped myself on this pleasant experiment, when there were so many others to do.
Messieurs, you have described with complaisance, a certain bandage that you have rendered impenetrable to the light. Do you wish that I tell you of a bandage even more impenetrable? it is the one of the habit & of the prejudice: Do you wish still another more impenetrable? it the one of the interest: neither the hand of the truth, nor the one of the time, can extract it: it is with this bandage on the eyes, that so many men write, act, collide, fight at the wrong & at fault; the little number of peaceful and clairvoyant men have well with pain to save themselves from these turbulent blind.
DOUBTS - On your latter conclusion, that the animal magnetism is a chimera.
When the same imagination, Messieurs, will have the effects attributed to magnetism, all the influence that you claim, I will doubt then that you have the right to conclude that magnetism is only a chimera.
There has come to me on this one a thought. This fluid so much announced by M. Mesmer, this fluid of which you deny the existence and the utility, & that its apostle regards as the minister of the vital functions of man, will it not be also the one of all the intellectual functions? the minister of the sensation, of the memory, of the imagination finally? if the imagination was even the one of the phenomena of this agent; have you said that, Messieurs, in reporting at the only imagination all the phenomena of the animal magnetism? alas! you have said nothing of all that turns around M. Mesmer in believing to strike it down; you have believed to destroy by everything the cause of the magnetism, in the same time that you have made to act very strongly on it in another way; you have concluded that this cause does not exist, because you yourselves made it to exist otherwise; finally you have proved that there is no animal magnetism, somewhat like I will prove to a vigorous man, that he does not have the arms for making him very strong.
You will say to me perhaps that this is a gratuitous supposition on my part; but I respond that it suffices that this supposition has some probability, to ruin all your experiments; thence they have no longer the invariable base; all indulge in the false: the imagination can no longer serve you as the source to cause following on your proofs against the fluid of Mesmer, if it is probable that even the imagination results from this fluid: and not only in the doctrine of M. Mesmer as I can conceive it, that one maybe; but I do not comprehend even as the one will not be: let us try to give some day all to this one.
If I believe with the able men, one can explain nothing or next to nothing in the universal play of the animal economy, without admitting a particular fluid, with a tenuity and with an activity which passes all which our senses know; this fluid, Messieurs, you have admitted yourselves, I believe, under the name of animal minds. It is minister of all the operations of the nerves; it is by consequence the one of the sensation, the one of the memory, which is only a prolonged sensation; the one of the imagination, which is only a memory more active and more prolonged then. This memory so extended, & this imagination so fecund, are the branches attached to the sensation as to their trunk; & in this trunk & in these branches circulate, in some strength, as the sap which animate them, this fluid as necessary as unknown.
Up to there, Messieurs, everyone is somewhat in accord: you recognize yourselves a fluid which is the greatest agent of all the moral and physical life of man: any difference between M. Mesmer and you may be in the name; it pleases you to call this fluid vital spirit, etc. pleases, I think, to M. Mesmer, to call it animalized fluid. In truth this difference would not wish the trouble to be quarreled over.
Here now is the point where you discard divert more. This M. Mesmer observing very attentively his agent, has discovered strange things: he has seen or believes to see, that when two men approach each other or find themselves together in a certain rapport of situation between some parts of their bodies, then this fluid, with which each was charged, excite, in both, a reciprocal action very sensible in the bodies of some, much less in many others; but always very real; & this reciprocal action, sensible or not, he has called Animal Magnetism.
It was not bad then; this reciprocal action of the bodies, even at great distances, the action resulting especially from an active fluid, penetrating strongly beyond that which our feeble imagination can conceive; all this was nothing as very probable & so probably, that many have supposed this action for long times before one proved it: ah! please to God that this man from the Lake Constance was held there; he lives peaceably, & you also Messieurs, & myself, also, I who, now sweat to you this scribbling that you will swill, & that I will swill perhaps before you.
However that be, here, here is the crime of Mesmer. Hinc irae, hinc lacrimae [Here anger, there tears] Is it not going to discover that this reciprocal action produces by this fluid on two men who put themselves in rapport, this action, say I, is an action sometimes conservative, sometimes curative? according to him, it prevents the illnesses & relieves them; it is the same good at the same time, for the patient and for the physician; & from this very simple principle, it is realized to wish for extracting a complete medicine, no less simple than this principle: oh! it is thus, it is at this point all just that you have cried at the charlatan, at the impostor, at the assassin of humankind, for not saying entirely yours.
However, the phlegmatic German, leaving the physicians crying, to pursue his fluid: after having observed it in the man and in the animals, has followed it in the plants, in all the terrestrial nature; finally, in the stars, & unto the Moon and the Sun, where it arrests as the center of the emanations of this universal agent; & in this immense route, not ceasing to link with his fluid all the beings between them, by a reciprocal action, he has done so much by his works, that all the modern physics goes to ruin. Then, Messieurs the physicists of profession have spoken, & one divines it enough that which they have been able to say.
There is the abridged history of the mesmerism: one sees from one side a great discovery, & a crowd of little interest from the other: it acts to discard the interest for considering the discovering: not at all; the little interests have assailed the man at the great discovery, and have bound with the thread as the inhabitants of Lilliput bound Gulliver while he slept.
But let us leave the physicists, & return to you, Messieurs: when you have wished to prove that this reciprocal action, called animal magnetism was a chimera, here is how you have taken yourselves there: you have tried to shake the imagination of a sensitive person, & you have instead produced here some effects of the animal magnetism, and then you have concluded. But, by grace, Messieurs, is it as to shake the imagination, to strike the imagination? For me, I intend this way that one determine then this interior and unknown power that we call the soul, to make all of a sudden flow in the brain, & from the brain in some other part of the body, a very great abundance of this fluid that you call animal spirits & M. Mesmer, animalized fluid; for the subtle flow with a very great quantity of this active fluid in a certain part of the body, can there produce, undoubtedly, a very marked sensation, very lively, and even dangerous: which you deny that the soul has in the body this astonishing power? Then, when after having bandaged the eyes of a vital and sensitive woman, you falsely assure her that one magnetizes her, what passes in her?
Rather her soul makes to flow in the brain, of new animal minds which paint her, by an admirable and rapid action, the image of a man who, by the magnetism, wishes to act on the organs. What is the result of this image? soon with new minds leaving from the brain, & wishing in mass to occupy the parts of the diaphragm & of the regions of the lower belly where this sensitive woman remembers that the magnetism really carries this strong action. What is all of this finally? it is an operation which executes by this fluid, the same agent announced by Mesmer: but do you conclude that by a worthy law of the beneficence of nature, a man in touching, or only in approaching his fellow in a very simple manner, has not also the power to produce in certain parts of his body, a very great flow of this fluid, & that this flow neither be nor can be infinitely useful?
You have taken there another manner, Messieurs, & always in striking the imagination. When you have put, in great apparatus, a bandage on the eyes of some very sensitive subject; all in really magnetizing him, you assure that one does not magnetize him, our you distract him with any idea of magnetism by some conversation animated and handled with art: that he not come from there? You made to flow singularly the minds and the motive fluid of the thought: around the part of the body where were carried the attention and the imagination; & for then the most vigorous magnetizer remained without power, & appeared operating nothing, & the one had to be.
The fluid from which the action produced the phenomenon of animal magnetism was occupied strongly by yourselves to produce the phenomenon of the imagination, could it produce these two great effects at the same time? there is a little sentence very common, but very assuredly correct; it says: that one thing only will know not to be in two places at the same time, & it is however, Messieurs, that which you direct without imagining enough to be there: by all your precautions you excite, you apply the imagination with a certain side: this way you divert from this side the vital fluid, the animalized fluid, & when you have then diverted it, you ask that it find itself then under the fingers of the one who magnetizes.
It is then true that in your famous objection to the imagination, you have only probably made another thing oppose the agent of Mesmer to himself, & that you have no more destroyed it than you would insult yourself in applying very strongly on the cheek a slap of your own hand; that which will prove only that you have a cheek & a hand, & that all this is good for you; the same agent of M. Mesmer produces the imagination, and produces also the animal magnetism: these two phenomena belong to this agent; & when one of the two combat the other, it is the hand which strikes the cheek.
From the center of my eye of province, I do not flatter myself to have glimpsed the truth at the bottom of its well: but if by chance I have had this good luck, all your report, Messieurs, will only be in truth a great noise lost; your experiments on the imagination only succeed as the same principle of M. Mesmer, but by a diverted way. It is time for you to meet my doubts on that which you have had to do.
DOUBTS: On that which you should have done.
If I knew perfectly the theory of M. Mesmer, or if was a clever man, I could propose to you perhaps a very simple plan of likely experiments to demonstrate the reality and the utility of the animal magnetism; but I am only an ignorant, & I do not know any thoughts of the explorer of this universal agent, what can I then do here? you naively expose that which you would try to do at your place.
I, Messieurs, a man of province pretend to guide you! you will see me again, I sense it well, as the fable of the tortoise, which vaunts the eagle the advantage of walk on four feet, & you will have reason; you are eagles, & I am tortoise; but experience reassures me that I have seen so many eagles lose way with their wings, & so many tortoises arrive however on four feet, that in truth I like better to take those ones for models. Here then, Messieurs, is how I will work with my four paws.
For the rest, in all that which have come to say, my doubts will be stronger than ever; I will affirm that which I would do, but I would always doubt well to do; I only will even form some hope of arriving at my goal, in marching with a very doubtful foot, in only posing the foot after having long times tried and doubted on the terrain. In order to proceed with a little order, I will envisage at first what the commissioners would have done in this occasion, before accepting and executing their commission; then what they would have done to fulfill it entirely.
DOUBTS: On that which you should have done
before accepting & executing your commission.
It is not to open, as artist especially to begin an important work, which did not make secretly three questions: is the matter on which I come to work good? is my tool in good condition? is my hand sure?
For, Messieurs, you had to make a great work; & if as you have been honored, I will not lack to satisfy myself very completely on these three important objects.
The matter of your work was the animal magnetism. I would wish to consider it in itself, and judge ahead of all its importance & of its considerable probability in it rapport with the general order of things, & independently of other proofs extracted from the testimony of men.
The instrument of your work, Messieurs, was your mind; you have excellent reasons to trust your own; I would have had better in order to challenge my own, & I would have so severely examined the forces and the dispositions of my mind responding to this work.
Finally I would have above all so scrupulously tested the instrument being good, the hand was sure. In this delicate occasion, it was to your heart, Messieurs, that it belonged to direct your mind, as to the hand to direct the tool; & you needed, in effect, of a very good and very pure heart; you had it, Messieurs, but in these situations the honest man is like the miser: the more this is rich, the he believes himself poor; the more he has, & the more he counts: such is the man of good, the more he is strong, the more he dreads his weakness; the more his heart is right, the more he bases his routes & trembles of losing his way.
I have advanced the two first questions to resolve before initiating your commission, was the importance & the probability of the magnetism considered independently of the moral proofs.
It seems to me that a commissioner has to reason thus: if he acts here with a very important discovery to humankind, I ought to spare neither time nor troubles; & if the magnetism is not only important, but very probably in itself, that is to say, very analogous to the known order of the rest of the universe, then I ought no longer to be so difficult over the proofs; because the probability does not direct the same motifs to be believed, as the extraordinary & the prodigious.
I have read well & reread your report, nothing indicates to me that you occupied yourself with these two great questions, & many things prove to me, to the contrary, that you have made these questions to depend on your experiments, in lieu of ruling your experiments after the solution of these questions.
IMPORTANCE of Magnetism.
If one must believe M. Mesmer, the human mind never offers to the human mind a question of such importance; there is nothing here acting less than the universal agent of nature: the discovery of the magnetism embraces the physics which satisfies the needs of man in state of health, & the medicine which aids those of the man in the state of disease.
So much of importance dazzles at the point of making nearly to close the eyes to this discovery. Man, who for forty centuries and more, observes with so little of fruit, does not dare to flatter himself with so much to discover; & one is tempted to listen to M. Mesmer as if proposes to men to make for entrance the whole disk of the Sun into the human eye.
However the mind familiarizes itself with the importance, if I dare to say thus, excessive from this discovery, in considering how much the theory announces as it is probable in itself.
ON THE TRUTH of Animal Magnetism.
We say without ceasing that all is linked in nature; that in all the spaces, as in all the beings, the phenomena correspond with each other, that each deed is at the same time effect and cause; finally does not cease to speak of the grand chain of beings and of events; but of this chain which carries all nature & which births it, our eyes have only seized her, from space in space, as some fragments; sometimes she loses herself in the entrails of the earth or in the bosom of the seas, & we see her no more; sometimes she raises herself in the heavens, & we see her no more; finally, if I can say it, the human knowledge appeared up to now a veritable assemblage of chipped pieces & detached morsels.
To the truth, each science claims well to make a complete body; but God makes which bodies! & how much each member disputes him and looks to isolate itself! It is nothing then to assemble and to unite the parts of the same science; the more difficult is to apply and to link one science to another science. Hoc opus hic labor [This work, this labor]. One has wished to apply the physics to the medicine; & neither the physics, nor the medicine, have suffered; they are more separated than ever: on has wished to apply the terrestrial physics to the celestial physics, & to rule the heaven by the law of our mechanics; & the heaven & the earth appear still without liaison in the laws which govern them. Has one wished to link in man the physics as one knows little, with the moral then less known? every resort to the human mind has come to pay against the least fiber of the brain: Finally it must be repeated, everything is then isolated in the head of the men, & everything is linked in the nature.
In this state of things, a man appears & says to us, that this liaison, this universal correspondence of beings is formed & intervened by a single fluid which, always essentially the same, modifies itself in the different beings, & forms in this way their diverse modifications which distinguish them to our eyes: fluid or in another word principle which acts without ceasing and reciprocally with each being to all, & from all to each; I do not know if I say well, it is then at the least as I have conceived it. However that be, this man says an infinitely probable thing.
For, 1º the correspondence of all the beings between themselves is more than probable, witness the correspondence between the moon & the sublunary bodies, proven by thousands of incontestable observations!
2º It is then infinitely probable that this correspondence is maintained by a uniform fluid present everywhere and acting everywhere.
How much the sublime simplicity of the theory that Mesmer has founded on this idea, & which has only permitted to glimpse, is worthy of the plans that from the nature, and the means that she chose to execute them! Everywhere we have been able to observe it, as have we seen? the profusion the most marvelous in the effects, and the most severe economy in the causes; & in this new discovery, the effects are in everything, & the cause is only one thing:
The antiquity has vaunted much the system of the Stoics, who only made of man a simple portion of the universe; but this system, which has entirely crumbled mistaken at the base of the human heart, will have now (if Mesmer has said truly) the entire nature for support. This union of the man to the universe only seems a beautiful dream of morality; & according to Mesmer, it is the physical theory of the universe. What! these physical and moral phenomena that I admire every day in myself without comprehending them, have for cause the same agent which develops, around me, the phenomena of the vegetation, that I admire no less, without understanding it more!
What! this universal fluid: penetrates everywhere this great tree, and filters into the channels of the sap which animate it! it is the same which produces the leaves, the flowers & the fruits, like it produces, when it is filtered in the nerves of my brain, the thought, the movement and the lives! [This one be it said without prejudice of the soul, which is without contradiction, the premier agent of the thought.] What! my son and this young elm, at the shadow of which I see him seated, these are two being of the same age, developed and crossed in the bosom of nature by the force of the same agent! they receive and render themselves to the flow of this fluid which circulates from the one to the other for the common good of both! all the beings are then my brothers, & nature is only then a common mother!
If it was true, as Mesmer assures, that my health only was an effect of the regular expansion, energetic & complete of this universal fluid in all my organization, all the beings to whom I communicate without ceasing this fluid in my turn, will then be interested with my health, with my preservation, and with my happiness & if the sickness was in me nothing other than the interruption of the disorder in the circulation of this fluid, all those to whom I would cease to communicate it with the same energy, would suffer then of my ills! It will then suffer finally to man, to preserve himself or heal himself, to study and to know the action and the laws of this agent; & if, as M. Mesmer reassures then, one of the laws is as two men, two organized beings can, in approaching each other, excite in this conserving fluid, an action which relieves them the one and the other, the medicine will be then the same instinct of the sociability, & this instinct will be a physical and general law! All this can be only be a good book; but never was one made a book more worthy of nature, & more conforming to that which we know of its grandeur and its simplicity.
However here with men in great robe who arrive in haste & cry at me from afar: “Keep you from listening, from believing this stranger; all that which he says is only a miserable imposture: it is we who possess exclusively the knowledge of the nature and of man.”
Ah well, Messieurs, one must listen to everyone at his turn: you see then your medicine & your nature. From the bosom of a smiling campaign, these men drive me into an obscure recess, & there the first object which strikes me, is a cadaver still all warm, all stripped, all extended, all hideous; a man, the iron at hand, advances, tears him, & opens him of all parts; I push out a cry of horror, & I say; Is it a lesson of murder or of health you pretend to give me? & I am it; they follow me, they lace me with words & explain to me how, in order to cure a fever, they need to send as far as Calabria, to collect the humor which distills from certain trees, while by their rhumes other men go around Moscow to seek the root of the rhubarb: a very great number dig in their name the entrails of the earth for an extract of the salts and of the minerals, & nearly all these workers lose the life in working for the health of some others: it is nothing, for the fever is still not cured; it was necessary to subdue it, to improve as far as producing the art of the navigation; it was necessary that a unique man had the genius to divine another world, & the courage to attack it; it was necessary to cover the assassinations, to inundate with blood the whole hemisphere, before finding the bark which ought to heal the fever; finally after five thousand years, this bark of American is in Europe. Ah well! the fever is still not really cured, or the abuse of the remedy has made the evils worth than even the fever.
Ah! what, it is then there that you call your science, your medicine & the truth! Ah! what are then, good God! the characters of the ignorance & of the lie? You pretend to persuade me that the nature, in exposing me to so much of ills has only wished to heal me at the price of works of many centuries, of many nations of many arts, of many men of genius! & you dare to say that you know nature better than this stranger, so simple and so vast in his views! you name him impostor & ignorant & you proclaim yourselves savants & true.
Messieurs, it is I who am only ignorant; I only have a simple heart to discern the moral laws of nature, of the gross senses to discover the physical laws, I only have my feeble reason to direct & my heart and my senses; but I attest here my heart, my senses & my reason, as I discover in you all the characters of the error; & in this stranger, nearly all those of the truth; I do not assure that he possesses it, but I dare to assure that he is worthy of the possessing it; he could lose his way, but at least he is lost on the traces of nature: all that which he says cannot be true, but all is infinitely probable, if the probability of a theory depends on it conformity with this idea adopted in all the centuries & by all the enlightened men, that nature makes constantly the greatest things the means of the simplest.
Such is, in a word to my feeble eyes, the difference between magnetism and medicine, that if two methods were equally unknown to men, it would be necessary, before all examination, to suppose the magnetism as probably, and to deny medicine as unnatural.
I imagine, in effect, myself, that the inventors of these arts, both new, presenting them at the same time & in competition to men assembled; I figure the inventor of medicine & their innumerable cohort, making to advance, with a horrible fracas, their immense, enormous, monstrous machine & crying: “Men are subject to so many maladies, it is necessary to you that all this not heal you, we do not dare to promise it to you; but try to heal with the least of your ills.”
With what dread or what derision & the inventors and their machine & their workers, will be received by the still simple men! but when the inventor of animal magnetism would appear alone, without noise, without consequence, without other art than his own nature, only powered by his forces in his organs, & his lights as in the experiment; when after having explained in a few words a theory simple as nature, the man would in deducing a practice still as simple, as well making the processes known from this same nature; that the men would think, that what would they say of this new art?
“What do you claim to teach us, would they cry perhaps? We knew, we said already a part of these things, & the same nature was told them long time ago to us. When one of our fellows suffers, the pity does it not force him to tender the arms? The amity, more compassionate still than pity, does it not make us to embrace, to press our friends in order to console or to relieve their ills? Have we not a hundred times pressed with delicacy their heart against our heart? Whoever wished to do the good, does he not approach his fellows, & who wishes to deny them, does he not fear to approach them? No, you have invented nothing, & your art was already nearly entire in our hearts.”
After this one, would you demand these men which of the magnetism or of the medicine is the most probable?
RESULT OF DOUBTS
On that which you should have done
before experimenting with animal magnetism.
After having examined the magnetism in its report with the general order of things, it seems to me that the prudent judges would have examined themselves for long times by report to the object of their judgment; they would have scrupulously compared their forces with their duties; in a word, they would have been perfectly assured of the dispositions of their mind and of their heart.
In a discovery which tends to ruin a great part of the received ideas, it was necessary that their mind was entirely disengaged from the prejudices of their century: & in a discovery of which the greatest effect was perhaps the ruin of the medicine, it was necessary that that their heart was elevated above all the interests of their body; they have finally to sound well between themselves, the two greatest causes of error, even in the enlightened men. The mind of their century and the mind of their body, these are two torrents little that men have the vigor to raise again.
As it is not just great discovery which draws together these causes of error in the mind and in the heart of it judges, I have believed that I must apply myself well to untangle their origin and their effects: even when the judges of the magnetism would not run aground at these reefs, I would believe always to have made well in a signal occasion, to mark them and to circumscribe them.
RESULT OF DOUBTS
On the dispositions of mind that men carry in this century
to the judgment of a new discovery.
The human mind has two epochs, the entire ignorance and the half-science: the first epoch has been very long, & we are still nearly to all regards in the second.
At the epoch of entire ignorance, the men deceived themselves, in accepting without examination all the errors as truths; & in the epoch of demi-science, the men deceive themselves nearly as often, in rejecting many truths as errors. In the state of ignorance, the men receive docilely the lie, because they do not have then, in the head, the measures of the truth; & in the state of demi-science or of false science, men reject boldly the truth, because they have already in the mind a crowd of erroneous measures; in a word the head of the ignorant is open to the new lies, & the one of the savant is closed to nearly all the new truths.
Whoever will study the history of the human mind, will see the crowd of particular facts justifying these general ideas.
From physics to metaphysics, which are the two extremes of human knowledge, you consider the fate of all the new truths in the past centuries: is there one who has not accomplished more of the labors than Hercules, before being recognized for a divinity? The greater part of these unfortunate truths work then, at the same hour when I write this, to clean the thousand and one stables at Augeas.
With what determination of pride & of bad faith, have we not repulsed the few metaphysical truths revealed and renewed by the wise Locke?
In the moral politics, what blindness have we not preserved the balance of the powers? With what imprudence have slandered the government of England as this great truth requires?
Finally in the physics, the sublime truths that Newton offered to his country, have they not remained fifty years seated on the banks of the sea of England, waiting the moment to pass the strait of Calais, & never finding it; & when they will they believe to have found it, have you not heard the cries lifted again them from our schools, from our academies, from all sides? If their hauteur had not put them outside the door with envy, would it not have obscured by its mire these great truths?
I discover, it is true, in modern history of the human mind, two celebrated exceptions; these are the electricity & the aerostatic machines: by the same nature of these discoveries, that have not followed the march of other truths; they have burst before the eyes of the universe, as by a subtle explosion, the electricity struck suddenly the eyes of men as the lightning, & their ears as the thunder: the aerostatic machines had at the same time as many witnesses as even the stars; in a word, these two truths overwhelmed, to say then, with a single blow, the envy, of enormous weight of the entire evidence. Also these are there both unique facts in the history of the human mind.
But I imagine, for a moment, that the authors of these immortal discoveries, made themselves content with announcing them without demonstrating them; if from the base of America, from a nearly unknown earth, a man still more unknown than his country, raised himself to cry: men, listen to me: “I have the power to attract the lightning from heaven, & I can often force it to fall on the point of the earth that it pleases me to choose: which rises from one pole to the other.”
And if in the same time, gradually, another man no less obscure than the mediator of the lightning, was to rise from a little village of Vivarais, no less obscure than America, to say in high and intelligible voice: “men who crawl, learn that with a stove on my feet, & some with cloth around my body, I can raise a very great burden, higher than the air.”
With good faith, will one not have, without attending the experience, proposed amicably to put the inventor into the little houses & if the government had pushed the condescendence as far as naming a tribunal of academicians, of physicians, of all those it would please you, to judge these two unknowns: men of good faith, who are neither academicians, nor physicians, it is you that I interrogate: say, I pray you, do you presume that it happened? I hear you: Franklin, and you, Montgolfier, you would be condemned to eat the potage, & to leave there your physics and you genius.
That is not all, this particular vice of the mind of our century, which by its same subtlety, attacks the new truths, as the air by the sharp parts which it deposes on the iron, forms the rust which corrodes it; this vice, say I, is then more contagious among the physicians: the fault in it is less in them than in their claimed science: this science is such, that those who study it, are the men who know the least, believing to known the most: while in medicine all the causes are hidden, each pricks itself to divine, believes to have succeeded by marvels, & will judge its system. One knows that the misfortune of the human mind is to believe then more what it imagines than what it sees: the systems are to it always infinitely more dear than the experiences; & that which must be for the men a reason to doubt, appears to them precisely one to believe; there comes as the physicians, more systematic than all the others, are always more obstinate in proportion to that which they see less and conjecture more.
Also, Messieurs, it is in the history of medicine that one can above all observer this continual despotism of ancient errors, & the oppression of all the new truths.
See the physicians deny the circulation of this blood of which they have extracted so much from our veins & our forces! see them proscribe the usage of this emetic of which they make so much abuse today; see them reject this quinine of which they now strip America in order to make bedding in Europe; see them, above all, to the great scandal of Europe and of Asia, attacking against their science & their conscience, as far as the inoculation; and all scarred themselves with the smallpox, demanding with great cries the destruction of the only method which moderates the rage of this malady, & saves, each year, of humankind millions of victims; finally it is only as far as the little loaves of which they make each day their dinner, which they have not persecuted by title of novelty, so much the fanaticism of the opinions & the dizziness of the systems is violent at the house of those men there, so much they cherish the despotism of the error, so much the fear the proud liberty of the truth.
And there, Messieurs, what pitfalls you have to protect your minds in your important commission: you have there succeeded, I wish to believe it, but admit that the extreme difficulty rendered excusable those who will dare to doubt.
On the dispositions of the heart in
the physician judges of the animal magnetism.
It was not enough. Messieurs, that your mind elevated above prejudices of your century; it was necessary then that in this great public interest, your hear was able to disdain this same interest of your own body.
Not having the honor of knowing you, I can only, Messieurs, reason here with the human heart, & not with your heart; & if, as it is probable, nothing of which I will say can apply to you, I will do two good things at the same time; I will say general truths on a very important subject, I will attract the particular eulogies in a very delicate occasion.
I confess to you, Messieurs, that this double effect will fully content my heart. The dearest of my desires would be, if it were possible, that all men know the truth, & that no man was offended; also, Messieurs, if in that which I have said & that which I am going to say, I have the bad luck to wound you, I will regret much of not being known by you; you will read then in my soul; & far from irritating you, you will be complain to me of having so poorly executed my true design.To the rest, I feel it so, it a misfortune nearly inevitable for a solitaire who only writes what is under the eyes: he judges so badly! often he arrives that his pen is bitter, when his heart is soft.
In all that which I have dared to write on a subject where my ignorance permits me the trouble to doubt, I feel well that my heart justifies me; but who will apprehend the faults of all kind that my pen will make? it is not important, I continue, & I go to examine how easily, even with good spirits, they are misplaced by the interest of their body. The body of the physicians does not show itself much in all the affair of the magnetism, so that these reflections appear displaced.
Of all the passions, the most violent one, perhaps, is the one that is called interest of body, spirit of body; and as it is the one of the extreme things to make so much of good or so much of bad, the spirit of the body, by rapport with the general society, is the better or the worse of the principles. Is a body constituted of a kind that its interests accord with the interests of another body & of the whole state? the spirit of body is an excellent thing. Has it a contrary constitution? the spirit of body is detestable.
I will dispense, Messieurs, to prove here that the interests of your body is not in accord always with those of the citizens, & consequently with the state, it was only by the reason very simple that the first of the interests for each in particular, & for all together, it is to live. I come to say only why the spirit of body in general is so violent, & why the spirit of you body in particular has more carelessness that the others.
Keeping proportion, the experience proves that the particulars act with more wisdom than the bodies; it is not rare to see making an impetuous step, impudent to a body of which the greater part of the members direct their affairs with moderation and prudence: here are the reasons.
1º When a man is tormented with a passion which presses him to act, he does not fear to display all his reason, to fight himself according to his force; & even vanquish, he honors himself with his resistance. In the public assembly of a body, to the contrary, all the moderate parties are ashamed; the extreme parties appear only useful, necessary and glorious; the wise man is treated carelessly or treacherously, & the passionate man is heard as an oracle, and respected as a hero.
2º A lone man responds often to all, with errors which he makes even in consulting his reason; & in a deliberation of body, responds only with errors which he commits, even only in consulting as his folly.
3º This one to whom passion counsels foolishness, feels well that he will alone support the weight of his error; he feels that he only has own force to resist the bad ones to which he exposes himself. But in each body in counseling the more insignificant foolishness, feels to the contrary that he will be sustained by the force of all: in kind as for the one who proposes a violent step, the danger is nearly nothing, & the honor on the contrary is very great. It is as the danger is shared by all the others, & the honor of the idea only belongs to the one.
4º Finally the experience correct sometimes the particulars, & nearly always it depraves the body. It comes always to the man to avoid a mistake, because he has already made it, & in the body, it is a maxim to redo all that one has done.
That is not all. Messieurs, I have advanced that there were particular cause which rendered the spirit of your body worse then that the one of all the other bodies, & that it is much to say. Excuse my frankness, I come to expose some to you.
1º By the nature of your profession, you practice without ceasing the despotism the most complete of which man is capable without excepting perhaps the religious despotism. A patient, that is to say, a man in the greatest state of weakness, chooses another man for him to obey, because he imagines, by his regard, in the greatest state of moral force; & this man, is the physician. Also, Messieurs, simple citizens among the men in health, you become the absolute Sovereigns in the house of sick people. There, your conjectures are oracles, your orders laws, & all who revolt tremble to be punished with death.
I well believe, Messieurs, that it comes to you often to mock yourselves, at the bottom of the soul, with this nation of slaves; but imperceptibly it is not possible that you only consider yourselves the trust that you see in the others. The habit of despotism is soft & violent; judge, Messieurs, of your energy, when all these particular despotisms are united in a single despotism of body.
2º By the nature then of your profession you can influence, you can act over all the other professions with a force & a speed which only belongs to you. One can scarcely only compare you in this regard to the Jesuits.
Messieurs, it is then a thing of experience, that the more one has of force, the more one abuses it; & the spirit of your body is of removing much, because it very surely can.
3º Finally your power, as so many other powers is founded precisely on nothing; & as you know it very much Messieurs, you tremble as we apprehend it at our turn.
You know, or you begin to know that in the ills nature alone is useful, & that your art by itself is nearly always dangerous. What would you become if this secret went out to circle the world? Also, Messieurs, it comes to you as ones observes in all the powers little legitimate; the less you have of the right, the more you defend your possession; & the fear of losing all makes you to never cede anything. For, Messieurs, it is for all these ingredients so violent that distills the ardent spirit of your body.
Now I beg you to throw back another glance on your history; not to account, as we have already indicated, for the persecuted truths, but to consider the violence of these persecutions. Since the proscription of the circulation of the blood, which has not ceased to circulate, up to the one of the inoculation that we do not cease to practice, listen to the cries, contemplate the stubbornness of your body: the great difference between the harem & your schools is that the practices of the harem are not make by the mutes, & that you wish to strangle the ones who tell the truths, by the men who only speak too much.
The facts of this nature conduct nearly without interruption until M. Mesmer; & I see in him the most terrible enemy that you have ever had. He has not acted here with you to contest a disease, a remedy, but all the diseases & all the remedies, but your whole art; he concerns your fortune, your existence, & even your honor: in a word, it is a battle for life and death.
However, Messieurs, in these circumstances, before permitting to this man so menacing, to battle with you, one gives him to the judges to decide if he is worthy; & who believes it? the judges are physicians, the members of the terrible & jealous body; what will they do? I ask it of you, Messieurs, of France, of Europe. Before responding, France & Europe will demand at their turn if these men, all the same judges & parties, have a sublime and capable heart with a truly heroic justice. That I feel sorry for you, Messieurs, having accepted this commission, & how many must tremble before your duty!
On the manner of experimenting and of verifying the animal magnetism.
After you have exposed with defiance which comes to me, my ideas on the dispositions; of mind and of heart necessary for accepting and fulfilling the commission of which you have been charged, permit me to propose very briefly to you the plan of experiments that I would trace to discover the truth.
In considering what acts here to verify an agent which one calls universal, an agent which applies itself to the vegetation as to the life, in a word, to all the physical and moral phenomena, I would soon consider with myself, that the man was not the first subject where one ought to observe this agent.
Montaigne has said these words that everyone knows: Man is a subject marvelously vain, diverse, & changing. He has expressed with the energy which is proper for him, a truth, which comes to all of us. It was not assuredly to the milieu of the continual fluctuation of man, above all to the civilized man, that one could flatter himself to sit with the invariable truths on the animal magnetism; it was necessary first for him to find other bases. But I will try to explain this one further.
At the same time as it acts to untangle the causes of the phenomena which burst with so much variety in the economy of man, the human spirit encounters an inevitable & often insurmountable obstacle. This obstacle comes from the liaisons so intimate in man between the physical and the moral; it constitution, in effect, is such that one I do not know what interior cause, has the power to impress to all the material organs the same movements; what do I say? the movements one hundred times faster and more violent that can only excite the exterior and physical causes. What is the exterior agent which can ever cause to move the arm of a man so violently as his own anger, so rapidly as his fear?
For, from this resemblance between the effects produced in the man by the interior force that we call the soul, & the effects produced by the exterior and physical causes, results this inevitable difficulty of pronouncing. 1º Whether such phenomenon observed in man, is the effect of only the exterior causes, or of the interior cause, or of the combination of the two causes. 2º When this same phenomenon will be produced evidently by an exterior & physical cause, one can always doubt if it could not have been produced also, & even much augmented by the interior and moral cause. 3º Finally, one can doubt then whether the greater part of the effects are produced in us by a physical cause, unable to be annihilated or suspended by the sole power of the soul or of this interior cause.
This difficulty of well explaining the phenomena of the animal economy, one will find in all men; but it goes to cross in proportion with the sensitivity of each subject: the more the man is sensitive and passionate, the more the morals have empire over the physical, & the more the man becomes inexplicable. This empire, sometimes, like all other empires, seems to degenerate in a frightful despotism, & this despotism is not the least illness for the individual, as the other despotism for an entire state. Thus for example, in the vaporous and sensitive women in the excess, one can say with truth that all the physical movements are submitted to the despotism of their soul, & that in these wholly subjugated organs, if I can so express myself, the least thought can produce a general agitation; the soul in the caprices, in the passions, is obeyed there without resistance and without delay. (*)
(*) When one says that the wisdom and the fortune of man consists only in desiring that which he can, one only expresses this harmony, this rapport so rare between the physical and the moral, between the action of the interior and unknown force, & the one of the material organs.
When one says, to the contrary, that the folly and misfortune of man only consists of desiring more than he is able, one expresses there this disorder so common, this error of proportion between the physical and moral forces.
No, Messieurs, I repeat it, it is was not on the subjects, most sensible to excess, in which the moral usurped on the physical a disordered empire, that one comes at first to verify the peaceful agent of nature; it was undertaken to fight a solid edifice in the environs of a volcano. If M. Deslon himself proposed to you to observe at first the magnetism in such subjects, it seems to me that he deceived himself, and the eternal truth should not suffer from the error of a passing man.
Far from concentrating the observations on the magnetism in man, still less in the women, & in the very sensitive women, I dare to believe that one should have discarded the most sensitive beings as it was possible. For example, Messieurs, can one observe and intercept the action of the magnetism in the plants? At one hundred leagues from Paris, in the heart of the provinces, you will not figure that one advises to observe well or badly, & some men who believe with eyes and a head, sustain publicly to have seen the action of the magnetism between the plants.
I do not guarantee this fact which only has been watched by the eyes of the provinces, but I assure only that it is worth well the trouble to be observed seriously by the eyes of Paris. As to the mistake of M. Deslon why not publicly question M. Mesmer himself on the truth, the instruments & the processes of such an experiment? His responses or his silence would be equally useful; his responses could aid you to enlighten yourselves; & his silence, to confound you.
From the observation of the magnetism on the plants, the way was to observe it in series in the animals: new source of experiments & good second source & well pure of all imagination. One says then that the experiments of the magnetism in regard to the animals, has been made in the provinces. But the provinces ramble on: one says it. What one has not done in Paris, Messieurs, and that which is better, that you have not made them on the part of the king? You will perhaps say that it was not there in your commission. Ah! Messieurs, the king sent you to look for the light, & when you only found the night at the house of M. Deslon, he did not prohibit you from going to search in other sources, nor even to knock at the door of M. Mesmer; the light which he would refuse you, all Europe would be crying that it was not given.
Finally, Messieurs, after having exhausted the proofs of the magnetism on the animals one could permit himself to test on man, but on man who is then the least man that is possible, I wish to say on the children, & especially on the children of the people, & even from the country; it was in these interesting machines, where the force of the physical carries then on the one of the moral, that it was necessary to study the reality & the extension of the action of the magnetism. Healthy ones or ill, the children submit to the experiments constantly followed, would be furnished thousand times more of lights and more certain, that the adults in all the vigor of passions, or in all the weakness of sensibility.
On children, I would imperceptibly hold them back toward men, & would dwell on men who, by rapport with us, are still the children, to the men of the countryside. I know them very well, those men there, I have the honor to pass my life in the middle of them, & I dare to say to you that you will be satisfied & perhaps astonished with the perfect silence of their imagination. I have seen many magnetized, & I have seen them respond on that which they feel or do not feel, with a candor and a composure which captivates me: their visage was an oath to me.
At this subject, Messieurs, permit me to recall to you that in the times where you worked at your rapport, there was distributed around you a letter of a man of quality, well-known. The publicity of this writing, the tone of truth & of frankness which reigned there, the reported circumstance all this joined to the name of the author, formed a body of evidence well convincing in favor of the magnetism; but especially that which struck more, it was that these experiments fell nearly all on the men of the country, & on the acute illnesses; these experiences seemed to pass all that was until then recounted of the power of the magnetism; they seemed to embrace at the same time by the magnetism, the plants, and the animals, since all operated their by the power of a great magnetized tree. The men in the shelter of the activity of the imagination by their temperament, their character, and their habits seemed there delivered to all the phenomena of the most exquisite sensibility: finally all that which occurred at Busanci by the magnetism, appeared well beyond the known limits.
Messieurs, I did not have the honor to be named by the king to verify the magnetism; further, I only am a kind of languishing turtle, but if I have only found at twenty leagues from the magic tree of Busanci, the curiosity alone will entrance me. In addition to the curiosity, Messieurs, the duty pressed on you; can it be that with at least the letter of M. de Puységur in hand, you have not tried to invoke or provoke M. Mesmer to operate similar miracles? It is necessary to ask in high and intelligible voice, that the magnetism made at Passy that which it was claimed to have been known at Busanci; there lacks neither trees, nor peasants, nor fevers to cure, & you have, Messieurs, a beautiful denial to give, or a very astonishing spectacle to contemplate. Have you feared that the imagination also would be a very good febrifuge?
After having observed the magnetism in the less sensitive beings, then, Messieurs, armed with the many facts, & passing, for then to say, at the opposing extremity, I would wish to try on the beings more sensitive. In two words, my plan of experiment would be returning to observe the magnetism, in the two extremities of the chain which it is permitted to hold in his hands.
It is then, Messieurs, that I would attach to the most numerous baquet, where the action of the fluid would be the most animated; then I would observe with all the power of my soul, the explosion of the magnetism in the nerves so irritable & so mobile; & comparing without ceasing the phenomena averred to the imagination alone with those of the magnetism, I would, among their resemblances, find with very good faith all the differences.
You have not seen, Messieurs, & take guard, at the name of the truth, of this truth which acts before us, & which will survive us: take guard that these differences do not escape you, because you have not wished to seize them. As for me, who wishes to see nothing other than what I see, I am not, to the contrary, struck by the difference between the effects of the imagination & those which M. Mesmer has produced.
Messieurs, I recall to you then the letter of M. de Puységur, the one of M. Clocquet, which proceeded it; you know without doubt the phenomena real or pretended of these patients that the action of the magnetism made to fall into a kind of state of somnambulism: You have to say yes that in this state, & the closed eyes, these patients, by an inexplicable sympathy, discover & design with precision, the kind & seat of the malady of the other patients which approach them, & with whom are, to say then, confronted with these kinds of ecstatic physicians and somnambules: you have all to say yes to the astonishing reports, & of the kind of harmony and of consonance which appears to be established between these somnambules and those who have magnetized them.
I hear you, Messieurs: can one believe such follies? ought one even to deign to verify them? You call folly as much as it will please you, all that which is not in the order of your reason or of your science; but before denying one should verify: yes, Messieurs, if M. Mesmer pretended to operate some prodigies evidently contrary to the known order of nature, such as the resurrection of the dead, for example, it is very probable that even after having seen it, I would doubt it; but at least I would occupy myself to divine by whatever means there comes to the purpose of making me see this: in general it is necessary always to see & all to see.
Messieurs, I finish, it is time; may I should not have begun, for the fate of the one who wrote a page, is to write soon a volume, but in ending these doubts, I believe right to draw some consequences which are not doubtful. 1. If the magnetism is a real agent, the discovery of M. Mesmer can be considered as a vast science, whence one can deduce it, with the time, an art, & even many useful arts; then the government ought to protect it, because the men ought to study it. Second. Consequence. If the animal magnetism is only a chimera, with protecting it one ought to at least tolerate it, 1º because this chimera, however it is said, is at heart very innocent; 2º because it becomes useful to men, en saving many among them from incontestable dangers of common medicine.
Finally the last useful consequence that we come to extract from these debates, where we have added much of ridicule on a very serious basis, it is the reform of our medicine. All these battles that this medicine does not cease to sustain against the new quackeries, prove that she is only the same as the oldest quackery: If we have really an art which was healing, would we be listening to these men who will promise us that which we possess already? If the medicine ceased to deceive us, would we not cease to be credulous by despair for all these charlatans?
Deceived myself by the medicine for twenty years, always sicker by its remedies than by my ills, I would perhaps be in some way improving, or that it was not the good medicine, or that it was too difficult to oppose it & to recognize it; but I rendered myself justice without hesitating: I am of those men, fruges consumere nati [born to consume bread] & that one can kill without consequence, because one heals them without honor: also I protest that in all this, I count my own experience for nothing; but I attest at the same time that in frequenting, in the title of patient, many physicians and many patients, I have constantly collected their confessions, one of the two truths that I have to say: that there is no good medicine, or that the means to discern where it is, we have lost.
You do not then say here Messieurs: who are you? you who speak? for so much as I will speak against the medicine, I will respond that I call myself legion. If the devil had made a thing this response to the name of its confreres, I think that it is well permitted to the poor damned by the medicine. Yes, Messieurs, it is in the name of the numerous tribe of the old valetudinarians that I dare to say to you: either leave us the magnetism or make us a medicine.
But before accusing highly your art, it is necessary to fulfill a duty most pressing, the one of praising many of those who practice it, & the Heaven is witness to me that the justice and the recognition rendered this duty very dear to my heart.
Yes, Messieurs, I say it without flattery; to consider all the professions which, in the society, fulfill the leisure or the needs of men, I know none, as myself, where one finds more than in yours, the amiable men, true scholars, good citizens, excellent fathers of families, sure friends.
There has come to your science, the contrary of that which one sees in the others: there is little of science which only valuess better than the scholars, & by a singular contrast, there are few physicians who are only valued better than medicine. Rousseau said: Make me send for the medicine, providing that it comes without the physician; I will dare to say to the contrary: Make me send for the physician, providing that he comes without the medicine.
But it is necessary to say to all, these men, who one must, for the most part, esteem & cherish as parents, as brothers, as fellow citizens, are no longer the same, as soon as he acts with medicine: there are very few who do not deploy two passions equally dangerous: the one of these passions has for object their particular medicine; the object of the other is the medicine in general.
Each physician, as much as I have been able to observe, has made for him all alone a particular medicine; it is the work of his five senses & of his ten digits: does he cherish it so, defend it as the palladium of his personal glory.
But of more, all cherish, all defend in body, the medicine in general, such as it is, talis qualis; & they defend it, not as a science that they believe true, but as a state which they have paid for, which belongs to them, & which is good to them: it is a good of community.
For these two passions, which, one does not know how, & in spite of their oppositions, combine to marvel in the heart of the physicians, rendering them in general so dangerous for their confrere, as for their fellow citizens.
The secret passion which each physician has for the medicine which he has himself done renders him nearly always enemy to all his colleagues who affect of scorning it & of decrying it; & the passion does not live less as they are all for the rights of a profession which makes them their social existence, renders them often very dangerous for the same society.
So much that it is only a question of their particular medicine, & which acts only to know that which is a good or a bad physician, that are all divided among themselves: but does someone advise to put into question, the same medicine, & does he claim to heal without medicine in form? soon there are all united against this common enemy.
However it is good to observe which are the ones that the physicians regard as their enemies; the public, Messieurs, never will believe it, & I do not know if you have noticed enough yourselves: your first enemies are only those you call charlatans; they are so few, that the greater part of their poisons only appear as beneath the teaching of your authentic certificates. What have you to fear from those men there? they pass all like the shadow, while you remain. Have they only a remedy for a particular ill? there remains to you so many other ills! Do they pretend to a universal specific? more to promise the taste of hope, & the panacea remains in the box.
But your enemies, Messieurs, your true enemies, who are they? those are the ones who advising themselves to boast at the expense of your art, the power of nature. Were they physicians, it is necessary to retract themselves, keeping secret or perishing. This one who vaunts this nature, will say that your art can be nothing without it, & that it can nearly be everything without your art; that one will be a traitor if he is a physician, an impostor if he is a stranger, & one will hold him to crush both under the same ruins of nature.
It is only, Messieurs, that you have agreed yourselves on the great power of nature in the human maladies; but at condition that you will be the only ones to say it, & that the others will only hear at your wish. Is it necessary to explain in a word? you agree on the sovereign power of nature, a little like the mayors of the palace agree on the authority of your idling kings, in pretending everyone to make their place, & dethroning them at the end.
Messieurs, your empire is still very strong, but it is based on your ignorance & your weakness. But keep guard that much trust is not lost to you: you do not have, like the despotism, physical and real force, all your power is in your belief; & when we will cease to be ignorant, will cease to be weak, & you will cease to be strong.
There care you well, Messieurs, & have you not struck all the conquests during thirty years only, the healthy reason & the experience which guides it, have made on the usurpations of your art? Lend the ear to the public voice: when on wishes today to praise a physician, what does one say of him? This is a man who orders few remedies. And what is signified by this kind of sentence? if not, it is a physician who makes very little use of the medicine.
Messieurs, you have not a moment to lose; you can perhaps, at the force of cries, intrigues, cabals, enchain yourselves still, to overwhelm Mesmer today, chase him, pursue him, but you must attend yourselves to it; the man will reappear tomorrow, & if it is not he, another will reappear soon in his place. Two great secrets that you have carefully hidden from men, begin to divulge themselves; the one is the secret of the weakness of your art, the other is the one of the force of nature. This nature, do not doubt it, will be excited from time to time with apostles, & we will listen to them, we will believe them still the more. Hasten you then, & prevent your entire subversion by some wise reformers.
Imagine, it is time, for the good of men, for the true glory of your art, for your own glory; you leave, leave finally your professors, masters of lies & of errors, & your schools, echos of century on century of these errors & of these lies. You have only one master, Messieurs, it is nature; & you have only one school, it is the bed of the sick. Without ceasing attention to the voice of this master, always present at its school, then perhaps you can create or at least remake an art of which the greatest force is to know what it ought not to do, & the greatest wisdom is to determine what is not known to see; never having the dangerous presumption of surpassing nature, nor even equalling it, permitting at pain of begging some times, & always in imitating with respect its own processes.
Your personal glory, Messieurs, will consist in the abolition of all your particular systems, & the union of all your experiments. It will consist in regarding as a colleague, as a brother, this one who, even by other means that yours, will heal as much as you; & like a master, this one which will constantly heal more.
Finally, Messieurs, the glory of each physician will be to regard it as himself, no longer as the man of such a body, of such a university, of such an affiliation, such a college; but as the man of the universe, the man of men, or rather the man of nature.
It seems to me, Messieurs, that I hear suddenly this nature raising its soft & penetrating voice, to say to the physician:
“You pretend to be my guide & my rival: does it suffice at your pride to be my disciple & my herald? As my disciple, I wish that you observes for long times my wisdom in order to finally admire my power; & as my herald, I wish that you do not cease to announce the one and the other of the mean who do not cease to know me.
“But if you wish to know my wisdom, know first your own boldness, & in order to admire my power, learn to humble yourself before your weakness; in a word know yourself first if you wish to know me.
“Recall then that during one thousand years you have not ceased to disturb, to torment, to break all my works, in order to make for yourself what you call an Art. What travails and what efforts! you have devastated the plants, cut the throats of the animals, extract the minerals, dissected the cadavers, discerned the subtlest and most hidden parts, then you have boasted to all the earth of your discoveries, & of the masterpieces of your imagination & your industry. However you be sincere & respond to me: have you prolonged the duration of man? have you healed the ills more than I? have you at least relieved them? have you to the contrary increased the ills which he had, & excited the ills which he did not have? I ask you finally if you consider yourself a greater physician than your Hippocrates who knew nothing of that which you pretend to have learned?
“Return to yourself, or instead come back to me; there is only one art & it is mine. Cease to desire to dictate to me your special laws, I do not know them, & know yourself finally the general law that I have dictated to you, then to all beings.
“My universal law is to conduct successively to all beings, from life to death, & from death to life; to assign to each the time & the form where it should appear, last, flee, & reappear. The general law that I have imposed to all the sensible beings, is to pass from the pleasure to the pain, & from the pain to the pleasure; such is my immutable decree; it is from the same ills that I make to follow all the good. Bold & blind that you are, sometimes you recognize this law to slander my wisdom, sometimes you deny it to exaggerate for yourself your own power. You flatter yourself to make at your will to lengthen the pleasure & cease the pain: it is there the aim of your arts, of your sciences, of the works of your days, of dreams, and of your nights. You have made a custom where you look for the sovereign happiness, a medicine where you think to find a perfect health; insane! you will consider that which you have brought back with your chimeras: your false custom has desired to heal your passions, it has killed your soul by the indifference; your medicine has wanted to heal your ills, it has killed your body by the remedies.
“You see the animals; much wiser than you, without efforts on their part, without violence on mine, the play with pleasure & sustain the pain. Peaceable & submissive under the influence of my laws, they abridge all their ills by patience & prolong tall their pleasures by temperance, while you, to the contrary, you increase you ills by the anxiety, & corrupt all your pleasures by the fear, in abridging them by their excesses; finally you debate it with violence on the same bonds which I have attached to life, you tighten as a lace, & you suffocate yourselves.
“The misfortune of your arts, will add to nature, is making men to think that they have a lot of forces, & the misfortune of your sciences is persuading them that they have a lot of lights. I leave the time and the experience to correct them gradually, & to return them imperceptibly to me.
“But when man is sick; when foolish presumption of the force of his arts & of the lights of his sciences, can cost him even the existence, will I abandon this being to who my laws have been assigned a longer duration non; & it is you, nature will say to the true physician, it is you that I have chosen to save him from himself.
“You will see it in this state of sickness, trembling as the leaf, or piquing him as a child, or agitating him as a fury. You will hear it demanded of you the life & the health, sometimes with the imperious tone of a master to his slave, sometimes with the submission of a man before a God; & you will laugh in yourself from its pride as from its weakness: you will flatter it, you will calm it as a child; promise it, I consent there, more than you only hope & much more than you can: fill first its soul with the balm of the tender hope: the hope is for the ills of men the remedy of nature.
“But the soul of man, & especially of the sick man, is an agitated sea, & you will see soon succeeding the hope the alarms & the frights; it will get irritated & with its ills & with your inaction; it will accuse you of that which it suffers & of that which you do not do: it will menace of looking elsewhere for help; it will call for them perhaps, & you will see soon around the ignorant man, who, in the name of remedies, will lavish poisons on him. Take pity on this miserable one; distance him from these aids worse than his danger: hide him well, it must be for him, that the unique is in himself & in my beneficence & inevitable laws; say to this credulous man, that you possess an art & even a great art; descend far enough to deceive him for his own good; in the name of this art, present to him the soft drinks & the healthy foods: pretend to act & do not cease to promise, & believe that in acting at your place, I will rarely contradict your promises.
“If however I have marked the moment of the end of this being, as I have only made to birth under the same condition of ending, kiss the head, submit yourself, & support with courage the reproaches that mortal men will dare to make at the death of a man condemned by myself from his birth.
“But also, when you see yourself covered with praises & with recognition for the healing which are only made by me, when one will call the pure effects of my laws your prodigies, take guard well to know me in my works, do not blush to publish my good works, imperceptibly accustomed to the spirit of men to trust themselves, & take your glory from the one that you render to nature.
“So nevertheless at force of observing me, you come to undertake some of my processes, I permit you to imitate them; but never forget in imitating me, the respect that you owe to my power, & the distrust that you owe to your weakness; guard yourself well then to confound the moment when I collect my forces, & the one when I despair; the moment when I suspend in order to come again, & the one when I abandon without return. Recall without ceasing that since my first rule is to act, your first duty is to wait.”
Thus, perhaps, nature will explain itself. But, is it to you, Messieurs, so often carried to hear it, that it will agree to talk about it in a truly dignified manner. Though it is annoying, I say it from the bottom of the heart, that it is sad for the progress of truth, that men such as you having not wanted, in this celebrated occasion, to render themselves abitrators of medicine & interpreters of nature! When one sees in your report this industrious wisdom to untangle the chimera, where perhaps she is not, how much one regrets that you have not employed a talent so precious to unveil the murderous abuse in an art where they abound.
One of you, Messieurs, has made himself esteemed in Europe in looking at medicine from new routes in electricity: a phenomenon much akin to magnetism, if magnetism is not always the same as electricity. How, after such a step, have you been able suddenly to pull back with him around the schools of medicine? I cannot conceive it; recoil! when he acts more than ever to go back near the origin of the effects; when a step then with electricity to animal magnetism would place perhaps the human spirit a height which would be deployed, under the regards, as a horizon as vast as new. But you know him, Messieurs, he is in the spirit which goes from cause to cause, as with the voyager who mounts a high mountain; there is no proportion, to say then, between his feet & his eye as each step which they have gone back to it, increasing his horizon with an immense space, & the eye covers prodigious intervals by the progress of a foot which only travels very little; & it was there that you came to hope: one step more could have increased your horizon with many new sciences.
Oh! Messieurs, what opportunity have you lost! The most ambitious men looked all their lives for similar things & have not found it; or they have found it, the died content in embracing it: & you, Messieurs, you look for her, & you repulse her. These men so empty of esteem with their fellows, believe themselves happy when they can display once, to the eyes of some, a little superiority, be it by the heart, be it by the mind: & you; Messieurs, you could (which almost never come together) prove at the same time & to all, & your heart & your mind. You could, in showing yourselves the generous friends of the one humanity, you see to defer the title of reformers of an art of which one has believed you the slaves: it was only necessary for a little patience sufficient to make for enlightening the greatest lights, & deserving the greatest honor. No, Messieurs, non; this opportunity is passed never to return …
After having tried to speak for justice, now I reclaim your indulgence. Can I hope in finishing, Messieurs, that you will pardon these severe reflections by an old patient, who, with very good faith, believes to have been relieved by the magnetism of ills that the ordinary medicine had only made to sour?
A Judge excuses, one said, the reproaches of the client who has come to be condemned: do the physicians not owe some indulgence to the same unjust complaints of a patient who they had not been able to heal the illness neither with nature, nor with their remedies?