Critical History of Animal Magnetism
CRITICAL HISTORY of ANIMAL MAGNETISM
BY JPF Deleuze. Paris. 1813
It was said that the clash of opinions was truth-telling. This thought has more luster than soundness. When a question strongly agitates minds, it is difficult to subject it to an impartial review. The philosopher himself finds it difficult to be assured of the prejudices that surround it; and when he would reserve the coolness needed for discussion, he often does not succeed in being listened to. Neither quiet reason, nor modest truth may well received amid brilliant errors of the imagination. The history of systems offers proof: while they have been the vogue, nothing has clarified: it is only after that one has ceased to attach there the importance that could be compared to them, and unravel in each what was reasonable. So I thought it appropriate to observe in silence, as one has disputed with ardor for and against magnetism. *
* To avoid the frequent use of a compound expression, I will use the word in this writing magnetism instead of that of animal magnetism.
But today as recklessness has replaced enthusiasm and spirit of party, I think it useful to recall attention to this subject, and this purpose determines me to publish the result of my research.
One consideration would seem to stop me. We have in magnetism collections written by men whose rank in the world, the consideration of which they enjoy, and their known character, taking shelter from any suspicion of bad faith, and yet these writings make little sense. Can I flatter myself to have more success? No, without doubt, but I will have paid my tribute; there will always be one more witness. If all those who have examined like me for twenty-five years had the courage to publish the truth, this mass of assertions, would increase every day, and soon it will be so considerable, that one would longer more dare to reject it without discussion.
Besides most writings on magnetism can only be read with profit by those who have already seen the effects; they are not free from exaggeration. There is not distinguished the main phenomenon from accessory circumstances. It is where physical errors are noticed that a careful mind could distinguish, but of which the first impression is to dismiss confidence. Finally, in several of these writings, instead of limiting oneself to finding and reconciling the facts, one has tried to explain by systems that are the product of enthusiasm, and not the result of a thorough study of various laws of nature in living beings.
I will take a different route; I will not permit myself any hypothesis; I will say what I have seen and what other men have seen worthy of faith. I will show the accord which if found between the experiments made at various times in various countries, and by men of different opinion; I will assume illusion in all cases where it is possible; I will discuss some marvelous circumstances, in order to know if one can not reject without undermining the reality of the phenomena to which one has joined them; I will seek what may be the cause of these phenomena, or what they have in common. Finally, I will examine objections proposed against magnetism, and I will prove they attack only an empty theory and the practices which one has renounced for a long time, and that others borne from absolute ignorance of facts which are renewed every day, and that everyone can verify.
As I am persuaded that the works published on magnetism contain an ensemble of proofs which an unprejudiced mind can not refuse, that those same antagonists support the truths that one has wanted to fight, I will give a short analysis of those works that are appropriate to consult, indicating that they contain more certain reinforcement. I will criticize the authors that their zeal was driven too far, well assured that they will approve my motives, and they will not be harmed by my criticism.
I am often obliged to fight the opinion of scholars that I consider the most, and I frankly speak of the cause of their distance from a new doctrine. I belong to the body of scholars, not by my talents and knowledge, but my tastes, not as a teacher but as a disciple. I had the advantage of living with them, and I learned to respect the moral character of those engaged in research of the truth, and who, far from the passions of the worlds, cultivate the sciences in retreat; but I have recognized that if they are free of prejudices of other men, they have sometimes particular biases that arise from too much scope that they give to certain principles, and from repugnance that they feel in ignoring accepted opinions in order to consider new opinions.
Although the the question motives of credibility has been often treated by philosophers, and as I myself have discussed in another work, speaking of the study of history, I will recall some principles on this subject. If one agrees in the soundness of these principles; if one recognizes that I do not digress; if, in reading me, one wishes indeed to distinguish the facts about what one cannot deceive oneself, from those that can be altered by enthusiasm, by ignorance, credulity, I would have won gained everything I desire.
Then I will trace the route that everyone can follow to be convinced, and I will show the insufficiency of the means that many of those have been employed who have expressed the desire. I will permit myself to give some advice to magnetists, on the conduct that they must keep toward those who need to be enlightened, and toward unbelievers. I have learned too much about how many dangers one is exposed to by an inconsiderate zeal, and how one is cruelly disabused, when flattered to bring others to their views, in making them see extraordinary phenomena.
I will trace what is the utility of magnetism, and what may be the dangers of it. I will dare to say what is necessary to think of the association of several surprising facts with mystical doctrines, and I will prove that the errors of physics and deviations of the imagination do not invalidate the certainty of the facts.
One will reproach me perhaps for having taken the dogmatic tone; but how to avoid it, when, in a doctrine embarrassed with vague ideas, one wants to focus attention on some essential principles, and separate them from those that are useless or doubtful. I will not conceal that I am entering into a thorny career; the desire to be useful can only engage me to travel on. I have nothing to gain here, neither for my reputation, nor for any of the benefits that one looks for in the world. If I do not succeed in attracting minds, I will not be able to escape ridicule; if I succeeded, it will not be to me, it will be to those who have preceded me that glory would return. I am still far from much hope of this success. If it takes place, it will only be after a very long time, and I shall not be witness.
A book on matters fought again, were it remarkable for the force of logic and the elegance of style, does not change public opinion. Truths, repulsed at first because they were ill presented, are much more difficult to be welcomed as unknown truths; they do not have the privilege, to excite curiosity. The largest number of readers will look at the facts that I will cite as already refuted errors, and the reasoning that I will use as based on an illusory metaphysics; but I flatter myself that it will meet a few people who, convinced of my good faith, and struck with the evidence that I have collected, will determined to verify the facts, in following exactly the way I indicate, and those ones will thank me for the service I will have rendered them.
As for the enlightened and educated men whose opinion is so arrested that they think it duty to submit it to a new discussion, I hope their righteousness that, if they do not have the leisure to listen to me, they will abstain from pronouncement. The welcome that wished well of my latest book proves that I have a taste for good methods; that without having deep knowledge, I am however sufficiently initiated into the principles of the sciences to sense very well when a fact appears in contradiction with what is known. When therefore I shall see myself forced to admit to such facts, it will not be through ignorance, but by following a conviction resulting from a renewed and thoughtful examination. I will not seek the cause of the ultimate facts, confining myself to observe them; and to give a theory that binds them without explaining them. I submit myself to the judgment of those who, after having taken the trouble to experiment by the means that I indicate, may have an opinion about them.
It will be my desire that this treatise remain absolutely unknown to those who should not make use them, and especially those who would not have time to read it entire. Some detached phrase will give a very false idea. One can only judge it as a whole. Principles that would have first appeared strange will cease to be so when one will have seen the development of them. Or even will feel the full force of proofs assembled in the first part, that after having read the second, in which the review of the major books on magnetism leads me to that of testimonies and opinions. *
* I hope that this second part will justify the title which I have given to my book.
If this writing falls into the hands of a woman afflicted to see her husband suffering, of a mother whose daughter is in a state of languor, of a friend who wishes relief for his friend, of a rich inhabitant of the countryside to whom the poor come to ask relief and guidance for their health, I invite them to try the resources I propose. I do not promise to them great success at first, but I promise them that they will sensibly soften the evils they can not heal; I promise them that their belief will become stronger by the day, and that the care they will give in silence will be rewarded with a new force in the bonds of friendship, and perhaps the happiness of having rendered health to a mother, to a wife, to a friend, to an unfortunate. I advise this means when the remedies of medicine do not seem necessary or when they are insufficient, or when one can combine medicine and magnetism.
Such cases are not rare. And what do one risk? By taking proper precautions, it can never hurt. If numerous testimonies do not suffice to demonstrate the efficacy of magnetism, they should at least engage to sacrifice a few hours to try to do good: nothing is easier, if one wants to know it.
The discovery of magnetism, of its publication,
of its spread and the obstacles that were opposed to it.
ANIMAL MAGNETISM, its action on the nerves, its application to the healing of diseases, and most of the phenomena it produces, have been perceived from all time: many authors have described and sought to explain them; but their descriptions are mixed with absurd details, and their explanations are based on erroneous physics or superstitious opinions. One should not be surprised; one employed magnetism without knowing what was done, and no one thought to return to the same cause producing effects of this agent, to distinguish what was due to that which depended on foreign circumstances nor to admonish men that they could direct it in a way to serve the relief and cure of diseases. The observations of M. Mesmer led him to this result, and it is truly to him that one owes the knowledge of magnetism.
This extraordinary man, gifted with an energetic character, a meditative mind, a strong imagination was struck with some phenomena which could not depend on the known laws of physiology. By making attempts to penetrate the cause, he succeeded to reproduce them, and he recognized in man the faculty to act on the bodies of his fellows by very simple means in themselves, but their effectiveness depends on the will of him who employs them. He tied his observations to a theory that he perhaps had imagined, and perhaps drew from some little known works.
The successes he obtained gave him an exaggerated idea of his power, and this idea further increased his forces. He then believed that the principle he had discovered was the universal agent of nature, and that in directing it after the processes that he had adopted, he would cure all ills, and could even exercise a great influence on the state of men in society. The healings that he operated astonished those who were witnesses, and soon they aroused an enthusiasm that gave rise to the most illusory pretensions. On the other hand, the narrative of the marvels raised unbelievers; and these, far from examining what seemed to them absurd, attacked him sometimes by reasoning, sometimes through ridicule, and sometimes with all the vehemence of party spirit.
It must be admitted that at the time of the first public treatments, the wise men were entitled to regard as fables the phenomena which one recounted. These phenomena were accompanied by such amazing circumstances, those who advocated them made them depend on principles which so opposed the laws of physics and physiology, that it was not surprising that enlightened and educated men disdained to occupy themselves. Moreover, among the facts cited in support of the efficacy of magnetism, not only was it found that many were not proven as had been announced, but still many of them one demonstrated as false.
The sick said to have been healed were really not; others recounted their healing, and only had had nervous ills that the imagination had produced, and that imagination had been able to dissipate in an instant. Magnetizers promised effects that they did not produce; then, carried away by enthusiasm, they argued that they had produced them. Many people had seen prodigies in things where other colder and clearer witnesses had perceived nothing which deserved such attention. Finally treatments were accompanied by practices, childish ones, others hazardous, and the exaltation of minds caused fear that one be not delivered to all sorts of extravagances. In order to satisfy evils (ills), the theory of magnetism was associated with occult philosophy, and which, in which, in what one knew of it, was contrary to recalled notions, and even to the principles of physical health.
However M. Mesmer sought for a long time the examination of his doctrine; he asked that one put him even to prove it, by comparative experiments, the advantages of his method to that of doctors; the number of his followers grew by the day, and men without bias, thinking there might be some truth mixed with errors, expecting new lights to fix their opinion.
Things were thus when the Government believed it duty to submit magnetism to the judgment of the Academy of Sciences, the Faculty and the Royal Society of Medicine.
The commissioners appointed by these companies were men equally commendable for their lights and their righteousness; but they were so prejudiced against the doctrine of magnetism, that they deigned not to examine the effects that one cited as proof of this doctrine. They observed, to fulfill the task of which they were charged; but they made the experiments as they would have done to verify the phenomena of mineral magnetism or of electricity; and this conduct could in no way enlighten them, as I shall prove in the following: although they saw some surprising cures, some singular crises; but they did not attribute them to the agent of which one reported to them the discovery, and they pronounced that magnetism was nothing.
Perhaps they also recognized an action but, to their eyes, the use of the new agent had such inconveniences, the belief in its existence led to so many follies, that it was much better to divert the minds as to be engaged in a career that one saw not issue. Perhaps they even judged that the discovery of magnetism could not be lost, and that, to produce beneficial fruits, it was necessary to grow slowly and in silence, waiting for the time when the excitement being calmed, one would no longer be exposed to the danger of abuse.
There are, it seems to me, the causes of the judgment carried by the commissioners. One complained at the time that this was not done at the house of M. Mesmer, but the house of M. d'Eslon, that they were making their observations: this conduct was in effect very irregular, but I do not pretend to draw any consequence.
Barely the savants and physicians had said that magnetism was a chimera, that this discovery was followed by ridicule. One denied the best attested testimonies: one treated as enthusiasts those who had seen them: M. Mesmer was overwhelmed with insults; he and his followers were on played over at theaters; the society of medicine forbade its members to make use of a method that it had proscribed; it radiated from its register those who would not adhere to this defense, and yet there were no longer brave men and zealous for the good who dared to comment and devote themselves to a cause they believed to be that of humanity.
This proscription was much more unfortunate, as the effects of magnetism were imperfectly known. The healings were only proofs that for those that had followed the treatment: convulsions, seizures, sleep, were all that the public had seen and all this one talked in the report of learned societies, as if magnetism had been only that. One compared these crisiacs to the convulsionaries of Saint-Medard. M. Mesmer yet had not shown, he had not analyzed the most astonishing phenomenon, the one that was to provide proofs of another kind, to excite a new enthusiasm, to shed light on the theory of magnetism, and to give the means of submitting the practice to regular and easy processes: I mean to say magnetic somnambulism.
It seems that it was M. Puysegur who first perceived this phenomenon. Having accidentally addressed a word to a patient whom he had put to sleep, this patient told of his state and the possibility of producing a similar state in other patients. Thence somnambulism was observed by all magnetizers, and the astonishment which this phenomenon excited redoubled their zeal and activity *.
* I do not say that magnetism would have done less good, if one had practiced it simply, without suspecting somnambulism; I only say that the discovery of somnambulism has enlightened us on the theory of magnetism, and that it has provided incontestable proofs of a truth that could have long been revoked in doubt.
Let us return to the thread of prior events.
Despite the persecutions of which magnetism was the object so many people had been healed or relieved, as many others had been witnesses of the effects produced on people of whom they could not suspect the good faith, as unbelievers had been convinced by their own experience, it was not possible to destroy this conviction: but those whose belief was shaky had no way to share their feelings with unbelievers. The reports of learned societies were not then facts, but, based on the discussions that took place, one foresaw the outcome. M. Mesmer, tired of a continual struggle, was on the point of leaving France, and his discovery was going to be lost, though, as that could happen, one refused to listen to foreign countries. The only way to preserve it was to obtain from him the knowledge of the means he had operated of so many prodigies. It was proposed for him to train students.
M. Mesmer welcomed this proposal: he agreed to disclose his doctrine to a number of people. But at the same time he wished to make his fortune, and he asked that one assure him at least two hundred and forty thousand francs.
This calculation does not fit a man who had made a useful discovery to mankind: yet one did not object. Several wealthy men presented themselves; they offered M. Mesmer to collect around him a hundred students who would subscribe each for a sum of one hundred louis d’or and not to defer to receive his lessons, they undertook to meet the sum of ten thousand louis until that number of subscriptions was complete, and to keep the secret in the meantime. Their confidence in Mr. Mesmer prevented them probably from enunciating the clause which limited the law of secrecy, and putting in the form of the act they drafted precautions that prudence demanded. The number of students increased from day to day; not only subscriptions were filled, one assures that there poured into the hands of M. Mesmer over one hundred thousand crowns. *
* In regretting that M. Mesmer calculated the interests of his fortune, and not those of his glory, one can thus blame his conduct. As he had bought the right to practice as physician, he undoubtedly had one to cause payment for his lessons. For the rest, he instructed several people for free; and I must here mention a trait that proves he knew to unite delicacy with generosity; and that perhaps he did not take as much money by subscriptions as one wanted to make believed. M. Nicolas, physician of Grenoble, had come to put himself in the number of students. In presenting to M. Mesmer the agreed sum, he confessed that this sacrifice embarrassed him a lot. “I thank you for your zeal and your confidence,” said M. Mesmer; “but, my dear confrere, that this does not worry you: here is one hundred pounds; take this to the cashier, so it is believed that you pay like the others, and that this be a secret between us.” It is from M. Nicolas that I have this story.
M. Mesmer exposed his doctrine; many of his students went on to develop treatments in the provinces, and even, as far as Santo Domingo, and companies formed under the name of societies of harmony were responsible for spreading magnetism under his direction and according to his principles.
In employing the procedures that were taught to them, the new magnetizers obtained the same effects everywhere: they could not attribute these effects to imagination, imitation, to the meeting of a large number of people in one place; because most exercised their power on isolated individuals, often very unbelieving, and without using the apparatus which one saw in the treatment of MM. Mesmer and d’Eslon.
But the harmony that always seemed to exist between the teacher and students was not long lasting. Conflicting claims came to trouble it: I am forced to recount this circumstance, because it provides new proof of the reality of magnetism.
The subscriptions which had been agreed having been met, the first students of M. Mesmer claimed to be owners of a secret they had bought. Their intention, they said, had not been to satisfy their curiosity, but make known to all men a discovery of general utility; it was necessary that there was more mystery and everyone knew what to expect.
M. Mesmer maintained that he was still the owner, that to him alone belonged the right to dispose of his discovery: he wished to teach himself his doctrine in England as he had done in France, and he refused to let his principle be published under various pretexts. He said that his students were not instructed enough; that if everyone assumed the right to teach, one would corrupt the purity of his doctrine; that if magnetism was generally known, it would be abused: he finally assured that he had been promised secrecy. The primary reasons were evidently subterfuges; as to the latter, the students responded that the promise of secrecy was conditional, and that it ceased to be compulsory since M. Mesmer had touched the price which had been agreed.
There is no doubt that they had reason. M. Mesmer had to reveal to all his students the ensemble and the details of his doctrine, it was for them to judge and to make proper use: in order that he would have been entitled to impose conditions on them and there to continue to exercise his authority over them, it would have been necessary that he had communicated to them gratuitously his discovery.
What is essential to note is that, in this division, some of the students attacked their master in the most violent way: they reproached him that the theory he had charged them emphatically was an assembly of obscure principles: and yet among those who criticize, reform or reject the theory, there is not one who says the discovery is a chimera: all recognize the effects of magnetism and the means to produce them. *
* To be exact, I must say that a physician of the faculty separated himself from other students, and declared himself against magnetism, after the first lessons. It is surprising that there had not been at first a larger number of dissidents; because, at the end of the course of M. Mesmer, most students still drifted in doubt.
When the hundred student subscribers and many others had been instructed by M. Mesmer, if magnetism would have been an illusion, can one suppose that none of them would have perceived so? These students were scattered, they treated the sick; if they had not been successful, how would it be that none of them warned him the public that it had been deceived, especially in a time or place when confession was solicited by the learned societies and by men of credit? One can only say that those who had paid for the secret wished to take advantage: all demanded that the means to make use must be put freely into the hands of everyone.
I conceive that those who had paid nothing could believe themselves forced to silence: but for those who had given their hundred louis, there were only two parts to take; either that to say committed to secrecy, so not to admit that they had been duped, and wait until one ceased to be occupied with this madness, which, like all others could not last long; or the more generous part to disabuse the public to the contrary, all students, even those who were highly exasperated against M. Mesmer, attested that he made the most useful discovery for mankind: they only reproached him for opposing that one make it public, and of wanting that one admit the explanations he has proposed.
I thought I should emphasize this observation, because the consequence seems unanswerable.
It would have been desirable that this discussion had never taken place. The students had received the right to teach others the processes by which they produced effects; the societies of harmony had established treatments and propagated the principles; the essence was known.
The theory to which M. Mesmer attached such a price was of no utility; only those who had not been instructed by M. Mesmer could believe that there was a general cause of which had been made a mystery to them. There was no great harm in that: everything would be cleared up with time. What one published on the theory taught nothing to no one; and it is necessary to admit the correctness of the word of M. Doppet, who said, in rendering account on what he had seen at the house of M. d’Eslon of which he was the student: Those who know the secret are more in doubt than those who ignore it. Happily we are no longer occupied with secrecy, and all disputes ceased of themselves when the discovery of somnambulism became clear to magnetizers. From that time the practice of magnetism was spread universally, and the most extraordinary phenomena offered themselves to the eyes of those who wanted to observe.
The three gentlemen of Puységur made, in the companies where they served, cures so surprising, that almost all the officers of the same body wanted to be magnetizers. Soon, on his land Busancy, the Marquis de Puységur establishes a treatment where patients travel from very far. The Marquis de Tissard did the same at his land of Beaubourg in Brie. A numerous society, formed in Strasbourg and composed of physicians, scientists and military personnel, also made amazing cures and published his memoirs: the same things happened at Baïonne, Bordeaux, Marseille, Malta, in several the main cities of Europe, and even in the colonies. If one counts the number of witnesses of which we have printed certificates, I have no doubt that one will find more than a thousand, and this number does not form a tenth part of those who have not rendered their public testimony.
It appears that, against such a mass of assertions and evidence, neither reports of learned societies, nor the disdain of many men, enlightened but who did not want to see, nor the ridicule they threw on magnetism in jesting brochures, in the newspapers, and even in theaters, would have stopped the progress of a discovery so useful and well established; however one ends up being occupied much less with magnetism; one spoke little of it, and even, if one believes several writers, this madness was finally forgotten.
If it were so, this will be without doubt a reason to suspect the reality of the discovery; but nothing is more false. Since I am occupied with magnetism, I can attest that I have known more than three hundred people who are occupied like me, and who have produced or strongly feel the effects. Yet I have never had a relationship with the societies of harmony where many hypnotists met. One can judge from this, how many thousands of people share my conviction. If it proceeded from opinion, it would prove nothing; but it acts from facts, and the number of testimonies is an impressive proof. However there has been a slowdown that it is necessary to tell the cause.
I am going to begin by talking of a circumstance very humiliating to human reason: but though it costs me to recall, it is necessary to respond to one of the strongest objections against magnetism, to that which has caused the rejection by many sensible men; it is necessary to show at the same time how the comparison is unfair that one has established between an impostor and a man of genius, between an occult and absurd doctrine and a simple exposition of facts that everyone can verify.
I am going to present the objection in all its force, leaving to speak those who did it.
“Shortly after M. Mesmer,” they say, “one saw appear a much more extraordinary character. This one promised to be of a privileged nature: not merely healing of diseases; he evoked the shades of the dead, he gave his disciples a new religion; and yet he had enthusiastic sectarians. Men distinguished by their mind, by their knowledge, and by the rank that they occupied in the world, were the dupes of his prestige; one laughs rendering them a kind of worship to their master, and it was necessary that an elevated discussion in an unfortunately too celebrated trial caused discovery of the maneuvers by which the impostor had fascinated the eyes. Many who were thus the dupes of Cagliostro already had been supporters of Mesmer: they had been deceived by one as they were by the other; and the evident falsity of the doctrine of Cagliostro must cause to reject the testimony of those who had adopted it, when they supported another doctrine also opposed to the received notions.”
This is what antagonists of magnetism say. I go further than they and I agree that the belief in magnetism has contributed to adopting the extravagances of Cagliostro. Several of those who had seen the phenomena of somnambulism, not knowing how they were produced, had attributed them to an occult cause; and there had resulted in them a disposition to credulity, which had led them to receive mystical doctrines. This justifies even the opposition of several wise men against magnetism: they feared that wonderful facts did not conduce to receive true principles that we did not understand; and when one agrees to accept these principles, it is impossible to say where one will stop.
To respond to the objection, it is sufficient to show the difference between the conduct of M. Mesmer and that of Cagliostro, between principles of one and those of the other.
Cagliostro is a unknown who promises to work miracles. His means of existence, his origin, his homeland, his profession, are so many mysteries. He acts on the imagination, he awakens fear and hopes; he demand of his disciples the most profound secrecy; he makes them see surprising things, but it is in assemblies where everything is prepared: he does not give anyone the means to bring operate the prodigies that he claims to operate himself; he wants the deepest secret to be united to the fullest confidence; he forbids any scrutiny. Mystery surrounds him: his dark and metaphorical language is not that of reason: by initiating his disciples, he promises them revelations, marvels without ceasing; he ignites the desire in them to see extraordinary things; he abuses their credulity; he seduces the imagination of a few women, and he makes them instruments, without even their suspecting it.
M. Mesmer is a physician known, and who: had even gained a reputation for his talents; he comes to show the effects that everyone can examine, he invites scholars of Europe to verify them, he addresses himself to academies of science and societies of medicine: he asks that one hear and that one discuss his doctrine; he does not transport you into the region of chimeras; he claims to only have a physical means of healing, and he admits everyone to his treatments.
In truth, he first made a mystery of his theory and of his processes; but he says it is because that one could abuse it, and it is necessary to employ properly, having received a preliminary instruction.
Soon after he makes students; he exposes them to his entire doctrine, he teaches them the means to produce the effects he produces himself. Whether his theory be erroneous or not, matters not: the means he gives succeed in all those who employ them; his students, selected from the most enlightened men, and in the number of which are many physicians, are spread everywhere; they instruct the people they know, and the same phenomena are repeated in countries distant from each other. Magnetism is practiced indifferently by scientists and by people with no education; healings are operated in isolated country places as in major cities; simple peasants are often themselves good magnetizers: there is no more secret; everyone can verify the facts; everyone can magnetize and be convinced. There is more: those who deny are those who have not made experiments; those who have made experiments all recognize the power of magnetism.
In any physical doctrine, it is necessary to never by a priori reasoning that which can be submitted to observation: reasoning must be used to link these observations. It must be observed before saying, “This can not be.” Students of M. Mesmer were not convinced by his arguments, and by the exhibition of his theory: they came to it only when they had themselves made trial of a faculty of which one told them that they were gifted.
I think I have responded to the objection that one has drawn in comparing Cagliostro and M. Mesmer between the prestiges of one and the healings operated by the other: but these reflections were not made first: one was confined to appearances, and the temporary fortune of Cagliostro produced a terrible blow to the doctrine of magnetism. Many persons were afraid of being confounded with adepts or magicians, and would no longer dare to bear witness to the truths of which they were persuaded.
The comparison of the effects that one had seen at houses of MM. Mesmer and d’Eslon with those that had taken place forty years before on the tomb of Deacon of Paris was still an unfortunate connection to magnetism. In both circumstances, it was said, the same juggling, the same effects of the imagination, the same enthusiasm, the same healings. One senses how strong that objection must have appeared in a century of philosophy, and when so many writers had revealed the empire and the dangers of superstition.
I am far from denying the truth of this connection: but it has nothing that should cause rejection of the doctrine of magnetism; it tends to prove the contrary.
I have said that the effects of magnetism had been seen in all times: the discovery consists in having known to render oneself master of it, in having made the application, in having brought them back to the same physical cause. At the tomb of Paris, magnetism acted the same as the baquet: the only difference is that today magnetizers direct the agent which they know the action, and that at Saint-Médard this action was irregular and disorderly. For the rest, since, in isolated treatments, one has cured by a quiet magnetism, all the objections drawn, of convulsions, of imitation, and of imagination, are entirely destroyed.
If some readers find it singular that I attribute to magnetism several of the phenomena that had occurred in the past in Saint-Médard, I beg them to wait, before pronouncing, to have read the rest of this writing.
The first works published in favor of magnetism have also supplied arms to its detractors. Several of these works were composed by enthusiasts who exaggerated the marvels, and then explained the system where one saw the most profound ignorance of physics and physiology. By adopting the principle, one had the air to adopt all the consequences, and the prudent and truly educated men guarded silence, for fear of compromising their reputation. It is only after the discovery of somnambulism, and when it was borne to recount the results of experiments, that there appeared works where on can find real proofs and a solid instruction.
Other causes have then contributed to convince a few people, who have not given the trouble of taking information, as magnetism was forgotten.
In the early times, the novelty of the phenomena, the wonderful effects, had exalted the imagination of a crowd of people. With this were mingled ideas of philanthropy; the ardor of which was kindled to overcome difficulties, in being supported by courage and patience. Gradually this ardor relented in some, was extinguished in others. Few people today want to devote themselves to care, privations and penalties required by the practice of magnetism: curiosity is no longer an incentive, because the magnetizers already have seen enough singular facts to no longer seek them and others will take no interest in what they do not believe.
Those who still occupy themselves with magnetism do it in silence: they only advise the use when they think it necessary, and whatever pleasure they get to entertain themselves, they do not do it with unbelievers, because they know the futility of the assertions and the arguments; and they believe that magnetism was abandoned, because they see no more public treatment, and that it is no longer spoken with enthusiasm.
Finally the events of the revolution diverted most men from a study that requires a quiet mind and cleared of passions.
However magnetism, though followed with less ardor, was never abandoned. From 1784 until 1789, they had formed in several European cities, societies that have established public treatment; that of Strasbourg, founded in 1786, in 1789 was composed of 188 members, almost all distinguished by their state and their lights, and several of which were very well-known physicians. These respectable men annually have printed the results of their observations and their works; and more than five hundred people who had used their charities were impressed to publish the obligations they had to them.
Individuals have treated patients in isolation, either in the city or in the country, and have thought it their duty to pay homage to the truth. When the revolution forced the men who thus sacrificed their time and their fortune to disperse, to take care of their individual safety, and to remain silent on objects which would have exposed them to persecution, the practice of magnetism is kept without ostentation in the interior of the families; and innumerable testimonies, uninterrupted since the discovery to this day, prove that we have continued to engage in it effectively. Even today it seems to be occupied with more attention, and I know several distinguished physicians who, in certain cases, advise and employ themselves magnetism.
Individuals have treated the sick alone, either in the city or in the countryside, and have felt obliged to honor the truth. When the revolution forced the men who then sacrificed their time and their fortune to be dispersed, to take care of their personal safety, and to keep silent on objects that would have exposed them to persecution, the practice of magnetism without ostentation was retained in the interior of families; and countless testimonies, uninterrupted from discovery until this day, prove that it continued to be delivered effectively. Today one seems to be occupied by it with more attention, and I know several distinguished physicians who in some cases, advise and employ themselves magnetism.
I will not elaborate further on that which is relative to the discovery of magnetism, the publication and the propagation of this discovery in Europe, the obstacles that it has experienced, causes that seemed to slow the effects. To prove what I have advanced, it would be necessary to transcribe volumes. Those who want to be assured that I did not say anything that is not correct can consult the works published on magnetism, since 1781 until today. I will give an analysis of the works of those that seem to contain facts, principles and objections. I will now expose the proofs of the reality of magnetism, and ways to be convinced of its action.
Evidence of magnetism, and ways to convince.
WHEN we want to pass judgment on a doctrine contrary to our beliefs, we must examine the proofs on which this doctrine is founded.
These proofs are, either assertions, or facts, or reasonings.
I distinguish the assertions of facts, in that they can be discussed by the comparison of the circumstances, or verified by experiments, while I do not consider as assertions those opinions advanced by observers.
Assertions have only some weight as far as they come from men infinitely commendable by their lights and their veracity. They are not sufficient to bring a conviction, they only engage wise men to suspend judgment when they cannot discover how those who advanced them have been induced into error. They must be weighed with all the more distrust, as they are more extraordinary and more remote from notions received.
Facts must be considered first in isolation, then in their whole. The first condition in order to be rendered capable of judging the well is to slough off any prevention. One is right to reject them without examination, if they contradict a law of nature: but this requires the law to be demonstrated, and that the opposition is evident.
Among the facts, it is that you can check yourself by experiments. In this case, it is indispensable to have recourse to this means, and not to neglect precautions, even the most minute, when they are indicated as necessary for success.
There are other facts that one can not examine in this way, and one must adopt or reject according to the testimony of those who attest them. Those are subject to the principles of historical criticism; and I will briefly recall these principles, which are known, but one does not always use.
The proofs are drawn,
1° From the number of testimonials;
2° From the character of the witnesses;
3° From the lights of the witnesses,
4° From reasons of the witnesses;
5° From the probability that these witnesses could not be deceived;
6° From the agreement between the various reports;
7° From the agreement between the various parts of the same report.
Let us pause a moment on the use of these different kinds of evidence.
1° The number of testimonies must not be measured by the number of people. The immediate witness, one who has himself observed all the circumstances of the fact, is the only one whose testimony has value. The others ought not to be counted, even when they are informed and they have seen some of the facts. I go further, and I claim that, if an extraordinary event has occurred amid a crowd of witnesses, all of whom assure having seen it, their testimony merits less confidence than that of a small number of observers; because in large assemblies, enthusiasm communicates itself and opposes the composure needed for attentive examination.
2. The character of witnesses should influence the reliance that one accords them. If they are serious men, of mature age, of status distinguished in society, if they enjoy public consideration and esteem of those who know them, they have come to fear to compromise, and do not lightly attest that they did not have an entire certainty.
3° The third consideration concerns the lights of the witnesses.
4° The fourth, on the reasons which have determined them. I join these two considerations, because it is does not suffice to see well, desiring to know the truth, to be enlightened enough to discern the reality of appearances and to escape illusions; it is still necessary that the judgment is not distorted by the interests and passions that often have misled men whose intentions were the purest.
5° It is necessary to examine whether the fact recounted by witnesses is of such a nature that they could not have been wrong nor be deceived, and distinguish in the phenomenon that which is essential from what is not.
6° When similar facts have been seen in different countries at different times, and by observers who had no connection with each other, it is essential to examine whether those facts are in accord with each other, if certain circumstances are not denied by some, while they are attested by others; for then it is only necessary to receive as proven by the parties on which all agree. The silence of some observers on such circumstances do not destroy probability, because it is possible that all have not seen or told the same details; but one must reject everything of which one attentive observer positively denies reality.
7° The agreement between the various parts of the same report, or the connection of the circumstances with the main fact, and dependence of the same cause or several causes, are points that must be examined with the most scrupulous care and discussed with the severest criticism. One true fact can be told with false accessories: it is important to discern these accessories, to investigate the causes of illusion, and how this illusion could have spread.
For this it is essential to ascertain whether the report has been drafted at the same time where the events have been seen, or long after and by remembrance; because these two circumstances must modify the judgment that one relates to the truth of the details.
If the relation was drafted in the moment, the author will have given more innocent impressions that he experienced, the details of what has happened under his eyes; but it will be necessary to stand more guard against enthusiasm, and especially against the consequences that are not the result of reflection and comparisons.
If the relation presents a series of facts, successively, it will be of a much greater weight, in the case where the facts would have been written in measure as one has viewed them; because then one could only suspect that the accord which is found between the different times would be due to opinions and biases of the author.
Let us return to some of these objects.
The facts of which one has given the relation can be grouped in three classes.
Some are necessarily true, if the one who tells them is not a liar or a lunatic.
Others may not be true, although the one who recounts them be in good faith, because he may have been mistaken.
The others may be true in part, but altered in circumstances.
We choose some examples among the facts reported in support of magnetism.
The one named Viélet, game warden and schoolmaster to Espiez near Chateau-Thierry, patient for four years with a chest ailment, accompanied by many symptoms of which the detail and treatment are found in several consultations addressed to many physicians during this interval, is put into somnambulism by M. Puységur, 15 November 1784, ten o'clock at night. Asked about his condition, he says that he suffers fatigue to speak, he prefers to put in writing the details of his illness. Consequently, M. Puységur gives him two pieces of paper, which he has the precaution to mark, and locks him without light in a room of which he takes the key.
During the night, Viélet writes the detailed story of his illness, sensations that he experiences in the state of somnambulism, of the manner in which he feels the cause and nature of his illness, and of the crisis which must operate his healing. He says in this writing, dated the 16th, that the next day 17, between nine and ten o'clock, he will render, after much suffering, a portion of a deposit which is in the chest; and the 16th, at seven in the morning, still being in somnambulism, he gives M. Puységur this writing, in all regards very extraordinary. M. Puységur goes immediately to file it at the notary of Soissons. Viélet The next day, at the hour indicated, renders the deposit in the presence of witnesses; he then announces his healing, and everything is verified exactly.
One cannot deny this fact without imagining that M. Puységur has fabricated the writing that he had printed under the name Viélet, and that respectable witnesses are complicit in this deception.
M. Tardy de Montravel writes everyday the details of magnetic treatment of Melle. N. This treatment lasts about a year. The correspondence between the predictions made in April and verification in May is unquestionable, if M. Tardy had had no formal intention to mislead the public; because the crises announced by Melle. N. are those of which it is impossible to predict when in the natural state, and that it is also impossible to simulate.
One can cite thousands of similar facts. The healing of diseases belongs to the second order of proofs. I myself have cured of diseases that appeared incurable; but I could have deceived myself about the nature of these diseases: I could be misled especially in attributing the healing to the means I have employed.
In this case, the proof that the effects are due to the cause to which one attributes them can only result from a very large number of similar facts; and that proof, convincing to the one who has made the experiments, is very weak for those who collect testimonies, and who always have the right of supposing in witnesses bias, exaggeration and enthusiasm.
As for the true facts in part, but altered in the circumstances, it is mainly on those that criticism must be exercised. It is necessary to dismiss as doubtful all that can be attributed to credulity, to precipitation, to illusion, etc.; but what remains to be admitted. Unfortunately it is a distinction that supporters and antagonists of any new system neglect equally. In the house of some, the truth of the principal fact leads to belief in the accessories: it suffices for others to have recognized some false circumstances in a relation that they believe themselves entitled to reject it in full.
Finally, having gathered and observed the facts, one must see if they can prove or not the doctrine of those who have reported them. One can not be too careful in this discussion. It is necessary to reject any conjecture, and admit only consequences which show obviously the facts.
I believe I have shown the principles upon which one can produce in the examination of a doctrine and what appears contrary to the doctrine of received opinions. Let us make the application of these principles to magnetism.
I ask that one only admit the facts attested by witnesses of whom one can suspect good faith and of which these witnesses could not have been deceived; that one dismiss all the circumstances which are not as well established as the fact itself; that one count for nothing the testimony on which there can be anything but certainty; that one do not draw consequences for the doctrine until these consequences are obvious; that one reject any principle, any circumstance that will be in contradiction with a law of nature. But at the same time, I believe I have the right to ask that one not be diverted from examining by the extravagances of a few enthusiasts: because the bad proofs which one has given of a fact do not impeach the same fact being established on convincing evidence.
Now if one examines according to these principles the proofs of magnetism, one will find,
1° That the effects of magnetism are attested by more than a thousand witnesses who have given their testimony in writing. That these witnesses have experienced them, or made others to experience, or examined with the most scrupulous accuracy;
2° That most of the witnesses have first regarded these effects as impossible, and have changed their opinions after being convinced by experience;
3° That the witnesses of whom I speak are enlightened people, and among them are a large number of physicians, that many are men that their rank and their character would have diverted them from exposing themselves to ridicule by publishing extraordinary facts, yet they had regarded as a duty to pay tribute to the truth;
4° That those who have rendered their public testimony by way of printing are in very small number in comparison with those who, having seen the same facts, content themselves with attesting when asked their opinion; that I might for example include in this last class over three hundred people of my knowledge, and I certainly do not know the thousandth part of those who are as convinced as I am;
5° That, in the much larger number of those who deny the effects of magnetism, one does not find people who have taken to enlighten themselves by convenient and certain means, although one finds many who have seen in passing; what is much more proper to destroy trust than to see nothing at all;
6° That if some ignorant enthusiasts reel off absurd things about magnetism, it is that they have seen the facts, and that impressed by their imagination, they have altered simplicity, and have explained them by foolish theories; if the testimony of such men should not to be given in evidence, it no more suggests to reject that of informed observers;
7° That, from the relations of magnetic treatments, many of which have been written in diary form; the observer writing after each session what he had seen and heard, and that in this case the correspondence between the various parts of the relation can only be revoked by doubt unless one would suspect the good faith of the author; that which cannot be vis-à-vis such people as MM. Puységur, Tardy de Montravel, and a hundred others equally known;
8° That it is impossible to assume that one hundred eighty-eight members who, in 1789, composed the Society of Strasbourg, and of whom the greater part sacrificed for four years, their time and even their health, to magnetic treatment, are visionaries, and that patients that are cured, as well as parents, friends, and physicians of these patients who have documented the healings, and who are in the number of nearly five hundred, are all dupes;
9° That there can be made the same argument for the societies Bordeaux, Lyons, etc.;
10° That the testimony of many magnetizers, who, without belonging to any society, have obtained the same results by treating for several years running, the sick alone and in silence, destroys the objection that one might draw from the spirit of the group;
11° That if there is among magnetizers difference of opinion on the theory there is none on the reality and effectiveness of the agent which they employ.
12° That, even though magnetism might not have operated the healings that one attributes to it, its physical action on the ill men will no less be demonstrated by a variety of other effects;
13° That when one revokes in doubt nine-tenths of the relations, there would remain still enough to provide convincing evidence.
14° That if one compares the writings for and against magnetism, one finds that the first are, for the most part, collections of positive facts perfectly documented, while the latter (with the exception of the reports of scientific societies) contain only vague jokes or objections, or assertions often contradicted even by those that one cited for guarantors, or finally the comparison of the doctrine and of the success of M. Mesmer with the doctrine and the successes of some enthusiasts or some charlatans; which must engage to examine the facts with scrupulous distrust, but prove no falsity in it;
15° That the commissioners of the Academy of Sciences and those of the Royal Society of Medicine, far from denying the effects, in recognizing the very extraordinary; and that, to explain these effects, they had recourse to insufficient causes, and none of which exists in the treatments that have taken place since 1784, since in these treatments one no longer has seen convulsive crises, nor such apparatus to strike the imagination;
16° That the contested theory in these reports was hypothetical and absolutely unnecessary to establish the reality of the agent and the effectiveness of its action;
17° That, by only love of the truth, one of the commissioners had the courage to make an individual report, though his colleagues and even a powerful minister made the strongest solicitations to dissuade him;
18° That a large number of practices used among ancient peoples, a great number of healings operated by medicine with touching and incantation, in a word, a multitude of extraordinary facts well attested, explain themselves naturally by magnetism, and that the knowledge of the effects that it can produce suffices to overthrow the superstitious opinions that have for long times misled men;
19° Finally that, since 1784 the processes of magnetism being generally known, experiments are being multiplied to infinity, and the facts, which had been dimly viewed initially, having been well observed and released of foreign circumstances, it is absurd to recall objections, none of which can attack the practice and theory adopted today, and to reject after these objections of the facts that one can at any moment be verified for yourself.
To be assured that I have not put any exaggeration in the reasons I have just presented, it suffices to read the writings of MM. Puységur, those of M. Tardy de Montravel, the relation of cures effected in Strasbourg and some other works of this kind.
On trouvera dans ces livres plus de mille témoignages, tous donnés par des personnes respectables, qui ont ressenti ou opéré les effets dont je parle.
One will find in these books over a thousand testimonies, all given by respectable people who have felt or operated the effects of which I speak.
It will be necessary to ignore all that relates to the theory, all the explanations, in order only to decide upon well established facts, and for which it is impossible for those who recount them to have been deceived.
When one will have made this examination in good faith, I think that one will be convinced that there is in magnetism something real, and which can not be produced by any other cause.
But this conviction of the mind does not suffice; it weakens in measure as one loses the memory of his readings, and as one intends to treat with disdain the opinions of which one was convinced. The only real and strong belief is that which results from our own experience, and which is bound with the things we have seen and of which we continue to be occupied. For as a truth determines our judgment in an invariable manner, so that it affects our will and our actions, it is not enough that it be shown to our mind, it must be supported by the testimony of our senses, that it has penetrated our heart, and that it is found associated with our habits.
I am going to give in a moment the only means to acquire this inner conviction; but I have then a word to say of the third kind of proofs, those of reasoning.
In order for the result of an argument to be certain, it is necessary, 1° that the reasoning be supported on evident or at least incontestable principles; 2° that the consequences be deduced in a rigorous manner.
One has forgotten this when one has wanted to establish the theory of magnetism on metaphysical principles; and hence it is that this theory is uncertain, and there are even more false theories.
One has supposed sometimes a universal fluid that establishes a communication between all beings, sometimes an action of the soul independent of the organs, sometimes an occult physics, of sympathies, of rapports, an innate instinct, etc. All this is obscure and can not satisfy wise minds and true physicists.
The theory can only be the sequence of events, and the expression of laws which are common to them; and among the facts that one has cited, some are questionable, others are not sufficiently proven, others are false in many of their circumstances.
Thus, in the present state of things, it is necessary to abandon all theories, and to see only if there are certain facts enough to certify the reality of the effects of magnetism.
It is necessary then to dismiss from those facts any consequence that is not necessarily reinforced.
But rejecting any theory, one must carefully gather the facts, compare them, classify them and seek to discover the link which unites them and the laws on which they depend.
So let all reasoning, all metaphysical views, all that one has found in the ancient philosophers and in the writers of the seventeenth century, and seek the truths of which we can convince ourselves by observation and experience.
I am going to indicate the route necessary to be followed to be assured of the effects of magnetism. I suppose that I talk to a man to whom the reading of the writings I have cited and the evidence I have reported have given the beginning of belief, and who sincerely wishes to clarify his own experience, and to set invariably his opinion. This frame of mind is necessary for success.
After reading the books I have indicated to you, to make an exact idea of the processes and the action of magnetism, seek among your acquaintances someone who has followed the practice of it; you will easily find him, and his advice may help you and support your confidence. However this instruction given immediately is not so necessary that you can not do without it.
Then go to the countryside, if this is possible for you; because it is much easier to experiment in the hamlets and villages than in big cities: this condition is not at all times essential, and I will propose it only because it promises quicker and safer success.
Established in the middle of country people, who generally have purer morals, more simplicity, and an organization less altered by passions and by remedies as those of cities, look after for the sick, and preferably choose those whose state is not so dangerous that you fear that the progress of the disease is too fast.
Show to one or two of these patients interest and affection; tell them that you want to relieve him. Do not mention vis-à-vis to them the name of magnetism; avoid anything that can act on their imagination: touch them under the pretext that their blood does not circulate well, that you want to see if the pulsations of the heart are regular, you want to try some frictions which might calm their ills, etc. It is so easy to persuade poor people that one desires to heal them, and that one has the means, that you will not experience much difficulty. The key is not to act on their imagination, to be more sure of the effects.
Touch then each day the two patients you have chosen, and continue for a week. If after that time, you have not produced any sensible effect, look for other subjects for your experiments. I dare to assure that it will never happen to a magnetizer touching ten patients without finding one who experiences the effects of magnetism, in an evident manner.
However one only acts to properly exercise a faculty of which one is endowed; and as I do not suppose you are yet convinced that you have this faculty, I have to prescribe to you the conditions of the utmost importance: if you satisfy them, I promise you success; if you neglect them, you will succeed only feebly, perhaps not at all; but then, be in good faith and agree that your experiments were not well done, and that you no longer have the right to say that what one has reported is not possible to you.
These conditions seem follies to unbelievers; but I repeat to you that they are indispensable, and that if you are resolved to sacrifice six weeks to inform yourself and to secure your opinion, it is necessary, during those six weeks, to disregard all of your prejudices, all your previous opinions and to be obedient to what I am going to prescribe to you. Do not argue; after six weeks you will reason you as you wish, and you decide for yourself from what you will have seen.
If the testimonies that I have cited to you have not made any impressions on you, if you seek only to prove that all that one has said is false, you will do nothing, you will see nothing.
I suppose then you, are not convinced, but in a state of doubt, and desiring to enlighten yourself, wishing even that the means, that I report to you to be useful to your fellows, not be a chimera; and I am going to give you the principles and teach you the explanation.
Active will toward good;
Firm belief in its power;
Entire confidence in employing it.
The will depends on you.
The belief you have not yet, but you can put your soul in the state where it will be as if you believe. It suffices you for this to discard doubts, to desire success, and to act with simplicity and without distraction. You surely will produce some effects, and the first effects that you will see will realize this belief and will birth confidence.
Momentarily forget all your knowledge of physics and metaphysics; send away from your mind the objections which may present themselves; think only of doing good to the patient that you touch. The faith which one has spoken so is not essential in itself: it is not the principle of action of magnetism; it is only necessary for the magnetizer, as a motive that determines him to make use of a faculty of which he is naturally gifted, and whose existence is independent of his opinion.
As for the will, put yourself to make the efforts: if you desire to do good, the will will have enough energy by itself. Be calm and patient: do not divert your attention: think of what you do, without worrying about what will result from it. Imagine that it is in your power to take the bad with the hand and throw it aside.
In choosing patients, you will avoid the charge of those affected with nerve diseases, and of those who have disgusting diseases; because one must be animated with great zeal to show no reluctance to touch the latter and be already exercised in the practice of magnetism not to be found troubled with the others, if it happens that they have some nervous crises. Do not charge yourself either with a patient attacked very serious chronic diseases, very old and very complicated, unless you are sure of the power to continue to give your care to him, in the case where treatment should be extended several months on.
If a patient presented with a recently acquired acute illness, touch him without fear: it is in this case that magnetism produces the quickest and most remarkable effects. But guard yourself well of delaying for it the aid of medicine: success is uncertain, you will be exposed to the most cruel regrets: try before one has had time to give remedies, and you easily will judge the conduct that you must consider.
Do not magnetize in the presence of witnesses, and especially in the presence of curious: have only with you a person who takes interest in the patient and who does not bother you. If you magnetize a mother, she can be with her daughter or her husband, daughter, mother or father; a young man, his brother or friend, etc. But exclude any other witness, so your attention is not diverted. Also have care that the person admitted to the first meeting be the same who assists at others.
If it happens that you get sensible effects from the first session, do not press the point by rendering account; do not make up lots of questions, content yourself with seeing and continuing to act. If you produce sleep, wait until the patient wakes himself, use during half an hour suitable methods to direct the action, either from head to feet, or on the site of pain. Then not to tire you, be content with holding him with the thumbs, or laying the hand on the knees, occupying yourself with him without any restraint of mind.
When you see the patient sleeping well, you can speak only loud enough to be heard: Do you sleep? Or, how do you feel? If he does not awaken and does not hear you, you will let him sleep, and you will repeat the question a quarter hour later and slightly louder.
If the patient answers without waking, either by signs, or by talking, then he is probably in somnambulism. You simply will ask him: You do well? How long do you sleep? When will it be necessary to magnetize you again? Do you see your illness?
Guard yourself well to push matters further: it is enough for the first times. You will return the next day at the same hour, or hour that has been given you, and you will take all possible precautions so that the patient absolutely does not know what has happened. You do not even say anything to your friends: it is necessary to wait until you have seen several effects before allowing yourself to talk. I will address below of the direction of sleepwalkers.
If your patient only feels the heat or the cold, or the sensation of fluid flowing over him like water, or numbness in the feet or drowsiness, you will let nature take its course, and you will see if in the following sessions these effects do not take on more intensity.
If by chance the patient experienced some nervous crises, because it can happen the first time, try to calm him by magnetizing softly and from a distance, with the will, not increasing the effects to see strange phenomena, but to relieve the patient. Direct the hand from the head to the feet, which reduces the violence of crises, and especially do not frighten yourself, call no one, and do not cross the course of nature by foreign means. Be calm; remember the precepts given by magnetizers, and that the interruption of crises can often be dangerous.
This is because these cases can present that which is useful, to have received some instructions before magnetizing. Wise magnetizers can give you such, and you will have also found them in the works of men Puységur and Tardy, and in relations of cures effected in Strasbourg.
I advise you not to have recourse to the chain, to the baquet and other means used in the Mesmer school: I believe these accessory means are not needed when one only treats only one or two patients. In some circumstances, I have seen good effects of the chain; but other times I have seen disadvantages. I will make some observations on the subject by talking about various processes. However, you could try to make a chain, if you were sure to gather eight or ten people from the countryside who surrender to the confidence that you would inspire in them. Perhaps it would produce some singular and unexpected effects; but these phenomena would be much more difficult to analyze and to observe than those you will have obtained by acting on a single individual.
Among the patients that you will have touched, attach to him who will have appeared to you more sensitive to magnetism, and follow him attentively. If there occurs something that you do not believe necessary to give up, you can follow both at the same time, and without putting them together.
When you will have spent six weeks doing experiments, which suppose that you will have been able to test as many as twelve patient, if you have obtained no effect, and you have the certainty of having acted in good faith, and in fulfilling exactly the conditions I have prescribed for you, then you have the right to regard all the magnetizers as visionaries.
It is not that it is not possible to attempt twelve experiments without success; but the thing is so beyond probability that any magnetizer like me will think that this test is more than sufficient.
For the rest, it is not necessary to try magnetism on healthy individuals; because, among these, nine tenths are very little sensitive to the action of magnetism, or even not at all.
If the people you will magnetize feel absolutely nothing after three sessions, you can leave them to try on others; because it is more common that the effects announce themselves in this interval in those who are susceptible.
However, in certain local diseases, the action may be better felt much later, and finally be curative.
Thus, in the treatment that I of a gland in the breast, I saw the person I magnetized did not experience any effect at first; it was only the thirtieth day she felt a burning heat, followed by local inflammation. This crisis lasted three days, after which the gland was found diminished. From that moment, magnetism continued to produce a very keen heat, and the gland melted away gradually, three months later, it had entirely disappeared, and the person who was affected since has enjoyed the best health.
You ask, one will say to me, that during six weeks, one renounces all his habits, that he isolates himself in some way from the world, that he sacrifices two or three hours a day to a difficult occupation to examine a phenomenon that many enlightened men look upon as an illusion; you want that during those six weeks, one dominates his imagination to the point of believing at the same time he doubts. Is there not a simpler and surer way? There are, according to you, good men who deliver themselves to the practice of magnetism; would I not ask one of them to show me some extraordinary and decisive facts? for example, a sleepwalker. When I will have seen this fact, I will be convinced; I then will be able to repeat the experiments; and, according to your principles, the conviction that I will have acquired will render the success easier and more certain.
I agree that this method is more convenient; but if you want to take it, here is what will happen to you:
1º You will hardly find a wise magnetizer who consents to let you see a somnambulist.
2º You will hardly find somnambulists who consent to being seen.
3º It is very possible that your presence annoys the sleepwalker, that he is not disposed, or that by any other cause, you see almost nothing of what you wanted to see.
4º Assuming that one shows you a somnambulist, and he is well disposed, the phenomena will amaze you, but they will not convince you. If even that which you see persuades you for the moment, this impression will soon be erased: you will suspect perhaps that the magnetizer has sought to lead you to his opinion, that the somnambulist was not asleep; you will find all possible explanations to disabuse yourself of an alleged illusion. It is not enough to have seen two or three times to be justified in believing: the conviction can only result of a series of facts and the correlation between these facts.
Finally, when you will tell what has surprised you, one will look at you as a visionary, and you will be cited among so many examples of clever people who have been fooled, you will end up thinking that you could be also. This suspicion will take much force, if the magnetizer to whom you will be sent happens to be one of those enthusiasts who exaggerates the wonderful effects; you will find that he does not uphold all that he has promised, that he attributes to an occult cause that which can be explained naturally; you will strike objections, and your confidence will be forever destroyed.
If, instead of showing you somnambulism or showing you simple effects, you will assign them either to the imagination, or to chance, or to nature: and each reflection that you make will destroy more and more of the simplicity absolutely necessary to render it capable of being seen well.
When, on the contrary, you have yourself produced effects for a month, you will have acquired the certainty of their reality; if, for example, by magnetizing, you simply obtain sleep, you will be sure that this sleep is not, as one says, an effect of boredom, since you constantly will be producing it in the same way, and each time in a shorter moment. You will know well that you have not acted on the imagination of your patients, that they have no interest in deceiving you, that they are not educated enough of the effects that almost always are produced by magnetism to cause them seeming to experience. If you are fortunate enough to encounter somnambulism, you can be assured of the reality of this state by a host of observations; and if you act by your will, it will be impossible to deceive yourself on the concordance of the effects produced with those you have wanted to happen.
If you relieve a patient, you will see if that relief is a result of processes of which you make use; and he will be indifferent to your conviction as to that healing, if it occurs, due to nature or magnetism. The least effects, by the degrees that one observes between them, become proofs to the one who acts himself. For example, if you magnetize a man from the country, and as the hand moves down from head to the feet you ask him if he feels something, he will tell you first that he feels nothing at all: after some time, half an hour perhaps, he will tell you, I feel your hand like a hot iron; shortly after, I feel as though hot water ran down my legs in front of your hand. You are sure that a man from the country is completely unaware that this sensation is one of the most common that magnetism produces, and that he will not imagine it, if by your questions you do have not indicated so. It is seen that I cite here the slightest effects: and yet it is sufficient proof to those who produce it frequently and in the same way.
It is the same of several other very common effects, which are as nothing to a spectator. So a man you magnetize tells you that he has dim eyes, that it feels like sand there, that he can open them, that he has his head charged; you pass hands along the length of the legs, as far as the end of the feet, and this slumber ceases; you move your fingers across, before the eyes, and they open without trouble: if your patient is unaware of the processes of magnetism, he cannot expect this result. All these things are nothing, nothing at all for a spectator. The change of the pulse during magnetism has appeared sometimes to surprise the physicians; but one can attribute it to rest, or anxiety, or believe it accidental: it is only for the one who has observed this change a large number of times that it can be numbered with the proofs.
Finally all the extraordinary phenomena of which one renders us witnesses can be explained as the moves of jugglers and charlatans, and the enemies of magnetism explain in this manner: but when one himself magnetizes, one is sure of the effects, sees the flow of it, one appreciates the circumstances, and one will not delude himself about the cause that produces them. The only means of being convinced infallibly is then to be resolved by making oneself experiments with simplicity, with abandon, and in silence.
I have told you that the sojourn in the countryside was favorable to the success of the experiments. If you are obliged to remain in the city, then only make the trial of magnetism on people who have not heard it spoken of, who have confidence in you, and who are not in a sufficiently superior state as yours that you to be bothered with them. If you magnetize someone who watches you, and whose opinion interests you, the fear of not succeeding will disturb your action, and it is likely that you will have little success.
Especially avoid magnetizing women who have only a slight discomfort, and people who want to try magnetism for curiosity and to know if they will feel something. If you magnetize one of your friends, it must be to render service to him, in the case where he desires or it, and where he promises you not to speak of it, unless it be after his healing. In a word, if something inspires in you fear or impatience, you will act not, and day by day you will become unable to act.
Physicians have all possible facilities to experiments, either in hospitals or in isolated patients. They can be magnetize without being doubted under the pretext of studying the state of the patient or of making some frictions. They are quite sure to be enlightened; but it is necessary to act with simplicity, and that they expect to have multiplied the tests before reasoning about the effects they will have produced.
I have just given the means to be convinced. They are infallible, they are within reach of everyone; it suffices to follow exactly the path I've drawn. I have asked for six weeks; but if one sincerely wants, if one is served by circumstances, it can be that one reaches his goal from the early days.
There are individuals gifted with great magnetic force who instantly act on other very susceptible, naturally individuals in rapport with them; and one has seen people who had never magnetized produce on the first time very remarkable effects: but this is rare; and I have had to indicate such conditions, that after having carried them out, one was right to deny the law of magnetism, if one had not succeeded.
The persons to whom the proofs that I have gathered would inspire confidence can try magnetism within their families; but it is necessary to wait for the opportunity to be presented, and not wonder about the futility of some attempts. Let one act with simplicity, that one does not seek to solve a problem, nor to see strange phenomena, that one is occupied only to relieve sick relatives or friends, and sooner or later one will be rewarded for his care.
In indicating the conditions necessary to magnetize I have advanced in relation to the subordination of belief, the will, a principle on which it seems to me useful to insist. This principle, which is the consequence of facts, has not been positively stated by some of those who have written on magnetism; and this omission on their part, leaving in the doctrine something mystical in it, has given place to strong objections, and has diverted many people from making suitable experiments to enlighten them.
One has presented belief as a preliminary quality; one has even reduced the precepts to these two words, believe and will. This is not correct.
First, it is not believe and will, but will and believe that it is necessary to say. The will is essential, since one cannot make use of his faculties unless he so wishes. But there are a thousand examples of people who have produced effects before believing. If it was otherwise, an unbeliever could never be convinced by his own experience.
M. Puységur himself teaches us after following the course in which M. Mesmer had exposed his doctrine to a hundred students, he did not yet believe, and the most part of his companions of study did not believe more than he. However, as soon as they wished to try, they succeeded beyond their expectations.
I well know that the one who doubts does not produce effects as energetic as if he believes, because doubt diverts attention, and opposes the natural exercise of the will, and because the care that one takes to examine results prevents sole occupation with the necessary means to obtain them. But when one acts the best that he can, the action is always sensible enough to bring conviction.
In the final analysis, the precepts on magnetism can be reduced to these:
Touch patients carefully with the will to do them good, and that this will not be distracted by any other idea. *
* Among magnetizers, the word toucher is employed equally to describe contact and the approach of the hand at small bare distance.)
Discussions on means to be convinced may also be reduced to this maxim:
Will, and you will believe.
Now, in supposing that a man be convinced, I am going to indicate to him the course that he must take in respect to unbelievers; this is a result of what I just said.
When you have seen extraordinary facts, if you recount them to those who have not seen the like, they will not believe you, and they will believe you less if those facts are most extraordinary. Content yourself to simply say that you are persuaded that magnetism has an action; engage some patients to try it; invite those who want to be informed and settle their opinion to magnetize themselves; teach them the principles and processes, and direct them in the practice. Instead of announcing to them great effects, make it so that they see much more than they hoped to see.
Beware of showing sleepwalkers to people who do not believe: you will not convince them in this way, and you will expose yourself to the greatest unpleasantness, and much inconvenience for your somnambulists.
If you let yourself be carried away by the desire to show amazing phenomena, here is what will happen to you.
First it is very possible that the day when you would announce a phenomenon all your experiments fail, short, 1º because your sleepwalker will be found ill-disposed; 2º because desire that you have to produce striking effects will divert your attention and will prevent you from having this freedom, this simplicity, this confidence necessary for success; 3º because your somnambulist may be upset by the presence of foreigners; 4º because the presence of the malevolent, the same as the unbelievers, trouble the sleepwalkers, diverts the course of their sensations and of their ideas, sometimes irritate nerves, and almost always oppose successful experiences; 5º because your spectators, or at least some of them, not feeling the importance of the conditions that you require, do not satisfy them, and make it impossible to see well, by the same precautions that they would take to examine better.
Now I imagine that experiments are successful. One seeks to explain the effects by other causes; one will doubt the good faith of your somnambulists; one will attribute many things to their imagination; one believe you fooled; perhaps one will think that by the fear of being in default, you are looking to give a wonderful appearance to things that are not; one will not specifically say that you want to deceive; but rather say that you are deluding yourself, that you are an enthusiast; one will find nothing surprising in the phenomena that astonish you; one ends up complaining to you, if one considers the gravity of your character, and by mocking you, if you have not already inspired a lot of consideration.
If in the number of those who have seen the effects, someone is convinced, that conviction will not last long: soon it will be said that one has seen strange things of which one knows nothing, and one ends up not thinking about it, and by regarding all this as an amusing spectacle.
A somnambulist will have spoken of a disease, one will find that which he has said errors of anatomy or physiology; will have indicated a remedy, one will say that it is a popular remedy; he will have divined some illness, one will say that it is by chance; he will have obeyed an act of will of the magnetizer, one will say that, if it was not agreed ahead, at least he has seized his intention by the gesture or some other circumstances; will he function, will he avoid obstacles having closed eyes, one will say that he still sees, had he even a blindfold over his eyes; and if one of the questions that one has put to him, there is found one in ten to which he has responded poorly, that will be enough that one pays no attention to the others.
The best somnambulists are limited in their faculties; they only clearly see their state, they only judge according to the sensations they experience, they only reason as well as they focus their attention on a small number of objects; when one tires them, they become confused and wander. When they recognize that one observes them, when one presses them to respond, they speak without reflection, because they are not free from vanity, and they do not want to appear as ignoring what they are asked.
Follow the story of magnetism, consult experienced magnetizers, and you will see that they are always repented of having shown extraordinary phenomena to people who were not already convinced.
There is no point of malice in those who have made testimony of facts; it is that they have wanted to make their experiments on somnambulists, as they would on the magnet or on electrical machinery; yet somnambulists are animate beings, of an extreme mobility, and that the slightest annoyance can disrupt.
Unbelievers have also reason to doubt what they see in passing. One might be exposed to adopt any kind of dreams, if one did not take the greatest precautions, if one did not bring the greatest confidence into the examination of the facts. There is always more to bet for a lie than for a miracle, as has been well said; so, when one tells us a fact which appears miraculous us, we were not wrong to think first that is false.
Add that the men engaged in the study of science, and especially those who have gained a great reputation, experience the distance to examine facts which appear contrary to their received opinions. They are afraid of being taken for fools and of being compromised: this will not deter them from bearing witness to the truth; but this makes them extremely suspicious, and prevents them from bringing into the observation of phenomena that are opposed to their ideas, the dispositions necessary for them to see.
In general, educated men, especially scholars, become more difficult magnetizers; once convinced, they are the strongest advocates of truth, and very proper to present themselves free from all errors; but the first step is for them very difficult, because it costs them a lot to ignore their ideas and just listen to nature, instead of making efforts to reduce the phenomena to the laws of physics. This is why one finds more magnetizers among less educated men than among those who have risen to high knowledge. These latter also fear losing time; and it is with difficulty that they determine themselves to sacrifice a few hours to examine what is told them by men who are inferior in their knowledge and mental force. These are simple people, strangers to all spirit of system, of a right spirit and without pretension, who are the most disposed to adopt truths of a order foreign to those they already know.
I have traced the route by which isolated individuals will arrive to fix their opinion on magnetism; I would be embarrassed if I were asked the way to convince so a learned society. This needs explanation; because it is far from my thought to suppose that such a society would not seek the truth in good faith.
So I imagine that a learned society appoints commissioners to examine the effects of magnetism; I have no doubt that they, animated with the desire to respond to the trust shown them, only make efforts to inform themselves, but is it that what will happen? Instead of acting with confidence and simplicity, and taking note of the effects to compare them with each other, they will seek to do experiments, to vary the thousand ways to discover the cause of an alleged illusion; their attention will be divided, their will will be without energy, and they will only produce, for this reason, uncertain effects that will increase their doubts instead of dispelling them. Moreover one does not give faith.
The one who seeks to see for himself already has a beginning of belief, and this disposition is conducive to success. Those who are charged to see for others think that it is essential at first to have neither belief nor confidence, and that one should only indulge his feelings after seeing unmistakable effects. Warned of this idea, upright and honest men neglect the most necessary conditions and by practicing the processes of magnetism, will be able to see nothing at all, or at least see nothing convincing enough that they dare to communicate it to others. *
* In any science of which the theory is not well known or can not meet the success of an experiment, because one can not be sure that the default of a condition one does not know what will make it fail: whence it follows that a negative experience proves nothing. I am going to make myself better understood by an example.
I imagine that when Franklin made his discoveries on electricity in America, one was not yet occupied in Europe, and that one of those men who show physics experiments as a spectacle had brought from Philadelphia an electric machine, and had announced their effects; all the curious who would have gone to his house would have told such wonderful phenomena that the savants would not wanted to believe it; but finally the thing would have made so much noise that it would be decided to examine it.
Now I imagine that the commissioners appointed by a learned society had asked our physicist to a special session and that the latter, although very clever at running his machine, was unaware of the power that the points have to extract the electric fluid. There our scholars are gathered at his house. One of them happens to find himself having at hand an instrument of iron sharpened to a point, and places it on a table a few inches from the conductor.
The physicist moves the plate; it does make the chain; he tries to charge the Leyden jar, to ignite combustible substances, to sound a chime and to dance little figures, etc.: nothing succeeds for him; the savants may see some effects, but so weak compared to those that one had been promised them, that they disdain to look for the cause. They withdraw and leave our physicist in despair. That one begins again, and the effects take place. He can only imagine, perhaps he suspects that there are individuals whose presence are opposed to the properties of the machine, and I leave to think what account the scientists will render of the discovery, and how it must take time to bring back the minds.
Pardon me this little fable; it is like the story of what must have happened often to those who have wanted to show the phenomena of magnetism to unbelievers, and even of what happened when the commissioners went to examine the magnetism of M. d’Eslon. [End Note]
From this it follows that belief in magnetism can only spread in the same way as the vaccine in medicine, or Galvanism in physics; it requires that the general belief be induced by one of a host of individuals who, successively and in various places in silence will look to operate the good, and will find, in the satisfaction that they will have produced, with sufficient grounds for instigating others to try the same means.
On the magnetic fluid and the means by which magnetism acts.
According to Mesmer, magnetism is the movement imparted to the universal fluid, which is the means of reciprocal influence between all the bodies of nature.
The existence of a fluid that fills space and penetrates the body can not be doubted; the house knows nothing about its nature nor its action.
Is it the same as light? Is it unique and variously modified by the channels through which traverse it? Is it composed of several different fluids? Electricity, caloric, mineral magnetism, the nervous fluid, etc., are they modifications of it? Can it be accumulated, condensed, reflected? Is it subject to the law of gravity? What is its movement, and what causes direction of this movement? We do not know, and we will perhaps never know.
In examining the theory of M. Mesmer, the question was not whether there is a medium spread in all of nature, but if there exists a modification in this fluid, or a particular fluid, of which man can become master to direct at will. M. Mesmer assured it: but it must agreed be that he has not given sufficient proofs; these proofs only can only be established on the facts; and when he published his discovery, these facts were not yet known.
It is to the magnetic somnambulists that we owe all the notions that we have acquired on this fluid: one still does not know if there is a modification of the universal fluid; but one can hardly doubt its existence.
Most somnambulists see a luminous and brilliant fluid surrounding their magnetizer, and exiting with more force from his head and hands. They have told recognized that man can at will accumulate this fluid, direct and impregnate various substances. Many see it not only while they are in somnambulism, but then a few minutes after being wakened: for them it has an agreeable odor, and communicates a particular taste to water and to food.
Some people perceive this fluid when one magnetizes them, although they are not in somnambulism; I even have encountered one who perceived while magnetizing: but such cases are extremely rare.
Most somnambulists distinguish different qualities in the fluid of various individuals: they claim that it is less luminous, thicker, slower in people of poor health; they sometimes regard it as very unhealthy, and they advise to be rid of it, or to cause it to be cleared by others, after having magnetized certain patients. For the same reason, they experience great reluctance to touch, clothing a garment or a handkerchief that was carried by a person attacked with an internal disease, because of the bad fluid with which these objects are imbued.
They believe that this fluid may be concentrated in a reservoir, that it exists in the trees, and that the will of the magnetizer, aided with a gesture of a hand gesture repeated several times in the same direction, directs it and imprints on it a definite movement.
It also appears that the action of the magnetizer, when he magnetizes a tree, or when he makes a chain, puts this fluid in circulation, whatever be the cause, almost like a spark ignites a pile of combustible material, and that the fluid that the magnetizer accumulates does not emanate only from him.
The rods of steel or glass in elongated cone, lying in the hand of the magnetizer, serves as conductor of the fluid. All bodies are not equally good conductors; there is even that which communicates a poor quality of fluid flowing through them: this is copper.
This fluid is not the electric fluid: or if both are modifications of the universal fluid, they are completely different modifications; as most of somnambulists have antipathy for electricity.
As I have obtained this information from all the somnambulists I consulted, and as in all countries magnetizers have obtained the same, I am forced to admit the existence of the magnetic fluid, and to recognize that we have ways to communicate it, to build it and direct it; so I do not hesitate to use the word of fluid in speaking of the processes and of the action of magnetism. If, however, some people wished to attribute this action to another cause, this would not prevent the processes from still producing the same effects. A simple theory and that no facts upset, is useful to fix ideas; but it is not necessary to act.
Most people that are magnetized feel an impression of heat or cold when passing the hand before them without touching, and even through clothing; and one can hardly doubt that this sensation is produced by the passage of the fluid.
Several experiments seem to show that the magnetic fluid is reflected by mirrors, which indicate some analogy with light: but the property that it has to cross opaque bodies shows that this analogy is not exact.
Although it is very difficult to explain how the magnetic fluid can act from one apartment to another, most magnetizers are convinced of it. I myself have done experiments which tend to prove it. However this phenomenon being of the number of those which appear inconceivable to me, I invite magnetizers to examine it anew, and to only believe it after having observed by their own experience the facts which seem to establish it.
For the rest, light and sound carry themselves to very large distances without one being able to conceive in the motive which sends a large enough force to push them quickly even to cross bodies. That the light is an emanation of luminous bodies, or a shock impressed in the ether, it is not easier to understand how the brilliance of a coal or a candle is instantly perceived at a great distance to traverse through transparent bodies, or how light of a star reaches unto us.
Perhaps the phenomena that we refuse to believe because we have not observed them they are no more incomprehensible than others which do not surprise us because we see them every day.
One will object no doubt that the existence of the magnetic fluid, either as a modification of the universal fluid, or as a particular fluid, can be recognized without one having the right to conclude that man has the ability to impress this fluid in a determined direction, and to use then, to act on his fellows, a substance that escapes all senses.
I agree that it is impossible to establish by reasoning that man is endowed with this faculty; but it is a question of fact which is resolved by the experience. All magnetizers direct the magnetic fluid by their will, aided by some movements: thus the will push the fluid. What is the reason? I know nothing at all. It is a primitive fact; and a primitive fact may well be observed, recorded; it can never be explained. Can we conceive better how an act of our will causes us to make our arms move? How an idea that awakens in our mind gives us the strength to perform various movements? This is due to the communication of the soul with the body, a phenomenon all physiologists have recognized inexplicable.
But there is a great analogy between this phenomenon and the one that produces the action of magnetism; and although I do not pretend that this is the same thing, I ask permission to make this analogy heard.
When I have the will to perform an action, I send to my external organs the necessary force to execute it. This force goes from my brain, which is the organ of thought; and it is certainly my will which sends it, moderates it and directs it.
I say that I send the quantity of necessary force, and this has need to be clarified. I suppose that one places two covered vessels before me, and that one asks me to lift them successively, warning me that one is empty and the other is filled with mercury; I suppose then that one is deceiving by designating me the two vases, and that one indicated to me as empty the one is full, here is what will happen.
In carrying the hand to the handle of the vase that is full and that I believe is empty, I have judged that this vessel could weigh a pound, and I have sent from my brain to my hand enough force to lift this weight. Also I feel a resistance, I will not raise the vase, and I make a second act of will to send to my arm the necessary strength.
If, to the contrary, I first lay the hand on the empty vase that I believe to contain mercury, and of which I have valued the weight to be fifty pounds, I send fifty pounds of force to my hand, and it is found that I raise the vase all the way up that my arm that can rise by giving it a jerk, because there is an excess of forty-nine pounds of force.
If I ignore the weight of the vases, I fumble, and I send little by little the force required to raise them.
It is thus clear that by my will, I send from my brain to my hands a quantity of greater or lesser strength. This force will appear very considerable, if one notices that our arm is a lever difficult to move. It is, however, limited, and its intensity is not the same in different individuals.
When I magnetize, I just do precisely the same thing: I send by my will the fluid to the end of my hands, I impress it, by the same desire, in a direction, and this fluid communicates its movement to that of the patient. Nothing prevents me from directing it; but there can be found in the individual on which I act an obstacle to the effects that I want to happen: then I feel more or less resistance, as when I use my strength to lift too heavy a burden. This resistance can even be invincible.
The magnetic fluid escapes continually from us: it forms around our body an atmosphere, having no specific current, having no sensible effect on the individuals who surround us; but when our will pushes and directs it, it is moved with all the force that we impress upon it: it is moved like the light rays sent from burning bodies.
The principle that puts it the action is in our soul like the one which sends the force to our arms, and is of the same nature.
This does not prevent this fluid, like electricity and the magnet, being subject to laws of attraction, of repulsion and of affinity, which we are not known to us. In crossing certain bodies, it is charged with their emanations; but the weight of the body is not decreased significantly, any more than it is by the fragrant fumes.
The phenomena observed in magnetism seem to depend on two causes, namely: the action of the will, and that of the fluid, which is the instrument used by the will.
This principle admitted, all these phenomena are explained by the same law.
Let us pause a moment to consider the modifications to that law.
We said that there was necessary, in order to magnetize, active will towards good, belief in its power, confidence in using it.
Let us first explain why the direction of the will toward the good is essential. I do not know if one can will evil with the same force as good: it is useless to examine this issue here; it suffices to observe that if my will tended to evil to the one on which I wished to act, it would be rejected by him as soon as he would feel the action of it. *
* One has sometimes seen people who, in magnetizing, in order to do an experiment, or to make a joke, have acted strongly on other very susceptible persons; but the result of this action has always been to bring trouble into the nervous system.
Belief is necessary, because the one who does not believe in the possibility of producing an effect can not employ his force to produce it naturally and constantly.
The same reasoning applies to confidence: without it one gets fatigued, and one acts in a weak way. An active will also supposes a sustained attention; for, without attention, one can not constantly and uniformly direct his will toward the same end.
Let us now say a word on the instrument by which the will acts, and of the use of this instrument.
When one wants to magnetize, it is first necessary to establish the rapport by contact: here is the reason. In order that the fluid which flows from me to act on that of the man that I magnetize, it is necessary for the two fluids to be united, that they have the same tone of movement. If I touch with will and with attention, and the one on whom I want to act is in a passive state or of inaction, it will be my fluid that will determine the movement of his. There passes something similar to what takes place between a magnetic iron and one which is not: when one passes several times and in the same direction one on the other, the first one communicates to the other his movement or his virtue. This is not an explanation, but a comparison.
The rapport is more or less long to establish, according as there is naturally more or less of analogy between the two fluids, according as the one which the magnetizer exerts its action on a being which is more or less weak relative to him, and who, by his physical and moral dispositions, opposes him more or less of resistance.
The action is not felt on a robust individual, because then the fluid does not experience any obstacle in its circulation, and nature does not have need of a superabundance of forces.
The processes tend to carry the fluid on this or that part; and this fluid acts all the more, as it is carried on a more sensitive organ. Hence the difference of the effects produced by the various processes; hence also the disadvantage of magnetizing without having received any kind of instruction. I will come back to this object.
The effects produced by magnetism are solely due to nature, of which the action is reinforced in the magnetized by the action of the magnetizer. These effects are similar to those which take place spontaneously in the crises of some diseases; they differ only in that they are subjected to a regular march. They do not always appear in relation to the cause which produces them; but one knows that, in organized beings, the slightest commotion suffices to operate, under certain circumstances, the most astonishing revolutions.
Once the nerves are watered with a certain quantity of fluid, they acquire a susceptibility of which we have no idea in the ordinary state.
Consider the magnetized individual as like playing some part of his magnetizer, and you will no longer be astonished that the will of that one will acting upon him and determine his movements.
That is all I can say about the principle of magnetic action and the influence of the will.
This explanation will appear perhaps hypothetical. I propose it while waiting better, because it seems to me to proper to fix the ideas, and that it is in accord with the results known until now. I will not discuss the objections which one may oppose to it; it would be distracting attention from the essential object. Those who wish to be convinced that they have the faculty of relieving their fellows, and to be instructed in the means of exercising this faculty, have no need of theory: it suffices to them to observe the facts. They will not magnetize for long without perceiving that the effects of magnetism depend on the strength of their will. I now am going to indicate the processes which serve to guide properly this action.
Processes used in Magnetism.
One distinguishes three schools relative to the doctrine of magnetism: that of Mesmer, that of M. de Puységur, and that of the spiritualists. These three schools differ for theory and for processes. One can compare them to the three main schools of philosophy. That of Mesmer is based on a system analogous to that of Epicurus, as it is exposed in the beautiful verses of Lucretius: that of the spiritualists, which has had many supporters in Lyon, Prussia and Germany, recalls Platonic philosophy: that of M. de Puységur is solely based on observation.
M. Mesmer admits the existence of a universal fluid, which fills space, and which is the means of communication between all bodies: he admits, like Epicurus, a subtle matter, emanations, etc.
The spiritualists believe that all phenomena are produced by the soul, and that physical action is almost useless.
M. de Puységur recognizes a physical action, in which the soul intervenes by the power of the will, and by practices which experience alone has made known to us.
These three schools are not enemies; they are not even rivals, as the schools of philosophy have been: in all three, despite the diversity of theory and methods, the same result is achieved.
M. Mesmer, according to his theory, has given principles which make magnetism a peculiar art: he sees poles in the human body; in the fluid, currents that one can reinforce and direct; in diseases a lack of harmony or an obstacle to the circulation of the fluid; in crises, a means of healing: he believes that this fluid can be accumulated, concentrated; that it is reflected by the mirrors, reinforced and propagated by sound; and according to this theory he subjects the practice of magnetism to regular processes, the use of which requires a preliminary education.
The spiritualists claim that everything depends on the will: after having established a rapport to determine and fix their attention, they believe that they no longer need to touch. They act by thought, by intention, by prayer, etc.
M. de Puységur employs touch: he varies the processes according to the circumstances; it admits neither the theory of the poles nor that of the action of the planets; he recognizes the power of the will; but he believes that to direct the action of this will, it is necessary to act physically on the sick, and even on the sick parts. *
* From what I have just said, it must not be concluded that M. de Puységur wished to make a system; he never thought so. He contented himself with exposing successively the opinions were suggested to him by the facts; and it is only after his practice and that of his pupils that one can judge his theory.
One senses well that there are many magnetisers who, without being specially attached to one of these schools, take something from each of them: but it is in the three classes that I have just indicated that one can rank all those who adopt a certain theory.
I do not pretend to decide between these three schools; but, if it be necessary to say my feeling, I confess that I rank with the number of the disciples of M. de Puységur. The theory of M. Mesmer is obscure; it seems to me contrary to the principles received in physics, and I think it is subject to many objections. I agree that a universal fluid is the cause of the greatest phenomena of nature; I consent that one equates this fluid to light; but, in admitting this supposition, one can not conceive better how man has the power to direct this fluid and to act there at great distances? What relation can there be between the reciprocal influence of the stars and the influence of man on his fellow man? M. Mesmer establishes poles in the human body: so be it ; but he says that one can change these poles at will: then, how does one recognize these poles? if they are not fixed, is it not as if there were none?
As for the spiritualists, I do not understand their theory: it seems to me to hold to an illusion; and although I do not doubt the immateriality of the soul, I do not think less that it is only by physical means that we can act upon organized bodies.
For the rest, I have already said that the magnetizers arrive gradually at the same result, whatever their theory. M. Mesmer and the spiritualists of Lyons have also cured and make somnambulists: but I believe that M. Mesmer prescribes processes which are by no means necessary, and that the system of spiritualists leads to errors; while, in that of M. de Puységur, the processes are simple, and everything rests on a first fact, doubtless incomprehensible, but established by observation and experience, and of which it is useless to seek the explanation.
However, in ranking myself among the disciples of M. de Puységur, in recognizing the correctness of his principles, I am not entirely of his opinion as to the most agreeable manner in which to direct the action of magnetism.
M. de Puységur does not appear to place any importance on the choice of methods; he thinks that it suffices to touch a patient or to present his hand before him to produce the most salutary effects, and that one naturally carries his hand over the part that suffers. I know of what weight must be the opinion of a man who has practiced magnetism for so long and so successfully; however, it is impossible for me to share it. I have for myself my own experience, the instructions of all the sleepwalkers whom I have consulted, the advice given by the somnambulists of Strasburg, by those of M. Tardy, and even by several of those of M. de Puységur.
All have indicated processes, which were different according to the circumstances. M. de Puységur fears that in giving a theory of processes one should not make magnetism an art, and that one should not lead us to believe that these processes by themselves have an efficacy independent of the will towards good. This would doubtless be a mistake; but because processes are a secondary thing, a means of directing an agent without which they would produce nothing, it does not follow that they can not have a particular influence. M. de Puységur has paid less attention to it, because of a great habit, of coming to him with a kind of instinct, directs him in practice, and because the influence of his intention is such that it wins over everything. But, in general, I think that those who magnetize patients without achieving somnambulism who must make a choice in the procedures they use. Even if a theory of processes serves only to fix the attention, it would still be useful.
The advice I am going to give is therefore the result of my own experience and the facts I have collected; and if I am mistaken, either by admitting the theory of M. de Puységur, or by making some modifications to this theory, there can result no inconvenience in practice.
Are you near a sick person whom you wish to relieve, place yourself opposite him, so that your knees and feet touch his. Take his thumbs, and stay in this situation until you feel your thumbs; and his have the same degree of heat *.
* I do not know why the action of magnetism is better communicated by thumbs than in any other way: it is a fact known to experience.
Then put your hands on his shoulders; leave them there for two or three minutes, and go down the arms to get back to the thumbs; repeat this maneuver three or four times. Then place both hands on the stomach, so that your thumbs are placed on the solar plexus, and the other fingers on the sides. When you feel a communication of heat, descend the hands down to the knees, then return them over the head, to bring them back to the knees, or even to the feet, and continue in the same manner, with the precaution of diverting your hands every time you come back to the head.
This precaution of never magnetizing upwards, and spreading the hands before bringing them back to the head, has seemed to me to be always essential in the processes.
I must explain here some expressions that are used by the magnetizers, and that I will use myself. To put oneself in contact is to touch the first time, and with the consent of the person that one touches *;
* I do not believe that it is possible to put oneself in rapport with someone who does not want it: from which it follows that one can not magnetize someone in spite of himself. But when rapport is well established, somnambulism has been easily produced several days in a row, it suffices to renew it that the magnetizer approaches and that he exercises his will. If the one on whom this kind of ascendancy has resisted the action, he will delay it without preventing it, and he will do himself harm. The rapport is weakened gradually by measure as one ceases to be occupied with the person that one had magnetized. It lasts more or less long, according as it is more or less strong, more or less old. The will of the magnetizer is sometimes necessary in order to break it.
to establish the rapport between two persons, it suffices to touch each other at one and the same time. The name of pass is given to the action of passing the hand over the body or over a part of the body. When one conducts the hands from the top of the head along the arms to the fingertips, or on the body to the ends of the feet, this practice is called magnetizing, with great currents. I believe that magnetism with great currents can do no harm; and that is why I advise to employ it first, while waiting for the circumstances to indicate the utility of some other process.
Let us return. Make your passes distinct from each other. Instead of going as far as the feet, which is inconvenient, you can stop at the knees; but, in this case, it is necessary, before finishing, to make several passes along the legs and feet. Touch lightly and slowly, putting your hand about two inches apart in front of the face, and first applying it on the clothing. Do not use any muscular force to direct the action of magnetism. Put in your movements ease and flexibility. Your hand should not be tense; on the contrary, your fingers must be slightly bent, because it is mainly through the tips of the fingers that the fluids escape. Continue to magnetize for about three quarters of an hour. As it is essential that the attention is never diverted, a longer session may tire you. Never have uncertainty in your processes; do not worry about the effects; act with confidence, with abandon; do not make any effort of attention or will; indulge only in the feeling of pity, in the desire to do good. If your patient feels pain in one part, hold your hand for a short time, and come down as if to bring on this pain. If he has headaches, you will often dispel them by lowering your hands from head to toe and by making repeated passes on the legs *.
* One will find in this chapter some things that I have already said, in speaking of mean to convince oneself. I think I ought to repeat them in order to bring together in a single article everything relating to processes.
By finishing the session, you always will have care to extend the magnetism over the whole body to establish balance.
I have counseled to employ magnetism with great currents first; here is the reason. It sometimes happens that the concentrated action on the stomach or on the head is too strong, and that it can stir a crisis of nature. It is especially among very sensitive women that this can happen, and you will see some examples in the papers of Mr. Tardy. I well know that this kind of magnetism produces more striking effects; but it is sufficient that it can be detrimental in certain cases for it to be employed with care. As for men, I do not think that the application of the hand on the stomach can harm them; and one can be employ it to establish rapport, and even to charge the patient with the quantity of fluid which he needs.
Once the rapport is well established, touching is no longer necessary. Often even the action of distant magnetism is calmer and more salutary than that produced by immediate touching. A man of my acquaintance was lately invited to touch a young man who suffered violent pains in the head and in the chest: he held his hands over his head and his stomach for half an hour; and seeing that he increased the suffering, he ceased. Half an hour later he wanted to try magnetizing without touching; he presented his hand a few inches away; and as he was still producing painful sensations, he went off to the distance of two feet. Then the young man stopped suffering, and five minutes later he closed his eyes and fell asleep in magnetic sleep.
The position I have indicated to magnetize is the most favorable to action; it is much more so than that the gaze of the magnetizer produces much effect, if not the first day, at least after a few sessions.But this position is not always possible and often it is not suitable.
Thus one can not stand in relation to a patient who is in bed: one then places oneself next to him, in the most convenient manner. One takes the thumbs, we put our hands on the shoulders, one puts the hands on the stomach, one descends from head to toe. One can only use one hand, and one acts all the same.
I have said that the position face-to-face was not always suitable; thus, when one wishes to magnetize a young woman, one would be embarrassed to find oneself placed opposite her; one feels that she herself would feel it too. In this case, one simply sits down at the side, one puts the two hands in opposition, one on the stomach, the other behind the back; one then makes the passes only with the right hand, or in descending both hands in opposition.
In the practice of magnetism, one can not take too much precaution not to injure decency, and to avoid any process which could alarm modesty.
I have said enough about general procedures. One will learn more by reading the works of MM. de Puységur and Tardy, and especially by experience.
There is then a host of special processes that are applicable depending on the circumstances. My experience has taught me that these processes are not indifferent. The magnetizer often divines them by the sensations that the patient feels, sometimes the patient indicates them himself. It would be too long to give details; I will, however, expose some of them.
The application of the hand is always suitable for an obstruction which one wishes to dissolve; there is never any problem in this case in concentrating the action on the obstructed organ. The fingers are often pointed, and one turns the hand to excite a movement: one goes down from time to time to determine a current downwards.
In the same case, I wish to say in that of obstructions and of engorgements, a very active process is that of blowing warmly on the sick part. One puts for this a white handkerchief on top of the clothes, one puts his mouth on it, and one passes his breath through it. This produces a lively heat, which at first is a simple mechanical heat, but when it becomes magnetic, is much more active and more penetrating. The same means succeeds in the stomach ills produced by atony.
I have employed this procedure in the treatment of the glands in the breast, in blowing through a small cotton mattress that I placed on the robe above the gland. The first days I produced only a gentle warmth; but then it became so lively that the patient could only bear it for a few moments. You burn me, she said. This process is sometimes too active; but one perceives it will; besides, one only employs in cases where it is considered necessary, because it is tiring for the magnetizer.
In migraines, I have observed that sometimes one did ill by stopping on the head, and that one cured them by putting the hands on the stomach, then on the knees, and then making a large number passes on the legs to the end of the feet.
When the blood is carried to the head, these passes, repeated on the legs, are a means of disengaging it.
If, by magnetizing, one has overloaded the head, one is sure to rid it by blowing air cold and from afar.This process often succeeds in the case where there is a lot of heat at the head.
If a headache is the result of a blow, one holds the hand for a long enough time on the head to concentrate the action, and then descends the hand several times, to draw down the blood and the humors. It is necessary to act all the more strongly and for a longer time, when the blow is older. In order to relieve or cure the sore eyes one puts a finger on the temple, and one turns the thumbs on the eyes.This process sometimes produces a lively heat in the eye. It would be harmful in the case of inflammation.
When the order of circulation is disturbed in women, or when they have colic, one makes this disorder cease by holding hands on the knees, and making passes along the legs. This effect takes place very rapidly when rapport is once established. In the case of which I have just spoken, it is necessary to avoid putting a hand on the stomach for a long time. *
* I recently magnetized a lady whose health had been disturbed for three months. After four sessions, each one hour, she found herself cured. She did not warn me the same day, and I continued the next day in the same manner. Seven or eight days later, I learned that she had a very different anxiety about her health. I proposed to magnetize her again; she told me no, because the remedy had acted too much. I assured her that she had nothing to fear. Before long I had held the hand on the knees, while descending down my legs. This time I contented myself with laying the hand on the stomach, and the symptoms which alarmed her were calmed the very same day. I cite this fact to prove that the difference of processes may have produced a great deal in the action of magnetism.
I have remarked, finally, that when there is a local pain, produced by a suppression of perspiration, it is advantageous to hold the hand for a long time on the suffering part, descending at intervals, and stopping a little at the joints. For example, it happened to me twenty times, in magnetizing someone who had a pain in the shoulder, to bring down the pain little by little: it stopped at the joints; finally, when it reached the hands, it is completely dissipated by a very sensible perspiration. This sweating in the hands, as a result of the passes along the arms is a very ordinary effect.
Some magnetizers use the action of the head to strengthen that of the hands, by presenting the head to the patient's stomach, or by pressing it on his own; but this process is tiring.
One often calms kidney pains by passing the hand behind the back. For that, one places oneself by the side: sometimes also one passes both hands behind the back under the arms, and one draws as far as the knees. This means often calms pains in women.
I will not say more about the particular processes that are performed only with the hand; but I have some general advice to give on the use of magnetism: this advice is of great importance. I must also add some observations on the accessory means which can help the action of magnetism.
When one magnetizes, if one obtains a crisis of some kind, never interrupt it, because an interrupted crisis can do the greatest harm. If the patient has fallen asleep, wait until he awakens, and do not allow him to be touched by those who have not been put in rapport with him. *
* If a person not in rapport suddenly awakens someone sleeping in magnetic sleep, it may cause him convulsions, of which the access is renewed for several days. This accident, to which one exposes oneself when one consents to magnetize before unbelievers, is all the more dangerous than even those who denied that magnetism would have produced sleep, attributing convulsions to magnetism and not to their imprudence, and hastening to dismiss the magnetizer, who alone could calm them down.
Often little-practiced magnetizers make efforts of will: they charge the head and the stomach strongly to produce more effect; they thus stun the patient. These means must be carefully avoided. It is necessary to magnetize with patience, with calm, with a united movement, and to let nature act.
It is necessary, as far as possible, that the sessions given to the sick should be held at the same time.
When it is realized that magnetism has a very definite action, it is advisable not to interrupt the treatment without precaution, and to do nothing which can be contrary to it. The magnetizer and the magnetized must avoid, during the duration of the treatment, all that can cause lively emotions and disturb the peaceful march of nature; in a word, all that can disturb the peace of the soul and produce a shock in the nervous system.
When one has been fortunate enough to obtain somnambulism, one has no longer any embarrassment over the processes; but one has other precautions to take. I will speak more below of these precautions, the conduct of the somnambulists before bing the object of a separate article.
I am going now to make known the various practices by which we strengthen the action of magnetism.
In his first treatments, M. Mesmer made much use of the chain, of the tub, of magnetized trees, and of music. I must say my opinion on these three auxiliary means. M. Mesmer is not the only one who has employed them; they have sometimes been used in the school of M. de Puységur.
These means are not without efficacy; but they have disadvantages: it is only necessary to have recourse to them when there are several patients to be treated at once. When a magnetizer is charged with only one patient, he has no need of it; his force is sufficient for him, and finding himself alone, he directs his action better.
Let us first explain what the chain is, and show the advantages and the disadvantages.
When several patients are united in the same place with all well-intentioned persons, all well disposed in favor of magnetism, one arranges these people in a circle, so that they touch by the knees and by the feet. They then hold each other by the thumbs: several magnetizers even engage them to tighten the thumb of their neighbor on the left, when their neighbor on the right has made the same movement; which, establishes a measure and fixes the attention. The magnetizer places himself at first in the chain with the others: if there are several magnetizers, one of them must be the leader, and all the others must be subordinate to him. After a quarter of an hour the magnetism is in circulation, the movement of the fluid accelerates; all patients feel the action of magnetism, all have effects: often even some effects are felt by those who are not patients.
Then the chief of treatment breaks off from the chain, which tightens, and he magnetizes successively all those who compose it; he then attaches himself to the patient who needs him most, and he charges the other magnetizers to direct the fluid to those entrusted to them. This meeting of several people greatly increases the action of magnetism, and this action continues when the magnetizer rests himself. Several slight discomforts are cured by the chain without any other help; and the quantity of fluid in which the patients are watered, sometimes makes them somnambulists. If it is essential to admit to the chain only people who have confidence in magnetism, it is not less to ever divert attention from the goal one proposes.
I think duty to cite here an anecdote which proves that indifferent means in themselves can in certain circumstances produce good effects.
I magnetized in a little town a woman who, for the last seven years, suffered terrible pains; I will not enter into any detail on this treatment, nor on the success I had the happiness of obtaining. I only want to talk about the practice I followed.
When I went to meet her at seven o'clock in the evening, men and women who came from making their day, either in the country or in the city, met at her house: they were usually ten or twelve, and all carried interest in her. When they had formed the chain, I said to them: “My friends, pray to God for the sick.” Then they began to say the rosary; this prayer produced a meeting of intention, which was followed by the best effects. Many times I have seen someone in the chain stop responding and fall asleep; and in this case I have always recognized that this sleep was the result of an indisposition.
I do not scorn any religious practice; but I think it duty to excuse myself from responding to the bad jokers who might believe that I imagined that the rosary was a means of healing.
I have exposed the benefits of the chain; here are the disadvantages.
It is difficult, especially in the cities, to compose a chain of people who are only occupied with healing themselves or others: and the incredulous, the people who seek to criticize, especially the ill-intentioned people, disturb the effects. It is also difficult to obtain silence, or that one be maintained only on the condition of the patients and the means of relieving them. Among the persons who present themselves, there can be found those who have ills which are communicated, and I think that it would be imprudent to admit them to the chain. It is necessary then to known in advance those who one admits there.
If, among the persons who form the chain, there is found someone sufficiently sensitive that the action of magnetism produces these nervous crises in her, these crises will disturb the other patients; they can even be contagious. So when one perceives such effects, it is necessary at once to withdraw the patient from the chain, to calm him apart. It would have been better not to be exposed to the inconvenience that this causes.
The baquet is a means of the same kind as the chain. *
* Everyone knows that the name of a bucket was given to a box of round wood, containing crushed glass, iron filings, and bottles filled with magnetized water, arranged symmetrically. This box was lined with movable conductors to direct the fluid.
There can be no doubt that the fluid concentrates in it, and that when it is concentrated, one does not direct it by the aid of conductors. The virtue communicated in the baquet is felt in the absence of the magnetizer; they maintain and renew themselves more or less like the virtue of the magnet. The meeting of several patients around the tub has the same advantages and the same inconveniences as the meeting in the chain. There are however some differences. The chain is more efficacious because of the meeting of intention: the tub presents less dangers for the communication of the diseases, because the patients do not touch immediately. A small baquet or magnetic reservoir can be used in isolated treatments for a single patient. It often works when the patient is already saturated with fluid.
Magnetized trees are preferable to the baquet: one can not disagree. that of all the means employed to strengthen the action of magnetism, it is the most powerful and the most salutary; not that it is proved that trees have any virtue of their own, but because many people gathering around and in the open air, they put in circulation a great quantity of fluid, which takes the direction and the tone of motion that the magnetizer has imprinted in that of the tree. It is under trees that one has seen the most astonishing effects at Busancy, at Beaubourg, at Bayonne, etc. Unfortunately this means, which is apparent, can hardly be employed until the belief in magnetism will become general, and this time may be very remote. For the rest, one can not make use of magnetized trees until the fair season, and when the time is fine: their use also requires some of the precautions I have spoken for the chain.
Music was used by M. Mesmer to put his patients in a state of calm, to give them agreeable sensations, and to dispose them thus to receive the action of magnetism. It contributed, moreover, to establish in the assembly a uniformity of movement, and to support attention. I do not know to what extent she can act as conductor of magnetism; but there is no doubt that the song of the magnetizer, or the sound of a wind instrument which he plays himself, produces no effect. For the rest, this means acts on the nerves, and in my particular system everything that acts on the nerves, even in the most gentle manner, must be employed with great care.
From what I have just said, one sees that help can be aided with the assistance the chain, the tub, and magnetized trees offer; but that they must be employed only when one has many patients to treat at once, and when one finds oneself in favorable circumstances.
In the school of M. Mesmer one used wands of iron or of glass, of which it is necessary to say a word. These sticks, about a foot long, well polished and rounded at both ends, are half an inch in diameter on the side which is held in the hand, and is terminated in a mossy point, a line and a half of diameter at the other end. They can be used to direct the fluid with which they gather the rays; but they are not necessary; pointed fingers produce about the same effect. Monsieur de Puységur makes no use of them; they have the inconvenience of presenting to the eyes of those who are magnetized something singular in the processes, which must always be avoided. I had used it first, and thought it my duty to give it up. It appears from several experiments that a magnetized bottle, which one holds in the hand by the base, to present its end to the patient, also strengthens the action.
There are other means of employing magnetism which produce much effect, and of which the utility is recognized by all magnetizers, without exception. They must never be neglected, and I will expose them, although I can not explain how they act.
I have said that the magnetizer could accumulate the magnetic fluid in the bodies he touched; it is certain that various bodies are more or less charged with it. The one which charges the most is the water; and it is always necessary to make patients treated by magnetism drink magnetized water.
This water produces surprising effects: I have seen more than twenty times in succession a patient be purged seven or eight times a day, without any colic, by drinking a bottle of magnetized water; and I assured myself, by comparative experiments, that it was the magnetized water which produced this effect.
One judges well that it only purged this way because it facilitated a crisis to which nature was disposed, and which was necessary. The same water would have produced an opposite effect by fortifying the stomach and by giving tone to the intestines, if the patient had had relaxation. It is not that this water can be rendered at will tonic or refreshing, or astringent, or purgative: if the magnetizers said such absurdities, it would be right to mock them.
Magnetized water has the advantage that it can not hurt, that it passes easily, and that the patients drink it with pleasure.
Ordinarily, this water acts only on patients who have been magnetized for a few days, and who are already penetrated with the fluid. Often they find in it a particular taste, and that is pleasant to them. I have seen magnetized water act in a very sensible manner upon persons who had been only once in the chain; others have seen it too, but this is rare.
The magnetic fluid often communicates to food substances and remedies a quality they did not have. So there are several examples of people who could not bear milk, and in whom it went well when it was magnetized.
I will say a word about how to magnetize the water, because I have been embarrassed on this point before having had instructions from my somnambulists.
To magnetize a bottle of water, it suffices to hold it with one hand and put the other hand from top to bottom and always in the same direction for two or three minutes. One can also put the bottle on the knee, rest its head on it and magnetize it with both hands. This done, one raises it by holding it by the neck, and with the other hand one gathers the fluid towards the base. To magnetize a glass of water, it is sufficient to hold it in one hand, and to carry over the other hand, bringing the fingers a dozen times in a row, as if to introduce the fluid. The breath sent on it two or three times finishes charging it; but this process is not necessary. In order for the fluid to enter the water, it is always with attention and will that it must be directed. Water can only take a certain amount of fluid; when it is saturated, it does not receive any more.
This is how I am assured of this fact. A somnambulist, seeing me magnetize a bottle of water, says to me after two or three minutes, “What are you doing there? Do not you see that the bottle does not take any more.” This water appeared luminous as long as she was in somnambulism; when she was awake, she found it a pleasant thing, which she compared to that of champagne.
Here is that more singular, but not less certain. Other bodies may be charged with fluid enough to renew the effects that the hand of the magnetizer would produce. I believe that the body that has this property the most is glass. I have seen people whom I magnetized, and who had crises of pain, calming them at once, by applying on the suffering part a plate of thick glass which I had well magnetized and which I had enveloped with a cloth. I repeated this observation often enough to have no doubt.
Of all the experiments I have made of this kind, here is the one of which the result astonished me the most. A patient had a cold all night long which prevented her from sleeping; I thought to put at her feet, in her bed, a bottle full of water and well magnetized: at the end of an hour, this bottle produced much heat and a very abundant perspiration at the feet.
This means succeeds for me several times. But one must not conclude that it must succeed in all cases. I have tried it on other patients, and the bottle has increased the cold, as it should have done if it had not been magnetized.
I must say one more word about the process that I employ to magnetize glass plates and other similar bodies. I enclose them with both hands between my thumb and forefinger, then I bring these two fingers together, and when they are together I bring them back to the center, and I repeat from ten to thirty times this pass, according as the body is more or less bulky. This process may not be better than another. It holds to the theory of the poles; it was in use in the school of M. Mesmer; and I had adopted it when I learned to magnetize. I have not tried another since, because it has always succeeded for me.
One magnetizes the same with a baquet, charging it with fluid, and establishing a current in it, by repeated movements always in the same direction.
A tree is magnetized by touching it at first, then moving away a few steps, and directing the fluid on it, from branches toward the trunk, and trunk towards the roots.
For the rest, in whatever manner the fluid is directed at a body, one always reaches to charge it. Good weather, bright and serene weather is more favorable to magnetism than nebulous and cold weather.
Magnetism has more force when the sun is on the horizon; it has much more in summer than in winter. The magnetizer renews his fluid and purifies it by walking in the open air and the sun. I do not believe, however, that there is a way to handle fluid at will, at least I have never known this means, and I have never felt the need.
I have already warned that stormy weather, charged with electricity, is contrary to magnetism; thus it is necessary to avoid magnetizing in the time of storms. All the people that I have put to sleep in these circumstances complained when they awoke that they had a taste of sulfur in their mouths.
I have said that several somnambulists claim that by magnetizing someone who is very ill one is imbued with a bad fluid, and that they counsel to be rid of it. The means that one employs for this is consists in making passes with the hands a dozen times on the arms by another magnetizer, who shakes the fingers after each pass. I doubt that this is necessary; but it costs nothing to take this precaution. When I magnetize, I have the habit of shaking my fingers and of passing my hands from time to time one over the other, as if to remove the foreign fluid that I could have taken. I do not know, though, if this is really helpful.
I do not need to warn that, to magnetize well, it is necessary to put yourself, as much as one can, in a convenient position, and be neither too hot nor too cold. When one is cold, one acts with difficulty; when one is too hot, one gets tired. *
* It is proved by several experiments that; the magnetic fluid is variously modified by the substances it passes through. One claims that certain substances oppose an obstacle to its passage, and that silk is of this number. I am sure that a silk garment can not prevent action, and that it will not isolate magnetism as it isolates electricity. But if it is true that it can diminish the effects, it should be avoided. I therefore counsel magnetizers to urge their patients not to wear silk clothing during the session of magnetism.
When one wants to be replaced by another magnetizer, it it suitable to take precautions. First it is necessary to magnetize well, to be put in rapport. It is necessary to try if it is good for the patient; because often a patient, accustomed to the fluid of a person, is inconvenienced by the fluid of another who has no similarity with the first. Some magnetizers can substitute themselves, others can not.
When one replaces a magnetizer for only a few sessions, one must act according to his method and principles, and regard oneself as the instrument of his will.
The difference in force between the magnetizers.
Those who have been in contact with a great number of magnetists can not doubt that there are individuals endowed with the faculty of magnetizing to a much greater degree than others. One has found few magnetizers like M. Mesmer, Messieurs de Puységur, and Father Hervier; but I do not know whether there are men entirely deprived of this faculty. M. Mesmer has said that he had met some, although very rarely, who were not only in this case, but whose presence destroyed the effects. I do not know what he meant by this negative quality: I do not believe that his observation is exact; I can at least assure that no one of my acquaintance has ever met any of these individuals. I am all the more surprised that M. Mesmer has put forward this opinion, that he had to anticipate that it would be considered as destined to serve him as an excuse in the event that his experiments did not succeed.
It is none the less true that there is a huge difference between magnetizers; that some have frequently produced sleepwalking, while others have made a great number of attempts without obtaining this phenomenon; that somnambulists to whom various magnetizers are presented, recognize in themselves different degrees of force, that they are even by whom they would not wish to be touched, because they dread the violence of their action.
It would be necessary that the theory of magnetism be better known in order to be able to give reason for this difference of power which certainly exists between the magnetizers. I can only present on this object conjectures; they are the result of my experience and of my reflections, and they appear to me to be bound to the principles which I have established, in speaking of the means by which magnetism acts.
I believe that the causes of this difference come,
1º From the force of the will;
2° From the capacity of attention;
3º From the direction of the will;
4º From belief;
5° From confidence in his power, which is a result of belief;
6º Benevolence and intention;
7º Physical constitution and health.
Let us return:
1º To have an energetic will, it does not suffice to say to oneself I want, it is necessary that this will parts naturally from the soul; that it is borne of a keen desire for success, that it be troubled by no obstacle;
2º It is necessary that attention be free of constraint and of efforts; that it is not be distracted by anything, and that it cause no fatigue;
3º The direction of the will must be constant, uniform, tranquil. It is necessary in this direction that there must is never anything vague and uncertain; that one does not seek to produce curious phenomena, but only to do good, by seconding the efforts of nature;
4º Belief gives the force to conquer obstacles, it supports the will, it prevents anxiety;
5º Confidence in his power is a result of this belief; there is no doubt that it increases the force, or rather the means of making use of it, and that it gives more energy to the will;
6º As for intention, the magnetizer produces salutary effects only insofar as he is penetrated with a feeling of benevolence, with a tender interest for the patient, with a sincere and disinterested desire to do good to him: this is the result of this gentle, peaceful, uniform action, which is felt little by little, and calms the pains. This phenomenon is probably difficult to explain, but it is recognized by all those who have magnetized. I think that this benevolent intention makes the fluid escape without effort and take a proper direction. It is certain that one does little good when one acts out of curiosity, and as one seeks only to produce singular effects. In general, those who have a calm mind, a tender and sensitive soul, are much better magnetizers than those who have a lively and strong imagination;
7º As to the physical constitution, it is certain that a man of a weak temperament can not magnetize with the same energy as a robust man who exercises his faculties without experiencing fatigue.
Magnetism is a communication of vital forces; and these forces are much less in an infirm man and in an old man than in a healthy and vigorous man.
There are between men differences, which are at once physical and moral, and have a prodigious influence on their magnetic power.
Some are of a firm, active, pronounced character; others are soft, indolent, uncertain.
Some have a sensibility easy to move, others are moved by nothing.
Some are extremely lively, others are cold and quiet.
Finally, there are those who desire energy, others who are desperate for it.
The best magnetizer is one who has a robust temperament, a character at once firm and tranquil, the seed of lively passions without being subjugated by them, a strong will without enthusiasm, activity combined with patience, the faculty to concentrate his attention without effort, and which in magnetizing is occupied only with what he does.
These men are not very common, and that is why good magnetizers are hard to find.
But one must not conclude that men who do not have all the qualities of which I have spoken can not magnetize with success. If they do not produce such remarkable effects, they always produce enough to convince themselves and to do good: they have only to desire.
In reading the history of the first treatments made by magnetism, one sees there healings which hold prodigy by the promptness and intensity of the effects, and are rejected as fabulous. I dare assure you that most are not: similar effects are renewed still, but they are rarer; and I am going to say the reason for it, although I am well aware that this reason will be admitted only by those who are already persuaded of the reality of these effects.
During first attempts at magnetism, the sight of new and unexpected phenomena produced an excessive enthusiasm. This enthusiasm, dangerous, moreover, gave a boundless confidence, a lively faith; and magnetizers, without any effort, made use of all their faculties, of all their power. They were also seconded by the subjects who surrendered to them with complete abandonment. They succeeded, because they believed, that they willed, and that nothing seemed to them difficult.
Today, this faith, this confidence is much rarer. The greater part of those who magnetize have a kind of fear of not succeeding: I have experienced it a hundred times. I am quite convinced of the reality of the agent, but in spite of myself I doubt my power, and this doubt weakens my action. There are days when I act more strongly, and it is always when I magnetize with the most abandon and confidence. I also have perceived that my force increases when I have produced a salutary effect.
The diminution of confidence does not prevent us from doing good, but one does less; and it is essential to warn of it, so that one is not surprised at not producing at first effects similar to those which one finds in the books of the well-recorded narratives. Also, when I invited to do experiments, I am well guarded from announcing that we would see wonders; I have only promised that he who would fulfill the necessary conditions should have sufficient effects to be assured of the reality of magnetism: it is gradually that one will then be convinced of his power.
One has asked whether the force of magnetizers does not increase as they make use of it; I do not know. But it is certain that a long exercise in magnetism gives more confidence, more facility to employ the processes, more discernment in the choice of these processes; and consequently, if not more power, at least more means of making use of the one of which one is naturally endowed; and that, all things being equal otherwise, the practiced magnetizer has an advantage over the one who is not.
Besides the force proper to each man, and dependent on the causes indicated above, he is still a relative force. All somnambulists agree in recognizing a difference in the fluid of the various individuals, and a more or less great analogy between the various fluids; all say that such a magnetizer is more capable of acting on one patient than on another, and that he even encounters them who, by the quality of their fluid, are more apt to cure certain diseases. It is at least an incontestable thing that there exists between a some persons a natural rapport which renders the action more prompt and easier. It is only through his own experience that one can enlighten oneself on this object. It suffices to know that any well-intentioned man can do more or less good. If someone is found, in some cases, having too much force, he is always the master of moderating his action.
The difference of sex has no influence, neither direct nor relative, on the magnetic power. Women magnetize just as well as men, they even make good sleepwalkers. Their action is generally milder, but it is none the less salutary. When they have confidence, one can be sure that they will magnetize their sick children with more success than the most trained magnetizer can do. In general, they should be preferred to magnetize persons of their sex.
On the influence that the confidence of the patients
can have on the efficiency of the magnetic treatment.
It is an opinion generally spread among those who have heard of magnetism, and who have not reflected on the theory, that, in order to experience its effects, one must have faith: this opinion is not founded.
Faith is necessary to the magnetizer, without it he will act in a feeble way; but it is not necessary to the one who is magnetized. If that one felt any effect, so long as he is persuaded in advance that he is going to feel it, one could attribute these effects to imagination.
However, the absolute incredulity of the magnetized can repel the action of the magnetizer, annoy it, delay it, and oppose the effects for a longer or shorter time.
This is one of the reasons for which one acts more surely on people in the country than men of the world, who only want to lend themselves to an experiment. It is also the reason why it is prudent not to propose the test of magnetism except to persons who are in a state sufficiently suffering that, in trying, without believing it, they abandon themselves with the desire that the means be that one proposed them are is not a chimera.
Among the absolutely incredulous men that I have tried to magnetize, I have met many one whom I could not produce any effect. Perhaps did it hold to the fear of not succeeding which disturbed my confidence, distracted my attention, and prevented the natural exercise of my will; but perhaps the incredulity of the patient repulsed my action.
From the numerous observations I have made on this object, here is that of which I am persuaded.
Confidence is without doubt a favorable disposition in the one magnetized; but for him to experience all the effects of which he is susceptible, it suffices him to be inactive, and not to try to examine whether he feels anything or not, to let himself go, to not to oppose the will of his magnetizer, to not speak to him of things which would divert his attention, to think of nothing.
That the magnetized be incredulous, if in the moment when one magnetizes him, he does not seek to put his magnetizer at fault, if he does not inspire him any misgiving, after some time the action will be established, and it will ordinarily produce a situation which I would compare readily to that which precedes sleep, in which one has vague ideas without caring for anything, without boredom, and without perceiving duration.
I have remarked in general that when magnetism acts, the magnetized is not bored; one magnetizes him for an hour without him experiencing impatience; and this effect takes place on persons who would feel a great deal of it being motionless for an hour on a chair, if one did not magnetize them.This observation is especially striking in children.
When one magnetizes someone who is defeated by suffering, his incredulity does not oppose effects, because then he is not occupied to prove to you that you are not acting, he is rather looking if it would not be possible for you to do good. For the rest, I have magnetized many very incredulous persons, who have promptly experienced effects; and I conclude that belief is not necessary to experience them, but that it favors them and that it contributes to their efficacy; as it often contributes, according to the confession of physician, to the efficacy of the remedies of medicine.
Of the application of Magnetism to the cure of diseases.
Most of the works published on magnetism give a very exaggerated idea of its action and its efficacy. It is not that the stories they contain are false, but one has only chosen the history of extraordinary cures and singular phenomena. One would believe, on reading them, that a great number of those that one magnetizes become somnambulists, while true somnambulism is very rare. One would think that magnetism cures all diseases, unless they are the result of the lesion of an essential organ, such as the heart or the lung, and it is an error. The surprising relations that one hastens to give to the public should have been examined by physicians initiated in the practice of magnetism, and communicated only to the magnetizers, who, already convinced of the existence of the agent that they employ, want to be instructed from everything it can operate.
They are more apt to weaken than to fortify the belief of those who seek to educate themselves: first, because the marvelous inspires from distance every wise mind; later, because most of those who make trials, not obtaining the phenomena that one has described, judge themselves incapable of producing them, and even suspect that those who believe that they know them are fooled by an illusion.
Among the patients who submit to magnetic treatment, several are found gradually relieved or cured without having experienced anything that demonstrates action. A twentieth or so become somnambulists; but among these, there is scarcely one in five who attain this degree of clairvoyance, of which there are so many descriptions in the works of Messieurs de Puységur and Tardy, and in the memoirs of the society of Strasburg.
Out of more than three hundred person whom I have magnetized, or whose treatment with which I have cooperated, I have hardly met a dozen somnambulists who have presented curious phenomena to me. In truth I have seen a much greater number of them, but in passing, and between the hands of magnetizers of whom I knew little: and that these would have surprised me much more than they would have convinced me if I had not myself.
One has done much wrong to magnetism by announcing it as an effective remedy in all diseases. These outrageous claims are equally opposed by reasoning and observation. Sometimes magnetism produces no effect; at other times it produces apparent effects, without resulting in anything for the good of the patient; often it relieves without healing; often it produces crises which may be disturbing, and of which one does not see the utility; often, finally, it heals radically, but after a very long treatment and which has required a lot of constancy. I know that one sometimes operates prompt and even instant cures. It is when it suffices to give a new impulse to determine a crisis to which nature was disposed.
We will not speak of somnambulism in this chapter; it is a subject that must be treated separately. We are going to cast a quick look at the effects that magnetism produces most commonly, considering them first of all as physical effects which prove an action, then as curative means: we shall then see what precautions the treatment of diseases by magnetism require.
As I am going to speak from my own experiences, it is possible that on many things I do not find accord with other magnetizers, more fortunate or more skillful than me. But it will not result in contradiction; only I will have promised less than they, I will have been more timid. It will be a good thing that those whom I will have engaged to test obtain more marked successes than those which I will have announced to them.
When one magnetizes a patient suffering from a chronic disease, which however is not the result of a defect of organization or the injury of an essential organ, here is what happens frequently.
In the first quarter of an hour the patient feels nothing at all; if one passes the hand in front of his face at the distance of two inches, he experiences no impression, but after a quarter of an hour or half an hour the hand of the magnetizer produces on him a feeling heat or cold, more usually heat, so much so that it seems that a slightly hot iron passes in front of the face. When one magnetizes a second time, the sensation, which at first occurred only after half an hour, is renewed in a shorter time. It is all the more prompt, and all the more intense, as the rapport is better established.
When one passes the hand along the arms or legs, the impression of heat or of cold is not felt only under the hand; it precedes.
Very often the patient feels drowsy, his eyes overloaded, his head heavy, though this does not bother him. Very often still, if one has led the hand only to the legs, without going to the end of the feet, the legs become numb. When, after one hour of magnetism, one descends the hand down the legs to the end of the feet, the drowsiness ceases, the head is cleared, and the numbness of the legs is dissipated.
The application of the hand to the stomach sometimes makes one feel a weight, sometimes heat, and this effect ceases the same by extending the action.
The pulse almost always undergoes a change when one is magnetizes: it becomes higher, more lively, and more regular.
If there are some pains caused by a suppressed perspiration, it is very usual to see during the session a sensible perspiration to be established at the feet or at the hands.
Usually enough the patient is in a state of rest, and does not perceive the length of time during which one magnetizes him. Often he falls into a light sleep, that the slightest noise can interrupt. Often he can scarcely open his eyes, and this symptom ceases as soon as one passes the fingers in front of the eyes.
To be assured of the reality of these effects, it is necessary, not to ask the patient if he feels them, a question which could indicate the answer; but to let him explain himself what he feels.
The agitation produced by a nervous irritation or even by fevers opposed to the action of magnetism, and especially to sleep, it is expedient to choose the moments when the patient is the most calm.
The effects I have just described suffice to convince the one who produces them that there is an action: but they are little things, and one frequently sees them in the much more sensitive.
Sometimes it is a profound sleep which takes place suddenly, which lasts an hour or more, and which is repeated at each session, until the patient is cured: sometimes it is a vital heat or a strong oppression. Sometimes magnetism carries on the nerves and causes spasms which it is necessary to calm; sometimes it also produces a feeling of well-being. The patients who have obstructions ordinarily feel in the obstructed organ a lively heat, or a pain which they have not experienced. In some cases, putting a hand on the head, one causes a pain that dissipates as soon as one passes the hand along the legs.
It often happens that magnetism awakens an old pain, and which one has not been felt for several years. It is always a proof that the cause of the ill is not entirely destroyed.
Women who are magnetized almost always experience an acceleration of periodic troubles in the beginning; and however this acceleration may be due to chance, the same effect has appeared so often, that one can not refrain from attributing it to magnetism.
One is sure to have many of these phenomena in the first week when one makes tests in the country; but if these effects prove an action, they in no way prove that this action is curative.
The proof that magnetism cures many diseases can only result from the comparison of observations. But the one who has read the numerous printed reports, if he is once convinced of the existence of the agent, can not revoke in doubt its efficacy; and I think it is more necessary to warn magnetizers against enthusiasm than to try to prove to them that magnetism heals.
I then am going to try to draw the limits in which it seems to me that one must be contained today, and to express my advice on the use of magnetism as a curative means, and on the degree of confidence which one can accord it; I leave aside all the treatments in which one has obtained somnambulism: we will come back to it later.
There are acute diseases for which I would have the greatest confidence in magnetism, and for which I would have recourse to it myself before employing the means of ordinary medicine: such are the inflammatory diseases, like the inflammation of the chest. or pneumonia, laryngitis, & c. *
* I have cured laryngitis, but I have never treated chest inflammation; so it is only by conjecture that I judge that magnetism could be useful in this disease.
These maladies are usually treated by bleeding: and I am persuaded that the magnetism employed from the first moment would render bleeding unnecessary. However, I would not counsel anyone not to call the physician; I would propose only to begin by trying magnetism. If, after a treatment of two hours, one saw all the alarming symptoms disappear, one could become might stay with magnetism, beginning again after an interval of four, five or six hours; the physician would then judge whether bleeding is no longer necessary, or at least if there is no danger to defer having recourse to it.
One may object that I have considered magnetism as a tonic, and that tonics are not suitable when there is inflammation. To this I reply that, in the diseases I have mentioned, inflammation is not general, but local, and that the effect of magnetism is to restore equilibrium. A man has a laryngitis; one bleeds him to appease inflammation, and not because he has too much blood, since the day before he had the same quantity of blood and was not ill. Magnetism, by bringing back the blood to the extremities, preventing it from being carried with too much abundance to the sick part, will calm the inflammation, and perhaps will dispense with the bleeding.
I do not even want to refer to magnetism for bilious or putrid fever. One could however employ as an auxiliary, perhaps it would produce a crisis; but it would not dispense with the use of purgatives.
In adynamic fever where there is prostration of forces, and in ataxic fever where there is irregularity in their distribution, I would also wish to employ magnetism as an auxiliary; in the first case, because it gives tone and revives the forces; in the second, because it is proper to restore balance.
In gout gone to the head, chest, or stomach, I have seen prodigious effects with magnetism! I have employed it four times, the patient suffering from excruciating pain, and each time in an hour I have recalled the gout to the feet. It is true that I had magnetized this patient for another malady, that I had even made him a somnambulist, and that consequently I had a great deal of action on him.
I will not say more about the treatment of acute illnesses. To speak of them properly, and even to appreciate the cures of this kind, which are recorded in the books, it would be necessary to be instructed in medicine. When I saw a patient in a dangerous state, I never wished to employ magnetism except with the consent of the physician; and it will be really to the physicians that it will belong to advise on its usage, when they have taken the trouble to examine its effects.
Let's talk about chronic diseases now.
There are a great number which escape the power of medicine; there are some which it can not define; there are some which are perfectly known and that it can not heal. Among the latter, some end in death, after long suffering; the others do not cause death, but they render the life of the patient painful and languid.
It is principally on the latter that magnetism obtains the most success; not that it heals them either quickly or always radically, but at least it relieves them. Let us return
In chronic diseases, which physicians can not fully understand, magnetism acts by providing crises of which it is not necessary to be alarmed; because they are followed by an improvement in the state of the patient.
In well-known diseases, but that one heals with difficulty, or that one does not cure at all when they have reached a certain period, I have seen magnetism produce surprising effects. I will cite as an example the essential dropsy. I have healed three of them; I healed them radically without any other remedy, and the patients, when I undertook it, were almost judged incurable by skillful physicians who had exhausted the resources of art. I do not pretend by this that magnetism can cure all dropsy; I only say that I have cured three: two very old ones have required a very long treatment; the third, came very quickly, has been cured in less than a month. Dropsy is often the result of an organic disease, as M. Corvisart has proved in his Treatise on Heart Disease. In this case, I do not believe that magnetism can cure, no more than any other remedy would.
Episodic fevers ordinarily give way to magnetism after a few sessions. On the days of fever, it is necessary to magnetize when one begins to feel the approaches of episodes, and the other days at the same time. The first effect is to stop the shudder, then the fever weakens and ceases entirely. It is appropriate to continue a few days after it has ceased, to prevent its return.
I have employed magnetism, sometimes with success, sometimes useless for eye problems, toothaches, ear pains, deafness. These illnesses are from causes on which magnetism has no action. It is evident that it can do nothing on a cataract, a decay of the teeth, a lesion of the organ of hearing, &c. When one ignores the cause one can try. I believe that in inflammation of the eyes one must avoid local magnetism, afraid of increasing irritation; magnetism with great currents must relieve it.
I have seen a cure, in a single session, which was announced in a very grave manner. Healing took place by a remarkable crisis, though it is very frequent in magnetic treatments. The magnetizer had drawn the chest to the legs; the chest was found entirely freed; but for three days the patient had unbearable pain sin the thighs and legs. These pains would probably have been dissipated the next day, had he not been afraid of employing again the means which had excited them.
In diseases produced in women, by the suppression of the causes which maintain their health, magnetism is ordinarily followed by the best effects: the cure is more or less prompt, more or less complete, according as the disease is more or less old, according as it suffices to restore health to destroy an obstruction, to bring about an evacuation, or to remedy a general disorder. One can say the same things of most of the infirmities that are the result of spilled milk.
Abdominal obstructions due to engorgement are perhaps the diseases on which magnetism has the most efficacy; but the treatment is very long, and one often sees appearing accidents which one did not expect. It is known that, in the beginning, M. Mesmer attributed most diseases to obstructions. One had reason to reject this doctrine, which, however, he did not give as much extension as his enemies have supposed. *
* Abdominal tumors, produced by a change in the tissue of the organ, are not all fatal, but they are all incurable. Magnetism can do nothing against these kinds of tumors; I even think it dangerous. In exciting movement and sensibility in an organ in which inertia should be maintained, it can occasion a crisis which has the most unfortunate consequences. Thus, when a patient has old obstructions, it is proper to consult the physician on their nature before having recourse to magnetism. However, by avoiding to direct the action on the tumor, it will be well to try for a few days magnetism with great currents, in order to see if the patient would be disposed to become a somnambulist.
In rheumatism, sciatica, and other neuralgias, magnetism ordinarily brings healing; but it is necessary for a lot of patience, and especially as the disease is older. When the pain is fixed in a part, the first effect of magnetism is ordinarily to displace it, so it descends along the limbs and finally escapes through the extremities. This effect has been noticed by people who have other times magnetized without doubting it.
In whitlows and other ills of adventure which are not dangerous, but which make for long suffering, magnetism stops the progress of the ailment entirely. *
* I do not intend to speak of inflammations in the tendon sheath, nor of those which have their seat between the periosteum and the bone. In these, an incision is necessary.
I have used it twenty times, and always with success. I descend my hand down the arm; I conduct it to the end of the finger, as if I wanted to draw the humor out. Sometimes the pain momentarily becomes more acute; but it soon calms down, and the evil no longer increases.
In tumors that it is necessary to bring to suppuration, magnetism accelerates this crisis a great deal. If the tumor is only beginning, it sometimes operates resolution, dividing and diverting the humor.
In boils, and perhaps in cutaneous anthrax, I presume that the application of magnetism can heal promptly, provided the disease is not advanced; and I think I must report an observation that I have made on this subject.
I had two farmers in my country, aged twenty to twenty-five, and very robust. In the time of the harvest, one of them had under his cheek a boil, from which he was seriously ill. He was not yet cured, so that his brother acquired in the same place a pimple accompanied by swelling, inflammation and pain. He wanted to leave in the evening, to go to the city to consult the physician. I told him to wait until the next day, I made him sit down and I put him to sleep in a few minutes. An hour and a half after he awoke, and was greatly astonished that the pain, the swelling, and the inflammation had disappeared.
A few days later he had several pimples on his body, which did not prevent him from continuing his work. I presume that this eruption was produced by the humor I had scattered away from the cheek, and that it would not have occurred if I had magnetized several days in a row to excite transpiration or any other crisis. Although the inflammation around the boil had been entirely dissipated, the pimple remained; it blackened and detached after five or six days, like a nail six lines long.
In violent and periodical migraines, I have seen magnetism completely remove the illness after an hour; but if the disease is old, if the attacks have been renewed from time to time for several years, one must act with caution. Often, in curing migraine, one produces pains in the whole body, or an acute illness, because the affection which went regularly to the head is diverted and causes a revolution. I have two examples of these accidents: fortunately they have not had fatal consequences; but they gave me an important lesson. In this case one must magnetize a month or two after the apparent cure, to destroy the cause of the evil. I will return on this object.
I have never treated epileptics; but many experiences prove that epilepsy has often been radically cured by magnetism. Since epilepsies are produced by different causes, it is far from being possible to boast of success. The same can be said of madness and most convulsions. Those who would have to treat these diseases must consult the relations of the treatments of the same kind, so not to be afraid of crises. They require a lot of courage and dedication on the part of the magnetizer.
Magnetism employed immediately after a fall or blow, which has not caused loss of consciousness, prevents the consequences of shock and contusion: it dispenses with recourse to bleeding, and heals with surprising promptness. I have experienced it several times, and I would never hesitate to try it, unless I had recourse to other means, if it seemed insufficient.
In diseases of the chest or pulmonary phthisis in the last degree, magnetism does not cure more than medicine, but it relieves and appears to produce marvelous effects in the first moment.
This leads me to give an opinion essential to the magnetizers, especially to those who do not have much experience. In teaching them of my mistakes, I will guarantee them to fall there.
In incurable diseases it often happens that the action of magnetism produces a very happy change. The most alarming symptoms disappear, a favorable crisis announces itself, a gentle sleep renders forces, etc. then the magnetizer flatters himself to have made himself master of the illness; he gives himself up to hope: he announces the cure to relatives and friends; but soon the fatal symptoms reappear in all their intensity, magnetism has no more action, or even causes ill, and the patient succumbs to the violence of the disease.
These events cause a lot of grief to the magnetizer. To the trouble of losing a patient to whom one was attached is joined that of seeing a success lost, of which one had flattered himself. One knows very well that no harm was done; but one reproaches himself for having given rise to hopes. One passes not for a charlatan, but for a dupe; and these episodes contribute to destroying confidence in magnetism, which is bad for the future. I could cite a host of examples of this; I limit myself to two or three, taken in chronic diseases and in acute diseases.
I saw a woman at either end of a puerperal fever. The physicians had said that there were no more resources. I approach her bed with the avowal of the parents; I magnetize with all the energy of which I was capable: the patient soon slept in a peaceful sleep that lasted more than an hour: on waking she seemed better: it was six o'clock in the evening, and at midnight [the fever] no longer existed. I had done some good in procuring this hour of sleep, but I should not have had to hope for it. The same thing happened to other patients also condemned by physicians.
A lady of my acquaintance was phthisical to the last degree. The physicians had judged her incurable, and they did not believe she could live more than a month. She was tormented by a continual cough: I magnetize her by drawing much to her legs: after the first session, she was twenty-four hours without coughing, and consequently much better. The next day the action of magnetism had the same effect; but this effect only took place during a fortnight: at the end of a few days the cough was suspended only while one magnetized: finally magnetism no longer acted, and the patient perished as the physician had announcement.
I treated a lady attacked by a disease cruel and specific to her sex. For a month the effects of magnetism were miraculous: I calmed instantly the most acute pains, I gave extraordinary forces; but these effects weakened at the end of two months; the disease was aggravated; the patient even ended by fearing the action of magnetism, which irritated her nerves, and she died as a result of the most cruel pains. How sorrowful I had to lose in her a respectable person, who honored me with her friendship; but how much this sorrow has come to me more bitter by the hope that I had had of healing her. *
* This lady was treated by skilful physicians who judged her to be incurable, and who had consented that one add magnetism to the treatment they prescribed.
These examples, to which I could add many others, must not prevent the use of magnetism in desperate diseases. It is proper to have recourse to it, if the patient wishes it, either to give him relief, or because one does not know all the resources of nature: but it must be admitted by the parents and the physician. It is not necessary to take a momentary relief or a favorable crisis for a proof of cure: one must above all avoid to indulge too much in hope, and especially to make this hope pass to others.
I have already said that in many organic diseases magnetism might produce no effect. There are some in which it could be harmful, for example when it is necessary to weaken the patient instead of fortifying him, and to slow the circulation instead of accelerating it.
When there is an excessive and general irritation, excited by the action of a foreign body, as the result of poison, the magnetism increases the irritation and the pains, and would cause convulsions if one persisted employing it; but we stop at the moment when we perceive that it increases the disorder instead of calming it.
There are also cases where its tonic action can have disadvantages even on a very weak subject, I will cite an example.
A naturalist of my friends, whose death is an irreparable loss, seeing himself with resources and finding no relief in remedies, wished to try magnetism.Tonics and even exercise with the horse excited in him an irritation of which the consequences greatly weakened him. Magnetism produced the same effect, and he was obliged to renounce it after five or six days.
I do not know to what extent magnetism can be effective in scrofulous affections and in scorbutic affections. I have not seen cures of these diseases; but it will always be salutary by giving strength, by healing many evils which are joined the main affection. Moreover, some facts reported in the memoirs of the society of Strasbourg must engage to try. I do not believe that magnetism can destroy a vice in the blood or in the humors, when this vice has existed since birth, and which it is in some way inherent in the constitution.
I have seen healings, or at least a great improvement in paralysis. I will cite below, on this subject, a very curious fact.
I magnetized three persons who had a gland in their breast: two have been radically cured: in the third, the gland decreased by five-sixths; there remained a small, probably squirrous nucleus; but this nucleus has not grown or caused pain for eight years. Two persons of my acquaintance have done similar cures; and we know from a letter from M. Malzac, a physician at Castres, to M. Archbold, a physician at Bordeaux, that having consulted M. de La Mure, dean of the University of Montpellier, for a lady who had a squirrous tumor in the breast, this celebrated practitioner informed him that he had saw a similar tumor healed by magnetism, and advised him to use it. I therefore think I can recommend the use of magnetism in this disease; but I warn that if the gland is old and adherent, it requires patience.
One has much advocated magnetism in nervous diseases. These diseases can have opposite causes; they may come from atony or irritation. In the latter case I doubt that magnetism is very salutary: at least I must admit that I have never cured any disease of this kind. I have even seen that the irritation of the nerves opposes the effects of magnetism. I treated a dropsical woman and almost out of hope. To the dropsy were added very old troubles of nerves. I radically cured the dropsy and many other complicated ailments with her, but I obtained nothing on the ills of the nerves; and the days when they were very strong, I had but little action, and I could only with much difficulty produce sleep, which was no longer so tranquil. It is not the same with the spasmodic and convulsive movements of the stomach and the abdominal region. Magnetism calms them in a surprising way.
For the rest, I know that other magnetizers have healed ills of nerves, but I must say what I have seen. It follows at least that it is false that it is on the nerves that magnetism has the most efficacy.
It is a principle established by M. Mesmer, and generally adopted by magnetists, that magnetism hastens the course of diseases; but by accelerating crises, it gives the force to bear them.
I must also warn that when a patient is attacked by several complicated diseases, and of which only one has symptoms, it often happens that magnetism only affects one of these diseases, and that it is only when she is in the process of healing that others develop. This circumstance gives rise to singular crises and variations in the treatment of chronic diseases. When one of the diseases thus complicated is cured, it is much easier to master others; but it often takes a long time: and the wise magnetizer must consult himself before taking the treatment of a very grave and very old chronic disease; if he is not sure he can continue, it is better that he does not begin.
I said above that magnetism could not harm; but I have added, in taking the proper precautions. I think I have sufficiently indicated these precautions. If new experiences modify the opinions I have just given, they will certainly confirm the opinion which is the base for them, and here is the summary.
There are diseases that magnetism can not cure, either because they are incurable by their nature, or because they were not caught in time; there are some which it does not suit, and which would be aggravated if one persisted in employing it; there are in them those it relieves without curing; it is finally those it cures only with the aid of other remedies. But it is also that it cures radically and without convalescence, and among these I do not doubt that there are several which would have resisted all the aids of ordinary medicine. This suffices to use magnetism, but not to exclude medicine, which in many cases is preferable to magnetism, and which in others will do well to associate with it, and to make use of it as an auxiliary or as a suitable remedy.
Of all the phenomena which have been observed in magnetic treatments, the most astonishing, the most inconceivable is sleepwalking. The descriptions that have been given often offer incredible details. It is not necessary that this repel us; let us first be assured if this state exists, we will then discuss what is necessary to admit or reject.
The proofs I have given of the reality of magnetism can all be applied to that of somnambulism, and it is according to the principles which I have established that one must examine the relations of the phenomena presented by somnambulists. I could therefore confine myself to referring to works published by various magnetists since 1784; but these works are not in the hands of everybody; however easy it may be to procure them, one only seeks them as long as one already has a beginning of belief; to inspire the desire to read them, it is necessary to give an idea of the facts which are reported there, and to respond to some objections which divert many people from examining what seems to them at first absurd. Thus the fear of falling into repetitions must not prevent me from stopping on this object.
For nearly thirty years, since somnambulism has fixed the attention of magnetists, all have recognized its reality; most have produced it; they hastened to show it not only to their friends, but to all those that they desired to convince; and I do not fear to assure that it has been seen in France by more than fifty thousand persons.
Now it is necessary to know if the magnetizers have imposed.
If the sleepwalkers deceived us.
If this state of somnambulism is but one of the bizarre and incomprehensible effects of exalted imagination; and if those who thought themselves somnambulists, though in a singular state, did not really present any of the phenomena that one thought to notice; such as the faculty of having with eyes closed, that of hearing only their magnetizer, that of perceiving the magnetic fluid, that of knowing the cause of their present evils, and of having presentiments of their future ills.
Finally, it is necessary to find out how these phenomena can be explained, and what one must think of the explanations that have been given.
The supposition that the magnetizers have had the intention to impose through it is so contrary to the likelihood that I do not think I ought to discuss it. Suffice it to say that those of whom we have attestations have in a very great number, that they do not form a society, that there are among them very enlightened men and physicians, that many were incredulous at first, that they have seen phenomena in different times and in different countries, on the same subject for several months in a row, and on several different subjects.
As for the good faith of the sleepwalkers, I certainly do not exaggerate by assuring that from 1784 one has seen more than two thousand of them. In this number there are people of the country who had no idea of the effects of magnetism, who had never heard of it, and who did not know to read; there are also serious men, respectable mothers, modest and reserved girls, and even children.
One has cited some examples of so-called somnambulists who have played the comedy; I do not know if this is true; but, supposing it, this does not in any way confirm the most serious testimonies, coming from people who had no interest in deceiving. It is certain that many sleepwalkers demanded that they should not be allowed to be seen in this state, except to a few relatives or friends; and at least they could not be made to appear sleeping for two or three hours a day for six months just to be played by their magnetizer.
Some unbelievers who have been admitted to magnetic treatments and who could not suspect the good faith of the magnetizer or that of the sleepwalker have said: “This is very extraordinary, but we see only a kind of sleep or nervous crisis during which one speaks; neither the faculty of seeing eyes closed, nor the foresight, seems to us to be proved.”
To this I answer that if one really wishes to take the trouble to consult some of the relations of these phenomena, one can not be stopped in this doubt. See the various journals of magnetic treatments; see the letters written from different countries to MM. Puységur and Tardy; you will find that the same phenomena are reproduced everywhere with the same essential circumstances. Sleepwalkers are more or less clairvoyant, more or less perfect; they present various phenomena; but the faculty of seeing with closed eyes, the intimate relation with their magnetizer, the development of the intellectual faculties, the sight of their interior, the prediction of their coming ills, almost always accompany their state.
Even more, and this is extremely remarkable, most sleepwalkers see and describe the fluid in the same way; all indicate the same procedures to be employed and the same precautions to be taken: and I can attest that before reading any of the writings on somnambulism, I had sleepwalkers who certainly had not read more than I, and who told me the same things and gave exactly the same advice that I have found since in the writings of M. Tardy and others. I certify that it was only a long time later, and by a series of experiments, that I became convinced of the truth of the details that they described to me, and of the importance of the advice that they gave me. I must also point out that we have a large number of letters written by persons who, having tried for the first time to magnetize, have produced somnambulism, and that all these letters say the same things as to the principal phenomena.
How to imagine this agreement between the relations of observers who do not know each other, who live in different countries, and many of whom have so little idea of the state that they produced, that they have been not only surprised by it, but even scared. All the other effects of magnetism can be attributed to imagination: but for them the thing is absolutely impossible. One can imagine that one feels heat or cold, pain or well-being; one can be cured of a disease by the imagination; but the imagination can not make Mademoiselle N. divine that she has a solitary worm, and make her foresee that on such a day at such an hour she will experience such a crisis.
One has said that various somnambulists, in describing their state, the seat of their disease, and the crisis which had to effect their cure, had done so in a manner opposed to the notions given by anatomy. It is to the physicians to judge whether this objection is well-founded; but I must observe that somnambulists are not anatomists; that they can badly indicate this or that part, and that, to deserve our confidence, it is enough that they are not mistaken in the effects that they announce.
I once put a physician into somnambulism. He described to me his illness in terms of the art and with extremely curious details, and in which he would not have entered with me if he had been awake: a peasant could not have used the same expressions, but he would have announced in same way the outcome of his illness. Besides, the state of the living man is perhaps very different, not as to the situation of the parts, but as for their play, of what we can know by anatomy. One has, in the offices of the Paris School of Medicine, the muscles of a woman who, during her illness, swallowed needles: she lived for a long time, and the muscles of her body were filled with crossed needles in the whole sense. I saw the thigh, which contains several hundred. How did these needles reach the muscles without offending any part necessary for life?
I must also agree that in the narratives given to us there are circumstances, some dubious, others absolutely false, and which only prove the enthusiasm and ignorance of those who have brought them back. But these facts, which must be rejected, do not prevent other facts from being true; no more than the bad faith of a few somnambulists does not preclude real sleepwalkers; no more than charlatanry prevent medicine from being a true science. Whoever has read the works of MM. de Puységur and Tardy can not revoke in doubt the facts attested by these observers. At most, one could suspect, in some cases, that they have misunderstood or misinterpreted what a sleepwalker said to them.
The phenomena of somnambulism are incomprehensible, I agree: but from the fact that something is incomprehensible, does it follow that it is false? It remains to know whether it is opposed to the laws of nature. We know these laws only by observation and experience; so let us see if observation and experience have not always shown phenomena similar to those that one would like to contest today.
The works of medicine and physiology contain several relations of the phenomena observed in natural somnambulists. These phenomena are exactly similar to those presented by magnetic somnambulists. The former act during sleep as they would during waking: they write in the night, eyes closed and without light. The article Somnambulism of the first edition of the Encyclopedia, printed before the discovery of magnetism, can be consulted on this subject. The only difference between natural somnambulists and magnetic somnambulists is that they are directed, and the others are not. One has not been able to verify the phenomenon of prevision among natural somnambulists, because one has not questioned them; but one is assured that, like the magnetic somnambulists, they did not see through the eyes, and that they saw only that of which they were occupied. *
* One of my friends, a very good observer, examined a natural sleepwalker, and recognized the identity of his state with magnetic sleepwalking.This fact, which I have known for twenty-seven years, is recorded in a letter written to M. de Puységur, and printed in his Researches on Somnambulism, page 78.
In 1788, M. Petetin, physician of Lyons, published a memoir on the phenomena of catalepsy and somnambulism. He reports on the many experiments he has made on a cataleptic. It is essential to observe that M. Petetin did not believe then in the efficacy of magnetism, that he even regarded the practice as dangerous. Ah well, the phenomena that his cataleptic presented to him are exactly the same as those presented by the most perfect and most mobile somnambulists. M. Petetin explains them by a very ingenious physiological and anatomical theory: this theory is probably not true; but the phenomena are not doubtful; they are recognized by the antagonists of magnetism.
It is further objected that if one admitted the penetration and prevision attributed to sleepwalkers, one would end by believing in sorcerers: it is quite the contrary. The knowledge of somnambulism returns to natural causes phenomena which ignorance and superstition have attributed to occult causes. In examining this state, we see only a concentration of the faculties, from which results more delicacy and clarity in the sensations, more rapidity and facility in the calculations of intelligence; in a word, an inner touch from which a sleepwalker draws consequences. In his Essay on Magnetic Somnambulism, M. Tardy de Montravel reduces all phenomena to physical causes, and he victoriously refutes the objections of those who accustom the magnetizers to give into the marvelous.
I well know that many enthusiasts have pushed the consequences of the phenomena they have seen too far; that having ascertained that somnambulists had the faculty of foreseeing the future to a certain point and on certain objects, they have not recognized the limits of this faculty. Do you want to avoid their mistakes? do not take for certain the well attested facts: and that a sleepwalker has predicted a coming event and depending on causes known to him, beware of concluding that he can also predict distant events, and which are foreign to him. Above all, guard yourself from believing that his predictions are infallible; it would be as dangerous in morals as it is absurd in physics; for it would suppose that all events are chained by necessity, and we would throw ourselves into fatalism.
When one supposes that the soul can have the faculty of reading in the past and in the future (which I am far from admitting), this faculty would necessarily be limited, like that of seeing at great distances the east by our eyes; and from this it follows that the previsions would often be incomplete, and that they would only be partly verified. The vision can exist without being distinct, and in this case the phenomenon would be real, without being able to count on any particular circumstances. Besides, in the distinct vision of certain things would be mixed conjectures on others: from which it follows that even if some men would be endowed with the faculty of reading in the future, one could not count on their predictions and their prophecies. The one who sees a part of the causes that must bring an event does not see them all, and those he has not seen can cause considerable changes. Those who say that this faculty belongs to the soul only insofar as it has disengaged itself from matter, only express themselves in an obscure manner: and even when one would pass to them this incomprehensible hypothesis. it would be necessary to admit that we can deceive ourselves by the eyes of the soul as well as by those of the body, and that God alone is infallible, because he alone grasps at a glance the whole and the details.
In supposing the reality of a state in which one can see without the aid of external organs, those who would be in this state would not be exempt from errors; and their prejudices would come always to be mixed up with their judgments. Their vision could never extend to physical objects: or if it went beyond, we could not draw any light from their speeches. By expressing themselves by the language intended to paint what comes to mind, they would be obliged to represent abstract ideas by forms foreign to these ideas, and one would be abused by taking their metaphors for exact representations.
According to the reflections which I have just presented one sees that it seems to me by no means probable that the soul freed from matter can have the faculty of reading in the future, that the physical sensations, which are the result of the delicacy of the organs and the calculation of reason, have nothing in common with this metaphysical prevision, and that, even if this last prevision existed, it would not lead men to useful and certain knowledge.
The relations that one has given of the phenomena of somnambulism offer many examples of the errors in which one is led when one generalizes too much the consequences of a fact; when instead of holding to what is found, one delivers himself to conjectures; when, in a small number of circumstances, a theory is constructed, without paying attention to the numerous objections which can oppose it.
Let us limit ourselves to what observation teaches us, and let us guard ourselves from going beyond it. I am going to explain simply what I have and what was seen by at least five hundred reliable people who attested to it in writing, and surely more than fifty thousand who merely testified verbally to the people of their knowledge. If I permit myself some explanations, some principles of theory, it will be without attaching importance to them, and only to show that one can admit all these facts without having recourse to an occult philosophy, without being found in contradiction of the laws of nature. I will have aim to trace the circle where it is necessary to have to confine yourself to admit nothing that is not reasonable.
When magnetism produces somnambulism, the being who finds himself in this state acquires a prodigious extension in the faculty of sensing, some of his external organs, ordinarily those of sight and hearing, are asleep, and all the sensations which depend on them operate internally. There is an infinite number of nuances and varieties in this state, but in order to well judge one must examine it in its greatest distance from the waking state, by ignoring all that experience does not observe.
The sleepwalker has his eyes closed and does not see through the eyes, he does not hear through the ears, but he sees and hears better than the waking man.
He sees and hears only those with whom he is in rapport. He sees only what he regards, and he usually regards only the objects on which one directs his attention.
He is submitted to the will of his magnetizer, for all that can not harm him, and for all which is not contrary in him to the ideas of justice and truth.
He feels the will of his magnetizer.
He perceives the magnetic fluid.
He sees or rather he senses the interior of his body, and that of others; but he usually only notices the parts which are not in the natural state and disturb harmony.
He finds in his mind the memory of the things he had forgotten while awake.
He has previsions and presentiments which may be erroneous in many circumstances, and which are limited in their extent.
He enunciates with surprising ease.
He is not free from vanity.
He perfects himself for a time, if he is conducted with wisdom.
He gets lost if he is badly directed.
When he returns to the natural state he absolutely loses the memory of all the sensations and all the ideas he has had, in the state of sleepwalking, so much so that these two states are also foreign to each other, than if the sleepwalker and the awakened man were two different beings. *
* The various characters which I have just assigned to somnambulism are seldom found united in the same subject; the latter alone is constant, and essentially distinguishes somnambulism. Thus there are somnambulists who have eyes open, who hear very well by the ears, who are even in rapport to everybody; there are some in which a single faculty is more extended, and which otherwise have only confused sensations; there are some who speak with great difficulty, etc., etc. But until the present no one has been observed who, being awake, preserved the memory of what he had experienced in the state of sleepwalking.
This circumstance is all the more important in that it establishes a line of marked demarcation between sleep and somnambulism, between the sensations of somnambulists and dreams. All the ideas that one has had while one slept, and that has recalled being awakened, are only dreams. Thus, further than the observation of the phenomena of somnambulism leading one to believe in dreams, it tends to destroy this belief; it explains why some physicians celebrated in antiquity have asserted that, during sleep, the soul was more enlightened, and that it foresaw the evils with which the body was threatened. It was that they had observed somnambulism, and that they had not distinguished this state from ordinary sleep.
On this subject I must make mention of a very extraordinary psychological phenomenon. It is that one has seen sometimes somnambulists speaking of themselves, as if their individual in the waking state, and their individual in the state of somnambulism, were two different persons. I am going to mention two examples:
Mademoiselle Adelaïde le F ..., who, without being magnetized, presented all the phenomena of somnambulism, had not, said the historian of his singular illness, any idea of the ego proper; she never agreed to the identity of Adelaide with a small name, which she received and gave herself during her mania.
Here is the second fact:
Madame N…., who had had a distinguished education, having lost her fortune as the result of a trial, she determined, by admission of her husband, to enter the theater, where her talents assured her successes. and considerable salaries. While she occupied herself with this project, she was sick and became somnambulistic. While in her somnambulism she announced principles opposed to the part she was going to take, her magnetizer urged her to explain herself, and he obtained answers which he could not expect. – Why do you want to enter the theater? – It is not I, it is she. – But why do not you turn from it? – What do you want me to say to her: she is crazy.
I hold this anecdote of the magnetizer, whose accuracy and veracity are well known to me. [End of Note]
From the concurrence of these different circumstances result singular phenomena which have led some enthusiastic magnetizers to see in this state the action of the soul released from matter, or even a communication with celestial intelligences. But one gains nothing by resorting to such hypotheses: it is necessary to confine ourselves to observing the facts and to finding if there is not a principle which binds them together.
Permit me to propose an explanation, that, if it is not exact, at least does not have the disadvantage of being opposed to the laws of physiology.
In the waking state, the impression received outside our organs is transmitted to the brain in which the phenomenon of sensation takes place. The light strikes our eyes, and the nerves with which the retina is lined, in propagating to the brain the shock they have received, give birth to the sensation of lucidity. In the state of sleepwalking the impression is communicated to the brain by the magnetic fluid. This fluid, an extremely tenuous one, penetrates the whole body, when it is pushed by a sufficient force, and it does not need to pass by the channel of the nerves to come to the brain.
Thus the somnambulist, instead of receiving the sensation of objects visible by the action of light on the eyes, receives it immediately by that of the magnetic fluid, which acts on the internal organ of the vision.
What I say of sight can be applied to hearing: and that is why the sleepwalker sees and hears without the help of the eyes and the ears, and why he sees and hears only the objects which are in rapport with him, or whomever send him the magnetic fluid.
Let us move on to other phenomena.
Somnambulists appear to know an infinity of things of which they are unaware in the waking state; and this has been explained by instinct. It is possible that there is something true in this explanation: instinct is a faculty that really exists in many animals; however, as it is an occult quality, I would like that one pass on rendering reason of the phenomena observed in man, and I avow that those of which I have witnessed appear to me to be explainable without this.
In fact, it is by no means proved that in the state of somnambulism one has knowledge that one did not have in the waking state: one only has sensations infinitely more delicate, a memory distinct from all that one has known and of all which one has been affected, and a great facility to make combinations; this is enough to produce very singular results.
All the sensations that we have experienced in the course of our life have left traces in our brain. These traces are light, and we do not perceive them because present sensations prevent us from them; but they exist, and often things which we had forgotten present themselves to our memory when an unforeseen circumstance warms our imagination.
Thus the sleepwalker can remember a conversation that he has heard, a book that he has read, without this having anything contrary to the natural order. He remembers, as well, the impressions he has felt, and to see what effect this or that food will produce on him, it suffice that he has once tasted it.
A sleepwalker who usually only speaks the dialect of his province will perhaps speak French because he has heard that language spoken, he remembers it, and shyness does not prevent him from making use of it; but he will surely never speak a language he does not understand.
A sleepwalker seizes the will of his magnetizer, he executes something that is asked of him mentally and without uttering words. To be able to explain this phenomenon, somnambulists must be considered as infinitely mobile magnets: there is no movement in the brain of their magnetizer, without this movement being repeated in them, or at least without them do not feel it. We know that if we place beside each other of them instruments in unison, and we pinch the strings of the first, the corresponding strings of the second resound of themselves. This physical phenomenon is similar to that which takes place in magnetism.
A sleepwalker announces an illness which he must have in a few months, because he sees the effect in the cause, and that he judges the march of his organs and the consequences of his present state, except for accidents foreign to him. He explains how a current illness has developed in him, or in an individual with whom he is in contact, and then he sees the cause in the effect.
A sleepwalker makes dissertations of metaphysics and psychology, he even debates with an easy and brilliant elocution the strangest reveries; it is because he was pushed by his magnetizer into an illusory world, and once he stops talking about what he feels to talk about what he imagines, he goes astray the more as his imagination is more exalted.
In a word, the sleepwalker has only the faculties of the waking man; but these faculties are infinitely more free, more extended, more delicate, and therefore more apt to mislead it, when it leaves the limits where the matter of its judgments must be contained.
Somnambulism and its effects are in themselves quite marvelous, without anyone wanting to add to these wonders by making them derive from a supernatural principle, and explaining them by an unintelligible theory.
I saw a lady of sixteen, who had certainly never read any medical books, dictating treatises on several diseases. It was me who asked her questions which she could not have expected, and which she answered with clarity and precision. This experience, which has been repeated on other somnambulists, gives me cause to make two important remarks.
I asked this somnambulist one day for information on gout and how to cure it. I do not know, she told me, I never had gout.
But, answered I, you spoke to me about the inflammation of the chest, and you never had this disease?
This is another thing. I can be attacked, I see what would be the causes and the consequences. I do not have the germ of gout, and I do not know what it is. Let me see a gouty one, if you want me to examine it and tell you about it.
A second observation is that in the little treatises which this young person has dictated to me on some diseases, we perceive the epoch in which they were composed; that is to say, some principles according to which these diseases were then judged, and that new observations have since been corrected. Which proves that she found in her mind memories of what she had heard, and that she mixed them with her own ideas. This again proves that one must be wary of sleepwalkers' opinions whenever they speak of something other than what they see distinctly.
The means that one has to excite in a somnambulist of living sensations, to calm his pains, to impress a particular movement on the fluid circulating in him, to change the order of his ideas, to direct his attention to such or such such an object, to relate it to other persons are so minute in appearance, that I am not surprised that men of ardent imagination have seen something magical about it.However, once we have recognized that our will can act on another individual, and that the magnetic fluid is the means of this action, all is explained, and this phenomenon, on which all the others depend, is a primitive fact proved by experience. The magnetic fluid is extremely tenuous, and only one of its molecules can communicate its motion to a mass of the same fluid, as a spark can light a forest. In all this nothing is contrary to order: we are daily witnesses of facts which prove how tenuous are the molecules which act upon our senses, and how much the effect they produce appears disproportionate to the cause. We do not pay enough attention, and I want to mention a few examples.
There is such an odoriferous substance that preserves and spreads its odor for centuries without appreciably diminishing weight. Thus a grain of amber placed in an apartment fills it for several years with a fragrant vapor which is constantly renewed, and there is not in the surrounding air a space which is not penetrated.
One sees barbet dogs fetching from the bottom of the water a stone which their master had thrown there. It suffices that the stone has been touched so that it retains under the water emanations sensitive to the smell of the animal. Now, the sleepwalker has a delicacy of sense far superior to that of the dog's sense of smell; and the fluid acting on it is much more subtle than all the odorous emanations.
Shall one say that the tenuousness of the molecules of the fluid must oppose the force of their action? See what happens in the galvanic pile; it suffices to place different metal plates on each other so that a material, which previously could not be seen, forms a current sufficiently rapid to decompose the salts and to melt the metals. The rotation of a glass tray on a pad puts in motion the electric fluid; and by directing this fluid through a conductor, you can produce at such distance that you want effects comparable to those of lightning. *
* The miasms of contagious diseases that float in the air, or attach themselves to bodies, escape all our senses and all the analyses of chemistry, and yet they carry the greatest disorder into the animal economy.
Will it still be said that the effects of somnambulism are not analyzed like those of electricity, and that everyone can not verify them in the same way?
To this I answer that if the law that electricity follows in its movement is well known, the principle is not at all; it is the same with somnambulism: the effects are always the same; the primitive cause is alone unknown.
I answer in the second place that it is not more difficult to observe the phenomena of somnambulism than those of galvanism. It suffices to see them in magnetizing by fulfilling the proper conditions. These effects do not always show themselves; but how many electricity experiments can be missed because of the state of the atmosphere. You do not succeed today, continue the following days; and in one and the other case I answer you that you will see the effects which have been announced to you.
The phenomena of somnambulism, one says, are not always the same, I agree. But do you deny the declination of the magnetic needle, because this declination is variable, and you know neither the law of this variation, nor even the cause of the principal fact?
All the effects of somnambulism can be reduced to the same cause, they are identical in their principles, and modified only in their circumstances.
I still have a word to say about the most incomprehensible phenomenon, that of the report that several somnambulists claim to exist between them and certain objects, and according to which they see these objects even though they are very far from them.
When one has followed several magnetic treatments, and one has read various relationships, it is difficult to deny the fact. However, I must warn that all somnambulists do not have this faculty, the proofs are far fewer; and I do not ask anyone to believe such a surprising phenomenon that as much as he himself has verified.
Allow me to admit it for a moment, and to propose some reflections on this subject.
All the bodies of nature from which we are not separated by opaque bodies make us feel their existence by sending rays of light to our eyes. All sounding bodies are equally sensitive to our ears when they produce vibrations that propagate through the air, and even more quickly through the hardest bodies. The fluid of the magnet passes through several media that will stop the propagation of light and that of sound: electricity is carried instantly to greater distances following the conductive bodies. It follows from this that, through the intermediary of various fluids, there is a communication established between bodies placed very far from one another. If it is true, as I believe I have proved, that the magnetic fluid penetrates all, there can be likewise a means of communication between bodies, and to give to living beings, when they are disposed to receive it influence, the feeling of what is happening away from them. It suffices for them to fix their attention on an object, and that there has previously been a relationship or a link established between them and this object.
But in admitting this principle, we must also add an analogy between the manner of acting of this fluid and that of the other fluids of which we have spoken.
The impressions that objects produce are weakened by ratio of the distance they are placed. The further we are from an object, the less light it sends to our eyes. The sound of a bell diminishes as we move away from it, and it ends up being no longer sensitive. The impressions produced on Sleepwalkers must similarly weaken by distance.
Thus, from the fact that a somnambulist feels the action of his magnetizer twenty paces away, it does not follow that he will feel it likewise at twenty thousand; from what he can see what is happening at a league, it does not follow that his vision has no limits. These limits are not well known; they are more or less distant, according to the degree of sensibility of somnambulists; but they exist, and we must be careful not to draw them beyond what experience has decidedly found.
What I say about space can be applied to duration. Forecasting is all the more uncertain as events are more distant.
One will tell me that electricity arrives with the same force at the end of a conductor of ten thousand fathoms as that of a conductor of a fathom. This is true; but it is because it follows a certain route, and that it goes en masse from one place to another. Perhaps it will be said that there is likewise a conductor which, though invisible, none the less exists between the magnetizer and the somnambulist, between a mother and her daughter: it may be so; but it is a hypothesis; and to admit this explanation, it is necessary to have collected a greater number of facts, and facts more conclusive than those which have presented themselves so far. If we wish that the theory of Magnetism become as certain as other physical theories; it is essential to establish it only on perfectly ascertained facts, and a great number of laws have been observed. If belief is necessary to act, the doubt is not the less to explain and generalize the facts.
Aristotle, of all the philosophers the most enemy of the marvelous, gives, forecasts which take place during sleep and which are relative to diseases, an explanation perfectly applicable to the forecasts of sleepwalkers.
During the day before, he says, the impressions that we receive from the outside being very strong, they absorb our attention and prevent us from feeling the light movements that take place within us; during sleep, on the contrary, these inner movements become sensible. Now, like all events, diseases are prepared in advance by small causes, and the disturbance by which a disease which is to develop in the future is more easily discernible, is more easily seen during sleep than during wakefulness.
He adds that previsions are not always true because an unforeseen cause stands in the way of the natural development that was announced.
The nature of gay or sad, pleasant or frightening dreams, can to a certain extent indicate the state of the stomach and that of the nerves; but it is a long way from predictions, and I can not persuade myself that Aristotle has confounded objects so disparate, or that he has had any confidence in the ideas which are offered to the imagination during ordinary sleep. *
* A large number of ancient and modern doctors have recognized that in the crises of certain diseases, sometimes there is an astonishing bias. I will have occasion to return to this object in the second part.
I have said that somnambulists saw only successively the various parts of an object, that they saw them only after careful examination, that the precipitation, the imagination, and the ideas of their magnetizer could impair accuracy of their judgment: it is therefore essential to question them only on what they see distinctly, not to press them, to appear cold vis-à-vis them, to calm their imagination instead of exciting, never to fix their attention on things out of their reach, to rely on their predictions except as they relate to their condition, not to ask them for instructions on what they are not naturally concerned with and with interest, and to consult with caution before complying with their advice.
Finally, I have said that somnambulists were not exempt from vanity. When we listen to them with too much confidence, when we ask them difficult questions, when we seem to marvel at their perspicacity, they indulge in the desire to interest and astonish, and in this case they can yield all kinds of daydreams.
It is very rare for a somnambulist to arrive from the first days at the degree of clairvoyance of which he is susceptible. He must accustom himself to his new state, as he combine his ideas, as he deepens what he has first done only between seeing. Ordinarily he perfects himself as long as his illness preserves the same character, and his faculties diminish as he approaches healing. Sometimes a sorrow, or an accidental evil, or even a crisis, makes him suddenly fall from the point where he had arrived, and he returns to it afterwards. One exposes oneself to errors if one does not distinguish these different epochs, and one prevents the entire development of faculties, if one wishes to hasten the gradual march of nature.
When the state of sleepwalking has lasted a long time, it ends up approaching the waking state, prejudices mingle with sensations, and we must in no way count on somnambulists who have fallen from the degree to which they had arrived, and who have retained the ability to fall into somnambulism after their healing.
The direction of sleepwalkers is an extremely important thing; it requires from the magnetizer prudence, sang froid, and even a kind of instruction.
If by the action of the will the concentration of their faculties is not determined in the somnambulists, they are weak, and do not bother to see: if they are pushed too far, they extravagate. The springs of their brain are tense. We may even make them mad, and give them diseases of the nerves which would then be very difficult to cure.
Here is the series of questions to be asked of a sleepwalker. Are you sleeping? - How long does it take to sleep? - When will it take you back to crisis? - Do you see your hurt? - What is the cause? - Do you see the cure? - When will you see it? - Look for this remedy? - What precautions should you take to maintain your health after your recovery?
If we wish to consult a sleepwalker for another patient, we will show him the desire; but by demanding nothing, accepting his good offices only as much as it pleased him, and saying he is well assured of his clairvoyance.
The patient being brought at the hour indicated by the sleepwalker, he will be made to touch him with caution, always supposing that he does not feel too much repugnance, and that he does not fear to expose himself to some danger touching him. He will be warned in advance not to say anything to the patient who may be alarmed; he will be advised to examine it attentively; we can deviate if he wishes, but without ceasing to think of him, and even to look at him. Then the patient having withdrawn, one will ask him what he thinks of the disease and the means of curing it, and one will write down his consultation in order to communicate it to him.
Finally, this consultation will be discussed with an enlightened man in medicine, to conform itself only in the case where it offers no inconvenience.
One shall be careful not to show the sleepwalker several patients in a row, and even to repeat often these consultations, which are ordinarily fatiguing, and sometimes dangerous for him.
Needless to say, we need to be sure that consenting to consult for a patient the sleepwalker has absolutely no other interest than that of rendering service.
In no case should the magnetizer allow the somnambulist, in whatever manner, to be given the slightest mark of gratitude, or to be suspected that he has been consulted. The slightest mixture of interest destroys the purity of a communication which must take place only for good; he can make us suspect the good faith of the sleepwalker; it authorizes the critics of the enemies of magnetism; it can even lead to the most dangerous abuses, by hiring charlatans to simulate a state of which the reality must be admitted only so much that she is safe from all objection. It is a great misfortune that men, who are well-intentioned and very interested in themselves, have sometimes forgotten this rule, which must never have any exception.
One will be challenged by sleepwalkers who are accustomed to giving consultations have too much confidence in their lights: they are exposed to a slight examination: above all, as I have just said, one will be defiant of those who have preserved a habit of falling into crisis after healing: in these, clairvoyance is uncertain, and the ideas of the waking state mingle with those which arise solely from their present sensations.
One will conform himself exactly to the indications of sleepwalkers for the hours they want to be magnetized, and for the regime that they have prescribed for themselves.
One will take the greatest care never to interrupt crises.
One will never have sleepwalkers seen by the curious, and they will never be subjected to experiments of curiosity.
One will avoid directing their attention on objects foreign to their physical sensations; for then they surrender themselves to the illusions of the imagination, especially as they listen to them with more interest.
One will not forget that they are susceptible to jealousy, and one will avoid exciting this passion.
When one will ask questions, one should take great care not to turn them so that they can indicate the answer. One will try to drive out of one's mind any idea that could influence their determination. One will himself in a state of calm, because the agitation one feels oneself is certainly communicated to them.
One will never let them suspect when they are awake that they speak during their sleep: one will allow them to believe that they are sleeping natural sleep, and one will take precautions so that nobody will instruct them that they are really sleepwalkers.
One can make an exception to this rule, but only in the case where it is necessary, where the sleepwalker sees no inconvenience, where he assures that he will not be disturbed, and where he wishes it himself.
Lastly, one will resist the enthusiasm, the curiosity, the desire to show and tell surprising things, and one will think only of doing good for the patient one is charged with, and of making him capable then of doing good to others.
I have said that the state of sleepwalking was foreign to the waking state, that in these two states there were two different orders of ideas, which were neither seen nor felt in the same way in the one and in the other, and that, on leaving sleepwalking, one absolutely forgot all that one had felt and thought in that state. This forgetfulness is good. If one retains the memory of the ideas of somnambulism, these ideas would be confounded with those which one receives by the senses, or which are preserved in memory, one would not be in the natural order, and one should not would be in accord with other men. This inconvenience may be caused by the imprudence of the magnetizer, and I must show what are the causes and the dangers.
When the state of sleepwalking is prolonged beyond the time when it is a necessary crisis for healing, when the sleepwalker is no longer obliged to take care of his ills, he fixes his attention on other objects to obtain from him surprising things, when one exalts his imagination, it happens that the nerves of the brain take more irritability; and this irritability continuing after the sleepwalker is awake, there remains a susceptibility that makes him sensitive to the slightest impressions. Then he enjoys more vividly the beauties of nature, he gives himself to tender affection, he experiences a kind of enthusiasm; and this state, which opposes the rectitude of judgment, must be carefully avoided.
This danger is not the only one. When one occupies for a long time a somnambulist with ideas foreign to those which he has during the day before, these ideas leave traces in the brain. If, when he has returned to the natural state, something may come to awaken these impressions, it produces a sort of madness very difficult to cure. If this misfortune should occur, it would be necessary to distract the patient from the ideas which affect him most agreeably, to make him exercise, to occupy him with manual labor, and to speak to him of nothing which is foreign to the habits of life.
Some sleepwalkers are so much in the state of sleepwalking that they wish not to leave it. The magnetizer must never allow them to stay there beyond the time when this is absolutely necessary, and he must never maintain in them the disposition to this state: when it is produced by nature to cure a disease, it is an extremely salutary crisis; when it becomes a habit, it is a brain disease that is dangerous to provoke. *
* Somnambulism sometimes presents with all the appearances of the waking state, and then it can be prolonged without inconvenience, if the patient thinks it useful. I will make this clearer by telling a story that has just happened before my eyes.
A young lady of nineteen, who had been ill for three years, had resorted to magnetism, and in a month she became a somnambulist. When she entered sleepwalking, her eyes closed; but at the end of half an hour she usually asked that one open them without awakening her, by passing the fingers over her eyelids, and she remained in touch with everyone for more or less time. After much searching for means of curing herself, she pronounced that there was only one; it was to conduct her to the country, and to make her have, either on foot or by cart, a violent exercise to bring about a crisis which would at first render her more ill. Her older sister, who magnetized her, could not accompany her, her mother took care of it. On the eve of the departure, as she had been put into somnambulism, she asked that she be left there until she came out of herself, because she would see better what suited her. health, and would not refuse to do so. This sleepwalking lasted eight days without interruption, and it was only on the ninth day that she returned to the natural state. Her mother, who had not left her for a moment, informed her of all that had passed during this interval, so that those who had seen her, and who had no suspicion of her condition, did not believe that she had lost her memory. Her stay in the country was three weeks; the crisis she had announced took place; she prescribed what was necessary for her, and she returned in perfect health.
These dangers will never exist when the magnetizer will be directed only by the desire for good, when he will seek somnambulism only to cure the sick, and in no way to satisfy his curiosity.
I will conclude this chapter by returning to an opinion that I have already stated and that many people will consider as a paradox. Magnetism would generally have done more good, if men, persuaded of their power, would have practiced it without knowing somnambulism. It is so difficult to deal only with the healing of a patient with wonderful phenomena, that few people are capable of this reserve. Now, when a patient is hired to think, to speak, to give an account of his sensations, the action of magnetism is directed on the nerves and the brain, and it is then much less salutary than when it is left to the disposition of nature. Moreover, the state of sleepwalking requires a multitude of care and precautions that are dangerous to neglect. From which it follows that, in order to lead a very sensible sleepwalker, calm, leisure, and boundless devotion are required. I am convinced that if there are many among the sick who have been cured only because they have become somnambulists, there are also many who have had this crisis more harmful than useful, and who would have been healed. much better if they had not experienced it.
I keenly desire to succeed in convincing my readers of the reality and efficiency of magnetism, but I attach no importance to convincing them of the phenomena of somnambulism. I had to talk about it so that they would not be embarrassed in the event that this crisis naturally presented itself to them. But when they do not believe a word of what I have said, there would be no great harm: they would still relieve and heal the sick by touching them with patience, attention and will.
Inconveniences, dangers and abuses of said Magnetism.
There is nothing good in itself that can not be abused; but we can not condemn a thing whose advantages outweigh the inconveniences, especially when these inconveniences are easy to avoid.
The first partisans of magnetism presented it as a universal remedy; it is said that he immediately cured nervous diseases, and mediately the others; they argued that there was only one disease and one remedy. These proposals, and many others, are much exaggerated, to say nothing more, and they had to reject the discovery by enlightened men.
Not only do I not believe that magnetism cures all diseases, but I am convinced that it cures only the smallest number, that it most often relieves without healing, and that it can sometimes be harmful.
I have said enough about the advantages of magnetism, either as a principal agent or as an adjunct in the treatment of a great number of diseases; I will now speak of his dangers and his abuses. I will expose them to complete frankness: I will consider them as holding, either in the nature of the thing, or in the incompetence or the enthusiasm of those who employ it. I must also say a word about its inconveniences with regard to morals: I begin with this last article, which has given rise to many declamations.
There is no doubt that magnetism, establishing relations between the magnetizer and the magnetized, either by a more habitual frequentation, or by confidence, or by the very nature of the agent, may result in the greatest inconveniences of its employment between people of different sex; but it is sufficient that we be warned not to expose ourselves to it. A mother will not let her daughter be magnetized by a young man, even if she should have the highest opinion of the young man's manners and delicacy. A young woman will not want to be magnetized either by a man of thirty years, unless it is always in the presence of her husband.
On the other hand, a man who knows that the practice of magnetism is a sacred ministry, will always be on guard against what could awaken in him any other feeling than the desire to cure or to relieve a being who suffers, and he will take the greatest precautions never to put himself in the case of having to reject ideas which he would have to blush. The danger I'm talking about is almost nil when one treats the poor, the country folk, or those attacked by diseases so serious that one can only be affected by their ills. As for the possibility of abusing magnetism as a means of seduction, I will not speak of it; a man who would be guilty of such a crime would be an object of horror for society.
I must warn that magnetism sometimes produces a tender attachment, and entirely foreign to the feelings which it would be necessary to combat; I will give two examples.
I was in the country, in a house where one occupied himself with magnetism. My health having been disturbed for some time, a young lady of our society was kind enough to magnetize me by a chain where her parents, her friends, and two or three patients were. As soon as she touched me, I fell into a light sleep, which lasted throughout the session. At the end of ten or twelve days I perceived that she inspired me with a particular affection, and that I was involuntarily occupied with her.
Fifteen days later I found myself well, and we stopped. From then on the impression she had made on me gradually dissipated, and I saw her as before with a respectful attachment, but without any emotion. In recounting this I can attest that, during the time when her image was incessantly present in my mind, I never had a thought which I could not have confessed without making her blush. Either the affections produced by magnetism have something of the senses, or the confidence and friendship with which I was honored in the family, removed all reprehensible ideas from me.
Here is the other story.
I healed a patient whom I put to sleep from the first day, and who, within a week, had recovered the strength and health which he had lost for six months. I continued to magnetize him for fifteen days or three weeks. He was a chief of workmen who watched the other workmen in the garden and in the fields. So soon as he could quit his work he went to me; he was happy to see me; if I were at the promenade, he came to join me, and followed me like a dog, following his master. It will be said that he was grateful; I can not prove the contrary; but for myself, who has observed the circumstances well, I am quite convinced that there was something else, and that it was an effect of the relation which magnetism had established between us. Fifteen days after I had ceased to magnetize him, he continued to show me gratitude, but he no longer had the necessity of seeing me.
One conceives that this tender sentiment, the desire to be together, although they have a very pure source, may have inconveniences between persons of different sexes, and that the wisest course is not to expose oneself to it. I must add that I have often used magnetism successfully without perceiving the same effects. Let us pass on to the dangers of magnetism in the treatment of maladies.
These dangers can hold, 1º, to the agent in himself; 2º to the incompetence, imprudence, or enthusiasm of the magnetizer.
Magnetism is a very active agent; sometimes it is on the nerves. M. Mesmer regarded this effect as a crisis always salutary. This may be; but I admit that there is not enough proof for me dare continue the treatment when I see that it begins to do ill. I do not fear a pain in the seat of an obstruction: this pain announces a travail necessary for healing; but I dread all nervous shaking, and in this case I try to calm, I gradually diminish the action, and I say continue. I know that many magnetists will say that it is pusillanimity; but I can not advise others of a boldness that I would not have myself.
In certain circumstances magnetism, administered to very sick people, has appeared to me to produce accidents which must be avoided. If it is calming, it is also tonic, and there are cases where it is necessary to weaken and not strengthen the patient.
I have often heard that if magnetism does not do good, it will not hurt. This is not correct; and we know from somnambulists that magnetism, like any other remedy, must be given only at the proper dose, and that when it produces very marked effects, it must not be pushed too far.
For the rest, it is easy to avoid any danger in this respect. When magnetism causes ill one perceives it, and so soon as one has some fear one discontinues. It is not like other remedies; it does not give iself all at once, but little by little, and one is always in time to stop before it becomes uncomfortable. I have spoken above of its application to diseases, and I have distinguished the diseases to which it appeared to me more particularly to suit.
Let us now come to the dangers arising from incompetence, imprudence or enthusiasm.
If you magnetize badly, if instead of thinking of healing you are looking for experiments, if you miss a treatment, if you expose your patients to be seen by strangers, if you interrupt a crisis started, if you suddenly awaken your patient, if you persist in employing processes which annoy him, if you are ill of health, or if you are agitated by some passion, you will be able to tire your patient, or even to do him much ill. All this can be avoided: follow exactly the path I have traced, and none of these inconveniences will take place.
It is most imprudent to start a treatment when one is not resolved to follow it. The first action of magnetism sometimes produces a crisis which disturbs the established order and which causes trouble in the animal economy: the consequences of this disorder, which tends to healing, becomes fatal if one does not support the patient until the crisis is terminated.
Magnetizers who are afraid of a light crisis, who then resort to foreign means, who doubt their power, who are uncertain in their processes, can also do a lot of ill.
Enthusiasm can lead to a contrary excess, and it is none the less essential to guarantee oneself, it is that of announcing that a patient will be cured, because one has first done some good and to urge him to give up the remedies of medicine. I would like to warn young magnetists against this danger. They may sometimes succeed, but they may also be mistaken; and then what regret will they have for having abandoned ordinary medicine to which one shall be compelled to return! Medicine would not have healed better, I think it so, but one would have no reproaches to be made. In serious diseases, magnetism must be employed only by the doctor's consent. In chronic diseases, where there is no inconvenience to suspend the remedies for a few days, one can try, if the patient wants it. I have already said that, but I can not say too much.
In the interior of houses, magnetism can have drawbacks that arise from previous relationships established between people. Thus I have seen masters magnetized by their servants. This is practicable only as long as the servant is extremely attached to his master and has all his confidence. But a woman can magnetize her maid, a master her servant, in the case where they are really sick, and where they are persuaded that it is to cure them that one gives them care.
A patient must not be magnetized by several magnetizers; sometimes the action of two magnetizers has no analogy, and the second does more harm than good. When one is obliged to be made a substitute, one must first establish the rapport and take the precautions that I have indicated. For the same reason, in the numerous treatments, the junior magnetizers must be regarded only as the aides or the instruments of the chief.
Magnetism can cause convulsions when applied counter-sensibly, for example, going up from head to foot, or with other circumstances that hinder the action and natural course of the fluid. I have seen these kinds of experiments, either out of curiosity or amusement: I warn them that they may have the most unfortunate consequences, and that a magnetizer must never afford to experiment to amuse a society.
Magnetism sometimes gives an extraordinary force: one must never allow the patient to abuse it, as one is naturally inclined to do, to prove that it has produced a remarkable effect.
I have often seen magnetism do ill in stormy weather and when the atmosphere is charged with electricity, and I have already said that it was necessary to avoid magnetizing in those moments. I believe, according to several experiments, that electricity does it to those whose magnetism has rendered sensitivity more acute.
When one sees that magnetism acts, one is sometimes tempted to make efforts to increase the effects: one must on the contrary continue peacefully, otherwise one is exposed to disturb the work of nature.
Magnetism has other dangers even when somnambulism has been produced. An imprudent or enthusiastic magnetizer can exalt the head of his somnambulists to the point of madness; he can disorganize them by demanding too much of them, by making them objects of curiosity, by having a blind confidence in their predictions, their previsions, their councils, by carelessly touching the sick, etc. But I have said enough about this object to the article of somnambulism.
Finally, a last danger of magnetism is to lead those who see marvelous effects in exaggerated or extravagant systems, to lead them to explain inexplicable phenomena, to believe things contrary to common sense. The principles which I have given may shelter this danger; but I well fear that the incredulous do not say that I have not escaped it myself. *
* I have not concealed any of the inconveniences of magnetism; those which others have imagined, or had no notion, or have judged on false appearances. Thus it has been alleged that somnambulism might lead to forgetfulness of decency, and that is absolutely false; never can a thought contrary to honesty be awakened in the state of somnambulism. But the sleepwalker, precisely because he has no idea nor any reprehensible desire, is less attentive to preserving the proprieties of convention, and if he forgets them, it is up to the magnetizer to remind him of it.
For example, I have heard somnambulists talk to their magnetizer; and as the inconvenience has hurt me, I must say what is the cause, and what is the means of avoiding it. The sleepwalker sees in the magnetizer only a being who takes an interest in him, and not a man who is his superior in the social order, and he adopts to answer him the same forms of language that he has used. to speak to him; but he will never take the initiative, whence he follows that one must not be able to be familiar with a somnambulist unless he is a friend with whom one was previously on that tone of familiarity.
One has feared that somnambulism might expose one to commit indiscretions; this is impossible. The sleepwalker is very enlightened as to his duties and interests, and he will never do or say anything contrary to them. If he shows his magnetizer more confidence than he would have done in the waking state, it is because the penetration gives him the certainty that this confidence is well placed.
Exposition of some facts that I have observed myself.
I have followed for twenty-five years the practice of magnetism; I had the good fortune to cure many patients; I had somnambulists, and I have observed some at the house of my friends, cooperating with the treatment. I may accordingly recount many facts which I have witnessed, which I have verified with scrupulous care, of which I have taken note in the course of time, and upon which I have every possible certainty of not being in the mistake. But I think it is useless to publish new relations similar to those we already have: those who do not know the magnetism will pay no attention to it, those who know it do not need it.
I will confine myself here to reporting some facts which seem to me to offer circumstances little known, and which may give new light. I must first tell how I convinced myself of the reality of magnetism.
When I read for the first time in 1785 the details of the cures operated at Busancy, all this seemed to me a madness. I even suspected that it had been intended to ridicule the partisans of magnetism, by recounting prodigies which revolted common sense. This reading, therefore, only caused to dispel the curiosity which had previously inspired me by the relation of the cures made by M. Mesmer.
I lived then in the country near Sistéron, and I passed the autumns with a friend who resided in Aix the rest of the year. I learned that this friend, a man of cold reason and enlightened mind, had gone to see Monsieur Mesmer at the house of M. Servant; that, on his return to Aix, he had tried to magnetize, and that he had a somnambulist. I resolved to go and find out if it was true.
I made the journey on foot, botanizing; the second day I arrived at Aix at noon, having run since four o'clock in the morning. I enter my friend's house, and explain to him the motive of my journey; I beg him to tell me what to think of the wonders that have been told to me; he smiles and answers me coldly: Stay and you will see what it is, the patient must come at three o'clock.
At three o'clock, indeed, the patient arrives with some people who had to make the chain. I put myself in this chain, and I see, after a few minutes, the patient falling asleep. I look with astonishment; but I could not long look at it: in less than a quarter of an hour I fell asleep myself. During my sleep I spoke a great deal, and I agitated myself in a manner to disturb the chain: what I have known because I one tells me when I was awake, and when I see everybody laughing around me, for I have he no memory of it. The next day I did not sleep, I observed the somnambulism, and I begged my friend to instruct me in the process.
When I returned home, I tried magnetism on the patients who lived in the hamlets next to my country house. I took care not to act on their imagination; I touched them under various pretenses, persuading them that slight friction would do them good. I thus obtained curious and salutary effects which strengthened my belief.
At the end of autumn I went to the city; I addressed myself to a young physician, of great merit, who had the wisdom to doubt, and the desire to fix his opinion by experiments. I begged him to point out to me a person ill enough that, if magnetism cured her, the proof was conclusive, but the condition of which, however, was not dangerous enough for me to be afraid of seeing her die during treatment.
He took me to a woman sick for seven years. This woman habitually suffered the most cruel pains; she was extremely enfeebled; she had a very large obstruction at the spleen, and which showed outside; she could neither walk nor lay down flat. I produced in her body crises of sweat and urine; the blood resumed its natural course, the swelling and the obstruction disappeared, and I put her in a condition to go out and go about her business. She fell asleep when I touched her, but she was not a sleepwalker. She found me an odor which she compared to that of iron. It was at her house that I had a chain made, where attention was fixed by means of which I have mentioned in the article on methods.
Soon after, M.D., my dear friend, magnetized a sixteen-year-old girl, the daughter of respectable and highly regarded parents. This young lady became a sleepwalker. I attended the treatment; she dictated to us consultations for patients and principles for the cure of illnesses. It was I who asked her questions, to which she could not be prepared, and who wrote the answers. I have never experienced a more perfect somnambulist. She presented to us most of the phenomena observed by M. de Puységur, by M. Tardy, and by the members of the Society of Strasburg. Among these phenomena are those I can neither explain nor conceive. I only testify that I have seen them, and that, from the details, it is impossible for me to suppose either the slightest illusion, nor the idea of deceiving, nor even the possibility of doing so. I still have the original notebooks written during the sessions. I do not extract anything from it here, because they are the same phenomena of which one has spoken, and it is enough to advert to them. Would I transcribe them, that would add nothing to the proof.
Some time afterwards I magnetized a young man of my friends, aged twenty-two, who for some days had been inconvenienced. He had not much confidence in magnetism, and he regarded the state of somnambulism as a sort of madness in which he would not have wished to fall. I speak of this one, because it presents to me two or three phenomena which can give some lights.
I was alone with him at six o'clock in the evening in September. Scarcely had I touched him, than he fell into a sleep that was cataleptic; his arms, his fingers remained in the position where I put them. He alone preserved the faculty of making a slight movement of the head. I asked him several questions; he did not answer to any one: only when I asked him if he wanted to be awake, he nodded to tell me no. It was not until eleven o'clock that he consented to return to the natural state. When he awoke, he thought it was only seven o'clock, and his astonishment was extreme when he knew how long he had slept.
I had a hard time getting his consent to be magnetized again; I finally succeeded. For a week, every day the same phenomena: only the sleep was shorter.
I magnetized him for six days, when M., a pupil of M. Mesmer, came to Sisteron. One judges well that I went to see him and that I spoke to him of my sleepwalker. He was an enthusiast who claimed to have done prodigious things; he had a very lively faith; but also I do not know what he did, did not believe *.
* He was, moreover, a man distinguished by his wit and his knowledge, and respectable by his zeal for good.
If your sleepwalker does not speak, says M. *, it is because you do not know that you want him to: please speak, command him to speak, and he will speak.
I proposed to M. * to come see my sleepwalker. I gave him an appointment at my house for the hour when I knew he would be asleep, and he came. He placed himself in a chair close to me; he regarded my somnambulist without saying anything while I magnetized.
A few moments later, he draws a steel rod from his pocket: presents it to your sleepwalker, he tells me; I take it and present it on the stomach. At the moment my somnambulist felt a convulsive shudder which frightened me all the more because I had not yet seen him make the movement. I returned the wand to M. *, and he left. My sleepwalker always kept silence.
The next day I put him in crisis, even immobility; but at the end of an hour he stretches out his arms and legs, and rubs his eyes like someone who awakens. I thought that he was awakening: not at all: his eyes remained closed, and, after sighing, he said: Good. God! that fluid that came yesterday hurt me! It wanted to make me talk; Well, I speak. I asked him what wrong it had done to him; he replied that he would have needed to stay a few more days without speaking to fix his ideas; that he would have become a very good somnambulist, but that the work having been interrupted, he would never be very clear-sighted. I told him to return to the state he had been in before, and to remain silent for as long as he judged proper; he replied that it was not possible. He added, and this, to be very extraordinary, is none the less true, when this fluid * entered, I occupied myself with remedies; I thought of senna; I had already thought of manna, cassia, rhubarb, etc.
* There are some singular expressions in the language of the sleepwalker. I thought it my duty to preserve them; but I can not guess why he used them.
But, said I, since that ought to hurt you, why did you consent to speak? –– Because I could not resist his fluid. –– But it was not he who magnetized you, and I did not force you to speak. –– No, but you did not oppose his will. This fluid has a strong will; I would not want to be magnetized by him; I fear it will drive me crazy. (Indeed, the somnambulists of M. * saw very extraordinary things.) –– But, I say to him, do not I also have a strong will? –– Yes, he replied; but it is a calm will, which only tends to heal me. –– During this conversation, M. * knocks on my door. My sleepwalker did not know it was he, but he felt him, and showed me his anxiety. One judges well that I did not let M * enter.
My sleepwalker, however, became rather clairvoyant; he described to me his ills, their cause, and the remedy with extreme precision. He warned me that if he knew once that he had spoken during his sleep, he would no longer consent to be magnetized. I had the imprudence to show him to someone who let him divine that he was speaking, and from then on it was no longer possible for me to tell him to come back. But before this interruption he introduced me to some singular phenomena.
He had an extreme sensibility, and a disposition to melancholy; but he was of a quiet character. He had spent two years in Candie. One day, when I talked to him about this country, he told me that he had forgotten the language, but that if at that moment he found himself with someone who knew it, he would remember it and speak it with pleasure. I could not verify it; but I asked him if he remembered the books he had read; he replied that he remembered those who had affected him; that being in Candie he had read a very sad book, which made him an impression. I asked him what it was; he replied that he did not know the title. I asked him if he could cite me anything: as much as you please, he replied, and he began to recite The Night of Narcissus by Young exactly as if he was reading it.
I'm sure that being awake he did not know Young’s Nights by heart. I do not even think that anyone knows them in French prose, and besides, he made literature only an amusement.
I cite this fact as very remarkable, because it proves that in the state of somnambulism the sensations of which one has been affected during the vigil are retraced in all their vivacity. My sleepwalker read, so to speak, The Night of Narcissus. The next day I assured myself that he had recited two pages to me, and I do not think he had changed a word.
One sees that many of the phenomena presented by somnambulists can be explained by this one.
One day we went together to the country; we stayed there until six o’clock. At six-thirty we were on the road a league from the city; it was the hour when I was in the habit of magnetizing him. He told me that he was overwhelmed with sleep. I should have distracted him and opposed with all my strength that he sleep; but then I do not resist the desire to experiment. I stop it; I put the hand over the eyes for a minute, and I say to him with determination, sleep and walk; at once his eyes are closed; he sighs and he walks.
The road was long and the road very bad: sometimes he said to me, I am very tired, are we far? I offered to sit down; he sat down on a stone and said to me, complaining: this chair is very cold. We met some people; he said to me, there is a fluid that passes. At home I woke him up, and the next two days he was sick with fatigue.
The phenomena he presented to me later on are the same ones found in various relations.
Here is a fact of another kind, and which I report because it offers some circumstances that may interest the metaphysicians.
I was in Artois in a country half a league from the little town of Pernes. The wife of a notary of this city had for two years been ill with hemiplegia. The whole right side of her body was motionless; she could carry her right hand from one place to another only by taking it with her left hand. She saw and judged well what was passing around her; but she had lost the faculty of reading, of counting, and of speaking French as we do. It was not an embarrassment in language, and this phenomenon is very singular.
In speaking, she employed absolutely only the infinitive of verbs, and she made use of only one pronoun. (I believe that the language of some savage peoples is thus deprived of modifications.) Thus she said very well: “o wish good day; stay, husband come, to tell me, I wish you good morning, stay, my husband will come. But she did absolutely no conjugation. As for the faculty of counting, she went up to three alone, and up to four being helped. Thus, when she was presented with three coins, she counted very well one, two, three; if one put in a fourth, she said she to know ; if one told her four, she repeated one, two, three, four; but if a fifth piece was added, it was vain to repeat five, she always answered not to know.
I began to magnetize her. The first day she felt heat and tingling in her arm, a few days after the movement in her fingers, and after a fortnight she shook her arm, which caused a lot of sensation in the city. Gradually she resumed the faculty of counting; every day she advanced: when I left, she went to forty; she recalled to reading, and read in spelling. She said to me: Before, not be able to say I, you, you, he; now, say well. One sees from this sentence that she had not yet resumed the habit of using pronouns, but that she conceived of their use. I made her repeat I wish you good day. In the beginning she would have told me, do not know.
I left her in this state, leaving her husband to complete her cure. But the events of the revolution having interrupted my relations with her, I do not know whether she has been entirely cured. However that may be, this relation of intelligence to language seemed worthy of notice.
I magnetized a doctor who in his somnambulism saw clearly only as much as I held his head. He told me that if one magnetized too much and without precaution, one could cause him a engorgement in the brain, which shows that magnetism can have inconveniences.
I saw a hydropic woman, on whom one had made the puncture several times, become a sleepwalker. In this state, she presented her hands before her magnetizer, as before a stove; she was thus charged with fluid, and then magnetized herself, passing the hands, over all her body, from top to bottom, with a great deal of dexterity.
In the same way there was an epileptic somnambulist, of a very narrow mind, and extremely devout. In her somnambulism she saw angels rest on all that her magnetizer touched. I was curious to know what these angels were. One day, when her magnetizer was absent, I was allowed to make up for him; the somnambulist saw the angels, but less beautiful, less brilliant. I assured myself that these angels were nothing but the light of the fluid, which was much less lively when it emanated from me than when it emanated from her magnetizer.
I had radically cured a woman of a dropsy. This woman had, before her dropsy, a slight feeling of pain in the region of the abdomen. One day when I was the magnetist, two months after she had been sick with dropsy, she told me that when I presented my hand at a distance, opposite the abdomen, and that I stirred it, it seemed to her that my hand moved in the interior of her body. Beside this woman, who was a servant, were her mistress and her mistress's brother. They held a hand on her and one on me. I wanted to magnetize them too, because they had been inconvenienced. As I passed several times in front of both, my good wife told me in her own words:
It is singular, when you put your hand in front of Madam, I feel it move in my body as when you pass it in front of me. But, said I, do you not feel the same thing when I pass there in front of Monsieur? No, she answered me, when you pass there the hand in front of monsieur, I do not feel anything. This fact seemed to me very remarkable. It is clear that the woman whom I magnetized felt this sensation only by the correspondence of the internal organs which belonged to her sex.
The treatment of a girl of sixteen, who for three months had been suffering from severe pain, and could not walk, presented me with a circumstance of which I must mention. The effect of magnetism was announced on the third day by the diminution of pains and the return of sleep, and in a month she was healed. But although a chain of twelve persons rendered the action very energetic, she did not feel the slightest sense of sensation; she did not even feel the warmth of my hand in front of her face. During the treatment, a stye occurred *. I turned the thumb in front of her eye to dispel this little button. She then felt in the eye a heat so intense that she exclaimed: You burn me!
* Small button at the eyelid.
It can be seen from this that the same person may experience remarkable sensations, or feel no sensation, according to the kind of malady of which she is affected, and that in both cases she may be cured equally. We can see again that this sensibility can manifest itself in a slight inconvenience, while it will not be manifested in a serious illness.
A man of my acquaintance, very enlightened and very good observer, had for some time been subject to headaches which made themselves felt when he had devoted himself to study with too much application. He wanted to take advantage of this circumstance to try if magnetism would produce any effect on him. He was therefore made to be magnetized by his brother, recommending him to concentrate the action on the head, and to try to put him to sleep. The headaches dissipated without him experiencing the least drowsiness; but at the end of eight or ten days he was very much surprised at having acquired a very singular faculty, that of perceiving in the darkness the objects of white color when he has the eyes open, and of perceiving them in like manner during the day, with the eyes closed.
As this phenomenon announced in the organ of vision an irritability which it would perhaps be dangerous to increase, he did not consider it expedient to pursue the experiment further. A month later he still retained the same faculty. I consulted on this subject a sleepwalker; she told me that it came from an accumulation of fluid in the brain, and that the person I was talking to would do well to magnetize it with great currents, to restore equilibrium.
I have lately been witness to an interesting conversation between two somnambulists who did not know each other; they consulted one another about their ills: if they had been very far-sighted, they would have been perfectly in agreement. This is not what happened: each saw a part of the ills of the other, but without seeing them all, which produced a noticeable difference in treatment. A third somnambulist was presented to the first; this one has very well recognized which organ was affected; but the details which she gave on the lesion of this organ announced that she did not see distinctly the nature of the disease.
I do not doubt that these three somnambulists do not very clearly see their own state; but it is clear to me that they have not seen the same state of the one with whom they have been related; whence it follows that the somnambulists may obtain very useful indications, but that it is the height of the imprudence to refer to them for remedies, without having put their consultations to the judgment of a doctor.
I will end this chapter with the story of n event that has just happened before my eyes. I report it because it tends to refute, by direct experience, errors in which some enthusiastic magnetists have allowed themselves to be carried away, although they are opposed by philosophy.
Madame de ***, mother of two children with which she is uniquely occupied, having been sick for a few days, her husband tried to magnetize her, and the first time he put her into somnambulism. In this state, Madame de *** announced her crises and the outcome of her illness, and she gave some useful advice for one of her children who was unwell. Her husband, delighted with the penetration she showed, and the facility with which she spoke, let her speak on various subjects, and after her cure, he continued to put her into somnambulism out of curiosity. Soon the imagination of Madame de *** was exalted, and she saw the most extraordinary things. She informed her husband of the place where important papers were kept for her family. These papers, she said, had been deposited there in times of trouble by one of her parents, who had been dead for several years, who appeared to her and gave all possible information to find them.
The visions of Madame de *** having been prolonged for three months without her having any memory of it in the waking state, and all she said was perfectly connected, her husband, who did not see in all this that an incomprehensible phenomenon, however, determined to verify the facts, to know in a positive way what to hold. He accordingly proceeded to the place which had been assigned to him, and not only did he not find anything, but he ascertained that the places which had been described to him bore no resemblance to the description, and that there was nothing true in his wife's visions.
I am persuaded that, if we took the same precautions to verify all the phenomena which seem to belong to a supernatural order, we would obtain the same result, and that experience would confirm what has already been established by sound philosophy.
I think I must add that a wise and clairvoyant somnambulist having been put in communication with Madame de *, she said in the affirmative that all that this lady thought she saw was only an illusion; that by occupying herself with these follies a dangerous movement in the brain was excited, that it might result in a disease of nerves, and that it was necessary to avoid putting her into somnambulism.
It is probable that this shaking of the brain would not have taken place had it not been for Madame de * than for her illness, and that then somnambulism would have ceased immediately after the cure.
This phenomenon of a series of perfectly related visions is well worthy of the attention of physiologists and metaphysicians. It has sometimes manifested itself spontaneously, and I think we can cite a great example of it in the famous Swedenborg, who for twenty-seven years traveled in the world of spirits, and who wrote all that was there seen. The state of Swedenborg was similar to that of the visionary somnambulists, of which I have just given an example, with the only difference, that in these, somnambulism is not continuous, and presents a striking contrast with the waking state.
Besides, it is only with the greatest reserve that experiments can be made on this subject, because it is always dangerous to excite the irritability of the brain.
The visions of Madame de *** suddenly ceased by a circumstance which proves the empire of the magnetist over the ideas of the sleepwalker.
One of my friends, who is endowed with great force, having been begged by the husband of Madame de *** to magnetize her, did so with a determined desire to dissipate the visions which followed her. After an hour of crisis, she told him: There is a singular revolution in me; it seems that the fluid penetrates all the folds of my brain. Then she felt a shudder descending from head to foot; and from that moment her somnambulism has changed so much in character that she has entirely lost the memory of the follies that occupied her for four months. The order of her ideas being thus restored, her husband resolved not to magnetize her until she was ill, and only to cure her.
It appears that by saying, the fluid penetrates the folds of my brain, Madame de *** had intended to choose a term to restore the sensation she felt. One day when she was urged to take care of her visions, she replied: When I think of this, it seems that my brain is unfolding. I do not claim to derive any consequence from this way of expressing myself; but it seems all the more remarkable to me, that Madame de *** has certainly never heard the theory of Dr. Gall.
I may add here a volume of observations, but they would be similar to those which can be read in various works on magnetism. All I have to do is make sure that they confirm it. There is no point in going into more details.
I have never seen anything that comes out of the physical order, and which appears to belong to a supernatural order. Everything leads me to believe that M. Mesmer and M. Tardy de Montravel were right in recognizing in the sensations of somnambulists a kind of interior touch, or something analogous to the instinct of animals, and in the prevision of rapid calculations of intelligence.
Mystical doctrines and their association with Magnetism.
After having expounded the principal phenomena of somnambulism, and the proofs which ascertain its reality, it remains for me to examine an objection all the more important since it tends to reverse without discussion the ensemble of these proofs, and that it is made by the most enlightened men, by those to whom the study of the sciences has given the most rectitude of mind, by those who, knowing how much we are exposed to error, work, as far as possible, to dismiss the many causes that can lead us there.
When geometers or dialecticians want to establish a proposition or a fact, they have two ways of proceeding that are equally rigorous: one to demonstrate directly, the other to demonstrate the impossibility of the opposite.
In the physical order, if an observation contradicts the laws of nature, it is decided that it is false, without bothering to repeat it.
In the moral order, when a doctrine leads to dangerous consequences, it suffices to prove that these consequences are contained in order to have the right to condemn them.
Finally, when a system is supported by people who depart from received notions to surrender to the dreams of the imagination, when it leads to absurdities, a wise man must reject it without examination: this examination may serve only to refute it, and the refutation is useless. One does not bring back to the true those who have left the road traced by reason, and who have renounced the principles of logic.
True facts in themselves can no doubt be used to support an erroneous theory, and the falsity of the explanations do not allow to deny the facts, when they are recognized by those who do not admit the explanations. But if it happens that the facts are attested only by those who employ them to prove their system, one must not take that into account. The good faith of witnesses proves nothing; for as soon as a false idea dominates us, we are inclined to believe all sorts of absurdities. The works composed in the centuries of darkness are filled with wonders and miracles. Those who wrote them did not pretend to impose them, and they were as much convinced of the follies they recounted, as we are of the physical truths proved by experience. Does one have to discuss their testimonies? Diogenes did not reply to a sophist, who denied movement by walking in front of him.
This was to say that the obvious dispenses we the dialectic: but if there are sophisms of which has no need to unravel the artifice to ensure that they do not prove what we want to prove what one wishes to prove, there are also wonderful facts which it is superfluous to examine, because we are certain in advance that they can not be true. The march of the philosopher would be delayed if he stopped fighting chimeras. Perhaps even wisdom forbids us to expose ourselves to the contagion of the enthusiasts, as to the subtleties of the sophists. Thus an extraordinary fact must be verified only so long as those who attest to it are enlightened men and have always given proof of reason and common sense.
This is what the philosophers say, and I am perfectly of their opinion. But it seems to me that in some cases, and especially on the object we are dealing with, they have pushed too far the application of these principles. Let us listen to their objections first, and then discuss them.
The facts that you tell, they say, are associated with the mystical theories which are the delirium of reason. Your crisiacs resemble those we once saw in several sects of enthusiasts, to those still seen today in some assemblies of Methodists and Quakers. This is a disease of the imagination, often convulsive, and almost always contagious.
The most wonderful phenomena of sleepwalking have been produced and attested by the illuminated, that is to say, by visionaries, who have used it to prove their theory, and by this means have led many people in their opinions. The experience of these fatal consequences must warn us against the illusions that produced them; and it is enough for us to know them in order to dispense with our faith and to discuss their bases. In magnetic treatments, as in assemblies of tremblers, we have seen crisiacs speak with enthusiasm, and even with a surprising eloquence: all that must be concluded is that some cause had put them in a state of delirium: this cause can not be used to cure our diseases, and we must fear it all the more because it can mislead reason.
That, if I am not mistaken, is the objection in all its force. To see if it is well founded, it must be analyzed in all its parts.
“The phenomena of somnambulism tend to prove extravagant theories, and are explained by these theories.”
No. It must be said that these phenomena were associated with all kinds of opinions by those who were already warned of these opinions: as the physical facts on which everyone agrees were used to support the most absurd and explained systems by these systems.
We know that M. Mesmer was accused of materialism by several of his antagonists: this imputation was unjust; but it is true that Mesmer has never seen in the action of magnetism anything but matter and motion, and that he has never resorted to spiritualism to explain the phenomena of somnambulism, which is enough to prove that these phenomena are independent of any mystical theory.
“Somnambulists have recounted extravagances.”
I agree for many of them: the state of Somnambulisn makes those who are there susceptible to the slightest impressions. If one strikes them with a chimerical idea, if one introduces them into a career of illusions, then their exalted imagination leads them into all sorts of reveries: but somnambulists who have been well directed, or rather that one has not lost, have always shown a lot of sense and reason.
The crisiacs we have seen in assemblies of the illumined can not be compared to those who have always been alone with their magnetizer, accompanied at the most by a few relatives or friends, and who have only been interviewed about their health. I have, I think, fairly well established that the greatest number of somnambulists are in this case: I consent to what one does not hold account with others.
It is still said that they are illumined who have had the most astonishing somnambulists, and that it is from them that the most rapid and extraordinary cures are recounted.
It can be, and I will give the reason. *
* However, according to the reasons I have given above, and from the information I have taken, I am convinced that somnambulism has rarely been a salutary crisis in their hands.
All those who know magnetism understand that its action depends on the will, and that this will must be strengthened by belief, by confidence, and by the desire for good: or in other words, that the three qualities which give energy to magnetism are faith, hope and charity.
Now, in those who are called illumined, the will is all the stronger and calmer than any doubt displeases it, and its action is by no means diverted by the desire to be noticed.
Their faith is all the more firm and lively, as they are convinced that the world of spirits is that of realities, while the physical world is that of appearances.
Their confidence is all the more unshakable, since they strengthen it by prayer, and, once assured of the purity of their intentions, they rely on the help of God.
Their charity is all the more ardent, that in doing good they believe to fulfill their sole function on earth, and to make themselves worthy of the favors of the Almighty.
Thus, although the opinion which directs them is a mistake, the forces which this opinion communicates to them are none the less real; and one knows that in every way a prejudice can produce the same force, the same confidence, the same ardor as a truth.
I will mention in passing that the astonishing cures of solitaries in various religions have been caused by this meeting of will, belief and trust.
From all this it follows that the phenomena of somnambulism prove nothing for any mystical theory, that they have been seen by men of absolutely different opinion and that they must be examined in themselves, independently of the character and opinions of those who have attested them.
One insists and one says that sleepwalkers led by the illuminated ones supported the theory of their magnetizers, that they made predictions, that they saw spirits, that they traveled in the other world, etc.., etc., and that such extravagances show that these somnambulists were impostors or lunatics.
I answer that the imposture of this kind has been much rarer than one thinks, and above all one does not say it. But nothing more common than illusion and error. If it were a question of proving the truth of visions of somnambulists, there is no doubt that it would be necessary to combine all the circumstances, and that some obvious errors would suffice to make everything reject: but it is only a question of examining whether there is not a different state from the natural state, which sometimes shows itself spontaneously in the crises of certain diseases, and which is frequently produced by the action of magnetism.
Whether those who have entered this state go astray or not, the phenomenon is no less real. As for the speeches and visions of some crisiacs, all observers agree that we can exalt the imagination of somnambulists, and that once we put them in this state of exaltation there is no extravagance that they can not say: there are then patients in delirium who tell their dreams with an easy and brilliant speech.
Thus the belief in magnetism and that in the opinions of the illumined are absolutely foreign to each other, and if some persons believed that magnetism led to this occult and mystical philosophy, it is for want of having thought about it, and to have distinguished the state of somnambulists, which is real, from certain discourses which they have held in this state, and which deserve no confidence.
I even think that the examination of somnambulism leads to the explanation of most of the facts on which the illumined people establish their theory, and that, on observing it well, we will bring into the natural and physical order the phenomena which seem to belong to a supernatural order. Since the discussion I have engaged in has led me to speak of the illumined, I will try to give of their doctrine a concept as clear and as exact as can do that which one who is not initiated in their society. This digression may be of interest to my readers; it will serve at least to prove that mystical theories are absolutely foreign to magnetism.
Digression on mystical doctrines.
It is a rather remarkable thing that one is generally better informed of the various systems of religious philosophy imagined by the ancients than by those of modern times. There is not a point of Egyptian, Greek, Indian, and Scandinavian theogonies, which has not been the object of the most profound researches. Everything that relates to the mysteries of Isis, of Geres, of Bacchus has been discussed with much erudition, while we have neglected to deal with such objects when they belonged to times close to us. Here, it seems to me, is the reason for this difference.
In the seventeenth century controversy occupied all minds. In the next century philosophy made emptiness felt, and it showed that reasoning should be applied to more useful objects. In this it has undoubtedly rendered an essential service; but it would have been interesting to preserve the history of the vain attempts made to discover truths independent of those known to us by the observation of external objects.
If it was done for the ancient systems and not for the moderns, it is because they are based on ideas borrowed from Christianity, and that M. de Voltaire, who exerted a great influence on the spirit of his century has ridiculed the discussions of the dogmas of the Christian religion. Several writers have exposed the reveries of the Platonists and eclectics: one has commented on Plotinus and Porphyry; but as for Jacob Behme, Swedenborg, and St. Martin, one has contented himself with saying that these authors were madmen, without searching whether in their numerous works there were not ingenious glimpses, high morality, and especially a singular sequence of principles and consequences.
I do not pretend that these writings should be studied: one can certainly better use his time: I only say that those who undertake to give the history of the opinions of men must not overlook those who have had many partisans; that before judging them they must know them, and that it is better to expose a chimerical system and to show the falsity than to confine oneself to rejecting it with contempt.
Disdain for religious opinions has had other consequences. Several writers of great talent, struck by the evils which superstition had occasioned, have thought it hard to dry up the source, and in this view they have strongly attacked the Christian religion; but one realizes that they had not considered it as a whole and under its true point of view. The orthodox theologians, and the philosophers of the Diderot and Helvetius schools, address two different classes of readers.
Those who read the writings of some do not read those of others, and ordinarily neither philosophers know the proofs upon which Pascal and Bossuet believed that religion was firmly established, nor the theologians know the objections of their adversaries. The two parties take a road so different that the traits they engage each other are lost in the space that separates them. I do not wish to decide between them; I only observe that, when it is proposed to treat a question, it would be well to begin by considering it in all its extent.
In trying to give an idea of the doctrine of some men who, according to their meditations and revelations with which they imagine they have been favored, have made themselves a particular kind of religion, I begin by warning that I do not adopt this doctrine, which I do not pretend in any way to propose as admissible, and that my aim is only to examine whether it is more absurd than the metaphysical systems of Plato, Leibnitz, Huet, Malebranche, etc., which, although one judges them to be quite improbable, they have never prevented the authors from being respected.
However, to expose this doctrine in the most favorable light, it is necessary that, disregarding my particular feeling, I consider it, not as false, but as problematic, and that I make known the evidence on which those who are persuaded. It is necessary also to examine whether, in adopting the principles of this doctrine, one would arrive at the results to which one generally believes that it leads: if, for example, the reality of previsions and prophecies would be the necessary consequence; finally, what would be its influence on morality and the conduct of men?
To avoid any equivocal or insulting denomination, I will give to those who profess this doctrine the name of Theosophists; *
* It is all the more essential to designate them by a particular denomination, which has been mistakenly given the name of Illuminati to a very dangerous sect widespread in Germany, and whose principles tend to nothing less than to upset society. There were enthusiasts, dupes, and madmen in this sect. But as their follies could have the most fatal consequences, it was the duty of the magistrate to stop the spread of them.
A writer, whose courage, intentions, and talents I esteem, has confounded under the name of Illuminati all those who have adopted or appeared to adopt mystical ideas; he enveloped in the same proscription the ancient heresiarch Manes, Swedenborg, Kant, St. Martin, Weishaupt, and the fanatics of the French Revolution. He thought he saw in the doctrine of Theosophists the source of that of the Jacobins, and he claimed that their religious opinions were a veil intended to cover the project of overthrowing the throne and the altar, and undermining the foundations of civil society. One is astonished at the relations which he establishes between men most opposed by character and by principles.
This writer would have been more useful; he would have obtained the consent of the wise men, if, defending himself from all exaggeration, he would have contented himself with saying that the mystical doctrines having many partisans in the north of Europe towards the end of the last century, one was used to convey other ideas; that the authors of these doctrines, delivered to solitary meditations, had not doubted that their language would be used to support opinions contrary to theirs, and that they would draw disgraceful consequences from their principles and their wishes for the general good; that by forced interpretations of Scripture these doctrines distorted the spirit of Christianity; that the Christian religion, taken in its simplicity, suffices men to direct them in their conduct and to console them in their misfortunes; that, being intended for all, it is clear to all, and that nothing can be gained by adding new mysteries to it.
Finally, it is dangerous to excite enthusiasm, because those who are once affected do not see things in their true light, and may be drawn into all sorts of errors. As to what this author says about the danger of secret societies, I am perfectly of his opinion. [End Note]
it is the one that men who believe it to be true give to the masters of whom they regard themselves as disciples and to writers whose works appear to them to contain the principles.
The question of the truth of mystical doctrines is extremely complicated, or rather it contains a host of questions.
Among these questions there are some of which the negative would lead to the ruin of the system, and of which the affirmative proves nothing for the other questions. There are also some that are isolated, and on which we can indifferently adopt the affirmative or the negative, without affecting the whole.
Let us see some of these questions:
1º Is there a God who created us?
2º Is there a distinct substance in us?
of matter, and which is the principle of feeling and thought?
3º Does this substance survive the body?
4º This substance, though it makes use of the organs of the body, and receives sensations from them, can it in some cases feel and think without the help of these organs?
These are four questions that are related to each other. Those who deny the first three can not enter into any discussion of the following. It is useless to prove them here, the existence of God, the immateriality and immortality of the soul having been the subject of a large number of works of philosophy. *
* Among the physical proofs to establish the existence of God, there is one to which it seems to me that one has not paid attention, and I ask permission to expound it in a few words.
Those who do not recognize that an intelligent cause has created or arranged the world, are obliged to admit one of these two suppositions.
Either that man has existed for all eternity on earth, or has begun to exist there at a more or less remote period.
Let us examine these two assumptions.
All who for a century have studied natural history and geology agree that the earth was formerly in a state of softness; that it has been covered by the waters, and that the minerals which are on its surface have been crystallized in a fluid. Indices of crystallization appear even in primitive rocks; and, as to the secondary rocks, the thing is evident, since they contain an innumerable quantity of organized bodies.
Now, in this state of softness, the earth could not be fit for the habitation of man. Add to this that one has found in no part a fossil human body: which does not demonstrate rigorously, but which contributes to prove that the existence of man on earth is posterior to that of several quadrupeds which are lost today, which themselves have been placed there only after seashells.
These facts are so certain that no naturalist sees as possible that the present state of our globe is similar to its previous state, and that it is generally agreed that the earth has undergone several great revolutions which have changed the form of continents.
The system of Buffon, that all has been first produced by fire, is contradicted by observations; but when one adopts it, it would not be less obvious that man has not lived on earth for all eternity.
This is the first supposition destroyed, according to the confession of all scientists: let us pass to the second.
To know that the existence of man on earth dates only from the last or the last but one revolution of the globe; that this revolution is distant from 7,000 years or 70,000 years, it does not matter.
In this case, there must be two things:
Either that, from its origin, man has been, in terms of his physical organization, roughly similar to what he is now:
Or that he had at first a simpler and different organization, which, by gradual and successive changes, brought him to his present state.
If in the moment when the earth produced him he was a child, how was he nourished until he was fully developed? If he were a man, how, without education, could he suddenly see, walk, seek his food? It must be supposed that he was at first nourished for a long time by the atmosphere which surrounded him, an assumption devoid of all foundation, and contradicted by analogy.
On the other hand, how has the earth formed not only an individual whose parts are made for each other, or, if we see here only a crystallization determined by the force of a vital spirit, how did she form both
two or more individuals of different sex, and who are obviously made for each other.
There remains the second hypothesis, that the present man is the perfection of a simpler being; because we can not have imagined a third.
This hypothesis that man was at first a gelatinous animal that lived in the waters, and that his organs were formed and developed little by little by the influence of circumstances and habits, has been proposed by naturalist scholars. It is the only one that can explain how man was born on our planet without being placed there by an intelligent cause.
But this change in organized beings, by which a mollusc becomes a fish, then a seal, then a monkey or any other animal, and finally a man, is not only deprived of evidence, but still contrary to all the notions that the study of comparative anatomy gives. It is a system that the most learned zoologist of our day has victoriously refuted in his writings and lessons.
It is absolutely impossible to imagine a hypothesis which does not fit into one of the ones I have just discussed, without resorting to an intelligent cause. The word nature is vague. If nature acts for a purpose that she knows, then she is God, if she acts blindly, she is not a being, she is only the whole of things.
Now, leaving aside all the metaphysical proofs of the existence of God, which philosophers, and especially Rousseau, have so eloquently expounded, I ask if it is not more reasonable to believe an intelligent cause has placed man on the earth, than to assume that a complicated organization, of which all the parts are necessary ones to others, gradually formed in a succession of centuries; and if those who said, for example, that man had a nose because he had got into the habit of blowing his nose, have not put forward proposals which, far from supporting their system, serve to to make the absurdity felt [End Note]
The answer to the fourth question is deduced from the two preceding ones; for if one agrees that the soul is immaterial and that it survives the body, it follows that it can think and feel without the help of external organs. I know that some philosophers have claimed to admit the immortality of the soul, while they wanted to establish that it could have no idea without the aid of the organs; but these two propositions are so contradictory that I find it hard to believe that they have been associated in good faith.
Let us move on to another set of questions:
5º Does spiritual substance act upon matter?
The answer is obvious, as soon as it is admitted that man is composed of body and mind, or material substance and immaterial substance.
6º How are spirit and matter united? and how do they act on each other?
Insoluble question in the current state of our knowledge. It suffices to admit the fact without worrying about the explanation; but it must be pointed out that the Theosophists believe that man is composed of three substances, namely the body, the mind, and the soul. They regard the soul as an intermediary intermediate between spirit and matter, and establishes communication between them.
7º Are there spirits not bound to a body?
This question can be examined under several points of view, and the affirmative can be established by several means.
1º By analogy. Since the soul exists after death, there may exist other substances of the same nature as it. Assuming God pure spirit, one must think that he did not limit himself to creating minds bound for a time to a body: we must even presume that he has put in the creation of the spiritual world the same gradation, the same variety as in that of the material world, and that there are several classes of beings, all infinitely below him, but nevertheless intermediate between him and man. This opinion is not peculiar to Theosophists; several philosophers have adopted it, and one knows that it has been mainly supported today by Bonnet of Geneva. These beings, if they exist, must probably be endowed with various faculties, different inclinations, and varying degrees of intelligence.
2º By facts. Although these beings can not make themselves perceptible to our senses in an immediate manner, since matter alone is the object of our sensations, they could nevertheless be manifested to us by impressions which bodies are incapable of producing; but such proofs would have no effect until they were subjected to a criticism always neglected by those who are disposed to admit them.
3º By authority. It can be said that the existence of these beings has been regarded as a truth by almost all peoples, that it is bound up with the various religions, and that it is rash to reject without examination a belief which in all ages has been spread all over the earth.We speak of our reason; but the men who have thought otherwise than we were they not rational beings?
8º Another question. The existence of these spirits once admitted, must we believe that they can enter into communication with men?
I answer that I do not know; but as it is from the affirmative answer to this question that the admission of all the mystical doctrines depends, and that I have undertaken to assert the motives of those who adopt these doctrines, I must observe, 1º that this belief has been admitted in all religions and by all peoples; 2º that it does not contradict any of the principles to which we are led by the observation of nature and by sound metaphysics; 3º that the objections raised against it are by no means decisive.
This question must be discussed by examining historical facts. Many people have believed and still believe that they are in communication with spirits, they claim to see them or hear them, and that proves nothing; for those who assure it, even if they were, moreover, men of the greatest sense, may well be suffering from a nervous malady and dupes of their imagination. The revelations they believe they have received will be conclusive proof only insofar as they would have a supernatural character: for the knowledge of what is happening far from us, or of an event to come, does not demonstrate always that the revelation is due to spirits, as I have shown in explaining the prevision of somnambulists.
But there are magical operations, that is to say, the means that certain people pretend to have to communicate with the spirits, and of which they even say to have rendered witness of people who did not believe in them.
In order to know what to expect, it will be necessary to discuss the truth of the relations which have been given of this order of facts: the thing is not impossible, and what is more difficult, it is to guarantee any prejudice for or against. I do not advise anyone to undertake this examination, but it is with justice not to treat as visionaries those who say they did, before having acquired any proof of their error. In fact, when even this supernatural order would exist, the physical order would feel no alteration; everything would happen in a world apart; those who have not entered it could only oppose negative and consequently insufficient proofs.
9º Another question. If this communication can exist, is it dependent on the will of man?
This question, like the preceding one, can only be decided by examining the facts: nothing a priori leads to the affirmative.
10º Are the beings with whom one can enter in communication good or bad, truthful or liars? or rather, are not these beings of different natures, have they different faculties and inclinations, so much so that they form a ladder from the last degree of malice to the most perfect goodness? If one accepts this principle, it follows that there is a criminal magic which consists in communication with evil spirits, and a pure and holy magic which consists in communication with the good ones. It would follow again:
That the wicked spirits, and therefore inferior to the man, can alone be subjected to his will and employed by him to serve his passions: while the good spirits do not go to the prayer of the man except as he is good himself, and he is animated with the purest intentions. In fact, according to the theosophists, superior minds are never determined to act except by the desire of good; they communicate themselves to man only to instruct him in what it is really useful for him to know; they never obey his curiosity, even less his passions; whence it follows that they maintain relations only with those who, freed from the temporary affairs of this world, are occupied solely with the perfection of their soul, the general good and the life to come.
One sees that I do not pretend to decide any of these questions. I have no desire to communicate with evil spirits, and I believe myself far from the purity necessary to communicate with the good. I say what can be, for no other purpose than to show that one must not reject with contempt and without any examination of the opinions adopted at all times and in all countries by men who, on any other object, were equally wise and perhaps more virtuous than we.
I admit that the objections to these opinions have been extremely weak. All announce the ignorance of the theory. It would have been better to be content to deny without any refutation. I do not admit this theory, because it supposes an order of things of which I have not been able to acquire the proof, and especially because the facts on which it relies can be explained by other causes; but I can not reject it as absurd, nor treat as fools who adopt it, because it does not imply contradiction.
Let us now examine the fundamental principles of this theory: I continue my role of skeptic by exposing and supporting them.
If one admits the immortality of the soul, one is forced to admit that the soul separated from the body can have ideas, for thought being of its essence, if it thought no more, it would have no more existence: one must also believe that after this separation it is not in a more imperfect state, but that it has, on the contrary, more faculties, and that seeing immediately without the help of organs, and without being fixed at a place it sees more distinctly, that it has affections, and that these affections, being no longer troubled by the same passions and the same needs, are more straightforward and more subject to truth and reason.
One is still forced to admit that it preserves the memory of the past: for a being who had lost the memory of the past would no longer be the same being; it is the connection of the past to the present which constitutes the individual ego.
As for the place where it lives, the metaphysicians will not make any question on this subject. The idea of place or that of space given to us by our senses, and coming only from matter, can not be applied to spirits. It is by a phenomenon inexplicable and dependent on the will of the Creator that during the course of life the soul is bound to a body: after it is free from matter, it occupies no proper place. The images that have been made in all the religions of hell and paradise are a way of making sensible the ideas of punishment and reward: hell and paradise are not a place, but a state. God fills the universe; he is present everywhere; reason rises to this truth: the testimony of the senses can not make it conceive.
Once one admits that souls survive the body, and that in this new existence they preserve the memory of the past and at least some of their affections, there is nothing absurd to believe that they can enter into communication with living beings. Reasoning seems to establish this possibility. The soul during life acted on the body to which it was united; therefore the soul acts upon matter: why should it have lost this faculty? Besides, it does not need to act immediately on the matter; it suffices for it to pass its ideas to another soul, who is of the same nature, and who can hear it.
So the question is not to know if it is possible, but if it is; and this goes into questions of fact, which can only be resolved by the discussion of the testimonies. It would therefore be necessary to examine whether there have been inspirations, apparitions, revelations.Those who assure it say that they know it by their own experience or by the testimony of people worthy of faith: those who deny it say that they know no example: the first claim to give positive evidence; others oppose negative evidence. I ask if this is not the case to suspend his judgment? because for the absurdity we have just seen that there is no point in it.
I know very well that if any one thought to confess that he believes in ghosts, for it is necessary to pronounce this word well, one would make fun of him. But I warn at the same time that among those who laugh at it, there are many people who are not firm in their unbelief, who are even afraid of the ghosts: which is at the same time a pusillanimity and an absurdity much more blameworthy than that of believing in their existence, even if it would be proved false.
Let us continue; if one admits the existence of souls after the death of the individuals whom they have animated, we already recognize the existence of an infinite number of spirits who are in a state of happiness or suffering relative to the good or the harm they have done during life: that is not all, once one is persuaded that there exists an order of intelligent beings who are not united to matter, one must admit that all these beings are not exactly alike, and besides those who have been united for a time to a body, there are others who are intelligences, good or bad angels.
This is not a necessary consequence of the immortality of the human soul, but it is at least an analogy that makes the thing likely. One can not know whether these intelligences have the faculty of acting upon matter, and nothing leads us to think it; but they can certainly enter into communication with other intelligences, even with those who are united to a body, by giving them inspirations, or by communicating ideas to them.
Here, then, is the universe peopled with an infinity of beings of a nature analogous to that of the human soul and who can communicate with us.
These beings are good or mischievous, or intermediate between the good and the bad.
The first, which form, so to speak, a ladder between God and man (without however any creature being comparable to the Creator), the first, I say, are animated by a constant will for good; they know God, they love Him, they desire the happiness of all creation, they work in it as much as they can, and by whatever means the Creator allows them to use. Love forms their essence.
The second only aspire to disturb order and to share their misfortune with other intelligent creatures; they want to seduce us, to deceive us: hatred and jealousy are their habitual feelings, they have more power than man, and intellectual faculties more extensive in certain respects: but the goodness of the Creator limits their power, and only allows them to communicate with the wicked.
The third are beings whose intellectual faculties are still very extensive, but whose will has no force; they are at the orders of those who wish to employ them; but they expose us to illusions, and serve us very badly, if we have not the strength to direct them.
It is clear that in what I have just said I have only expounded a doctrine which I believe to be that of the Theosophists: my aim is not to insinuate that this doctrine is true, but only that it is bound in all its parts and that it is not absurd in itself. Let us go on.
Of these three orders of spirits, which, however, can be subdivided by their faculties and their moral qualities, result three kinds of magic.
Communication with demons is always criminal: demons respond to evocations; they make us know things that we would not know without them; they may sometimes serve our passions, but their purpose is always to harm; and if they enlighten us on certain objects, it is to better deceive us on others. Evocations are agreed signs to which they have themselves consented to submit: the forms by which they may be called are, it is said, known to some initiates and recorded in several books. They have names and a kind of language to which they respond.
The good spirits also submit to the will of man, but as good and evil are indifferent to them, they never render him real services: they seek, so to speak, only a vain amusement; every moral goal is foreign to them. Good spirits are not subject to the will of man, they only want to communicate with those who are free from all earthly passion, and only with the worshipers of God, with the friends of the order and of the good they consent to form some society. In certain circumstances they are the messengers of God, and charged to give advice to men: but they willingly yield to the prayer of those whose heart is perfectly pure, whose intentions are right, whose wishes only tend to eternal happiness of themselves and all their brothers.
There exist today societies of men who claim to be in communication with these good spirits, and to receive from them opinions and revelations.These men show wisdom and good sense in the conduct of life; they are distinguished by the purity of their manners, by piety, by complete resignation to the events they believe to be in the designs of Providence: they communicate with each other to enlighten and to strengthen themselves in the world, they attach no importance to what we can think of their doctrine, they simply say what they believe true to whoever questions them, without ever taking the initiative to make known and adopt their opinions: finally they are of a gentleness, of a tolerance very opposed to the character of the fanatics, and they answer to the unbelievers who ask them to convince them: Do good, pray God to enlighten you, do not repel the inspirations of your conscience, and soon you will think like us.
I know very well that this character of the men of whom I speak is by no means a reason to adopt their ideas; but it is one not to spread scorn on their person and to blame their intentions; perhaps it is one not to cast ridicule on their opinions before discussing them.
Some members of this society, whose origins may be very long ago, have published writings in which two things can be repeated.
From obscurity, and an erroneous physics.
As for obscurity: they claim that they only write for the initiates, and I can not decide whether the initiates hear them.
As for the errors of physics, as the greater part, although endowed with a lot of mind, have neglected to deepen the sciences of observation, it is not surprising that their writings are filled with it. It is not on this kind of knowledge that they have been able to converse with higher intelligences; it is indifferent to these that man knows the true system of the world, the true theory of electricity, heat, motion, etc.; it only matters to them that man makes good use of the goods that the Creator has put within his reach, and that he does not neglect to take care of the life to come, that is, the time when our senses will no longer expose us to illusions, and where the happiness of knowing all the secrets of creation may be the reward of those who will only love justice and truth.
One can only dissimulate that man once man gives himself up to his imagination to explain things which are the responsibility of the senses, and which can only be known through observation, experience and calculation, he does not go astray in all sorts of chimeras; so when the theory of these men is true as regards the moral order, it would not be necessary to conclude anything with regard to the physical order.
For the rest, the reading of these writings seems to me to offer no proof either for or against the theory. I speak only of those which I have read, but it proves two things, that all those who have occupied themselves with these objects have established their doctrine on the same bases, and that all are animated by the love of the good.
Let us now follow this doctrine of Theosophists and see where it will lead us.
According to them the spirits may know the future, at least to a certain point: we will say below how this knowledge of the future is possible, and what are its limits. If they know the future they can reveal it to man: hence predictions, prophecies, etc.
But it is necessary to see here in what this opportunity of knowing the future in consulting the spirits can be useful to us.
The spirits that one can consult are either the good angels, or the bad angels, or the spirits of an intermediate order.
The first, who regard as important only those things which pertain to the moral world, and communicate only with men free from passions and of a very pure virtue, will make revelations only to indicate the means of escaping the seductions of vice. and to make progress in virtue: at the most they can comfort a son or a friend afflicted, revive well-founded hopes in projects that tend to good, or reveal a crime committed to call justice and show the finger of Providence: but they will answer none of those idle questions that those who consult the magicians propose to them with so much greed. Thus one will learn nothing from them about human affairs, unless there is an interest of justice.
Demons will be able to reveal the future; but as they do not have a distinct view of complicated events, they will deceive themselves about a host of circumstances. Moreover, they will always seek to harm. If they indicate to you a treasure, it would be because its acquisition would entail your ruin; if they announce an event to you, it is because the knowledge of this event must have fatal consequences for you. Fortunately they can not approach good people: it would be a torture for them to have some relation with the good spirits of which they are always surrounded.
There remain the spirits of an intermediate order; but the latter, if they respond to the will of man, can give him only limited knowledge, because they have no extended lights: they can not act strongly, because they have not by themselves determined will. It is they, however, who predict the future and who intervene in most magical operations; but their predictions, partly true, are always mingled with many errors, and their actions, which never have a pure motive, could be directed to a useful end only by the will of man, and the man of good disdains to consult them.
Besides, there is still a principle in the system of Theosophists; it is that when one puts oneself in communication with the spirits, one enters, so to speak, into another world: henceforth the evil spirits seek to creep among those who are less mischievous, and who do not have the force to repulse them, and their intervention often makes all their operations difficult.
It follows from this that there is nothing to gain from the magical operations in which one claims to dispose of spirits: according to the system of Theosophists, these operations are even accompanied by the greatest dangers; because if man lacks energy, if he stops for a moment to be attentive, if his will is uncertain, evil spirits can do him a lot of harm.
Evil spirits can even seize man; and this is the story of possessions: but the man of good, who, full of confidence in God, intimates to them his orders, expels them at once.
One sees that I am exposing here opinions which I am very far from considering as probable. I only wish to show how this theory explains the wonders which, in less enlightened centuries, have been adopted by the people.
As for the knowledge of past and present, there is no doubt that one could acquire it by communication with spirits; but there is no need for their intervention for that, and I have already explained how this phenomenon can take place without it being a proof of the existence of the spirits and communication with them.
Now, if what Theosophists claim is true, one would explain how fortune-tellers without mind and education, ignorant and rude men make predictions that are true, and why these predictions are only partly fulfilled: why, while the fact announced is found true enough to astonish, it is not, however, sufficiently exact to recognize that it was foreseen by an attentive and error-free intelligence.
One would still see why the examples of apparitions, revelations, etc., have been more frequent in barbarous ages than in centuries of light; it is not only because gross and credulous men are more easily deceived; it is because they have more simplicity, more confidence, more will; it is because, firmly believing in the existence of spirits, they call them and listen to them instead of repelling them; it is because in them each recounts of what he is persuaded, without fear of for a liar or a visionary.
Finally one would see that this theory, which supposes a rewarding and avenging God, the immortality of the soul, the pains and rewards in the other life, the necessity of worshiping God, the utility of a worship of spirits the importance of virtue and belief in the fundamental truths of religion does not imply any positive and exclusive religion of others.
However it is necessary to agree that, if many of those who have spoken of the means of communicating with the spirits were of different religions, and especially among them many Jews, those who have sought to communicate only with good spirits, and for the perfection of their moral being, are Christians of various communions; but all admit that the man fallen by his faults was called to God by the Messiah.
The greatest number of those who have had the curiosity to read the writings of the Theosophists at first have rejected them as reveries; only a few have studied them and have tried to make applications of them; but these applications being made contrary to the purpose of the institution, they produced only false results. It follows that neither of the ones nor the others have the right to pronounce.
If anyone thought that the doctrine of the Theosophists was based on such reasonable bases and led to conclusions interesting enough to be bothered to discuss, it would not be necessary for him to imagine that this discussion could be made after reading their books, which are very obscure, and which, moreover, suppose what is in question.
Before examining the doctrine, it would be necessary to know whether all the facts it claims to explain are not chimeras. It would be necessary to sink into the maze of superstitions and extravagances of which all the stories are filled, to ascertain whether there really were apparitions, possessions, predictions, revelations, miracles: it would be necessary that this review was led by severe and deep criticism, but frank and free from prejudices; for if one rejects a single testimony because he opposes an opinion that one already has, one makes a petition of principle, and one never clarifies anything.
As for theosophists, this is what they require in order to participate in the benefits that they claim to have:
A firm trust in God;
An entire submission to his will;
A mind willing to receive the truth;
An ardent desire to it known, not out of curiosity, but to make progress in good;
An extreme indifference to temporal affairs in what is personal to us, but a great application to these matters, in so far as in indulging in them one fulfills one's task in society;
An active and unlimited charity;
An extreme purity of manners;
A continual habit of prayer and meditation, so that this prayer and meditation fulfill all the moments that are not used to fulfill one's duties;
A great simplicity of heart that always leaves the soul alone because in everything we recognize the will of Providence;
An ardent desire for the happiness of men;
Finally, when prepared by pure conduct, by an expiation of the faults of the past life, communication with the spirits can be facilitated by means of initiation, which forms originally established in concert with higher intelligences have been transmitted by oral tradition since the earliest times.
One must avow that, if these are follies, at least these follies are not dangerous: by making happy those who are convinced of them, they engage them to look after the good of others.
… Et isti
Errori virtus nomen posuisset honestum.
… And in those
Errors the name of virtue had ordained honesty.
Positive religions, especially the Catholic, seem to contradict some of the bases of this belief, yet one of these doctrines does not exclude the other. Among the theosophists there are men of all Christian communions: all think that it is necessary to render to God the worship prescribed by the religion in which one has been raised, without allowing himself to censure the opinions of others in what holds to dogma. They are tolerant, not by difference, but by a spirit of charity, and by the persuasion that God will be able to enlighten those who sincerely desire the truth, who follow the morals of the Gospel, and who conform to the most essential of all the precepts, that of loving God above all, and his neighbor as himself.
All theosophists regard the Bible as an inspired book, and the Gospel as the code God has given to men; they believe that man created good, but free, is stripped of his primitive state by an aberration of his will and by a misuse of his liberty; and that this life is a time of trial during which we must make our efforts to return to the primitive state from which we have fallen. They believe, finally, that the Redeemer has come to set men on the right path, and to redeem them from the proscription they deserved. As for the intelligences, those of a lower order had at first been exempt from defilement, and it is by abusing their faculties and their liberty that they have perverted themselves, and that they have lost the happy state to which they were destined. This is the explanation which is deduced from Scripture, which has been adopted in the Christian Church, and which is widespread in the ancient religions of Asia.
I have said above that many of these opinions necessarily follow one another, and that others are independent of those to which they have been associated.
Thus the possibility of the appearances of the souls of the dead is a necessary consequence of the immortality of the soul, although the reality of the fact can only be proved by historical evidence. The existence of several orders of intelligence is established only on analogy, and the correspondence with these intelligences can only be proved by experience. If there were no determinative experience in this respect, the existence of intelligences would be no less probable; but their communication with man would be no more than a religious opinion. The principle that man is deprived of a higher state is established only on metaphysical considerations which many philosophers, and among others Pascal, have very well developed.
In that is enough of the principles of Theosophical Doctrine. Let us now examine some questions relating to it, beginning with that of the prevision, which has led us to treat this subject.
One alleges, it will be said, that spirits can read in the future; but the future does not exist; how is it possible to know it?
The future can only be known in two ways: either by the immediate vision of a future event, or by an extremely rapid combination of the various causes that can bring this event. I will come back to the first way; I begin by explaining the second, because it is analogous to the one we usually use to direct our judgments.
Let me be heard by a comparison.
I am placed at the edge of a river on which is a bridge of several arches. I see, as far as my sight can distinguish the objects, a boat coming towards the bridge, and I say that this boat will pass under the third arch, because I see its direction, that of the stream of water and the movement the boatmen make to the oars. This prevision is very simple; it is not infallible, but one will be deceived the less that one will be more exercised to judge, and that one will have the more sure glimpse.
Pure intelligences can make millions of combinations, and see at the same time millions of causes, while man can see only a small number of them, it follows that they can foresee events more distant, by knowing the complicated causes that prepare them.
Compare the sight of a shortsighted man to that of a man who sees trees to the edge of the horizon, or even to the sight of a telescope, and you will have only an imperfect image of superiority of a pure intelligence on the intelligence of man. The prediction, however, will never be indubitable, not only because some circumstances may escape, but because man may, by his liberty, reverse the natural order according to which it was calculated: but these cases are rare, and they only influence the details.
As for the immediate vision or intuition of an event to come, I know that one cites a host of examples of it: but the thing is so implausible, that before trying to explain it, we must know whether these examples are well observed. Assuming they were, here is how one could reason.
The idea of space and that of time are inseparable from all our ideas; but they have reality for us only because we have senses and we are bound to matter.
Time may not exist for God, who sees at a glance the past, the present and the future, like all points of the universe.
If, as Kant has claimed, time and space exist only in our way of looking at objects, if they are only the necessary conditions of our thought, the original and virtual forms of our sensibility the products of our sensorium, like colors, are the product of our eye, so pure intelligences, which know things independently of these forms, must see the future as the present and the past. All the trouble for them, is to relate what they see to such or such an epoch: and that is why among the predictions on cites so few that are applied at a time determined by a date, and which are intelligible before the event, while as one cites many in which the coincidence of several events is found clearly indicated.
For the rest, when we adopt the possibility of previsions, it would be, as I have said, always doubtful whether they were exact, because all intelligences being limited, some circumstance may escape them.
I could dwell much on this subject: I limit myself to answering the strongest objection that can be made against the system of the theosophists. This objection is equally against the Christian religion; and this is one more reason not to pass it over in silence.
This system, one will say, supposes that God and all the intelligences take care of the inhabitant of the earth; that this is the main object of creation. But what is the earth? a small part of our planetary system, which itself is only a point in the system of the universe. Around our sun planets turn, several of which are larger than the earth. The stars are so many suns around which other planets probably revolve; these stars are innumerable; and it is not to decorate the vault of the heaven, to rejoice the view of the man, that they fill space, since those which we can perceive with the naked eye are nothing in comparison with those which we discover with the help of telescopes, and that there are without doubt infinitely more that escape our best instruments. Is it reasonable to think that the earth alone is inhabited by sentient beings?
No, without doubt; but the plurality of worlds is not opposed by religion. God is infinite in his attributes: an atom is as visible to him as the universe. The multitude of objects embarrasses narrow minds, but not the being who understands everything in its immensity. God is occupied with the man whom he has created, as if man were the only object of creation. We do not know the nature and destiny of the beings who populate the other planets; they may be governed by other laws, and we can not have any correspondence with them.
When the number of intelligent beings diffused in the universe would be infinite, God would nevertheless listen to the prayer of a good man, and punish the slightest infraction of the laws of justice. The smallest molecule of matter is subject to attraction as Saturn and Jupiter, and all sentient beings are subject to the action of the Creator, as are all molecules to the action of the sun. There is nothing small in the eyes of the one who sees the details as distinctly as the whole, who hears at the same time all creatures, and who embraces all existences by a single act. The word of the epicureans, that God can not take care of individuals, is a blasphemy, or rather it comes from the fact that Epicureans had no idea of God.
I will not discuss here the objections to the origin of the evil. So many volumes have been written about this object that there is nothing to say again. All philosophers agree that the Creator, having made man free, could not deprive him of the faculty of merit and demerit. I add that when one says that the power of God is infinite, it necessarily means his power compared to that of all creatures, and not of this power in itself. God chose the best of all possible worlds, but he could not create one in which evil did not exist.
These discussions are, besides, above human intelligence, which can not know the essence of things, nor penetrate the mystery of creation and the goal of the Creator. Man knows that, to fulfill his destiny, he must adore his Creator, and do to his brothers all the good that is in his power: that is enough for him, for that is the whole law.
The practice of the Theosophists is to communicate with the spirits disengaged from matter, and, lastly, to rise to a higher degree of perfection. Are the means they claim to have for this real or illusory? This can be decided by those who know them, and who, after having consulted them, have sought in good faith to enlighten themselves. It suffices for me to have shown that their theory is not in the least sensible, that it is not dangerous, and that they have been slandered when they have been called fanatics.
I go now turn to those who are willing to believe in the reality of occult philosophy. There are many more people in the world than we think are in this case: they dare not agree; but see with what attention they listen to stories that tend to prove it. See how many people besiege the door of fortune tellers every day. There are some in Paris who have open offices, who give audiences, and in which one registers to have his turn. Every morning carriages drive women of the best society, and men that a superstitious curiosity pushes to a step they would blush to confess. See how many people draw cards, explicate dreams, believe prognostications, and so on.
Many persons still secretly seek to acquaint themselves with men engaged in magical operations; they want, they say, to see what it is: they are sure of their courage, and not to be seduced by illusion.
Others, finally, seek those who are engaged in theurgical operations, and beg them to make them see something marvelous, assuring that their only desire is to be convinced to conduct themselves accordingly.
I am going to make a few observations to these three orders of persons, which must divert them from an imprudent step, whether or not we suppose the possibility of reading in the future, and to communicate with the spirits.
You go, I will say to the first, to consult a prophet, what will he teach you? Nothing that can help you. You are, you say, driven by a motive of curiosity; you will not believe the predictions. I agree. You can answer for yourself in the present moment. But suppose that one announces to you a succession of events, the last of which must be fatal, and that by chance the first part of the prediction is verified; then, whatever strength of mind you have, one day will come when you will be struck by the fulfillment of the prediction, and seized with fear for the future. This idea will occupy you in spite of yourself; it will become a fixed idea, and if you fall ill, it will put you in the greatest danger.
As for those who wish to see evocations or magical operations to convince themselves, I answer (always in the supposition of reality) that these operations succeed only with dividing spirits or evil spirits; that the latter seek to slip among the others, and that it is very difficult to discard them; that, if they communicate with you, they will seek to drag you into the evil, and that no mention is made of any people who, having convinced themselves by such means of the reality of another order of things, have chosen to behave in such a way as to deserve to be rewarded after this life. The same spirits which will come to satisfy your curiosity will surely turn you away from your good intentions.
Remain those who, persuaded of the existence of a spiritual world, and the possibility of entering into correspondence with pure intelligences, wish to know the means of this correspondence, and seek those which could enlighten them. Although I do not share their opinions, I can not disapprove of their desire; but I warn them that among the true Theosophists they will find none who consent to satisfy their curiosity and initiate them without preparation. The one to whom they have addressed will say to them:
“Renounce your passions, your bad habits; expiate your past mistakes; do not worry about doing good; pray, and make yourself worthy to receive the light.” Among those who will follow this advice, if the doctrine of the Theosophists would be true, there would be some who would one day be initiated; but it would be when they desired it, no longer out of curiosity, but as a means of rising to a purer state.
As for those who would not succeed in this last term, they would have no regrets for having made a futile attempt, since they would have walked in the road of virtue, and that this road, which surely leads to happiness in the other life is ordinarily the happiest one can traverse in this one, where our passions do us much more ill than men and things. If those who have made these inquiries acknowledge that the ideas of the Theosophists are only chimeras, they will learn to have regard for men who, in an illusory theory, find consolation to the sufferings of life, and motives to practice virtue.
It remains for me to say a word about the influence that mystical doctrines may have in their association with human knowledge.
I suppose that after having examined the doctrine of the Theosophists, an enlightened man comes to adopt it, it is a dangerous stumbling block, and that it must be avoided with all the more care as several Theosophists have fallen there; it is to seek in this mystical theory the explanation of the phenomena of nature.
Assuming the reality of an intellectual world, this world has nothing in common with the physical world. Spiritual beings can act on our soul; and as our souls react on our bodies, they can influence our habits, and even our health; but they have no power over material beings. These are subject to invariable laws which can only be known by observation, experience, and calculation.
Thus a man warned of the mystical ideas of which we have spoken, if he reasons well, will not seek in its theory the explanation of any of the phenomena of nature. If he wants to study these phenomena, it is only at the school of mathematicians, astronomers, naturalists, physicists, chemists, that he will learn. He will also refrain from transporting the modifications from our soul to objects, from using an abstract language, and from giving to certain expressions, by applying them to the physical order, the meaning they are given in the world of spirits. Thus the words influence, relation, sympathy, harmony, power, will be restricted to the meaning given them by physicists, and will never serve to explain any phenomenon.
If the men of whom I speak, and I have known them who had this wise reserve, are dupes of an illusion, this illusion will have no influence on their judgment, for all that is relative to the phenomena and laws of the nature; their speeches and writings will never depart from the principles of sound physics and explanations based on observations and experiences that everyone can verify.
I know very well that among the men who have turned to occult philosophy, there have been adepts who believe in the philosopher's stone, the universal panacea, and so on. These errors, produced by an exalted imagination, and favored by a vulgar interest and by the grossest ignorance, have always been opposed to the doctrine of Theosophists, who regard this research as unworthy of the wise, disdained to be occupied with it, when even they would have some reality.
I have just expounded the doctrine of Theosophists as clearly as I have been able to do, according to the incomplete information which I have proclaimed. I have taken the tone of skepticism to assert the reasons of those who adopt it, and the objections of those who fight it; I have presented the sequence of all the parts of this doctrine, distinguishing the propositions which are founded only on a metaphysical opinion from those which rest upon facts which may be admitted or rejected, after having examined them. I finally showed what are the consequences and what is the purpose of this doctrine. The initiates will no doubt find that I have not said everything: it must be; but it suffices me to have said nothing false, and not to have given them opinions opposed to those which they really have. If they think that it would be useful for men who seek the truth of good law to be enlightened, it is for them to present their principles in a methodical work, and to be heard by all attentive readers. *
* In the sketch I traced of the doctrine of Theosophists I confined myself to what is relative to the possibility of a correspondence between the spiritual world and the sensible world. I have said nothing of their opinions on the explanation of the mysteries, on the figurative meaning of the Scripture which they believe to have the key, on the physical phenomena considered as an image of the phenomena of the spiritual world, on the language of the spirits on the ceremonies and sacrifices of the old law, etc., etc. These details are foreign to the purpose I had proposed to myself. Besides, it is to be remarked that, relative to these various objects, each of them has particular opinions, and that some do not appear more firmly established than others.
While waiting for such a work to appear, I must say what are the results of the discussion in which I have entered. I do not propose them as truths, but as an opinion to which I can not renounce without new motives.
These results are:
1º That the doctrine of the Theosophists is by no means proved;
2º That, although it is not proved, it is not absurd in itself, nor contrary to what reason commits us to believe;
3º That when it would be true, knowledge would not be necessary to mankind, for, in order to be instructed in this doctrine, it is necessary to begin by practicing virtue, and once one is virtuous one enjoys because of the same advantages that it could procure;
4º That prudence advises not to use his time to examine the various bases of this doctrine, because the marvelous which accompanies it can exalt the imagination, and divert us from studies more certain and more useful;
5º That neglecting to study this doctrine, we have not the right to despise it, and even less to despise the men who profess it, and who find in it a basis for the principles of the most pure morality. and a motive to bear without murmuring all the misfortunes of life;
6º That this doctrine has nothing in common with that of magnetism; that even the knowledge of magnetism tends to depart from it, because we see in the action of magnetism the natural cause of most of the phenomena which have led men to adopt an occult philosophy; *
* I know only one fundamental principle which belongs at once to mystical doctrines and to the theory of magnetism; it is the one that man has the faculty of acting upon his fellow-creatures by the influence of his will. I might cite several passages from Jacob Behme, Swedenborg, and St. Martin, where this power of the will is clearly stated. If this truth had at first been recognized by philosophers, they would have limited themselves to drawing from it reasonable consequences, easily proved by experience; they would have sought to know the instrument used by the will, and they would have thus prevented the errors and extravagances in which theosophists and magnetizers also let themselves be carried away.
The members of the exegetical society of Stockholm, those who have adopted their opinions, and generally all those whom I have called spiritualists, have done a great deal of harm to magnetism by presenting it as proof of their mystical ideas. and quoting as oracles the folly of their somnambulists. Often even the effects they have produced on their patients have been more harmful than useful, because magnetism disturbs harmony rather than restoring it, when it is directed in such a way as to excite the imagination. [End Note]
7º Finally, that even if we believe in the existence of an intellectual world, and in the communication of beings of that world with the human soul, this opinion ought not to have any influence upon the judgments we should carry of the phenomena of the physical world, since these two worlds are foreign to one another, and are not governed by the same laws.
CHAPTER XIII. Conclusion.
I have traced the history of the discovery of magnetism; I have endeavored to unravel what it offers of truth and usefulness with the errors that enthusiasm and credulity have unfortunately added to it; I have shown that all the facts which establish it are in no way contrary to the principles taught to us by the study of the natural sciences; I have indicated the means to be convinced; I have described the processes which seem to me most suitable; I have shown the application of magnetism to the relief and cure of diseases, the degree of confidence which it deserves, and the inconveniences to which we are exposed if we make indiscreet use of it. I have exposed the phenomena of somnambulism, not to fix attention on this singular crisis, nor to engage in seeking it, but so that one may not disturb it if nature comes to produce it.
I have proved that magnetism is absolutely foreign to mystical doctrines, and that the knowledge of the crises it has developed today tends to bring back to the natural order the marvelous facts which have served as a basis for superstition. I can stop here; but it seems useful to me to return to most of these objects, either to answer some objections, or to counter the exaggerations of enthusiasm, or to indicate the sources from which one can draw a more extensive instruction. This is the task I propose to fill in the second part.
I think I must finish this by summarizing in a few words what I have said is important for those who, without entering into any discussion, will try to test the means which I have indicated.
Are you near a patient, employ to magnetize the simplest processes, those which are barely noticed, and which can not strike his imagination. Do not worry about the sensations he experiences, nor the phenomena that magnetism can produce. Deliver yourself to the desire and to the hope to heal him, and you will soon be convinced that you are doing him good.
If it was possible that during more than twenty-five years that I have practiced magnetism I constantly made myself an illusion; that the great number of persons whom I thought to relieve or cure, according to the assurance it gave me, would have experienced good only by their imagination or by chance; that the phenomena of which I have been so often witness, derive from causes different from that which I have supposed to them; that all those who, like me, have had experiments, and with the same success, were also in error; lastly, that magnetism was only a chimera; the result would be, at least, that it is not harmful, and that, in certain individuals, the confidence which they give to it can produce a momentary relief, and favor a crisis of nature.
Why, then, should one not employ that illusion which, like so many others, would be apt to soften our ills? One fears to excite the imagination: what, how to hold the hand of a patient, to fix on himself alone his attention, to give him some slight friction, are they processes which may astonish and disturb ideas? If it were necessary to dismiss medicine, it would be a danger; but not at all; one acts without neglecting any assistance of which experience has proved useful; and yet one indulges in pity; one cultivates in ourselves that feeling of benevolence which leads us to succor our fellow men; a suffering person is shown an interest and affection which distracts him from his pains. If we flatter ourselves to relieve him, we are ourselves satisfied with this idea. It will be a mistake as much as one wishes; but then it will be necessary to admit that there are errors, useful in their principle and in their consequences.
I therefore renew to the mothers of families the invitation that I addressed to them at the beginning of this work. May they believe themselves endowed with the faculty of preserving life to those to whom they have given it; Nature has put into their souls the sentiments and inclinations which facilitate the exercise of this faculty. When they see their children suffer, no idea can distract them from the care they give them; they would like to relieve them at the expense of their own health; they keep their eyes fixed on them; they clasp them in their arms; they cover them with caresses. Well, even these caresses will often be a means of healing if they are united in purpose and trust.
Finally, I invite enlightened men who have leisure, and who are in a position to see the sick, to try magnetism without seeking out wonders, without worrying about objections, without considering theories. The mind undoubtedly experiences a lively pleasure in observing new phenomena, in penetrating the secrets of nature; but the happiness of relieving a suffering being is a hundred times greater. Comparing the rapture excited by the wonders of sleepwalking to the satisfaction I have experienced when violent pains were first softened, and soon entirely dissipated by my care; reminding me that I have easily renounced the amenities of society to go, six months in a row, to work on healing a hydropic, I can attest that the pleasure of doing good prevails over all others. The feeling is enough to convince us of this truth; but the practice of magnetism proves it every day through experience, and it is above all in that it favors good morals.
END OF THE FIRST PART