Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/34

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24
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

between them, it was entirely without result; and no other reason for the failure could be assigned than her entire freedom from expectancy. So, in another case, in which Mr. Lewis (accounted one of the most powerful mesmerists of his time) undertook to direct the actions of his somnambule in the next room, according to a programme agreed on between himself and one set of witnesses, while the actions actually performed were recorded and timed by another set, there was found to be so complete a discordance between the programme "willed" and the actions really executed as entirely to negative the idea of any dependence of the latter upon the directing power of the mesmerizer—the supposed relation having obviously grown up under the habitual repetition of a certain succession of performances (such as I had myself frequently witnessed), which the somnambule supposed himself expected to go through in the same order.[1] A converse experiment, performed by Dr. Elliotson himself, satisfied him that expectancy would take the place of what he maintained to be the real mesmeric influence. Having told one of his habituées that he would go into the next room and mesmerize her through the door, he retired, shut the door, performed no mesmeric passes, but tried to forget her, walked away from the door, busied himself with something else, and even walked into a third room; and, on returning in less than ten minutes, found the girl in her usual sleep-waking condition. The extreme susceptibility of many of these "sensitive" subjects further accounts for their being affected (without any intentional deceit) by physical impressions which are quite imperceptible to others: such as slight differences in temperature, when two coins are presented to them, of which one has been held in the hand of the mesmerizer; or two wineglasses of water, into one of which he has dipped his finger for a short time. But the belief that he has transmitted his influence in any mode is quite sufficient to produce the result, as was shown in an amusing case recorded by M. Bertrand, whose treatise on "Animal Magnetism" (Paris, 1826) is by far the most philosophical work extant on the subject. Having occasion to go a journey of a hundred leagues, leaving a female somnambule under the treatment of one of his friends, M. Bertrand sent him a magnetized letter, which he requested him to place on the stomach of the patient, who had been led to anticipate the expected results—mesmeric sleep, with the customary phenomena, supervened. He then wrote another letter which he did not magnetize, and sent it to her in the same manner, and with the same intimation. She again fell into the mesmeric sleep, which was attributed to the letter having been unintentionally impregnated by

  1. Mr. Lewis was challenged to this test-experiment, in consequence of his assertion that he had repeatedly induced the mesmeric sleep, and had directed the operations of his somnambules, by the exertion of his "silent will," from a distance. His utter failure to produce either result, however, under the scrutiny of skeptical inquirers, obviously discredits all his previous statements, except to such as are ready to accept without question the slenderest evidence of the greatest marvels.