Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/35

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25
MESMERISM, ODYLISM, TABLE-TURNING, ETC.

M. Bertraud with the mesmeric fluid while he was writing it. Desiring to test the matter still further, he caused one of his friends to write a similar letter, imitating his handwriting so closely that those who received it should believe it to be his—the same effect was once more produced.

And so it was with the large number of experiments that were made within my own knowledge during the twenty years' attention that I gave to this subject, with a view to test the mesmerizer's power of inducing any of the phenomena of this state without the patient's consciousness. Successes, it is true, were not unfrequent; but these almost invariably occurred when the experiments were made under conditions to which the parties had become habituated, as in the case of Dr. Noble's friend. For his performances were so continually being repeated to satisfy the curiosity of visitors, that Dr. Noble's call at his house would have been sufficient to excite, on the part of the "subject," the expectancy that would have thrown her into the sleep. But when such expectancy was carefully guarded against, the result was so constantly negative as—I will not say to disprove the existence of any special mesmeric force, but to neutralize completely the affirmative value of the evidence adduced to prove it. For I think you must now agree with me that, if "expectancy" alone is competent to produce the results, as admitted by the most intelligent mesmerizers, nothing but the most rigid exclusion of such expectancy can afford the least ground for the assumption of any other agency. And my own prolonged study of the subject further justifies me in taking the position that it is only when the inquiry is directed, and its results recorded, by skeptical experts, that such results have the least claim to scientific value. The disposition to overlook sources of fallacy, to magnify trivialities into marvels, to construct circumstantial myths (as in the case of Miss Martineau's J—— and Lord Morpeth) on the slightest foundation of fact, and to allow themselves to be imposed upon by cunning cheats, has been so constantly exhibited by even the most honest believers in the "occult" power of mesmerism, as, not only in my own opinion, but in that of my very able allies in this inquiry, to deprive the unconfirmed testimony of any number of such believers, in regard to matters lying beyond scientific experience, of all claim to acceptance. In fact, the positions taken in regard to mesmerism by my friend Dr. Noble, as far back as 1845,[1] and more fully developed by myself a few years later on the basis of Mr. Braid's experiments, and of my own physiological and psychological studies,[2] have not only in our own judgment, but by the general verdict of the medical and scientific world, been fully confirmed by the subsequent course of events, the history of which I shall next proceed to sketch.

Fraser's Magazine.

  1. British and Foreign Medical Review, vol. xix.
  2. "Principles of Human Physiology," fourth edition, 1853; and Quarterly Review, October, 1853.