Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/64

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54
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

creased degree of sensation, which, in ordinary measure, is either not noticed or pleasurable.

3. Sensations called pains should not be mistaken for, confounded with, or be considered the measure of disease, even when accompanied by it.

4. All sensations, including unpleasant sensations or pains, represent mental qualities only, and these always correspond, no matter what the exciting cause, with the capacity of the mind to be impressed; that is, with its rapidity and force of action.

Lastly, the individual is generally incapable of correctly estimating the subjective value of his own sensations, whatever character they may assume.

Intimately connected with, and in fact growing out of, the subject of the influence of mental timbre over the functions of the body, are many interesting questions of mental ethics which, it seems to me, ought to be studied from a somewhat different point of view than that from which they are commonly regarded.

As we have seen that bodily functions may be profoundly modified under unconscious mental influence, so it will be found, when carefully analyzed, that the product of the mental operations themselves may be likewise modified, under peculiar subjective influences, without arousing the consciousness. In a word, the mind may be in a condition of what we may, illustratively, call mental allotropism, during which the laws ordinarily controlling mental operations seem to be reversed, with corresponding products of intellection.

A case in point is now attracting altogether more attention than it deserves, or would receive, if properly understood. It is stated in the newspapers that there is a young lady living in our neighboring city of Brooklyn who, among other surprising things which she does or omits to do, has not eaten any food or taken any nourishment during the past nine years. It is claimed, on the one hand, that this lady is a perfectly truthful person, with a highly endowed moral sense, intelligent, kind, benevolent, and shrinking from notoriety, and that her statements ought to be taken as conclusive in regard to the facts. The absence of any motive for propagating an unprofitable, ridiculous falsehood is held as confirmatory of her allegations. On the other hand, it is as stoutly maintained that she is an arrant impostor, whose sole purpose is to acquire a transient notoriety; and the non-acceptance of various tests, proposed to substantiate or disprove her statements, is adduced as evidence of the fraud attempted. Now I think we shall see that, in the light of inferences from what has preceded, neither party to this controversy is wholly right or altogether wrong. While it can not for a moment be admitted that a person can live nine years, or any number of years, without food, yet it would be contrary to related facts, and illogical, to assume that she intends to deceive. It is quite within the possibilities that this lady believes that she does not eat. And yet she