Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/219

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
207
THE REVIVAL OF WITCHCRAFT.

research were calculated to invite confidence. But it must be confessed that the results which they had obtained, and the very rudimentary evidence which they had adduced in this country, were far from sufficing to persuade any but a very select band of idealists that there was anything substantial either in their premises or their conclusions. For the last year or two, however, public attention has been invited to a series of phenomena which were seriously alleged to afford positive evidence of the existence of a variety of endowments of the human body, and of marvelous powers of mental action, which realized some of the promised wonders of "the new psychology." France was now, as in the last century, the chosen land of marvel. There appears to be something in the temperament of the Latin race which lends itself easily to neurotic disorder, to hysterical excitement, and to the production of startling displays of mental eccentricity. We have never been celebrated in this country, even in the middle ages, for our demoniacs, our dancing hysterics, or our miraculous cures. We have nothing to rival the ancient histories of St. Medard and Port Royal, or the modern pilgrimages of Lourdes. But if the modern hypnotists, psychists, and faith-curers are allowed the full play which has recently been given to them, in infecting the public mind with the follies of the "new hypnotism," the "profound hypnosis," the "new mesmerism," the "magnetization of hypnotics," and the "externalization of sensation," which they have been so solemnly propounding and so profusely describing in the pages of our leading newspapers and serials, we may yet see here an abundant harvest of mentally disordered and pathological creatures, such as have now for some years been permanently on show across the Channel; we may expect also to find our more solid literature poisoned with this evil influence, as our literature of romance and fiction already has been. From what I hear and know of the attractions which these false phenomena, these dangerous tricks, and this practice of mental subordination to another will, are already exercising on some ladies of the upper class in England and on some writers of influence, it appears high time that a thorough exposure should be made of the imposture and the self-deception which underlie the performances. Some of them have been rehearsed before eminent British journalists on their visits to Paris, and by them described in good faith, with no small literary power and considerable although imperfect detail, to the readers of the great English journals. The most vivid descriptions of the modern development of the now superstitions appeared in a series of articles in the Pall Mall Gazette early in last December, and in the Times at the end of December and the beginning of the present year. I was induced thereby to devote a fortnight at the end of the year to an investigation of the facts