Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/April 1888/Hypnotism in Disease and Crime

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administer justice "without much regard to mere technicalities or legal hair- splitting, and which kept in view, first and foremost, that the courts were for the benefit of the jy^ople at large, and not to furnish a living for lawyers, the gain to justice would be something akin to what mod- ern inventions have given us in contrast with the methods of former generations. From the graduates of these schools our judges should be appointed to serve during good behavior, with promotions regulated according to ability in the discharge of duty, and seniority of service where otherwise there was equality, such considerations to rule as would secure the best service. The details for such a school, and for selections from its alumni, could be readily worked out, but are un- necessary here. The gradations of courts, after the system was once inaugurated, would give the new graduates the necessary experience from the lower courts up, and would bring into the service a class of judges who, owing nothing to the lawyers, would not be influenced by them in any schemes for delaying or defeating justice, or in allowing them enormous fees because great sums were at stake. These judges should take the place of lawyers to a certain extent in examining wit- nesses, so as to draw out the whole truth and only the truth, instead of only such parts of it as suit the ex-parte counselors. As long as the lawyer was an aid to the court he might be tolerated and encour- aged, but when he proved an obstruction the mandate of the court should remind him of his true work and keep him in line with it. Such a system would greatly discourage the unscrupulous and "bumptious" lawyer, of course, because it would dwarf his importance; but if justice can be so administered as to do without him, and to turn his talents into more useful channels—for instance, the mechanic arts, agriculture, auctioneering, mining, cattle-driving, etc.—who will complain? Every new invention cripples or overturns some vested interest to promote something better; and if, after centuries of long-sufl^ering and forbear- ance, the grip of the lawyer class can be shaken off and justice admin- istered with speed, regularity, and exactness, and at a great reduction in cost, it would be a consummation worth other centuries of effort, and be the best token of an advancing civilization.

Another much-needed reform is to sweep away the useless verbiage that now so greatly encumbers law papers and makes them legal ter- rors. The reader will best appreciate this suggestion by trying to "digest" the clause of a warranty deed following the names of the parties, and which assumes to state the purpose of the document, thus:

"toitncsscti), That the said party of the fii-st part, for and in con- sideration of the sum of dollars, lawful money of the United States

of America, to us in hand well and truly paid by the said party of the second part, at or before the ensealing and delivery of these presents, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, and the said party there- with fully satisfied, contented, and paid, have given, granted, bargained, sold, aliened, released, enfeoffed, conveyed, and confirmed, and by these presents does give, grant, bargain, sell, alien, release, enfeoff, convey, and confirm to the said party of the second part and his heirs and as- signs forever: all that certain tract or parcel of land and premises hereinafter particularly described, situate, lying, and being in the township of Snipe, county of Woodcock, and State of Huckleberries, bounded and described as follows, to wit." Here the legal description is inserted with comparative simplicity. One would think when that was ended it would complete the transaction, so that "the party of the first part" could sign the deed, take his money, and go home; but not yet, as two hundred and thirty-two words are then used to say that the purchaser is not only to own the land, but everything on it; that it is for his heirs as well as for himself, "forever"; that the land is unen- cumbered by debts, and the title "as good as wheat." Then comes the warranty clause already mentioned, containing one hundred and sixty- two words full of sound if not of sense; then the signature of the seller and of his wife, if there be a wife; then the seals, another relic of feudal ages; then the signature of the witnesses, and then a formal acknowl- edgment before some official whose one pleasurable duty is to exact a fee. The seller is then let off; but the buyer, if he desires his deed secure against thieves, fire, or a second deed of later date, must have all the beautiful rubbish in it recorded by a salaried official deputed for that work, who charges another fee, and keeps the copy in a fire- proof building at the cost of the county.

Now, in place of this ingenious and ridiculous piece of legal cir- cumlocution, let us see if something could not be devised which would express the same ideas, and hold all the parties to the contract—some- thing like this:

iSljis bccb, made this day of , in the year a. d. 1887, wit-

nesseth: That I have this day sold to John Smith, of etc., for one thousand dollars, the following described piece of land, with every- thing on it known as real estate, situated in the town of , county

of , and State of , bounded as follows: (Description here in- serted.)

And I hereby warrant the purchaser, John Smith, that I am the lawful and only owner of the said land; and also that there are no claims to encumber it; and that his title hereby becomes indisputable.

John Doe.

When two men make a verbal contract involving a horse-trade before reliable witnesses, the courts hold them to it without a scraj) of written agreement. When one man gives his note for value re- ceived to another, he is held to this agreement if a clear intent is indi- cated, no matter if the note is bunglingly expressed and half the words misspelled. A man who can not write his own name can still convey away his real estate by affixing "his mark" to his name after somebody else writes it; and a verbal promise, indicated by a nod before some authorized magistrate or clergyman, binds two persons of oppo- site sexes to each other in marriage for life. All the vast interests of the kingdom of Great Britain are regulated and controlled by an im- aginary "constitution"—one never written or printed, but which seems, Topsy-like, to have "growed" out of customs adapted to the hour, and which come to the present generation as traditions, and which are accepted and interpreted by the British courts with as much reverence as though everything had been written out, sanctioned by the people, and filed, as with us. Even British "common law" is nothing more than ancient customs accepted as laws, and interpreted as such with as much care and exactness as though they were statute laws sanctioned by Parliament. All this shows that the mass of ver- biage in legal documents has no basis of necessity for its existence when courts administer justice according to certain general principles, and that the excuse for its retention has some other purpose than jus- tice between buyer and seller.

A large part of our litigation is due to laws which embody contra- dictory or unconstitutional provisions, or are so vaguely expressed that judicial decisions are necessary to their interpretation. In this, too, the "fine work" of the able lawyer is apparent. The inexperienced or non-observing citizen would suppose that a Legislature of lawyers would enact statutes about which there could be no ambiguity and no conflict with higher laws. The lawyer is not slow to express appre- hension about the fitness of plain citizens to enact laws, and of the necessity for a legal supervision of embryo statutes, in order that they shall not shock conservatism nor create disorder in the body politic. To every Legislature he goes in force, generally making a majority, and sometimes a two-third majority, carried there in triumph by those brilliant qualities which distinguish his profession, popularly known as "cheek," in addition to wire-pulling and that trinity of political virtues aptly described by a Pennsylvania politician as "addition, division, and silence." In the Legislature his work may be described as that which first and foremost guards on all occasions the interests of "number one." "When a proposed law is crude, ill-digested, or of doubtful constitutionality, it never alarms him, because it is such that need interpretation by the courts. Then, again, his constituency may require his support of certain measures which he privately abhors, and to kill or cripple such measures with crude, incongruous, or un- constitutional amendments is usually regarded by him as statesman- ship of a high oi-der. A body of men chosen without solicitation of their own, and because of intelligence and high moral character, would scorn such work, but the lawyer regards them generally as "cranks" or "impracticables." A good legislator must be something of a plod- der, ready to do a great deal of inconspicuous work. He must watch legislation very closely, particularly the work done in committees, and in each Committee of the Whole. He must see that the various bills are in the public interest — not in the interest of cliques; that they are in harmony with the Constitution; and also that the various sections of each bill are in harmony with each other. This is a sort of drudgery which the new country member, chosen because of conspicuous personal worth, accepts as part of his duty, but which the "smart" lawyer shuns, because his mission at the capital is above that of being a "legislative drudge." The time for him to study legal phraseology and the adaptation of laws to their purpose is when he is paid for it. As to legislation in behalf of morals, he has generally no faith in it, his idea being that morals should take care of themselves, or be left to preachers and Sunday-schools.

Public sentiment is ripe for leadership in this reform, and it will come sooner or later, whether lawyers acquiesce or not. Honorable lawyers ought to see that their interests center in the conservation only of what is useful, and not in ignoring or defying public impatience until it finds vent in revolutionary measures. The principle of the greatest good to the greatest number is what needs recognition — not protection to a remnant of the feudal ages.

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WHAT we have said of hypnotism, and particularly of suggestion, may lead the reader to understand the virtue of medicine for the imagination, of which the importance has already been intimated by earlier writers. Deslon asked why, if medicine for the imagination was the most effective, it should not be employed.

We must be permitted to dwell for a moment on this medicine for the imagination, which is entitled to the name of suggestive therapeutics. The process is as follows: Influenced by a persistent idea, suggested by external circumstances, a paralysis is developed. The physician makes use of his authority to suggest the idea of an inevitable, incontestable cure, and the paralysis is cured accordingly. This cure, as well as the development of functional disturbance, was directly effected by an idea. An idea may, therefore, be, according to circumstances, a pathogenic and a therapeutic agent. This notion is not new, but, since it was misinterpreted, it has remained unfruitful.

The most important of the organic disturbances produced by an idea is an experiment on vesication, performed by Focachon, a chemist at Charmes. He applied some postage-stamps to the left shoulder of a hypnotized subject, keeping them in their place with some strips of diachylon and a compress; at the same time he suggested to the sub- ject that he had applied a blister. The subject was watched, and when twenty hours had elapsed the dressing, which had remained un- touched, was removed. The epidermis to which it had been applied was thickened and dead and of a yellowish-white color, and this region of the skin was puffy and surrounded by an intensely red zone.

It was in 1869 that Russell Reynolds first noted the existence of motor and sensory disturbances, developed under the influence of an idea. The motor disturbance sometimes consists in spasms, in ataxic or incoordinated movements, and more frequently in paralysis which affects the upper limbs. Erb gives to these symptoms the name of imaginative paraplegia.

The type of this paraplegia is afforded by Reynolds's first observa- tion, which concerned a young woman who was affected by paraplegia under the following circumstances: She lived alone with her father, who had undergone a reverse of fortune, and who became paralytic in consequence of protracted anxiety. She supported the household by giving lessons, which involved long walks about the town. Influenced by the fatigue caused by so much walking, it occurred to her that she might herself become paralyzed, and that their situation would then be terrible. Haunted by this idea, she felt a growing weakness in her limbs, and after a while was quite unable to walk. The pathology of the affection was understood by Reynolds, who prescribed a purely moral treatment. He finally convinced his patient that she was able to walk, and in fact she resumed the practice.

Diseases have been termed imaginary, or diseases caused by the imagination, and this confusion of terms has confirmed the confusion of ideas. "We have, however, just shown, especially by means of the facts which relate to paralysis by suggestion, that diseases caused by the imagination—that is, produced by a fixed idea—are real dis- eases, and, at any rate in some cases, display undisputed objective . symptoms.

Since the existence of real diseases, produced by means of the im- agination, is proved, it is thereby proved that imaginary diseases do not and can not exist; by this we mean purely fictitious diseases, since as soon as the subject has accepted the fixed idea that he is affected by any functional disturbance, such a disturbance is in some degi'ee devel- oped. It should be added that these diseases, produced by means of the imagination, are not merely influenced by a local disturbance; the subject who allows himself to be dominated by this idea of disease must be peculiarly excitable and open to suggestion; he must be en- dowed with a condition of congenital psychical weakness which is fre- quently found in conjunction with more or less strongly marked neuro- pathic manifestations, or with physical malformations. As Las^gue observed, not every one who pleases can be hypochondriac. This distinction throws light on the therapeutics of diseases pro- duced by means of the imagination, or suggested diseases.

When one of these victims to hypochondria, anaemic and emaciated, who are usually called malades imaginaires, has recourse to medicine, on the plea of suffering pain or some other subjective disturbance, he is usually told that it is of no importance, that he is rather fanciful and should think less about his health, and some anodyne is carelessly prescribed. The patient, who is really suffering from the pain he has suggested to himself, feels convinced that his malady is not known, and that nothing can be done for him. The idea that his complaint is incurable becomes intense in proportion to his high opinion of his phy- sician's skill, and thus the patient, who was suffering from the chronic affection suggested by his imagination, often goes away incurable.

Those who undertake miraculous cures act very differently. They do not deny the existence of the disease, but they assert that it may be cured by supernatural power. They act by means of suggestion, and by gradually inculcating the idea that the disease is curable, until the subject accepts it. The cure is sometimes effected by the sugges- tion, and when it is said to be by saving faith, the expression used is rigorously scientific. These miracles should no longer be denied, but we should understand their genesis and learn to imitate them.

When a believer associates the Deity with his idea of cure, he is accustomed to expect it to be sudden and complete, as the result of a definite religious manifestation; and this, in fact, often occurs. We had a well-known instance at the Salpetri^re, when a woman of the name of Etcheverry was, after her devotions in the month of May, suddenly cured of a hemiplegia and contracture, by which she had been affected for seven years. Only a slight weakness of the side re- mained, which disappeared in a few days, and which could be explained by the prolonged inaction of the muscles. This may be termed an experimental miracle, since the physicians had prepared for it before- hand, having for a long time previously suggested to the subject that y\\>^ "fj- she would be cured when a certain religious ceremony took place, and\.^ * »0^ '} it is a miracle which explains the numerous cures by the laying-on o*^ /^ v' '^ hands which are recorded in the Bible, If we do not go further bacl^ i^'vi^lv than the last century, suggestion explains the cures by Greatrakes, the^- ^'*^'ir.-

exorcisms by Gassner, Mesmer's successes, and the miracles performed r '"

at the tomb of the deacon Paris in the cemetery of Saint Medard; and in our day, in the famous caves on the slopes of the Pyrenees.

The resources of the physician, who does not profess to be a thau- maturgist, are more scanty. When he is consulted by a patient whose disease has a psychical origin, he is unable, unless in some exceptional circumstances, to inspire confidence in remedies which are not more or less gradual, but, whatever they are, he must prescribe with firmness and authority. It is a well-known fact that the hydropathic treatment of some forms of hysteria has afforded more speedy results than other

  1. Abridged from "Animal Magnetism," by Alfred Binet and Charles Féré. "International Scientific Series," vol. lix. D. Appleton & Co., 1888.