Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/95

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

nine in the morning, and ending about six in the evening; interrupting her in conversation, in prayer, or in manual occupations. This state," says Dr. Carpenter, "appears to have been intermediate between that of the biologized and that of the hypnotized subject; for, while as unconscious as the latter of all sense-impressions, she retained, like the former, a recollection of all that had passed through her mind during the ecstasy. She described herself as suddenly plunged into a vast flood of bright light, from which more or less distinct forms began to evolve themselves; and she then witnessed the several scenes of the Passion successively passing before her. She minutely described the cross and the vestments, the wounds, the crown of thorns about the head of the Saviour, and gave various details regarding the persons about the cross, the disciples, holy women, Jews, and Roman soldiers. And the progress of her vision might be traced by the succession of actions she performed at various stages of it: most of these movements expressive of her own emotions, while regularly about three in the afternoon she extended her limbs in the form of a cross. The fit terminated with a state of extreme physical prostration; the pulse being scarcely perceptible, the breathing slow and feeble, and the whole surface bedewed with a cold perspiration. After this state had continued for about ten minutes, a return to the normal condition rapidly took place."

There seems no reason for supposing that there was any deceit on the part of Louise Lateau herself, though that she was self-deceived no one can reasonably doubt. Of course many in Belgium, especially the more ignorant and superstitious (including large numbers of the clergy and of religious orders of men and women), believed that her ecstasies were miraculous, and no doubt she believed so herself. But none of the circumstances observed in her case, or related by her, were such as the physiologist would find any difficulty in accepting or explaining. Her visions were such as might have been expected in a person of her peculiar nervous organization, weakened as her body had been by long illness, and her mind affected by what she regarded as her miraculous recovery. As to the transudation of blood from the skin, Dr. Tuke, in his "Illustrations of the Influence of the Mind upon the Body in Health and Disease" (p. 267), shows the phenomenon to be naturally explicable. It is a well-authenticated fact that under strong emotional excitement blood escapes through the perspiratory ducts, apparently through the rupture of the walls of the capillary passages of the skin.

We see, then, in Louise Lateau's case, how the mind affected by disease may acquire faculties not possessed during health, and how in turn the mind thus affected may influence the body so strangely as to suggest to ignorant or foolish persons the operation of supernatural agencies. Of the influence of the mind on the body, we may speak more fully on another occasion.

The general conclusion to which we seem led by the observed pecu-