Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/223

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
211
THE REVIVAL OF WITCHCRAFT.

his mistake and saw what he ought to have seen. He was quite unable to distinguish an inert piece of iron from a true magnet, and unless he were guided by words let fall by the bystanders, or by the adoption of a systematic proceeding to which he was accustomed, he was quite at sea. Clarice and Jeanne, in their lucid somnambulistic state, never knew whether the current was on or off; unless they had a clew to the answers they ought to give, they were ludicrously wrong. They saw enormous flames issuing from the powerful magnet which I used. When I told the assistant to put on the current, acting on my previous instructions, he always did exactly the opposite of what I said, and they always fell into the trap. The culminating absurdity of this phase of the performance was the famous show for which this clinique has become famous, known as the magnetic skullcap, with its therapeutic and physical influences. "In this magnetic circlet," said Dr. Luys (speaking in the presence of his somnambulistic patient, who was supposed not to hear), "are stored up the thoughts and mental characteristics of an individual who suffered from melancholia and hallucinations of persecution. I will now put it on Mervel's head, and you will see what follows"; whereupon Mervel showed dramatic signs of the hallucination of persecution, suffering apparently great pain of mind and body. Possibly it was too cleverly acted to be wholly simulation, but it afforded a good example of the mixture of hysterical readiness to accept any suggestion with unlimited powers of deception; for this took place at the same sitting, and in the same state in which he pretended to see red flames and blue flames at random, accordingly as he supposed the magnet, or the photographs which I showed him, or the prints, or the pins, to be of the north pole or of the south pole. I repeated the experiment, always with the like results. Dr. Olivier, the editor of the Revue des Sciences Physiques, writes to me that the exposure was complete.

There was no correspondence between the phenomena manifested by the hypnotized person and the production of the current of magnetization, etc. You repeated the experiments of Dr. Luys and those of M. de Rochas, avoiding all suggestion, whether involuntary or unconscious, capable of vitiating the results, and you were careful to conceal from the subjects of experiment the moment at which the opening or the closing of the current of the magnet took place.

At any rate, therefore, we may exclude from the positive results which I attained in the presence of many witnesses the possibility of the electrical or magnetic current having any real relation whatever to the phenomena shown, and, as far as the utmost care could go, we may exclude also the influence of suggestion in any occult sense. Where the subjects thought they knew what was expected of them in their state of lucid somnambulism, they did it or saw it, whether I operated, or Dr. Luys, or his ward