Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/283

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271
LITERARY NOTICES.

namely: "That before endeavoring to explain how phenomena exist it is necessary to determine precisely what exists; and that so long as it is possible to find a rational explanation of what unquestionably is, there is no reason to suspect, and it is superstition to assume, the operation of supernatural causes." His course, therefore, is to ascertain the facts and find a common-sense explanation for them. In investigating phenomena, some of which it is claimed are connected with religion and others with occult forces, it is necessary to proceed without regard to the question of religion. We look more closely at the chapters on Faith-healing and Christian Science and the Mind Cure as relating to the most vital subjects. In questions of faith-healing allowances must be made for the operation of natural causes, unobserved or concealed, for the excited minds of witnesses, and for other circumstances that mask the real facts; but, after all deductions have been made, the author believes it must be admitted that "most extraordinary recoveries have been produced, some of them instantaneously, from diseases in general considered incurable by ordinary treatment, in others known to be curable in the ordinary process of medicine and surgery." The cases remaining to be accounted for are those in which the effect is unquestionably produced by a natural mental cause, and those in which the operation of occult causes is claimed. In these cases, of both classes, subjective mental states are important factors. With or without belief they can produce effects either of the nature of disease or cure. Active incredulity is often more favorable to sudden effects than mere stupid, acquiescent credulity. Surprise at seeing an unexpected effect may lead the mind to succumb to the dominant idea. Concentrated attention, with faith, can produce powerful effects; may operate efficiently in acute diseases, with instantaneous rapidity upon nervous diseases, or upon any condition capable of being modified by direct action through the nervous or circulatory system. Cures may be wrought in diseases of accumulation with surprising rapidity where the increased action of the various excretory functions can eliminate morbid growth. Certain inflammatory conditions may suddenly disappear under similar mental states, so as to admit of helpful exercise; which exercise, by its effect upon the circulation, and through it upon the nutrition of diseased parts, may produce a permanent cure. The mind cure, apart from the absurdities associated with it, and from its repudiation of medicine, has a basis in the laws of Nature. The pretense of mystery, however, is either honest ignorance or consummate quackery. All the practitioners are unable to dispense with surgery where the case is at all complex and mechanical adjustments are necessary, and they can not restore a lost member; but in certain displacements of internal organs the consequence of nervous debility, which are sometimes aided by surgery, they sometimes succeed by developing latent energy through mental stimulus. The claims of Christian faith-healers to supernatural powers are discredited by facts which are cited; and faith cure, technically so called, as now held by many Protestants, is pronounced "a pitiable superstition, dangerous in its final effect." It is harmful because it tends to produce an effeminate type of character which shrinks from pain, and to concentrate attention upon self and its sensations. It sets up false grounds for determining whether a person is or is not in favor with God; it opens the door to every superstition. Practically it gives support to other delusions which claim a supernatural element. It diminishes the influence of Christianity by subjecting it to a false and inconclusive test; diverts attention from the moral and spiritual transformation which Christianity professes to work; destroys the ascendency of reason; and irresistibly tends, in some minds, to mental derangement. "Little hope exists of freeing those already entangled, but it is highly important to prevent others from falling into so plausible and luxurious a snare, and to show that Christianity is not to be held responsible for aberrations of the imagination, which belong exclusively to no race, clime, age, party, or creed." The relation of the mind-cure movement to ordinary medical practice. Dr. Buckley concludes, is important. "It emphasizes what the most philosophical physicians of all schools have always deemed of the first importance, though many have neglected it. It teaches that medicine is but occasionally necessary. It hastens the time when patients of dis-