Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/541

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525
THE REVIVAL OF WITCHCRAFT.

The hypnotic endormeur is very well able to explain the miracles of faith-cure and pilgrimage by the light of his own experience. They result, as he explains accurately, from the reaction of mind on body, the effects of imagination, of self-suggestion, or of suggestion from without. Those who benefit by them are especially the fervent and the enthusiastic, the vividly imaginative, the mentally dependent, and, above all, the hysterical—male or female. But clearly, the faith-curer may retort upon the hypnotizer that they are brothers in their therapeutic results, if not in their faith and philosophy. The one can work about the same percentage of cures as the other—and no more; and the intervening apparatus, whether of magnets, mirrors, or of grottoes, only serve to affect the imagination, and to supply "the external stimulus" which is necessary.

To this category belong also the long series of thousands of asserted cures of people who wear what they are pleased to call magnetic belts, or who used to wear magnetic rings, who were cured by the Perkins tractors, whether of wood or of iron—they are the prey of the quacks of all ages and countries.

One essential part is, however, I conceive, that no new faculty was ever yet developed in any of these hypnotics. The frauds of clairvoyance, of spirit perceptions, of gifts of language, of slate-writing, of spirit-writing, of far-sight, of "communication across space," of "transfer of mental impressions," of the development of any new sense or ghost of a new sense, remain now as ever, for the most part, demonstrable frauds or perhaps in a few cases self-deceptions. At the Salpêtrière, at Nancy, wherever the facts have been impartially and critically examined, this has been the result. It results once more now from my test of the subjects of the Charité and the École Polytechnique. It will, I suppose, be too much to expect that we shall hear no more of the "New Mesmerism," but it will be easy for any one thus experimentally to reduce it to its true dimensions.

Finally, as to the practical question, which has perhaps a greater interest for the sociologist than any which have suggested themselves up to this point. Since the hypnotist faith-curer of the hospital ward and the priestly faith-curer of the grotto are in truth utilizing the same human elements and employing cognate resources, although masked by a different outward garb, we may ask ourselves which can approximate to the greater successes and which does the least harm.

So far as I can see, the balance is in favor of the faith-curer of the chapel and the grotto. The results at least are proportionately as numerous, and they are more rapid. Numerically there are, I incline to think, more faith-cures at Lourdes than there are "suggestion-cures" in the Salpêtrière or the Charité So far as