Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/542

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hypnotism is good for anything as a curative agent, its sphere is limited, by Charcot, Féré, Babinski, and all the most trustworthy medical observers of Paris, to the relief of functional disorder and symptoms in hysterical patients. The Nancy school put their pretensions higher; but any one who will analyze for himself, or who will study Babinski's able analysis of the Nancy reputed cases of cure, will easily satisfy himself that such claims are not valid. As to the use of "suggestion" as an anæsthetic substitute of chloroform for operation purposes, that "sugges ion" dates back now beyond the ages of Esdaile and of Elliotson. It has been given up and fallen into disuse because of its unreliability and limited application. It is now sagely proposed to use hypnotism for "tooth-drawing," for the treatment of drunkards and of school children. The proposition is self-condemned. To enable a dentist to draw a tooth painlessly, the average man or woman is, by a series of sittings, to be reduced to the state of a trained automaton; but happily only a very small proportion can be. The criminal courts have seen enough of hypnotic dentists. As to the "suggestion" cure "of drunkards or the "suggestion" treatment of backward or naughty children, systematic and intelligent suggestion is what every clergyman, every doctor, and every schoolmaster tries to carry out in such cases and often does successfully—and in a better form than the degrading shape of hypnotism. Moreover, for drunkenness it is, so far as my inquiries go, a failure.

If a striking effect is to be produced by an apparatus destined powerfully to affect the imagination, the faith-curer of the grotto has this advantage over the endormeur of the platform or the hospital. He does not intrude his own personality and train his patient to subject his mental ego to that of his "operator." The "mesmerizer" seeks to dominate his subject; he weakens the will power, which it is desirable to strengthen. He aims at becoming the master of a slave. I do not need to emphasize the dangers of this practice. I need not even relate them. I have briefly quoted the warnings of one of its apostles, or at least so much of them as it is seemly here to relate.

The faith-curer of the grotto strengthens the weaker individuality. He plays upon the spring of self-suggestion. The patient is told to believe that he will be cured, to wish it fervently, and he shall be cured. So far as he is cured, he returns perhaps a better and a stronger man, and his cure is quite as real and likely to be quite as lasting as if he had become the puppet of a hypnotizer. The experiments of the Salpêtrière have served to enable us to analyze more clearly the nature of faith-cures generally, and they have thrown a ray of light on a series of phenomena of human automatism never before studied so clearly or