in the structure of these organs, are often progressive in character, and usually incapable of repair.
There is, however, a third class of diseases, which medical science has thus far been unable to classify with the infections or the degenerations; nevertheless, very real and very common, to which it has applied the term functional disorders. These present no demonstrable organic lesion, and very many of them seem to have their origin in psychic rather than in physical causes.
It is from this latter class that the superstition and quackery of all ages have largely derived their support. To be sure, science is gradually invading even this field, and finding a physical basis for conditions which it has been hitherto unable to classify.
It is clear, however, to scientific men that there is a large class for which no physical basis is likely to be found, which will always be the subject of much philosophical speculation and mysticism. Of late, a most interesting attempt has been made to employ science, religion and hypnotic suggestion, under the guise of psychotherapy, in the study and treatment of these cases, and I thought that perhaps it would be interesting to look for a few moments at the so-called Emmanuel movement from a medical viewpoint.
The underlying principle of mind or faith healing is by no means new; it is probably as old as the race. It is the same principle that underlay the sacrificial offering of the ancients, and that underlies the pilgrimages to Lourdes, and the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupré. One of the earliest analogous movements, to that of which we now hear so much, was that of Mesmer in the latter part of the eighteenth century.
“By the discovery of a universal fluid, in which life originates, and by which it is preserved, and by the power of regulating the operations of this fluid”—he claimed to be able to cure the most intractable diseases; and although a scientific commission, including our own Benjamin Franklin, was appointed to investigate his claims, and reported that they could find no evidence of any such fluid or special agency emanating from him or his baquet, while, if blindfolded, his patients proved susceptible to its influence only when they believed that they were within its influence, whether they really were or not; still it had for many years an astonishing vogue and following.
In the hands of his pupils animal magnetism, or mesmerism, as it was called, was found to be capable of producing a state of profound insensibility in some individuals and a state akin to somnambulism in others. The subjects were made to do all sorts of unnatural things, and to endure the severest pain without flinching. A number of surgical operations were performed upon patients, who were placed under its influence, and it was the subject of much medical speculation and discussion.