What is Mesmerism? by James Frederick Ferrier-1851
WHAT IS MESMERISM?
Sir,—I was invited some weeks ago to an exhibition of Mesmerism, to witness its extraordinary powers in the person of “Adolphe.” There was a preliminary lecture, in bad taste enough, vulgarly offensive, in a tone of defiance of the members of the medical profession, whom the lecturer—having invited all to be present to hear the vituperation—seemed to consider as generally unbelievers in the science.
This was not judicious, for medical men ought to be more able than others to test the physical facts of Mesmerism; and it should have been remembered that some eminent men of the profession are, if not inventors or discoverers, at least the great promoters of the science.
A shrewd quack doctor, in a country town, having told the gaping clowns that some of them—fixing his eyes on the proper objects—were in danger from dreadful diseases, which he alone could cure, saw an eminent regular physician approaching in his carriage. “I will appeal,” said he, “to Dr——, if it be not so.” He stopped the carriage, and thus addressed the physician,—” I have been telling these good men that they are labouring under dreadful diseases,” which he named in awful Latin, and added—”Qui vult decepi decipiatur: be so good, Doctor——, to say if that be not the truth.” The Doctor bowed, and said “Undoubtedly.” The infallible cure pills were soon all sold.
I confess this manner of the lecturer told with me thus: He rather wishes to keep away the profession, fearing their scrutiny; or, in case of their being sceptical, to cast contempt upon their knowledge. I think it would have been wiser to have conciliated them. The manner was not calculated to induce belief; nevertheless, mesmerism may be true: it may be a wonderful secret of nature. For my own part, neither believing nor disbelieving, but holding my judgment in abeyance, I desire to examine the science, or whatever it might be called, by the consistency of its facts. To do this, it is necessary first to lay down accurately what is claimed for it—not vaguely, as I find it in letters and lectures, where that which is asserted at one time as its power is denied at another; but to speak clearly of its congruent powers or asserted powers, without vacillation; then to follow these powers to their consequences—their necessary consequences—if they be powers at all; and to draw conclusions arising from the two natures upon which it works, or perhaps is worked upon—materiality and spirituality.
As to its claims. And here it is as well to make a preliminary remark—that a scientific vocabulary is wanted; for we are bewildered and misled by terms belonging only to our organs, which organs have nothing whatever to do with the phenomena of mesmerism. For instance, if the eye be closed effectually, it would be better not to use the word “seeing,” and so on; and this is necessary, because while it is asserted that the organ is useless—and if so, the person mesmerised may as well have the object behind as before him—I generally notice, that the object to be known is put as near to the eye, as to the nose and mouth: but of this presently. I now only wish to lay down what is claimed as the powers. We might almost limit these to a few words, but fear to shock the reader, though in effect it must come to pretty much the same thing—that is, supposing the science not to be yet advanced to its extent—we will say then only a kind of Omnipresence,
Omniscience, not impeded by intervening solid or opaque substances, and equally valid (perhaps more valid) over the spiritual as over the material world. I speak here of a kind of—aware that it may be said that there are limits—which I am justified in doing, as no limits are defined; and the phenomena which do not succeed at one time and do succeed at another, according to the operation of the mesmeric influence, are really of the nature belonging to, and the property of omniscience and omnipresence. And—this is important, that I may not step beyond the ground on which I am made to stand by the mesmerisers themselves, I will state what was asserted for Adolphe himself on the evening spoken of; and this will supersede the need of entering into the particulars of his exhibition.
It was given out at the conclusion of the evening, that Adolphe would be “at home”—to receive patients—to cure their diseases, and with as much infallibility as is ever claimed, by a kind of entering into the bodies of those patients; and then by a knowledge—instinctive or mesmeric, for lack of a term—not acquired by study of medicine or anatomy, of telling the exact drug or remedy for whatever disease the patient may have.
That he would likewise be “at home,” (or consultation on the private affairs of persons, to inform them of extreme minutia of circumstances relating to them and their concerns, whether past, present, or to come—as, for instance, for the recovery of lost papers and documents, whereby they may be enabled to recover estates, to retrieve their affairs, and to know all combinations of circumstances, making for or against their interests. I do not think that any one present will deny that such is the substance of the promises held out to all who might be disposed thereby to visit Adolphe “at home for consultation.”
Now, granting for a moment that be has this power, it necessarily follows he must be in spirit only, not in body, which is in the presence of the consultor, wherever the required documents are to be found, or where the personages are who are acting and designing for or against the interests to be speculated upon. And here a previous knowledge as to all the whereabouts must be supposed; and this is a power of being anywhere or everywhere, and of knowing every thing relating to the persons or matters to be inquired into, which is in its kind and its degree—for in human hands we may even here admit degrees—both omniscience and omnipresence
I asserted that these powers are not impeded by solid or opaque bodies intervening: let me show that this also is claimed for our belief. I do so, not only by asserting that it must necessarily be inferred from the nature of the things with regard to hidden documents, and persons at distances from the operating process—not only as to rooms, but of towns or countries ; but I will show it by this common mesmeric exhibition, and such was shown that evening. The mesmerised takes the hand of a person, and by so doing, as it is said, travels with him in mind; but I shall show he does more. In the instance exhibited, he ” travelled” to a foreign country—that is, he crossed the sea; he entered into a home, described its furniture, its position, its form, &c. And here he could not be said to travel in the thought of the person with whom he was in “rapport,” for he described a picture, which the gentleman did not think about, nor knew was there. This one fact, therefore, puts the affair out of, and beyond the category of thought-communicative-travelling or ubiquity. Now, I remember a week or two ago, seeing a letter quoted from Dr Elliotson, in which ho denied that certain persons could see through solid substances; but did not Adolphe in this case assume to travel through solid substances? For there is one kind of solid substance which, bodily or spiritually, must be passed through—the solid substance of this earth itself. For you will observe, here is a very serious obstacle, it being out of all possible rule of perspective to reach, say for instance Edinburgh, from this place, through the rotundity of the globe, without passing through a portion of its solidity; that is, if the organs, outward or inward, have anything whatever to do with the affair. If they have not, there is a presence of another kind—an ubiquity of spirit, knowing all and seeing all at one and the same time; so that, as I said, solid substances intervening are no obstacle. Nor do I say that the somnambulist always succeeds; the powers are said to be sometimes weak. All I require is to have the position of the powers established; and for that purpose, it is sufficient if the somnambulist ever succeeds, and if the success is not attributable to coincidence and chance.
Now as to the two natures engaged, operating and operated upon, in Mesmerism, they must be matter and spirit; and here I cannot but note a very wonderful inconsistency in some advocates for mesmerism, who do in conversation and in published works deny that there is any such thing as spirit at all, showing at the same time phenomena that cannot belong to matter, and must belong to spirit. There are no conceivable effluvia, or electric essences, or anything whatever material, however subtle, that can foretell events—that can reveal the secret of the “to come.” Prophecy must be a spiritual power; so that the pure materialists at once cut from under them the greater number and the greater of the facts upon which the claims of mesmerism are built.
Here, then, is a spiritual power: it is either Inherent in the nature of man—and if so, he is in progression to be more than man; or it is imparted to him at times, and upon occasions, as with the prophets of the Scriptures. We might well be said to shrink from the former supposition; if we assume the latter, we must do so with an awe and reverence not quite suited to the circumstances of the displays of the various exhibitions we witness. So that, taking the claims at their weakest and apparently least offensive construction, it must be asserted that the somnambulist is an inspired person, and that, in this inspired state, he is at once both in and out of the body—that he can make all his bodily organs dead, inoperative; and that he acquires from a new source all their powers, and these enlarged.
Be it observed, I have not here supposed any cheat, any collusion, or illusion, trick, or conjuration whatever. That is quite out of the question, as I would treat the subject. I have only to specify, to make clear the varied claims—to show what they are—not to deny them, or the facts on which they are built; but, having done thus much, I think It will follow that we cannot reasonably be called upon for so large a measure of faith, without being allowed to scrutinise the facts in every possible way—and even strongly, without offence, to express doubts—and, if it may happen, to suspect imposture.
And I do think that, in the search after so great a truth—if mesmerism be a truth—it is quite out of and below the dignity of the subject to resort to any of those exhibitions which are common with professed conjurors. I would, therefore, urge upon the members of the mesmeric body that they altogether abstain from cards and card-playing; and I would suggest—as it is professed that the somnambulist cannot see—that, instead of giving him sealed letters and books, these things should be in another room; and that there letters should be written, and books opened, of which passages are to be read: for it is quite inconsistent with the claims to suppose that the somnambulist shall be able to see what is, and what is doing, in a room hundreds of miles off, and not be able to tell what is read and what is doing in the next room. I wish to see this science at one with itself—mesmerists at one with themselves. They must not blow hot and cold; and if they put down failures to a weakened mesmeric influence, they must suffer their claim, as to its full influence, to be nailed down—to be an immovable, undeniable fact that they have claimed, and do claim, directly and indirectly, a kind of omniscience and omnipresence hitherto considered impossible in man uninspired, or in one that is man only.
But there is a further startling claim. I have, as yet, considered the powers of mesmerism as operative only in congenial, or rather the same specific natures in man with man.
Its influence over other natures is now asserted. A rampant bull is arrested and fixed in the very moment of his fierce assault. Savage dogs are instantly made to quail. A cow in articuli mortis is cured, which the operator, Miss Martineau, thinks conclusive against the theory of the working upon the imagination. Now, in these brute influences, some of the old assumptions must be either given up or extended: the brute creation must be participators with us in the one case; or that peculiar sympathy, that mind-communion by rapport, must be so modified as, if not to annihilate, greatly to reduce its claim. The human diseases are discovered by the agent, mesmerically seeing (until the organ-power is given up, or a new vocabulary established, I use the word) the internal structure of the body, and that in all its most intricate parts; the thoughts of persons, or patients, by as intricate a knowledge of their minds, propensities, and dispositions—and hero I purposely exclude from the argument the knowledge of future events. The assumption amounts to a kind of identity; the mesmeriser becomes another, and yet retains himself—at least he partakes of the person with whom he is in rapport. Now, if this be the inalienable, the natural power of mesmerism, to what degree, in what manner, and with what result, as to any intelligence given, or to be required to be given, do the mesmerisers of mad bulls and of savage dogs enter into the animus of the animal they make submit to them? I am not saying that brutes have thoughts, as we have thoughts, but they have intentions, motives, and cognisances, which, if mesmerism be a concurrent congruous consistent power, ought to be perceptively identified in the mesmeriser.
But there is a claim still more astonishing: hitherto, life has been the great condition of its efficacy—life in man and in brute. And here, in passing, I may be allowed to notice an inconsistency. Some life is not subject to its power, or weakly so, and that, as mesmerists say, arising from the sceptical nature of minds—that a certain degree of faith is necessary; yet here, the argument is nil with regard to the bull and the dog, and more so still to that of which I now mean to speak—that is, that inanimate bodies are under its power. This may startle the reader, but so it is. I have seen, as doubtless many hundreds have, doors and floors mesmerised, and the hand of the somnambulist, when pressed against the pannel, apparently incapable of being removed; and, in the case of the floor, (mesmerised only by a wave of the hand over it,) the somnambulist, when desired or led to cross it, suddenly arrested by the power, and unable to lift the foot at that particular part of the floor. Nor were those who tried their own force able therewith to remove it from its position. What is the nature of the sympathy—this material cognisance of mesmeric effect, between the foot and the floor, the door-panel and the hand? I do not say here that there is none; but if there be, the power claimed is over the inanimate and the animate—over matter and over mind, and making for each a new sympathy. The instance I have given, it may be said, is as to surface only, where an essence or effluvia may be supposed to rest. But not so; for, at the exhibition of that phenomenon, the somnambulist pierced in perception the solid floor, and walls, and doors, for she told what was passing, or had immediately taken place, in other rooms in the house—who had entered, what they came for, and what they were doing; nay, she shortly went far beyond the house, was in her own home, some miles off, and said the postman was at the door with letters, the contents of two of which she told; and I remember they related to interesting domestic concerns, which the mesmeriser afterwards asserted, upon inquiry, were found to be as she had spoken of them. I must observe, however, that with this person there was a mixture of childishness, giving an impression of her playing with her power, which took away from its importance by fastening on little facts—such, for instance, as that a man was standing by the fire-place (which was obstructed from her view by many persons) in a particular dress, and holding an umbrella; that there was a person in the room had “such odd thoughts;” and one standing near to me, in the part of the room to which she directed attention, owned to these “odd thoughts.” I fancied—though it may have been fancy only—that she was endeavouring to establish a belief in the power by these trifling notices. Another thing struck me as worthy a speculative inquiry. With regard to the floor and door-panels, the power was imparted by simply a wave of the hand over the parts; so, by a wave of the hand over them was it dissipated; but what became of this essence or effluvia, this invisible substance? Seemingly it should have fastened upon something else, for the wave of the hand that took it off was over other parts. Nor did the company appear to partake of any of this floating mesmeric atmosphere: it emanated from the hand, was removed by the hand; but what became of it, or If, having once emanated, it is still a floating operating power, remains a subject to be inquired into.
I did not intend, when I took pen in hand, to narrate mesmeric anecdotes, but to speak of claims, and to speculate upon their nature. Anecdotes are too numerous, and every one has a store of them; but the nature, the philosophic conclusion that must be reached in all the facts, is pretty much the same: if one fact limits one power, another does not, so that we must conclude of the general and full power as a thing to be attained when the science shall have reached its ultimate practical point, and have become an art. The several facts in individual cases, each perfect, without limit, made a claim on our belief to the full extent of the supposition I have made. I will, however, as I have been led by the nature of the subject to incidents, mention one or two experiments of which I was a witness; and I do so because they show a further claim of a most extraordinary nature—that of a power of working upon the will, of totally altering the character, of demoralising the whole mind, or otherwise—of turning the good into evil, and the evil into good, and of subduing the mesmerised person to the will of the mesmeriser fearfully. When I say fearfully, do not let it be understood that I am thereby denying it. It may be a very fearful thing, yet very true; but let the ground be well searched.
I had met a professional gentleman—a great mesmerist, and who had published much upon the subject—who spoke of the new phenomena which we would see exemplified at Dr Elliotson’s, phenomena connected with phrenology, and which showed how characters were convertible by mesmeric process: for instance, that by exciting (and that without touching it, but by waving the hand over it) the organ of acquisitiveness, a person would be induced to steal anything that came in the way,—”for instance,” said he, “the ring off one’s finger;” and he showed that on his own. Then, by exciting in the same manner other organs, the thief would become a liar, a proud justifier of the deed, and a combative one; then that, by altering the process, the same thief would become a highly moral character, and abhor theft. We arrived at Dr Elliotson’s. There was a large assembly of people, so that what I am narrating was evidently not intended as a private or secret exhibition: did I so consider it, I should be silent. Doubtless, the object was to show the phenomena; and I suppose I can scarcely be considered as acting contrary to that object, by simply narrating what I saw. Two young women were mesmerised by a single wave of the hand to each. After this, the gentleman before alluded to, who stood behind one of these young women, influenced, by a movement of his hand—yet not touching—the organ of acquisitiveness. She immediately put out, in all directions, her restless fingers, as in search of some object to lay bold on; finally she put her hands a little over her head, and did actually take the hand of the professional gentleman who had previously spoken of the phenomenon, and took his ring from his finger. The other young woman was then, by a similar process, excited to a high moral sense; and when told that her companion had stolen the ring, she gravely lectured her upon her criminal conduct. The thief at first denied the fact, which caused the remark that the thief is necessarily a liar; but after a while the organ of pride was excited, and she justified it, and defied her lecturing companion in a tone of great contempt. And now the hand was also over the organ of combativeness, upon which the thief gave a sharp slap of her hand to her moralising companion, and continued the same proud bearing. After this the whole was reversed: the young woman who had acted the good part of justice, became, under mesmeric process, the thief; and the thief took the part of justice—nor was there much variation in the manner of the transaction. I could not, however, but notice to myself that the whole passed as it was previously told me it would pass; and that the very ring was taken which had been shown me as a “for instance” only; and I mention this, because, in the investigation of facts, minute truths are of value; and we are allowed to entertain suspicion where there is a possibility or trick or acting. Nor is it necessary, in suspecting, that we should throw any moral blame on those high-minded and gifted men who take part in these transactions. They may be persons deceived, and of nature liable to self-deception, as well as to be imposed upon by others; but I am not here now, while treating upon this subject, casting suspicion—I only state what then passed through my mind. There was another fact with regard to one of these young women. Dr Elliotson willed that she should come to him, at the same time telling her by word of mouth not to come. This exhibition was very beautiful, for the young woman assumed most graceful attitudes, as if irresistibly, but slowly, moving toward him, saying, “Why do you tell me not to come, while you are making me come?” I think it cannot be denied that here there was an exhibition of a fearful power. At the same time, there was another woman mesmerised, but there was no other exhibition with regard to her than that which was indeed extraordinary enough; but it was a bodily effect. She was in a chair, with her legs and feet extended, and in such a position that I should have thought no person could have maintained very long; but as I sat close to her, and perhaps for two or three hours, during which time she did not in the least move, I felt sure that she was under some cataleptic influence. But with regard to her, perhaps the still more extraordinary fact was the manner in which she was awakened. Dr Elliotson, who was at a considerable distance from her, made a rapid movement with his fingers, and at the same instant her eyelids shook tremulously, as in correspondence with the action of Dr Elliotson’s hand; and thus she was awakened—the stiffness of her limbs removed by passing the hand along them—and she arose and walked away, apparently unconscious of what had taken place. Dr Elliotson, however, just as he began in this way to operate, told the company what would be the effect, yet he instantly recollected that his so saying might shake the belief of some, and regretted doing so—at the same time stating that the effect would have been exactly the same.
This last experiment, however, rests on quite different ground from the former. It may have been altogether a nervous influence, and one admitted as a curious physical phenomenon long before the days of mesmerism. A materialist here may say matter acts on matter; nervous fluids, however subtle, may combine, and suspend the ordinary action of nerves, muscles, and limbs. But materialism will not go beyond this: it cannot, on the instant, create and annihilate a moral sense, or mould the mind as it would a piece of clay. The power that can do this claims a spirituality; and even if that be doubted in this instance, extend the experiment to clairvoyance and to prophecy, and the claim of spirituality must be at once admitted. Then comes the question—If spirituality, what kind of spirituality?—and some, trying to avoid the questions will ask, “What is spirituality?” One may lose one’s-self in such bewilderments. It may be quite enough to take the common notion of it—that it is a power in itself, which, though it may work upon matter, is really independent of it. The kind of spirituality which mesmerism claims I have already shown to be above what has hitherto been believed to be human, and is really a kind of omniscience and omnipresence. And yet, upon consideration, I am inclined to think these words even fall short of its claim; for omniscience and omnipresence do not necessarily imply a making, a creating power, a conversion of substances into other substances—or, at least, into the power of other substances. And I am led to this reflection by remembering what Miss Martineau published with regard to her maid-servant, a poor ignorant girl. I forget with what object, or if any was stated, Miss Martineau gave this girl water to drink, and willed that it should be porter, and the girl spoke of it as porter; then she willed it to be wine, and, if I mistake not, the girl became intoxicated. It is long since I read the account. I do not believe that I am at all exaggerating her statement; and, more than this, I think Miss Martineau questioned the girl, under the influence of mesmerism, as to some theological matters, which, not exactly chiming in with the questioner’s notion, she challenged the girl, who confessed that she did not speak on that point mesmerically, but as she had heard from the curate of the parish at church. There appears, certainly, to be something ridiculous in this. But I speak not of It here with a view to ridicule—on the contrary, I really admire the honest and simple candour of the narrator; but it leads to the necessity, as yet, of limiting some of the powers of mesmerism to this globe, and of forbearing to claim for them any higher aspiration. But, to return to the spirituality of mesmerism, there can be no need to argue that, of himself, no man can prophesy. Spiritual discernment must be a gift. If there be a “second sight,” it is a power intrinsically not human. A seer is one inspired. He is the instrument through which the Invisible speaks. What Invisible? Perhaps good, perhaps evil!! I do not see how mesmerists are to escape from this admission of there being an Invisible Power—that is, a Spirit, quite above themselves, of a nature not like their own—acting upon them and through them; and yet some of them question you thus—” Do you believe in spirit?” I would grant a physical power to their science; but when they reach clairvoyance—a knowledge of the past, present, and future—there must be something not matter. Must we then go back to Demonology for a solution. Why not? If I admit the facts, and can account for them in no other way, I am forced into it, however reluctantly; and I cast about to see what grounds there are for it. I am only speculating, not asserting—and fear to enter that wide and wild field. Yet, it must be confessed, the facts, or asserted facts, of mesmerism and of demonology are very analogous. What power inspired the damsel who “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying,” of whom it is said that she was “possessed with a spirit of divination?” Paul commanded the spirit to “come out of her, and he came out the same hour;” and her masters then saw that “the hope of their gains was gone.” What did this damsel more than is now done by many such possessed young women? Women have been burnt as witches for exhibiting far less power, and for owning to it too. Undoubtedly, people have believed themselves to have been demon-aided, and learned, wise, and prudent people have condemned them to awful punishment for the crime; and we may therefore presume these grave judges believed in the power. And why not, after reading the passage quoted from the Acts?
Remembering the exhibition of the irresistible drawing of the young woman towards the mesmeriser—admitting it to be a truthful exhibition—I cannot but see a most fearful power in evil hands. And such power has frequently been a matter of confession. In the “Causes Celèbres” there is a case quite in point. Louis Gaufridy, a priest, is condemned and burned for sorcery, having confessed to the following effect,—That, inheriting some books from an uncle, among them he found one on magic, to which he then addicted himself—that being well practised, he made covenant with a demon, who appeared to him. The result was, that a power was imparted to him that, by breathing over any woman, he should inspire her with a passion for him, and have entire control over her actions as her affections. Having made the compact—”Le diable ne repond point; mais il lui dit, qu’il reviendra. Il revient effectivement au bout de troisjours. Alors il lui promet, que par la vertu de son souffle, il enflamera d’amour toutes les filles et femmes qu’il voudra posséder; mais, qu’il faut que le souffle parvienne jusqu’à l’odorat des personnes à qui il voudra inspirer une forte passion.” He exercises this power over one Madeline, the daughter of a gentleman; and so influences the mother by his “souffle” that she becomes his accomplice. In the end, Gaufridy is condemned as a sorcerer—confesses, and is burnt; and Madeline, bitterly repentant, ends her days in a convent. It is curious that, in his confession, he says that he could, on opening his window, be transported to the “Sabbat”—the witches’ meeting. Whoever has seen mesmerism must have seen something very like this “souffle” in appearance. I would not in the least insinuate as to its effects, but every one has seen enough to be convinced that the mesmeriser ought, in all cases, to be a strictly moral, conscientious person.
Philosophers have supposed that the passion of love arises from a kind of “souffle,”—an emanation of the one person sensibly received through the “odorat” of another. Indeed, the phenomena of love are extraordinary enough: do we unconsciously mesmerise each other? I knew a man who, on a visit to a friend, accidentally went with him to a house in the neighbourhood, where was a lady, neither very young nor handsome, nor did she enter into conversation with him; but he looked at her, and she at him. The friends did not remain half an hour in the house. On leaving it, the visitor said to his host—”That woman will be my wife;” and so it was. Was this in the breathing, or in the eye?—was it mesmeric?—does the serpent’s eye fascinate? Dante has it that Charon, by the power of his fiery eye, beckons and collects the wicked
” Caron dimonio, con occhi di bragia
Loro accenando, tutte le raccoglie?
Medusa’s head, reported to turn the gazer into stone—did it merely fix the limbs and whole person in catalepsy? The Rosicrucians seem to have anticipated the whole powers of the science, and preserved the secret. Sir Kenelm Digby was no fool, but a wise man, and discreet. What were his sympathetic powders to cure wounds at a distance? And, if the story of him be true, he seems not to have been without the fascinating power. It is said an Italian prince, having no children, ardently desired that his princess should present him with one whereof so wise a man should be the father.
What was Cagliostro’s art? Talleyrand’s interview with him, told in his Mémoires, is at least interesting and curious; for the female figure in black mantle, who tells him strange things, which turn out to be true, has all the air of a clairvoyante. Then we are told how Talleyrand puts his hand to the forehead of a countess or marchioness, and is not able to withdraw it; and ultimately, in endeavouring to do so, tears away the flesh from the forehead—by which he loses her friendship for ever. It is true we must suspect the great man, who is evidently given to get up good stories. Yet the interview may have taken place; and there is the clairvoyante.
The wonderful things said to have been done among us by Alexis, a few years ago, every one must remember; many who may read this may have witnessed his powers. There is a story told of him, how he came to leave England so suddenly: I know not if it be true. It is said that he and a clairvoyante either met, or mesmerically, at a distance, so affected each other, that a mutual passion was the result; but that it would not do, and he was accordingly withdrawn to Paris. No incantations of the deserted clairvoyante were able to bring him back. If she possessed in her fit the same insight into language and literature as into circumstances and futurity, she might have quoted the line—
” O crudelis Alexi, nihil mea carmina curas.”
It was then Adolphe came to England. Is he not brother to Alexis?
The friend of Adolphe, or partner, who lectured on mesmerism, as I thought, in so objectionable a manner, asserted that persons had received great advantages in recovering property by means of Adolphe’s clairvoyance; but would it not be better that cases should be well attested? One real undoubted fact of this kind would greatly tend to establish the truth of the science, and it is of sufficient importance to induce persons to make inquiry. Every quack-medicine advertisement asserts these things, and supplies names; but few trust to them, and fewer still take the trouble to pass a correspondence with the names. Joseph Ady certainly too boldly gave the name of “his friend” Sir Peter Laurie, and, if I mistake not, of the Lord Chancellor, as having recovered large property through his means. The appeal met with a flat denial. In the case of “Adolphe at home,” there was every motive to be more particular, because it was his special business and calling to give such important informations for the recovery of estates. I was greatly disappointed that no names for reference were given. Now, it may be thought that I am writing in a bantering spirit, and am throwing ridicule on the whole subject of mesmerism. By no means. If, in the train of thought as I write, some suspicious arise, either on account of a seeming suppression, or from an ill-judged manner of setting forth an exhibition—or if there arise but a half-suspicion—a doubt, a difficulty to admit all that is claimed—it is in the very nature of the discussion that the stretched cord should fly back the whole length. Had I been entirely disposed to ridicule the science, I might have taken “the bull by the horns,” or have attended Miss Martineau in her vaccination; but really, and in good faith, I had no such intention when I began to write this paper on mesmerism. The fact is, I neither believe nor disbelieve it, and therefore vacillate, and am now on one side, and now on the other; and if I am treating it lightly now, according to the different state of mind, I have been through the greater part treating it gravely.
I am uncertain, from what I have seen, if mesmeric influence be given more through the hand or the eye—both are used; but surely the perfect clairvoyant, who can travel, being in “rapport,” with any one to any part of the world, might easily, one would suppose, converse with, and if not that, be conversant with the doings of the object of his affection. The transmission of a glove, for instance, by post, might be enough for “rapport.” Surely the electric fluid, if it be electric, might pass through such a chain. Do you remember the strange correspondence kept up by two lovers at a great distance, mentioned by Strada, and quoted from him by the Guardian, No. 119. In the person of Lucretius, he “gives an account of the chimerical correspondence between two friends, by the help of a load-stone, which had such virtue in it that it touched two several needles. When one of these needles, so touched, began to move, the other, though at never so great a distance, began to move at the same time, and in the same manner. He tells us that the two friend; being each of them possessed of one of these needles, made a kind of dial-plate, inscribing it with four-and-twenty letters, in the same manner that the hours of the day are marked upon the ordinary dial-plate. They then fixed the needles on each of these plates, in such a manner that it could move round without impediment, so as to touch any of the four-and-twenty letters. Upon separating one from another, into distant countries, they agreed to withdraw themselves punctually into their closets at a certain hour of the day, and to converse with one another by means of this their invention. Accordingly, when they were some hundred miles under, each of them retired in privacy at the time appointed, and immediately looked at the dial-plate. If he had a mind to write anything to his friend, he directed his needle to every letter that formed the words which he had occasion for—making a little pause at the end of every word or sentence, to avoid confusion. The friend, at the same time, saw his own sympathetic needle moving itself to every letter which that of his correspondent pointed at. By this means they talked together across a whole continent, and conveyed their thoughts to one another in an instant, over cities, mountains, seas, or deserts.” If any ask, what this has to do with mesmerism? the answer is, that both the needle and the thing or person mesmerised may be under the same power—electricity; and some are of that opinion. That a piece of metal, made a loadstone, should, wherever placed, retain its power unimpaired, however frequently it may impart it—that it should attract and firmly hold to it bodies of great weight, so as not to be removed from it without great force, offers a phenomenon very analogous to that of mesmerism, whereby the hand or the foot is arrested, and so firmly held to a panel of a door, or to a floor, as, without extreme violence, not to be removed. I have heard, too, of cases where parties have communicated with each other, or have been asserted so to have done, in a mesmeric state, though at the distance of many streets, Indeed, what else was the seeing the postman arrive, deliver a letter, and then the telling the contents of that letter, as in the instance I spoke of, and at which I was present? For though, in this case, only one party was in a mesmeric state, it was equally possible the other, though at miles distant, might have been in the same state, and might have known what was going on in the room where the mesmerised person spoke of the contents of the letter. She even described the expression of surprise the contents of the letter were producing on her friends. And this telegraphic power has actually been assumed, and the reader may remember the description given, some few months since, of the condition and situation of the Franklin crew and ships. The reader cannot fail to observe what an exact description this account from Strada gives of the electric telegraph, particularly the submarine. One would almost imagine it to have been written in 1850. supposing the science of mesmerism to be only now in progress, and to be a perfectible science, why should we doubt taking individual facts as data for more universal and invariable, that the whole machinery of telegraph by wire may be dispensed with? Mesmerists do claim powers quite equal, though in individuals only, and not invariably—does such power at any time exist? If it does, and the science is progressive, who is to define its limit? It is important that we should know what is demanded of our belief. No one will deny that the demand is of a nature to warrant, if credited, the expectation of such a future as I have laid down.
Many may remember that, under this notion of electricity, metallic tractors were in fashion, and said to work great cures—till the experiment was tried with pieces of wood painted to resemble them, and the effects were the same. This took away the virtue from the metallic tractors.
There has ever been, in all ages, an extensive credulity with regard to the power of charm in the human eye and hand—particularly the latter, arising, or greatly strengthened, by its use in the act of blessing. There is the touching for the Evil, hence acquiring a royal name; and the superstition of the healing power in the dead man’s hand. Naaman the Syrian thought that the prophet would “strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.” This striking the hand over the place has been the adopted means of the mesmerists also; but it is not according to the rules of the science necessary. For some go so far as to say they have only to will, and they effect. “I will that a person should come to me, and he or she comes”—this I have heard asserted, and many instances given, and some of very strange willing—and purposely strange to test the power. You are told that you may make a person love or hate—if under these passions you should will that they act, will they act? If the honest person, as I have shown, was made a thief by striking the hand “over the place” of thieving; and if a person is really made to come to you by your willing the coming—though at the same time, by words, you will him or her not to come—can you not will that he or she shall commit a particular theft, and it will be committed? I say not that any of our mesmerists are so wicked as to will such things; but a science so advantageous to thieves, who require instruments, may fall into very bad hands.
Viewing this and the many dangers which I have shown it comprehends, ought one not to desire that there may be in reality no such science—that it is all mere delusion, illusion, or collusion—anything rather than a truth? And this honest desire is right, and the honesty of it should effectually rescue the unconvinced from the coarseness of obloquy which, I am sorry to say, the advocates for it, upon all occasions, cast upon all who venture to doubt.
They tell you tauntingly to believe your senses; yet the senses, from experience, one is inclined to mistrust—indeed, some philosophers have absurdly laid down, that they are only given to deceive us, and are no-wise to be trusted. Without being under such philosophy, I would ask which of our senses has not deceived us? Go to a common conjuror, put them all to the test, and question them. Your eye will be positive that it saw a child rammed into a cannon, and shot into or through a wall—and the said child walks away unhurt. Your hand will assert it caught hold of a dove, and grasped at a snake—your ear tells you a person is speaking to you from a box hardly large enough to hold a mouse. Now am I not bound, when so large demands are made on my credulity, and the appeal is to my senses, to refuse to bring them alone into court as evidence? Conjurors, aware of this inroad made on their profession, have very cunningly so imitated mesmeric exhibitions, that it is hard indeed to tell the imitation from the original. Then, again, there have been some very damaging scrutinies—some impostures discovered and confessed. It is said in reply—So the priestess has been suborned, yet the belief in the oracles but little shaken. But this is assuming also the truth of the oracles—a truth in the inspiration of the priestess; and a large world of discussion is laid open to the mind, and it must travel far ere it can come to a judgment on that question. And after all, if the affirmative is reached, the mesmerist may decline to accept or associate with the spirits to which suck power shall be ascribed. For the power, if it did exist, was not human, unless, says the mesmerist, “it was mesmerism.” Then we must reply—Then mesmerism, too, is not merely human.
Now it may be said, in answer to this deceit of our senses, that the argument would touch belief in miracles; and it might, with regard to pretended miracles that rest on the evidence of the senses only. But, in fact, the evidence of the senses is only one of the marks necessary to establish the truth of a miracle; whereas the conjunction of four marks are needed, as “The Short Method” so ingeniously and so undeniably proves—all which marks do combine in the Scripture miracles, and in them only. The senses are witnesses, not judges. They may be false witnesses, and even notoriously have their counterfeits in the imagination. Persons often imagine they hear, see, and feel, what in fact they do not. I want, therefore, in mesmeric cases, something more, and of a nature different from that which a conjuror can deceive me in. Mesmerism does put forth pretensions to evidence of this required character, in its spiritualities—where matter, however fine and subtle, is set aside—as in this further claim of the power of the will. If I can, without touch, motion, or breathing, will, and by willing, create; or if I can be satisfied that any one has, or ever has had, that power—is in possession of that thing a thousand times more potent than the long sought “philosopher’s stone”—I must bow down before the science, worship it, and deprecate its evil influences.
I thought, when I began this paper, to be able to confine the mesmeric claims to two great attributes, though still shrouded by the human veil—Omnipresence and Omniscience; but, in proceeding, I find this power of the will exciting me boldly, and demanding to be heard. It says—It is I that can make virtue and vice; I can will (shall I write it down?) water to be wine—I can create love and hatred—I can make to come and make to go. Without a word of persuasion, I make my will the sole motive of another’s action, that action being itself abhorrent to the general disposition of the person. It is I predestinate—the fur predestinatus is the creature of my will. I demand a place with your “kind of omnipresence and omniscience,” and to be named “Omnipotence.”
There is another view of mesmerism somewhat startling—it has a direct tendency to take from man his responsibility; for, if he can, by the hand of influence, be made virtuous or criminal, in vulgar speech, there must cease to be virtue or crime as far as the actor is concerned. Indeed, some medical men, looking to the brain as the material organ alone actuating man, do often, and have recently, in our courts of justice, made an irresistible impulse, incited by the diseased organ, the proof of insanity; and men who call themselves philosophers and philanthropists, adopting this theory, call upon the legislature to annul punishments. They think, from the form of the head, the man must be what he is. And this is phrenomesmerism. The organism of life does everything. I know not to what extent the writers in the Zoist may be imbued with this notion; certainly the title seems to imply, as well as much in the contents of the Zoist, that upon the materialism of life rest the great phenomena of what we were wont to call mind. “Philosophists,” says a satirist, “endeavour to explode private affections, in order to make room for general philanthropy; the next step is, to remove the invidious distinction between the several parts of active matter, and to substitute philozoism (love of all that has life) for philanthropy—until which last improvement in morals is effected, we cannot attain to absolute perfection, which I hold to consist in Philo-entity, (love of all that exists.) The murderer of Kotzebue vaunted that be had given more than taken life, when he asserted that his victim was then the world and the food of worms. Whoever makes the whole of man a piece of mechanism, to be worked at will, as any other piece of mechanism denying thereby personal responsibility, whether under the philosophy of phrenology, or phreno-mesmerism, or philozoism, does, in fact, transfer the dignity of his species to a toad or an oyster, level all human distinctions, and ought to profess as much love (if the word may be used at all) for the worms that feed upon his fellow-creatures as for his fellow-creatures themselves.
It would be unfair to fasten this belief in material Zoism on all mesmerists, or on them in general; but it is as well to notice the tendency—and, to those who follow the beginnings of things to their conclusions, this tendency must be very natural; for the man that can make another, merely by the waving of his hand over an organ, do what he wills him to do, must look upon that man as a mere machine in his hands, and think of himself, that whilst in his material form as a Zoon, he has brought the subtle powers of his Zoe.—his life—to such a state of energy that he can communicate with, and overpower, all other life.
Now, as I professed in commencing this paper to hold my faith in abeyance, I must confess I find myself, after these reflections, dropped with my whole weight into the scale adverse to mesmerism. What shall weigh down the opposite scale again? first making a vacillation, a suspense, and, if possible, a decided preponderance on the other side. Wise and learned men have been its advocates—as they have advocated witchcraft, and persecuted witches. At the trial of Amy Duny and Rose Callender, at Bury-St-Edmund’s, 1664, before Sir Matthew Hale, Sir Thomas Brown, who wrote against vulgar errors, is said to have declared in court, he “was clearly of opinion that the fits of the plaintiffs were natural, but heightened by the devil co-operating with the malice of the witches, at whose instance he did the villanies.” He confirmed it by a similar case in Denmark, and so far influenced the jury that the two women were hanged. I begin to feel the weight of Sir Matthew Hale, and the dispenser of “Vulgar Errors” clinging to him.
The great Boyle himself attested several of the cures made by Valentine Greatrakes, in the time of Charles II.—an Irish gentleman, who professed to cure diseases by touching or stroking the parts affected, and who thereby acquired great eminence. Then I am inclined to throw against Boyle an anecdote showing that the workings of imagination may go as far—it is in a note of Granger’s:—
“I was myself a witness of the powerful workings of imagination in the populace. When the waters of Glastonbury were at the height of their reputation in 1751, the following story, which scarce exceeds what I observed upon the spot, was told me by a gentleman of character,—’An old woman in the workhouse at Yeovil, who had long been a cripple, and made use of crutches, was strongly inclined to drink of the Glastonbury waters, which she was assured would care her lameness; the master of the workhouse procured her several bottles of water, which had such an effect that she soon laid aside one crutch, and not long after the other. This was extolled as a miraculous cure; but the man protested to his friends that he had imposed upon her, and fetched water from an ordinary spring.’ I need not inform my reader that the force of imagination had spent itself, and she relapsed into her former infirmity.”
As Boyle is now rising, let us see if Mesmer himself cannot give him a further lift, and show that one of his cures was as imaginative as that of the old woman of Yeovil. And here, too, be it observed, we have the double weight of a man of extraordinary learning and Mesmer in the scale together.
M. Comte de Gibelin, son of a pastor at Lausanne, and born there in 1727, came to Paris in 1763, where, some years after, he put out proposals for a large work, to be published by subscription, intitled Le Monde Primitif analysé et comparé avec le Monde Moderne; ou Recherches sur l’Antiquité du Monde. The work met with great encouragement, and was extended to 9 vols. in 4to; when, his health being much impaired by severe application to his studies, he was forced to intermit them, and applied to the celebrated magnetic D. M. Mesmer for relief, by whose operations he flattered himself he had received so much, that he addressed a memoir to his subscribers in 1783, reckoned one of the ablest defences of M. Mesmer and his operations. He relapsed, and, being removed to Dr Mesmer’s house, died there in 1784, which occasioned the following lines—
” Cy git ce pauvre Gibelin,
Qui parloit Grec, Hebreu, Latin.
Admirez tous son heroisme,
Il fat martyr de magnetisme.”
Mesmerists say that the commission in Paris appointed to examine into the science made a secret report to the king, contradicting their public condemnation of it. I do not know that this secret report has seen the light. Is it, with the gift of Constantine to Rome, as yet in the moon? Wherever it be, clairvoyance ought to discover it.
Whatever mesmerism is now, in its beginning, if it advances as fast as other sciences, what will become of us under its workings? Will the laws against witchcraft be again in force, and mesmerism come under that denomination? It is frightful to think how rapidly time advances, and brings strange things to pass. In ten, twenty years, what a confusion the world will be in under its power—the consummation of “knowledge is power” all centred in mesmerism. Electricity is probably its great agent. Philosophers say that, if you shake hands, there is an intercommunion of the electric fluid, a mutual participation of sentiment and all the phenomena of mind.
And here I call to mind that, in another part of this paper, I asked what became of the mesmeric influence put on and put off by the wave of the hand. It cannot go through the floor, a non-conductor, or it would not retain power to fasten to it the foot. Admit, then, that in its diffused state it may be too weak to affect the company in the room: what becomes of it—is it floating about, and may be collected? What is to be said if the science shall be advanced to the degree that the mesmeric electric fluid may be concentrated, as in a “Leyden jar?” What a frightful power may be there, more potent than the genie that the fisherman in the Arabian Tale emancipated from the jar that came up in his net. Mesmerism is not under “Solomon’s seal.” This Leyden jar—contemplate concentrated mesmerism—what will it not do? Will the mesmeriser be enabled to load his jar with any passion-power he pleases—or rather direct the electro- mesmeric fluid, by means of wires, simultaneously to the same phrenological organs in many people? Will he be able to excite universal devotion, or universal combativeness?
Imagination wanders away to new possible camp-meetings, that have had their prototypes in ancient legend; for we may now be but in a lull of sobriety, and awaken to a new and general madness. May the mesmeriser be a Bacchus among his bacchanalians, and lead the rout to worse orgies? Does the fabled strange tale represent but a process of the science—a Pentheus will-driven, and torn by his unconscious mother and unconscious, sisters, when it was willed that they should see in him but a bull? win the mesmeriser possess a more potent Thyrsus, or a more sleep-engendering and awakening Caduceus than that of Hermes? Is there a cycle to bring these things to pass again in more full development? Or, to descend to the more vulgar illustration of this transmitted myth, in the Harlequin of our stage, will the adept in the science transmute by wave of wand, and Columbines run after him at pleasure?
Am I putting the case ad absurdum—casting ridicule upon the science? Scarcely so, for the absurdum is apparent in the demands; and could these be carried out, there may be things arise ostensibly ridiculous, but tragic in a sad reality.
“Hæ nugæ seria ducunt
If, sir, the powers be according to the demand of the professors of mesmerism, I dread it; all ought to dread it. It would make every one suspect his fellowman to be a demon. For though mesmerists, in defence, say, “the Evil Spirit cannot do good,” may he not first, to establish the evil, transform himself into “an angel of light?” for this is within the scope of his deceptive power. If it be altogether a delusion, a falsity, an imposture, let it be exposed, condemned; and the mesmeriser be, in the law’s eye, a common fortuneteller, and the craft subjected to the same penalties. If it, however, be otherwise, it will be the interest of all to look to consequences, and be at least cautious, lest “the prince of this world,” and the powers of the air, be let loose upon us under the expansion of an evil knowledge.
It must be admitted that our excellent correspondent has set forth the claims of “Adolphe” and “Alexis,” and similar interesting abstractions, to the powers of omnipresence and omniscience, with great candour and becoming gravity. We are sorry that we cannot follow what many of our readers may consider so excellent an example. We have no faith in those dear creatures without surnames: we have no faith in animal magnetism, either in its lesser or in its larger pretensions; but we have an unbounded faith in the imbecility, infatuation, vanity, credulity, and knavery of which human nature is capable. And we are of opinion that there is not a single well-authenticated mesmeric phenomenon which is not fully explicable by the operation of one or more of these causes, or of the whole of them taken in conjunction.
The question in regard to mesmerism is twofold: first, how is the mesmeric prostration to be accounted for? and secondly, how is it to be disposed of? It may be accounted for, we conceive, by the natural tendencies just recited, without its being necessary to postulate any new or unknown agency; it may be disposed of by the influence of public opinion, which would very soon put a atop to these pitiable exhibitions, and very soon extinguish the magnetiser’s power and the patient’s susceptibility, if it were but to visit the performers with the contempt and reprobation they deserve. A few words on each of these heads may not be out of place, as a qualifying postscript to the foregoing letter, which, in our opinion, treats the mesmeric superstition with far too much indulgence.
I. The existence of any physical force or fluid in man or in nature, by which the mesmeric phenomena are induced, has been distinctly disproved by every carefully conducted experiment. No person has ever magnetised when totally unsuspicious of the operation of which he was the subject. This is conclusive; because a physical agent, which never does, of itself and unheralded, produce any effect, is no physical agent at all. Then, again, let certain persons be prepared for the magnetic condition, and aware of what is expected of them, and the elects are equally produced, whether the pretended influence be exerted or not. It seems simply ridiculous to postulate an odylic (we should like to be favoured with the derivation of this word) fluid to account for phenomena which show themselves just as conspicuously when no such fluid is or can be in operation.
But it is argued by some of the advocates of mesmeric influence, that their agent, though perhaps not physical, is at any rate moral—that the will, or some spiritual energy on the part of the mesmerist, is the power by which his victims are entranced and rendered obedient to his bidding. Here, too, all the well-authenticated cases establish a totally different conclusion. They prove that the will or spiritual power of the mesmerist has of itself no ascendency or control whatsoever over the body or mind of his victim. Every well-guarded series of experiments has exhibited the mesmerist and his patient at cross-purposes with each other—the patient frequently doing those things which the mesmerist was desirous he should not do, and not doing those things which the operator was desirous he should do. As for the buffoonery begotten by mesmerism on phrenology, this exhibition can scarcely be expected to provoke much astonishment, or credence, or comment, except among professional artists themselves—
” Like Katterfelto, with their hair on end,
At their own wonders—wondering for their bread!“
The true explanation of mesmerism is to be found, as we have said, in the weakness or infatuation of human nature itself. No other causes are at all necessary to account for the mesmeric prostration. There is far more craziness, both physical and moral, in man than he usually gives himself credit for. The reservoir of human folly may be in a great measure occult, but it is always full; and all that silliness, whether of body or mind, at any time wants, is to get its cue.
These general remarks are of course more applicable to some individuals than they are to others. In soft and weak natures, where the nervous system is subject to cataleptic seizures, mental and bodily prostration is frequently almost the normal condition. Such of our readers as may have frequented mesmeric exhibitions must have observed a kind of semi-humanity visible in the expression and demeanour of most of the subjects whom the professional operators carry about with them. These poor creatures are at all times ready to imbibe the magnetic stupefaction, because it is only by an effort that they are ever free from it. There is always at work within them an occult tendency to self-abandonment—an unintentional proclivity to aberration, imitation, and deceit, which only requires a signal to precipitate its morbid deposits. This constitutional infirmity of body and of mind furnishes to the mesmerist a basis for his operations, and is the source of all the wonders which he works.
It is only in the case of individuals who, without being fatuous, arc hovering on the verge of fatuity, that the magnetic phenomena and the mesmeric prostration can be admitted to be in any considerable degree real. Real to a certain extent they may be; marvellous they certainly are not. Imbecility of the nervous system, a ready abandonment of the will, a facility in relinquishing every endowment which makes man human—these intelligible causes, eked out by a vanity and cunning which are always inherent in natures of an inferior type, are quite sufficient to account for the effects of the mesmeric manipulations on subjects of peculiar softness and pliancy.
In those persons of a better organised structure, who yield themselves up to the mesmeric degradation, the physical causes are less operative; but the moral causes are still more influential. In all cases the prostration is self-induced. But in the subjects of whom we have spoken, it is mainly induced by physical depravity, although moral frailties concur to bring about the condition. In persons of a superior type, the condition is mainly due to moral causes, although physical imbecility has some share in facilitating the result. These people have much vanity, much curiosity, and much credulity, together with a weak imagination—that is to say, an imagination which is easily excited by circumstances which would produce no effect upon people of stronger imaginative powers. Their vanity shows itself in the desire to astonish others, and get themselves talked about. They think it rather creditable to be susceptible subjects. It is a point in their favour! Their credulity and curiosity take the form of a powerful wish to be astonished themselves. Why should they be excluded from a land of wonders which others are permitted to enter? The first step is now taken. They are ready for the sacrifice, which various motives concur to render agreeable. They resign themselves passively, mind and body, into the hands of the manipulator; and by his passes and grimaces, they are cowed pleasureably, bullied delightfully, into so ‘much of the condition which their inclinations are bent upon attaining, as justifies them, they think, in laying claim to the whole condition, without bringing them under the imputation of being downright impostors. Downright impostors they unquestionably are not. We believe that their condition is frequently, though to a very limited extent, real. We must also consider, that, in a matter of this kind, which is so deeply imbued with the ridiculous, a mesmeric patient may, and doubtless often does, justify to his own conscience a considerable deviation from the truth, on the ground of waggery or hoaxing. Why should an audience, which has the patience to put up with such spectacles, not be fooled to the top of its bent?
II. How, then, is the miserable nonsense to be disposed of? It can only be put a stop to by the force of public opinion, guided of course by reason and truth. Let it be announced from all authoritative quarters that the magnetic sensibility is only another name for an unsound condition of the mental and bodily functions—that it may be always accepted as an infallible index of the position which an individual occupies in the scale of humanity—that its manifestation (when real) invariably betokens a physique and a morale greatly below the average, and a character to which no respect can be attached. Let this announcement—which is the undoubted truth—be made by all respectable organs of public opinion, and by all who are in any way concerned in the diffusion of knowledge, or in the instruction of the rising generation, and the magnetic superstition will rapidly decline. Let this—the correct and scientific explanation of the phenomena—be understood and considered carefully by all young people of both sexes, and the mesmeric ranks will be speedily thinned of their recruits. Our young friends who may have been entrapped into this infatuation by want of due consideration, will be wiser for the future. If they allow themselves to be experimented upon, they will at any rate take care not to disgrace themselves by yielding to the follies to which they may be solicited both from within and from without; and we are much mistaken if, when they know what the penalty is, they will abandon themselves to a disgusting condition which is characteristic only of the most abject specimens of our species.
- Since the above was written, Miss Martineau’s atheistical publication has passed through my hands. It professes to be a joint work by herself and a Mr Atkinson, one of the clique of infidel phrenological mesmerisers; but it is manifestly the doing of Miss Martineau herself. If Mr Atkinson had any hand in the production, the female atheist (” and here a female atheist talks you dead”) must have manufactured and cooked much of his philosophy, as of his grammar and diction. A work more thoroughly degrading to character, whether moral or intellectual, has never come from the press. The credulity of unbelief is truly astonishing. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God:” it is now added that man is an irresponsible creature—that vice and virtue are mere names.
Blackwood’s Magazine, Volume 70, Issue 424 (July 1851)
What is Mesmerism? by James Frederick Ferrier