« PreviousContinue »
of wonderful intellectual power or attainment by somnambulism; in explanation of which Dr. Hammond has only the one oft-repeated phrase, “ nervous derangement,” as if that were a sufficient reply to all possible questions. But can he show how this nervous derangement transmutes itself into mental force ? Can he tell onewho wishes to look into the process, and sincerely desires to understand it, by what subtle chemistry of disease, ignorance in an instant becomes knowedge, and in the re-action knowledge as instantly becomes ignorance? Why or how is it that a girl with disordered nerves comprehends as by inspiration all the intricacies and endless combinations of chess, or is able to discourse with ease and elegance in the French tongue, when in a healthy condition of the nervous system she knows literally nothing of either ? Doubtless Dr. Hammond can ask us questions equally difficult to
We do not know how it is that somnambulism or any other nervous disorder acts on the mind as an independent entity, or the mind on that, so as to produce these marvelous results ; but that is, not to the point. We do not pretend to explain the matter on any grounds, we are not teachers but learners, we confess ignorance ; but the spiritualist and the materialist, Mrs. Hardinge and Dr. Hammond assume to understand it perfectly, and proceed to give elaborate explanations which do not explain, do not meet the demands of the question. We insist that the easy assumption that the woman is a • medium,” or that it is simply a phase of “pervous derangement,” does not take in all the elements of the marvel, and therefore is not satisfactory. For, as far as the mediumship goes, the earthly, ignorant spirit in the other world sometimes talks like a sage, and the wise spirit like a tool ; and as regards nervous derangement it fails utterly to show how physical disease can impart skill and intellectual grasp, or bestow in a fash the knowledge which a well ordered brain struggles in vain for six months to acquire.
Our medical friend assures us with evident satisfaction in the first case cited, that “ bromide of potassium, cured her catalepsy and epilepsy, and destroyed her knowledge of the French tongue." If we ask him what relation exists between bromide of potassium and the French tongue, he will answer probably, no relation at all, directly, but it has a direct curative action on catalepsy and epilepsy, and through the cure of these destroys her knowledge of French. And will he now tell us what special facilities catalepsy and epilepsy have for teaching French or mastering chess, which are ot vouchsafed to
health, a sound brain and vigorous nerves ? And again, if he will pardon the repetition, will he explain the reverse action, and show by what agencies this disease, after it is vanquished by bromide of potassium, and “the brain and spinal cord and sympathetic ganglia” are restored to their normal conditions, contrives, like a retreating garrison to blow up the fort ; or, in other words, to destroy, in a moment, all knowledge of French or chess, and every vestige of other knowledge imparted by it, leaving the sufferer as ignorant as it found her ? We frankly confess that we have no philosophy of health or disease, of mind or matter, which solves this mixed and tangled problem, and would gladly sit at the feet of one who has, and listen to his explanation.
Our author is careful to impress upon his readers that mind is not an independent entity, a power in and of itself, but only a force generated by nervous action. Besides the citations on this point already given, he says on page 243, “ For the purposes of the present memoir, the mind may be regarded as a force, the result of nervous action and the elements of which are perception, intellect, the emotions and the will. Of these qualities some reside exclusively in the brain .. but the spinal cord and sympathetic ganglia are not devoid of mental power.”
From this and similar statements we are left to infer that the mind is simply a force or product of the living nerve or brain, as fruit is the product of the living tree; and as, when the tree is dead, there is no more fruit, so when the nerve or brain is dead there is no more mind. If we were to venture on a statement regarding the matter, we should rather say that the mind is a distinct entity, a being by itself, wholly independent of the body for its existence, but taking up its abode, or “residing ” in the body, and using the brain and nerves as a means of communicating with the outside world. The brain and nerves may perish, but the mind, the soul, the spirit, that which makes the man in distinction from the “earthly house” he occupies, lives. The brain and the nerves are simply to the mind what the electric battery and wires are to the telegraph operator - a medium by which, sitting in his office, he communicates with his friend a thousand miles away.
He is not a force
or product of the elec1 We notice on page 242, that he speaks of Descartes as one“ who coufounded the mind with the soul,” which would imply belief in a soul as distinct from the mind; but whether this has an “independent existence," whence it comes, and what are its attributes, he does not say, nor does he say in what it differs from the mind.
tric current, but the power that sits behind it and controls and uses it. The wires may be imperfectly insulated, or entangled, or deranged, or the battery may be disorganized by atmospheric disturbances, or some other cause; and so the communication between the operator and his friend may be interrupted or confused and unintelligible, but the operator is all right; the trouble is not with him but with the materials he is using. Nay, the wires may be broken, the battery and the office destroyed, but he lives on ; though he has no medium through which he can inform his friend of this fact.
A curious commentary on this illustration is found in the following statement which has recently gone the rounds of the papers. The subject of this strange experience is a Miss Anna Ward, of Newark, N. J., sixteen years old and step-daughter of Alexander Johnson of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company. For five weeks, beginning in November 1880, she was in a trance :
“She lay quietly in her bed with her eyes
and sometimes shut, but recognizing no one, and never speaking: No sound escaped her, and it was evident she suffered no pain. There was a slow twitching of the eyelids, but little other movement. Physicians concluded that she was a victim of hysteria in an aggravated form, resulting from overstudy. The severest electric shocks caused not even the twitching of a muscle. After several days had passed, Dr. O'Gorman, not knowing how long the trance would last, decided to administer liquid food artificially, as the patient could not swallow. About New Years' Day she revived, and now she is able to ride out, and seems to be restored to health. While she was in the trance the physicians were satisfied that she was conscious, and proved it two or three times. Once Dr. Seguin said for a test: “She is a very pretty girl," and immediately she blushed.
She says she was conscious, but had only one thought, and tbat a terrible one. She feared constantly that the physicians would pronounce her dead, and she would be buried alive. She had no physical pain, but this dread was agonizing. In vain did she try to speak. She could not even move her lips.”
Now here is a case exactly answering to our illustration, where the wires, the nerves, at least those under control of the will, were out of order and refused to work, while the operator, or the mind was all right. The young girl herself was perfectly conscious all these weeks, in full possession of all her mental faculties, and of one bodily faculty - hearing. In other words, the receiving wire, if we may so express it, was in order, so that over this she could get messages from the uter world,
world, while all the wires transmitting messages from
within, and the battery, were so deranged that ishe could not send back any answers, notwithstanding she sought it with such agony of apprehension. What was this, now, that was so completely distinct from the disabled body, which had no part in the paralysis of the nerves, which had an existence of its own entirely independent of these, - but which suffered intensely — though, she and the physicians, and “the severest electric shocks" all testify that “she had no physical pain.” If the body or the material part of the girl suffered no pain, what was it that suffered ?
We are aware that it may be said that this theory of the origin and nature of mind does not escape all the difficulties started. But, as remarked before, we are not taking the role of teacher, but of inquirer; and we write in the hope that Dr. Hammond or some other wise man, treating the subject in all its bearings may show an easier way out of these difficulties than that of the physiologist or the spiritualist. At any rate it seems to our poor thinking that when we start with the proposition that mind or soul is a substantive, independent being or personality, instead of a force or intelligence elaborated from the nerves and dependent on them for its existence, we have made one long step toward a solution of the problem ; though there may be a hundred questions remaining that call for an answer, which, as yet, no man can turnish.
Leaving out this peculiar phase of the inquiry, Dr, Hammond's book is a very interesting and able discussion of the causes, strange peculiarities and astounding manifestations of the several varieties of nervous derangement. The chapter on somnambulism is not as extended and thorough as we hoped it might be, but the cases cited in illustration of some of its characteristics are well chosen and full of inquisitive suggestion. We think the subject important enough to be made a special study for a separate volume by some physician, or professor of psychology, or intellectual philosophy, or perhaps by a theologian ; though the last would probably be ruled out by our author, on the ground that, being a nervous disease, it belongs exclusively to the physician and scientist to investigate it, for they deal only with facts, ignoring all theories and beliefs. But who can assure us that it is a disease in some phases of its developments? And even if it be, it certainly reveals the singular capacity of the mind for the sudden acquisition of knowledge when the body is wholly unconscious. This fact the cases already cited, and many others which might be cited, clearly establish. Who then can prove that it is not a disclos
ure, a partial revelation of the measureless possibilities of the soul under the new conditions of entire freedom from the body and its limitations ? At any rate we hope some day to see a broad and worthy treatment of this interesting subject in all its branches, and not simply from the physical and " nervous-derangement” side.
When it comes to the purely physiological and medical points of view, this treatise is of great value to the general reader and inquirer, to the theologian and pastor, as well as to members of the medical profession. The cases which come under the heads of Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism, Hysterical Anæsthesia, Ecstasy, Spiritualistic Chorea, and Metal Cures ; as well as the facts recited concerning the Jerkers, Wesley and Methodist Revivals, Fasting Girls, Stigmatization, the power of the Imagination, Hysterical Hallucination, &c., though not new, are certainly very wonderful, and discover to us the endless variety of phases under which nervous derangement shows - itself, and in some cases the disgusting and shocking character of the
results. There seem to be no bounds to human delusions, no limit to the extravagant vagaries of what is called the imagination ; and it is a sad confession one must make on reading these records, that there seems also no limit to the possibilities of fraud, to human capacity for deceiving and being deceived. We are glad that there are men like Dr. Hammond and others, who can look into these matters calmly, avoid confounding cause and effect, detect and expose the fraud when it is fraud, and trace the honestly believed demoniac marvel to its true physical source, and by drugs, or any other efficient method, deliver the victims from bodily torture, delusion and insanity.
The most curious and amusing portion of the book is that part of the first chapter which treats of “Hypnotism in Animals,” in other words, putting them to sleep; embracing the experiments of the author himself, Kircher the Jesuit priest, Prof. Czermak and others, on crabs, hens, ferocious dogs, furious bulls, &c. The story of the magnetized bull draws heavily on our faith, and if it were not a minister who was the operator and reporter, we are not sure we could manage to swallow it whole ; and even as it is we are inclined to think it ought to have come in farther on in the volume, under the head of “Delusions.” Be this as it may, we have been greatly interested in the perusal of the book, if we have not been greatly helped by it in our thinking; and we can heartily commend it to all who are inclined to investigate these attractive, but perplexing and often bewildering questions.