Dissertation by Franz Anton Mesmer M.D.
History offers few examples of a discovery which, in spite of its importance, has met with as much difficulty in becoming established and in gaining credibility, as the discovery of an agent concerning nerves, an agent hitherto unknown and which I call “animal magnetism.”
The obstinacy with which man has resisted advancement of the new-born view concerning this novel method of curing, led me to make efforts to rectify the general attitude towards this phenomenon and to include in a system a great part of the knowledge of physics.
Before introducing this system, in which I attempted to bring together and connect the principles of which it is composed, I felt obliged to give an accurate and precise idea of its purpose in a preliminary dissertation, and to enlarge upon its usefulness and to do away with the errors and prejudices which had arisen because of it.
I will present a theory concerning the progress as well as the development of sickness, which is as simple as it is new. I will substitute for the vague principles which, up till now, have served to guide medicine, a method which is simple, general, and represented in Nature.
Most of the properties of organic matter, such as cohesion, elasticity, gravity, fire, light, electricity, and animal irritability, which have, up till now, been regarded as occult qualities, will be explained by my principles, and their mechanism will be brought to light.
I pride myself with having shed new light on the theory of the senses and of instinct. By means of this theory, I have attempted to explain more perfectly the phenomena-which are as varied as they are astonishing-of the state called “Somnambulism,” which is nothing more than a dangerous development of certain sicknesses. The history of medicine contains such a great number of examples, which one cannot question that these phenomena have always appeared as an interesting subject of observation for people; and I myself can affirm today that all gradations of mental derangement relate to this extraordinary condition.
It is this condition which brings forth such marvelous apparitions, trances, and inexplicable visions, and which is the source of so many errors and absurd opinions. We know to what extent the unintelligibility, which has enveloped these phenomena, has favored, together with the ignorance of the masses, the establishment of religious and political prejudices in all people.
I hope that my theory will, from now on, prevent interpretations which produce and nourish superstition and fanaticism and, above all, I hope it will put a stop to those who have the misfortune-whether by a sudden accident or by a worsened condition-of falling into somnambulism, that they are not abandoned by humanity, and are not cut off from society as incurables; for I am certain that the most dreadful states, such as madness, epilepsy, and most convulsions, are most often the disastrous consequences of ignorance phenomena of which I speak and of the impotency of methods used by medicine. Secondly, I am certain that in almost all cases, these sicknesses are nothing but unknown and degenerated conditions. Finally, I am certain that there are few cases, which cannot be prevented or cured.
I am confident that the principles of my method, the consequences of which are so important, will be judged neither by prejudice nor by premature deeds (a) no more than by the fragments and forgeries which have been published without my consent. I-hope that they will be judged even less according to the information of those who, obsessed with prejudice, have given their own wisdom as the measure of “possible” knowledge. Moreover, if, despite all my efforts, I am not successful enough to instruct my contemporaries in their proper interests, at least I will have the inward satisfaction of having fulfilled my task toward society.
Dissertation by F.A. Mesmer, Doctor of Medicine, on His Discoveries
In this century, philosophy has succeeded in overcoming prejudices and superstition; above all, it has succeeded, by means of ridicule, in obliterating the blockheads who are inflamed with too credulous a fanaticism. This is because ridicule is the weapon which vanity is least practiced in resisting. Whereas fanatics promoted their views in former times even to the point of martyrdom (because, formerly, vanity placed all of its glory in the “strength” of resistance), today people cannot tolerate the least amount of ridicule because, at present, vanity fears humiliation by a credulity which people would describe as “weakness.” If it were aimed only at blunders, ridicule would, without doubt, become the preferred method of reforming opinions; but, because of an exaggerated zeal for the progress of philosophy, this method is abused too often: the most useful truths go unacknowledged, confused with the blunders and sacrificed along with them.
(a) On account of having exposed my method of curing too lightly to curiosity and to contradiction, the imitators of my method have caused many accusations to be leveled against it. Since that time somnambulism has been confused with magnetism; with thoughtless zeal and exaggerated enthusiasm, people have wished to prove the reality of the one with the astonishing effects of the other. In part, the object of this dissertation, which is going to be read, is to prevent a similar error.
In former times, errors of superstition did not impede the discovery of extraordinary facts, for the lack of knowledge concerning these facts did not make it possible to understand their causes. People did not hesitate to verify these facts with attentiveness proportional to their importance; and even if people were mistaken concerning the “causes” of these facts, they at least had no doubt at all concerning their “effects.” Today, people refuse to examine and verify facts, so that they are reduced to ignoring the effects as much as the causes.
Even though, because of their antiquity and because of the error of the human mind, certain truths have been distorted so much that they turn out to be confused with the most absurd blunders, these truths have not lost, because of this, their right to reappear publicly-to the good fortune of mankind. I myself dare to say that it is an obligation for those who, because of their attainments, lay claim to public esteem, that they investigate these truths so that, instead of curtailing the progress of science in a disastrous incredulity, they can be disentangled from the darkness and prejudice which still envelops them.
In the dissertation, which I published in 1779 on the discovery of animal magnetism, I announced the ideas, which I had formed over some years on the universality of certain popular views, which, in my opinion, were the result of the most general and most persevering observations.
Concerning this subject, I stated that I had given myself the task to investigate what could be useful and true from what had been concealed in ancient error; I believed it possible to propose that “among the common opinions throughout the ages which do not have their origins in the human heart, there was little-however ridiculous and even extravagant in appearance-that could not be considered as the vestiges of an originally acknowledged truthful
My first aim was to consider what could have given rise to absurd opinions, according to which the destiny of people, in the same way as the events of Nature, were regarded as being subordinate to the constellations and to the positions the stars have relative to each other.
A vast system concerning the influences or the relations, which bind all beings, the mechanical laws and even the mechanisms of the laws of Nature-was the result of my considerations and investigations.
I dare to flatter myself that the discoveries which I have made, and which are the subject of this piece of work, have drawn back the confines of our knowledge of physics in the same way as-with reference to the period preceding this one-this was accomplished with the invention of microscopes and telescopes. It will become known that the preservation of man is based, in the same way as his existence is based, on general laws of Nature; that man possesses properties analogous to those of the magnet; that he is endowed with a sensitivity by which he can be in contact with beings who surround him, even those who are farthest away; that he is capable of being responsible for a “style” of motion which he can impart to other bodies, animate or inanimate, as happens with fire; that this motion can be propagated, concentrated, reflected as with light, and can be transmitted by sound; and finally, that the principle of this action, considered as an agent acting on the inmost substance of nerves of the animal body, could become A MEANS OF CURING, AND EVEN OF DEFENDING ONESELF FROM SICKNESS.
I have succeeded in discovering the immediate causes of the important phenomena exhibited by the ocean, of alternating motion. I am convinced that the action of this self-same cause is not restricted to this element [water], but that it extends to all the constitutive parts of our globe; that this action, determining what I call the alternating “intention” and “remission”° of characteristics of organic matter, animates and enlivens all that exists; and finally, that this most universal action is to the world what the two actions of respiration [inspiration and expiration] are to the harmony of the animal. Thus, in substance, are the principal discoveries, which I announced twenty-five years ago under the name of “animal magnetism,” a name fully justified by the nature of it.
In Germany, the oddness of this innovation caused rebellion at first among the physicists and physicians, the electrifiers, and the people who handled the magnet. People received the first announcements, made by a man still unknown among them, with disdain. They challenged the possibilities of these phenomena as being contrary to principles recognized in physics. Instead of amusing curiosity, I was eager to arrive at the point of making these phenomena useful, and I only wanted to convince by means of facts.
The first cures, gained from several sick people regarded as incurable, roused envy and even produced ingratitude among those who gathered together in order to propagate prejudices against my method of healing; many learned men united in order to cause the openings which I had made in this subject to fall, if not into oblivion, at least into contempt
In France, a nation which is most well-informed and least indifferent to new information, I nevertheless had to defend myself against all kinds of contradictions and troublesome annoyances which my compatriots had long since prepared for me; however, far from discouraging me, they made me redouble my efforts to have the truths, which I regarded as essential for the welfare of man, be triumphant.
A great number of patients who, during the ensuing ten to twelve years had put the advantageous effects of this method to test, as well as instructed people who devoted themselves to this beneficial practice, administered complete justice to me. However, several learned men of this country, making a profession of steering opinions, united in a coalition with foreigners in order to place everything in favor of this subject into the category of illusions, the authenticity of their fame fortifying the accusation.
A minister of former influence abused all of his power in trying to destroy these newly-arisen views. After having ordered (in spite of my protests) the formation of a commission to give judgment on my doctrine and to condemn its practice-this being done by a person whom I disdained-he celebrated his triumph at the Academy of Sciences, where he flattered them servility in order to have them safeguard humanity, it was said, against a great error which was the disgrace of the century. He inundated the entirety of Europe with a report made by this commission, and concluded by exposing my doctrine and my method of healing to public ridicule in the theatres. (2)
Will the great nation to which I devoted the fruits of my discoveries continue to be indifferent to being robbed, by shallow intrigue, of the comforting view of having acquired a new method of preserving and reestablishing health? No, it should be eager to retract its error concerning a subject so essential to the welfare of humanity.
(2) This minister was Jean-Frederick Phelipeaux, Count of Maurepas, and Minister of State. He was engaged with negotiations with Mesmer in 1781, trying to establish a school of Magnetism, which would have been subsidized by the government; this attempt did not result in anything.
The play was called “A Comic Parody on Modern Doctors,” written by a man called jean-Baptiste Rodet. This play was, evidently, a third-rate farce.
In fact, it is hard to believe that twenty-five years of effort have not been able to extricate these precious discoveries from the uncertainty in which they were enveloped by circumstances. Is it possible that this century will pass by without advancing one step in physics, remaining stationary in electricity and magnetism? Will people continue to gather together to search for means to resist a revolution which I have wished to bring about in an art that has made the least amount of progress but which is, however, the most necessary for humanity?
I venture to believe that people will see that these discoveries are not an accidental happening but are the result of study and observation of the laws of Nature; that this practice which I profess is not a blind empiricism, but a rational method.
Although I know very well that the primary source of all human knowledge is experience, and that it is by this experience that one is able to verify the reality of assumptions, I have been busy proving the validity of the facts which I have announced by connecting simple and clear ideas in advance [of this experience]. Those who have known that they have profited by my doctrine have published a great number of these facts in various ways.
I have been able to trace the phenomena, which I have taken unexpectedly from Nature, to the common source of all things. I believe I have opened a simple and direct path to the truth, and have, to a great extent, rescued the study of Nature from illusions and metaphysics.
Conventional language, the only means available to us for communicating our ideas, has, throughout the ages, contributed to distorting our knowledge. We acquire all perceptions from the “senses the senses only transmit to us an object’s properties, character, irregularity, attributes; the perception of all these sensations are expressed by an adjective or by an epithet like hot, cold, fluid, heavy, light, bright, resonant, colored, et c. For the sake of the convenience of language, people substitute substantives for these epithets; before long, one has substantivized the properties; one says: the heat, the gravity, the light, the sound, the color-and thus the origin of metaphysical abstractions.
These words produce confusion in the perception of substances; that is to say, at the time when one only has had, in reality, the perception of the “substantive word,” one believes he has perceived the substance itself. What is called, at the present time, the “property” of the body was, in former times, called an “occult quality.” Depending upon how far removed one is from the experience, or rather before even having the means to attain it, one not only creates many of these substances, but also one personifies them. These substances fill up all the spaces; they preside over and direct the operations of Nature: thence-“the spirits,” “the divinities,” “the genies,” “the central fire” [principle of life], etc. Experimental philosophy has decreased the number of these substances, but there is still much to be done in order to arrive at the purity of truth. We will arrive at the truth when we have succeeded in not acknowledging physical substance except for “matter,” or “matter organized and modified in such and such a manner”; the issue, then, is to know and to determine the “mechanism” of these modifications, and the perceptions resulting from the comprehension of these mechanisms will be “physical” perceptions, in maximum conformity to the truth. This, in general, is the goal which I intend to reach through the system of influences-the system which I am here announcing.
“A non-magnetized needle, when set in motion, will only take a determined direction by chance, whereas a magnetized needle, having been given the same impulse, will regain-after various oscillations proportional to the impulse and magnetism received-its initial position and stay there. In the same way, the uncertainties of my principal supposition would be put to the test if, once the harmony of organic bodies were destroyed, it were not restored and resolved by the `general agent,’ whose existence I am elucidating and which alone can reestablish harmony in the natural state.
Should we, then, examine the nature of this agent?
“There exists a universally distributed and continuous fluid which -is quite without vacuum and of an incomparably rarefied nature, and which by its nature is capable of receiving, propagating and communicating all the impressions of movement.
The state of fluidity of matter being a relative condition between movement and rest, it is apparent that after having exhausted, by imagination, all possible gradations of fluidity, one is forced to stop at the highest degree of subdivision; and this highest degree is that fluid which fills all of the interstices resulting from the shape of the molecules which are most combined. Sand, for example, has a degree of fluidity; the shape of the grains necessarily forms interstices which are occupied by water; those of the water are occupied by air; those of the air are occupied by that what is called ether; finally, those of ether are filled up by a substance even more fluid, for which no name has been determined. It is difficult to determine where such divisibility ends. Nevertheless, it is about one of the most divisible series of matter-by internal movement-that I wish to speak here.
One can compare-if I am allowed to thus express myself-the obstinacy of some learned men in rejecting the idea of a “universal fluid” and the possibility of movement in the plenum, to that of fishes who rise against those among them who announce that the space between the bottom and the surface of the ocean is filled with a fluid which they inhabit, stating that it is only because of this fluid that they are able to approach each other, withdraw, communicate, be connected to each other, and that this fluid is the sole mechanism for their reciprocal relations.
Nevertheless, several physicians succeeded in acknowledging the existence of a universal fluid; but, scarcely had they made this first step, when, carried away beyond truth, they claimed to characterize this fluid, overwhelming it with specific properties and qualities; they assigned to it various qualities, powers, tendencies, appearances, ultimate motives; finally, they gave it preserving, productive, destructive, and reforming powers.
Truth is nothing but a path traced between errors. With its ceaseless activity, the human mind is like a spirited horse: it is, for him, also difficult to calculate with precision the amount of energy it is necessary for him to expend to arrive at a path without running the risk of overshooting it, and then to keep within its bounds for a long time, neither hurrying nor slowing his gait.
It is, of course, not lawful to question the existence of a universal fluid which is nothing but the general effect of all series of matter being made divisible by internal movement (f) In this condition, it fills the interstices between all the fluids as well as between all the solids in this space. Because of it, the universe is dissolved and reduced to a single common entity. Fluidity constitutes its essence. Having no particular property, it is neither springy nor ponderous, but is the means in itself of determining properties in all divisions of matter which exist in a more composite form than it itself does. With regard to the properties which it determines in organic bodies, this fluid is as airs is to sound and to harmony, or as ether is to light, or finally, as water is to the mill; that is to say it receives impressions or modifications of movement, and transmits, transfers, applies, and instills them into organic bodies. The effects thus produced are nothing but the combined result of movement and organization of these bodies.
(f) That is to say, the movement of the particles among themselves.
(g) Air which passes across the pipes of an organ receives vibrations proportional to the pipes’ size and shape; these vibrations do not become sound until they have been propagated to and have interacted with an animal organ which is prepared to receive them; therefore, in this case, air is nothing but the conductor of movement towards hearing. In the same way, the movement of another fluid more delicate than air, being reflected by a surface, receives these vibrations which, being transferred to the organ of sight, bring about the sensations of forms and colors, both of which certainly exist neither in this fluid nor in the surface of the bodies.
It is necessary to consider that the diverse series composing the fluid of the ocean, starting from elementary matter and progressing to those which meet our senses-like water, air, and ether-differ among themselves in their intimate manner of being organized, an effect caused by the original combination of their molecules. This special organization makes each member of this series sensitive to a particular motion, which is appropriate for it.
We observe gradations in this exclusive sensitivity to movement in the three kinds of fluids. It is also in light, fire, electricity, magnetism, as well as in sound; none of these are Substances, but indeed are results of motion in the diverse series of the universal fluid.
My theory on these influences will demonstrate how this fluid, being matter which is subtle without being heavy, brings about the effect which we call “gravity”; how, filling all spaces, it brings about cohesion without itself being in this condition. I will demonstrate that in the same way as attraction is a word empty of meaning that likewise, attraction does not exist in Nature, but is nothing but an apparent effect of a cause which one cannot perceive. I will also show what electricity, fire, light, etc. are composed of; in one word, I will prove that “all properties are the combined result of the organization of bodies and of the motion of the fluid in which they are immersed.”
Above all, one will understand how an impulse, once given to matter, is sufficient for the successive development of all possibilities; how specific impulses, merely continuing on a fixed course, become the originators of new organizations; how motion is the cause of rest and how rest, in its turn, accelerates the motion of fluid matter in order to bring about other combinations. Finally, one will see that it is the simplicity of order occurring in a perpetual circle between cause and effect-that enables us to have the most justifiable and the greatest ideas of Nature and of its creator.
From these considerations, one can interpolate that the huge bulk of fluid matter would have remained homogeneous, not producing new beings, had not its first combinations determined, by chance, currents whose diversified and modified quickness of action became an infinite source of organizations and of effects consequently produced.
Arising, thus, by a simple progression to the grandest operations of Nature, we discover that magnetism, or the mutual influence, is the most universal action; and that it is the “magnet” which offers us the model for the mechanism of the universe. We discover that this action is nothing but “the necessary effect of motion in the whole of Nature.”
As is the case with all truths, it is impossible to make progress in the study of Nature without including the interdependency of their [the truth’s] principles. This is why I have believed it to be necessary to expose the system-of, which the human body is an integral part-before proposing methods of curing. For the laws, which govern, the universes are the same as those, which regulate the harmony of the animal. Life of the earth is only one aspect, and that of the individual person is a part of it.
I repeat that all properties of bodies are the combined result of their organization and of the motion of the fluid in which they exist.
If one were to consider the activity of this fluid, defined in this manner, as it applies to the animal body, it then becomes the basis of movement and of sensation.
It is certain that the nature and the quality of a man’s humors depend solely upon the activity of solids upon the mechanism of the organs or viscera, and upon the vessels which contain these humors; it is these activities which process the humors-directing them and regulating their movement, their excretions, etc. It is easy to comprehend that the primary cause of all aberrations lies in the irregularity of the action of solids upon liquids, or in the imperfection of the machinery or the working of the viscera and of the organs; and that, consequently, the universal and specific remedy must be to discover, in restoring the activity of organs, that alone which can change and repair the defects and the impairments of the humors. Here it would be timely to examine the basis of movement and the “universal means” by which the various systems act upon liquids.
As I will prove, it is “muscle fiber” which, by its particular mechanism, is the instrument of all movement, the basis of all action of solids upon liquids. In determining various functions, the currents of universal fluid are directed and applied to the intimate organization of muscle fiber-precisely as wind or water are to a mill. These functions consist in the alternation of shortening and stretching, or relaxing; shortening is, properly, its positive action: this faculty is called “irritability.”
It is this faculty which, when applied to the particular mechanism of the heart, gives us the movement of systole and diastole in this vital hydraulic organ, as well as in all of the arteries.
The workings of dilation and contraction of the vessels, on the liquor which they contain, is the cause of animal life. The absence of one of these two actions, or of the reaction itself, stops the heart. As soon as the humors are deprived of local and internal movement, they thicken and consolidate. This thickening or stoppage extends by spreading to more or less important parts of the ducts. Another effect of the stoppage of the humors is their degeneration: decomposing, they stop in the ducts, which no longer have a suitable capacity to contain them. The state of vessels in which the course of the humors is arrested or slowed down is called “obstruction.”
Moreover, the muscular fiber, aroused by the principle of irritability, is also susceptible to an external influence, which is called “irritation.” The usual effect of this influence is the shortening [contraction] of the fiber.
All activity of muscular fiber can be considered as being dependent upon either irritability or irritation-whether it be one of these or both together. Consequently, there are two immediate causes of obstruction: the first, when a vessel has lost its irritability, which makes it incapable of contracting; the second, when a vessel is in a state of irritation, or when it exists with something that prevents dilation. Thus, in these two cases, the necessary conditions for the alternating workings of the vessels are thwarted and their action is arrested.
Without going into the details of this aberration, which is the most general and almost the only disorder occurring in the living body, it is easy to understand, according to a general law, that the activity of movement always requires an effort against resistance, and that this effort must be proportional to the existing state in order to overcome it. This effort is called crisis, and all the effects resulting directly from this effort are called the “critical symptoms.” These symptoms are the real means of healing, or that, which forms the “cure” of Nature; in contrast, the effects contrary to this effort of Nature, coming from the resistance itself, are called the “symptomatic symptoms” and form what could be called the “disease.”
The crisis is caused by the irritation of the fiber; this is produced either by the “intention”5 of the irritability, by an increased effort of the resistant fiber, or, finally, by the combination of these two.
It is therefore consistent, and in conformity with the laws of movement, that there is not a single aberration in the animal body, which can be rectified without having gone through the effects of this effort; that is to say, no disease can be cured without a crisis. This law is so real and so general that, in accordance with experience and observation, even the slightest blister, the smallest pimple on the skin, are not healed except after a crisis.
The different forms through which this effort of Nature is manifested depend upon the diversity in structure of the organic parts or the viscera, which undergo this effort; it also depends upon the organ’s connections and affinities, the extent and manner of resistance, and the stage of the organ’s development.
However little the ancients knew of the mechanism of the animal body, and even less how this mechanism related to the organization of Nature as a whole, they did regard each type of these efforts of Nature as being attributable to an illness. Since the birth of medicine, there has been opposition to the real and only means employed by Nature for destroying the causes, which interrupt harmony.
Hippocrates appears to have been the first and almost the only person who comprehended the phenomenon of crisis in acute illness. His genius as an observer led him to discover that various symptoms were nothing but modifications of efforts, which Nature made against these illnesses. When people coining after illnesses-farther removed from the cause, isolated, without continuous fever they substantivized these fortuitous incidents, making them illnesses, and characterized each one by a name; they studied and analyzed these incidents and their symptoms as things themselves; they took these as “indicators” of the sensations of the sick person. And this is the source of the mistakes, which have afflicted mankind for so many centuries.
Instead of being baffled by apparently most contradictory symptoms, Hippocrates prognosticated cures; his confidence him observed the same symptoms in chronic was founded on observation of the periodic progression of days, which he called “critical.” He vaguely sensed the existence of an external and general principle, whose performance was, exacts and -he sensed that it was this principle, which developed and determined the intricacy of actions, which form an illness.
Thus, that which the father of medicine observed, and which some others after him, up to the present time, called “Nature,” was nothing but the effects of this principle which I have discovered and whose existence I announced, a principle which brings about types of ebb and flow, intention and remission, of qualities in us.
It is regrettable that the light, which he shed on the art of healing, was limited to acute illnesses; that chronic illnesses differ from others only in the continuity and rapidity, with which their symptoms succeed each other, was little understood. Acute illness can be compared to chronic illness in the same way as the life span of an insect named ephemera can be compared to the life span of other animals: the former undergoes, in twenty-four hours, the entire cycle of aging, sex, growth, and decay, while other species of animals require years in order to go through this life cycle.
Moreover, there is good reason to deplore the fact that medicine still ignores the natural and necessary development of the majority of chronic illnesses; it opposes this development with its remedies, which disturb the progress of the illness, stop its course, and very often the end comes before its time, with a premature death. For example, the progression and development of epilepsy, mania, melancholy, so-called “illnesses of nerves,” swollen glands and their intricacies, and ailments of the sensory organs, are still unknown; and it is principally in these diverse conditions that the crisis is confused with the disease.
The immediate causes of all sickness, internal or external, presuppose either a defect or irregularity in the circulation of humors or various types of “obstructions” in the vessels. As has been pointed out, this condition, being the result of a defect in “irritability” or in the confining action of solids upon humors can, at last, be understood; that instead of having recourse to specifics and innumerable drugs furnished by the theory of humors, selected by some vague and unreliable process, there are only two functions, in all cases, which can be fulfilled: 1) to know how to repair the irritability or the action of solids upon liquids; 2) to know how to hinder and prevent the obstacles which are in the way.
It has been proven by the system of influences, and it has been established through exact and diligent observation, that the large bodies known as “celestials” control the partial movements of our globe: the alternating ebb and flow (an effect common to the earth’s constitutive parts), vegetation, the fermentations, organizations, and the general and particular cycles to which the earth is susceptible, are all naturally determined by that influence which, by means of the continuity of a universal fluid, produces an enlargement and reduction in all the characteristics of matter, as one can distinctly see in the growth and decline of vegetation.
It is in this manner, and because of the same causes, that irritability is naturally increased or diminished; so that the course and development of diseases, and even their cure-which was vaguely attributed to Nature-are regulated and determined by that influence, or by what I call “natural magnetism.”
However, even though this working of Nature, though general, can only become useful to those beings who are particularly disposed to it, it remains for me to discover and to understand the laws and the intimate mechanism of the processes of Nature, in order to know how to imitate and apply them, either intensively or gradually, in individual circumstances, at all times and in all situations where man finds himself.
I believe that I have discovered, in Nature, the mechanism of influences which, as I will explain, consist of a reciprocal and alternating “flow” of streams-coming and going-of a subtle fluid which fills the space between two bodies. The necessity for this flow is based upon the law of “completion”; that is to say, that within space filled by matter, it is impossible to cause a displacement without a corresponding replacement. This implies that if a movement of the subtle substance is elicited within a body, there immediately occurs a similar movement in another body sensitive to receiving it, whatever the distance between the two bodies. This type of circulation is capable of exciting and reinforcing, in them, [the bodies involved], properties analogous to their organization. This is easily understood by reflecting upon the continuity of the fluid material and its extreme mobility, equal always to its subtlety: the magnet, electricity, as well as fire, offer us models and examples of this universal law.
I have discovered that, although a general influence exists between bodies, nonetheless, this influence is made effective through the manner, or through the particular and diverse tones, of movement.
Just as fire, through a fixed tonic movement (H), differs from heat, thus does that magnetism called “animal” differ from natural magnetism. Heat exists in Nature; it consists of the internal movement of a subtle material-without being fire in itself. Heat is a general phenomenon, whereas fire is a product of human work or of certain conditions. In almost all cases fire produces, almost instantaneously, effects, which cannot be obtained with, heat except by the passage of long periods of time and with the aid of specific causes. And this is how natural magnetism differs from animal magnetism, about which we are concerned here. The experiences and the sensations of diseases incontestably confirm this theory.
(H) By “tone,” or “tonic movement,” I mean the kind, or special mode, of movement which the particles of a fluid have among themselves; thus, in some fluids the movement of the particles is undulatory or oscillatory; in others it is vibratory, rotating, etc.
The most immediate action of magnetism, or of the influence of this fluid, is to reanimate and reinforce the action of muscle fiber. This is done by means of an accelerated movement, a movement that is tonic and analogous to the organic part to which it appertains. A thousand observations have proven that the application of this medium develops the course of diseases; that is to say, that after a more or less decisive struggle between the efforts and the resistance, this medium -determines, regulates, and accelerates the order and progress in which the causes and effects succeed each other, finally bringing about the restoration of health by provoking-in every case and in a sure manner-the “crisis” and its relative effects.
Thus, animal magnetism, when considered as an agent, is in fact, an invisible “fire”; the issue is:
1. To know how to bring about and maintain this fire by every possible means, and to know how to apply it.
2. To understand and to clear away the obstacles which disturb or impede its action and the gradual effect which one tries to obtain during treatment.
3. To understand and to anticipate the course of development in order, constantly, to regulate and attend this course until a cure is established.
Thus we have, in general, what amounts to the discovery of animal magnetism, which can be considered as a “method” of preventing and curing disease.
Reason has proved, and continuous experience has verified, that this fire can be concentrated and preserved; that water, animals, trees and all vegetation, as well as minerals, are susceptible to being charged by it.
Undoubtedly, after all that has been said up to now, one would expect some explanations concerning the manner of applying animal magnetism and of making it an effective means of curing; but since this new method of cure indispensably demands practical and regular instruction-independent of the theory-1 do not feel obliged to give here such description, nor its practice, nor the different types of apparatus and machines employed, nor the processes which have served me successfully, because each man, as a consequence of his instruction, will work hard to study these processes, and will learn on his own how to vary and accommodate these processes to circumstances and to varying conditions of disease. It is such empiricism, or blind application of my processes, which has given rise to the prejudices and indiscreet criticisms which have been allowed against this new method. Were these processes not rational, they would appear as affectations as absurd as ridiculous, to which indeed it would be impossible to add further folly. Fixed and prescribed in a matter-of-fact manner, these processes could become, through the most scrupulous observances, the grounds of a superstition; and I Would dare to say that a large part of the religious ceremonies from antiquity appear to be the remnants of such empiricism. Moreover, all those who wish to be convinced of the reality of magnetism through their own experience, by using it without first understanding the principles involved, will find themselves rejected when they fail to obtain the success they seek; they fancy that the effects must be the immediate result of the process, as happens in electricity or with chemical reactions.
Considering that the reciprocal influence is general between two bodies, that the “magnet” represents the model of that universal law, and that the animal body is susceptible to properties analogous to those of the magnet, I feel sufficiently justified in using the name “animal magnetism,” which I have adopted, as much to denote the system or doctrine of influences in general as to denote characteristics of the animal body, and to denote the remedy and method of curing.
This should be sufficient to demonstrate that magnetism must not be confused with the phenomena, which give rise to what is called “animal electricity.”
I observe with regret that people flippantly abuse this name; once having become familiar with the word “magnetism, they flatter themselves that they have the idea of the thing, whereas they merely have the idea of a word.
Insofar as my discoveries were classified as chimeras, the incredulity of some scientists permitted them to give me all the glory of discovery; but later, when they were compelled to recognize its existence, they chose to compare my work to those of antiquity, where they found the words “universal fluid,” “magnetism,” “influence,” etc. It is not a question of words, but of things, and above all of the usefulness of its application.
Within the body of my doctrine, one will find that man, as the main object of our study of Nature, can be regarded either from the point of view of the constitutive parts of his mechanism, or from the point of view of his preservation. In relation to the first, we include the instruments of movement and sensation, which determine functions and faculties; in that regard, I have presented my ideas on nerves, muscle fiber, irritability, the senses, etc.
From the viewpoint of preservation, man can be examined in the different states in which he goes through the course of his existence, as in the state of sleep, when he begins his existence:; next in tile state of wakefulness, where lie slakes use of his senses and continues to live, but in relation to other beings who surround him; finally in the state of health and the state of illness.
Life of all beings in the universe is one: it consists of the movement of the most subtle matter. Death is repose, or the cessation of movement. One beholds that the natural and inevitable course consists in passing from the state of fluidity to that of solidity: that the natural term of man’s life is determined and fixed by his own organization and vitality; that disease hastens this term by impeding movement and promoting solidification. Let us now concern ourselves with the means by which to retard that fatal end.
Man is endowed with the faculty of perception. It is by means of sensations and their effects that he is in rapport with other substances and beings, which exist beyond himself. The diversity of the various organs called “the senses” render him capable of experiencing the effects of the different materials, which surround him. The principle, which animates him and causes him to act, is determined by sensations; and all actions are the result of sensations.
Apart from the known organs, we also have other organs suited to receiving sensations; we do not suspect their existence because of the predominant habit which we have, in a most evident manner, of making use of the primary organs, and because the strong impressions, which we are accustomed to from an early age, absorb the more subtle impressions and do not allow us to be aware of them.
After observing and experiencing certain facts, there are strong reasons to believe that we are endowed with an “internal” sense which is related to the whole universe, and which alight be considered as an “extension” of Sight.
If it is possible to be affected so as to have the idea of a being from an infinite distance-just as we see the stars, whose impressions are transmitted to us in a straight line, by means of the sensation and continuity of a substance which coexists between them and our organs-is it not equally possible that, by means of an internal organ through which we are in contact with the universe, we would be affected by beings whose successive movement would be propagated to us in a curved or oblique line, or in other words, from any direction? If it is true, as I have tried to prove, that we are affected by the connection of beings and events which succeed each other, then we would understand the possibility of presentiments and other phenomena, such as predictions, prophesies, the oracles of the sibyls, etc.
Following my theory on “crises,” it was in observing, with more attention, the neglected developments which counteract chronic illnesses, that I discovered the phenomenon of a critical sleep, whose infinitely varying modifications were fairly frequently before my eyes; this opened a new field to my observations on the nature and properties of man.
Mesmer on Hypnosis
Man’s sleep is not a negative state, nor is it simply the absence of wakefulness; modifications of this state have taught me that the faculties of a sleeping man not only are not suspended, but that often they continue to function with more perfection than when he is awake. One can observe that certain sleeping persons walk, and conduct their affairs with more planning and with the same reflection, attention and skill as when they are awake. It is still more surprising to see faculties, which are called “intellectual” being, used to such an extent that they infinitely surpass those cultivated in the ordinary state.
In this state of crisis, these persons are able to foresee the future and bring the most remote past into the present. Their senses can extend to any distance and in all directions, without being checked by any obstacles. In short, it seems that all Nature is present to them. Will itself is communicated to them apart from conventional means. These faculties differ in each individual; the most common phenomenon consists in their being able to see the interior of their own bodies, as well as those of others, and of judging with extreme accuracy the nature of diseases-their progress, the necessary treatment, and their effects. But it is rare to find all these faculties combined in the same individual.
My intention here is not to go into the details of the many facts that constitute the whole story which long experience has personally furnished me, and which repeats itself daily to the eves of those who are using my principles; I only wish to present a brief and precise idea of phenomena without number which the nature of man never ceases to offer to the attentive observer. Some of these facts were known throughout all ages under various names, particularly under the name of “somnambulism”; others have been entirely neglected; still others have been carefully concealed.
What is certain is that these phenomena, which are as old as the infirmities of man, have always astonished and, more frequently, have misled the human mind; the tendency which the mind unceasingly manifests-to regard modifications, in which the mechanism is poorly understood, as substances-also induces this mind to attribute these effects, whose true source it cannot determine because of a lack of experience, to supernatural causes or to spirits. Depending upon the appearance of these phenomena-whether they were pleasing or distressing-they were characterized as being either good or bad. In turn, superstitious and ignorant beliefs were represented as being either sacred or criminal, depending upon whether they induced either hope or dread. These phenomena served only to provoke frequent revolutions: affording the sources and means for the political and religious charlatanism of various people.
Observing these phenomena, and reflecting upon the ease with which errors arise, multiply, and succeed each other, no one could disregard the source of opinions on the oracles, inspirations, the sibyls, prophesies, divinations, witchcraft, magic, the demonology of the ancients; and, in our day, the opinions on convulsions and being possessed.
Although these different beliefs appear to be as absurd as they do extravagant, they do not by themselves induce visions; nor were they all esteemed; frequently they were the results of the observations of certain natural phenomena which, for lack of knowledge or proper evidence, have continually been distorted, hidden, or masked in mystery. I am able to prove today that whatever has been true in such phenomena, we should attribute to the same cause, and they should be considered only as variations of the condition called “somnambulism.”
Since my method of treating and observing illnesses has been put into practice in different parts of France, many persons, either through imprudent zeal or displaced vanity, and without considerations for the reserve and precaution which I deemed to be necessary, gave out premature publicity on the effects and especially the explanation of that critical sleep; I cannot ignore the resultant abuse, and I behold with sorrow the old prejudices returning in great strides.
We have, as yet, only presented those persecutions, which were inflicted by inordinately credulous fanaticism during the ages of ignorance; these persecutions were exacted upon those who had the misfortune of becoming the subjects of these prodigies. Similarly, today one is also fearful of those who become victims of a “fanaticism of incredulity”; men are not punished for being idolaters or sacrilegious; instead, they are treated as possible imposters and disturbers of public peace.
Since ignorance is the source of injustice and immorality in all beliefs, I felt it necessary to set down my ideas concerning the nature of a phenomenon which so easily misleads us, and which, although always before our eyes, has been constantly disregarded.
In regard to the effects of animal magnetism, and particularly of critical sleep, which is one of the most striking phenomena of its application, French society can be divided into three classes.
In the first class are those who entirely ignore all facts relative to this phenomenon, or who, either from indifference or from evil motives, persist in closing their eyes to all which history and observation present to them. To attempt to teach them anything would be tantamount to trying to explain colors to the blind.
I view the second class as being composed of those who, after having gained a precise understanding of my principles, think about them, or use them, acquiring daily confirmation through their own experience: I can only urge them to persevere, and I am confident that this writing will add something to their enlightenment.
Finally, I include in the third class those who, by their many constant observations, have become convinced of the reality of the facts, but who, being unable to explain the causes and wishing to escape from this painful state of bewilderment prefer the illusions of metaphysics in place of appealing to my principles. It is essentially for these people that I am writing, that they might be willing to read my works without prejudice, and will not delay in realizing that everything is explicable by the mechanical laws of Nature, and that all effects relate to modifications of “matter” and of “movement.”
I expect that I would fulfill this important task if, in the course of this dissertation, a satisfactory solution to the following questions could be found questions in which I believe I have anticipated the most thorny difficulties:
1. How is a sleeping man able to consider and foresee his own illnesses, as well as the illnesses of others?
2. Without any instruction whatsoever, how is he able to prescribe the most accurate means of cure?
3. How can he see the most distant objects and have presentiments of events?
4. I-low is a man able to receive an impression from a will other than his own?
5. Why isn’t a man always endowed with these faculties?
6. How can these faculties be perfected?
7. Why does this state occur more frequently and appear to be more perfect after one employs the processes of animal
8. What have been the results of ignorance of this phenomenon and what are they even today?
9. What are the harmful effects resulting from possible misuse of this phenomenon?
In order to answer these questions in a precise manner, I believe I can facilitate a clear comprehension and explanation by means of a short account of the general principles underlying my theory, some of which are already known to the reader.
The “universe” is the general effect of all the coexisting parts of matter, which fill its space. According to this concept, there exists as much matter as space can contain, and this matter is in an equally continuous state. All parts of matter are either at rest or in motion among themselves; consequently they are either fluid or solid.
Fluidity and solidity should be considered as a relative state of motion and repose of the particles among themselves; and “only in these relations” is found the reason for all possible forms and properties. Solids assume a shape, and form interstices, which are filled with less solid or more delicate matter; the latter, consisting of small masses of a fixed form, again present interstices to even more fluid matter. As I have stated, these divisions between interstices and fluids replace each other, by a type of gradation, up to the ultimate subdivision of matter, which I call “elementary” or “primordial”; this alone is absolute fluidity, and its interstices cannot be further occupied, since there exists no matter which is more subtle.
Since, logically, the mobility of matter is inversely related to its cohesiveness, mobility must characterize matter’s subtlety; consequently, the most fluid and the most subtle matter must be endowed with the highest degree of mobility. The three categories of fluidity which fall upon our senses-“water,’ “air,” and “ether” confirm this progression for us.
It is necessary to recall at this point that, between ether and elementary matter, there exists a series of matter of graduated fluidity, capable of penetrating and filling all the interstices.
Each of the three fluids known to us is capable of being “the conductor of a particular movement proportionate to its degree of fluidity.” Thus, water is receptive to modifications in heat; air receives all vibratory movements which produce sound, harmony, and its modulations; ether acts similarly for the movement of light. These modifications are determined by the shapes, surfaces, and relative distances and locations involved. In addition, water and air contain, within their interstices, particles with a similar specific gravity and thus they become vehicles for corpuscles, which, by means of their “configuration,” produce a variety of effects.
Mesmer on NLP
Placed in the midst of these different fluids, man is endowed with organs whose extremities end in nerves of greater or lesser quantity; these nerves are more or less exposed, being in contact with the different “classes of fluids” from which they receive impressions. Some of these organs, such as those of touch, taste, and smell, receive their impressions by an “immediate” application of matter or movement; others, such as those of sight and of hearing, are affected by disturbance of the “environment,” the cause of which can be from a long range. These organs are called the “senses”; their structure is such that each of them can be affected by one category of matter to the exclusion of all others.
Through the expansion of the optic nerve, 9 the eye offers a uniform surface to the movement of the ether, a surface which is capable of receiving and retracing the “whole” of forms, shapes, colors, and situations; by means of its structure, composed of transparent and opaque parts, it prevents the access of all other fluid substances. In its structure, the ear presents distinct parts, which are so specifically organized that they respond to all the proportions and degrees of “intensity” of tone and sound.
In contrast, touch tests, all the nuances-“resistances” and impressions-of bodies, which are directly employed. Taste is affected by the “shape” of particles which, diluted by fluid, work their -,vat into the pores which the membranous surface of this organ presents, where they affect the nerve endings. Through the “shape” of the corpuscles which are introduced and applied to it by the air, the olf actor), organ receives its impressions in the same manner.
This variety of arrangements was necessary so that, being immersed in an ocean of fluids, we would not confuse the effects of the different types of matter, and the movements caused by various objects, even being able to differentiate between them with extreme accuracy. The structure and the specific mechanism of each organ render it sensitive to only one function.
Thus, we are limited, by the quantity and property of each of our senses, to being in rapport only with combinations and modifications of matter, which are in a category which relate to our preservation. This consideration leads me to believe that some animals exist which are endowed with organs different from ours, whose faculties place them in rapport with matter of a different order than what affects us.
What I have presented here is what I am able to say about the diversity of effects produced at the extremities of nerves in its most concise form.
Actually, the problem is to examine what operates within the intimate “substance” of the nerves themselves. I have only observed movements. They are as varied as is the action of the different types of matter on the external senses. However, we have no words at all which can express all the nuances. Thus modified, these movements, having been first received at the surface, are propagated toward a common center, formed by the union and interlacing of nerves whose extremities, which we call “the senses”-are considered only as extensions. By means of this union being repeated several times within the animal structure, these movements mingle, blend, and modify themselves. It is this general effect, which constitutes the organ which I call the “internal sense”; the result of this is what we call “sensations.” When imparted to the motor muscles in this manner, these same movements cause actions.
In order to comprehend fully this vast phenomenon of sensations, it is important to reflect upon the constancy and accuracy with which sound and light are propagated and repeated; to observe how their most compounded and diverse rays and motions cross without destroying or confusing each other, so that at whatever point the eye or ear is placed, these organs receive exactly the detail and the whole of the most complex effects.
Mesmer on Reiki
I have stated that between ether and elementary matter there exist series of matter succeeding each other in fluidity. By their subtlety, they penetrate and fill all interstices.
Among these fluid substances, there is one which corresponds essentially and is in continuity with that which animates the nerves of the animal body, and which exists mingled and blended with the different kinds of fluids which I have mentioned-accompanying, penetrating, and consequently participating in all of their particular movements; it becomes like a direct and immediate conductor of all the different types of modifications undergone by fluids which are destined to make impressions upon the external senses, and all of these effects, when used by the substance of the nerves themselves, are then directed to the internal organ of sensations.
With this insight one can understand how, with regard to the movements which represent colors, forms, and shapes, it is possible that the entire system of nerves becomes an “eye”; with regard to the movements which convey the degrees of oscillation of air, how it becomes an “ear”; with regard to the movements produced by the direct contact of forms and shapes, how it becomes the organs of touch, taste, and smell.
Moreover, reflecting upon the rarefied nature and the mobility of matter, and the exact contiguity with which it fills all space, one can understand how there can never occur any movement or displacement, even within its slightest parts, which does not reach, to some extent, the entire expanse of the universe.
We can therefore conclude that there is neither a being nor a combination of matter which-by the relations in which they exist with the whole-does not imprint an effect upon all surrounding matter and upon the medium within which we are immersed; it follows that everything which exists can be experienced, and that animated bodies, finding themselves in contact with all of Nature, have the faculty of being sensitive not only to beings, but also to events which succeed one another.
Independent of the impressions, which objects make on our senses by virtue of their shapes and their movements, we also perceive sensations of the “nature” and the “proportions” which are presented. This sensation is expressed by different names, according to the organs receiving it, such as “beautiful” for vision, “harmonious” for hearing, “sweet” for taste, “suave” for smell, and “pleasing” for touch. Starting from these points of comparison, there exist a multitude of nuances, which deviate more or less from perfection.
We are endowed with a faculty of experiencing, in the universal harmony, the “connections” which “events” and beings have with our “preservation.” This faculty is one, which we have in common with other animals, although we make less use of it than they, because we substitute what we call “reason”-which depends completely upon the external senses. Similarly, by means of the internal sense we perceive not only the proportions of surfaces, but even their intimate structure as well as their constituent parts; and, we are able to understand either the “harmony” or the “dissonance” which substances exert upon our structure. This faculty is what we call “instinct.” This faculty is even more perfect since it is independent of the external senses; because of the differences in their mechanisms, the external senses have to make adjust- between each other in order to possess this perfection.
It is through the extension of instinct, explained in this manner, that a sleeping man can have an intuition of disease and can distinguish, from among all substances, those which contribute to his preservation and cure.In the same manner, I can explain a fact, which would appear to be even more astonishing-“the communication of will.” Indeed, this communication cannot take place between two persons in the ordinary state except when the movement resulting from their thoughts is propagated from the center to the organs of the voice and the parts which serve to express the natural or conventional signs of communication; these movements are then transmitted to the air or to the ether-as intermediate mediums-in order to then be received and sensed by the external sense organs. However, these same movements, modified by thoughts in the mind and within the substance of the nerves, being at the same time in communication with the series of a subtle fluid with which this nervous substance is in continuity, can independently extend, without the help of air or ether, to unlimited distances and can “immediately” relate to the internal sense of another individual. We can thus comprehend how the wills of two persons can communicate with each other through their internal sense organs; consequently, we can understand how there can exist a reciprocity, an accord, a sort of “covenant” between two wills, which we can call “being in rapport.”Without doubt, it would appear to be most difficult to explain how it is possible to be conscious of facts which do not yet exist, or to be conscious of others which elapse a long time ago.
Let us first attempt to make this idea comprehensible by means of a comparison taken from the ordinary state. Place a man upon some high point from where he discovers a river and a boat floating with the current: at the same time there appears to his eyes both the distance already traveled by this boat and the distance that it is going to travel. Extend this poor description of a glance into the past and into the future by recalling that man, being in contact with all of Nature by means of his internal sense, always finds himself placed so as to experience the connection of cause and effect; you will understand that to see the past is nothing but experiencing the cause through the effect, and that to foresee the future is to experience the effect through the cause, whatever might be the interval between the initial cause and the final effect.
Moreover, all which “has been,” has left some sort of trace; similarly, that which “will be” is already determined by the totality of causes which must bring it about; this has led to the idea that within the universe everything is present, and that the past and the future are nothing but different references which parts of this universe have towards each other.
This type of sensation can only be acquired through the mediation of fluids which are as superior in their subtlety to ether as ether is to ordinary air; this subtlety creates a deficiency in my use of terms in the same way as it would, were I to wish to explain colors through sounds. It is also necessary to make up the deficiency caused by reflecting upon the continuous “pre-sensations” which men, and especially animals, have about the great events of nature, pre-sensations which are out of the reach of their outer organs; the same holds true for the irresistible attraction which occurs to birds and fish for their periodic journeys; finally, this holds for all of the related phenomena which are presented to us by the critical sleep of man.
But why is the state of sleep of a man more suitable than the waking state in furnishing us with these examples?
The natural and perfect sleep of a man is the state where the functions of the senses are suspended; that is, where the continuity which the “common sensorium.” has with the external senses is interrupted. This is followed by the cessation of all functions which are dependent, either directly or indirectly, upon the external senses, such as imagination, memory, voluntary movements of the muscles and limbs, speech, etc. When a man is in good health, this sleep is regular and periodic.
However, by a kind of irregularity in animal harmony and by various internal irritations, a condition can occur in which the functions that we call “animal” are not “entirely” arrested, and certain muscular movements as well as the use of speech are kept up by the sleeping man. In both states of sleep, impressions of surrounding matter are not made upon the external sense organs, but are made directly and immediately upon the very substance of the nerves. Thus, the internal sense becomes “the sole organ of sensations”; its impressions turn out to be independent of the external senses, and they thus become known to the individual because they exist alone. Since it is an immutable law of sensations that the stronger effaces the weaker, the latter may be perceived only in the absence of the stronger. If the impression of the stars is not perceptible to us during the day as it is during the night, even though their activity remains the same, this is only because this impression is effaced by the stronger impression made by the sun.
One can say that in the state of “sleep,” man experiences his connections with all of Nature. Just as we would be incapable of having any idea of the knowledge of the most learned man if he did not speak or could not be understood, I admit that it would be difficult to prove the existence of this phenomenon, were it not for those individuals who, during their sleep and through the effect of an illness or a “crisis,” retain the faculty to convey to us, as much by their actions as by their expressions, what takes place with them.
Let us, for a moment, suppose of a group of people who, like some animals, necessarily go to sleep when the sun sets, to awaken only after its return to the horizon: they would have no idea of the magnificent spectacle of the night, and would believe that the existence of things was limited to objects they perceived during the day. If, in this case, one were to inform these people that there existed in their midst some men in whom this habitual sequence had been disturbed by illness, and who, having awakened during the night, had discovered innumerable luminous bodies at infinite distances and, so to speak, new worlds-undoubtedly they would be treated as visionaries because of the stupendous difference of their views. However, such men exist today in the eyes of the multitude-men who claim that man has the faculty of extending his sensations during sleep.
The state of crisis to which I refer, being “intermediate” between wakefulness and perfect sleep, is capable of being drawn more or less to one or the other; because of this, the state of crisis is capable of varying degrees of completeness. If this state is closer to wakefulness, then it has the characteristics of memory and imagination; it interacts with the effects of the external senses. These impressions become so confused with those of the internal sense-to the point of sometimes dominating them-that, in this case, they can only be looked at as “daydreams.” However when this state of crisis is closer to sleep, then the assertions of somnambulists are the result of impressions received directly by the “internal” sense-the others being excluded-and one can regard them as authentic, the authenticity being proportional to this closeness.
The completeness of this critical sleep varies according to the progress and duration of the crisis, as well as the character, temperament, and the habits of the subjects involved; but it varies, oddly, according to a type of education, which can be given to them in this state, and by the manner in which their faculties are directed. These subjects can, in this respect, be compared to a telescope, in which the effects vary in accordance with the way it is adjusted.
Although it is agreed that in the state of critical sleep the nerves are affected directly, such that a person acts only in accordance with the internal sense, nevertheless the “effects” of the various substances are referred to the external” sense organs to which they are particularly fixed. Thus when the Somnambulist tells what he sees, he is not talking about the eyes, which, appropriately, sense modifications of the “ether”; instead, he is referring to the “insight” produced in him by the movements of light, such as forms, shapes, colors, and situations. When he tells what he hears, it is not by his ears either, that he received modulations of the air; instead, he is simply referring to the hearing of relative “movements” which he is experiencing impressions of. It is the same with the other organs, and expressing his perceptions in the language formed for the external (10) senses becomes, thus, a type of translation. It follows that since he is constantly making use of a language, which has been borrowed, it is easy to misunderstand it, and it takes the experience of a good observer to understand it and to interpret it correctly.
I must state again that the completeness of this sensation depends essentially upon two conditions: one is the total suspension of the action of the external senses; the other is the disposition of the internal sense organ.
When I stated that this organ consists of the joining and interlacement of nerves, I did not mean that it consists of a single point or a unique center, nor of a circumscribed region, but that it indeed consists of the entire nervous system; that is, it is a whole, composed of all points of union, such as the brain, the spinal marrow, the plexes and the ganglia. In regard to their functioning, these different parts of the nervous system can be considered-either separately or in their entirety-to be like different musical instruments whose harmony depends upon their perfect tuning (11) or, these parts can be compared to the effects produced upon our eyes by viewing a mirror from different angles whose surface is more or less polished, tarnished, covered with vapor, or even broken to pieces. Finally, in order to get still closer to the truth and give an accurate idea of the perfection of the internal sense, I view all the parts which constitute this sense as being subject to the same law, dependent upon one another and, also, tending to form a well-ordered whole; I claim that these parts can be compared to parts of a liquid which are in a perfect equilibrium and which present an exactly uniform surface, and which are also capable of faithfully relating to all objects. It is obvious that any change in this equilibrium and its proportions must alter its effects; in the same way, the perfection of sensations is always altered in proportion to the disorders, which disturb the animal body during sickness and during moments of crisis.
(11) The words in the original are “parfait accord.” This could also be translated as “perfect accord,” “common chord.”
It is essential to state here that all types of mental derangement are nothing but gradations of imperfect sleep. Maniac, (12) for example, exists when various viscera are so obstructed that their functioning are suspended, and, consequently, they are reduced to a soporific state, while the natural organs of sleep are in a continuous state of irregular activity; the parts affected by the disease are occupied with this displaced sleep. A cure can be brought about through the action of animal magnetism; the obstructions and obstacles which resist the harmony of the “common sensorium” are removed, and these parts withdraw from their soporific state so that the necessary sleep might be transferred, so to speak, to the organs destined for animal functions and to the sense organs.
One can see how important it is to distinguish between diseases of sleep, which are symptomatic, and those, which are critical.
It is easy to have a notion of how many errors and misuses were expounded by observers of this state who pursued the explanations of what I have called the ancient prejudices-often overestimating them.
(12) The word “folie” could also be translated as “madness,” “dementia,” “lunacy.”
It still remains for me to state why the state of somnambulism occurs more frequently and appears to be more complete after my principles are employed. The reason for this is that magnetism causes a tonic movement, which penetrates every part of the body, vivifying the nerves and restoring the life of the workings of all the machine’s systems. I have already compared this action to a stream of water or air directed upon the mobile parts of a mill: it is this action, which brings about the crises, which are necessary for the cure of all diseases. These crises are most often a part of the sleep to which I have referred; and just as the effects, which these crises produce, tend to reestablish harmony in all of the organs and viscera, they also necessarily produce the inseparable effect of “perfecting the sensations.” In short, man’s faculties are made evident through the effects of magnetism in the same way, as the properties of other bodies are unfolded through the methods, in chemistry, of using graduated heat.
From these principles and developments, it follows that the ancient views cannot be disregarded simply because they have been associated with some errors; the phenomena of somnambulism have been noted in every age, and they have been distorted in a manner which has depended upon the prejudice of the period involved. Man has always been imperfectly understood, especially when he is in a condition of sickness, and the extraordinary faculties which are manifested by him have never been properly regarded as the “extension of his sensations and of his instinct.”
According to all that I have just revealed about magnetism as a direct and immediate “agent” acting upon the nerves and muscle fiber, which are instruments of sensations and of movement in the animal body; according to the proofs which I have established, to the effect that the general causes of the quality of humors, as well as their circulation, reside solely in the activity of fiber animated by this same agent; finally, according to what I have established, that it is this agent which rectifies aberrations in fluids and in solids, bringing about beneficial crises in all conditions of illness-in accordance with all I have shown, one will understand that I am justified in considering this agent as a “unique” and “universal” means of preventing illness and of obtaining cures. However, this holds true only when a cure has not become impossible, as when parts of the body are disorganized or destroyed, or when the sick person is deprived of the essential resources necessary for the activity of the machinery and for the working of animal harmony.
For, although one can affirm that the application of magnetism suffices to bring about the cure of “all species” of sickness, it would be senseless to pretend that it would likewise cure “all” sick persons. What I call the “universality” of this method of cure must, of course, be understood in this way.
In order that a result occur, each physical activity needs certain necessary conditions. With the incurable cases that I have just discussed, how could one succeed in doing this when obstacles exist which impede the workings of this physical activity?
Because of this law, it is indispensable to the practice of magnetism to have a sound theory of animal harmony, and to have the help of the knowledge furnished by the study of medicine.
Why has this discovery, announced twenty years ago, having since endured the most authentic examinations, having been defended by the most estimable men, by most numerous facts from every part of France-why, I ask, has a discovery which is so important in its scope and so exact in its effects only produced such uncertain opinions? It is because my assertions regarding the processes and the visible effects of animal magnetism seem to remind people of ancient beliefs, of ancient practices justly regarded for a long time as being errors and trickery. The majority of men dedicated to science and to the art of healing have only considered my discovery from this point of view: carried away by their first impressions, they have neglected examining it more thoroughly. Others prompted by personal motives, by professional interest, only wished to regard me as an adversary whom they had to destroy.
In order to attain this, they first used the very powerful weapon of ridicule: this being neither more nor less odious than slander. Finally, they used the excessive publicity of a report, which will become, through the ages, a very dishonorable monument for those who dared to sign it. Other persons-and the number is fairly large-were overexcited and, being convinced either by their own experience or by the experience of others, gave themselves over to such exaggerations that they made all the facts appear unbelievable. The result of this was illusions and unfounded fears for the weak and uninstructed multitude. These are, thus, the origins of public opinion against my doctrine up to the present time.
Rising above so many obstacles and contradictions, I believed it necessary for the progress of science, and even more so for the success of magnetism, that I publish my ideas on, respectively, the organization of and the influences on bodies. I voluntarily surrender my theory to criticism, declaring that I have neither the time nor the will to respond to it. I will have nothing to say to those who, being incapable of granting me integrity and generosity, are interested in combating me with a purely hostile frame of mind, without substituting anything better for what they wish to destroy. I will gladly deal with geniuses who are better able to trace these ideas back to more solid, more illuminating principles, using vaster talents than I have in order to discover new facts, making my discovery even more interesting with their concepts and their works. In a word, I fervently hope that they advance this discovery more than I have been able to. Nevertheless, it is sufficient for me to have the glory of having opened a vast field to the reckoning of science, and of having, to some extent, outlined the route of this new course.
Already well advanced in age, I wish to devote what remains of my existence “to the sole practice” of a method which I recognize as being eminently beneficial, of being able to preserve my fellow-man so that he no longer need be exposed to the incalculable hazards of drugs and their application.
Acute-An acute disease is a disease of short and sharp course, not chronic.
Chronic-A chronic disease is a disease of long duration and of slow progress.
Crisis-“La crise.” This could also be translated as a fit or attack, as in a fit of spasms, etc. Crisis also denotes a sudden change of events in a febrile disease when the factor causing the high temperature is suddenly removed; this causes intense sweating and sudden development of a hot skin. If the factor causing the high temperature is suddenly introduced, the reverse occurs (chills and cold skin).
Diastole– The dilation of the heart cavities, during which they fill with blood.
Ephemera-A may-fly or ephemerid.
Ganglia– Aggregations of nerve cells. These are especially visible within the sympathetic nervous system, evident throughout the abdominal cavity.
Humor– Fluid. In this context, the fluids of the body.
Liquor– Any liquid or fluid.
Plenum-A space or all space, every part of which is full of matter-opposed to vacuum.
Plexus– A network or interjoining of nerves, or veins, or of lymphatic vessels. Plexes exist throughout the body.
Somnambulism– A condition in which one’s mental processes are conducted in a more or less unusual or odd way, and in which one seems confused and almost as if asleep. Also, a condition in which a person writes, walks, or performs other complex acts automatically while in a condition of somnolence, having no recollection, on awakening, of what he has done.
Soporific– Causing sleep; hypnotic.
Systole– The rhythmical contraction of the heart, especially of the ventricles, by which the blood is driven through the arteries.
Tonic– In a state of continuous unremitting action.