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Title: Popular Superstitions, and the Truths Contained Therein - With an Account of Mesmerism
Author: Mayo, Herbert
Language: English
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Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
in hyphenation have been standardised but all other spelling and
punctuation remains unchanged.

Italics are represented thus _italic_.

                        POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS,


                     THE TRUTHS CONTAINED THEREIN,

                                WITH AN

                         ACCOUNT OF MESMERISM.


                          HERBERT MAYO, M.D.,

                         F.R.S., F.G.S., ETC.

                    FROM THE THIRD LONDON EDITION.

                        LINDSAY AND BLAKISTON.



In the following Letters I have endeavoured to exhibit in their true
light the singular natural phenomena of which old superstition and
modern charlatanism in turn availed themselves—to indicate their laws,
and to develop their theory. The subject is so important that I
might well have approached it in a severer guise. But, slight as this
performance may appear, I profess to have employed upon it the keenest
and most patient efforts of reflection of which I am capable. And as
to its tone at the commencement, and the prominence given to popular
and trivial topics, I candidly avow that, without some such artifice, I
doubt whether I should have found a publisher of repute to publish, or
a circle of readers to read, my lucubrations.

    “Cosi all’ egro fanciul porgiamo aspersi
    Di soave licor gli orli del vaso;
    Succhi amari ingannato intanto ei beve,
    E dall’ inganno suo vita riceve.”

It was in the winter of 1846 that the original seven Letters were
written, of which the present fourteen are the third and expanded
reprint. The hour had come for successfully assailing certain already
shaking prejudices of the reading public. The Selbstschau of Zschokke,
and the researches of Von Reichenbach, were in the hands of the
literary and philosophic. The seer-gift of the former (see Letter IV.)
had established the fact that one mind can enter into direct though
one-sided communion with another. The undenied Od-force of the latter
(see Letter I.) is evidently the same influence with that, the first
crude announcement of which, by Mesmer, had scared the world into
disbelief. It had now become possible to explain ghostly warnings,
and popular prophecies, the wonders of natural trance, and of animal
magnetism, without having recourse to a single unproven principle.
I therefore made the attempt; other more efficient labourers have
co-operated in the same object; and public opinion is no longer hostile
to this class of inquiries.

  _1st August, 1851_.


  LETTER I. THE DIVINING-ROD.—Description of, and mode
  of using the same—Mr. Fairholm’s statement—M. de
  Tristan’s statement—Account of Von Reichenbach’s Od-force—The
  Author’s own observations,                                           9

  LETTER II. VAMPYRISM.—Tale exemplifying the superstition—The
  Vampyr state of the body in the grave—Various
  instances of death-trance—The risk of premature interment
  considered—The Vampyr visit,                                        30

  LETTER III. UNREAL GHOSTS.—Law of sensorial illusions—Cases
  of Nicolai, Schwedenborg, Joan of Arc—Fetches—Churchyard
  ghosts,                                                             53

  LETTER IV. TRUE GHOSTS.—The apparitions themselves
  always sensorial illusions—The truth of their communications
  accounted for—Zschokke’s seer-gift described,
  to show the possibility of direct mental
  communication—Second-sight—The true relation of the
  mind to the living body,                                            70

  LETTER V. TRANCE.—Distinction of esoneural and exoneural
  mental phenomena—Abnormal relation of the mind
  and nervous system possible—Insanity—Sleep—Essential
  nature of trance—Its alliance with spasmodic seizures—General
  characters of trance—Enumeration of
  kinds,                                                              86

  LETTER VI. TRANCE-SLEEP.—The phenomena of trance
  divided into those of trance-sleep, and those of trance-waking—Trance-sleep
  presents three forms; Trance-waking
  two. The three forms of trance sleep described;
  viz., death-trance, trance-coma, simple or initiatory
  trance,                                                             98

  same thing with ordinary sleep-walking—Its characteristic
  feature, the acting of a dream—Cases, and disquisition,            106

  LETTER VIII. TRANCE-WAKING.—Instances of its spontaneous
  occurrence in the form of catalepsy—Analysis of
  catalepsy—its three elements: double consciousness, or
  pure waking-trance; the spasmodic seizure; the new
  mental powers displayed—Cases exemplifying catalepsy—Other
  cases unattended with spasm, but of spontaneous
  occurrence, in which new mental powers were
  manifested—Oracles of antiquity—Animal instinct—Intuition,         116

  rise to them shown to have been forms of trance brought
  on by fanatical excitement—The Cevennes—Scenes at
  the tomb of the Abbé Paris—Revivals in America—The
  Ecstatica of Caldaro—Three forms of imputed demoniacal
  possession—Witchcraft; its marvels, and the solution,              136

  LETTER X. MESMERISM.—Use of chloroform—History of
  Mesmer—The true nature and extent of his discovery—Its
  applications to medicine and surgery—Various
  effects produced by mesmeric manipulations—Hysteric
  seizures—St. Veitz’s dance—Nervous paralysis—Catochus—Initiatory
  trance—The order in which the higher
  trance-phenomena are afterwards generally drawn out,               153

  LETTER XI. SUPPLEMENTAL.—Abnormal neuro-psychical
  relation—Cautions necessary in receiving trance
  communications—Trance-visiting—Mesmerising at a distance,
  and by the will—Mesmeric diagnosis and treatment
  of disease—Prevision—Ultra-vital vision,                           175

  come upon by the author—His first experiments—The
  phenomena an objective proof of the reality of the Od-force,       209

  LETTER XIII. THE SOLUTION.—Examination of the genuineness
  of the phenomena—Od-motions produced by bodies
  in their most inert state—Analysis of the forces which
  originate them—Od-motions connected with electrical,
  magnetic, chemical, crystalline, and vital influences—Their
  analysis,                                                          219

  POSTSCRIPT.—Further analysis of Od-motions—Proof of their
  genuineness—Explanation of their immediate cause,                  242

  discovery—Trance-faculties manifested in the waking
  state—Self-induced waking clairvoyance—Conclusion,                 248



 THE DIVINING ROD.—Description of and mode of using the same—Mr.
 Fairholm’s statement—M. de Tristan’s statement—Account of Von
 Reichenbach’s Od force—The Author’s own observations.

Dear Archy,—As a resource in the solitary evenings of commencing
winter, it occurred to me to look into the long-neglected lore of the
marvellous, the mystical, the supernatural. I remembered the deep awe
with which I had listened, many a year ago, to tales of seers, ghosts,
vampyrs, and all the dark brood of night. And I thought it would be
infinitely agreeable to thrill again with mysterious terrors, to
start in my chair at the closing of a distant door, to raise my eyes
with uneasy apprehension towards the mirror opposite, and to feel my
skin creep through the sensible “afflatus” of an invisible presence.
I entered, accordingly, upon a very promising course of appalling
reading. But, a-lack and well-a-day! a change had come over me since
the good old times when fancy, with fear and superstition behind her,
would creep on tiptoe to catch a shuddering glimpse of Kobbold, Fay,
or incubus. Vain were all my efforts to revive the pleasant horrors of
earlier years: it was as if I had planned going to a play to enjoy
again the full gusto of scenic illusion, and, through absence of mind,
was attending a morning rehearsal only; when, instead of what I had
anticipated, great-coats, hats, umbrellas, and ordinary men and women,
masks, tinsel, trap-doors, pulleys, and a world of intricate machinery,
lit by a partial gleam of sunshine, had met my view. The enchantment
was no longer there—the spell was broken.

Yet, on second thoughts, the daylight scene was worth contemplating.
A new object, of stronger interest, suggested itself. I might examine
and learn the mechanism of the illusions which had failed to furnish
me the projected entertainment. In the books I had looked into, I
discerned a clue to the explanation of many wonderful stories, which I
could hitherto only seriously meet by disbelief. I saw that phenomena,
which before had appeared isolated, depended upon a common principle,
itself allied with a variety of other singular facts and observations,
which wanted only to be placed in philosophical juxtaposition to be
recognised as belonging to science. So I determined to employ the
leisure before me upon an inquiry into the amount of truth in popular
superstitions, certain that, if the attempt were not premature, the
labour would be well repaid. There must be a real foundation for
the belief of ages. There can be no prevalent delusion without a
corresponding truth. The visionary promises of alchemy foreshadowed the
solid performances of modern chemistry, as the debased worship of the
Egyptians implied the existence of a proper object of worship.

Among the immortal productions of the Scottish Shakspeare—you smile,
but that phrase contains the true belief, not a popular delusion; for
the spirit of the poet lives not in the form of his works, but in his
creative power and vivid intuitions of nature; and the form even is
often nearer than you think:—but this excursiveness will never do; so,
to begin again.

Among the novels of Scott—I intended to say—there is not one more wins
upon us than the _Antiquary_. Nowhere has the great author more gently
and indulgently, never with happier humour, portrayed the mixed web of
strength and infirmity in human character; never, besides, with more
facile power evoked pathos and terror, and disported himself amid the
sublimity and beauty of nature. Yet, gentle as is his mood, he misses
not the opportunity—albeit, in general, he displays an honest leaning
towards old superstitions—mercilessly to crush one of the humblest. Do
you remember the Priory of St. Ruth, and the summer-party made to visit
it, and the preparations for the subsequent rogueries of Dousterswivel
in the tale of Martin Waldeck, and the discovery of a spring of water
by means of the divining rod?

I am inclined, do you know, to dispute the verdict of the novelist on
this occasion, and to take the part of the charlatan against the author
of his being; as far, at least, as regards the genuineness of the art
the said charlatan then and there affected to practise. There exists,
in fact, strong evidence to show that, in competent hands, the divining
rod really does what is pretended of it. This evidence I propose to put
before you in the present letter. But, as the subject may be entirely
new to you, I had best begin by describing what is meant by a divining
rod, and in what the imputed jugglery consists.

Then you are to learn that, in mining districts, a superstition
prevails among the people that some are born gifted with an occult
power of detecting the proximity of veins of metal, and of underground
currents of water. In Cornwall, they hold that about one in forty
possesses this faculty. The mode of exercising it is very simple. They
cut a hazel twig, just below where it forks. Having stripped the leaves
off, they cut each branch to something more than a foot in length,
leaving the stump three inches long. This implement is the divining
rod. The hazel is selected for the purpose, because it branches more
symmetrically than its neighbours. The hazel-fork is to be held by
the branches, one in either hand, the stump or point projecting
straight forwards. The arms of the experimenter hang by his sides; but
the elbows being bent at a right angle, the fore-arms are advanced
horizontally; the hands are held eight to ten inches apart; the
knuckles down, and the thumbs outwards. The ends of the branches of the
divining fork appear between the roots of the thumbs and fore-fingers.

The operator, thus armed, walks over the ground he intends exploring,
in the full expectation that, if he possesses the mystic gift, as
soon as he passes over a vein of metal, or an underground spring, the
hazel-fork will begin to move spontaneously in his hands, rising or
falling as the case may be.

You are possibly amused at my gravely stating, as a fact, an event so
unlikely. It is, indeed, natural that you should suppose the whole a
juggle, and think the seemingly spontaneous motion of the divining
fork to be really communicated to it by the hands of the conjurer—by a
sleight, in fact, which he puts in practice when he believes that he is
walking over a hidden water-course, or wishes you to believe that there
is a vein of metal near. Well, I thought as you do the greater part of
my life; and probably the likeliest way of combating your skepticism,
will be to tell you how my own conversion took place.

In the summer of 1843 I dwelt under the same roof with a Scottish
gentleman, well informed, of a serious turn of mind, fully endowed
with the national allowance of shrewdness and caution. I saw a good
deal of him; and one day, by chance, this subject of the divining rod
was mentioned. He told me, that at one time his curiosity having been
raised upon the subject, he had taken pains to ascertain what there
is in it. With this object in view he had obtained an introduction
to Mrs. R., sister of Sir G. R., then living at Southampton, whom he
had learned to be one of those in whose hands the divining rod moved.
He visited the lady, who was polite enough to show him in what the
performance consists, and to answer all his questions, and to assist
him in making experiments calculated to test the reality of the
phenomenon, and to elucidate its cause.

Mrs. R. told my friend that, being at Cheltenham in 1806, she saw, for
the first time, the divining rod used by Mrs. Colonel Beaumont, who
possessed the power of imparting motion to it in a very remarkable
degree. Mrs. R. tried the experiment herself at that time, but without
any success. She was, as it happened, very far from well. Afterwards,
in the year 1815, being asked by a friend how the divining rod is held,
and how it is to be used, on showing it she was surprised to see that
the instrument now moved in her hands.

Since then, whenever she had repeated the experiment, the power had
always manifested itself, though with varying degrees of energy.

Mrs. R. then took my friend to a part of the shrubbery where she knew,
from former trials, the divining rod would move in her hands. It did
so, to my friend’s extreme astonishment; and even continued to move,
when, availing himself of Mrs. R.’s permission, my friend grasped her
hands with sufficient firmness to prevent, as he supposed, any muscular
action of her wrists or fingers influencing the result.

On a subsequent day my friend having thought over what he had seen,
repeated his visit to the lady. He provided himself, as substitutes for
the hazel-fork which he had seen her employ, with portions of copper
and iron wire about a foot and a half long, bent something into the
form of the letter V. He had made, in fact, divining forks of wire,
wanting only the projecting point. He found that these instruments
moved quite as freely in Mrs. R.’s hands as the hazel-fork had done.
Then he coated the two handles of one of them with sealing-wax,
leaving, however, the extreme ends free and uncovered. When Mrs. R.
tried the rod so prepared, holding the parts alone which were covered
with sealing-wax, and walked on the same piece of ground as in the
former experiments, the rod remained perfectly still. As often,
however, as—with no greater change than adjusting her hands so as to
touch the free ends of the wire with her thumbs—Mrs. R. renewed direct
contact with the instrument, it again moved. The motion ceased again as
often as the direct contact was interrupted.

This simple narrative, made to me by the late Mr. George Fairholm,
carried conviction to my mind of the reality of the phenomenon. I asked
my friend why he had not pursued the subject further. He said he had
often thought of doing so, and had, he believed, mainly been deterred
by meeting with the work of the Compte de Tristan, entitled _Recherches
sur quelques effluves terrestres_, Paris, 1829, in which facts similar
to those which he had himself verified were given, and a number of
additional curious experiments detailed.

At Mr. Fairholm’s instance I procured the book, and, at a later period,
read it. I may say that it both satisfied and disappointed me. It
satisfied me, inasmuch as it fully confirmed all that Mr. Fairholm
had stated. It disappointed me, for it threw no additional light upon
the phenomena. M. de Tristan had in fact brought too little physical
knowledge to the investigation, so that a large proportion of his
experiments are puerile. However, his simpler experiments are valuable
and suggestive. These I will presently describe. In the mean time,
you shall hear the Count’s own narrative of his initiation into the
mysteries of the divining rod.

“The history of my researches,” says M. de Tristan, “is simply
this. Some twenty years ago, a gentleman who, from his position in
society, could have no object to gain by deception, showed to me, for
my amusement, the movement of the divining rod. He attributed the
motion to the influence of a current of water, which appeared to me
a probable supposition. But my attention was more engaged with the
action produced by the influence, let the latter be what it might.
My informant assured me he had met with many others in whom the same
effects were manifested. When I returned home, and had opportunities
of making trials under favourable circumstances, I found that I myself
possessed the same endowment. Since then I have induced many to make
the experiment, and I have found a fourth, or certainly a fifth, of
the number capable of setting the divining rod in motion at the very
first attempt. Since that time, during these twenty years, I have often
tried my hand, but for amusement only, and desultorily, and without
any idea of making the thing an object of scientific investigation.
But at length, in the year 1822, being in the country, and removed
from my ordinary pursuits, the subject again came across me, and I
determined forthwith to try and ascertain the cause of this phenomena.
Accordingly, I commenced a long series of experiments, from fifteen to
eighteen hundred in number, which occupied me nearly fifteen months.
The results of above twelve hundred were written down at the time of
their performance.”

The scene of the Count’s operations was in the valley of the Loire,
five leagues from Vendôme, in the park of the Chateau de Ranac. The
surface of ground which gave the desired results was from seventy to
eighty feet in breadth. But there was another spot equally efficient at
the Count’s ordinary residence at Emerillon, near Clery, four leagues
south of Orleans, ten leagues south of the Loire, at the commencement
of the plains of Solonge. The surface ran from north to south, and
had the same breadth with the other. These “exciting tracts” form, in
general, bands or zones of undetermined, and often very great length.
Their breadth is very variable; some are only three or four feet
across, while others are one hundred paces. These tracts are sometimes
sinuous; in other instances they ramify. To the most susceptible they
are broader than to those who are less so.

M. de Tristan thus describes what happens when a competent person,
armed with a hazel-fork, walks over the exciting districts:—

When two or three steps have been made upon the exciting tract of
ground, the fork, which at starting is held horizontally, with the
point forwards, begins gently to ascend; it gradually attains a
vertical position; sometimes it passes beyond that, and lowering
itself, with its point to the chest of the operator, it becomes again
horizontal. If the motion continues, the rod descending becomes
vertical, with the point downwards. Finally, the rod may again ascend
and resume its first position. When the action is very lively, the rod
immediately commences a second revolution; and so it goes on, as long
as the operator continues to walk over the exciting surface of ground.

A few of those in whose hands the divining fork moves exhibit a
remarkable peculiarity. The instrument, instead of commencing its
motion by ascending, descends; the point then becomes directed
vertically downwards; afterwards it reascends, and completes a
revolution in a course the opposite of the usual one; and as often and
as long as its motion is excited, it pursues this abnormal course.

Of the numerous experiments made by M. de Tristan, the following are
among the simplest and the best:—

He covered both handles of a divining rod with a thick silk stuff.
The result of using the instrument so prepared was the same which Mr.
Fairholm obtained by coating the handles with sealing-wax. The motion
of the divining rod was extinguished.

He covered both handles with one layer of a thin silk. He then found
that the motion of the divining rod took place, but it was less lively
and vigorous than ordinary.

By covering one handle of the divining rod, and that the right, with
a layer of thin silk, a very singular and instructive result was
obtained. The motion of the instrument was now reversed. It commenced
by descending.

After covering the point of the divining rod with a thick layer of silk
stuff, the motion was sensibly more brisk than it had been before.

When the Count held in his hands a straight rod of the same substance
conjointly with the ordinary divining rod, no movement of the latter
whatsoever ensued.

Finally, the Count discovered that he could cause the divining rod to
move when he walked over a non-exciting surface—as, for instance, in
his own chamber—by various processes. Of these the most interesting
consisted in touching the point of the instrument with either pole of
a magnetic needle. The instrument shortly began to move, ascending or
descending, according as the northward or southward pole of the needle
had been applied to it.

It is unnecessary to add that these, and all M. de Tristan’s
experiments, were repeated by him many times. The results of those
which I have narrated were constant.

Let me now attempt to realize something out of the preceding statements.

1. It is shown, by the testimony adduced, that whereas in the hands
of most persons the divining rod remains motionless, in the hands of
some it moves promptly and briskly when the requisite conditions are

2. It is no less certain that the motion of the divining rod has
appeared, to various intelligent and honest persons, who have succeeded
in producing it, to be entirely spontaneous; or that the said persons
were not conscious of having excited or promoted the motion by the
slightest help of their own.

3. It appears that in the ordinary use of the divining rod by competent
persons, its motion only manifests itself in certain localities.

4. It being assumed that the operator does not, however unconsciously,
by the muscular action of his hands and wrists produce the motion of
the divining rod, the likeliest way of accounting for the phenomenon is
to suppose that the divining rod may become the conductor of some fluid
or force, emanating from or disturbed in the body by a terrestrial

But here a difficulty arises: How can it happen that the hypothetical
force makes so long and round-about a course? Why, communicated to the
body through the legs, does not the supposed fluid complete a circuit
at once in the lower part of the trunk?

Such, at all events, would be the course an electric current so
circumstanced would take.

The difficulty raised admits of being removed by aid derived from
a novel and unexpected source. I allude to the discovery, by Von
Reichenbach, of a new force or principle in the physical world, which,
whether or not it is identical with that which gives motion to the
divining rod, exhibits, at all events, the very property which the
hypothetical principle should possess to explain the phenomena which we
have been considering.

No attempts have indeed been made to identify the two as one; and my
conjecture that they may prove so, should it even appear plausible,
is so vague, that I should have contented myself with referring to
Von Reichenbach’s new principle as to an established truth, and have
introduced no account of it into this Letter, had I not a second
motive for insuring your cognisance of the curious facts which the
Viennese philosopher has brought to light. It is less with the view
of furnishing a leg to the theory of the divining rod, than in order
to provide the means of elucidating more interesting problems, that
I now proceed briefly to sketch the leading experiments made by Von
Reichenbach, and their results.

Objections have been taken against these experiments, on the ground
that their effects are purely subjective; that the results must be
received on the testimony of the party employed; and that the best
parties for the purpose are persons whose natural sensibility is
exalted by disorder of the nerves; a class of persons always suspected
of exaggeration, and even, and in part with justice, of a tendency to
trickery and deception. But this was well known to Von Reichenbach,
who appears to have taken every precaution necessary to secure his
observations against error. And when I add, that many of the results
which he obtained upon the most sensitive and the highly nervous, were
likewise manifested in persons of established character and in good
health, and that the fidelity of the author and of his researches is
authenticated by the publication of the latter in Woehler and Liebig’s
_Chemical Annals_, (Supplement to volume 53, Heidelberg, 1845,) I think
you will not withhold from them complete reliance.

In general, persons in health and of a strong constitution are
insensible to the influence of Von Reichenbach’s new force. But all
persons, the tone of whose health has been lowered by their mode of
life—men of sedentary habits, clerks, and the like, and women who
employ their whole time in needlework, whose pale complexions show the
relaxed and therefore irritable state of their frames—all such, or
nearly all—evince more or less susceptibility to the influence I am
about to describe.

Von Reichenbach found that persons of the latter class, when slow
passes are made with the poles of a strong magnet moved parallel to
the surface—down the back, for instance, or down the limbs, and only
distant enough just not to touch the clothes—feel sensations rather
unpleasant than otherwise, as of a light draft of air blown upon them
in the path of the magnet.

In the progress of his researches, Von Reichenbach found that the more
sensitive among his subjects could detect the presence of his new agent
by another sense. In the dark they saw dim flames of light issuing and
waving from the poles of the magnet. The experiments suggested by this
discovery afford the most satisfactory proofs of the reality of the
phenomena. They were the following:—A horse-shoe magnet having been
adjusted upon a table, with the poles directed upwards, the sensitive
subject saw, at the distance of ten feet, the appearance of flames
issuing from it. The armature of the magnet—a bar of soft iron—was then
applied. Upon this the flames disappeared. They reappeared, she said,
as often as the armature was removed from the magnet.

A similar experiment was made with a yet more sensitive subject. This
person saw, in the first instance, flames as the first had done;
but when the armature of the magnet was applied, the flames did not
disappear: she saw flames still: only they were fainter, and their
disposition was different. They seemed now to issue from every part of
the surface of the magnet equally.

It is hardly necessary to add, that these experiments were made in a
well-darkened room, and that none of the bystanders could discern what
the sensitive subjects saw.

Then the following experiment was made:—A powerful lens was so placed
as that it should concentrate the light of the flames (if real light
they were) upon a point of the wall of the room. The patient at
once saw the light upon the wall at the right place; and when the
inclination of the lens was shifted, so as to throw the focus in
succession on different points, the sensitive observer never failed in
pointing out the right spot.

To his new force, which Von Reichenbach had now found to emanate
likewise from the poles of crystals and the wires of the voltaic pile,
he gave the arbitrary but convenient name of Od, or the Od force.

His next step was to ascertain the existence of a difference among the
sensations produced by Od. Sometimes the current of air was described
as warm, sometimes as cool. He found this difference to depend upon
the following cause: Whenever the northward pole of a magnet, or one
definite pole of a large crystal, or the negative wire of a voltaic
battery, is employed in the experiment, the sensation produced is that
of a draft of cool air. On the contrary, the southward pole of the
magnet, the opposite pole of the crystal, the positive voltaic wire,
excite the sensation of a draft of warm air.

So the new force appeared to be a polar force, and Von Reichenbach
called the first series of the above described manifestations
_Od-negative_ effects, the second _Od-positive_ effects.

From among his numerous experiments towards establishing the polarity
of Od, I select the following:—One of the most sensitive of his
subjects held, at his desire, a piece of copper wire, by the middle
with the right hand—by one end with the left. Then Von Reichenbach
touched the free end of the wire with one pole of a large crystal, in
order to charge it with Od. The patient immediately felt a sensation in
the right hand, which disappeared as quickly, to be felt by the left
hand instead, at the further end of the piece of wire. She then was
bidden to take hold of the wire with both her hands at the middle,
and then to slide them away from each other to the opposite ends:
she observed, on doing so, that sensations were produced which were
strong and decided when her hands held the two ends of the wire, and
diminished in intensity in proportion as the hands were nearer its

Von Reichenbach next came upon the observation that the human hand
gives out the Od force; and that the right hand displays the characters
of negative Od, the left those of positive Od. The more sensitive
subjects recognised, in the dark, the appearance of dim flames
proceeding from the tips of his fingers; and all felt the corresponding
sensations of drafts of cool or of warm air. Subsequently the whole
body was found to share the properties of the hands; the entire right
side to manifest negative Od, the entire left side positive Od.

So, in reference to this new force, the human body exhibits a
transverse polarity; the condition is thus realized which is required
to belong to the hypothetical force through which the divining rod
might be supposed to move. If any terrestrial influence were capable
of disturbing the Od force in the body, however it might affect its
intensity, a current or circuit could only be established through the
arms and hands; unless, indeed, some extraordinary means were taken,
such as employing an artificial conductor, arched half round the body,
to connect the two sides.

The sensations which attend the establishment of a current of Od and
interferences with it, in sensitive subjects, are exemplified in the
following observations:—

A bar magnet was laid on the palm of the left hand of one of the most
sensitive subjects, with its southward pole resting on the end of her
middle finger, the northward pole on the fore-arm above the wrist. It
thus corresponded with the natural polar arrangement of the Od force in
the patient’s hand and arm. Accordingly, no sensation was excited. But
when the position of the magnet was reversed, and the northward pole
lay on the end of the middle finger of the left hand, an uneasy sense
of an inward conflict arose in the hand and wrist, which disappeared
when the magnet was removed or its original direction restored. On
laying the magnet reversed on the fore-arm, the sense of an inward
struggle returned, which was heightened on joining the hands and
establishing a circuit.

When the patient completed the circuit in another way—namely, by
holding a bar magnet by the ends, if the latter were disposed normally,
(that is, if the northward pole was held in the left hand, the
southward pole in the right,) a lively consciousness of some inward
action ensued. A normal circulation of Od was in progress. When the
direction of the magnet was reversed, the phenomenon mentioned in the
last paragraph recurred. The patient experienced a high degree of
uneasiness, a feeling as of an inward struggle extending itself to the
chest, with a sense of whirling round, and confusion in the head. These
symptoms disappeared immediately upon her letting go the magnet.

Similar results ensued when Von Reichenbach substituted himself for the
magnet. When he took Miss Maix’s hands in his normally—that is to say,
her left in his right, her right in his left—she felt a circulation
moving up the right arm through the chest down the left arm, attended
with a sense of giddiness. When he changed hands, the disagreeableness
of the sensation was suddenly heightened, the sense of inward conflict
arose, attended with a sort of undulation up and down the arms, and
through the chest, which quickly became intolerable.

A singular but consistent difference in the result ensued when Von
Reichenbach repeated the last two experiments upon Herr Schuh. Herr
Schuh was a strong man, thirty years of age, in full health, but
highly impressible by Od. When Von Reichenbach took his two hands in
his own normally, Herr Schuh felt the normal establishment of the Od
current in his arms and chest. In a few seconds headache and vertigo
ensued, and the experiment was too disagreeable to be prolonged. But
when Von Reichenbach took his hands abnormally, no sensible effect
ensued. Being equally strong with Von Reichenbach, Herr Schuh’s frame
repelled the counter-current, which the latter arrangement tended to
throw into him. In the first or normal arrangement, the Od current had
met with no resistance, but had simply gone its natural course. The
distress occurred _from its being felt_ through Herr Schuh’s accidental
sensitiveness to Od; of the freaks of which in their systems people in
general are unconscious.

I have concluded my case in favour of the pretensions of the divining
rod. It seems to me, at all events, strong enough to justify any one
who has leisure, in cutting a hazel-fork, and walking about with it in
suitable places, holding it in the manner described. I doubt, however,
whether I should recommend a friend to make the experiment. If, by good
luck, the divining rod should refuse to move in his hands, he might
accuse himself of credulity, and feel silly, and hope nobody had seen
him, for the rest of the day. If, unfortunately, the first trial should
succeed, and he should be led to pursue the inquiry, the consequences
would be more serious: his probable fate would be to fall at once
several degrees in the estimation of his friends, and to pass with
the world, all the rest of his life, for a crotchety person of weak

As for the divining rod itself, if my argument prove sound, it will be
a credit to the family of superstitions; for without any reduction,
or clipping, or trimming, it may at once assume the rank of a new
truth. But, alas! the trials which await it in that character!—what an
ordeal is before it! A new truth has to encounter three normal stages
of opposition. In the first, it is denounced as an imposture; in the
second—that is, when it is beginning to force itself into notice—it
is cursorily examined, and plausibly explained away; in the third, or
_cui bono_ stage, it is decried as useless, and hostile to religion.
And when it is fully admitted, it passes only under a protest that it
has been perfectly known for ages—a proceeding intended to make the new
truth ashamed of itself, and wish it had never been born.

I congratulate the sea-serpent on having arrived at the second stage of
belief. Since Professor Owen (no disrespect to his genuine ability and
eminent knowledge) has explained it into a sea-elephant, its chance of
being itself is much improved; and as it will skip the third stage—for
who will venture to question the good of a sea-serpent?—it is liable
now any morning “to wake and find itself famous,” and to be received
even at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where its remains may commemoratively be
ticketed the Ex-Great-Seal.

POSTSCRIPT, (1850.)—It may save trouble to some future experimenter to
narrate my own exploits with the divining rod.

In the spring of 1847, being then at Weilbach in Nassau, a region
teeming with underground sources of water, I requested the son of
the proprietor of the bathing establishment—a tall, thin, pale,
white-haired youth, by name Edward Seebold—to walk in my presence up
and down a promising spot of ground, holding a divining fork of hazel,
with the accessories recommended by M. de Tristan to beginners—that is
to say, he held in his right hand three pieces of silver, besides one
handle of the rod, while the handle which he held in his left hand was
covered with a thin silk.

The lad had not made five steps when the point of the divining fork
began to ascend. He laughed with astonishment at the event, which was
totally unexpected by him; and he said that he experienced a tickling
or thrilling sensation in his hands. He continued to walk up and down
before me. The fork had soon described a complete circle; then it
described another; and so it continued to do as long as he walked thus,
and as often as, after stopping, he resumed his walk. The experiment
was repeated by him in my presence, with like success, several times
during the ensuing month. Then the lad fell into ill health, and I
rarely saw him. However, one day I sent for him, and begged him to do
me the favour of making another trial with the divining fork. He did
so, but the instrument moved slowly and sluggishly; and when, having
completed a semicircle, it pointed backwards towards the pit of his
stomach, it stopped, and would go no farther. At the same time the lad
said he felt an uneasy sensation, which quickly increased to pain,
at the pit of the stomach, and he became alarmed, when I bade him
quit hold of one handle of the divining rod, and the pain ceased. Ten
minutes afterwards I induced him to make another trial; the results
were the same. A few days later, when the lad seemed still more out
of health, I induced him to repeat the experiment. Now, however, the
divining fork would not move at all.

I entertain little doubt that the above performances of Edward Seebold
were genuine. I thought the same of the performances of three English
gentlemen, and of a German, in whose hands, however, the divining rod
never moved through an entire circle. In the hands of one of them
its motion was retrograde, or abnormal: that is to say, it began by

But I met with other cases, which were less satisfactory, though not
uninstructive. I should observe that, in the hands of several who
tried to use it in my presence, the divining fork would not move an
inch. But there were two younger brothers of Edward Seebold, and a
bath-maid, and my own man, in whose hands the rod played new pranks.
When these parties walked _forwards_ the instrument ascended, or
moved normally; but when, by my desire, they walked _backwards_, the
instrument immediately went the other way. I should observe that, in
the hands of Edward Seebold, the instrument moved in the same direction
whether he walked forwards or backwards; and I have mentioned that at
first it described in his hands a complete circle. But with the four
parties I have just been speaking of, the motion of the fork was always
limited in extent. When it moved normally at starting, it stopped
after describing an arc of about 225°; in the same way, when it moved
abnormally at starting, it would stop after describing an arc of about
135°; that is to say, there was one spot the same for the two cases,
beyond which it could not get. Then I found that, in the hands of my
man, the divining rod would move even when he was standing still,
although with a less lively action; still it stopped as before, nearly
at the same point. Sometimes it ascended, sometimes descended. Then
I tried some experiments, touching the point with a magnetic needle.
I found, in the course of them, that when my man knew which way I
expected the fork to move, it invariably answered my expectations;
but when I had the man blindfolded, the results were uncertain and
contradictory. The end of all this was, that I became certain that
several of those in whose hands the divining rod moves, set it in
motion and direct its motion by the pressure of their fingers, and by
carrying their hands nearer to, or farther apart. In walking forwards,
the hands are unconsciously borne towards each other; in walking
backwards, the reverse is the case.

Therefore, I recommend no one to prosecute these experiments unless
he can execute them himself, and unless the divining rod describes a
complete circle in his hands; and even then he should be on his guard
against self-deception.

POSTSCRIPT II.—I am now (May, 1851) again residing at the bathing
establishment of Weilbach, near Mayence; and it was with some interest
and curiosity that the other day I requested Mr. Edward Seebold, now a
well-grown young man, in full health, to try his hand again with the
divining-rod. He readily assented to my request; and he this time knew
exactly what result I expected. But the experiment entirely failed.
The point of the divining rod rose, as he walked, not more than two
or three inches; but this it does with every one who presses the two
handles towards each other during the experiment. Afterwards the
implement remained perfectly stationary. I think I am not at liberty
to withhold this result from the reader, whom it may lead to question,
though it cannot induce myself to doubt, the genuineness of the former
performances of Mr. E. S.


 VAMPYRISM.—Tale exemplifying the superstition—The Vampyr state of
 the body in the grave—Various instances of death-trance—The risk of
 premature interment considered—The Vampyr visit.

In acknowledging my former letter, you express an eager desire to
learn, as you phrase it, “all about Vampyrs, if there ever were such
things.” I will not delay satisfying your curiosity, although by so
doing I interrupt the logical order of my communications. It is,
perhaps, all the better. The proper place of this subject falls in the
midst of a philosophical disquisition; and it would have been a pity
not to present it to you in its pristine colouring. But how came your
late tutor, Mr. H., to leave you in ignorance upon a point on which, in
my time, schoolboys much your juniors entertained decided opinions?

Were there ever such things as Vampyrs? _Tantamne rem tam negligenter!_
I turn to the learned pages of Horst for a luminous and precise
definition of the destructive and mysterious beings whose existence you
have ventured to consider problematical.

“A Vampyr is a dead body which continues to live in the grave; which
it leaves, however, by night, for the purpose of sucking the blood of
the living, whereby it is nourished and preserved in good condition,
instead of being decomposed like other dead bodies.”

Upon my word, you really deserve, since Mr. George Combe has clearly
shown, in his admirable work on the Constitution of Man, and its
adaptation to the surrounding world, that ignorance is a statutable
crime before nature, and punished by the laws of Providence—you
deserve, I say, unless you contrive to make Mr. H. your substitute,
which I think would be just, yourself to be the subject of the
nocturnal visit of a Vampyr. Your skepticism will abate pretty
considerably when you see him stealthily entering your room, yet are
powerless under the fascination of his fixed and leaden eye—when you
are conscious, as you lie motionless with terror, of his nearer and
nearer approach—when you feel his face, fresh with the smell of the
grave, bent over your throat, while his keen teeth make a fine incision
in your jugular, preparatory to his commencing his plain but nutritive

You would look a little paler the next morning, but that would be all
for the moment; for Fischer informs us that the bite of a Vampyr leaves
in general no mark upon the person. But he fearfully adds, “it (the
bite) is nevertheless speedily fatal,” unless the bitten person protect
himself by eating some of the earth from the grave of the Vampyr, and
smearing himself with his blood. Unfortunately, indeed, these measures
are seldom, if ever, of more than temporary use. Fischer adds, “if
through these precautions the life of the victim be prolonged for a
period, sooner or later he ends with becoming a Vampyr himself; that is
to say, he dies and is buried, but continues to lead a Vampyr life in
the grave, nourishing himself by infecting others, and promiscuously
propagating Vampyrism.”

This is no romancer’s dream. It is a succinct account of a superstition
which to this day services in the east of Europe, where little more
than a century ago it was frightfully prevalent. At that period
Vampyrism spread like a pestilence through Servia and Wallachia,
causing numerous deaths, and disturbing all the land with fear of the
mysterious visitation, against which no one felt himself secure.

Here is something like a good, solid, practical popular delusion. Do
I believe it? To be sure I do. The facts are matter of history: the
people died like rotted sheep; and the cause and method of their dying
was, in their belief, what has just been stated. You suppose, then,
they died frightened out of their lives, as men have died whose pardon
has been proclaimed when their necks were already on the block, of the
belief that they were going to die? Well, if that were all, the subject
would still be worth examining. But there is more in it than that, as
the following o’er true tale will convince you, the essential points of
which are authenticated by documentary evidence.

In the spring of 1727, there returned from the Levant to the village
of Meduegna, near Belgrade, one Arnod Paole, who, in a few years of
military service and varied adventure, had amassed enough to purchase
a cottage and an acre or two of land in his native place, where he
gave out that he meant to pass the remainder of his days. He kept
his word. Arnod had yet scarcely reached the prime of manhood; and
though he must have encountered the rough as well as the smooth of
life, and have mingled with many a wild and reckless companion, yet
his naturally good disposition and honest principles had preserved him
unscathed in the scenes he had passed through. At all events, such
were the thoughts expressed by his neighbours as they discussed his
return and settlement among them in the Stube of the village Hof. Nor
did the frank and open countenance of Arnod, his obliging habits and
steady conduct, argue their judgment incorrect. Nevertheless, there was
something occasionally noticeable in his ways—a look and tone that
betrayed inward disquiet. Often would he refuse to join his friends,
or on some sudden plea abruptly quit their society. And he still more
unaccountably, and as it seemed systematically, avoided meeting his
pretty neighbour Nina, whose father occupied the next tenement to
his own. At the age of seventeen, Nina was as charming a picture of
youth, cheerfulness, innocence, and confidence, as you could have
seen in all the world. You could not look into her limpid eyes, which
steadily returned your gaze, without seeing to the bottom of the pure
and transparent spring of her thoughts. Why, then, did Arnod shrink
from meeting her? He was young; had a little property; had health and
industry; and he had told his friends he had formed no ties in other
lands. Why, then, did he avoid the fascination of the pretty Nina, who
seemed a being made to chase from any brow the clouds of gathering
care? But he did so; yet less and less resolutely, for he felt the
charm of her presence. Who could have done otherwise? And how could he
long resist—he didn’t—the impulse of his fondness for the innocent girl
who often sought to cheer his fits of depression?

And they were to be united—were betrothed; yet still an anxious gloom
would fitfully overcast his countenance, even in the sunshine of those

“What is it, dear Arnod, that makes you sad? It cannot be on my
account, I know, for you were sad before you ever noticed me; and
that, I think,” (and you should have seen the deepening rose upon her
cheeks,) “surely first made me notice you.”

“Nina,” he answered, “I have done, I fear, a great wrong in trying to
gain your affections. Nina, I have a fixed impression that I shall not
live; yet, knowing this, I have selfishly made my existence necessary
to your happiness.”

“How strangely you talk, dear Arnod! Who in the village is stronger and
healthier than you? You feared no danger when you were a soldier. What
danger do you fear as a villager of Meduegna?”

“It haunts me, Nina.”

“But, Arnod, you were sad before you thought of me. Did you then fear
to die?”

“Ah, Nina, it is something worse than death.” And his vigorous frame
shook with agony.

“Arnod, I conjure you, tell me.”

“It was in Cossova this fate befell me. Here you have hitherto escaped
the terrible scourge. But there they died, and the dead visited the
living. I experienced the first frightful visitation, and I fled; but
not till I had sought his grave, and exacted the dread expiation from
the Vampyr.”

Nina’s blood ran cold. She stood horror-stricken. But her young heart
soon mastered her first despair. With a touching voice she spoke—

“Fear not, dear Arnod; fear not now. I will be your shield, or I will
die with you!”

And she encircled his neck with her gentle arms, and returning hope
shone, Iris-like, amid her falling tears. Afterwards they found a
reasonable ground for banishing or allaying their apprehension in the
length of time which had elapsed since Arnod left Cossova, during which
no fearful visitant had again approached him; and they fondly trusted
_that_ gave them security.

It is a strange world. The ills we fear are commonly not those which
overwhelm us. The blows that reach us are for the most part unforeseen.
One day, about a week after this conversation, Arnod missed his footing
when on the top of a loaded hay-wagon, and fell from it to the ground.
He was picked up insensible, and carried home, where, after lingering a
short time, he died. His interment, as usual, followed immediately. His
fate was sad and premature. But what pencil could paint Nina’s grief!

Twenty or thirty days after his decease, says the perfectly
authenticated report of these transactions, several of the
neighbourhood complained that they were haunted by the deceased Arnod;
and, what was more to the purpose, four of them died. The evil, looked
at skeptically, was bad enough, but aggravated by the suggestions of
superstition, it spread a panic through the whole district. To allay
the popular terror, and if possible to get at the root of the evil, a
determination was come to publicly to disinter the body of Arnod, with
the view of ascertaining whether he really was a Vampyr, and, in that
event, of treating him conformably. The day fixed for this proceeding
was the fortieth after his burial.

It was on a gray morning in early August that the commission visited
the quiet cemetery of Meduegna, which, surrounded with a wall of unhewn
stone, lies sheltered by the mountain that, rising in undulating green
slopes, irregularly planted with fruit trees, ends in an abrupt craggy
ridge, feathered with underwood. The graves were, for the most part,
neatly kept, with borders of box, or something like it, and flowers
between; and at the head of most a small wooden cross, painted black,
bearing the name of the tenant. Here and there a stone had been
raised. One of considerable height, a single narrow slab, ornamented
with grotesque Gothic carvings, dominated over the rest. Near this
lay the grave of Arnod Paole, towards which the party moved. The work
of throwing out the earth was begun by the gray, crooked old sexton,
who lived in the Leichenhaus, beyond the great crucifix. He seemed
unconcerned enough; no Vampyr would think of extracting a supper out of
him. Nearest the grave stood two military surgeons, or feldscherers,
from Belgrade, and a drummer-boy, who held their case of instruments.
The boy looked on with keen interest; and when the coffin was exposed
and rather roughly drawn out of the grave, his pale face and bright
intent eye showed how the scene moved him. The sexton lifted the lid of
the coffin: the body had become inclined to one side. Then turning it
straight, “Ha! ha!” said he, pointing to fresh blood upon the lips—“Ha!
ha! What! Your mouth not wiped since last night’s work?” The spectators
shuddered; the drummer-boy sank forward, fainting, and upset the
instrument-case, scattering its contents; the senior surgeon, infected
with the horror of the scene, repressed a hasty exclamation, and simply
crossed himself. They threw water on the drummer-boy, and he recovered,
but would not leave the spot. Then they inspected the body of Arnod. It
looked as if it had not been dead a day. On handling it, the scarf-skin
came off, but below were _new skin and new nails_! How could _they_
have come there but from its foul feeding! The case was clear enough;
there lay before them the thing they dreaded—the Vampyr. So, without
more ado, they simply drove a stake through poor Arnod’s chest,
whereupon a quantity of blood gushed forth, and the corpse uttered an
audible groan. “Murder! oh, murder!” shrieked the drummer-boy, as he
rushed wildly, with convulsed gestures, from the cemetery.

The drummer-boy was not far from the mark. But, quitting the romancing
vein, which had led me to try and restore the original colours of the
picture, let me confine myself, in describing the rest of the scene and
what followed, to the words of my authority.

The body of Arnod was then burnt to ashes, which were returned to the
grave. The authorities further staked and burnt the bodies of the four
others which were supposed to have been infected by Arnod. No mention
is made of the state in which they were found. The adoption of these
decisive measures failed, however, entirely to extinguish the evil,
which continued still to hang about the village. About five years
afterwards it had again become very rife, and many died through it;
whereupon the authorities determined to make another and a complete
clearance of the Vampyrs in the cemetery, and with that object they had
all the graves, to which present suspicion attached, opened, and their
contents officially anatomized, of which procedure the following is the
medical report, here and there _abridged_ only:—

1. A woman of the name of Stana, twenty years of age, who had died
three months before of a three days’ illness following her confinement.
She had before her death avowed that she had _anointed_ herself with
the blood of a Vampyr, to liberate herself from his persecution.
Nevertheless, she, as well as her infant, whose body through careless
interment had been half eaten by the dogs, had died. Her body was
entirely free from decomposition. On opening it, the chest was found
full of recently effused blood, and the bowels had exactly the
appearances of sound health. The skin and nails of her hands and feet
were loose and came off, but underneath lay new skin and nails.

2. A woman of the name of Miliza, who had died at the end of a three
months’ illness. The body had been buried ninety and odd days. In the
chest was liquid blood. The viscera were as in the former instance.
The body was declared by a heyduk, who recognised it, to be in better
condition, and fatter, than it had been in the woman’s legitimate

3. The body of a child eight years old, that had likewise been buried
ninety days: it was in the Vampyr condition.

4. The son of a heyduk named Milloc, sixteen years old. The body
had lain in the grave nine weeks. He had died after three days’
indisposition, and was in the condition of a Vampyr.

5. Joachim, likewise son of a heyduk, seventeen years old. He had died
after three days’ illness; had been buried eight weeks and some days;
was found in the Vampyr state.

6. A woman of the name of Rusha, who had died of an illness of ten
days’ duration, and had been six weeks buried, in whom likewise fresh
blood was found in the chest.

(The reader will understand, that to _see_ blood in the chest, it is
first necessary to _cut_ the chest open.)

7. The body of a girl of ten years of age, who had died two months
before. It was likewise in the Vampyr state, perfectly undecomposed,
with blood in the chest.

8. The body of the wife of one Hadnuck, buried seven weeks before;
and that of her infant, eight weeks old, buried only twenty-one days.
They were both in a state of decomposition, though buried in the same
ground, and closely adjoining the others.

9. A servant, by name Rhade, twenty-three years of age; he had died
after an illness of three months’ duration, and the body had been
buried five weeks. It was in a state of decomposition.

10. The body of the heyduk Stanco, sixty years of age, who had died six
weeks previously. There was much blood and other fluid in the chest and
abdomen, and the body was in the Vampyr condition.

11. Millac, a heyduk, twenty-five years old. The body had been in the
earth six weeks. It was perfectly in the Vampyr condition.

12. Stanjoika, the wife of a heyduk, twenty years old; had died after
an illness of three days, and had been buried eighteen. The countenance
was florid. There was blood in the chest and in the heart. The viscera
were perfectly sound; the skin remarkably fresh.

The document which gives the above particulars is signed by three
regimental surgeons, and formally countersigned by a lieutenant-colonel
and sub-lieutenant. It bears the date of “June 7, 1732, Meduegna near
Belgrade.” No doubt can be entertained of its authenticity, or of
its _general_ fidelity; the less that it does not stand alone, but
is supported by a mass of evidence to the same effect. It appears to
establish, beyond question, that where the fear of Vampyrism prevails,
and there occur several deaths, in the popular belief connected with
it, the bodies, when disinterred weeks after burial, present the
appearance of corpses from which life has only recently departed.

What inference shall we draw from this fact?—that Vampyrism is true in
the popular sense?—and that these fresh-looking and well-conditioned
corpses had some mysterious source of preternatural nourishment? That
would be to adopt, not to solve the superstition. Let us content
ourselves with a notion not so monstrous, but still startling enough:
that the bodies, which were found in the so-called Vampyr state,
instead of being in a new or mystical condition, were simply alive
in the common way, or had been so for some time subsequent to their
interment; that, in short, they were the bodies of persons who
had been buried alive, and whose life, where it yet lingered, was
finally extinguished through the ignorance and barbarity of those who
disinterred them. In the following sketch of a similar scene to that
above described, the correctness of this inference comes out with
terrific force.

Erasmus Francisci, in his remarks upon the description of the Dukedom
of Krain by Valvasor, speaks of a man of the name of Grando, in the
district of Kring, who died, was buried, and became a Vampyr, and as
such was exhumed for the purpose of having a stake thrust through him.

“When they opened his grave, after he had been long buried, his face
was found with a colour, and his features made natural sorts of
movements, as if the dead man smiled. He even opened his mouth as if he
would inhale fresh air. They held the crucifix before him, and called
in a loud voice, ‘See, this is Jesus Christ who redeemed your soul
from hell, and died for you.’ After the sound had acted on his organs
of hearing, and he had connected perhaps some ideas with it, tears
began to flow from the dead man’s eyes. Finally, when after a short
prayer for his poor soul, they proceeded to hack off his head, the
corpse uttered a screech, and turned and rolled just as if it had been
alive—and the grave was full of blood.”

We have thus succeeded in interpreting one of the unknown terms in
the Vampyr theorem. The suspicious character, who had some dark way
of nourishing himself in the grave, turns out to be an unfortunate
gentleman (or lady) whom his friends had buried under a mistake while
he was still alive, and who, if they afterwards mercifully let him
alone, died sooner or later either naturally or of the premature
interment—in either case, it is to be hoped, with no interval of
restored consciousness. The state which thus passed for death and led
to such fatal consequences, apart from superstition, deserves our
serious consideration; for, although of very rare, it is of continual
occurrence, and society is not sufficiently on its guard against a
contingency so dreadful when overlooked. When the nurse or the doctor
has announced that all is over—that the valued friend or relative has
breathed his last—no doubt crosses any one’s mind of the reality of the
sad event. Disease is now so well understood—every step in its march
laid down and foreseen—the approach of danger accurately estimated—the
liability of the patient, according to his powers of resisting it, to
succumb earlier or to hold out longer—all is theoretically so clear
that a wholesome suspicion of error in the verdict of the attendants
seldom suggests itself. The evil I am considering ought not, however,
to be attributed to redundance of knowledge: it arises from its partial
lack—from a too general neglect of one very important section in
pathological science. The laity, if not the doctors too, constantly
lose sight of the fact, that there exists an alternative to the fatal
event of ordinary disease; that a patient is liable at any period of
illness to deviate, or, as it were, to slide off, from the customary
line of disease into another and a deceptive route—_instead of death,
to encounter apparent death_.

The Germans express this condition of the living body by the term
“scheintod,” which signifies exactly _apparent death_; and it is
perhaps a better term than our English equivalent, “suspended
animation.” But both these expressions are generic terms, and a
specific term is still wanted to denote the present class of instances.
To meet this exigency, I propose, for reasons which will afterwards
appear, to employ the term “death-trance” to designate the cases we are

Death-trance is, then, one of the forms of suspended animation: there
are several others. After incomplete poisoning, after suffocation
in either of its various ways, after exposure to cold in infants
newly born, a state is occasionally met with, of which (however each
may still differ from the rest) the common feature is an apparent
suspension of the vital actions. But all of these so-cited instances
agree in another important respect, which second inter-agreement
separates them as a class from death-trance. They represent, each and
all, a period of conflict between the effects of certain deleterious
impressions and the vital principle, the latter struggling against the
weight and force of the former. Such is not the case in death-trance.

Death-trance is a positive status—a period of repose —the duration of
which is sometimes definite and predetermined, though unknown. Thus
the patient, the term of the death-trance having expired, occasionally
suddenly wakes, entirely and at once restored. Oftener, however, the
machinery which has been stopped seems to require to be jogged—then it
goes on again.

The basis of death-trance is suspension of the action of the heart,
and of the breathing, and of voluntary motion; generally likewise
feeling and intelligence, and the vegetative changes in the body, are
suspended. With these phenomena is joined loss of external warmth;
so that the usual evidence of life is gone. But there have occurred
varieties of this condition, in which occasional slight manifestations
of one or other of the vital actions have been observed.

Death-trance may occur as a primary affection, suddenly or gradually.
The diseases the course of which it is liable, as it were, to
bifurcate, or to graft itself upon, are first and principally all
disorders of the nervous system. But in any form of disease, when the
body is brought to a certain degree of debility, death-trance may
supervene. Age and sex have to do with its occurrence; which is more
frequent in the young than in the old, in women than in men—differences
evidently connected with greater irritability of the nervous system.
Accordingly, women in labour are among the most liable to death-trance,
and it is from such a case that I will give a first instance of the
affection as portrayed by a medical witness. (_Journal des Savans_,

M. Rigaudeaux, surgeon to the military hospital, and licensed accoucher
at Douai, was sent for on the 8th of September, 1745, to attend the
wife of Francis Dumont, residing two leagues from the town. He was
late in getting there; it was half-past eight, A. M.—too late, it
seemed; the patient was declared to have died at six o’clock, after
eighteen hours of ineffectual labour-pains. M. Rigaudeaux inspected
the body; there was no pulse or breath; the mouth was full of froth,
the abdomen tumid. He brought away the infant, which he committed to
the care of the nurses, who, after trying to reanimate it for three
hours, gave up the attempt, and prepared to lay it out, when it opened
its mouth. They then gave it wine, and it was speedily recovered. M.
Rigaudeaux, who returned to the house as this occurred, inspected again
the body of the mother. (It had been already nailed down in a coffin.)
He examined it with the utmost care; but he came to the conclusion that
it was certainly dead. Nevertheless, as the joints of the limbs were
still flexible, although seven hours had elapsed since its apparent
death, he left the strictest injunctions to watch the body carefully,
to apply stimulants to the nostrils from time to time, to slap the
palms of the hands, and the like. At half-past three o’clock symptoms
of returning animation showed themselves, and the patient recovered.

The period during which every ordinary sign of life may be absent,
without the prevention of their return, is unknown, but in
well-authenticated cases it has much exceeded the period observed in
the above instance. Here is an example borrowed from the _Journal des
Savans_, 1741.

There was a Colonel Russell, whose wife, to whom he was affectionately
attached, died, or appeared to do so. But he would not allow the body
to be buried; and threatened to shoot any one who should interfere to
remove it for that purpose. His conduct was guided by reason as well
as by affection and instinct. He said he would not part from the body
till its decomposition had begun. Eight days had passed, during which
the body of his wife gave no sign of life: when, as he sat bedewing her
hand with his tears, the church-bell tolled, and, to his unspeakable
amazement, his wife sat up and said—“That is the last bell; we shall be
too late.” She recovered.

There are cases on record of persons, who could spontaneously fall
into death-trance. Monti, in a letter to Haller, adverts to several;
and mentions, in particular, a peasant upon whom, when he assumed this
state, the flies would settle; breathing, the pulse, and all ordinary
signs of life disappeared. A priest of the name of Cælius Rhodaginus
had the same faculty. But the most celebrated instance is that of
Colonel Townshend, mentioned in the surgical works of Gooch, by whom
and by Dr. Cheyne and Dr. Baynard, and by Mr. Shrine, an apothecary,
the performance of Colonel Townshend was seen and attested. They had
long attended him, for he was an habitual invalid, and he had often
invited them to witness the phenomenon of his dying and coming to life
again; but they had hitherto refused, from fear of the consequences
to himself: at last they assented. Accordingly, in their presence,
Colonel Townshend laid himself down on his back, and Dr. Cheyne
undertook to observe his pulse; Dr. Baynard laid his hand on his
heart, and Mr. Shrine had a looking-glass to hold to his mouth. After
a few seconds, pulse, breathing, and the action of the heart, were no
longer to be observed. Each of the witnesses satisfied himself of
the entire cessation of these phenomena. When the death-trance had
lasted half-an-hour, the doctors began to fear that their patient
had pushed the experiment too far, and was dead in earnest; and they
were preparing to leave the house, when a slight movement of the body
attracted their attention. They renewed their routine of observation;
when the pulse and sensible motion of the heart gradually returned,
and breathing, and consciousness. The tale ends abruptly. Colonel
Townshend, on recovering, sent for his attorney, made his will, and
died, for good and all, six hours afterwards.

Although many have recovered from death-trance, and there seems to
be in each case a definite period to its duration, yet its event is
not always so fortunate. The patient sometimes really dies during
its continuance, either unavoidably, or in consequence of adequate
measures not being taken to stimulate him to waken, or to support
life. The following very good instance rests on the authority of Dr.
Schmidt, a physician of the hospital of Paderborn, where it occurred,
(_Rheinisch-Westphälischer Anzeiger_, 1835, No. 57 and 58.)

A young man of the name of Caspar Kreite, from Berne, died in the
hospital of Paderborn, but his body could not be interred for three
weeks, for the following reasons. During the first twenty-four hours
after drawing its last breath, the corpse opened its eyes, and the
pulse could be felt, for a few minutes, beating feebly and irregularly.
On the third and fourth day, points of the skin, which had been burned
to test the reality of his death, suppurated. On the fifth day the
corpse changed the position of one hand: on the ninth day a vesicular
eruption appeared on the back. For nine days there was a vertical
fold of the skin of the forehead—a sort of frown—and the features had
not the character of death. The lips remained red till the eighteenth
day; and the joints preserved their flexibility from first to last.
He lay in this state in a warm room for nineteen days, without any
farther alteration than a sensible wasting in flesh. Till after the
nineteenth day no discoloration of the body, or odour of putrefaction,
was observed. He had been cured of ague, and laboured under a slight
chest affection; but there had been no adequate cause for his death. It
is evident that this person was much more alive than many are in the
death-trance; and one half suspects that stimulants and nourishment,
properly introduced, might have entirely reanimated him.

I might exemplify death-trance by many a well authenticated romantic
story.—A noise heard in a vault; the people, instead of breaking open
the door, go for the keys, and for authority to act, and return too
late; the unfortunate person is found dead, having previously gnawn her
hand and arm in agony.—A lady is buried with a jewel of value on her
finger; thieves open the vault to possess themselves of the treasure;
the ring cannot be drawn from the finger, and the thieves proceed to
cut the finger off; the lady, wakening from her trance, scares the
thieves away, and recovers.—A young married lady dies and is buried; a
former admirer, to whom her parents had refused her hand, bribes the
sexton to let him see once more the form he loved. The body opportunely
comes to life at this moment, and flies from Paris with its first lover
to England, where they are married. Venturing to return to France, the
lady is recognised, and is reclaimed by her previous husband through
a suit at law; her counsel demurs, on the ground of the desertion and
burial; but the law not admitting this plea, she flies again to England
with her preserver, to avoid the judgment of the parliament of Paris,
in the acts of which the case stands recorded. There are one or two
other cases that I dare not cite, the particulars of which transcend
the wildest flights of imagination.

It may be thought that these are all tales of the olden time; and that
the very case I have given from the hospital at Paderborn shows that
now medical men are sufficiently circumspect, and the public really on
its guard to prevent a living person being interred as one dead. And
I grant that in England, among all but the poorest class, the danger
is practically inconsiderable of being buried alive. But that it still
exists for every class, and that for the poor the danger is great and
serious, I am afraid there is too much reason for believing. It is
stated in Froriep’s _Notizen_, 1829, No. 522, that, agreeably to a then
recent ordinance in New York, coffins presented for burial were kept
above ground eight days, open at the head, and so arranged, that the
least movement of the body would ring a bell, through strings attached
to the hands and feet. It will hardly be credited, that _out of twelve
hundred_ whose interment had been thus postponed, _six returned to
life_—one in every two hundred! The arrangement thus beneficently
adopted at New York is, however, imperfect, as it makes time the
criterion for interment. The time is _not_ known during which a body
in death-trance may remain alive. Nothing but one positive condition
of the body, which I will presently mention, authenticates death. It
is frightful to think how, in the south of Europe, within twenty-four
hours after the last breath bodies are shovelled into pits among heaped
corpses; and to imagine what fearful agonies of despair must sometimes
be encountered by unhappy beings, who wake amid the unutterable horrors
of such a grave. But it is enough to look at home, and to make no delay
in providing there for the careful watching of the bodies of the poor,
till life has certainly departed. Many do not dream how barbarous and
backward the vaunted nineteenth century will appear to posterity!

But there is another danger to which society is obnoxious through not
making sufficient account of the contingency of death-trance, that
appears to me more urgent and menacing than even the risk of being
buried alive.

The danger I advert to is not _this_; but this is something—

The Cardinal Espinosa, prime minister under Philip the Second of Spain,
died, as it was supposed, after a short illness. His rank entitled him
to be embalmed. Accordingly, the body was opened for that purpose. The
lungs and heart had just been brought into view, when the latter was
seen to beat. The cardinal awakening at the fatal moment, had still
strength enough left to seize with his hand the knife of the anatomist!

But it is _this_—

On the 23d of September, 1763, the Abbé Prevost, the French novelist
and compiler of travels, was seized with a fit in the forest of
Chantilly. The body was found, and conveyed to the residence of the
nearest clergyman. It was supposed that death had taken place through
apoplexy. But the local authorities, desiring to be satisfied of the
fact, ordered the body to be examined. During the process, the poor
abbé uttered a cry of agony.—It was too late.

It is to be observed that cases of sudden and unexplained death are, on
the one hand, the cases most likely to furnish a large percentage of
death-trance; and, on the other, are just those in which the anxiety
of friends or the over-zealousness of a coroner is liable to lead
to premature anatomization. Nor does it even follow that, because
the body happily did not wake while being dissected, the spark of
life was therefore extinct. This view, however, is too painful to be
followed out in reference to the past. But it imperatively suggests
the necessity of forbidding necroscopic examinations, before there
is perfect evidence that life has departed—that is, of extending to
this practice the rule which ought to be made absolute in reference to

Thus comes out the practical importance of the question, how is it to
be known that the body is no longer alive?

The entire absence of the ordinary signs of life is insufficient to
prove the absence of life. The body may be externally cold; the pulse
not be felt; breathing may have ceased; no bodily motion may occur; the
limbs may be stiff (through spasm); the sphincter muscles relaxed; no
blood may flow from an opened vein; the eyes may have become glassy;
there may be partial _mortification_ to offend the sense with the smell
of death; and yet the body may be alive.

The only security we at _present_ know of, that life has left the body,
is the supervention of chemical decomposition, shown in commencing
change of colour of the integuments of the abdomen and throat to blue
and green, and an attendant cadaverous fetor.

To return from this important digression to the former subject of the
Vampyr superstition. The second element which we have yet to explain
is the Vampyr visit and its consequence—the lapse of the party visited
into death-trance. There are two ways of dealing with this knot; one is
to cut it, the other to untie it.

It may be cut, by denying the supposed connexion between the Vampyr
visit and the supervention of death-trance in the second party. Nor
is the explanation thus obtained devoid of plausibility. There is no
reason why death-trance should not, in certain seasons and places, be
_epidemic_. Then the persons most liable to it would be those of weak
and irritable nervous systems. Again, a first effect of the epidemic
might be further to shake the nerves of weaker subjects. These are
exactly the persons who are likely to be infected with imaginary
terrors, and to dream, or even to fancy, they have seen Mr. or Mrs.
such a one, the last victims of the epidemic. The dream or impression
upon the senses might again recur, and the sickening patient have
already talked of it to his neighbours, before he himself was seized
with death-trance. On this supposition, the Vampyr visit would sink
into the subordinate rank of a mere premonitory symptom.

To myself, I must confess, this explanation, the best I am yet in a
position to offer, appears barren and jejune; and not at all to do
justice to the force and frequency, or, as tradition represents the
matter, the universality of the Vampyr visit as a precursor of the
victim’s fate. Imagine how strong must have been the conviction of
the reality of the apparition, how common a feature it must have been,
to have led to the laying down of the unnatural and repulsive process
customarily followed at the Vampyr’s grave, as the regular and proper
preventive of ulterior consequences.

I am disposed, therefore, rather to try and untie this knot, and with
that object to wait, hoping that something may turn up in the progress
of these inquiries to assist me in its solution. In the mean time, I
would beg leave to consider this second half of the problem a compound
phenomenon, the solutions of the two parts of which may not emerge
simultaneously. The Vampyr visit is one thing; its presumed contagious
effect another.

The Vampyr visit! Well, it is clear the Vampyr could not have left his
grave bodily—or, at all events, if he could, he never could have buried
himself again. Yet in his grave they always found him. So the body
could not have been the visitant. Then, in popular language, it was the
ghost of the Vampyr that haunted its future victim. The ghostly nature
of the visitant could not have been identified at a luckier moment.
The very subject which I next propose to undertake is the analysis of
ghosts. I have, therefore, only to throw the Vampyr ghost into the
crucible with the rest; and to-morrow I may perhaps be able to report
the rational composition of the whole batch.


 UNREAL GHOSTS—Law of Sensorial Illusions—Cases of Nicolai,
 Schwedenborg, Joan of Arc—Fetches—Churchyard ghosts.

The projected analysis has been crowned with success. The fumes of
superstition have been driven off, and the ghosts have been reduced to
rational elements. All trace of supernatural agency has vanished; and
in its place are found three principles—one physical, two psychical—by
the help of which every conceivable ghost may in future be alternately
decomposed and recompounded by the merest tyro.

The first of which I shall describe the nature and operation is a
psychical truth, already known to most persons of education. It is of
very general use in ghost-building; it forms the immediate _personnel_
of every ghost; and is of so active a nature that alone, or assisted
by a little credulity, it is enough to constitute the simplest kind—a
common fetch. Mixed with a dose of mental anxiety, or as much remorse
as will lie on the point of a dagger, it will form a troublesome
retrospective ghost. The second principle—a physical one, less
generally known—is the basis of that sturdy apparition the churchyard
ghost, which it will turn out in very fair style aided by fancy
alone; but, to perfect the illusive result, the co-operation of the
first principle is necessary. The third, an entirely new one, is the
foundation of real ghosts—that is, of ghosts which announce unexpected
events, distant in space or time; the same principle is concerned in
true dreams, and in second-sight.

The first of the three principles adverted to is the physiological
fact that, when the blood is heated, the nervous system overstrained,
or digestion out of sorts, the thereby directly or sympathetically
disordered brain is liable to project before us illusory forms, which
are coloured and move like life, and are so far undistinguishable from
reality. Sometimes a second sense is drawn into the phantasmagoria, and
the fictitious beings speak as you do. Almost always the illusion stops
there. But in one or two marvellous cases, the touch has been involved
in the hallucination, and the ghost has been tangible. These phenomena
are termed sensorial illusions. The visual part of them, the first
and commonest, has been the most attended to. The cause immediately
producing it appears to be an affection, not of the organ of vision,
but of that part of the brain in which the nerves of seeing take their
origin. This organ it is which in health realizes our sensations of
colour, and converts them into visual perceptions. Like other parts of
the brain, it is stored with memories of its past impressions, ready
to be evoked—either pure and true by conception, or any how combined
by fancy. In perfect health, a chance moment of warm recollection will
call up from this source the once familiar face transiently, but how

In its morbid state, the beings it projects before us are for the
most part strangers, just as the personages we meet in our dreams are
exceptionally only our living and present acquaintance.

The most instructive case of sensorial illusions on record, as
containing the largest illustration of the phenomena, is that of
Nicolai, the bookseller of Berlin. The narrative was read before
the Academy of Sciences at Berlin, in 1799. Its substance runs
thus:—Nicolai had met with some family troubles, which much disturbed
him. Then, on the first of January, 1791, there stood before him, at
the distance of ten paces, the ghost of his eldest son. He pointed at
it, directing his wife to look. She saw it not, and tried to convince
Nicolai that it was an illusion. In a quarter of an hour it vanished.
In the afternoon, at four o’clock, it came again. Nicolai was alone.
He went to his wife’s room, the ghost followed him. About six other
apparitions joined the first, and they walked about among each other.
After some days the apparition of his son stayed away; but its place
was filled with the figures of a number of persons, some known, some
unknown to Nicolai—some of dead, others of living persons. The known
ones represented distant acquaintances only. The figures of none of
Nicolai’s habitual friends were there. The appearances were almost
always human; occasionally a man on horseback, and birds, and dogs,
would present themselves. The apparitions came mostly after dinner,
at the commencement of digestion; they were just like real persons,
the colouring a thought fainter. The apparitions were equally distinct
whether Nicolai was alone or in society, in the dark as by day; in his
own house or in those of others; but in the latter case they were less
frequent, and they very seldom made their appearance in the streets.
During the first eight days they seemed to take very little notice of
one another, but walked about like people at a fair, only here and
there communing with each other. They took no notice of Nicolai, or
of the remarks he addressed regarding them to his wife and physician.
No effort of his would dismiss them, or bring an absent one back.
When he shut his eyes, they sometimes disappeared, sometimes remained;
when he opened his eyes, they were there as before. After a week they
became more numerous, and began to converse. They conversed with
one another first, and then addressed him. Their remarks were short
and unconnected, but sensible and civil. His acquaintances inquired
after his health, and expressed sympathy with him, and spoke in terms
comforting him. The apparitions were most conversable when he was
alone; nevertheless, they mingled in the conversation when others were
by, and their voices had the same sound as those of real persons. The
illusion went on thus from the 24th of February to the 20th of April;
so that Nicolai, who was in good bodily health, had time to become
tranquillized about the nature of his visiters, and to observe them
at his ease. At last they rather amused him; then the doctors thought
of an efficient plan of treatment. They prescribed leeches; and then
followed the “denouement” of this interesting representation. The
apparitions became pale, and vanished. On the 20th of April, at the
time of applying the leeches, Nicolai’s room was full of figures moving
about among each other. They first began to have a less lively motion;
shortly afterwards their colours became paler, in another half hour
paler still, though the forms still remained. About seven o’clock in
the evening the figures had become colourless, and they moved scarcely
at all; but their outline was still tolerably perfect. Gradually that
became less and less defined; at last they disappeared, breaking into
air, fragments only remaining, which at last all vanished. By eight
o’clock all were gone, and Nicolai subsequently saw no more of them.

In general, as in Nicolai’s case, the sight is the sense at first and
alone affected. Illusions of the hearing, if they occur, follow later.
In some most extraordinary cases, I have observed that the touch has
likewise participated in the affection; the following is an instance:—

Herr von Baczko, already subject to visual hallucinations of a
diseased nervous system, his right side weak with palsy, his right eye
blind, and the vision of the left imperfect, was engaged one evening
shortly after the battle of Jena, as he tells in his autobiography, in
translating a pamphlet into Polish, when he felt a poke in his loins.
He looked round, and found that it proceeded from a Negro or Egyptian
boy, seemingly about twelve years of age. Although he was persuaded the
whole was an illusion, he thought it best to knock the apparition down,
when he felt that it offered a sensible resistance. The Negro then
attacked him on the other side, and gave his left arm a particularly
disagreeable twist, when Baczko again pushed him off. The Negro
continued to visit him constantly during four months, preserving the
same appearance, and remaining tangible; then he came seldomer; and,
finally appearing as a brown-coloured apparition with an owl’s head, he
took his leave.

Sensorial illusions, technically speaking, are not mental delusions;
or they become so only when they are believed to be realities. So
sensorial illusions are not insanity, neither do they menace that
disorder: they are not its customary precursors. Nevertheless, they
may accompany the first outbreak of madness; and they occur much more
frequently in lunatics than in persons of sound mind. In insanity they
are firmly believed in by the patient, whose delusions they may either
suggest or be shaped by. In insanity, illusions of the hearing often
occur alone, which is comparatively rare in sane people.

The objects of visual illusions are commonly men and women; but
animals, and even inanimate objects, sometimes constitute them. A lady
whose sight was failing her had long visions every day of rows of
buildings, houses, and parks, and such like. The subjects of visual
illusions are generally perfectly trivial, like the events of a common
dream. But, though susceptible of change, their custom is to recur with
much the same character daily. One patient could at will summon the
apparition of an acquaintance to join the rest; but, once there, he
could not get rid of him.

Sometimes it happens that sensorial illusions are in accordance with
a congenial train of thought—for instance, with peculiar impressions
referring to religion. They are then very liable to be construed by the
patient into realities, and to materially influence his conversation
and conduct. He remains, no doubt, strictly sane in the midst of these
delusions. But he is apt not to be thought so; or, to use a figure, the
world’s opinion of such a person becomes a polar force, and society is
divided into his admiring followers and those who think him a lunatic.
Such was, and remains, the fate of Schwedenborg.

Schwedenborg, the son of a Swedish clergyman of the name of Schwedberg,
ennobled as Schwedenborg, was up to the year 1743, which was the
fifty-fourth of his age, an ordinary man of the world, distinguished
only in literature, having written many volumes on philosophy and
science, and being professor in the Mineralogical School, where he was
much respected. On a sudden, in the year 1743, he believed himself to
have got into a commerce with the world of spirits, which so fully
took possession of his thoughts, that he not only published their
revelations, but was in the habit of detailing their daily chat with
him. Thus he says, “I had a conversation the other day on that very
point with the apostle Paul,” or with Luther, or some other dead
person. Schwedenborg continued in what he believed to be constant
communion with spirits till his death, in 1772. He was, without doubt,
in the fullest degree convinced of the reality of his spiritual
commerce. So in a letter to the Wurtemburg Prelate, Oetinger, dated
November 11, 1766, he uses the following words: “If I have spoken with
the apostles? To this I answer, I conversed with St. Paul during a
whole year, particularly with reference to the text, Romans iii. 28.
I have three times conversed with St. John, once with Moses, and a
hundred times with Luther, who allowed that it was against the warning
of an angel that he professed _fidem solam_, and that he stood alone
upon the separation from the Pope. With angels, finally, have I these
twenty years conversed, and converse daily.”

Of the angels, he says, “They have human forms, the appearance of
men, as I have a thousand times seen; for I have spoken with them
as a man with other men—often with several together—and I have seen
nothing in the least to distinguish them from other men.” They had, in
fact, exactly the same appearance as Nicolai’s visiters. “Lest any
one should call this an illusion, or imaginary perception, it is to
be understood that I am accustomed to see them when myself perfectly
wide awake, and in full exercise of my observation. The speech of an
angel, or of a spirit, sounds like and as loud as that of a man; but
it is not heard by the bystanders. The reason is, that _the speech of
an angel, or a spirit, finds entrance first into a man’s thoughts, and
reaches his organs of hearing from within_.” A wonderful instance this
last reason how it is possible _cum ratione insanire_; he analyzes the
illusion perfectly, even when he is most deceived by it.

“The angels who converse with men speak not in their own language, but
in the language of the country; and likewise in other languages which
are known to a man, not in languages which he does not understand.”
Schwedenborg here interrupted the angels, and, to explain the matter,
observed that they most likely appeared to speak his mother tongue,
_because, in fact_, it was not they who spoke, but himself after their
suggestions. The angels would not allow this, and went away at the
close of the conversation unpersuaded.

The following fiction is very fine: “When approaching, the angels often
appear like a ball of light; and they travel in companies so grouped
together—they are allowed so to unite by the Lord—that they may act as
one being, and share each other’s ideas and knowledge; and in this form
they bound through the universe, from planet to planet.”

A still more interesting example of the influence of sensorial
illusions on human conduct is furnished by the touching history of Joan
of Arc.

“It is now seven years ago,” so spoke before her judges the simple but
high-minded maiden—“it was a summer day, towards the middle hour,
I was about thirteen years old, and was in my father’s garden, that
I heard for the first time, on my right hand, towards the church, a
voice, and there stood a figure in a bright radiance before my eyes.
It had the appearance and look of a right good and virtuous man, bore
wings, was surrounded with light on all sides, and by the angels of
heaven. It was the archangel Michael. The voice seemed to me to command
respect; but I was yet a child, and was frightened at the figure, and
doubted very much whether it were the archangel. I saw him and the
angels as distinctly before my eyes as I now see you, my judges.” With
words of encouragement the archangel announced to her that God had
taken pity upon France, and that she must hasten to the assistance of
the King. At the same time he promised her that St. Catharine and St.
Margaret would shortly visit her: he told her that she should do what
they commanded her, because they were sent by God to guide and conduct
her. “Upon this,” continued Joan, “St. Catharine and St. Margaret
appeared to me, as the archangel had foretold. They ordered me to get
ready to go to Robert de Beaudricourt, the King’s captain. He would
several times refuse me, but at last would consent, and give me people
who would conduct me to the King. Then should I raise the siege of
Orleans. I replied to them that I was a poor child, who understood
nothing about riding on horseback and making war. They said I should
carry my banner with courage; God would help me, and win back for my
king his entire kingdom. As soon as I knew,” continued Joan, “that I
was to proceed on this errand, I avoided as much as I could taking part
in the sports and amusements of my young companions.” “So have the
saints conducted me during seven years, and have given me support and
assistance in all my need and labours; and now at present,” said she to
her judges, “no day goes by but they come to see me.” “I seldom see
the saints that they are not surrounded with a halo of light; they wear
rich and precious crowns, as it is reasonable they should. I see them
always under the same forms, and have never found in their discourse
any discrepancies. I know how to distinguish one from the other, and
distinguish them as well by the sound of their voices as by their
salutation. They come often without my calling upon them. But when they
do not come, I pray to the Lord that he will send them to me; and never
have I needed them but they have visited me.”

Such is part of the defence of the heroic Joan of Arc, who was taken
prisoner by the Duke of Burgundy on the 23d of May, 1430—sold by him
for a large sum to the English, and by them put on her trial as a
heretic, idolatress, and magician—condemned, and finally burned alive
on the 30th of May, 1431!

Her innocence, simplicity, and courage incense one sadly against her
judges; but it is likely there were at that time many good and sensible
persons who approved of her sentence, and never suspected its cruelty
and injustice. Making allowance for the ignorance and barbarity of the
age, her treatment was, perhaps, not worse than that of Abd-el-Kader
now. Her visions—they were palpably the productions of her own fancy,
the figures of saints and angels, which she had seen in missals,
projected before her mental sight; and their cause the instinctive
workings, unknown to herself, of her young high-couraged and
enthusiastic heart, shaping its suggestions into holy prophesyings—the
leading facts of which her resolute will realized, while their actual
discrepancies with subsequent events she pardonably forgot.[1]

[Footnote 1: I cannot deny that another principle, afterwards to be
explained, may have been additionally in operation in this interesting

I will present yet another and less pleasing picture, where the subject
of sensorial illusions was of infirm mind, and they struck upon the
insane chord, and reason jangled harshly out of tune. It would be a
curious question whether such a sensorial illusion as overthrew the
young seer’s judgment in the following case, could have occurred to a
mind previously sane; whether, for instance, it could have occurred to
Schwedenborg, and, in that event, how he would have dealt with it.

Arnold (a German writer) relates, in his history of the church and of
heresy, how there was a young man in Königsberg, well educated, the
natural son of a priest, who had the impression that he was met near a
crucifix on the wayside by seven angels, who revealed to him that he
was to represent God the Father on earth, to drive all evil out of the
world, &c. The poor fellow, after pondering upon this illusion a long
time, issued a circular, beginning thus:

“We John, Albrecht, Adelgreif, Syrdos, Amata, Kanemata, Kilkis,
Mataldis, Schmalkilimundis, Sabrandis, Elioris, Hyperarch-High-priest
and Emperor, Prince of Peace of the whole world, Hyperarch-King of the
holy kingdom of Heaven, Judge of the living and of the dead, God and
Father, in whose divinity Christ will come on the last day to judge the
world, Lord of all lords, King of all kings,” &c.

He was thereupon thrown into prison at Königsberg, where every means
were used by the clergy to reclaim him from these blasphemous and
heretical notions. To all their entreaties, however, he listened only
with a smile of pity—“that they should think of reclaiming God the
Father.” He was then put to the torture, and as what he endured made no
alteration in his convictions, he was condemned to have his tongue torn
out with red-hot tongs, to be cut in four quarters, and then burned
under the gallows. He wept bitterly, not at his own fate, but that they
should pronounce such a sentence on the Deity. The executioner was
touched with pity, and implored him to make a final recantation. But
he persisted that he was God the Father, whether they pulled his tongue
out by the roots or not; and so he was executed!

From the preceding forcible illustrations of the working of sensorial
illusions on individual minds, it is to descend a little in interest
to trace their ministry in giving rise to the rickety forms of popular
superstition. However, the material may be the same, whether it be
cast for the commemoration of a striking event or coined for vulgar
currency. And here is a piece of the latter description, with the
recommendation of being at least fresh from the mint, and spic-and-span
new—an instance of superstition surviving in England in the middle of
the nineteenth century.

A young gentleman, who has recently left Oxford, told me that he was
one evening at a supper-party in college, when they were joined by a
common friend on his return from hunting. They expected him, but were
struck with his appearance. He was pale and agitated. On questioning
him, they learned the cause. During the latter part of his ride home,
he had been accompanied by a horseman, who kept exact pace with him,
the rider and horse being close facsimiles of himself and the steed
he rode, even to the copy of a new fangled bit which he sported that
day for the first time. He had, in fact, seen his “double” or “Fetch,”
and it had shaken his nerves pretty considerably. His friends advised
him to consult the college-tutor, who failed not to give him some good
advice, and hoped the warning would not be thrown away. My informant,
who thought the whole matter very serious, and was inclined to believe
the unearthly visit to have been no idle one, added that it had made
the ghost-seer, for the time at least, a wiser and better man.

Such a visionary duplicate of one’s-self—one’s fetch—is a not
unfrequent form of sensorial illusion. In more ignorant days the
appearance of a fetch excited much apprehension. It was supposed to
menace death or serious calamity to its original. Properly viewed,
unless it proceed from hard work and overstrained thought, (from which
you can desist,) it indicates something wrong in your physical health,
and its warning goes no further than to consult a doctor, to learn,
“what rhubarb, senna, or what purgative drug will drive the spectre
hence.” The efficiency of such means was shown in the case of Nicolai.
Yet in this case, I may remark, the originating cause of the attack
had been anxiety about the very son whose apparition was the first of
the throng to visit him. Had the illusion continued limited to the
figure of the son, it would have been more questionable what art could
do towards dismissing it. At all events, in such a case, the first
thing is to remove the perilous stuff that weighs upon the mind. So the
personage whose words I have been using was doubtless right, in his own
case, to “throw physic to the dogs.”

In the tragedy of _Macbeth_, sensorial illusions are made to play their
part with curious physiological correctness. The mind of Macbeth is
worn by the conflict between ambition and duty. At last his better
resolves give way; and his excited fancy projects before him the fetch
of his own dagger, which marshals him the way that he shall go. The
spectator is thus artistically prepared for the further working of
the same infirmity in the apparition of Banquo, which, unseen by his
guests, is visible only to the conscience-stricken murderer. With a
scientific precision no less admirable, the partner of his guilt—_a
woman_—is made to have attacks of trance, (_to which women are more
liable than men_,) caused by her disturbed mind; and in her trance
the exact physiological character of one form of that disorder is
portrayed—_she enacts a dream_, which is the essence of somnambulism.

One almost doubts whether Shakspeare was aware of the philosophic truth
displayed in these master-strokes of his own art. The apparitions
conjured up in the witch scenes of the same play, and the ghost in
_Hamlet_, are moulded on the pattern of vulgar superstition. He employs
indifferently the baser metal and the truthful inspirations of his own
genius—realizing Shelley’s strange figure of

              “a poet hidden
    In the light of thought.”

So they say the sun is himself dark as a planet, and his atmosphere
alone the source of light, through the gaps in which his common earth
is seen. I am tempted—but it would be idle, and I refrain—to quote
an expression or two, or a passage, from Shakspeare, exemplifying
his wonderful turn for approximating to truths of which he must have
been ignorant—where lines of admired and unaccountable beauty have
unexpectedly acquired lucidity and appositeness through modern science.
While, to make a quaint comparison, his great contemporary, Bacon,
employed the lamp of his imagination to illuminate the paths to the
discovery of truth, Shakspeare would, with random intuition, seize
on the undiscovered truths themselves, and use them to vivify the
conceptions of his fancy.

Let me now turn to explain a ghost of a more positive description—the
churchyard ghost. The ghost will perhaps exclaim against so trivial
a title, and one so unjust in reference to old superstition; but it
will be seen he deserves no better. In popular story he had a higher
office; his duty was to watch the body over which church rites had not
been performed, that had been rudely inearthed after violent death. As

There was a cottage in a village I could name to which a bad report
attached. More than one who had slept in it had seen, at midnight, the
radiant apparition of a little child standing on the hearth-stone. At
length suspicion was awakened. The hearth-stone was raised, and there
were found buried beneath it the remains of an infant. A story was now
divulged how the last tenant and a female of the village had abruptly
quitted the neighbourhood. The ghost was real and significant enough.

But here is a still better instance from a trustworthy German work, P.
Kieffer’s _Archives_. The narrative was communicated by Herr Ehrman of
Strasburg, son-in-law of the well-known writer Pfeffel, from whom he
received it.

The ghost-seer was a young candidate for orders, eighteen years of age,
of the name of Billing. He was known to have very excitable nerves, had
already experienced sensorial illusions, and was particularly sensitive
to the presence of human remains, which made him tremble and shudder
in all his limbs. Pfeffel, being blind, was accustomed to take the arm
of this young man, and they walked thus together in Pfeffel’s garden,
near Colmar. At one spot in the garden, Pfeffel remarked that his
companion’s arm gave a sudden start, as if he had received an electric
shock. Being asked what was the matter, Billing replied, “Nothing.” But
on their going over the same spot again, the same effect recurred. The
young man being pressed to explain the cause of his disturbance, avowed
that it arose from a peculiar sensation which he always experienced
when in the vicinity of human remains; that it was his impression a
human body must be interred there; but that, if Pfeffel would return
with him at night, he should be able to speak with greater confidence.
Accordingly they went together to the garden when it was dark, and
as they approached the spot, Billing observed a faint light over it.
At ten paces from it he stopped, and would go no farther, for he saw
hovering over it, or self-supported in the air—its feet only a few
inches from the ground—a luminous female figure, nearly five feet high,
with the right arm folded on her breast, the left hanging by her side.
When Pfeffel himself stepped forward and placed himself about where
the figure appeared to be, Billing said it was now on his right hand,
now on his left, now behind, now before him. When Pfeffel cut the air
with his stick, it seemed as if it went through and divided a light
flame, which then united again. The visit, repeated the next night, in
company with some of Pfeffel’s relatives, gave the same result. They
did not see any thing. Pfeffel then, unknown to the ghost-seer, had
the ground dug up, when there was found at some depth, beneath a layer
of quicklime, a human body in progress of decomposition. The remains
were removed, and the earth carefully replaced. Three days afterwards,
Billing, from whom this whole proceeding had been kept concealed,
was again led to the spot by Pfeffel. He walked over it now without
experiencing any unusual impression whatever.

The explanation of this mysterious phenomenon has been but recently
arrived at. The discoveries of Von Reichenbach, of which I gave a
sketch in the first letter, announce the principle on which it depends.
Among these discoveries is the fact that the Od force makes itself
visible as a dim light or waving flame to highly sensitive subjects.
Such persons, in the dark, see flames issuing from the poles of magnets
and crystals. Von Reichenbach eventually discovered that the Od force
is distributed universally, although in varying quantities. But among
the causes which excite its evolution, one of the most active is
chemical decomposition. Then, happening to remember Pfeffel’s ghost
story, it occurred to Von Reichenbach that what Billing had seen was
possibly Od light. To test the soundness of this conjecture, Miss
Reichel, a very sensitive subject, was taken at night to an extensive
burying-ground near Vienna, where interments take place daily, and
there are many thousand graves. The result did not disappoint Von
Reichenbach’s expectations. Whithersoever Miss Reichel turned her
eyes, she saw masses of flame. This appearance manifested itself most
about recent graves. About very old ones it was not visible. She
described the appearance as resembling less bright flame than fiery
vapour, something between fog and flame. In several instances the light
extended four feet in height above the ground. When Miss Reichel placed
her hand on it, it seemed to her involved in a cloud of fire. When she
stood in it, it came up to her throat. She expressed no alarm, being
accustomed to the appearance.

The mystery has thus been entirely solved; for it is evident that the
spectral character of the luminous apparition, in the two instances
which I have narrated, had been supplied by the seers themselves. So
the superstition has vanished; but, as usual, it veiled a truth.


 TRUE GHOSTS.—The apparitions themselves always sensorial
 illusions—The truth of their communications accounted for—Zschokke’s
 Seer-gift described, to show the possibility of direct mental
 communication—Second-sight—The true relation of the mind to the living

The worst of a true ghost is, that, to be sure of his genuineness—that
is, of his veracity—one must wait the event. He is distinguished by no
sensible and positive characteristics from the commoner herd. There is
nothing in his outward appearance to raise him in your opinion above
a fetch. But even this fact is not barren. His dress,—it is in the
ordinary mode of the time, in nothing overdone. To be dressed thus
does credit to his taste, as to be dressed at all evinces his sense
of propriety; but alas! the same elements convict him of objective
unreality. Whence come that aerial coat and waistcoat, whence those
visionary trousers?—alas! they can only have issued from the wardrobe
in the seer’s fancy. And, like his dress, the wearer is imaginary, a
mere sensorial illusion, without a shadow of externality; he is not
more substantial than a dream.

But dreams have differences of quality no less than ghosts. All do not
come through the ivory gate. Some are true and significant enough. See,
there glides one skulking assassin-like into the shade,—he not long
since killed his man; “Hilloa, ill-favoured Dream! come hither and give
an account of yourself.” (Enter Dream.)

A Scottish gentleman and his wife were travelling four or five years
ago in Switzerland. There travelled with them a third party, an
intimate friend, a lady, who some time before had been the object of
a deep attachment on the part of a foreigner, a Frenchman. Well, she
would have nothing to say to him on the topic uppermost in his mind,
but she gave him a good deal of serious advice, which she probably
thought he wanted; and she ultimately promoted, or was a cognizant
party to, his union with a lady whom she likewise knew. The so-married
couple were now in America; and the lady occasionally heard from them,
and had every reason to believe they were both in perfect health.
One morning, on their meeting at breakfast, she told her companions
that she had had a very impressive dream the night before, which had
recurred twice. The scene was a room in which lay a coffin; near to it
stood her ex-lover in a luminous transfigured resplendent state; his
wife was by, looking much as usual. The dream had caused the lady some
misgivings, but her companions exhorted her to view it as a trick of
her fancy, and she was half persuaded so to do. The dream, however, was
right, notwithstanding. In process of time, letters arrived announcing
the death, after a short illness, of the French gentleman, within the
twenty-four hours in which the vision appeared. (Sensation—applause,
followed by cries of Shame; the Dream, hurrying away, is hurt by the
horn of the gate.)

It would be difficult to persuade the lady who dreamed this dream that
there was no connexion between it and the event it foreshadowed in
her mind beyond the accidental coincidence of time. Nevertheless, to
this conclusion an indifferent auditor would probably come; and upon
the following reasoning: We sometimes dream of the death of an absent
friend when he is alive and in health, just as we sometimes dream that
long-lost friends are alive. And it is quite possible—nay, likely to
occur in the chapter of accidents—nay, certain to turn up now and then
among the dreams of millions during centuries—that a fortuitous dream,
seemingly referring to the fact, should be coincident in point of time
with the death of a distant friend. To explain one such case, we need
look no further than to the operation of chance. Why, then, ever seek
another principle?

Let us examine a parallel ghost-story. A gentleman has a relative in
India, healthy, of good constitution, in the civil service, prosperous:
he has no cause for anxiety, and entertains none, respecting his
relative. But one day he sees his ghost. In due course letters arrive
mentioning the occurrence of his relative’s death on that day. The
case is more remarkable than the last; for the ghost-seer never in
his life _but that once_ experienced a sensorial illusion. Still, it
is evidently possible that the two events were, through chance alone,
coincident in time. And if in this case, why not in another?

Then let me adduce a more remarkable instance: A late General Wynyard,
and the late General Sir John Sherbroke, when young men, were serving
in Canada. One day—it was daylight—Mr. Wynyard and Mr. Sherbroke both
saw pass through the room where they sat a figure, which Mr. Wynyard
recognised as a brother then far away. One of the two walked to the
door, and looked out upon the landing-place, but the stranger was not
there; and a servant who was on the stairs had seen nobody pass out. In
time news arrived that Mr. Wynyard’s brother had died about the time of
the visit of the apparition.

I have had opportunities of inquiring of two near relations of this
General Wynyard upon what evidence the above story rests. They told me
they had each heard it from his own mouth. More recently, a gentleman,
whose accuracy of recollection exceeds that of most people, has told me
that he had heard the late Sir John Sherbroke, the other party in the
ghost-story, tell it much in the same way at a dinner-table.

One does not feel as comfortably satisfied that the complicated
coincidences in this tale admit of being referred to chance. The
odds are enormous against two persons—young men in perfect health,
neither of whom before or after this event experienced a sensorial
illusion—being the subjects at the same moment of one, their common
and only one, which concurred in point of time with an event that
it foreshadowed, unless there were some real connexion between the
event and the double apparition. And we feel a nascent inclination to
inquire whether—in case such instances as the present occasionally
recur, and instances like the two before narrated become, when looked
for, startlingly multiplied—there exists any known mental or physical
principle, by the help of which they may be explained into natural

The more we look after facts of the above nature, the more urgent
becomes the want of such a means of explanation. In every family
circle, in every party of men accidentally brought together, you will
be sure to hear, if the conversation fall on ghosts and dreams, one or
more instances—which the narrators represent as well authenticated—of
intimations of the deaths of absent persons conveyed to friends either
through an apparition or a dream, or an equivalent unaccountable
presentiment. A gentleman—himself of distinguished ability—told me that
when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge, he was secretary to a ghost
society formed in sportive earnest by some of the cleverest young men
of one of the best modern periods of the university. One of the results
of their labours was the collection of about a dozen stories of the
above description resting upon good evidence.

Then there transpire occasionally cases with more curious features
still. Not only is the general intimation of an event given, but minute
particulars attending it are figured in the dream, or communicated by
the ghost. Such tales have sometimes been authenticated in courts of
justice. Here is one out of last week’s newspaper:—

“In a Durham paper of last week, there was an account of the
disappearance of Mr. Smith, gardener to Sir Clifford Constable, who, it
was supposed, had fallen into the river Tees, his hat and stick having
been found near the water-side. From that time up to Friday last the
river had been dragged every day; but every effort so made to find the
body proved ineffectual. On the night of Thursday, however, a person
named Awde, residing at little Newsham, a small village about four
miles from Wycliff, dreamt that Smith was laid under the ledge of a
certain rock, about three hundred yards below Whorlton Bridge, and that
_his right arm was broken_. Awde got up early on Friday, and his dream
had such an effect upon him that he determined to go and search the
river. He accordingly started off for that purpose, without mentioning
the matter, being afraid that he would be laughed at by his neighbours.
Nevertheless, on his arriving at the boat-house, he disclosed his
object on the man asking him for what purpose he required the boat.
He rowed to the spot he had seen in his dream; and there, strange to
say, upon the very first trial that he made with his boat-hook, he
pulled up the body of the unfortunate man, with his right arm actually
broken.”—(_Herald_, December, 1848.)

Reviewing all that I have advanced, it appears to me that there are two
desiderata which pressingly require to be now supplied. First, some
one should take the pains of authenticating at the time, and putting
on permanent record, stories like the above, to be at the service
of future speculators. But, secondly, so numerous and well attested
are those already current, that the bringing forward into light of
some principle by which they may be shown to be natural events is now
peremptorily called for.

To lead to the supply of the second desideratum, I proceed to mention
a physical phenomenon, which from time to time occurred to the late
historian and novelist, Heinrich Zschokke. It is described by him in
a sort of autobiography, entitled _Selbstschau_, which he published
a few years ago. It was only last year that Zschokke died, having
attained a good old age. Early brought into public life in the troubles
of Switzerland, and afterwards maintaining his place in public
consideration by his numerous writings, he was personally widely known:
he was universally esteemed a man of strict veracity and integrity. He
writes thus of himself:—

“If the reception of so many visiters was sometimes troublesome,
it repaid itself occasionally either by making me acquainted with
remarkable personages, or by bringing out a wonderful sort of
seer-gift, which I called my inward vision, and which has always
remained an enigma to me. I am almost afraid to say a word upon this
subject; not for fear of the imputation of being superstitious, but
lest I should encourage that disposition in others; and yet it forms a
contribution to psychology. So to confess.

“It is acknowledged that the judgment which we form of strangers, on
first meeting them, is frequently more correct than that which we
adopt upon a longer acquaintance with them. The first impression which,
through an instinct of the soul, attracts one towards, or repels one
from, another, becomes, after a time, more dim, and is weakened, either
through his appearing other than at first, or through our becoming
accustomed to him. People speak, too, in reference to such cases of
involuntary sympathies and aversions, and attach a special certainty
to such manifestations in children, in whom knowledge of mankind by
experience is wanting. Others, again, are incredulous, and attribute
all to physiognomical skill. But of myself.

“It has happened to me occasionally, at the first meeting with a total
stranger, when I have been listening in silence to his conversation,
that his past life, up to the present moment, with many minute
circumstances belonging to one or other particular scene in it, has
come across me like a dream, but distinctly, entirely, involuntarily,
and unsought, occupying in duration a few minutes. During this period I
am usually so plunged into the representation of the stranger’s life,
that at last I neither continue to see distinctly his face, on which
I was idly speculating, nor to hear intelligently his voice, which at
first I was using as a commentary to the text of his physiognomy. For
a long time I was disposed to consider these fleeting visions as a
trick of the fancy; the more so that my dream-vision displayed to me
the dress and movements of the actors, the appearance of the room, the
furniture, and other accidents of the scene; till, on one occasion,
in a gamesome mood, I narrated to my family the secret history of a
sempstress who had just before quitted the room. I had never seen the
person before. Nevertheless the hearers were astonished, and laughed,
and would not be persuaded but that I had a previous acquaintance
with the former life of the person, inasmuch as what I had stated was
perfectly true. I was not less astonished to find that my dream-vision
agreed with reality. I then gave more attention to the subject, and, as
often as propriety allowed of it, I related to those whose lives had so
passed before me the substance of my dream-vision, to obtain from them
its contradiction or confirmation. On every occasion its confirmation
followed, not without amazement on the part of those who gave it.

“Least of all could I myself give faith to these conjuring tricks of my
mind. Every time that I described to any one my dream-vision respecting
him, I confidently expected him to answer it was not so. A secret
thrill always came over me when the listener replied, ‘It happened as
you say;’ or when, before he spoke, his astonishment betrayed that I
was not wrong. Instead of recording many instances, I will give one
which, at the time, made a strong impression upon me.

“On a fair day, I went into the town of Waldshut, accompanied by two
young foresters who are still alive. It was evening, and, tired with
our walk, we went into an inn called the Vine. We took our supper with
a numerous company at the public table; when it happened that they made
themselves merry over the peculiarities and simplicity of the Swiss,
in connexion with the belief in Mesmerism, Lavater’s physiognomical
system, and the like. One of my companions, whose national pride was
touched by their raillery, begged me to make some reply, particularly
in answer to a young man of superior appearance, who sat opposite, and
had indulged in unrestrained ridicule. It happened that the events of
this very person’s life had just previously passed before my mind.
I turned to him with the question, whether he would reply to me with
truth and candour, if I narrated to him the most secret passages of
his history, he being as little known to me as I to him? That would,
I suggested, go something beyond Lavater’s physiognomical skill. He
promised, if I told the truth, to admit it openly. Then I narrated
the events with which my dream-vision had furnished me, and the table
learnt the history of the young tradesman’s life, of his school years,
his peccadilloes, and, finally, of a little act of roguery committed by
him on the strong box of his employer. I described the uninhabited room
with its white walls, where, to the right of the brown door, there had
stood upon the table the small black money-chest, &c. A dead silence
reigned in the company during this recital, interrupted only when I
occasionally asked if I spoke the truth. The man, much struck, admitted
the correctness of each circumstance—even, which I could not expect, of
the last. Touched with his frankness, I reached my hand to him across
the table, and closed my narrative. He asked my name, which I gave him.
We sat up late in the night conversing. He may be alive yet.

“Now I can well imagine how a lively imagination could picture,
romance-fashion, from the obvious character of a person, how he would
conduct himself under given circumstances. But whence came to me the
involuntary knowledge of accessory details, which were without any sort
of interest, and respected people who for the most part were utterly
indifferent to me, with whom I neither had, nor wished to have, the
slightest association? Or was it in each case mere coincidence? Or had
the listener, to whom I described his history, each time other images
in his mind than the accessory ones of my story, but, in surprise at
the essential resemblance of my story to the truth, lost sight of the
points of difference? Yet I have, in consideration of this possible
source of error, several times taken pains to describe the most trivial
circumstances that my dream-vision has shown me.

“Not another word about this strange seer-gift, which I can aver was of
no use to me in a single instance, which manifested itself occasionally
only, and quite independently of any volition, and often in relation
to persons in whose history I took not the slightest interest. Nor
am I the only one in possession of this faculty. In a journey with
two of my sons, I fell in with an old Tyrolese who travelled about,
selling lemons and oranges, at the inn at Unterhauerstein in one of
the Jura passes. He fixed his eyes for some time upon me, joined in
our conversation, observed that though I did not know him he knew me,
and began to describe my acts and deeds, to the no little amusement of
the peasants, and astonishment of my children, whom it interested to
learn that another possessed the same gift as their father. How the
old lemon-merchant acquired his knowledge he was not able to explain
to himself nor to me. But he seemed to attach great importance to his
hidden wisdom.”[2]

[Footnote 2: Zschokke told a friend of mine at Frankfort, in 1847,
shortly before his death, which took place at an advanced age, that in
the latter years of his life his seer-gift had never manifested itself.]

In the newness of such knowledge, it is worth while to note separately
each of the particulars which attended the manifestation of this
strange mental faculty, with his account of which Zschokke has enriched

1. Then, after the power of looking up the entire recollections
of another, through some other channel than ordinary inquiry and
observation—and as it seemed _directly_—we may note,—

2. The rapidity, minuteness, and precision, which characterized the act
of inspection.

3. The feeling attending it of becoming absent or lost to what was
going on around.

4. Its involuntariness and unexpectedness.

5. Its being practicable on some only; and

6. Those entire strangers, and at their first interview with the seer.

At present I shall avail myself of the first broad fact alone,
remarking, however, of the conditions observed in it, that they clearly
indicate the existence of a law on which the phenomenon depended. And
I shall assume it to be proved by the above crucial instance, that the
mind, or soul, of one human being can be brought, in the natural course
of things, and under physiological laws hereafter to be determined,
into immediate relation with the mind of another living person.

If this principle be admitted, it is adequate to explain all the
puzzling phenomena of real ghosts and of true dreams. For example, the
ghostly and intersomnial communications, with which we have as yet
dealt, have been announcements of the deaths of absent parties. Suppose
our new principle brought into play; the soul of the dying person is
to be supposed to have come into direct communication with the mind of
his friend, with the effect of suggesting his present condition. If the
seer be dreaming, the suggestion shapes a corresponding dream; if he
be awake, it originates a sensorial illusion. To speak figuratively,
_merely figuratively_, in reference to the circulation of this partial
mental obituary, I will suppose that the death of a human being
throws a sort of gleam through the spiritual world, which may now
and then touch with light some fittingly disposed object; or even two
simultaneously, if chance have placed them in the right relation;—as
the twin-spires of a cathedral may be momentarily illuminated by some
far-off flash, which does not break the gloom upon the roofs below.

The same principle is applicable to the explanation of the vampyr
visit. The soul of the buried man is to be supposed to be brought into
communication with his friend’s mind. Thence follows, as a sensorial
illusion, the apparition of the buried man. Perhaps the visit may
have been an instinctive effort to draw the attention of his friend
to his living grave. I beg to suggest that it would not be an act of
superstition _now_, but of ordinary humane precaution, if one dreamed
pertinaciously of a recently buried acquaintance, or saw his ghost, to
take immediate steps to have the state of the body ascertained.

It is not my intention, in the present letter, to push the application
of this principle further. With slight modifications it might be
brought to explain several other wonderful stories, which we usually
neglect just from not seeing how to explain them. One class of these
instances is what was termed second-sight. The belief in it formerly
prevailed in Scotland, and in the whole of the north of Europe. But the
faculty, if it ever existed, seems to be disappearing now. However,
it is difficult, one has heard so many examples of the correctness of
its warnings and anticipations, not to believe that it once really
manifested itself.

A much respected Scottish lady, not unknown in literature, told me very
recently how a friend of her mother, whom she perfectly remembered,
had been compelled to believe in second-sight through its occurrence
in one of her servants. She had a cook, who was a continual annoyance
to her through her possession of this gift. On one occasion, when
the lady expected some friends, she learned, a short time before
they were to arrive, that the culinary preparations she had ordered
to honour them had not been made. Upon her remonstrating with the
offending cook, the latter simply but doggedly assured her that come
they would not; that she knew it to a certainty; and, true enough,
they did not come. Some accident had occurred to prevent their visit.
The same person frequently knew beforehand what her mistress’s plans
were, and was as inconvenient in her kitchen as a calculating prodigy
in a counting-house. Things went perfectly right, but the manner was
irregular and provoking; so her mistress turned her away. Supposing
this story true, the phenomena look just a modification of Zschokke’s

A number of incidents there are turning up, for the most part on
trivial occasions, which we put aside for fear of being thought
superstitious, because as yet a natural solution is not at hand for
them. Sympathy in general, the spread of panic fears, the simultaneous
occurrence of the same thoughts to two persons, the intuitive knowledge
of mankind possessed by some, the magnetic fascination of others,
may eventually be found to have to do with a special and unsuspected
cause. Among anecdotes of no great conclusiveness that I have heard
narrated of this sort, I will cite two of Lord Nelson, told by the
late Sir Thomas Hardy to the late Admiral the Hon. G. Dundas, from
whom I heard them. The first was mentioned to exemplify Nelson’s
quick insight into character. Captain Hardy was present as Nelson
gave directions to the commander of a frigate to make sail with all
speed—to proceed to certain points, where he was likely to fall in with
the French fleet—having seen the French, to go to a certain harbour,
and there await Lord Nelson’s coming. After the commander had left the
cabin, Nelson said to Hardy, “He will go to the West Indies, he will
see the French; he will go to the harbour I have directed him to; but
he will not wait for me—he will sail for England.” The commander did
so. Shortly before the battle of Trafalgar an English frigate was in
advance, looking out for the enemy; her place in the offing was hardly
discernible. Of a sudden Nelson said to Hardy, who was at his side,
“The Celeste,” (or whatever the frigate’s name was,) “the Celeste
sees the French.” Hardy had nothing to say on the matter. “She sees
the French; she’ll fire a gun.” Within a little time, the boom of the
signal-gun was heard.[3]

[Footnote 3: The following anecdote has no conceivable right to be
introduced on the present occasion; but I had it on the same authority,
and it is a pity it should be lost. As our fleet was bearing down upon
the enemies’ line at Trafalgar, Nelson paced the quarter-deck of the
Victory with Sir Thomas Hardy. After a short silence, touching his left
thigh with his remaining hand, Nelson said, “I’d give that, Hardy, to
come out of this.”]

I am not sure that my new principle will be a general favourite. It
will be said that the cases, in which I suppose it manifested, are
of too trivial a nature to justify so novel a hypothesis. My answer
is, the cases are few and trivial only because the subject has not
been attended to. For how many centuries were the laws of electricity
preindicated by the single fact that a piece of amber, when rubbed,
would attract light bodies! Again, the school of physiological
materialists will of course be opposed to it. They hold that the mind
is but a function or product of the brain, and cannot therefore
consistently admit its separate action. But their fundamental tenet is
unsound, even upon considering the analogies of matter alone.

What is meant by a product?—in what does production consist? Let
us look for instances: a metal is produced from an ore; alcohol is
produced from saccharine matter; the bones and sinews of an animal are
produced from its food. Production, in the common signification of the
word, means the conversion of one substance into another, weight for
weight, agreeably with, or under, mechanical, chemical, and vital laws.
I speak, of course, of material production. But the case of thought
is parallel. The products of the poet’s brain are but recombinations
of former ideas. Production, with him, is but a rearrangement of the
elements of thought. His food may turn into or produce new brain;
but it is the mental impressions he has stored which turn into new
imagery. To say that the brain turns into thought, is to assert that
consciousness and the brain are one and the same thing, which would be
an idle abuse of language.

It is indeed true that, with the manifestation of each thought or
feeling, a corresponding decomposition of the brain takes place. But
it is equally true that, in a voltaic battery in action, each movement
of electric force developed there is attended with a waste of the
metal-plates which help to form it. But that waste is not converted
into electric fluid. The exact quantity of pure zinc which disappears
may be detected in the form of sulphate of zinc. The electricity
was _not produced, it was only set in motion_, by the chemical
decomposition. Here is the true material analogy of the relation of
the brain to the mind. Mind, like electricity, is an imponderable
force pervading the universe: and there happen to be known to us
certain material arrangements, through which each may be influenced. We
cannot, indeed, pursue the analogy beyond this step. Consciousness and
electricity have nothing further in common. Their further relations to
the dissimilar material arrangements, through which they may be excited
or disturbed, are subjects of totally distinct studies, and resolvable
into laws which have no affinity, and admit of no comparison.

It is singular how early in the history of mankind the belief in the
separate existence of the soul developed itself as an instinct of our

Timarchus, who was curious on the subject of the demon of Socrates,
went to the cave of Trophonius to consult the oracle about it. There,
having for a short time inhaled the mephitic vapour, he felt as if he
had received a sudden blow on the head, and sank down insensible. Then
his head appeared to him to open, and to give issue to his soul into
the other world; and an imaginary being seemed to inform him that “the
part of the soul engaged in the body, entrammelled in its organization,
is the soul as ordinarily understood; but that there is another part
or province of the soul which is the daimon. This has a certain
control over the bodily soul, and among other offices constitutes
conscience.”—“In three months,” the vision added, “you will know more
of this.” At the end of three months Timarchus died.


 TRANCE.—Distinction of esoneural and exoneural mental
 phenomena—Abnormal relation of the mind and nervous system
 possible—Insanity—Sleep—Essential nature of Trance—Its alliance with
 spasmodic seizures—General characters of Trance—Enumeration of its

The time has now arrived for expounding the phenomena of Trance; an
acquaintance with which is necessary to enable you to understand the
source and nature of the delusions with which I have yet to deal.

You have already had glimpses of this condition. Arnod Paole was in a
trance in the cemetery of Meduegna—Timarchus was in a trance in the
cave of Trophonius.

Let me begin by developing certain preliminary conceptions relating to
the subject.

I. Common observation, the spontaneous course of our reflections, our
instinctive interpretation of nature, reveal to us matter, motion,
and intelligence, as the co-existing phenomena of the universe. In
the farthest distances of space cognisable to our senses, we discern
matter and motion, and their subordination to intelligence. Upon the
earth’s surface we discern, in the finely designed mechanism of each
plant, the agency of life; and we recognise in the microcosm of each
animal a living organization, fitted to be the recipient of individual
consciousness, or of personal being.

II. The intelligence which is communicated to living beings becomes,
to a great extent, dependent upon the organization with which it is
combined. Thus every mental faculty is found to have its definite seat
and habitat in the bodily frame. The principal successes of modern
physiologists have been achieved in determining with what precise parts
of the nervous system each affection of consciousness is functionally
associated. Different classes of nerves are found to be appropriated to
sensation and volition; different parts of the spinal cord are proved
to minister to different offices; and of the subdivisions of the brain,
each is thought to correspond with a separate faculty, or sentiment,
or appetite. So far the mental forces, or operations of a living human
being, may be conceived to be essentially esoneural, (εσω νευζον.) Each
appears to have its proper and special workshop or laboratory in the
nervous system.

III. But there are not wanting facts which make it reasonable to
think that our mental forces or operations transcend occasionally and
partially the limits of our corporeal frame. The phenomena adverted
to in the preceding letter, in connexion with the narrative of
Zschokke’s seer-gift, hardly seem to admit of explanation on any other
supposition. Nor is it a very improbable conjecture, that phenomena
of the same class form, as it were, the complements of many ordinary
esoneural operations. Possibly in common perception the mind directly
reaches the object perceived, being excited thereto by the antecedent
material impressions on our organs, and the sensations which follow. To
denote mental phenomena of the kind I am supposing, I propose the term
exoneural, (εξω νευζον.) I venture even, following out this idea, to
conjecture further, that the Od force may somehow furnish the dynamic
bridge along which our exoneural apprehension travels.

IV. The affections of consciousness would thus be in part esoneural,
in part exoneural, during the healthy and normal state of our being;
the esoneural part being executed in immediate connexion with its
appropriate organ, and every manifestation of it being attended with a
physical change in the latter.

V. But it is conceivable, on the assumption of mind being a separate
principle from matter, that the human soul may be capable of retaining
its union with the body in a new, unusual, and abnormal relation. The
hypothesis is startling enough. I adopt it only from seeing no other
way of accounting for certain facts which, with the evidence of their
reality, will presently be brought forward. I venture to suppose
that the mind of a living man may energize abnormally in two ways:
first, that a much larger share of its operations may be conducted
exoneurally—that is, out of the body—than usual; secondly, that
the esoneural mental functions may be conducted within the body in
unaccustomed organs, deserting those naturally appropriated to them.
Two or three instances have been already given, which favour, at all
events, the supposition of the possibility of such an abnormal relation
between the mind and the body being realized. But in most of the
instances hitherto adverted to, the normal relation may be supposed to
have remained.

VI. Thus all the ordinary phenomena of sensorial illusions at once are
esoneural, and suppose the persistence of the normal relation of mind
and body. The material organ to which the physical agencies preceding
sensation are propagated being irritated, is to be supposed to excite
in the mind sensuous recollections or fancies that are so vivid as to
appear realities.

VII. In mental delusions, again, there is no reason for surmising
the intervention of the abnormal relation. But what are mental
delusions? They are a part of insanity. And what is insanity? I will
summarily state its features; for some of the instances which remain
for explanation are referrible to it, and because I delight to crush a
volume into a paragraph.

The phenomena of insanity may be arranged under five heads: The first,
the insane temperament; the next three the fundamental forms of mental
derangement; the fifth, the paroxysmal state. The features of the
insane temperament are various; some of them are incompatible with the
simultaneous presence of others. When a group of them is present, as a
change in natural character, without insanity, insanity is threatened:
no form of insanity manifests itself without the presence of some of
them. The features of the insane temperament are these: The patient
withdraws his sympathies from those around him, is shy, reserved,
cunning, suspicious, with a troubled air, as if he felt something to
be wrong, and wonders if you see it; he is capricious, and has flaws
of temper; being talkative, he is flighty and extravagant; he is
hurried in his thoughts, and mode of speaking, and gestures; he has
fits of absence, in which he talks aloud to himself; he is restless,
and anxious for change of place. Of the elementary forms of insanity,
one consists in the entertainment of mental delusions: the patient
imagines himself the Deity, or a prophet, or a monarch, or that he
has become enormously wealthy; or that he is possessed by the devil,
or is persecuted by invisible beings, or is dead, or very poor, or
that he is the victim of public or private injustice. The second form
is moral perversion: the patient is depressed in spirits without a
cause, perhaps to the extent of meditating suicide; or he feels an
unaccountable desire to take the lives of others; or he is impelled
to steal, or to do gratuitous mischief; or he is a sot; or he has fits
of ungovernable and dangerous rage. The third form exhibits itself
in loss of connexion of ideas, failure of memory, loss of common
intelligence, disregard of the common decencies of life. Each of these
three elementary forms is sometimes met with alone; generally two
are combined. Sensorial illusions are common in insanity; auditory,
unaccompanied by visual illusions, are almost peculiar to it, and to
the cognate affection of delirium from fever or inflammation of the
brain. To the head of the paroxysmal state belongs the history of
exacerbations of insanity, of their sudden outbursts in persons of the
insane temperament, of their preferential connexion with this or that
antecedent condition of the patient, of their occasional periodicity.

VII. In congenital idiotcy and imbecility, the relation of the mind and
brain is normal. Often the defective organization is apparent through
which the intelligence is repressed. In many countries a popular
belief prevails that the imbecile have occasional glimpses of higher
knowledge. There is no reason evident why their minds should not be
susceptible of the abnormal relation.

VIII. In sleep, the mind and brain are in the normal relation. But what
is sleep, psychically considered?

It is best to begin by looking into the mental constituents of waking.
There is then passing before us an endless current of images and
reflections, furnished from our recollections, and suggested by our
hopes and our fears, by pursuits that interest us, or by their own
inter-associations. This current of thought is continually being
changed or modified, through impressions made upon our senses. It is
further liable to be still more importantly and systematically modified
by the exercise of the faculty of Attention. The attention operates
in a twofold manner. It enables us to detain at pleasure any subject
of thought before the mind; and, when not on such urgent duty, it
vigilantly inspects every idea which presents itself, and reports if
it be palpably unsound or of questionable tendency. To speak with more
precision, it is a power we have of controlling our thoughts, which
we drill to warn us whenever the suggested ideas conflict with our
experience or our principles.

Then of sleep. We catch glimpses of its nature at the moments of
falling asleep and of waking. When it is the usual time for sleep,
if our attention happen to be livelily excited, it is in vain we
court sleep. When we are striving to contend against the sense of
overwhelming fatigue, what we feel is, that we can no longer command
our attention. Then we are lost, or are asleep. Then the head and body
drop forwards; we have ceased to attend to the maintenance of our
equilibrium. Any iteration of gentle, impressions, enough to divert
attention from other objects, without arousing it, promotes sleep.

Thus we recognise as the psychical basis of sleep the suspension of the

Are any other mental faculties suspended in sleep? Sensation and the
influence of the will over the muscular system are not; for our dreams
are liable to be shaped by what we hear. The sleeper, without waking,
will turn his head away from a bright light, will withdraw his arm if
you pinch it, will utter loud words which he dreams he is employing.
The seeming insensibility in sleep, the apparent suspension of the
influence of the will, are simply consequences of the suspension of

I have, on another occasion, shown that the organs in which
sensations are realized, and volition energizes, are the segments of
the cranio-spinal cord in which the sentient and voluntary nerves
are rooted. I think I see now that the seat of the attention is the
“medulla oblongata.” For—alas for the imperfect conceptions into
which the imperfection of language as an instrument of thought forces
us!—what is the faculty of attention, which we have been considering
almost as a separate element of mind, but the individual “ich”
energizing, now keenly noticing impressions and thoughts, now allowing
them to pass, while it looks on with lazy indifference; now, at length,
worn out and exhausted, and incapable of further work? But this
inspecting and contrasting operation, where should it more naturally
find its bureau than at a point situated between the organs of the
understanding and those of the will?—that is to say, somewhere at the
junction of the spinal marrow and the brain. Well, Magendie ascertained
that just at that region there is a small portion of nervous matter,
pressure upon which causes immediately heavy sleep or stupor, while
its destruction—_for instance, the laceration of the little organ with
the point of a needle_—instantaneously and irrevocably extinguishes
life.[4] This precious link in our system is, reasonably enough, stowed
away in the securest part of our frame—that is to say, within the
head, upon the strong central bone of the base of the skull. How came
the fancy of Shakspeare by the happy figure which seems to adumbrate
Magendie’s discovery of to-day, in poetry written three hundred years

[Footnote 4: The reader who wishes to pursue this subject farther, will
find it expounded, in connexion with a large body of collateral facts,
in my work entitled _The Nervous System and its Functions_. Parker,
West Strand: 1842.]

                “Within the hollow crown,
    That rounds the mortal temples of a king,
    Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits
    Mocking his state, and grinning at his pomp;
    Allowing him a breath, a little hour,
    To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks;
    Infusing him with self and vain conceits,
    As if the flesh that walls about our life
    Were brass impregnable. Till, humoured thus,
    He comes at last, and, with a little pin,
    Bores through his castle wall—and farewell king!”

To return to our argument, Are the sentiments and higher faculties of
the mind suspended during sleep? Certainly not, if dreaming be a part
of natural sleep, as I hold it to be. For there are some who dream
always; others, who say they seldom dream; others, who disavow dreaming
at all. But the simplest view of these three cases is to suppose that
in sleep all persons always dream, but that all do not remember their
dreams. This imputed forgetfulness is not surprising, considering the
importance of the attention to memory, and that in sleep the attention
is suspended. Ordinary dreams present one remarkable feature; nothing
in them appears wonderful. We meet and converse with friends long dead;
the improbability of the event never crosses our minds. One sees a
horse galloping by, and calls after it as one’s friend—Mr. so-and-so.
We fly with agreeable facility, and explain to an admiring circle how
we manage it. Every absurdity passes unchallenged. The attention is off
duty. It is important to remark that there is nothing in common dreams
to interfere with the purpose of sleep, which is repose. The cares and
interests of our waking life never recur to us; or, if they do, are not
recognised as our own. The faculties are not really energizing; their
seeming exercise is sport; they are unharnessed, and are gambolling and
rolling in idle relaxation. That is their refreshment.

The attention alone slumbers; or, through some slight organic change,
it is unlinked from the other faculties, and they are put out of gear.
This is the basis of sleep. The faculties are all in their places; but
the attention is off duty; itself asleep, or indolently keeping watch
of time alone.

In contrast with this picture of the sleeping and waking states, of the
alternation of which our mental life consists, I have now to hold up to
view another conception, resembling it, but different, vague, imposing,
of gigantic proportions, the monstrous double of the first—like the
mocking spectre of the Hartz, which yet is but your own shadow cast by
the level sunbeams on the morning mist.

To answer to this conception, there is more than the ideal entity made
up of the different forms of trance. For although trance may occur as
a single sleep-like fit of moderate duration, yet it more frequently
recurs—often periodically, dividing the night or day with common sleep
or common waking; or it may be persistent for days and weeks—in which
case, if it generally maintain one character, it is yet liable to have
wakings of its own.

Then the first division of trance is into trance-sleep and
trance-waking. In extreme cases it is easy to tell trance-sleep from
common sleep, trance-waking from common waking; but there are varieties
with less prominent features, in which it is difficult, at first, to
say whether the patient is entranced at all.

There is, upon the whole, more alliance between sleep and trance, than
between waking and trance. Or, in a large class of cases, the patient
falls into trance when asleep. It is a cognate phenomenon to this that
the common initiatory stage of trance is a trance-sleep.

Trance is of more frequent occurrence among the young than among the
middle-aged or old people. It occurs more frequently among young
women than among young men. In other words, the liability to trance
is in proportion to delicacy of organization, and higher nervous

But what is trance? The question will be best answered by exhibiting
its several phases. In the mean time, it may be laid down that the
basis of trance is the supervention of the abnormal relation of the
mind and nervous system. In almost all its forms it is easy to show
that some of the mental functions are no longer located in their
pristine organs. The most ordinary change is the departure of common
sensation from the organ of touch. Next, sight leaves the organs of
vision. To make up for these desertions, if the patient wake in trance,
either the same senses reappear elsewhere, or some unaccountable mode
of general perception manifests itself.

A strict alliance exists between trance and the whole family of spasms.
Most of them are exclusively developed in connexion with it; all are
liable to be combined with it; they are all capable of being excited
by the same influences which produce trance; so they often occur
vicariously, or alternate with trance. One kind is catalepsy; the
body motionless, statue-like, but the tone of spasm maintained low,
so that you may arrange the statue in what attitude you will, and it
preserves it. A second is catochus, like the preceding, but with a
higher power of spasm, so that the joints are rigidly fixed; and if
you overcome one for a moment with superior strength, being let go, it
flies back to where it was. A third, partial spasm of equal rigidity,
arching the body forwards or backwards or laterally, or fixing one
limb or more. The fourth, clonic spasm, for instance, the contortions
and convulsive struggles of epilepsy. The fifth, an impulse to rapid
and varied muscular actions, nearly equalling convulsions in violence,
but combined so as to travesty ordinary voluntary motion; this is the
dance of St. Veitz, which took its name from an epidemic outbreak
in Germany in the thirteenth century, that was supposed to be cured
by the interposition of the saint; then persons of all classes were
seized in groups in public with a fury of kicking, shuffling, dancing
together, till they dropt. Now, the same agency is manifested either
in a violent rush, and disposition to climb with inconceivable agility
and precision; or alternately to twist the features, roll the neck, and
jerk and swing the limbs even to the extent of dislocating them.

The causes of trance are mostly mental. Trance appears to be
contagious. Viewed medically, it is seldom directly dangerous. It is
a product of over-excitability, which time blunts. The disposition to
trance is seldom manifested beyond a few months, or, at most, two or
three years. For epilepsy is not a form of trance; it is, however, a
mixed mental and spasmodic seizure, much allied to trance. Those who
suffer from its attacks are found to be among the most susceptible of
induced trance.

But let me again ask, what then is trance?

Trance is a peculiar mental seizure, (totally distinct from insanity,
with which again, however, it may be combined,) the patient taken with
which appears profoundly absorbed or rapt, and as if lost more or less
completely to surrounding objects or impressions, or at all events
to the ordinary mode of perceiving them; he is likewise more or less
entirely lost to his former recollections. The mental seizures may or
may not occur simultaneously or alternately with spasmodic seizures of
any and every character.

This definition of trance conveys, I am afraid, no very exact or
distinct picture; but it is the definition of a genus, and a genus is
necessarily an abstraction. However, it gives the features essential to
all the forms of trance. A true general notion of trance can, indeed,
only be realized by studying in detail each of the forms it includes.
These are separated by the broadest colours. In the one extreme an
entranced person appears dead, and no sign of life is recognisable in
him; in the opposite, he appears to be much as usual, and perfectly
impressible by any thing around him, so that it demands careful
observation to establish that he is not simply awake.

Then trance presents no fewer than five specific forms, distinguished
each from the other by clear characters, their essential identity being
established by each at times passing into either of the others. The
terms by which I propose to designate the five primary forms of trance
are—Death-trance, Trance-coma, Initiatory Trance, Half-waking-trance,
Waking-trance. The five, however, admit, as I have before said,
of being arranged in two groups: the first three forms enumerated
constituting varieties of trance-sleep; the two latter constituting
varieties of waking-trance. The next letter will treat of the first
group; the two following will treat of the two varieties of the second.

I have observed that the causes of trance are for the most part mental
impressions; but it will be found that certain physical influences
may produce the same results. The causes of trance, whether mental or
physical, deserve again to be regarded in three lights. Either they
have operated blindly and fortuitously, or they have been resorted to
and used as agents to produce some vague and imperfectly understood
result, or they have been skilfully and intelligently directed to
bring out the exact phenomena which have followed. It is with trance
supervening in the two former ways that I alone propose at present to
deal; that is to say, with trance as it was imperfectly known as an
agent in superstition, or as a rare and marvellous form of nervous
disease. Of the third case of trance, as it may be artificially
induced, I shall afterwards and finally speak.


 TRANCE-SLEEP—The phenomena of trance divided into those of
 trance-sleep, and those of trance-waking—Trance-sleep presents three
 forms; trance-waking two. The three forms of trance-sleep described:
 viz., death-trance, trance-coma, simple or initiatory trance.

Trance, then, it appears, is a peculiar mental seizure liable to
supervene in persons of an irritable nervous system, either after
mental excitement or in deranged bodily health. The seizure may last
for a few hours, or a few days, or for weeks, or years; and is liable
to recur at regular or irregular intervals.

Trance again, it has been observed, has phases corresponding with the
sleeping and waking of our natural state. And as natural sleep presents
three varieties—the profound and heavy sleep of extreme exhaustion,
ordinary deep sleep, and the light slumber of the wakeful and the
anxious, so trance-sleep is three-fold likewise. But as in trance
every thing is magnified, the differences between the three states are
greater, and the phenomena of each more bold and striking.

Two conditions are common, however, to every phase of trance-sleep;
these are, the occurrence of complete insensibility, and that of vivid
and coherent dreams.

The insensibility is so absolute that the most powerful stimulants
are insufficient to rouse the patient. An electric shock, a surgical
operation, the amputation even of a limb, are seemingly unfelt.

The dreams of trance-sleep have a character of their own. It is to be
remarked, that in the dreams of ordinary sleep the ideas are commonly
an incoherent jumble; and that, if they happen to refer to passing
events, they commonly reverse their features. The attention seems to
be slumbering. Thus Sir George Back told me, that in the privations
which he encountered in Sir John Franklin’s first expedition, when
in fact he was starving, he uniformly dreamed of plentiful repasts.
But in the dreams of trance-sleep, on the contrary, the impressions
of the waking thoughts, the exciting ideas themselves, which have
caused the supervention of trance, are realized and carried out in a
consecutive train of imaginary action. They are, accordingly, upon the
patient’s awaking, accurately remembered by him; and that with such
force and distinctness, that if he be a fanatic or superstitiously
inclined, he very likely falls into the belief that the occurrences he
dreamed of actually took place in his presence. A temperate fanatic
goes no further, under such circumstances, than to assert that he
has had a vision. The term is so good a one, that it appears to me
worth retaining, in a philosophical sense, for the present exigency.
I propose to restrict the term vision to the dreams of persons in

Then of the three different forms of trance-sleep,

I. _Death-trance._—Death-trance is the image of death. The heart
does not act; the breathing is suspended; the body is motionless;
not the slightest outward sign of sensibility or consciousness can
be detected. The temperature of the body falls. The entranced person
has the appearance of a corpse from which life has recently departed.
The joints are commonly relaxed, and the whole frame pliable; but
it is likely that spasmodic rigidity forms an occasional adjunct of
this strange condition. So the only means of knowing whether life be
still present is to wait the event. The body is to be kept in a warm
room, for the double purpose of promoting decomposition if it be dead,
and of preserving in it the vital spark if it still linger; and it
should be constantly watched. But should every recently dead body be
made the subject of similar care? it is natural to ask. There are, of
course, many cases where such care is positively unnecessary—such, for
instance, as death following great lesions of vital organs; and in
the great majority of cases of seeming death, the bare possibility of
the persistence of life hardly remains. Still it is better to err on
the safe side. And although in England, from the higher tone of moral
feeling, and from the respect shown to the remains of the dead, the
danger of being interred alive is inconsiderable, still the danger
certainly exists to a very considerable degree of being opened alive by
order of a zealous coroner. But for the illustration of this danger,
and examples of the circumstances under which death-trance has been
known to occur, and of its usual features, I refer the reader back to
the second Letter of this series. Let me, however, add, that it is not
improbable that, by means of persons susceptible of the influence of
Od, or of persons in induced waking-trance, the question could be at
once decided whether a seeming corpse were really dead.

In England, during the last epidemic visitation of cholera, several
cases of death-trance occurred, in which the patient, who was on
the point of being buried, fortunately awoke in time to be saved.
Death-trance, it is probable, is much more frequently produced by
spasmodic and nervous illness than by mental causes: it has followed
fever; it has frequently attended parturition. In this respect
it differs from other forms of trance-sleep, which mostly, when
spontaneous, supervene upon mental impressions.

The only feature of death-trance which it remains for me to exemplify
is the occurrence in it of visions. Perhaps the following may be taken
as an instance:—

Henry Engelbrecht, as we learn in a pamphlet published by him in 1639,
after an ascetic life, during which he had experienced sensorial
illusions, fell into the deepest form of trance, which he thus
describes: In the year 1623, exhausted by intense mental excitement of
a religious kind, and by abstinence from food, after hearing a sermon
which strongly affected him, he felt as if he could combat no longer;
so he gave in and took to his bed. There he lay a week, without
tasting any thing but the bread and wine of the sacrament. On the
eighth day, he thought he fell into the death-struggle. Death seemed
to invade him from below upwards. His body became to his feelings
rigid; his hands and feet insensible; his tongue and lips incapable of
motion; gradually his sight failed him. But he still heard the laments
and consultations of those around him. This gradual demise lasted
from mid-day till eleven at night, when he heard the watchmen. Then
he wholly lost sensibility to outward impressions. But an elaborate
vision of immense detail began; the theme of which was, that he was
first carried down to hell, and looked into the place of torment; from
whence, after a time, quicker than an arrow he was borne to Paradise.
In these abodes of suffering and happiness, he saw and heard and smelt
things unspeakable. These scenes, though long in apprehension, were
short in time; for he came enough to himself, by twelve o’clock, again
to hear the watchmen. It took him another twelve hours to come round
entirely. His hearing was first restored; then his sight; feeling and
power of motion followed; as soon as he could move his limbs, he rose.
He felt himself stronger than before the trance.

II. _Trance-coma._—The appearance of a person in trance-coma is that of
one in profound sleep. The breathing is regular, but extremely gentle;
the action of the heart the same; the frame lies completely relaxed and
flexible, and, when raised, falls in any posture, like the body of one
just dead, as its weight determines. The bodily temperature is natural.
The condition is distinguishable from common sleep by the total
insensibility of the entranced person to all ordinary stimulants:
besides, the pupil of the eye, instead of being contracted to a minute
aperture, as it is in common sleep, is usually dilated; at all events
it is not contracted, and it is fixed.

Perhaps the commonest cause of trance-coma is hysteria; or by hysteria
is meant a highly irritable state of the nervous system, most commonly
met with in young unmarried women. There seems to be present, as its
proximate cause, an excessive nervous vitality; and that excess, in
its simplest manifestation, breaks out in fits of sobbing and crying,
alternating often with laughter—a physical excitement of the system
which yet fatigues and distresses the patient’s mind, who cannot resist
the unaccountable impulses. It is at the close of such a paroxysm of
hysteria that trance-coma of a few hours’ duration not unfrequently
supervenes. It is almost a natural repose after the preceding stage
of excitement. Hysteria, besides giving origin to a peculiar class of
local ailments, is further the fruitful mother of most varieties of

Trance-coma sometimes supervenes on fever, and the patient lies for
hours or days on the seeming verge of death. I have known it ensue
after mesmeric practice carried to an imprudent excess. Religious
mental excitement will bring it on. In the following instance,
which I quote from the Rev. George Sandby’s sensible and useful
work on Mesmerism, the state of trance so supervening was probably
trance-coma: “George Fox, the celebrated father of Quakerism, at one
period lay in a trance for fourteen days, and people came to stare and
wonder at him. He had the appearance of a dead man; but his sleep was
full of divine visions of beauty and glory.”

Here is another instance, wherein the prevailing state must have been
trance-coma. I quote it from the letter of an intelligent friend. It
will help the reader to realize the general conception I wish to raise
in his mind:—

“I heard,” says my correspondent, “through the newspapers, of a
case of trance ten miles from this place, and immediately rode to
the village to verify it, and gain information about it. With some
difficulty I persuaded the mother to allow me to see the entranced
girl. Her name is Ann Cromer; she is daughter of a mason at Faringdon
Gournay, ten miles from Bristol. She was lying in a state of general
but not total suspension of the symptoms of life. Her breathing was
perceptible by the heaving of the chest, and at times she had uttered
low groans. Her jaws are locked, and she is incapable of the slightest
movement, so as to create no other wrinkle in her bed-clothes but such
as a dead weight would produce. When I saw her, she had not been moved
for a week. Upon one occasion, when asked to show, by the pressure
of the hand, if she felt any pain, a slight squeeze was perceptible.
A very small portion of fluid is administered as food from time to
time, but I neglected to discover how. Her hands are warm, and her
mother thinks that she is conscious. Three days before I saw her, she
spoke (incoherently) for the first time since her trance commenced.
She repeated the Lord’s prayer, and asked for an aunt; but she rapidly
relapsed, and her locked-jaw returned. Her mother considered this
revival a sign of approaching death. The most remarkable feature in
the case is the length of time that the girl has remained entranced.
She was twelve years old when the fit supervened, and the locked-jaw
followed in sixteen weeks afterwards. She is now twenty-five years of
age, and will thus, in a month, if alive, have been in this condition
for thirteen years. In the mean while she has grown from a child to a
woman, though her countenance retains all the appearance of her former
age. She is little else than skin and bone, except her cheeks, which
are puffy. She is as pale as a corpse, and her eyes are sunk deep in
the sockets.”

III. _Simple or Initiatory Trance._—In the lightest form of
trance-sleep, the patient, though perfectly insensible to ordinary
impressions, is not necessarily recumbent. If he is sitting when
taken, he continues sitting; if previously lying, he will sometimes
raise himself up when entranced. His joints are neither relaxed
nor rigid: if you raise his arm, or bend the elbow, you experience
a little resistance; and immediately after, probably, the limb is
restored to its former posture. Such is the ordinary degree of muscular
tone present; but either cataleptic immobility, or catochus, may
accidentally co-exist with initiatory trance. The patient may even
remain standing rapt in his trance. I quote the following classic
instance from the _Edinburgh Review_:—“There is a wonderful story told
of Socrates. Being in military service in the expedition to Potidea, he
is reported to have stood for twenty-four hours before the camp, rooted
to the same spot and absorbed in deep thought, his arms folded and his
eyes fixed upon one object, as if his soul were absent from his body.”

It is not my intention to dwell more on this form of trance at
present. Various cases, exemplifying its varieties, will be found
in the letter on Religious Delusions. It is the commonest product
of fanatical excitement. I have called this form initiatory trance,
because, in day-somnambulism, it always precedes the half-waking
which constitutes that state; and because it is the state into which
mesmeric manipulators ordinarily first plunge the patient. Out of this
initiatory state I have seen the patient thrown into trance-coma; but
the ordinary progress of the experiment is to conduct him in the other
direction—that is, towards trance-waking.


 HALF-WAKING TRANCE OR SOMNAMBULISM.—The same thing with ordinary
 sleep-walking—Its characteristic feature, the acting of a dream—Cases,
 and disquisition.

A curious fate somnambulism has had. While other forms of trance
have been either rejected as fictions, or converted to the use of
superstition, somnambulism with all its wonders, being at once
undeniable and familiar, has been simply taken for granted. While her
sisters have been exalted into mystical phenomena, and play parts in
history, somnambulism has had no temple raised to her, has had no
fear-worship, at the highest has been promoted to figure in an opera.
Of a quiet and homely nature, she has moved about the house, not like a
visiting demon, but as a maid of all work. To the public the phenomenon
has presented no more interest than a soap-bubble, or the fall of an

Somnambulism, as the term is used in England, exactly comprehends all
the phenomena of half-waking trance.[5]

[Footnote 5: Many writers employ the term somnambulism to denote
indiscriminately several forms of trance, or trance in general. I
prefer restricting it to the peculiar class of cases commonly known as

The seizure mostly comes on during common sleep. But it may supervene
in the daytime; in which case the patient first falls into the lightest
form of trance-sleep. After a little, still lost to things around
him, he manifests one or more of three impulses: one, to speak, but
coherently and to a purpose; a second, to dress, rise, and leave his
room with an evident intention of going somewhither; a third, to
practise some habitual mechanical employment. In each case he appears
to be pursuing the thread of a dream. If he speaks, it is a connected
discourse to some end. If he goes out to walk, it is to a spot he
contemplates visiting; his general turn is to climb ascents, hills, or
the roofs of houses: in the latter case he sometimes examines if the
tiles are secure before he steps on them. If he pursues a customary
occupation, whether it be cleaning harness or writing music, he
finishes his work before he leaves it. He is acting a dream, which is
connected and sustained. The attention is keenly awake in this dream,
and favours its accomplishment to the utmost. In the mean time the
somnambulist appears to be insensible to ordinary impressions, and to
take no cognisance of what is going on around him—a light maybe held so
close to his eyes as to singe his eyebrows without his noticing it—he
seems neither to hear nor to taste—the eyelids are generally closed,
otherwise the eyes are fixed and vacant. Nevertheless he possesses some
means of recognising the objects which are implicated in his dream; he
perceives their place, and walks among them with perfect precision.
Let me narrate some instances. The first, one of day-somnambulism,
exemplifies, at the same time, the transitions to full waking, which
manifest themselves occasionally in the talking form of the trance. The
case is from the _Acta Vratisv._ ann. 1722.

A girl, seventeen years of age, was used to fall into a kind of sleep
in the afternoon, in which it was supposed, from her expression of
countenance and her gestures, that she was engaged in dreams that
interested her. (She was then in light trance-sleep, initiatory
trance.) After some days she began to speak when in this state. Then
if those present addressed remarks to her, she replied very sensibly,
but then fell back into her dream discourse, which turned principally
upon religious and moral topics, and was directed to warn her friends
how a female should live—Christianly, well governed, and so as to incur
no reproach. When she sang, which often happened, she heard herself
accompanied by an imaginary violin or piano, and would take up and
continue the accompaniment upon an instrument herself. She sewed, did
knitting, and the like. She imagined, on one occasion, that she wrote a
letter upon a napkin, which she folded for the post. Upon waking, she
had not the slightest recollection of any thing that had passed. After
a few months she recovered.

The following case is from the Hamburgh _Zeitschrift für die gesammte
Medicin_, 1848:—

A lad of eleven years of age, at school at Tarbes, was surprised
several mornings running at finding himself dressed in bed, though he
had undressed himself overnight. Then on the 3d of May he was seen by
a neighbour, soon after three in the morning, to go out dressed with
his cloak and hat on. She called to him, but he did not answer; and she
concluded that he was going to Bagnères with his father. In fact that
was the road he took; and he was afterwards seen by several persons
near Bagnères, trudging after a carriage. It rained hard; and they were
surprised to see so young a lad travelling at so early an hour; but
they thought he probably belonged to the people in the carriage. He
reached Bagnères at half past five, having done the distance of five
post leagues in two hours and a quarter. He went to the hotel of M.
Lafargue, which he had on a former occasion visited with his father,
and entered the eating-room. The people of the hotel addressed him. He
told them that he had come with his father in a post-chaise, and that
they would find his father in the yard busied with the carriage. M.
Lafargue went out to look for him. In the mean time the people of the
house observed that the boy’s remarks were incoherent; so they took off
his cloak and cap, when they found that his eyelids were closed, and
that he was fast asleep. They led him towards the stove, took off his
wet things and his boots without awakening him; but before they had
completely undressed him to put him to bed he awoke. The impressions of
his dream did not desert him. He complained of having had a bad night;
and asked for his father. They told him his father had been obliged to
set off again immediately. They put him to bed, and he slept. They sent
intelligence to his father, who came to Bagnères. The boy believed, and
believes still, that he came to Bagnères with his father in a chaise
that was driven very slowly. Being asked what he had seen on the road,
he described having passed a number of monks and priests in procession.
He said there was one good-looking young man who did not leave him,
but was always saying, “Good day, Joseph; Adieu, Joseph.” He said that
what had most annoyed him was the burning heat of the sun, which was so
intense that he had been obliged to wrap himself up in his cloak; that
he could not bear its bright light.

The following case of somnambulism, allied with St. Vietz’s dance, is
given by Lord Monboddo:—

The patient, about sixteen years of age, used to be commonly taken
in the morning a few hours after rising. The approach of the seizure
was announced by a sense of weight in the head and drowsiness, which
quickly terminated in sleep, (trance-sleep,) in which her eyes were
fast shut. She described a feeling beginning in the feet, creeping
like a gradual chill higher and higher, till it reached the heart,
when consciousness left her. Being in this state, she sprang from her
seat about the room, over tables and chairs, with astonishing agility.
Then, if she succeeded in getting out of the house, she ran, at a pace
with which her elder brother could hardly keep up, to a particular
spot in the neighbourhood, taking the directest but the roughest path.
If she could not manage otherwise, she got over the garden wall, with
astonishing rapidity and precision of movement. Her eyelids were all
the time fast closed. The impulse to visit this spot she was often
conscious of during the approach of the paroxysm, and afterwards she
sometimes thought that she had dreamed of going thither. Towards the
termination of her indisposition, she dreamed that the water of a
neighbouring spring would do her good, and she drank much of it. One
time they tried to cheat her by giving her water from another spring,
but she immediately detected the difference. Near the end, she foretold
that she would have three paroxysms more, and then be well; and so it

The next case is from a communication by M. Pigatti, published in the
July number of the _Journal Encyclo__pedique_ of the year 1662. The
subject was a servant of the name of Negretti, in the household of the
Marquis Sale.

In the evening Negretti would seat himself in a chair in the ante-room,
when he commonly fell asleep, and would sleep quietly for a quarter of
an hour. He then righted himself in his chair so as to sit up. Then
he sat some time without motion, looking as if he saw something. Then
he rose and walked about the room. On one occasion he drew out his
snuff-box, and would have taken a pinch, but there was little in it;
whereupon he walked up to an empty chair, and, addressing by name a
cavalier, whom he supposed to be sitting in it, asked him for a pinch.
One of those who were watching the scene, here held towards him an open
box, from which he took snuff. Afterward he fell into the posture of
a person who listens; he seemed to think that he heard an order, and
thereupon hastened with a wax candle in his hand to a spot where a
light usually stood. As soon as he imagined that he had lit the candle,
he walked with it in the proper manner, through the _salle_, down the
steps, turning and waiting from time to time as if he were lighting
some one down. Arrived at the door he placed himself sideways, in order
to let the imaginary persons pass; and he bowed as he let them out. He
then extinguished the light, returned up stairs, and sat himself down
again in his place, to play the same farce once or twice over again
the same evening. When in this condition he would lay the table-cloth,
place the chairs, which he sometimes brought from a distant room,
opening and shutting the doors as he went with exactness; would take
decanters from the buffet, fill them with water at the spring, put
them down on a waiter, and so on. All the objects that were concerned
in these operations he distinguished, when they were before him,
with the same precision and certainty as if he had been in the full
use of his senses. Otherwise he seemed to observe nothing; so, on one
occasion in passing a table, he threw down a waiter with two decanters
upon it, which fell and broke without attracting his attention. The
dominant idea had entire possession of him. He would prepare a salad
with correctness, and sit down and eat it. If they changed it, the
trick escaped his notice. In this manner he would go on eating cabbage,
or even pieces of cake, without observing the difference. The taste he
enjoyed was imaginary, the sense was shut. On another occasion, when
he asked for wine they gave him water, which he drank for wine, and
remarked that his stomach felt the better for it. On a fellow-servant
touching his legs with a stick, the idea arose in his mind that it was
a dog, and he scolded to drive it away; but the servant continuing his
game, Negretti took a whip to beat the dog. The servant drew back, when
Negretti began whistling and coaxing to get the dog near him; so they
threw a muff against his legs, which he belaboured soundly.

M. Pigatti watched these proceedings with great attention, and
convinced himself by many experiments that Negretti did not use his
ordinary senses. He did not hear the loudest sound when it lay out of
the circle of his dream-ideas. If a light was held close to his eyes,
near enough to singe his eyebrows, he did not appear to be aware of
it. He seemed to feel nothing when they inserted a feather into his

Perhaps the most interesting case of somnambulism on record is that
of a young ecclesiastic, the narrative of which, from the immediate
communication of the Archbishop of Bordeaux, is given under the head
of Somnambulism, in the _French Encyclopedia_.

This young ecclesiastic, when the archbishop was at the same seminary,
used to rise every night, and write out either sermons or pieces of
music. To study his condition, the archbishop betook himself several
nights consecutively to the chamber of the young man, where he made the
following observations:—

The young man used to rise, take paper, and begin to write. Before
writing music, he would take a stick and rule the lines with it. He
wrote the notes, together with the words corresponding to them, with
perfect correctness; or when he had written the words too wide, he
altered them. The notes that were to be black he filled in after he had
written the whole. After completing a sermon, he would read it aloud
from beginning to end. If any passage displeased him, he erased it, and
wrote the amended passage correctly over the other. On one occasion he
had substituted the word “adorable” for “divin;” but he did not omit
to alter the preceding “ce” into “cet,” by adding the letter “t” with
exact precision to the word first written. To ascertain whether he used
his eyes, the archbishop interposed a sheet of pasteboard between the
writing and his face. The somnambulist took not the least notice, but
went on writing as before. The limitation of his perceptions to what
he was thinking about was very curious. A bit of aniseed cake, that
he had sought for, he ate approvingly; but when, on another occasion,
a piece of the same cake was put into his mouth, he spat it out
without observation. The following instance of the dependence of his
perceptions upon his preconceived ideas is truly wonderful. It is to
be observed that he always knew when his pen had ink in it. Likewise,
if they adroitly changed his papers when he was writing, he knew it,
if the sheet substituted was of a different size from the former, and
he appeared embarrassed in that case. But if the fresh sheet of paper,
which was substituted for that written on, was exactly of the same
size with it, he appeared not to be aware of the change. And he would
continue to read off his composition from the blank sheet of paper,
as fluently as when the manuscript lay before him; nay more, he would
continue his corrections, and introduce an amended passage, writing
it upon exactly the place in the blank sheet corresponding with that
which it would have occupied on the written page.—Such are the feats of

At first sight, the phenomena thus exemplified appear strange and
unintelligible enough. But upon a careful consideration of them, much
of the marvellous disappears. The most curious features seem, in the
end, to be really the least deserving of wonder. The simplest of the
phenomena are alone the inexplicable ones.

I have, however, advanced this group of cases as instances of trance,
in which, therefore, I assume that an abnormal relation exists between
the mind and body, in which the organs of sensation are partially or
entirely deserted by their functions, and in which new perceptive
powers manifest themselves. Then an opponent might argue:—

“I know nothing about your trance. What I see is first a person
asleep, then the same person half or partially awake, occupied with
a dream or vivid conception of an action; which, being partially
awake, and therefore having partially resumed his power of attention,
he is capable of realizing. He appears to be insensible; but this
may be deceptive; for he is still asleep, and therefore notices not
things around him; and his attention is partly still suspended as in
sleep, partly more useless still for general purposes through intent

“He goes about the house in his rapt state, and finds his way
perfectly; but the house is familiar to him; every thing in it is
distinctly before his conception; he has, too, the advantage of perfect
confidence; and besides, being partially awake, he partially, vaguely
perhaps, uses customary sensations in reference to the objects which
his dream contemplates his meeting.

“The ecclesiastic, indeed, seems at first to see through a sheet of
pasteboard. But the concluding interesting fact in his case shows that
he really used his perception only to identify the size and place of
the sheet of paper. His writing upon it was the mechanical transcript
of an act of mental penmanship. The corrections fell into the right
places upon the paper, owing to the fidelity with which he retained the
mental picture. The clearness and vividness of the picture, again, is
not so very surprising, when it is considered that the attention was
wholly and exclusively concentrated on that one operation.”

The observations of my imaginary opponent might sufficiently account
for the more striking phenomena in the preceding cases, and are
doubtless near the truth as regards the principal parts of the young
ecclesiastic’s performance. Still there remains the commoner instance
of the lad going about with precision with his eyes shut. I see no mode
of accounting for that on common principles.

And besides, it may be presumed that, if more decisive experiments
as to their sensibility had been made upon all these subjects, they
would have been found really without sight and feeling. For, in
general character, persons in somnambulism exactly resemble other
entranced persons, who certainly feel nothing; for they have borne
the most painful surgical operations without the smallest indication
of suffering. So I have little doubt that the insensibility, which the
observers imputed to the somnambulists, really existed, although they
may have failed to establish the fact by positive evidence.

The question as to the development of a new power of perception, such
as I conjecture the lad used in his walk from Tarbes to Bagnères,
will be found to be resolved, or, at any rate, to be attended with
no theoretical difficulties, when the performances of full-waking in
trance, which I propose to describe in the next letter, shall have been
laid before the reader.


 TRANCE-WAKING.—Instances of its spontaneous occurrence in the form
 of catalepsy—Analysis of catalepsy—Its three elements: double
 consciousness, or pure waking-trance; the spasmodic seizure; the
 new mental powers displayed—Cases exemplifying catalepsy—Other
 cases unattended with spasm, but of spontaneous occurrence, in
 which new mental powers were manifested—Oracles of antiquity—Animal

Under this head are contained the most marvellous phenomena which
ever came as a group of facts in natural philosophy before the world;
and they are reaching that stage towards general reception when their
effect is most vivid and striking. Five-and-twenty years ago no one in
England dreamed of believing them, although the same positive evidence
of their genuineness then existed as now. Five-and-twenty years hence
the same facts will be matters of familiar knowledge. It is just at
the present moment (or am I anticipating the march of opinion by half
a century?) that their difference, and distinctness, and abhorrence
even, from our previous conceptions are most intensely felt; and that
the powers which they promise eventually to place within human control
excite our irrepressible wonder.

I shall narrate the facts which loom so large in the dawning light,
very simply and briefly, as they are manifested in catalepsy.

An uninformed person being in the room with a cataleptic patient, would
at first suppose her, putting aside the spasmodic affection of the
body, to be simply awake in the ordinary way. By-and-by her new powers
might or might not catch his observation. But a third point would
certainly escape his notice. I refer to her mental state of waking
trance, which gives, as it were, the local colouring to the whole

To elucidate this element, I may avail myself of a sketch ready
prepared by nature, tinted with the local colour alone—the case of
simple trance-waking, unattended by fits or by any marvellous powers,
as far as it has been yet observed, which is known to physicians under
the name of double consciousness.

A single fit of the disorder presents the following features:—The
young person (for the patient is most frequently a girl) seems to
lose herself for a moment or longer, then she recovers, and seems to
be herself again. The intervening short period, longer at first, and
by use rendered briefer and briefer, is a period of common initiatory
trance. When, having lost, the patient thus finds herself again, there
is nothing in her behaviour which would lead a stranger to suppose her
other than naturally awake. But her friends observe that she now does
every thing with more spirit and better than before—sings better, plays
better, has more readiness, moves even more gracefully, than in her
usual state. She manifests an innocent boldness and disregard of little
conventionalisms, which impart a peculiar charm to her behaviour.
Her mode of speaking is perhaps something altered; a supernumerary
consonant making its undue appearance, but upon a regular law, in
certain syllables. But the most striking thing is, that she has totally
forgotten all that has passed during the morning. Inquire what her last
recollections are, they leave off with the termination of her last fit
of this kind; the intervening period is for the present lost to her.
She was in her natural state of waking when I introduced her to your
notice; she lost herself for a few seconds, found herself again; but
found herself not in her natural train of recollections, but in those
of the last fit.

These fits occur sometimes at irregular intervals, sometimes
periodically and daily. In her ordinary waking state, she has her chain
of waking recollections. In her trance-waking state, she has her chain
of trance-waking recollections. The two are kept strictly apart. Hence
the ill-chosen term, double-consciousness. So at the occurrence of her
first fit, her mental existence may be said to have bifurcated into two
separate routes, in either of which her being is alternately passed.
It is curious to study, at the commencement of such a case, with how
much knowledge derived from her past life the patient embarks on her
trance-existence. The number of previously realized ideas retained by
different patients at the first fit is very various. It has happened
that the memory of facts and persons has been so defective that the
patient has had to learn even to know and to love her parents. To most
of her acquaintances she is observed to give new names, which she uses
to them in the trance-state alone. But her habits remain; her usual
propriety of conduct: the mind is singularly pure in trance. And she
very quickly picks up former ideas, and restores former intimacies,
but on a supposed new footing. To complete this curious history, if
the fits of trance recur frequently, and through some accidental
circumstance are more and more prolonged in duration, so that most
of her waking existence is passed in trance, it will follow that the
trance-development of her intellect and character may get ahead of
their development in her natural waking. Being told this, she may
become anxious to continue always in her entranced state, and to drop
the other: and I knew a case in which circumstances favoured this final
arrangement, and the patient at last retained her trance-recollections
alone, from long continuance in that state having made it, as it were,
her natural one. Her only fear was—for she had gradually learned her
own mental history, as she expressed it to me—that some day she should
of a sudden find herself a child again, thrown back to the point at
which she ceased her first order of recollections. This is, indeed, a
very extreme and monstrous case. Ordinarily, the recurrence of fits of
simple trance-waking does not extend over a longer period than three or
four months or half a year, after which they never reappear; and her
trance acquirements and feelings are lost to the patient’s recollection
for good. I will cite a case, as it was communicated to me by Dr. G.
Barlow, exemplifying some of the points of the preceding statement.

“This young lady has two states of existence. During the time that
the fit is on her, which varies from a few hours to three days, she
is occasionally merry and in spirits; occasionally she appears in
pain, and rolls about in uneasiness; but in general she seems so much
herself, that a stranger entering the room would not remark any thing
extraordinary: she amuses herself with reading or working, sometimes
plays on the piano—and better than at other times—knows every body, and
converses rationally, and makes very accurate observations on what she
has seen and read. The fit leaves her suddenly, and she then forgets
every thing that has passed during it, and imagines that she has been
asleep, and sometimes that she has dreamed of any circumstance that
has made a vivid impression upon her. During one of these fits she was
reading Miss Edgeworth’s Tales, and had in the morning been reading
a part of one of them to her mother, when she went for a few minutes
to the window, and suddenly exclaimed, “Mamma, I am quite well, my
headache is gone.” Returning to the table, she took up the open volume,
which she had been reading five minutes before, and said, “What book
is this?” She turned over the leaves, looked at the frontispiece, and
replaced it on the table. Seven or eight hours afterwards, when the fit
returned, she asked for the book, went on at the very paragraph where
she had left off, and remembered every circumstance of the narrative.
And so it always is; she reads one set of books during one state, and
another during the other. She seems to be conscious of her state; for
she said one day, “Mamma, this is a novel, but I may safely read it; it
will not hurt my morals, for, when I am well, I shall not remember a
word of it.””

To form a just idea of a case of catalepsy, the reader has to imagine
such a case as I have just instanced, with the physical feature added,
that the patient, when entranced, is motionless and fixed as a statue;
the spasmodic state, however, not confining itself closely to one
type, but running into catochus, or into partial rigid spasm, or into
convulsive seizures, (see Letter V.) capriciously.

The psychical phenomena exhibited by the patient when thus entranced,
are the following:—

1. The organs of sensation are deserted by their natural sensibility.
The patient neither feels with the skin, nor sees with the eyes, nor
hears with the ears, nor tastes with the mouth.

2. All these senses, however, are not lost. Sight and hearing, if not
smell and taste, reappear in some other part—at the pit of the stomach,
for instance, or the tips of the fingers.

3. The patient manifests new perceptive powers. She discerns objects
all around her, and through any obstructions, partitions, walls or
houses, and at an indefinite distance. She sees her own inside, as it
were, illuminated, and can tell what is wrong in the health of others.
She reads the thoughts of others, whether present or at indefinite
distances. The ordinary obstacles of space and matter vanish to her. So
likewise that of time; she foresees future events.

Such and more are the capabilities of cataleptic patients, most of whom
exhibit them all—but there is some caprice in their manifestation.

I first resigned myself to the belief that such statements as the above
might be true, upon being shown by the late Mr. Bulteel letters from an
eminent provincial physician in the year 1838, describing phenomena of
this description in a patient the latter was attending. In the spring
of 1839, Mr. Bulteel told me that he had himself in the interim often
seen the patient, who had allowed him to test in any way he pleased
the reality of the faculties she possessed when entranced. As usual,
in the hours which she passed daily in her natural state, she had no
recollection of her extraordinary trance performances. The following
are some of the facts, which Mr. Bulteel told me he had himself

When entranced, the patient’s expression of countenance was slightly
altered, and there was some peculiarity in her mode of speaking. To
each of her friends she had given a new name, which she used only
when in the state of trance. She could read with her skin. If she
pressed the palm of her hand against the whole surface of a printed
or written page deliberately, as it were, to take off an impression,
she became acquainted verbally with its contents, even to the extent
of criticising the type or the handwriting. One day, after a remark
made to put her off her guard, a line of a folded note was pressed
against the back of her neck; she had read it. She called this
sense-feeling—contact was necessary for its manifestation. But she had
a general perceptive power besides. She used to tell that persons,
whom she knew, were coming to the house, when they were yet at some
distance. Persons sitting in the room with her playing chess, to whom
her back was turned, if they made intentionally false moves, she would
ask them what they possibly could do that for.

The next three cases which I shall describe are from a memoir on
catalepsy (1787) by Dr. Petetin, an eminent civil and military
physician at Lyons.

M. Petetin attended a young married lady in a sort of fit. She lay
seemingly unconscious; when he raised her arm, it remained in the air
where he placed it. Being put to bed, she commenced singing. To stop
her, the doctor placed her limbs each in a different position. This
embarrassed her considerably, but she went on singing. She seemed
perfectly insensible. Pinching the skin, shouting in her ear, nothing
aroused her attention. Then it happened that, in arranging her, the
doctor’s foot slipped; and, as he recovered himself, half leaning over
her, he said, “How provoking we can’t make her leave off singing!”
“Ah, doctor,” she cried, “don’t be angry! I won’t sing any more,” and
she stopped. But shortly she began again; and in vain did the doctor
implore her, by the loudest entreaties, addressed to her ear, to keep
her promise and desist. It then occurred to him to place himself in the
same position as when she heard him before. He raised the bed-clothes,
bent his head towards her stomach, and said, in a loud voice, “Do you,
then, mean to sing for ever?” “Oh, what pain you have given me!” she
exclaimed; “I implore you speak lower.” At the same time she passed her
hand over the pit of her stomach. “In what way, then, do you hear?”
said Dr. Petetin. “Like any one else,” was the answer. “But I am
speaking to your stomach.” “Is it possible!” she said. He then tried
again whether she could hear with her ears, speaking even through a
tube to aggravate his voice—she heard nothing. On his asking her, at
the pit of her stomach, if she had not heard him,—“No,” said she, “I am
indeed unfortunate.”

A cognate phenomenon to the above is _the conversion of the patient’s
new sense of vision in a direction inwards_. He looks into himself,
and sees his own inside as it were illuminated or transfigured: that
is to say, his visual power is turned inwards, and he sees his organs
possibly by the Od-light they give out.

A few days after the scenes just described, Dr. Petetin’s patient
had another attack of catalepsy. She still heard at the pit of her
stomach, but the manner of hearing was modified. In the mean time her
countenance expressed astonishment. Dr. Petetin inquired the cause.
“It is not difficult,” she answered, “to explain to you why I look
astonished. I am singing, doctor, to divert my attention from a sight
which appals me. I see my inside, and the strange forms of the organs,
surrounded with a network of light. My countenance must express what I
feel—astonishment and fear. A physician who should have my complaint
for a quarter of an hour would think himself fortunate, as nature would
reveal all her secrets to him. If he was devoted to his profession,
he would not, as I do, desire to be quickly well.” “Do you see your
heart?” asked Dr. Petetin. “Yes, there it is; it beats at twice, the
two sides in agreement; when the upper part contracts, the lower part
swells, and immediately after that contracts. The blood rushes out
all luminous, and issues by two great vessels, which are but a little

One morning (to quote from the latter part of this case) the access
of the fit took place, according to custom, at eight o’clock. Petetin
arrived later than usual; he announced himself by speaking to the
fingers of the patient, (by which he was heard.) “You are a very lazy
person this morning, doctor,” said she. “It is true, madam; but if
you knew the reason, you would not reproach me.” “Ah,” said she, “I
perceive you have had a headache for the last four hours: it will not
leave you till six in the evening. You are right to take nothing; no
human means can prevent it running its course.” “Can you tell me on
which side is the pain?” said Petetin. “On the right side; it occupies
the temple, the eye, the teeth: I warn you that it will invade the
left eye, and that you will suffer considerably between three and four
o’clock; at six you will be free from pain.” The prediction came out
literally true. “If you wish me to believe you, you must tell me what I
hold in my hand.” “I see through your hand an antique medal.”

Petetin inquired of his patient at what hour her own fit would cease:
“At eleven.” “And the evening accession—when will it come on?” “At
seven o’clock.” “In that case it will be later than usual.” “It is
true; the periods of its recurrence are going to change to so and
so.” During this conversation, the patient’s countenance expressed
annoyance. She then said to M. Petetin, “My uncle has just entered; he
is conversing with my husband behind the screen; his visit will fatigue
me; beg him to go away.” The uncle, leaving, took with him by mistake
her husband’s cloak, which she perceived, and sent her sister-in-law to
reclaim it.

In the evening there were assembled, in the lady’s apartment, a good
number of her relations and friends. Petetin had, intentionally, placed
a letter within his waistcoat, on his heart. He begged permission, on
arriving, to wear his cloak. Scarcely had the lady, the access having
come on, fallen into trance, when she said—“And how long, doctor, has
it come into fashion to wear letters next the heart?” Petetin pretended
to deny the fact: she insisted on her correctness; and, raising her
hands, designated the size, and indicated exactly the place of the
letter. Petetin drew forth the letter, and held it, closed, to the
fingers of the patient. “If I were not a discreet person,” she said,
“I should tell the contents; but to show you that I know them, they
form exactly two lines and a-half of writing;” which, on opening the
letter, was shown to be the fact.

A friend of the family, who was present, took out his purse, and put
it in Dr. Petetin’s bosom, and folded his cloak over his chest. As
soon as Petetin approached his patient, she told him that he had the
purse, and named its exact contents. She then gave an inventory of the
contents of the pockets of all present, adding some pointed remark
when the opportunity offered. She said to her sister-in-law that the
most interesting thing in _her_ possession was a letter;—much to her
surprise, for she had received the letter the same evening, and had
mentioned it to no one.

The patient, in the mean time, lost strength daily, and could take no
food. The means employed failed of giving her relief, and it never
occurred to M. Petetin to inquire of her how he should treat her. At
length, with some vague idea that she suffered from too great electric
tension of the brain, he tried, fantastically enough, the effect of
making deep inspirations, standing close in front of the patient. No
effect followed from this absurd proceeding. Then he placed one hand
on the forehead, the other on the pit of the stomach of the patient,
and continued his inspirations. The patient now opened her eyes; her
features lost their fixed look; she rallied rapidly from the fit, which
lasted but a few minutes instead of the usual period of two hours
more. In eight days, under a pursuance of this treatment, she entirely
recovered from her fits, and with them ceased her extraordinary
powers. But, during these eight days, her powers manifested a still
greater extension; she foretold what was going to happen to her; she
discussed with astonishing subtlety, questions of mental philosophy and
physiology; she caught what those around her meant to say before they
expressed their wishes, and either did what they desired, or begged
that they would not ask her to do what was beyond her strength.

A young lady, after much alarm during a revolutionary riot, fell
into catalepsy. In her fits she appeared to hear with the pit of
the stomach; and most of the phenomena described in the preceding
case were again manifested. She improved in health, under the care
of Dr. Petetin, up to the 29th of May, 1790, the memorable day when
the inhabitants of Lyons expelled the wretches who were making sport
of their fortunes, their liberties, and their lives. At the report
of the first cannon fired, Mdlle. —— fell into violent convulsions,
followed by catalepsy and tetanus. When in this state she discerned
Petetin distinguishing himself under the fire of a battery; and she
blamed him the following day for having so rashly exposed his life. In
the progress of the complaint, during the attacks of catalepsy, the
occurrences of which she exactly foresaw, she likewise predicted the
bloody day of the 29th of September, the surrender of the city on the
7th of October, the entrance of the republican troops on the 8th, and
the cruel proscriptions issued by the Committee of Public Safety.

The third case given by Petetin is that of Madame de Saint Paul,
who was attacked with catalepsy a few days after her marriage, in
consequence of seeing her father fall down in a fit of apoplexy at
table. The general features of her lucidity are the same as in the
former cases. I shall, therefore, content myself with quoting some
observations made by Dr. Prost, author of _La Médecine éclairée par
l’Observation et l’Anatomie pathologique_, on the authority of Dr.
Foissac, to whom he communicated them. Dr. Prost had studied this case
assiduously during nine months. “Her intellectual faculties,” observed
Dr. Prost, “acquired a great activity, and the richness of her fancy
made itself remarked in the picturesque images which she threw into
her descriptions. As she was telling her friends of an approaching
attack of catalepsy, suddenly she exclaimed,—‘I no longer see or hear
objects in the same manner; every thing is transparent round me, and
my observation extends to incalculable distances.’ She designated,
without an error, the people who were on the public promenade, whether
near the house, or still a quarter of an hour’s walk distant. She read
the thoughts of every one who came near her; she marked those who were
false and vicious; and repelled the approach of stupid people, who
bored her with their questions and aggravated her malady. ‘Just as
much as their pates excite my pity,’ said she, ‛do the heads of men of
information and intelligence, all whose thoughts I look into, fill me
with delight.’”

The following facts I cite corroboratively, from one of several cases
of hysteria communicated by Dr. Delpit, inspecting physician of the
waters at Barèges.—(_Bibliotheque Médicale_, t. lvi. p. 308.)

Mdlle. V——, aged thirteen, after seeing the curé administer extreme
unction, fainted away. There followed extreme disgust towards food.
During eighteen days she neither ate nor drank; there was no secretion;
her breathing remained tranquil and regular; the patient preserved
her embonpoint and complexion. During this complete suspension of the
functions of digestion, the organs of sensation would be alternately
paralyzed. One day the patient became blind; on the next, she could
see, but could not hear; another day she lost her speech. The
mutations were noticed generally in the night, upon her waking out
of sleep. “Nevertheless,” says M. Delpit, “her intellect preserved
all its vivacity and force, and, during the palsy of the organs of
sensation, nature supplied the loss in another way; when, with her
eyes, Mdlle. Caroline could not distinguish light, she yet read, and
read distinctly, by carrying her fingers over the letters. I have made
her thus read, in the daytime and in the profoundest darkness, either
printed pages out of the first book that came to hand, or written
passages that I had previously prepared.” In this, the alternation
of different states of recollections is not described as having been
observed. But I have little doubt that double consciousness was really
present. I believe that feature to be essential to waking trance. I
have little doubt, likewise, that double consciousness is attended by
more or less trance-perception. The co-existence of spasm, necessary to
constitute the case one of catalepsy, is accidental.

Sensorial illusions occasionally occur in catalepsy, but not
frequently; they are commoner in the inferior grades of trance. The
daimon of Socrates was, no doubt, a hallucination of this kind.

The trance-daimon, or sensorial illusion mixing itself with trance, is
exemplified in the following case of catalepsy, which occurred in the
person of the adopted daughter of the Baron de Strombeck.

Besides the ordinary features, on which I will not again dwell, at one
time it was her custom to apply to an imaginary being for directions
as to the treatment of her own case. Subsequently, she one day
observed—“It is not a phantom; I was in error in thinking it so; it
is a voice which speaks within me, and which I think without me. This
apparition comes because my sleep is less perfect. In that case, I seem
to see a white cloud rise out of the earth, from which a voice issues,
the echo of which reverberates within me.”

This patient had quintuple consciousness, or four morbid states, each
of which kept its own recollections to itself.

A final case I will quote, the authority of which is the Baron de
Fortis. It was treated by Dr. Despine of Aix-les-Bains.

The patient had had epilepsy, for the cure of which she went to Aix.
There she had all sorts of fits and day-somnambulism, during which
she waited at table, with her eyes shut, perfectly. She likewise saw
alternately with her fingers, the palm of her hand, and her elbow, and
would write with precision with her right hand, superintending the
process with her left elbow. These details are peculiarly gratifying
to myself, for in the little I have seen, I yet have seen a patient
walk about with her eyes shut, and well blinded besides, holding the
knuckles of one hand before her as a seeing lantern. However, the
special interest of this case is, that the patient was differently
affected by different kinds of matter; glass appeared to burn her,
porcelain was pleasantly warm, earthenware felt cold.

What comment can I make on the preceding wondrous details? Those to
whom they are new must have time to become familiar with them; in
order, reversing the process by which the eye gets to see in the dark,
to learn to distinguish objects in this flood of excessive light. Those
who are already acquainted with them will, I think, agree with me that
the principle which I have assumed—the possibility of an abnormal
relation of the mind and body allowing the former, either to shift the
place of its manifestations in the nervous system, or partially to
energize as free spirit—is the only one which at present offers any
solution of the new powers displayed in catalepsy. One regrets that
more was not made of the opportunities of observation which Petetin
enjoyed. But there are means, which I shall by-and-by have occasion to
specify, through which, in the practice of medicine, and in the proper
treatment of various disorders, like instances may be artificially
multiplied and modified so as to meet the exigencies of inductive
science. In the mean time, let me append one or two corollaries to the
preceding demonstration.

I. It is evident that the performances of catalepsy reduce the oracles
of antiquity to natural phenomena. Let us examine the tradition of that
of Delphi.

Diodorus relates, that goats feeding near an opening in the ground
were observed to jump about in a singular manner, and that a goatherd
approaching to examine the spot was taken with a fit and prophesied.
Then the priests took possession of the spot and built a temple.
Plutarch tells us that the priestess was an uneducated peasant-girl,
of good character and conduct. Placed upon the tripod, and affected
by the exhalation, she struggled and became convulsed, and foamed at
the mouth; and in that state she delivered the oracular answer. The
convulsions were sometimes so violent that the Pythia died. Plutarch
adds, that the answers were never in error, and that their established
truth filled the temple with offerings from the whole of Greece, and
from barbarian nations. Without supposing it to have been infallible,
we must, I think, infer that the oracle was too often right to have
been wholly a trick. The state of the Pythia was probably trance with
convulsions, the same with that in which cataleptic patients have
foreseen future events. The priestess was of blameless life, which
suits the production of trance, the fine susceptibility of which is
spoilt by irregular living. Finally, from what we know of the effects
of the few gases and vapours of which the inhalation has been tried, it
is any thing but improbable that one or other gaseous compound should
directly induce trance in predisposed subjects.

II. The performances of Zschokke are poor by the side of those of a
cataleptic. But then he was not entranced. Nevertheless, an approach to
that state manifested itself in his losing himself when inspecting his
visiter’s brains. So again, those who had the gift of second-sight are
represented to have been subject to fits of abstraction, in which they
stood rapt. The præternatural gifts of Socrates were probably those of
a Highland seer; in which character he is reported to have foretold
the death of an officer, if he pursued a route he contemplated. The
officer would not change his plans, and was met by the enemy, and
slain accordingly. In all these cases, the mind seems to have gone
out to seek its knowledge. Two of Mr. Williamson’s lucid patients, of
whom more afterwards, told him that their minds went out at the backs
of their heads, in starting on these occasions. They pointed to the
lower and back part of the head, opposite to the medulla oblongata.
In prophetic, and in true retrospective dreams, one may imagine the
phenomena taking the same course; most likely the dreamers have slipt
in their sleep into a brief lucid somnambulism. In the cases of ghosts
and of dreams, coincident with the period of the death of an absent
person, it seems simpler to suppose the visit to have come from the
other side. So the Vampyr-ghost was probably a visit made by the free
part of the mind of the patient who lay buried in death-trance. The
visit was fatal to the party visited, because trance is contagious.

III. The wonderful performances attributed to instinct in animals
appear less incomprehensible when viewed in juxtaposition with some of
the feats of lucid cataleptics. The term instinct is a very vague one.
It is commonly used to denote the intelligence of animals as opposed to
human reason. Instinct is, therefore, a compound phenomenon; and I must
begin by resolving it into its elements. They are three in number:—

1. Observation and reasoning of the same kind with that of man,
but limited in their scope. They are exercised only in immediate
self-preservation, and in the direct supply of the creature’s bodily
wants or simple impulses. A dog will whine to get admission into the
house, will open the latch of a gate; one rook will sit sentry for the
rest; a plover will fly low, and short distances, as if hurt, to wile
away a dog from her nest. But in this vein of intelligence, animals
make no further advance. Reflection, with the higher faculties and
sentiments which minister to it, and with it constitute reason, is
denied them. So they originate no objects of pursuit in the way that
man does, and have no source of self-improvement. But, in lack of human
reflection, some animals receive the help of—

2. Special conceptions, which are developed in their minds at fitting
seasons. Of this nature, to give an instance, is the notion of
nest-building in birds. It may be observed of these conceptions that
they appear to us arbitrary, though perfectly suited to the being of
each species: thus, in the example referred to, we may suppose that
the material and shape of the nest might be varied without its object
being the less perfectly attained,—at least, as far as we can see. The
conception spontaneously developed in the mind of the bird is then
carried out intelligently, through the same quick and just observation,
in a little way, which habitually ministers to its appetites, as I
explained in a preceding paragraph.

The special conception is sometimes characterized by the utmost
perfectness of mechanical design. Here, however, is nothing to surprise
us. The supreme wisdom which preordained the development of an idea
in an insect’s mind, might as easily as not have given it absolute
perfectness. But—

3. Some animals have the power of modifying the special conception,
when circumstances arise which prevent its being carried out in
the usual way; and of realizing it in a great many different ways,
on as many different occasions. And their work, on each of these
occasions, is as perfect as in their carrying out the ordinary form
of the conception. I beg leave to call the principle, by which
they see thus how to shape their course so perfectly under new
circumstances—intuition. To instance it, there is a beetle called
the rhynchites betulæ. Its habit is, towards the end of May, to cut
the leaves of the betula alba, or betula pubescens, into slips,
which it rolls up into funnel-shaped chambers, which form singularly
convenient cradles for its eggs. This is done after one pattern; and
one may suppose it the mechanical realization of an inborn idea, as
long as the leaf is perfect in shape. But if the leaf is imperfect,
intuition steps upon the scene to aid the insect to cut its coat after
its cloth. The sections made are then seen to vary with the varying
shape of the leaf. Many different sections made by the insect were
accurately drawn by a German naturalist, Dr. Debey. He submitted
them for examination to Professor Heis of Aix-la-Chapelle. Upon
carefully studying them, Dr. Heis found these cuttings of the leaves,
in suitableness to the end proposed, even to the minutest technical
detail, to be in accordance with calculations compassable only through
the higher mathematics, which, till modern times, were unknown to
human intelligence. Such is the marvellous power of “intuition,”
displayed by certain insects. I know not how to define it but as a
power of immediate reference to absolute truth, evinced by the insect
in carrying out its little plans. It is evident that the insect uses
the same power in realizing its ordinary special conception, when the
result displays equal perfectness. And the question even crosses one’s
mind, Are the seemingly arbitrary plans really arbitrary?—may they not
equally represent a highest type of design? But, be that as it may,
the intuition of insects, as we now apprehend it, no longer stands
an isolated phenomenon. The lucid cataleptic cannot less directly
communicate with the source of truth, as she proves by foreseeing
future events.

IV. The speculations of Berkeley and Boscovich on the non-existence
of matter; and of Kant and others on the arbitrariness of all our
notions, are interested in, for they appear to be refuted by, the
intuitions of cataleptics. The cataleptic apprehends or perceives
directly the objects around her; but they are the same as when realized
through her senses. She notices no difference; size, form, colour,
distance, are elements as real to her now as before. In respect again
to the future, she sees it, but not in the sense of the annihilation
of time; she foresees it; it is the future present to her; time she
measures, present and future, with strange precision,—strange, yet an
approximation, instead of this certainty, would have been still more

So that it appears that our notions of matter, force, and the like, and
of the conditions of space and time, apart from which we can conceive
nothing, are not figments to suit our human and temporary being, but
elements of eternal truth.


 RELIGIOUS DELUSIONS—The seizures giving rise to them shown to
 have been forms of trance brought on by fanatical excitement—The
 Cevennes—Scenes at the tomb of the Abbé Paris—Revivals in
 America—The Ecstatica of Caldaro—Three forms of imputed demoniacal
 possession—Witchcraft; its marvels, and the solution.

There have been occasions, when much excitement on the subject of
religion has prevailed, and when strange disorders of the nervous
system have developed themselves among the people, which have
been interpreted as immediate visitings of the Holy Spirit. The
interpretation was delusive, the belief in it superstition. The effects
displayed were neither more nor less than phenomena of trance, the
physiological consequences of the prevailing excitement. The reader who
has attentively perused the preceding letters will have no difficulty
in identifying forms of this affection in the varieties of religious
seizures, which, without further comment, I proceed to exemplify.

Every one will have met with allusions to some extraordinary scenes
which took place in the Cevennes, at the close of the seventeenth

It was towards the end of the year 1688 that a report was first heard
of a gift of prophecy which had shown itself among the persecuted
followers of the Reformation, who, in the south of France, had betaken
themselves to the mountains. The first instance was said to have
occurred in the family of a glass-dealer of the name of Du Serre, well
known as the most zealous Calvinist of the neighbourhood, which was a
solitary spot in Dauphiné, near Mount Peyra. In the enlarging circle
of enthusiasts, Gabriel Astier and Isabella Vincent made themselves
first conspicuous. Isabella, a girl of sixteen years of age, from
Dauphiné, who was in the service of a peasant, and tended sheep, began
in her sleep to preach and prophesy, and the Reformers came from far
and near to hear her. An advocate of the name of Gerlan describes
the following scene, which he had witnessed. At his request, she had
admitted him and a good many others, after nightfall, to a meeting
at a chateau in the neighbourhood. She there disposed herself upon a
bed, shut her eyes, and went to sleep. In her sleep she chanted, in
a low tone, the Commandments and a psalm. After a short respite she
began to preach, in a louder voice—not in her own dialect, but in good
French, which hitherto she had not used. The theme was an exhortation
to obey God rather than man. Sometimes she spoke so quickly as to be
hardly intelligible. At certain of her pauses she stopped to collect
herself. She accompanied her words with gesticulations. Gerlan found
her pulse quiet, her arm not rigid, but relaxed, as natural. After an
interval, her countenance put on a mocking expression, and she began
anew her exhortation, which was now mixed with ironical reflections
upon the Church of Rome. She then suddenly stopped, continuing asleep.
It was in vain they stirred her. When her arms were lifted and let
go, they dropped unconsciously. As several now went away, whom her
silence rendered impatient, she said in a low tone, but just as if she
was awake,—“Why do you go away?—why do not you wait till I am ready?”
And then she delivered another ironical discourse against the Catholic
Church. She closed the scene with prayer.

When Bouchier, the intendant of the district, heard of the performances
of Isabella Vincent, he had her brought before him. She replied to
his interrogatories, that people had often told her that she preached
in her sleep, but that she did not herself believe a word of it. As
the slightness of her person made her appear younger than she really
was, the intendant merely sent her to an hospital at Grenoble; where,
notwithstanding that she was visited by persons of the Reformed
persuasion, there was an end of her preaching—she became a Catholic!

Gabriel Astier, who had been a young labourer, likewise from Dauphiné,
went, in the capacity of a preacher and prophet, into the valley of
Bressac, in the Vivarais. He had infected his family: his father,
mother, elder brother, and sweetheart, followed his example, and took
to prophesying. Gabriel, before he preached, used to fall into a kind
of stupor in which he lay rigid. After delivering his sermon, he would
dismiss his auditors with a kiss, and the words—“My brother, or my
sister, I impart to you the Holy Ghost.” Many believed that they had
thus received the Holy Ghost from Astier, being taken with the same
seizure. During the period of the discourse, first one, then another,
would fall down: some described themselves afterwards as having felt
first a weakness and trembling through the whole frame, and an impulse
to yawn and stretch their arms; then they fell, convulsed and foaming
at the mouth. Others carried the contagion home with them, and first
experienced its effects, days, weeks, or months afterwards. They
believed—nor is it wonderful they did so—that they had received the
Holy Ghost.

Not less curious were the seizures of the Convulsionnaires at the grave
of the Abbé Paris, in the year 1727. These Jansenist visionaries used
to collect in the churchyard of St. Médard, round the grave of the
deposed and deceased deacon; and before long, the reputation of the
place for working miracles getting about, they fell in troops into
convulsions. They required, to gratify an internal impulse or feeling,
that the most violent blows should be inflicted upon them at the pit
of the stomach. Carré de Montgeron mentions that, being himself an
enthusiast in the matter, he had inflicted the blows required with
an iron instrument, weighing from twenty to thirty pounds, with a
round head. And as a convulsionary lady complained that he struck too
lightly to relieve the feeling of depression at her stomach, he gave
her sixty blows with all his force. It would not do, and she begged to
have the instrument used by a tall, strong man, who stood by in the
crowd. The spasmodic tension of her muscles must have been enormous;
for she received one hundred blows, delivered with such force that the
wall shook behind her. She thanked the man for his benevolent aid,
and contemptuously censured De Montgeron for his weakness, or want of
faith, and timidity. It was, indeed, time for issuing the mandate,
which, as wit read it, ran—

    “De par le roi—Défense à Dieu,
    De faire miracle en ce lieu.”

In the revivals of modern times, scenes parallel to the above have been

“I have seen,” says Mr. Le Roi Sunderland, himself a preacher,
(_Zion’s Watchman_, New York, Oct. 2, 1842,) “persons often ‘lose
their strength,’ as it is called, at camp-meetings and other places
of great religious excitement; and not pious people alone, but those,
also, who were not professors of religion. In the spring of 1824, while
performing pastoral labour in Dennis, Massachusetts, I saw more than
twenty affected in this way. Two young men, of the name of Crowell,
came one day to a prayer-meeting. They were quite indifferent. I
conversed with them freely, but they showed no signs of penitence.
From the meeting they went to their shop, (they were shoemakers,) to
finish some work before going to the meeting in the evening. On seating
themselves, they were both struck perfectly stiff. I was immediately
sent for, and found them sitting paralyzed” (he means taken with the
initiatory form of trance-sleep, and possibly cataleptic) “on their
benches, with their work in their hands, unable to get up, or to move
at all. I have seen scores of persons affected the same way. I have
seen persons lie in this state forty-eight hours. At such times they
are unable to converse, and are sometimes unconscious of what is
passing round them. At the same time, they say they are in a happy
state of mind.”

The following extract from the same journal portrays another kind of
nervous seizure, as it was manifested at the great revival some forty
years ago, at Kentucky and Tennessee.

“The convulsions were commonly called ‘the jerks.’ A writer, (M’Neman)
quoted by Mr. Power, (_Essay on the Influence of the Imagination over
the Nervous System_,) gives this account of their course and progress:

“‛At first appearance these meetings exhibited nothing to the spectator
but a scene of confusion that could scarcely be put into language.
They were generally opened with a sermon, near the close of which there
would be an unusual outcry, some bursting out into loud ejaculations of
prayer, &c.

“‛The rolling exercise consisted in being cast down in a violent
manner, doubled with the head and feet together, or stretched in a
prostrate manner, turning swiftly over like a dog. Nothing in nature
could better represent the jerks, than for one to goad another
alternately on every side with a piece of red-hot iron. The exercise
commonly began in the head, which would fly backwards and forwards, and
from side to side, with a quick jolt, which the person would naturally
labour to suppress, but in vain. He must necessarily go on as he was
stimulated, whether with a violent dash on the ground, and bounce from
place to place, like a foot-ball; or hopping round, with head, limbs,
and trunk twitching and jolting in every direction, as if they must
inevitably fly asunder,’” &c.

The following sketch is from Dow’s journal. In the year 1805 he
preached at Knoxville, Tennessee, before the governor, when some
hundred and fifty persons, among whom were a number of Quakers, had the
jerks. “I have seen,” says the writer, “all denominations of religion
exercised by the jerks—gentleman and lady, black and white, young and
old, without exception. I passed a meeting-house, where I observed the
undergrowth had been cut down for camp-meetings, and from fifty to a
hundred saplings were left for the people who were jerked to hold by.
I observed where they had held on they had kicked up the earth, as a
horse stamping flies.”

A widely different picture to the above is given in a letter from the
Earl of Shrewsbury to A. M. Phillips, Esq., published in 1841, and
describing the state of two _religieuses_, (the Ecstatica of Caldaro,
and the Addolorata of Capriana,) who were visited by members of their
own communion, in the belief that they lay in a sort of heavenly
beatitude. To this idea their stillness, the devotional attitude of
their hands and expression of their countenances, together with their
manifestation of miraculous intuition, contributed. But I am afraid
that, to the eye of a physician, their condition would have been simple
trance. However, while the absence of reasonable enlightenment in the
display is to be regretted, one agreeably recognises the influence of
the humanity of modern times. Had these young women lived two centuries
ago, they would have been the subjects of other discipline, and their
history, had I possessed it to quote, must have been transferred to the
darker section which I have next to enter on.

The belief in possession by devils, which existed in the middle ages
and subsequently, embraced several dissimilar cases. The first of them
which I will exemplify would have included individuals in the state of
the _religieuses_ described by Lord Shrewsbury. Behaviour and powers
which the people could not understand, even if exhibited by good and
virtuous persons, and only expressive of or used for right purposes,
were construed into the operation of unholy influences. The times were
the reign of terror in religion. I give the following instance:—Marie
Bucaille, a native of Normandy, became, towards the year 1700, the
subject of fits, which ordinarily lasted three or four hours. It
appears, by the depositions of persons of character on her trial,
that Marie had effected many cures seemingly by her prayers; that she
comprehended and executed directions given to her mentally; that she
read the thoughts of others. When in the fit, the Curé of Golleville
placed in the hands of Marie a folded note. Without opening the note,
she replied to the questions which it contained; and, without knowing
the writer, she accurately described her person. Although Marie only
employed her powers to cure the sick and in the service of religion,
she was not the less condemned to death by the parliament of Valogne.
The parliament of Rouen mitigated her punishment to whipping and public

A second class, who came nearer to the exact idea of being possessed by
devils, were persons who were deranged, and entertained something of
that impression themselves, and avowed it. I am not speaking of single
instances, but of an extensive popular delusion, or frenzy rather,
which prevailed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in parts of
Europe as an epidemic seizure. It was called the wolf-sickness. Those
affected betook themselves to the forests as wild beasts. One of these,
who was brought before De Lancre, at Bordeaux, in the beginning of the
sixteenth century, was a young man of Besançon. He avowed himself to be
huntsman of the forest lord, his invisible master. He believed that,
through the power of his master, he had been transformed into a wolf;
that he hunted in the forest as such; and that he was often accompanied
by a bigger wolf, whom he suspected to be the master he served; with
more details of the same kind. The persons thus affected were called
Wehrwolves. Their common fate was the alternative of recovering from
their derangement, under the influence of exorcism and its accessories,
or of being executed.

The third and proper type of possession by devils presented more
complicated features. The patient’s state was not uniform. Often, or
for the most part, his appearance and behaviour were natural; then
paroxysms would supervene, in which he appeared fierce, malignant,
demoniacal, in which he believed himself to be possessed, and acted
up to the character, and in which powers, seemingly superhuman, such
as reading the thoughts of others, were manifested by the possessed.
The explanation of these features is happily given by Dr. Fischer of
Basle, author of an excellent work on Somnambulism. He resolves them,
with evident justice, into recurrent fits of trance—the patient, when
entranced, being at the same time deranged; and he exemplifies his
hypothesis by the case of a German lady who had fits of trance, in
which she fancied herself a French emigrée: it would have been as easy
for her, had it been the mode, to have fancied herself, and to have
played the part of being, possessed by the fiend. The case is this:

Gmelin, in the first volume of his _Contributions to Anthropology_,
narrates that, in the year 1789, a German lady, under his observation,
had daily paroxysms, in which she believed herself to be, and acted
the part of, a French Emigrant. She had been in distress of mind
through the absence of a person she was attached to, and he was somehow
implicated in the scenes of the French Revolution. After an attack of
fever and delirium, the complaint regulated itself, and took the form
of a daily fit of trance-waking. When the time for the fit approached,
she stopped in her conversation, and ceased to answer when spoken to;
she then remained a few minutes sitting perfectly still, her eyes fixed
on the carpet before her. Then, in evident uneasiness, she began to
move her head backwards and forwards, to sigh and to pass her fingers
across her eyebrows. This lasted a minute; then she raised her eyes,
looked once or twice round with timidity and embarrassment, then began
to talk in French, when she would describe all the particulars of her
escape from France, and, assuming the manner of a French woman, talk
purer and better accented French than she had been known to be capable
of talking before, correct her friends when they spoke incorrectly, but
delicately, and with a comment on the German rudeness of laughing at
the bad pronunciation of strangers: and if led herself to speak or read
German, she used a French accent, and spoke it ill; and the like.

We have by this time had intercourse enough with spirits and demons to
prepare us for the final subject of witchcraft.

The superstition of witchcraft stretches back into remote antiquity,
and has many roots. In Europe it is partly of Druidical origin. The
Druidesses were part priestesses, part shrewd old ladies, who dealt
in magic and medicine. They were called _allrune_, all-knowing. There
was some touch of classical superstition mingled in the stream which
was flowing down to us; so an edict of a Council of Trêves, in the
year 1310, has this injunction:—“Nulla mulierum se nocturnis horis
equitare cum Dianâ profiteatur; hæc enim dæmoniaca est illusio.” But
the main source from which we derived this superstition is the East,
and traditions and facts incorporated in our religion. There were
only wanted the ferment of thought of the fifteenth century, the
energy, ignorance, enthusiasm, and faith of those days, and the papal
denunciation of witchcraft by the Bull of Innocent the Eighth, in 1459,
to give fury to the delusion. And from this time, for three centuries,
the flames at which more than a hundred thousand victims perished cast
a lurid light over Europe.

But the fires are out—the superstition is extinct—and its history is
trite, and has lost all interest; so I will hasten to the one point in
it which deserves, which indeed requires, explanation.

I do not advert to the late duration of the belief in witchcraft—so
late, that it is but a century this very month of January since
the last witch, a lady and a sub-prioress, whose confession I will
afterwards give, was executed in Germany; while, at the same period,
a strong effort was made in Scotland, by good and conscientious, and
otherwise sensible persons, to reanimate the embers of the delusion, as
is shown by the following evidence. In February, 1743, the Associate
Presbytery, meaning the Presbytery of the Secession or Seceders,
(from the Scottish Established Church,) passed, and soon thereafter
published, an act for renewing the National Covenant, in which there is
a solemn acknowledgment of sins, and vow to renounce them; among which
sins is specified “the repeal of the penal statutes against witchcraft,
contrary to the express laws of God, and for which a holy God may
be provoked, in a way of righteous judgment, to leave those who are
already ensnared to be hardened more and more, and to permit Satan to
tempt and seduce others to the same wicked and dangerous snare.”—(Note,
_Edinburgh Review_, January, 1847.)

Nor is the marvel in the absolute belief of the people in witchcraft
only two centuries ago: what could they do but believe, when the
witches and sorcerers themselves, before their execution, often avowed
their guilt and told how they had laid themselves out to league with
the evil spirit; how they had gone through a regular process of
initiation in the black art; how they had been rebaptized with the
support of regular witch-sponsors; how they had abjured Christ, and had
entered, to the best of their belief, into a compact with the Devil,
and had commenced accordingly a suitable course of bad works, poisoning
and bewitching men and cattle, and the like?

Nor is the wonder in the unfairness with which those accused of
witchcraft were treated. So at Lindheim, Horst reports on one occasion
six women were implicated in a charge of having disinterred the body of
a child to make a witchbroth. As they happened to be innocent of the
deed, they underwent the most cruel tortures before they would confess
it. At length they saw their cheapest bargain was to admit the crime,
and be simply burned alive, and have it over. They did so. But the
husband of one of them procured an official examination of the grave,
when the child’s body was found in its coffin safe and sound. What said
the Inquisitor? “This is indeed a proper piece of devil’s work: no, no,
I am not to be taken in by such a gross and obvious imposture. Luckily
the women have already confessed the crime, and burned they must and
shall be, in honour of the Holy Trinity, which has commanded the
extirpation of sorcerers and witches.” The six women were burned alive
accordingly; for the people had fits of frenzied terror, which required
to be allayed by the sacrifice of a victim or two, and Justice became
confused: to be sure, in those days her head was never very clear, and
threw by mistake the odium of the crime into the accusing scale; the
other flew up significantly of the full extent to which mercy could
interfere to temper the law. A curious instance of an epidemic attack
of the belief in witchcraft occurred at Salzburg between the years
1627 and 1629, originating in a sickness among the cattle in the
neighbourhood. The sickness was unluckily attributed to witchcraft,
and an active inquiry was set on foot to detect the participators in
the crime. It was very successful; for we find in the list of persons
burned alive on this occasion, besides children of 14, 12, 11, 10,
9 years of age, fourteen canons, four gentlemen of the choir, two
young men of rank, a fat old lady of rank, the wife of a burgomaster,
a counsellor, the fattest burgess of Würtzburg, together with his
wife, the handsomest woman in the city, and a midwife of the name of
Shiekelte, with whom (according to a N. B. in the original report) the
whole of the mischief originated.

The marvel in witchcraft is the belief entertained by the sorcerers
and witches themselves of its reality. That many of these persons,
shrewd and unprincipled, should have pretended an implicit belief in
their art, till they were brought to justice, is only what is still
occasionally done in modern times. But that they should, as it is
proved by some of their confessions previous to execution, have been
their own dupes, and have entertained no doubt whatsoever of the
reality of their intercourse with the devil, is surprising enough to
deserve explanation. A single crucial instance will bring us upon the
trail of the solution.

A little maid, twelve years of age, used to fall into fits of sleep;
and afterwards she told her parents and the judge how an old woman
and her daughter, riding on a broomstick, had come and taken her out
with them. The daughter sat foremost, the old woman behind, the little
maid between. They went away through the roof of the house, over the
adjoining houses and the towngate, to a village some way off. Upon
arriving there, the party went down the chimney of a cottage into a
room, where sat a black man and twelve women. They eat and drank. The
black man filled their glasses from a can, and gave each of the women a
handful of gold. She herself had received none, but she had eaten and
drunk with them.

See how much this example displays. I mean not that the superstition
was imbibed in childhood, though that would do much to establish the
belief in it, but that it had power to disturb the mind sufficiently
to produce trance-sleep; for such were evidently the fits of sleep
this child described; and trance-sleep, with its special character of
visions, of dreams vivid, coherent, continuous, realizing the ideas
which had driven the mind into trance. Elder persons, it is to be
presumed, were occasionally similarly wrought upon. And the witches
seemed to have known and availed themselves of the confidence in their
art that could be thus promoted; and by witchbroths, of which narcotics
formed an ingredient, they would induce in themselves and in their
pupils a heavy stupor, which so far resembles trance that vivid and
connected dreams occur in it. Here was the seeming reality necessary
for absolute belief. It lay in not understood trance-phenomena. Other
evidence from the same source came in to support the first. Some of the
witch-pupils in their trances would show a strange knowledge; some of
the victims, on whose fears or persons they had wrought, would become
possessed—proving their art to be not less real than they believed thus
the elementary part to be of their personal communication with the
fiend. These remarks explain collaterally why witches and sorceresses
were more numerous than sorcerers and magicians. Insufficient
occupation and other causes helped probably to dispose women to seek a
resource in the intense excitement of this crime; but besides, trance
stood at their service, which men seldomer experience.

I will conclude with two pictures. One, the confession—interesting,
however, from its relation to the child’s early vision—of vulgar and
ordinary witches; the other, the substance of the confession of a
lady-witch, which, in itself, tells the whole curious tale of this

At Mora, in Sweden, in 1669, of many who were put to the torture and
executed, seventy-two women agreed in the following avowal: That they
were in the habit of meeting at a place called Blocula. That on their
calling out “Come forth,” the Devil used to appear to them in a gray
coat, red breeches, gray stockings, with a red beard, and a peaked hat
with parti-coloured feathers on his head. He then enforced upon them,
not without blows, that they must bring him, at nights, their own and
other people’s children, stolen for the purpose. They travel through
the air to Blocula either on beasts, or on spits, or broomsticks. When
they have many children with them, they rig on an additional spar to
lengthen the back of the goat or their broomstick, that the children
may have room to sit. At Blocula they sign their name in blood, and are
baptized. The Devil is a humorous, pleasant gentleman; but his table is
coarse enough, which makes the children often sick on their way home,
the product being the so-called witch-butter found in the fields. When
the Devil is larky, he solicits the witches to dance round him on their
brooms, which he suddenly pulls from under them, and uses to beat them
with, till they are black and blue. He laughs at this joke till his
sides shake again. Sometimes he is in a more gracious mood, and plays
to them lovely airs upon the harp; and occasionally sons and daughters
are born to the Devil, which take up their residence at Blocula.

The following is the history of the lady-witch. She was, at the
time of her death, seventy years of age, and had been many years
sub-prioress of the convent of Unterzell, near Würtzburg.

Maria Renata took the veil at nineteen years of age, against her
inclination, having previously been initiated in the mysteries of
witchcraft, which she continued to practise for fifty years, under the
cloak of punctual attendance to discipline and pretended piety. She was
long in the station of sub-prioress, and would, for her capacity, have
been promoted to the rank of prioress, had she not betrayed a certain
discontent with the ecclesiastical life, a certain contrariety to her
superiors, something half expressed only of inward dissatisfaction.
Renata had not ventured to let any one about the convent into her
confidence, and she remained free from suspicion, notwithstanding that,
from time to time, some of the nuns, either from the herbs she mixed
with their food, or through sympathy, had strange seizures, of which
some died. Renata became at length extravagant and unguarded in her
witch-propensities, partly from long security, partly from desire of
stronger excitement—made noises in the dormitory, and uttered shrieks
in the garden; went at nights into the cells of the nuns to pinch and
torment them, to assist her in which she kept a considerable supply of
cats. The removal of the keys of the cells counteracted this annoyance;
but a still more efficient means was a determined blow, on the part of
a nun, struck at the aggressor with the penitential scourge one night,
on the morning following which Renata was observed to have a black
eye and cut face. This event awakened suspicion against Renata. Then
one of the nuns, who was much esteemed, declared, believing herself
upon her death-bed, that, “as she shortly expected to stand before
her Maker, Renata was uncanny; that she had often at nights been
visibly tormented by her, and that she warned her to desist from this
course.” General alarm arose, and apprehension of Renata’s arts; and
one of the nuns, who previously had had fits, now became possessed,
and, in the paroxysms, told the wildest tales against Renata. It is
only wonderful how the sub-prioress contrived to keep her ground so
many years against these suspicions and incriminations. She adroitly
put aside the insinuations of the nun as imaginary, or of calumnious
intention, and treated witchcraft and possession of the Devil as things
which enlightened people no longer believed in. As, however, five more
of the nuns, either taking the infection from the first, or influenced
by the arts of Renata, became possessed of devils, and unanimously
attacked Renata, the superiors could no longer avoid making a serious
investigation of the charges. Renata was confined to a cell alone,
whereupon the six devils screeched in chorus at being deprived of their
friend. She had begged to be allowed to take her papers with her; but
this being refused, and thinking herself detected, she at once avowed
to her confessor and the superiors that she was a witch, had learned
witchcraft out of the convent, and had bewitched the six nuns. They
determined to keep the matter secret, and to attempt the conversion of
Renata. And, as the nuns still continued possessed, they despatched
her to a remote convent. Here, under a show of outward piety, she
still went on with her attempts to realize witchcraft, and the nuns
remained possessed. It was decided at length to give Renata over to the
civil power. She was accordingly condemned to be burned alive; but in
mitigation of punishment, her head was first struck off. Four of the
possessed nuns gradually recovered, with clerical assistance—the other
two remained deranged. Renata was executed on the 21st January, 1749.

Renata stated, in her voluntary confession, that she had often, at
night, been carried bodily to witch-sabbaths, in one of which she was
first presented to the Prince of Darkness, when she abjured God and
the Virgin at the same time. Her name, with the alteration of Maria
into Emma, was written in a black book, and she herself was stamped on
the back as the Devil’s property; in return for which she received the
promise of seventy years of life, and of all she might wish for. She
stated that she had often at night gone into the cellar of the chateau
and drank the best wine; in the shape of a sow had walked on the
convent walls; on the bridge had milked the cows as they passed over;
and several times had mingled with the actors in the theatre in London.


 MESMERISM.—Use of chloroform—History of Mesmer—The true nature
 and extent of his discovery—Its applications to medicine and
 surgery—Various effects produced by mesmeric manipulations—Hysteric
 seizures—St. Veitz’s dance—Nervous paralysis—Catochus—Initiatory
 trance—The order in which the higher trance phenomena are afterwards
 generally drawn out.

Can no further use be made of the facts and principles we have thus
seen verified and established, than to explain a class of delusions
which prevailed in times of ignorance? The powers which we have seen
successfully employed to shake the nerves and unsettle the mind in
the service of superstition, can they not be skilfully turned to some
purpose beneficial to society?

A satisfactory answer to the question may be found in the invention of
ether-inhalation, and in the history of mesmerism. The witch narcotized
her pupils in order to produce in them delusive visions; the surgeon
stupefies his patient to annul the pain of an operation. The fanatic
preacher excites convulsions and trance in his auditory as evidence of
the working of the Holy Spirit; Mesmer produced the same effects in his
patients as a means of curing disease.

It occurred to Mr. Jackson, a chemist of the United States, that
it might be possible harmlessly to stupefy a patient through the
inhalation of the vapour of sulphuric ether, to such an extent that a
surgical operation would be unfelt by him. He communicated the idea to
Mr. Morton, a dentist, who carried it into execution with the happiest
results. The patient became insensible; a tooth was extracted; no pain
seemed felt at the time, or was remembered afterwards, and no ill
consequences followed. Led by the report of this success, in the course
of the autumn of 1846, Messrs. Bigelow, Warren, and Heywood, ventured
to employ the same means in surgical operations of a more serious
description. The results obtained on these occasions were not less
satisfactory than the first had been. Since then, in England, France,
and Germany, the same interesting experiment has been repeated many
hundred times, and the adoption of this, or of a parallel method, has
become general in surgery.

I withdraw from the present Letter a sketch which I had made from the
“report” of Dr. Heyfelder, of the phenomena of etherization; for a
year had barely elapsed, when the narcotizing agent recommended by Mr.
Jackson was superseded by another, suggested and brought into use by
Professor Simpson of Edinburgh. The inhalation of chloroform is found
to be more rapid, uniform, and certain in its effects, and compassable
in a simpler manner, than the inhalation of ether. Its brief phenomena
are wound up by the production of stupor; they are remotely comparable
to those produced by alcohol. Alas! the time is passed when I enjoyed
the means of looking through, and forming a practical judgment upon
discoveries like the present. Not the less, however, do I hail the
advent of this as a boon to the art of surgery. The conception was
original, bold and reasonable; its execution neat and scientific; its
success wonderful. It established in the year 1847, to the satisfaction
of the public and of the medical profession, that the exclusion of pain
from surgical operations is a practicable idea, and the attempt to
realize it a legitimate pursuit.

Then, what is Mesmerism?

The object of the inventor of the art was to cure diseases through the
influence of a new force brought by him to bear upon the human frame.

Talent, for philosophy or business, is the power of seeing what is
yet hidden from others. As the eyes of some animals are fitted to
see best in the dark, so the mental vision of some original minds
prefers exercising itself on obscure and occult subjects. Whoever
indulges this turn will certainly pass for a charlatan; most likely
he will prove one. Mesmer had it, and indulged it, in a high degree.
The body of science which I have unfolded in the preceding Letters
was wholly unknown in his time, (he was born in 1734;) but he was
led by his wayward instinct to grope after it in the dark, and he
seized and brought to upper light fragmentary elements of strange
capabilities, which he strove to interpret and to use. He had early
displayed a bias towards the mystical. When a student at Vienna, (he
was by birth a Swiss,) his principal study was astrology. He sought in
the stars a force which, extending throughout space, might influence
the beings living upon our planet. In the year 1766 he published his
lucubrations. In attempting to identify his imaginary force, Mesmer
first supposed it to be electricity. Afterwards, about the year 1773,
he adopted the idea that it must be magnetism. So at Vienna, from 1773
to 1775, he employed the practice of stroking diseased parts of the
body with magnets. But in 1776, happening to be upon a tour, he fell in
with a mystical monk of the name of Gassner, who was then occupied in
curing the Prince-Bishop of Ratisbon of blindness, by exorcism. Then
Mesmer observed that, without magnets, Gassner produced much the same
effects on the living body which he had produced with them. The fact
was not lost upon him: he threw aside his magnets, and operated mostly
afterwards with the hand alone. It appears that he was often successful
in curing disease, or that his patients not only experienced sensible
effects from his procedures, but frequently recovered from their
complaints. But in 1777, his reputation, which must have always hung
upon a very slender thread, broke down through a failure in the case
of the musician Paradies. So Mesmer left Vienna, and in the following
year betook himself to Paris. There he obtained a success which quickly
drew upon him the indignation, perhaps the jealousy, of the Faculty,
who failed not to stigmatize him as a charlatan. They exclaimed against
him for practising an art which he would not divulge; and when he
offered to display it, averred that he threw difficulties in the way of
their investigations. Perhaps he suspected them of want of fairness
in their inquiries; perhaps he was really unwilling to part with his
secret. He refused an offer from the Government of 20,000 francs if he
would disclose it; but he communicated freely to individuals, under a
pledge of secrecy, all he knew for a hundred louis. His practice itself
gave most support to the allegations against him. His patients were
received with an air of mystery and studied effect. The apartment,
hung with mirrors, was dimly lighted. A profound silence was observed,
broken only by strains of music, which occasionally floated through the
rooms. The patients were seated round a sort of vat, which contained
a heterogeneous mixture of chemical ingredients. With this, and with
each other, they were placed in relation by means of cords, or jointed
rods, or by holding hands; and among them slowly and mysteriously moved
Mesmer himself, affecting one by a touch, another by a look, a third by
passes with his hand, a fourth by pointing with a rod.

What followed is easily conceivable from the scenes referred to in
my last letter as witnessed at religious revivals. One person became
hysterical, then another; one was seized with catalepsy; others with
convulsions; some with palpitations of the heart, perspirations,
and other bodily disturbances. These effects, however various and
different, went all by the name of “salutary crisis.” The method was
supposed to provoke in the sick person exactly the kind of action
propitious to his recovery. And it may easily be imagined that many
a patient found himself the better after a course of this rude
empiricism, and that the effect made by these events passing daily in
Paris must have been very considerable. To the ignorant the scene was
full of wonderment.

To ourselves, regarding it from our present vantage-ground, it presents
no marvellous characters. The phenomena were the same which we have
been recently contemplating—a group of disorders of the nervous system.
The causes which were present are not less familiar to us, nor their
capability of producing such effects; they were—mental excitement,
here consisting in raised expectation and fear; the contagiousness
of hysteria, convulsions, and trance, its force increased by the
numbers and close-packing of the patients; the Od force, developed
by the chemical action in the charged caldron, developed by each of
the excited bodies around, its action first favoured by the absolute
stillness observed, then by the increasing sensibility of the patients
as their nerves became more and more shaken. It is remarkable that
Jussieu—the most competent judge in the commission of inquiry into the
truth of mesmerism, set on foot at Paris in 1784, of which Franklin
was a member, and which condemned mesmerism as an imposture—was so
struck with what he saw, that he strongly recommended the subject to
the attention and study of physicians. His objections were against the
theory alone. He laid it down in the separate report which he gave in,
that no physical cause had been proved to be in operation beyond animal
heat! curiously overlooking the fact that common heat would not produce
the effects observed; and, therefore, that the latter must have been
owing to that something which animal heat, or the radiating warmth of
a living body, contains, in addition to common heat. That something we
now know, but only since 1845, to be the Od force.

The Od force is so new, so young in science, that Mesmer’s reputation
has not yet been credited with the honour thence reflected upon it.
I will not say that Mesmer’s astral force was a distinct anticipation
of Von Reichenbach’s discovery, which was noways suggested by the
former, and was from first to last an effort of inductive observation.
But the guess of the mystic had certainly a most happy parallelism to
the truth, which a different sort of mind tracked in the same field;
for the Od force reaches us even from the stars, and the sun and the
fixed stars are Od-negative; and the planets and the moon Od-positive.
It is unnecessary to follow Mesmer through his minor performances.
The relief sometimes obtained by stroking diseased parts with the
hand—that is, the effects obtained through the local action of Od—had
been before proclaimed by Dr. Greatrex, whose pretensions had had no
less an advocate than the Honourable Robert Boyle. The extraordinary
tales of Mesmer’s personal power over individuals are probably part
exaggeration, part real results of his confidence and skill in the use
of the means he wielded. Mesmer died in 1815.

Among his pupils, when at the zenith of his fame, was the Marquis
de Puységur. Returning from serving at the siege of Gibraltar, this
young officer found mesmerism the mode at Paris, and appears to have
become, for no other reason, one of the initiated. At the end of a
course of instruction, he professed himself to be no wiser than when it
began; and he ridiculed the credulity of his brothers, who were stanch
adherents of the new doctrine. However, he did not forget his lesson;
and on going the same spring to his estate at Besancy, near Soissons,
he took occasion to mesmerize the daughter of his agent and another
young person, for the toothache, and they declared themselves, in a
few minutes, cured. This questionable success was sufficient to lead
M. de Puységur, a few days after, to try his hand on a young peasant
of the name of Victor, who was suffering with a severe fluxion on his
chest. What was M. de Puységur’s surprise, when, at the end of a few
minutes, Victor went off into a kind of tranquil sleep, without crisis
or convulsion, and in that sleep began to gesticulate and talk, and
enter into his private affairs. Then he became sad; and M. de Puységur
tried mentally to inspire him with cheerful thoughts; he hummed a
lively tune to himself inaudibly, and immediately Victor began to sing
the air. Victor remained asleep for an hour, and awoke composed, with
his symptoms mitigated.

The case of Victor revolutionized the art of mesmerism. The large
part of his life, in which M. de Puységur had nothing to do but to
follow this vein of inquiry, was occupied in practising and advocating
a gentle manipulation to produce sleep, in preference to the more
exciting means which led to the violent crises in Mesmer’s art. I
have no plea for telling how M. de Puységur served in the first
French revolutionary armies; how he quitted the service in disgust;
how narrowly he escaped the guillotine; how he lived in retirement
afterwards, benevolently endeavouring to do good to his sick neighbours
by means of mesmerism; how he survived the Restoration; and how,
finally, he died of a cold caught by serving in the encampment at
Rheims, at the coronation of Charles X.

For he had fulfilled his mission the day that he put Victor to sleep.
He had made a vast stride in advance of his teacher. Not but that
Mesmer must frequently have induced the same condition; but he had
passed it by unheeded as one only of numerous equivalent forms of
salutary crises; or that M. de Puységur himself estimated, or had the
means of estimating, the real nature and value of the step which he
had made. To himself he appeared to be winning a larger domain for
mesmerism, when in fact he had emerged into an independent field, into
which mesmerism happened to have a gate.

The state which he had induced in Victor was common trance, the
initiatory sleep, followed by half-waking. He had obtained this result
by using the Od force with quietness and gentleness, leaving out the
exciting mental agencies to which the mixture of violent seizures
in Mesmer’s practice is attributable. The gentler method has been
adopted and practised by the successors of M. de Puységur, by Deleuze,
Bertrand, Georget, Rostan, Foissac, Elliotson, and others. To Dr.
Elliotson, the most successful probably, certainly the most scientific
employer of the practice of mesmerism, the credit is due of having
introduced its use into England: the credit,—for it required no little
moral courage to encounter the storm of opposition with which his
honest zeal in the advocacy of an unpopular practical truth was met. It
is but fair to add, that though his theory has been superseded, and his
method changed, to Mesmer belongs the merit of having first tracked out
and realized this path of discovery. The golden medal is his.

The modern practice of mesmerism contemplates two objects: one, the
application of the Od force to produce local effects; the other, its
employment to induce trance. In the present slight sketch I shall
say nothing on the first subject; but let me describe how trance is
induced. It is to be observed, that attention to certain conditions
favours very much the success of the experiment. The room should not
be too light; very few persons should be present; the patient and
the operator should be quiet, tranquil, and composed; the patient
should be fasting. The operator has then only to sit down before the
patient, who is likewise sitting with his hands resting on his knees,
and gently closed, with the thumbs upwards. The operator then lays his
hands half-open upon the patient’s, pressing the thumbs against those
of the patient, as it were taking thumbs: this is a more convenient
attitude than taking hands in the ordinary way. The operator and
patient have then only to sit still. An Od-current is established; and
if the patient is susceptible, he will soon become drowsy, and perhaps
be entranced at the first sitting. Instead of this, the two hands of
the operator may be held horizontally with the fingers pointed to the
patient’s forehead, and either maintained in this position, or brought
downwards in frequent passes opposite to the patient’s face, shoulders,
arms; the points of the fingers being held as near the patient as
possible without touching.

It is easy, theoretically, to explain the beneficial results which
follow from the daily induction of trance for an hour or so, in
various forms of disorder of the nervous system,—in epilepsy,—in
tic-doloreux,—in nervous palsy, and the like. As long as the state
of trance is maintained, so long is the nervous system in a state of
repose. It is more or less completely put out of gear. It experiences
the same relief which a sprained joint feels when you dispose it in a
relaxed position on a pillow. A chance is thus given to the strained
nerves of recovering their tone of health; and it is wonderful how many
cases of nervous disorder get well at once through these simple means.
As it is certain that there is no disease in which the nervous system
is not primarily or secondarily implicated, it is impossible to foresee
what will prove the limit to the beneficial application of mesmerism in
medical practice.

In operative surgery the art is not less available. In trance the
patient is insensible, and a limb may be removed without the operation
exciting disturbance of any kind. And what is equally important, in
all the after-treatment, at every dressing, the process of mesmerizing
may be resorted to again, with no possible disadvantage, but being
rather soothing and useful to the patient, independently of the
extinction of the dread and suffering of pain. The first instance in
which an operation was performed on a patient in this state was the
celebrated case of Madame Plantin. It occurred twenty years ago. The
lady was sixty-four years of age, and laboured under scirrhus of the
breast. She was prepared for the operation by M. Chapélain, who on
several successive days threw her into trance by the ordinary mesmeric
manipulations. She was _then_ like an ordinary sleep-walker, and would
converse with indifference about the contemplated operation, the idea
of which, when she was in her natural state, filled her with terror.
The operation of removing the diseased breast was performed at Paris
on the 12th of April, 1829, by M. Jules Cloquet; it lasted from ten
to twelve minutes. During the whole of this time the patient, _in
her trance_, conversed calmly with M. Cloquet, and exhibited not the
slightest sign of suffering. Her expression of countenance did not
change; nor was the voice, the breathing, or the pulse at all affected.
After the wound was dressed, the patient was awakened from the trance,
when on learning that the operation was over, and seeing her children
round her, Madame Plantin was affected with considerable emotion,
whereupon M. Chapélain, to compose her, put her back into the state of

I copy the above particulars from Dr. Foissac’s _Rapports et
Discussions de l’Académie Royale de Médecine sur le Magnetism
Animal_.—Paris, 1833. My friend, Dr. Warren, of Boston, informed me
that, being at Paris, he had asked M. Jules Cloquet if the story were
true. M. Cloquet answered, “Perfectly.” “Then why,” said Dr. Warren,
“have you not repeated the practice?” M. Cloquet replied “that he had
not dared; that the prejudice against mesmerism was so strong at Paris
that he probably would have lost his reputation and his income by so

It has been mentioned that in ordinary trance the mind appears to gain
new powers. For a long time we had to trust to the chance turning up
of cases of spontaneous trance, in the experience of physicians of
observation, for any light we could hope would be thrown on those
extraordinary phenomena; now we possess around us, on every side,
adequate opportunities for completely elucidating these events, if we
please to employ them. The philosopher, when his speculations suggest a
new question to be put, can summon the attendance of a trance as easily
as the Jupiter of the Iliad summoned a dream; or, looking out for two
or three cases to which the induction of trance may be beneficial, the
physician may have in his house subjects for perpetual reference and
daily experiment.

A gentleman, with whom I, have long been well acquainted, for many
years chairman of the Quarter Sessions in a northern county, of which
during a late year he was high sheriff, has, like M. de Puységur,
amused some of his leisure hours, and benevolently done not a little
good, by taking the trouble of mesmerizing invalids, whom he has thus
restored to health. In constant correspondence with, and occasionally
having the pleasure of seeing this gentleman, I have learned from him
the common course in which the new powers of the mind, which belong to
trance, are developed under its artificial induction. The sketch which
I propose to give of this subject will be taken from his descriptions,
which, I should observe, tally in all essential points with what I meet
with in French and German authors. The little that I have myself seen
of the matter, I will mention preliminarily.

In some, instead of trance, a common fit of hysterics is produced; in
others, slight headache, and a sense of weight on the eyebrows, and
difficulty of raising the eyelids, supervene.

In one young woman, whom I saw mesmerised for the first time by
Dupotet, nothing resulted but a sense of pricking and tingling wherever
he pointed with his hand; and her arm, on one or two occasions, jumped
in the most natural and conclusive manner when, her eyes being covered,
he directed his outstretched finger to it.

A gentleman, about thirty years of age, when the mesmeriser held his
outstretched hands pointed to his head, experienced no disposition to
sleep; but in two or three minutes he began to shake his head and twist
his features about; at last, his head was jerked from side to side, and
forwards and backwards, with a violence that looked alarming. But he
said, when it was over, that the motion had not been unpleasant; that
he had moved in a sort voluntarily—although he could not refrain from
it. If the hands of the operator were pointed to his arm instead of
his head, the same violent jerks ensued, and gradually extended to the
whole body. I asked him to try to resist the influence, by holding his
arm out in strong muscular tension. This had the effect of retarding
the attack of the jerks, but, when it came on, it was more violent
than usual. I have lately seen another similar case. The seizure is
evidently a form of St. Veitz’s dance brought out by the operation of
the Od force. In neither of these two cases could trance be induced.

A servant of mine, aged about twenty-five, was mesmerized by
Lafontaine, for a full half-hour, and, no effect appearing to be
produced, I told him he might rise from the chair and leave us.
On getting up he looked uneasy, and said his arms were numb. They
were perfectly paralyzed from the elbows downwards, and numb to the
shoulders. This was the more satisfactory, that neither the man
himself, nor Lafontaine, nor the four or five spectators, expected
this result. The operator triumphantly drew a pin and stuck it into
the man’s hand, which bled, but had no feeling. Then heedlessly, to
show it gave pain, Lafontaine stuck the pin into the man’s thigh, whose
flashing eye, and half suppressed growl, denoted that the aggression
would certainly have been returned by another, had the arm which should
have done it not been really powerless. However, M. Lafontaine made
peace with the man, by restoring him the use and feeling of his arms.
This was done by dusting them, as it were, by quick transverse motions
of his extended hands. In five minutes nothing remained of the palsy
but a slight stiffness, which gradually wore off in the course of the

Occasionally partial tonic spasm (improperly termed catalepsy, for
it is of the nature of catochus, and the rigidity attending it is
absolute) supervenes as the only consequence of mesmerising a limb.
This result, which is not less alarming to the patient who has not been
led to expect it than the preceding, may be got rid of in the same
way. If you point with your fingers to the rigid muscles, or again, as
it were, dust the limb with brisk transverse passes, or breathe upon
it, the stiffness is thawed and disappears. Trance is seldom induced
by mesmeric passes without more or less partial muscular rigidity of
this kind supervening; it always yields to the means which have been

Genuine and ordinary trance I have seen produced by the same
manipulations in from three minutes to half-an-hour. The patient’s
eyelids have dropped, he has appeared on the point of sleeping, but
he has not sunk back upon his chair; then he has continued to sit
upright—seemingly perfectly insensible to the loudest sounds, or the
acutest and most startling impressions on the sense of touch. The pulse
is commonly a little increased in frequency; the breathing is sometimes
heavier than usual.

Occasionally, as in Victor’s case, the patient quickly and
spontaneously emerges from the state of trance-sleep into trance
half-waking—a rapidity of development which I am persuaded occurs much
more frequently among the French than with the English or Germans.
English patients, especially, for the most part require a long course
of education, many sittings, to have the same powers drawn out. And
these are by far the most interesting cases. I will describe, from Mr.
Williamson’s account, the course he has usually followed in developing
his patient’s powers, and the order in which they have manifested

On the first day, perhaps, nothing can be elicited. But after some
minutes, the stupor seems, as it were, less embarrassing to the
patient, who appears less heavily slumbrous, and breathes lighter
again: or it may be the reverse, particularly if the patient is
epileptic; after a little, the breathing may be deeper, the state one
of less composure. Pointing with the hands to the pit of the stomach,
laying the hands upon the shoulders, and slowly moving them along
the arms down to the hands, the whole with the utmost quietude and
composure on the part of the operator, will dispel this oppression.

And the interest of the first sitting is confined to the process of
awakening the patient, which is one of the most marvellous phenomena
of the whole. The operator lays his two thumbs on the space between
the eyebrows, and as it were vigorously smooths or irons the eyebrows,
rubbing them from within outwards seven or eight times. Upon this, the
patient probably raises his head and his eyebrows, and draws a deeper
breath, as if he would yawn; he is half awake, and blowing upon the
eyelids, or the repetition of the previous operation, or dusting the
forehead by smart transverse wavings of the hand, or blowing upon it,
causes the patient’s countenance to become animated; the eyelids open,
he looks about him, recognises you, and begins to speak. If any feeling
of heaviness remains, any weight or pain of the forehead, another
repetition of the same manipulations sets all right. And yet this
patient would not have been awakened if a gun had been fired at his
ear, or his arm had been cut off.

At the next sitting, or the next to that, the living statue begins to
wake in its tranced life. The operator holds one hand over the opposite
hand of his patient, and makes as if he would draw the patient’s
hand upwards, raising his own with short successive jerks, yet not
too abrupt. Then the patient’s hand begins to follow his; and, often
having ascended some inches, stops in the air catochally. This fixed
state is always relieved by transverse brushings with the hand, or by
breathing in addition, on the rigid limb. And it is most curious to see
the whole bodily frame, over which spasmodic rigidness may have crept,
thus thawed joint by joint. Then the first effect shown commonly is
this motion, the patient’s hand following the operator’s. At the same
sitting he begins to hear, and there is intelligence in his countenance
when the operator pronounces his name: perhaps his lips move, and he
begins to answer pertinently, as in ordinary sleep-walking. But he
hears the operator alone best, and him even in a whisper. _Your_ voice,
if you shout, he does not hear: unless you take the operator’s hand,
and then he hears _you_ too. In general, however, now the proximity of
others seems in some way to be sensible to him; and he appears uneasy
when they crowd close upon him. It seems that the force of the relation
between the operator and his patient naturally goes on increasing, as
the powers of the sleep-walker are developed; but that this is not
necessarily the case, and depends upon its being encouraged by much
commerce between them, and the exclusion of others from joining in this

And now the patient—beginning to wake in trance, hearing and answering
the questions of the operator, moving each limb, or rising even, as the
operator’s hand is raised to draw him into obedient following—enters
into a new relation with his mesmeriser. He _adopts sympathetically
every voluntary movement of the other_. When the latter rises from
his chair, _he_ rises; when he sits down, _he_ sits down: if he bows,
_he_ bows; if he makes a grimace, _he_ makes the same. Yet his eyes are
closed. He certainly does not see. His mind has interpenetrated to a
small extent the nervous system of the operator; and is in relation
with his voluntary nerves and the anterior half of his cranio-spinal
chord. (These are the organs by which the impulse to voluntary motion
is conveyed and originated.) Further into the other’s being he has
not yet got. So he does not _what the other thinks of, or wishes him
to do_: but only what the other either does, or goes through the
mental part of doing. So Victor sang the air which M. de Puységur only
mentally hummed.

The next strange phenomenon marks that the mind of the entranced
patient has interpenetrated the nervous system of the other _a step
farther_, and is in relation besides with the posterior half of the
cranio-spinal chord and its nerves. For now the entranced person, who
has no feeling, or taste, or smell of his own, _feels, tastes, and
smells every thing that is made to tell on the senses of the operator_.
If mustard or sugar be put in his own mouth, he seems not to know that
they are there; if mustard is placed on the tongue of the operator, the
entranced person expresses great disgust, and tries as if to spit it
out. The same with bodily pain. If you pluck a hair from the operator’s
head, the other complains of the pain you give _him_.

To state in the closest way what has happened: The phenomena of
sympathetic motion and sympathetic sensation thus displayed are
exactly such as might be expected to follow, if the mind or conscious
principle of the entranced person were brought into relation with
the cranio-spinal chord of the operator and its nerves, and with no
farther portion of his nervous system. Later, it will be seen, the
interpenetration can extend farther.

But, before this happens, a new phenomenon manifests itself, not of a
sympathetic character. The operator contrives to wake the entranced
person to the knowledge that he possesses new faculties. _He develops
in him new organs of sensation_, or rather helps to hasten his
recognition of their possession.

It is to be observed, however, that several who can be entranced cannot
be brought as far as the present step. Others make a tantalizing
half-advance towards reaching it _thus_, and then stop. They are
asked,—“Do you see any thing?” After some days, at length they answer
“Yes.” “What?” “A light.” “Where is the light?” Then they intimate its
place to be either before them, or to one side, or above or behind
them. And they describe the colour of the light, which is commonly
yellowish. And each day it is pointed to in the same direction, and is
seen equally whether the room be light or dark. Their eyes in the mean
time are closed. And here with many the phenomenon stops. Others in
this light now begin to discern objects held in the direction in which
they see it. The range of this new visual organ, and the conditions
under which it acts, are different in different instances. Sometimes
the object must be close, sometimes it is best seen at a short
distance; but seen it is. The following experiment, which is decisive,
was made at my suggestion: A gentleman standing behind the entranced
person held behind him a pack of cards, from which he drew several in
succession, and, without seeing them himself, presented them to the new
visual organ of the patient. In each case she named the card right.
The degree of light suited to this new mode of vision is variable:
sometimes bright daylight is best; sometimes they prefer a moderate
light. Some distinguish figure and colour when the room is so dark that
the bystanders can distinguish neither.

These observations, which are, however, only in conformity with similar
evidence from many other quarters, I give on the authority of Mr. J. W.
Williamson of Wickham, the gentleman to whom I have before alluded.
The following accidental features, attending the manifestation of
transposed senses, were further observed by Mr. Williamson:—

In most of the persons in whom Mr. Williamson has brought out
transposed vision, the faculty has been located in a small surface of
the scalp behind the left ear; and to see objects well, the patient
has held them at the distance of five or six inches from and opposite
to this spot. One young woman, who had been temporarily set aside
under affliction for the loss of a relative, on the experiments being
resumed, saw from all parts of the head, but confusedly, a broken and
incomplete picture. On a subsequent day, she saw with the right side of
her head. Afterwards the visual sense returned to its first place.

In one young person, the new sentient organ was on the top of her head,
and to see objects she required them to be brought into contact with
it. Once that she had a rheumatic cold and tenderness of the scalp, she
said, when entranced, putting her hand to the crown of her head, that
the cold had made her eyes sore.

One person saw objects best when placed behind her at the distance of
seven or eight feet.

The governess in a neighbouring family was mesmerised for
tic-doloureux. In seven sittings she was cured. At the second sitting,
in her trance she exhibited displaced sensation. She could read with
her finger-ends; her way was to hold the book open against her chest,
the back of the book towards her, with one hand; then she passed a
finger of the other hand slowly over each word, to read it.

The part-physical character of these phenomena is shown by an
observation of Dr. Petetin’s on the first of his cataleptic patients.
At the time that the patient heard with the pit of her stomach, he
found that if with the fingers of one, say the left hand, he touched
the pit of her stomach, and whispered to the fingers of his right hand,
the patient heard him; but if the left hand was removed to the smallest
possible distance from the patient, the contact being interrupted, she
no longer heard him. Then he made a chain of seven persons, holding
each other’s hands. The nearest to the patient was her sister, who
touched the pit of her stomach; at the other end was Dr. Petetin, who
whispered to his fingers, and was heard. A cane was then introduced
as part of the circuit—the patient still heard; but if a stick of
sealing-wax, or a glass rod, was substituted for it, or if one of the
party wore silk gloves, the patient could no longer hear Dr. Petetin.
Without close observation, what is physical in the phenomena which
have thus engaged us is liable to be overlooked; and the bystander
may class them as examples of lucidity, which they are not. Organic
co-operation may be traced in them all. Thus, among Mr. Williamson’s
earlier experiments, he tried, sitting before the entranced person,
(who had shown no lucidity,) by imaging strongly to himself a white
horse, to force the image into her mind. When, being awakened, she had
left the room, on her way she said to her fellow-servant, “What was it
master said to me about a white horse? I am sure he said something.”
Mr. Williamson, on learning the maid’s remark, supposed his mental
operation had been successful. But the same experiment, when repeated,
mostly failed. At last he found out why: It only succeeded when, in
his mental urgency, he half made in his own throat the motions of
the sounds that expressed the mental image. Then, and then only, the
patient caught it. For her mind could not read his thoughts, but as
yet had penetrated the inferior part of the nervous system only, the
cranio-spinal cord; and, being there, had adopted sympathetically the
voluntary impulses that were there performed; so she half-moved the
muscles of her own vocal organs to express the idea, and from that—its
imperfect expression—received it into her thoughts. No doubt the
phenomenon of Victor’s singing the words to M. de Puységur’s mentally
hummed air was the same with the above, and not one of mesmeric
lucidity, the subject which we are now approaching.

But I pause;—and go no further.

For my object in these Letters, generally, has been to establish
principles. And the phenomena of lucidity developed in artificial
trance have been only the same as, and have not been as yet made more
of than, the lucidity of catalepsy. No further principle has yet
emerged from their study; and my special object in this Letter has been
to persuade the opponents of mesmerism to do it justice; and I think I
am most likely to attain my end by not attempting to prove too much.

So that nothing remains for me to do, but to observe the form in which
these Letters were originally shaped, in recollection of the pleasant
hours which the residence of your family at Boppard, during the winter
of 1844-5, caused me, and to say finally,

  DEAR ARCHY, Farewell.


 SUPPLEMENTAL.—Abnormal neuro-psychical relation—-Cautions necessary
 in receiving trance communications—Trance-visiting—Mesmerising at
 a distance, and by the will—Mesmeric diagnosis and treatment of
 disease—Prevision—Ultra-vital vision.

The principal alterations made in “the Letters” for the present
edition comprise an expansion of my account of “trances of spontaneous
occurrence,” and the introduction of greater precision into our
elementary conceptions of the relations of the mind and nervous system.

Letters V., VI., VII., and VIII., establish that the most startling
phenomena in popular superstitions, and the most wonderful performances
by mesmerised persons, are but repetitions of events, the occurrence
of which, as symptoms of, or as constituting, certain rare forms of
nervous attacks, have been independently authenticated and put on
record by physicians of credit. Letters II. and IX. exemplify the mode
in which superstition has dressed up trance-phenomena; as letters
III. and IV. display the contributions she has levied on sensorial
illusions, the Od force, and normal exoneural psychical phenomena.
Letter X. describes the method of inducing trances artificially,
whereby they may be reproduced at pleasure, either in the interests of
philosophical inquiry, or for important practical purposes.

I dedicate the present Letter to the reconsideration of the most
knotty points already handled, and to the investigation of a few other
questions, the solution of which is not less difficult.

I. _Hypothesis of an Abnormal Psychico-neural Relation as the essence
of trance._—I admit that it is a very clumsy expedient to assume that
the mind can, as it were, get loose in the living body, and, while
remaining there in a partially new alliance, exercise some of its
faculties in unaccustomed organs—which organs lose, for the same time,
their normal participation in consciousness; and farther, that the mind
can, partially indeed, but so completely disengage itself from the
living body, that its powers of apprehension may range with what we
are accustomed to consider the properties of free spirit, unlimitedly
as to space and time. I adopt the hypothesis upon compulsion—that
is to say, because I see no other way of accounting for the most
remarkable trance-phenomena. In due time, it is to be expected that
a simple inductive expression of the facts will take the place of my
hypothetical explanation. But not the less may the latter, crude as
it is, prove of temporary use, by bringing together in a connected
view many new and diversified phenomena, and planting the subject in a
position favourable for scientific scrutiny.

Let me arrange, in their most persuasive order, the facts which seem to
justify the hypothesis above enunciated.

1. In many cases of waking-trance, the patient does not see with his
eyes, hear with his ears, nor taste with his tongue, and the sense of
touch appears to have deserted the skin. At the same time, the patient
sees, hears, and tastes things applied to the pit of the stomach, or
sees and hears with the back of the head, or tips of the fingers.

2. In the first imperfect trance-waking from initiatory trance, the
patient’s apprehension of sensuous impressions often appears to have
entirely deserted his own body, and to be in relation with the sentient
apparatus in his mesmeriser’s frame—for, if you pull his hair, or put
mustard in his mouth, he does not feel either; but he is actually alive
to the sensations which these impressions excite, if the hair of the
mesmeriser is pulled, or mustard placed on the mesmeriser’s tongue.
The sensations excited thus in the mesmeriser, and these alone, the
entranced person realizes as his own sensations.

3. About the same time, the entranced person displays no will of
his own, but his voluntary muscles execute the gestures which his
mesmeriser is making, even when standing behind his back. His will
takes its guidance from sympathy with the exerted will of the other.

4. Presently, if his trance-faculties continue to be developed, the
entranced person enters into communication with the entire mind of
his mesmeriser. His apprehension seems to penetrate the brain of the
latter, and is capable of reading all his thoughts.

5. In the last three steps, the apprehension of the entranced person
appears to have left his own being to the extent described, and to
have entered into relation with the mind or nervous system of another
person. Now, if the patient become still more lucid, his apprehension
seems to range abroad through space, and to identify material objects,
and penetrate the minds of other human beings, at indefinite distances.

6. At length the entranced person displays the power of revealing
future events—a power which, as far as it relates to things separate
from his own bodily organization, or that of others, seems to me
to show that his apprehension is in relation with higher spiritual
natures, or with the Fountain of Truth itself.

In the following pages I have given examples of those of the powers
here attributed to very lucid clairvoyantes, which I have not
previously instanced.

       *       *       *       *       *

II. _Transposition of the Senses._—No doubt these phenomena, irregular
as they seem at present, follow a definite law, which has to be
determined by future observations and experiments. Mr. Williamson found
some of his clairvoyantes see with the back of the head, some with the
side of the head—some best at seven inches, others at as many feet
off. In the case which Mr. Bulteel reported to me, the lady read with
her hand and fingers; even when he pressed a note against the back
of her neck, she read it instantly: but in this case actual contact
was necessary. In the case of a governess, artificially brought to
the state of waking-trance by Mr. Williamson, the same faculty was
observed. With one hand she used to hold open the book to be read,
resting it against her chest, the pages being turned away from her:
the contents of these she read fluently, touching the words with the
forefinger of the other hand. In one very interesting case, which I
witnessed here in the autumn of 1849, the young lady, clairvoyant
through mesmerism, sitting in the corner of a sofa, something reclined,
would have seen, had she peeped through a linear aperture between her
seemingly closed eyelids, the lower half of things only. As it was,
the reverse was the fact; and when we asked her what she saw, she
told us the cornice and upper part of the room. Then, without saying
any thing, I raised my cap upon my stick to within her declared range
of trance-vision; she exclaimed, “Ah, Guilleaume Tell!” Her mother,
whom she heard speak, but had not hitherto seen, in this trance, she
recognised at once, when she stood up upon a chair. To read, in this
trance, appeared a very painful effort to her; but she was certainly
able to make out some words when she pressed a written paper against
her forehead. It was evident that she could now visually discern things
by some new faculty of apprehension localized there. To enable her
to see things at a few feet distance, they had equally to be placed
_opposite_ to her forehead. In another case, in which the girl, when
entranced, certainly saw with the knuckles of one hand, on smearing the
back of that hand with ink, she could no longer see with it.

The above instances show how various are the features attending the
transposition of one sense alone in waking trance; and they suggest a
multitude of experiments. I remember, in 1838, on communicating facts
of this kind to a clear-headed practical man, he raised this objection
to their credibility: “If we can see without eyes, why has the Creator
given us eyes!” The objection is specious enough, but it admits of an
obvious answer. The state of trance is one of disease, transient and
temporary; it is during its persistence only that this new power of
apprehension is manifested. In our natural state, the mind is intended
to operate and try experiences in subordination to matter, and through
definite material organs, in which it is, in truth, imprisoned. Such
is the law of our normal mortal being. Accordingly, when the trance is
over, and the mind has returned to its normal relations with the body,
all its trance-apprehensions are forgotten by it—they form no part of
our moral life.

       *       *       *       *       *

III. _Sources of Error in the communications of entranced persons._—I
put aside cases of deliberate deception; but when persons are really
entranced, they are liable, in various ways, to be deceived themselves,
and to deceive others, as to the value of their revealments. There
is often, in waking trance, a great vivacity and disposition to be
communicative from the first. Those, again, who have frequently been
thrown into trance, and have become familiar with their new condition,
are generally anxious to shine in it, and make a display. This
disposition is further heightened when the entranced person expects to
be rewarded for his performance.

1. When indulging their lively fancy, they are liable to have a sort
of waking dream, during which they describe imaginary scenes with the
precision and minuteness of reality, and represent them as actual,
passing at some place they name.

2. They are liable to recall past impressions, and to deliver bits of
old conclusions for intuitions.

3. They are liable to adopt the thoughts of others who may be near
them, especially those of their mesmeriser, and to deliver them as

4. In one instance which came to my knowledge, a young lady, previously
unacquainted with mathematics or astronomy, would, when entranced, and
sitting with her mother and sister, write fluently off pages of an
astronomical treatise, calculations, diagrams, and all. She averred and
believed in her entranced state—for, when awake, it was all a mystery
to her—that this performance was the product of an intuition. Her
manuscript was afterwards found to run word for word with an article
in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_. That book, however, stood in the
library, in a remote part of the house. She certainly had it not with
her when she used to scribble its contents; nor did she remember ever
having looked into it, awake or asleep. She said—when entranced, and
this had been found out—that she believed she read the book as it stood
in the library.

5. With some imperfectly lucid patients, the exercise of their new
faculties appears to be fatiguing, and to call for great exertion. So
they are occasionally with difficulty led to answer at all; and then
when inconsiderately pressed, they are tempted to say any thing, just
to be left tranquil.

It is difficult to say how the preceding sources of error are to be
effectually guarded against. Possibly, by rigid training from the
first, the patient might be brought to distinguish false promptings
from genuine intuitions. But even the latter vary in lucidity and
certainty. This admission was made to a friend of mine by M. Alexis,
the celebrated Parisian clairvoyante. The reader cannot fail to be
interested by the following account, given by M. Alexis when entranced,
of his own powers, and their mode of operation:—

“Pour voir des objets éloignés,” observed M. Alexis, “mon âme ne se
dégage pas de mon corps. C’est ma volonté qui dérige mon âme, mon
esprit, sans sortir de cette chambre où je suis. Si mon âme sortit, je
serais mort; c’est ma volonté. Ma volonté suffit pour anéantir pour
quelque tems la matière. Ainsi quand cette volonté est en jeu, la boite
matérielle de mon individu n’est plus. Les murs, l’espace, et même le
tems, n’existent plus. Mais ce n’est qu’un rêve plus ou moins lucide.
Quelquefois ma vue est meilleure qu’à d’autres. Ma vue n’est jamais la
même. Une fois je suis disposé pour voir une sorte de choses, et une
autre fois une autre sorte. En regardant votre chambre dans un quartier
éloigné d’ici, je ne vois pas les rues ni les maisons intermédiaires.
La seule chose (alors) qui est dans la pensée est la personne qui me
parle. Je vois les objets d’une manière plus incomplète que par mes
sens, moins sure. Il serait impossible de fair comprendre comment je
vois. Plus il y a de l’attraction—plus j’éprouve de l’attraction aux
objets que je veux voir, ou qui me touche—plus il y a de lumière; plus
j’éprouve de répulsion, plus il y a de ténèbres.”

       *       *       *       *       *

IV. _Of the Different Qualities of Od in different individuals._—Von
Reichenbach observed the Od light to have different colours under
different circumstances, and that, while Od-negative produces the
sensation of a draft of cool air, Od positive produces a sense as of
a draft of warm air. An easy way to verify the last phenomenon is to
beg some one to hold the forefinger of the right hand pointed to your
left palm, at a quarter of an inch distance, and afterwards his left
forefinger to your right palm, when the two sensations, and their
difference, are appreciable by the majority of persons.

Persons entranced by mesmeric procedures are often keenly alive to the
above impressions. They see light emanating from the finger-tips of
the mesmeriser, and feel an agreeable afflatus from his manipulations.
Others who approach them affect them in different ways—some not
disagreeably, while others excite a chilly, shivering feeling, and the
patient begs they will keep off from him.

A gentleman narrated to me the following case. He had been for months
in anxious attendance upon a brother who was in very delicate health,
and exquisitely sensitive to mesmerism. My friend used himself to
mesmerise his brother; but he found it necessary, in order to soothe
and not excite him by the passes, to cover the patient with a folded
blanket, so as to dull the agency of his Od-emanation. There was but
another person, of several who had been tried, whose hand the brother
could bear at all; this was a maid-servant, who herself was highly
susceptible, and became entranced. She said that she perceived, when
entranced, the suitableness of her influence, and that of the brother,
to the patient; and she used the singular expression, that they were
nearly of a colour. She said that the patient’s Od-emanation was of
a pink colour, and that the brother’s was a brick colour—a flatter,
deeper, red; and she endeavoured to find some one else with the same
coloured Od to suit her master.

In some experiments made at Dr. Leighton’s house in Gower Street,
I remember it was distinctly proved that each of the experimenters
produced different effects on the same person. The patient was one of
the Okeys, of mesmeric celebrity. The party consisted of Dr. Elliotson,
Mr. Wheatstone, Dr. Grant, Mr. Kiernan, and some others. Mr. Wheatstone
tabulated the results. Each of us mesmerised a sovereign; and it was
found that on each trial the trance-coma, which contact with the thus
mesmerised gold induced, had a characteristic duration for each of us.
Is it possible that each living person has his distinguishable measure
of Od, either in intensity or quality?

       *       *       *       *       *

V. _The Od-Force is the usual channel of establishing mesmeric
relation._—I take it for granted that the Od-force—the existence and
some of the properties of which have been inductively ascertained by
Von Reichenbach—is the same agent with that which Mesmer assumed to
be the instrument in his operations. Then, in support of the above
proposition, I cite two instances. Mr. Williamson, at my request,
mesmerised and entranced the Rev. Mr. Fox at Weilbach, in the autumn of
1847. It was the second sitting, and Mr. Fox was beginning to pass from
the initiatory stage of trance into trance half-waking. Mr. Williamson
addressed him, and he returned an answer. Other parties in the room,
including myself, then addressed Mr. Fox, and he seemed not to hear one
of us. Then Mr. Williamson gave me his hand, and I again spoke to Mr.
Fox; he then heard me, and spoke in answer. When, having left go Mr.
Williamson’s hand, I spoke again to Mr. Fox, he heard me not. On my
renewing contact with Mr. Williamson, Mr. Fox heard me again. He heard
me as long as I was brought into relation with him, and that relation
was clearly due to the establishment of an Od-current between myself
and Mr. Williamson, with whom Mr. Fox was already in trance-relation.
Every one who has seen something of Mesmerism will recognise in the
above story one of its commonest phenomena.

But a more conclusive instance still has been already mentioned in
Letter X. M. Petetin made a chain of seven persons holding hands, the
seventh holding the hand of a cataleptic patient, who at that time
heard by her fingers only. When Dr. Petetin spoke to the fingers of the
first, _i. e._ the most remote, person of the chain, the cataleptic
person heard him as well as if he had spoken to her own fingers. Even
when a stick was made to form part of the circuit, the cataleptic still
heard Dr. Petetin’s whisper, uttered at the other end of the chain.
_Not so, however, if one of the parties forming the chain wore silk

       *       *       *       *       *

VI. _Trance-Identification of persons at a distance by means of
material objects._—A very lucid clairvoyante, her eyes being bandaged,
recognises not the less, without preparation or effort, every
acquaintance present in the room; describes their dress, the contents
of their purses, or of letters in their pockets, and reads their
innermost thoughts. An ordinary clairvoyante usually requires the
contact of the party’s hand with whom it is proposed to bring her into
trance-relation; then only does she first know any thing about her
new patient. It cannot be doubted that, in the latter case, it is the
establishment of an Od-current between the two that enables the mind of
the clairvoyante to penetrate the interior being of the visiter,—just
as, in the humblest effects of common mesmerism, a relation is sensibly
established between the party entranced and her mesmeriser, through
the Od-current which he had previously directed upon her, in order to
produce the trance. So far, all is theoretically clear enough.

But how is the establishment of the same relation between the
clairvoyante and a party wholly unknown to her, and residing many
miles off, to be explained, when the only visible medium of physical
connexion employed has been a lock of hair or a letter written by
the distant party, and placed in the hands of the clairvoyante? Let
me begin by giving the explanation, and afterwards exemplify the
phenomenon out of my own experience.

I conceive that the lock of hair, or the letter on which his hand has
rested, is charged with the Od-fluid emanating from the distant person;
and that the clairvoyante measures exactly the force and quality of
this dose of Od, and, as it were, individualizes it. Then, using this
clue, _distance being annihilated to the entranced mind_, it seeks for,
or is drawn towards, whatever there is more of this same individual
Od quality any where in space. When that is found, the party sought
is identified, and brought into relation with the clairvoyante, who
proceeds forthwith to tell all about him.

Now for an exemplification of this marvellous phenomenon. Being at
Boppard, a letter of mine addressed to a friend in Paris was by him put
into the hands of M. Alexis, who was asked to describe me. M. Alexis
told at once my age and stature, my disposition, and my illness; how
that I am entirely crippled, and at that time of the day, half-past
eleven, A.M. was in bed. All this, to be sure, M. Alexis might have
read in my friend’s mind, without going farther. But, he added, this
gentleman lives on the sea-coast. My friend denied the assertion;
but M. Alexis continued very positive that he was right. Now, most
oddly, the Rhine, on the banks of which I resided then, is at Boppard
the boundary of Prussia; and I never cross it, or visit Nassau, but
I am in the habit of sitting on the bank, listening to the breaking
of the surge, which the passing steamers create, and which exactly
resembles the murmur of the sea. This very mistake of M. Alexis helped
to convince me that this performance of his was genuine. However,
being stoutly contradicted by my friend, M. Alexis reconsidered the
matter, and said, “No; he does not live on the sea-coast, but on the
Rhine, twenty leagues from Frankfort.” This answer was exact. But
there was another point which M. Alexis hit with curious felicity. I
should observe that this friend was one of a few months’ date, who had
no means of comparing what I am with what I was formerly. But it had
happened that I had written, not to him, but to a friend resident
in England, _about the same time_, that, ill as I was, my mind was
singularly clear and active, and that I regarded the fact as a sign
my end was at hand; that the mental brightness probably resembled
the flaring-up of a rushlight before it goes out. Well, M. Alexis,
adverting to my condition, observed that I was extremely weak, and had
suffered much from irritation of the nerves;—facts true enough, but
which certainly would not have led him to infer the existence of that
clearness of mind which I had myself remarked. Nevertheless, strangely
added M. Alexis, “Le morale n’en est pas atteint; au contraire,
l’esprit est plus dégagé et plus vif qu’auparavant.” I can therefore
entertain no doubt, that at four hundred miles’ distance, merely by
handling a recent letter from me, M. Alexis had identified me as
its writer, through the Od-fluid the letter conveyed; and had truly
penetrated my physical and mental being so completely, that most that
was important in my story lay distinctly revealed before him.

       *       *       *       *       *

VII. _Mental Travelling by clairvoyantes._—Let me begin with an
instance. The following extract from the _Zoist_ contains a very
interesting narrative by Lord Ducie, which is exactly to the point:

“In the highest departments or phenomena of mesmerism, he for a long
time was a disbeliever, and could not bring himself to believe in the
power of reading with the eyes bandaged, or of mental travelling; at
length, however, he was convinced of the truth of those powers, and
that, too, in so curious and unexpected a way, that there could have
been no possibility of deception. It happened that he had to call
upon a surgeon on business, and when he was there the surgeon said to
him, ‘You have never seen my little clairvoyante.’ He replied that
he never had, and should like to see her very much. He was invited to
call the next day, but upon his replying that he should be obliged to
leave town that evening, he said, ‘Well, you can come in at once. I am
obliged to go out; but I will ring the bell for her, and put her to
sleep, and you can ask her any questions you please.’ He (Lord Ducie)
accordingly went in. He had never been in the house in his life before,
and the girl could have known nothing of him. The bell was rung; the
clairvoyante appeared: the surgeon, without a word passing, put her to
sleep, and then he put on his hat and left the room. He (Lord Ducie)
had before seen something of mesmerism, and he sat by her, took her
hand, and asked her if she felt able to travel. She replied, ‘Yes;’
and he asked her if she had ever been in Gloucestershire, to which she
answered that she had not, but should very much like to go there, as
she had not been in the country for six years: she was a girl of about
seventeen years old. He told her that she should go with him, for he
wanted her to see his farm. They travelled (mentally) by the railroad
very comfortably together, and then (in his imagination) got into a fly
and proceeded to his house. He asked her what she saw; and she replied,
‘I see an iron gate and a curious old house.’ He asked her, ‘How do
you get to it?’ she replied, ‘By this gravel-walk;’ which was quite
correct. He asked her how they went into it; and she replied, ‛I see a
porch—a curious old porch.‘ It was probably known to many, that his
house, which was a curious old Elizabethan building, was entered by a
porch, as she had described. He asked her what she saw on the porch,
and she replied, truly, that it was covered with flowers. He then said,
‛Now, we will turn in at our right hand; what do you see in that room?’
She answered with great accuracy, ‘I see a book case, and a picture
on each side of it.’ He told her to turn her back to the book case,
and say what she saw on the other side; and she said, ‘I see something
shining, like that which soldiers wear.’ She also described some old
muskets and warlike implements which were hanging in the hall; and upon
his asking her how they were fastened up, (meaning by what means they
were secured,) she mistook his question, but replied, ‘The muskets
are fastened up in threes,’ which was the case. He then asked of what
substance the floors were built; and she said, ‘Of black and white
squares,’ which was correct. He then took her to another apartment, and
she very minutely described the ascent to it as being by four steps, He
(Lord Ducie) told her to enter by the right door, and say what she saw
there; she said, ‘There is a painting on each side of the fire-place.’
Upon his asking her if she saw any thing particular in the fire-place,
she replied, ‘Yes; it is carved up to the ceiling,’ which was quite
correct, for it was a curious old Elizabethan fire-place. There was at
Totworth-court a singular old chestnut-tree; and he told her that he
wished her to see a favourite tree, and asked her to accompany him. He
tried to deceive her by saying, ‘Let us walk close up to it;’ but she
replied, ‘We cannot, for there are railings round it.’ He said, ‘Yes,
wooden railings;’ to which she answered, ‘No, they are of iron,’ which
was the case. He asked, ‘What tree is it?’ and she replied that she had
been so little in the country that she could not tell; but upon his
asking her to describe the leaf, she said, ‘It is a leaf as dark as the
geranium-leaf, large, long, and jagged at the edges.’ He (Lord Ducie)
apprehended that no one could describe more accurately than that the
leaf of the Spanish chestnut. He then told her he would take her to see
his farm, and desired her to look over a gate into a field which he had
in his mind, and tell him what she saw growing; she replied that the
field was all over green, and asked if it was potatoes, adding that she
did not know much about the country. It was not potatoes, but turnips.
He then said, ‘Now look over this gate to the right, and tell me what
is growing there.’ She at once replied, ‘There is nothing growing
there; it is a field of wheat, but it has been cut and carried.’ This
was correct; but knowing that, in a part of the field, grain had been
sown at a different period, he asked her if she was sure that the whole
of it had been cut. She replied, that she could not see the end of the
field, as the land rose in the middle, which in truth it did. He then
said to her, ‘Now we are on the brow, can you tell me if it is cut?’
She answered, ‘No, it is still growing here.’ He then said to her,
‛Now, let us come to this gate—tell me where it leads to.‘ She replied,
‛Into a lane.’ She then went on and described every thing on his farm
with the same surprising accuracy; and upon his subsequently inquiring,
he found that she was only in error in one trifling matter, for which
error any one who had ever travelled (mentally) with a clairvoyante
could easily account, without conceiving any breach of the truth.”

If the preceding example stood alone, or if, in parallel cases, no
further phenomena manifested themselves, nothing more would be required
to explain the facts than to suppose that the mental fellow-traveller
reads all your thoughts, and adopts your own imagery and impressions.
But there are not wanting cases in which the fellow-traveller has seen
what was not in his companion’s mind, and was at variance with his
belief; while subsequent inquiry has proved that the clairvoyante’s
unexpected story was true. These more complicated cases prove that the
clairvoyante _actually_ pays a mental visit to the scene. But she can
do more; she can pass on to other and remoter scenes and places, of
which her fellow-traveller has no cognizance.

For example, a young person whom Mr. Williamson mesmerised became
clairvoyant. In this state she paid me a mental visit at Boppard;
and Mr. Williamson, who had been a resident there, was satisfied
that she realized the scene. Afterwards I removed to Weilbach, where
Mr. Williamson had never been. Then he proposed to the clairvoyante
to visit me again. She reached, accordingly, in mental travelling,
my former room in Boppard; and expressed surprise and annoyance at
not finding me there, and at observing others in its occupation. Mr.
Williamson proposed that she should set out, and try to find me.
She said, “You must help me.” Then Mr. Williamson said, “We must go
up the river some way, till we come to a great town,” (Mainz.) The
clairvoyante said she had got there. “Then,” said Mr. Williamson, “we
must now go up another river, (the Maine,) which joins our river at
this town, and try and find Dr. Mayo on its banks somewhere.” Then
the clairvoyante said, “Oh, there is a large house; let us go and
see it; no, there are two large houses—one white, the other red.”
Upon this, Mr. Williamson proposed that she should go into one of the
two houses, and look about; she quickly recognised my servant, went
mentally into my room, found me, and described a particular or two,
which were by no means likely to be guessed by her. When Mr. Williamson
subsequently came to visit me at Weilbach, he was forcibly struck with
the appearance of the two houses, which tallied with the account given
beforehand by the mental traveller. I have not the smallest doubt she
mentally realized my new abode. Then, how did she do all this?

The first question is, how does the clairvoyante realize scenes which
are familiar to her fellow-traveller? I cannot help inclining to the
belief that, in the _ordinary perception_ of a place or person, the
mind acts exoneurally; and that our apprehension (as I have ventured
to conjecture in Letter V.) comes thus always into a direct relation
with the place or person. There is a peculiar vividness in a first
impression, which every one must have observed; there is no renewing
that force of impression again. This fact helps my hypothesis. It will
be remembered again, that in Zschokke’s narrative of his seer-gift,
he never penetrated the minds of his visiters unless at their very
first visit. It is the same, even to a certain extent, with mesmeric
inspection of the mind. My friend, who consulted M. Alexis for me,
consulted him likewise for himself more than once. At the first visit,
M. Alexis traced an aggravation of his illness, a year before, to
distress occasioned by the death of two younger brothers at a short
interval. On my friend’s subsequent visits, M. Alexis marked no
knowledge at all of the latter occurrence. Slightly as these facts are
connected, they concurrently strengthen my notion of the occurrence
of an exoneural act of the mind in common perception. I suspect, I
repeat, that, in visiting new places, the mind establishes a direct
relation with the scenes or persons. Then, in the simplest case of
mental visiting, where the scene visited is familiar to the other
party, I presume that the clairvoyante’s mind, being in communion with
the mind of the other, realizes scenes which the latter has previously
exoneurally realized. Arriving thus at the scene itself, the
clairvoyante observes for herself, and sees what may be new in it, and
unknown to her fellow-traveller; and in the same way may pursue, as in
the mental visit made to myself at Weilbach, suggested features of the
locality, and be thus helped to beat about in space for new objects,
and at length to recognise among them, and mentally identify, persons
with whom she has already arrived at a mental mesmeric relation.

VIII. _Mesmerising at a Distance. Mesmerising by the Will_.—I have
not heard of a case in which a person has been _for the first time_
mesmerised with effect by one _out of the room_.

Generally the mesmeriser is very near to his patient at the first
sitting, often actually holding his hand—at all events so near that the
Od-emanation of his person might be expected to reach the patient. And
the patient is often sensible of new sensations, which he is disposed
to attribute to the physical agency of the operator on him. In Mr.
Braid’s cases, it seemed to me clear that the effects were mainly
brought about, as in common mesmerism, by his personal influence.

Afterwards, when a patient has by use become highly sensitive to Od,
and disposed to fall into trance, I have myself, by making passes _in
the next room_, succeeded in producing the sleep. And I have seen, with
open doors, mesmeric effects produced by passes at the distance of
ninety feet.

But with persons rendered through use extremely susceptible of mesmeric
impression, an effect may be produced by the habitual mesmeriser of the
patient at almost unlimited distances. The following instance is given
by Dr. Foissac in his valuable work on mesmerism, entitled _Rapports
et Discussions sur le Magnétisme Animal_, (Paris, 1838.) Dr. Foissac
speaks, in the first person, of an experiment made by himself on a
patient of the name of Paul Villagrand, whom he had been in the habit
of mesmerising in the usual way at Paris, where both resided.

“In the course of the June ensuing,” says Dr. Foissac, “Paul expressed
the wish to pass some days in his native place, Magnac-Laval, Haute
Vienne. I provided him with the means, and proposed to turn his journey
to scientific account by attempting to entrance him at the distance
of a hundred leagues. He was not to know my intention before the time
came; but on the 2d of July, at half-past five P.M., his father was
to give him a note from me, which ran thus—‘I am magnetising you at
this moment; I will awake you when you have had a quarter of an hour’s
sleep.’ M. Villagrand made the success of the experiment the more
decisive by not handing over my letter to his son, and so disregarding
my instructions. Nevertheless, at ten minutes before six, Paul being
in the midst of his family, experienced a sensation of heat, and
considerable uneasiness. His shirt was wet through with perspiration;
he wished to retire to his room; but they detained him. In a few
minutes he was entranced. In this state he astonished the persons
present, by reading with his eyes shut several lines of a book taken at
hazard from the library, and by telling the hour upon a watch they held
to him. He awoke in a quarter of an hour.”

One naturally doubts whether the physical influence of the Od force
can extend to this enormous distance; whether the agency ought not to
be regarded as purely psychical; whether, in short, the will of the
speaker may not have been the exclusive agent employed.

I think that there is a disposition, among experimenters in mesmerism,
to attribute too much to the agency of the will. There was with me
in the autumn of 1849 a young lady, who was extremely susceptible of
mesmerism. A gentleman who came with the family had been in the habit
of entrancing her daily, and at last she was so sensitive that a wave
of his hand would fix her motionless. His presence even in the room
affected her; and if he then tried to mesmerise her sister, she herself
invariably became entranced. The operator was a person of remarkable
mesmeric power. Then at my request, made unknown to her, he went to the
end window of the room, and, looking out upon the Rhine, tried at the
same time with the most forcible mental efforts to will her into sleep.
The attempt failed entirely. Another day that he was in my room, about
fifty feet from the room in which the young lady was sitting, he tried
again by the will to entrance her. But it was all in vain. Therefore,
if the will ever acts independently of Od influence, I am disposed to
think that its action in producing trance must be infinitely feebler
than the direct use of Od.

However, some are convinced of the positive agency of the will
in mesmerising. The following statement by Mr. H. S. Thompson of
Fairfield, made in a letter to Dr. Elliotson, published in the _Zoist_,
admits the inferiority in force of the will to the material agency of
Od, at the same time that it goes far to prove its efficiency.

“I have succeeded,” says Mr. Thompson, “in arresting spasms, and
taking away every species of pain, and in producing intense heat and
perspiration, by the will only; and in many instances without the
knowledge of the patients, who have been all unconscious of the power
I have been exerting, until after the results have occurred. At the
same time, I have generally found that the passes in combination with
the will, or attention, most readily produce the effects we desire; and
that manipulations are much less fatiguing to the operator than the
exertion of the will.”

Of an extremely sensitive patient, who was suffering with rheumatic
pains, Mr. H. S. Thompson observes, “A few passes put her to sleep,
though she was moaning as in great pain, and scarcely seemed to notice
what I was doing. After sleeping for a few minutes, her face became
composed, and she showed no symptoms of pain; but as I could not
get her to speak in her sleep, I awakened her. She looked very much
surprised, and said that she felt very comfortable and free from pain.
I told my friend that she was so sensitive that I thought that she
might be put to sleep by the will in a few minutes. The bed-curtains
were drawn, so that she could not see or know what was going on. I
fixed my attention upon her, wishing her to go to sleep. When we
looked at her two minutes afterwards, she was fast asleep. It was
agreed that the following day, though I should be thirty miles off,
the experiment should be tried again. A lady went at the time fixed
on. I purposely postponed the time half-an-hour, thinking that the
woman might have become acquainted with my intention, and go to sleep
through the power of the imagination. The lady’s account was, that she
called upon the woman at the time agreed on, and at first thought that
the experiment was going to fail, as she saw no symptoms of sleep; but
that in half-an-hour afterwards the patient went into a deep sleep,
which lasted some time. After this she went to sleep every day for a
fortnight at the same time, though I did not will her to sleep. She
says that she felt in a dreamy and happy state for some days after.”

I might add many similar facts to the above interesting observations.
The mass of evidence existing on the subject establishes beyond all
doubt that patients have been thrown into trances by persons who have
previously mesmerised them in the common way, at distances which seem
to preclude the idea of any physical agent having been the medium
of communication between the two parties. The operation seems to
have been in those instances mental. Then how is such a result to be
explained?—or by what expression can it be brought to tally with the
principles I am endeavouring to substantiate? I shape the answer thus:—

The first step is ordinary mesmerising; in other words, the operator
directs an Od-current upon the patient, the Od in whose system is
thereby disturbed; and initiatory trance ensues as the consequence.

Secondly, The mind of the patient thus entranced enters into relation
with, or is attracted towards, the mind or person of the mesmeriser.
I remember witnessing a most decisive instance in which the operation
of this attraction was singularly manifested. The place was Dr.
Elliotson’s waiting-room; the patient, a young man whom Mr. Simpson
had entranced. Mr. Simpson then moved about the room, standing still
at several points in it in succession. The young man seemed attracted
towards Mr. Simpson, to whom he drew near each time he stopped; then
he pressed against Mr. Simpson, jostling him out of his place, which
he planted himself in—his countenance bearing an expression of huge
delight at what he had achieved. But in half a minute he began to look
anxious and uneasy; and again—his eyes being shut all the while—he
set off in search of Mr. Simpson, and repeated the same scene. There
exists, it would appear, an attraction between the (mind of the?)
entranced person and (that of?) his mesmeriser, or (that of?) any
other person with whom the entranced person has secondarily come into

Then, thirdly, It may be presumed that, in phenomena which are purely
mental, space and distance go for nothing. But if this supposition be
admitted, it would be as easy for a mesmeriser to entrance by a mental
effort a sensitive and habituated patient at a hundred miles off as
at the end of the same room. The phenomenon thus viewed is wholly
exoneural. The one mind is supposed to be actually sensitive to the
influence of the other. Each of the two minds, though in different
degrees, energizes, it may be imagined, beyond its bodily frame. And
the mind of the patient feels the force of the mesmeriser’s will acting
upon it, and slips as it were at once, by the accustomed track, out of
the normal into the abnormal psychico-neural relation.

Still I cannot get rid of a lurking notion that, in the phenomena
last considered, the Od-force contributes an element of physical or
physico-dynamic influence. For, putting for the moment aside the idea
of mental action, what is to prevent two living bodies, that may be in
Od-relation, or in exact Od-unison, from physically influencing one
another at indefinite distances?

IX. _Trance-Diagnosis_.—From Boppard, where I was residing in the
winter of 1845-6, I sent to an American gentleman residing in Paris
a lock of hair, which Col. C—, an invalid then under my care, had
cut from his own head, and wrapped in writing-paper from his own
writing-desk. Col. C—was unknown even by name to this American
gentleman, who had no clue whatever whereby to identify the proprietor
of the hair. And all that he had to do and did was to place the
paper, enclosing the lock of hair, in the hands of a noted Parisian
somnambulist. She stated, in the opinion she gave on the case, that
Col. C—had partial palsy of the hips and legs, and that for another
complaint he was in the habit of using a surgical instrument. The
patient laughed heartily at the idea of the distant somnambulist having
so completely realized him.

The mesmeric discrimination of disease involves three degrees.

First, the clairvoyante placed in relation with the patient, either
by taking his hand, or by handling a lock of his hair, or any thing
impregnated with his Od, _feels all his feelings_, realizes his
sensations, and describes what he sensibly labours under. Her account
of the case thus obtained will be more or less happy, according to the
extent of her previous knowledge respecting ordinary disease.

Secondly, the clairvoyante, if in a higher state of lucidness, actually
sees and inspects the interior bodily construction of the patient,
whose inward organs are, as it would seem, lit with Od-light, for her
examination. Or she sees them by their Od-light, being in mesmeric
relation with the internal frame of the patient.

Thirdly, the clairvoyante, if still more lucid, foresees what will
be the progress of the malady; what further organic changes are
threatened; what will be the patient’s fate.

The first two points require no further comment. I reserve my comments
upon the last for another head.

X. _Mesmeric Treatment_.—Let me first advert to the use of artificial
trance as an anæsthetic agent in the service of surgery. There is
no doubt that, when a patient can thus be deprived of ordinary
sensibility, the resource is preferable to the employment of
chloroform. Not only is it absolutely free from risk, but its direct
effect is to soothe and tranquillize; whereas chloroform is but a
powerful narcotic, the effects of which are obtained through a brief
stage of violent physical excitement. Then, at each dressing—at any
moment, in short, when advisable—mesmerism may be again resorted to,
which chloroform cannot. The honour of having been the first to employ
mesmerism systematically, as an anæsthetic agent, belongs to James
Esdale, M. D., Presidency Surgeon at Calcutta. The reports of his
success, in a vast body of cases, many of the most serious description,
are given in the _Zoist_.

A second point is the employment of artificial trance as a universal
sedative; as a means from which, in all cases purely nervous, the most
admirable results may be expected and are realized; and from which, in
disease in general, singular and beneficial effects have been obtained.
This success was confidently to be anticipated, the instant that the
real nature of mesmeric phenomena was appreciated.

A third point is the employment of mesmeric passes, without the
intention or power to produce trance,—simply as a local means of
tranquillizing the nervous sensibility of a diseased part, and allaying
the morbid phenomena which depend upon local nervous irritation.

There is a fourth point under this head which will be regarded as more
questionable, viz. the power attributed to clairvoyantes of prescribing
treatment for themselves and others. Nevertheless, in their own cases,
where the prescriptions have been limited to baths, and bleeding, and
mesmerism itself, the boldness and precision of their practice, and
its success, have been such as to excite our wonder, and almost to
command our confidence. It does not, however, seem that the treatment
prescribed by clairvoyantes to others is equally certain; and when they
recommend drugs, it is clear that, adopting the fashion of the time and
country in medicine, they are only prescribing by guess, like other
doctors. But they sometimes guess very cleverly.

XI. _Phreno-Mesmerism_.—How great is my regret that I can no longer
take an active part in physiological inquiry! How great is my regret
that, in former years, when I worked at the physiology of the nervous
system, I undervalued phrenology! Prejudiced against it by the writings
of the late Dr. Gordon, by the authority of my early instructors, by
the puerile mode in which craniology was generally advocated, by the
superficial quality of the cerebral anatomy of Gall, I confined my
attention to what I considered sounder objects of investigation. But
now I have no doubt, not only that the metaphysical speculations of
Gall were in the main just, but, likewise, that a great part of his
craniological chart is accurately laid down. To connect phrenology
with severe anatomical research, to endeavour to determine the organic
conditions which interfere with the application of the science to
practical purposes, would be a task worthy the efforts of the best
physiological labourer. Then, if phrenology be true, and the organology
in the main correct, what is more likely than that directing an Od
current upon the cerebral seat of a mental faculty should bring
it into activity? I have myself witnessed the repetition of this
now common experiment, in a very unexceptionable instance; and the
success was perfect. The organs of veneration, of combativeness,
of alimentiveness, were successively excited; and in each case a
brilliant piece of acting followed. I must confess, however, that I
could not divest myself of the impression that, whatever pains we
took to conceal our plans, the clairvoyant young lady really knew
beforehand what was expected of her, and performed accordingly. I speak
in reference to the single instance which I have myself witnessed. I
cannot, however, refuse to credit the testimony of good observers—such
as Dr. Elliotson—to facts which seem to establish the genuineness of
phreno-mesmerism. In its double relation to phrenology and mesmerism,
this inquiry well merits attention.

XII. _Rapport. Mesmeric Relation. Psychical Attraction._—Without
presuming to place absolute confidence in the preceding speculations,
but, on the contrary, apologizing for their hypothetical character,
on the plea that any theory is better than none, let me now
recapitulatorily put in array the facts and principles to which the
terms at the head of this section refer:—

1. I hold that the mind of a living person, in its most normal state,
is always, to a certain extent, acting exoneurally, or beyond the limit
of the bodily person; but, possibly, always in conjunction with some

2. I suppose that there must be laws of neuro-psychical attraction, or
that there are definite circumstances which determine our exoneural
apprehension to direct itself upon this or that object or person.

So, in common perception, the exoneural apprehension probably moves
back along the lines of material impression, to reach the object
perceived, which so attracts it.

So, in sudden liking or aversion at first sight—or, more properly, on
all occasions of meeting strangers—an exoneural mingling of reciprocal
appreciation takes place; different persons being differently gifted
with intuitive discernment, as others or the same with powers of
pleasingly affecting most they meet.

So Zschokke’s seer-gift would have been but the result of a greater
exoneural mobility of his mind, whereby he was occasionally drawn to
such mental affinity with a stranger, that he knew his whole life and

So in panic fears, in all cases where impressions seem heightened
by the sympathy of many, the power of psychical attraction we may
presume to be increased by its concentration on one subject, and the
participation of all in one thought. The Rev. Hare Townshend, in his
interesting work on mesmerism, declares that he has more than once
succeeded in the following fact of sympathetic mental influence. All
the members of a party then present have conspired against an expected
visiter; and when he came—carefully, at the same time, abstaining from
alluding to some special subject agreed on—they have striven silently
and mentally to drive it into his thoughts; and in a short time he has
spoken of it.

3. For the most lucid persons in waking-trance (either of spontaneous
occurrence, as in catelepsy, or when induced by mesmerism) the
exoneural apprehension seems to extend to every object and person
round, and to be drawn into complete intelligence of or with them. Such
a patient is “en rapport,” or in trance-mental relation with any or
every thing around, in succession or simultaneously.

4. In persons slowly waking in the most measured course of things out
of artificial initiatory trance into somnambulism, the mind is at first
exoneurally attracted to the mesmeriser alone. As a next step, the
mesmeriser, by putting himself in Od-relation with a third person, can
make him participator in the same attraction.

I do not here discuss Mr. Braid’s views, which are more fully
considered in a subsequent Letter. I have analyzed trance in its
character of a spontaneous pathological phenomenon. I have examined
its principal features as they present themselves when it is induced
by mesmerism. But facts have been brought forward by Mr. Braid, which
seem to establish that, in some highly susceptible persons, trance may
be brought on at will in another way, by their own indirect efforts,
apart from external influences:—as, for instance, by straining the eyes
upwards, the attention being kept some time concentrated on the object
or the effort. Certainly, doing this makes the head feel uncomfortable
and giddy, and seems as if it would lead to some kind of fit if
indefinitely prolonged.

XIII. _Trance-Prevision_.—Instances of trance-prevision are referrible
to three different heads.

1. The simplest trance-prevision is that of epileptic patients
(artificially entranced) who name, at the distance of weeks beforehand,
the exact hour, nay, minute, at which the next fit will occur. The
case of Cazot, (mentioned by Dr. Foissac,) who was in the habit
of predicting the accession of his fits with unerring precision,
terminated, however, in the following manner: Cazot had predicted, as
usual, when he should be next attacked: before the time came round,
however, he was thrown from a horse and killed. But no doubt can be
entertained that, had he not met with this accident, the next fit
would have occurred at the hour predicted. This is the simplest and
narrowest form of prevision: the clairvoyante can tell, in reference to
himself, or to any one with whom he is placed in relation, what will be
the course of his health. He can see forward what the progress of his
living economy will be, _other things continuing the same_.

2. The next feat is greater. Dr. Teste, in his most interesting
_Manuel de Magnétisme Animal_, gives the case of a lady, his patient,
who, when entranced, foretold the day and hour when an accident, the
nature of which she could not foresee, was to befall her, and from
it a long series of illness was to take its rise. Dr. Teste and the
lady’s husband were staying with her when the fatal moment approached.
Then she rose, and, making an excuse, left the room, followed by her
husband; when, on opening a door, a great gray rat rushed out, and she
sank down in a fit of terror, and the predicted illness ensued. In
this most decisive case, the prevision extended to an extraneous and
accidental circumstance, to which no calculation or intuition of her
natural bodily changes could have led her.

3. But there are instances which reach yet farther. Dr. Foissac
narrates the case of a Mdlle. Cœline, who, when entranced, predicted
that she would be poisoned on a certain evening, at a given hour.
What would be the vehicle of the poison she could not foresee, either
at the time when she first uttered the prediction, or on an occasion
or two afterwards, when, being again entranced, she recurred to the
subject. However, shortly before the day she was to be poisoned, being
questioned in trance as to the possibility of averting her fate, she
said, “Throw me into the sleep a little before the time I have named,
and then ask me whether I can discern where the danger lies.” This was
done, and Mdlle. Cœline at once said that the poison was in a glass
at her bed-side—they had substituted for quinine an excessive dose of

Thus it appears that persons in waking trance can, first, calculate
what is naturally to follow in their own health, or in that of persons
with whom they are in mesmeric relation; can, secondly, foretell the
occurrence of fortuitous external events, without seeing how to prevent
them; can, thirdly, when endowed with more lucidity, discern enough to
enable them occasionally to counteract the natural course of external
events. Fate thus becomes a contingency of certainties. There is a true
series of consequences to be deduced from whatever partial premises the
clairvoyante may happen to be acquainted with. When she has more data,
she makes a wider calculation, certain as far as it goes. But other
premises, influencing the ultimate result, may still have escaped her.
So the utmost reach of genuine trance-prevision is but the announcement
of a probability, which unforeseen events may counteract.

I will conclude this head by introducing M. Alexis’s account of his own
powers of mesmeric prevision, in which the reader will see that his
experience has led him to view his conclusions as calculations upon
certain positive elements; yet he admits the possibility of powers
greater than his own: “On peut prévoir l’avenir,” said M. Alexis;
“mais lorsque cet avenir a des fondations positives. Mais annoncer un
fait isolé, un accident, une catastrophe, non. Cependant quelquefois
cela est arrivé aux individus, mais c’étaient des instruments de la
Divinité: ces hommes sont rares. Etant à une maison de jeu, je sçaurais
d’avance la couleur gagnante, surtout aux cartes. Mais à la roulette
cela me semble très difficile. Cela est de l’avenir. Les cartes, au
contraire, sont dans les mains d’un homme quelques minutes. Cependant
si l’on voulait appliquer la clairvoyance à une exploitation semblable,
je suis materiellement et moralement certain que la vue ferait faute.”

XIV. _Ultra-terrestrial Vision._—If a clairvoyante can discern what
is passing at the distance of one hundred leagues, why should not his
perception extend to material objects beyond our sphere?

Mr. Williamson tried to conduct one of his clairvoyantes mentally
to the moon; but, having got some way, she declared the moon was so
intolerably bright, that the effort pained and distressed her, and
accordingly Mr. Williamson relinquished the experiment, and happened
not to renew it.

M. Alexis, when entranced, in answer to my inquiries, declared himself
cognizant of the condition of the planets. He said that they were
inhabited, with the exception of those which are either too near to, or
too remote from the sun. He said that the inhabitants of the different
planets are very diverse; that the earth is the best off, for that man
has double the intelligence of the ruling animals in the other planets.
It would be the height of credulity to regard this communication as
more than a clever guess; yet a plausible guess it is, for if the other
planets are composed of the same material elements with the earth, it
is evident that the temperature of our planet must render these same
materials more generally available for life and economic purposes on it
than they would be in Mercury or Saturn.

XV. _Ultra-vital Vision._—The following is M. Alexis’s
trance-revelation as to the state of the soul after death. I presume it
is no more than an ingenious play of his fancy; but a young clergyman
of some acumen, to whom I communicated it, was half disposed to give
it more credit, and observed, with logical precision, that, viewing
the statement as an intuition, it would show the necessity of the
resurrection of the body.

“L’âme ne change jamais. Après la mort elle retourne à la Divinité.
Dieu a voulu attacher l’âme au corps, qui est un prison où Dieu a voulu
enfermer l’âme pendant qu’elle est sur la terre. L’âme ne perd jamais
son individualité. Après la mort, nos souvenirs ne nous restent pas.”

The last sentence is that to which my friend’s remark principally

XVI. _Nature of the Supreme Being._—The following striking expressions
were made use of by M. Alexis, when entranced, in answer to a string
of questions which I had sent to him on this subject. He declared, at
the same time, that he had never before been led to consider it in
his mesmeric state. I presume, therefore, that in his ordinary waking
state he is a Spinozist, and that, in place of an intuition, he simply
delivered an oracular announcement of his preconceived notions:—

“Il n’y a pas de parole humaine qui peut donner une idée de la
Divinité. Dieu c’est tout. Il n’a pas de personalité. Dieu est partout
et nulle part. Dieu est le foyer qui allume la nature. Dieu est
un foyer universel, dont les hommes ne sont que la vapeur la plus
éloignée, la plus faible. Chaque homme est l’extremité d’un rayon de
Lui-même. Il n’existe que Dieu.”


 THE ODOMETER OR DIVINING-RING.—How come upon by the author—His first
 experiments—The phenomena an objective proof of the reality of the

“Qualis ab incepto” shall be the motto of this twelfth letter, the
materials of which were undreamt of by me, when some three months ago I
remitted the new and corrected edition of “the Letters” to England. The
occasion which led me to the knowledge of the facts I have to mention,
and their bearing, tally curiously with what has gone before.

For it is again winter, with its long, solitary evenings, against the
tedium of which I had to seek a resource; and I bethought me, this
time, of occupying myself with looking into the higher mathematics.
Accordingly I sent to Herr Caspari, professor of mathematics in the
gymnasium at Boppard, to solicit him to give me the instruction and
assistance which I needed. And he obligingly came, in the evening
of the 31st of December, to sit by my side and converse with me.
And I went over preliminarily my schoolboy recollections of the
elements of mathematics, and was pleased at finding the remembered
difficulties vanish before the explanations of my well-informed tutor.
And I learned, to my vast delight, that the inability under which
asymptotes labour to touch hyperbolas is a purely arbitrary one, like
the legislative prohibition not to marry with one’s deceased wife’s
sister; but that, unlike the latter, it can be evaded; inasmuch as
an asymptote, by changing its name and forfeiting its properties,
may at any time unite itself with the object to which it had before
been infinitely near. Again, I found my boyish distrust and disbelief
in sines and cosines replaced by an intelligent and well-satisfied
acquaintance with them. And I even obtained a glimpse of the higher
analysis itself, pointing with its unerring finger to the exact height,
else unmeasurable, at which my candle should stand in the centre of my
round table, to shed upon it its maximum of illumination.

A liberal hour being over, and my dolphin-like recreation ended, my new
friend entered into desultory chat, and asked me, among other things,
if I had not written something on the divining-rod. I replied to his
question by giving him the copy I had of “the Letters;” and promised,
as a New-Year’s gift for the morrow, to present him with the implement
itself. And I lent him Von Reichenbach’s book on Od, with which he was
unacquainted. Then he told me that there were two or three experiments,
possibly akin to trials with the divining-rod, with which he had been
familiar for years, and which he had shown to many without receiving an
explanation of them. He said that as far as he knew they were original
and his own; and that he would willingly show them to me. He wanted
only for that purpose a piece of silver, a gold ring, and a bit of
silk. These were easily found. And he attached the silk to the ring,
which he then held suspended by the silk over a silver spoon, at a
distance of half an inch.

Shortly the ring shaped its first vague movements into regular
oscillations in a direction to and fro, or towards and from, Herr
Caspari. I will call such oscillations _longitudinal_. It was evident
to me, that this phenomenon must be akin to the motion of the

Then, at Herr Caspari’s suggestion, I summoned the maid, who was
directed to place her hand in Herr Caspari’s disengaged hand. On
her doing so, the oscillations of the ring became _transverse_. How
pregnant was this fact! An Od-current had been established between the
two experimenters; and the apparent influence of the two metals on each
other had been modified.

Herr Caspari told me that, as far as he knew, these experiments would
only succeed when made with silver and gold, and a bit of silk. But he
said that he had still another experiment to show me, which he did the
following day. He said he had a little pea-like bit of something, which
he had been told was _schwefel-kies_, that exhibited another motion:
when held suspended by silk over either of the fingers, it rotated one
way; when held suspended over the thumb, it rotated in the contrary

Herr Caspari left me, after agreeing to assist me in the further
examination of these phenomena; and the New Year coming in found me
in busy thought how to elicit, through variations of Herr Caspari’s
experiments, some important physical evidence as to the reality and
agency of Von Reichenbach’s Od-force.

In ten days we have succeeded in disentangling the confused results
which attended our first experiments; and as I see no likelihood of
extending them at present in any new direction, I present them to
the reader now, as complete as I can at present render them. I have
used the term “divining-ring,” partly because I have a vague idea of
having seen Herr Caspari’s first facts adverted to in some publication
under that name; partly because it is really thus far deserved:—If you
place a piece of silver on a table, and lay over the table and it an
unfolded silk pocket-handkerchief, you can discover where the silver
lies by trying with the suspended ring each part of the surface. The
ring will only oscillate when held over the silver. But now I have to
substitute another name for the sake of precision.

A fragment of any thing, of any shape, suspended either by silk or
cotton thread, the other end of which is wound round the first joint
either of the forefinger or of the thumb, I will call an _Odometer_.
The length of the thread does not matter. It must be sufficient to
allow the ring, or whatever it is, to reach to about half an inch from
the table, against which you rest your arm or elbow to steady your
hand. If there be nothing on the table, the ring or its equivalent soon
becomes stationary. Then you test the powers of the odometer by placing
upon the table under it what substances you please. These I would call

To obtain uniform results with the Odometer, it is important to attach
the sustaining thread always to the same finger of the same hand,—best
to the forefinger of the right hand. It is evident that this rule
is not to prevent the experimenter, when he has succeeded in thus
obtaining a series of consistent results, from trying what will come of
substituting his other digits for that first employed.

I have armed the odometer with gold, silver, lead, zinc, iron, copper;
with coal, bone, horn, dry wood, charcoal, cinder, glass, soap, wax,
sealing-wax, shell-lac, sulphur, earthenware. As Od-subjects I have
likewise tried most of the substances above enumerated. All do not go
equally well, or perform exactly the same feats, with each odometer.
For example, an odometer of dry wood remains stationary over gold;
while it oscillates with great vivacity over glass. The respective
habitudes of different odometers to different Od-subjects is one of the
simplest points of investigation which the facts I am narrating suggest.

A gold ring with a plain stone in it was the first odometer which
I employed, and it is one of the most largely available. And gold
forms in general the most successful Od-subject. Sulphur likewise
displays very lively motions in the odometer. But the material which
I finally employed to verify the following phenomena was shell-lac, a
portion a full inch long, broader towards the lower end, then cut to
be lancet-shaped. The odometer moves more sluggishly with some than
with others, and in the same hand on different days; and doubtless
is capable of manifesting a greater variety of effects than I have
yet elicited from it. I can only pledge myself to the certainty of my
being always now able to obtain with the shell-lac odometer all the
results mentioned in the XXVII. experiments which first follow. Over
rock-crystal, however, the shell-lac odometer acts very feebly; but a
glass odometer moves with brilliant vivacity. I would besides advise
the reader to try a gold-ring odometer, in preference, for experiments
X., XI., XII., XIII.

Then here are the results:—

I. Odometer (we will suppose armed with shell-lac) held over three
sovereigns heaped loosely together to form the Od-subject; the odometer
suspended from the right forefinger of a competent person of the male
sex. _Result_—Longitudinal oscillations.

II. Let the experimenter, continuing experiment I., take with
his unengaged hand the hand of a person of the opposite sex.
_Result_—Transverse oscillations of the odometer.

III. Then, the experiment being continued, let a person of the sex of
the experimenter take and hold the unengaged hand of the second party.
_Result_—Longitudinal oscillations of the odometer.

IV. Repeat experiment I., and, the longitudinal oscillations being
established, touch the forefinger which is engaged in the odometer with
the forefinger of your other hand. _Result_—The oscillations become

V. Repeat experiment I., and, the longitudinal oscillations being
established, bring the thumb of the same hand into contact with the
finger implicated in the odometer. _Result_—The oscillations become

VI. Then, continuing experiment V., let a person of the same sex take
and hold your unengaged hand. _Result_—The oscillations become again

VII. Experiment I. being repeated, take and hold in your disengaged
hand two or three sovereigns. _Result_—The oscillations become

VIII. Continuing experiment VII., let a person of the same sex take and
hold your hand which holds the sovereigns. _Result_—The oscillations
become longitudinal.

IX. If the odometer be attached to the thumb instead of to the
forefinger, it oscillates longitudinally; but on approaching the thumb
so as to touch the forefinger, the oscillations become of course

X. Repeat experiment I., but let the Od-subject be a double row
of five sovereigns, each disposed longitudinally from you, and
hold the odometer over the middle of the double row of sovereigns.
_Result_—Longitudinal oscillations, but the excursions are inordinately
long. Still, on touching the forefinger with the thumb, the
oscillations become either transverse, or the odometer moves in an
ellipse, of which the long axis corresponds with the axis of the double
line of sovereigns.

XI. Dispose ten sovereigns longitudinally from you in two parallel
rows, an inch and a half apart, and hold the odometer over the middle
of the interval. _Result_—Longitudinal oscillations.

XII. Modify experiment XI. by holding the odometer not midway, but
nearer one of the rows of sovereigns. _Result_—Oblique oscillations.

XIII. Dispose ten sovereigns heaped in a short longitudinal group, and
hold the odometer over the table half an inch to one side of the middle
of the heap. _Result_—Transverse oscillations.

From the latter experiments and their modifications, it became evident
that the magnitude and shape of the Od-subject have each a direct
influence on the result. A greater force of attraction evidently exists
towards the greater mass.

XIV. Odometer held over the northward pole of a magnetic needle
contained in a compass-box under glass. _Result_—Rotatory motion in the
direction of the hands of a watch.

XV. Odometer held over the southward pole. _Result_—Rotatory motion in
the direction contrary to the motion of the hands of a watch.

XVI. Repeat experiments XIV. and XV., with the difference of touching
the forefinger implicated in the odometer with the thumb of the same
hand. _Results_—The rotatory motions observed in the two experiments
referred to become exactly reversed.

XVII. Hold the odometer over the centre of the needle.
_Result_—Oscillations at right angles, or transverse, to the axis of
the needle.

XVIII. Hold the odometer over, and half an inch to one side of, the
centre of the needle. _Result_—Oscillations parallel to the axis of the

XIX. Repeat experiment XIV. Then, during its continuance, place a pile
of three sovereigns on the compass-box, in front of the northward
pole of the needle, and about an inch from it. _Result_—Direction of
original rotatory motion reversed.

Then follow experiments with results exactly parallel to the preceding,
having the greatest physiological interest.

XX. Hold the odometer over the tip of the forefinger of your disengaged
hand. _Result_—Rotatory motion in the direction of the hands of a watch.

XXI. Hold the odometer over the thumb of your disengaged hand.
_Result_—Rotatory motion against that of the hands of a watch.

XXII. Hold up the forefinger and thumb of the disengaged hand, their
points being at two and a half inches apart. Hold the odometer in the
centre of a line which would join the points of the finger and thumb.
_Result_—Oscillations transverse to the line indicated.

XXIII. Modify the preceding experiment by holding the odometer half
an inch to one side of, and over, the middle of the line indicated.
_Result_—Oscillations parallel to the said line.

XXIV. Modify experiment XXIII. by approximating the ends of the
forefinger and thumb of the disengaged hand, so that they touch.
_Result_—The odometer no longer moves.

XXV. Forefinger and thumb of the disengaged hand held upwards and
apart, sustaining a short file longwise between them. Odometer then
held over the last joint of the finger. _Result_—Odometer stationary.
Odometer then held over the last joint of the thumb. _Result_—Odometer

XXVI. Odometer held over the northward pole of the magnetic needle, and
its consequent rotatory motion in the direction of that of the hands
of a watch established. Then advance the finger or the thumb of the
other hand towards the odometer. (The odometer should be held in these
experiments half an inch above, and a little wide of, or before, the
apex of the needle.) The finger, or the thumb, is then to be brought
as near to the odometer as is consistent with not touching it in its
rotation. _Result_—Direction of the rotation reversed. Then join the
finger and thumb, and hold the two thus brought into contact in the
same proximity to the odometer. _Result_—The rotation returns to the
former direction; that is, to the direction of the motion of the hands
of a watch.

XXVII. Odometer held over the radial (or thumb) edge of the wrist.
_Result_—The same as when held over thumb. Odometer held over the
little-finger edge of the wrist. _Result_—The same as when held over
either of the fingers. This difference in result extends a third the
length of the fore-arm, over the middle of which the odometer becomes

XXVIII. A portion of rock-crystal five inches long, about two wide
and deep, placed on the table with its long axis transverse to the
operator. Glass odometer held over the middle of the upper plain
surface. _Result_—Oscillations parallel to the axis of the crystal.
Position of the crystal shifted, so as to make its axis point _from_
the operator. _Result_—Oscillations as before parallel to the axis of
the crystal, but longitudinal to the operator. Then the thumb applied
to the forefinger. _Result_—Transverse oscillations.

XXIX. Glass odometer held suspended over one apex of the crystal.
_Result_—Rotatory motion in the direction of the hands of a watch.
Odometer held over the opposite end. _Result_—Rotation in the direction
contrary to that of the hands of a watch.

XXX. The last experiment repeated. The forefinger of the operator’s
unengaged hand brought near to the odometer in each of its two
varieties. _Result_—The previous rotatory motion reversed. Then the
point of the thumb brought into contact with the odometer finger.
_Result_—The original rotatory motion re-established.

I will add in reference to the first and simplest experiments, that the
interposition of several folds of silk between the Od-subject and the
odometer renders the motions of the latter less brisk.

The development which I have thus given to the few, isolated, and
long-hoarded experiments of Herr Caspari, was not so simple an
affair as it may seem to be. For several days I was in doubt as to
the genuineness of the results, so capricious and contradictory were
they. It was only when I had discovered, first, the reversing effect
of touching the odometer finger with the thumb of the same hand, and,
secondly, that approaching the thumb towards the odometer finger, or
even allowing the other fingers of the odometer hand to close upon
the ball of the thumb, has the same effect with bringing the point
of the thumb into contact with the odometer finger, that I succeeded
in obtaining unvarying results. The interest of these experiments is
unquestionably very considerable. They open a new vein of research, and
establish a new bond of connexion between physical and physiological
science, which cannot fail to promote the advancement of both. They
contribute a mass of objective and physical evidence to give support
and substantiality to the subjective results of Von Reichenbach’s
experiments. They tend to prove the existence of some universal force,
such as that to which he has given theoretical form and consistence
under the designation of Od. And such a universal force, what other can
we deem it to be than the long-vilipended influence of Mesmer, rendered
bright and transparent and palatable by passing through the filter of


 THE SOLUTION.—Examination of the genuineness of the
 phenomena—Od-motions produced by bodies in their most inert
 state—Analysis of the forces which originate them—Od-motions
 connected with electrical, magnetic, chemical, crystalline, and vital
 influences—Their analysis.

The present letter might be entitled “An account of some motions
recently discovered, to the manifestation of which an influence
proceeding from the living human body is necessary.” The contrivance by
which these motions are elicited I have called an Odometer, from the
conviction that the force which sets it in movement is no other than
the Od-force of Von Reichenbach. For the same reason I have called the
objects with which it is tested Od-subjects, and the motions themselves

The odometer is a pendulum, formed of a ring, or other small body
attached to a thread, the other end of which is wound round a finger
or the thumb. The odometer employed in the following experiments was
a light gold ring, having a greater mass of metal on the unattached
side, and suspended to the last joint of the right forefinger, the
suspending medium being either silk, or fine cotton, or the hair of
a horse. The experiments were made by myself. In order to avoid the
confusion resulting from a multiplicity of details, I shall state the
results obtained through testing a limited number only of Od-subjects,
so selected as to represent the leading divisions of the provinces of
nature, and of dynamics. With some of the principal the reader will
be already acquainted through Letter XII., the contents of which will
have prepared him for, and probably suggested to him, the following
question, as a desirable subject of preliminary consideration.

I. Are the motions referred to worth examining at all? Are they
more than the simple results of impulses conveyed to the pendulum
by movements of the hand or wrist, or some general sway of the
experimenter’s person, unintentionally going with the expectation or
conception of this or that motion of the ring? Such a solution of the
phenomena is not wanting in probability. It is metaphysically and
physically certain, that when we maintain one and the same bodily
posture or gesture, as in standing, sitting, or holding out the hand,
whatever be the seeming continuousness and unity of the effort, the
posture or gesture is really maintained only by a series of rapidly
succeeding efforts. What is more likely than that, in such a continual
renewing of voluntary actions, our fancy, or the sympathy between our
will and our thoughts, should give a bias to the results, even when we
most try to neutralize its influence? The fact which I propose first
to mention is in complete agreement with this view. I can at will
cause the odometer to move exactly as I please. Although I hold my
hand as steadily as possible by leaning the arm against a table, and
endeavour to keep my person absolutely still, yet I have only to form
a vivid conception of a new path for the odometer, and a motion in
the so-imagined direction is almost immediately substituted for that
which was before going on. In like manner, I have only to conceive
the cessation of motion, and the odometer gradually stops. I must
farther admit that my first trials of the odometer were made under
the full expectation that the results which ensued would follow. And
I cannot say that it is impossible, that when other and new motions
emerged, they were not often either realizations of a previous guess,
or repetitions on the same principle of what occurred at first as an

On the other hand, I am not unprepared with an array of facts which
seem to me capable not only of neutralizing the force of the preceding
argument, but of making it appear, most likely, that some other
influence than that of the experimenter’s mind is often in operation
in bringing about these results; an influence sufficiently curious,
as I think, to justify me in continuing this investigation and the
present letter. I beg the reader’s candid construction of the following

If, when trying the odometer, I have caused it, by conceiving a
different motion, to change its path and move in a _wrong_ direction,
I now endeavour to divert my mind from considering its motion at all,
the odometer invariably resumes its previous _right_ movement. It
is, indeed, difficult to observe a strict mental neutrality in this
instance. For the odometer moves imperfectly and uncertainly, unless I
frequently look at its performance. Or, as I interpret the fact, unless
I keep my attention fixed to a certain extent on what I am doing, my
hand loses its steadiness, and communicates all sorts of distracting
impulses to the pendulum. And the uncertainty hence arising admits, it
appears to me, of being obviated by the comparison of numerous careful
repetitions of the experiments.

Many of the motions which I at first thought were genuine Od-results,
I afterwards found out I had been mistaken in. And the correction of
these errors was mostly due to frequent and careful repetitions of
the experiments, unattended by an expectation of finding the results
reversed or otherwise modified, and instituted simply to secure their
genuineness and certainty.

Then there was one result which at one time I confidently anticipated;
but it never came up. I had found the ring make gyrations in the
direction of those of the hands of a watch, when held over the small
end of a living unincubated egg. Opposite gyrations were obtained
over the big end. I thought this might have to do with the sex of the
embryo. And I tried, accordingly, a dozen eggs, expecting that in some
the direction of the gyrations at the two ends would be reversed. But
this event never occurred, much as I laid myself out for it. If my
fancy could have decided the matter in spite of my care to prevent
its interference, I am clear that for a time, at least, I should have
obtained in these experiments upon the egg a double set of results.
I was much delighted two months later at coming upon the explanation
of the question, why gyration like that of the hands of a watch is
manifested at the little end of the egg. I had known from nearly the
first that this direction of the rotatory Od-motion is manifested when
the pendulum is swung over the right side of the human body. Then I
fell upon an old physiological reminiscence, (and found a drawing of
the fact in my outlines of Physiology,) that the embryo chick lies in
the egg transversely upon its face, with its right side towards the
little end.

Then there were two other results, which were directly at variance
with my anticipations, but which never failed to present themselves.
I made a voltaic arrangement by means of two plates, one of zinc, the
other of copper, fixed in contact in a solution of salt in water. Now,
when held opposite the middle of the zinc disc, the odometer always
rotated like the hands of a watch; while over the copper disc the
phenomenon was reversed. These results are constant. But I have had
the satisfaction of lately discovering that, if I present the ring to
any part of the _circumference_ of the two discs, its motion is the
opposite, and in accordance with theory.

One of the tests on which I have much relied in determining whether
the motions I obtained were genuine Od-motions, consisted in producing
their reversal by altering the Od-relations of my hand or of my
person. What gives particular value to this test is, that the versed
or complimentary motion is subject to different laws. One set of
secondary oscillations changes into oscillations in a plane at right
angles to the plane of the primary oscillations. In another series the
motion continues in the same plane; but the excursions, which were
before longest in one direction, are now longest in the opposite, as
if a repellent current had been substituted for an attracting one. The
Od-oscillations, it may be observed, are always dependent upon the
action of a constant rectilinear force counteracted by the gravitation
of the pendulum. The means I usually employ to reverse the primary
Od-motions is, bringing the end of the right thumb into contact with
the odometer-finger, where the thread is wound round it. But the
experimenter cannot be too careful not to bring the thumb even near
to the odometer finger, or to allow his other fingers to close upon
the ball of the thumb, for the phenomena are thus again liable to be

The other means of reversing the results of the experiments are:—

 _a._ To substitute a hair of a mare for the suspending media

 _b._ To hold a sovereign in the left hand.

 _c._ To apply the forefinger of the left hand to the odometer finger.

 _d._ To have either hand of a person of the same sex laid on your
 right hand or right ear.

 _e._ To have either hand of a person of the opposite sex laid upon
 your left hand or left ear.

The various substances employed as Od-subjects admit of being divided
into two great classes; one consisting of unorganized or organized
bodies in which a minimum of internal activity is present; the other,
of bodies of both classes, in which the more energetic properties of
matter are at work.

       *       *       *       *       *

I. Let me first notice the results obtained with the first class of
bodies. These, again, are reducible to two forms. The Od-subject may
either be of a regular figure and equal thickness throughout—as a piece
of money, for instance; or it may be of an irregular figure, with an
unequal mass of matter at one part—as, for instance, when it consists
of an aggregate of several pieces of money variously arranged. I shall
first treat of the first and simpler case.

       *       *       *       *       *

It does not matter how you face in making these experiments. The
influence of your person makes the various meridians of the Od-subject.
The movements which we have first to examine are the results of holding
the odometer over the middle of various uniform discs, such as I have
supposed. They consist of two series of oscillations—one directed
longitudinally to and from the experimenter; the other transversal,
or in a plane at right angles to the plane of the first series of
oscillations. Then it is highly convenient to have terms denoting
the four cardinal points at which these oscillations cut the edge of
the circular disc. These points may be termed _distal_, _proximal_,
_dextral_, _sinistral_. It will likewise be found convenient to have
terms to denote the direction of the motions manifested. The terms
_distad_, _proximad_, _dextrad_, _sinistrad_, will serve our purpose.
These terms refer to the person of the experimenter. Two other terms
are still wanting; sometimes rotatory motion supervenes, which maybe
either in the direction of the motion of the hands of a watch, or the
reverse. I call the first of these two motions _clock-rotation_, the
second _versed-rotation_.

The present class of Od-subjects present the following remarkable
differences among themselves:—

Over one class, including gold, zinc, and polished glass, a circular
mass of bicarbonate of soda, the odometer primarily oscillates

With the other class, which includes pearl, ground glass, copper, a
circular mass of tartaric acid, the odometer held over the centre
primarily oscillates _transversely_.

Over polished glass, an odometer of resin oscillates transversely; over
ground glass longitudinally.

Each of these movements is replaced by the other, when the thumb is
brought into contact with the odometer-finger. (See figs. 1 and 2, in
which the continuous line represents the primary motion; the dotted
line, the secondary or complementary or reversed motion.)

       *       *       *       *       *

II. Analysis of the forces, or currents conducing to, or implicated in
the movements of the odometer just described.

It has been said that the above movements manifest themselves when the
odometer is held over the centre of the Od-subject. Let us now examine
the consequences of holding the odometer extra-marginally to, or beyond
the edge of, the Od-subject.

[Illustration: Diagram showing figs. 1-8]

[Illustration: Diagram showing figs. 9-14]

 _a._ Let the odometer be held a quarter of an inch away from, and
 over each cardinal point of a sovereign, or zinc circular disc,
 in succession. _Result_—Held near the distal point, its motion is
 _proximad_. Held near the proximal point, its motion is _proximad_.
 Held near the dextral point, its motion is _sinistrad_. Held near the
 sinistral point, its motion is _sinistrad_. (See fig. 3.)

But the first two impulses thus attained correspond with the direction
of the primary oscillations of the odometer, the last two with its
complementary oscillations; and if the odometer be held now over
different points in succession of the two diametral lines, suspended,
of course, by the finger alone over the first series of points, and
by the finger touched by the thumb over the second, it will be found
that the primary oscillations originated over every point of the
longitudinal diameter of the zinc disc are proximad; and that those
obtainable over any part of the transverse diameter of the zinc disc
are sinistrad.

Then the forces or currents are made manifest by which the two sets of
oscillations are produced; and the marvel of the prompt substitution
of one for the other is at an end; for it is evident that these
two forces, whether produced or only revealed by the presence of
the odometer, co-exist; and that the changed Od-relations of the
experimenter to the odometer, (effected by disjoining the thumb from,
or joining it to, the forefinger,) simply act by giving temporary
predominance to one of the two co-existent currents.

If these experiments be made at the edge of the copper disc, they
elicit opposite but parallel results. (See fig. 4.) They evince the
existence of two currents, one _dextrad_, the other _sinistrad_, from
which the same conclusions may be deduced.

It is important to notice, that in all this class of the experiments,
the distad and dextrad currents are manifested in combination; and in
like manner the proximad and sinistrad.

This combination is further exemplified in the next experiment, which I
shall describe.

 _b._ Excite the above extra-marginal motions of the odometer held
 near the two plates in succession; and then apply the thumb to the
 finger in each experiment. _Result_—Tangential motions are manifested
 parallel to the diametral motions before displayed. (See figs. 5 and

We cannot, however, suppose these extra-marginal tangential motions
to be the lateral limits of the four great currents, inasmuch as they
are obtained by the versed process to that which obtains the central
motion; and the question arises, what then are the limits of the
central currents?

 _c._ Hold the odometer over the zinc disc at its centre; of course,
 longitudinal oscillations determined by the proximad current manifest
 themselves. Then shift its place on the transverse diameter more and
 more to the left. _First Result_—For something more than a quarter of
 the whole diameter, the motion continues longitudinal, proving that
 the central current has a breadth at least something exceeding half
 the diameter. Same result on the other side of the centre. _Second
 Result_—When the odometer nears the sinistral cardinal point of
 the zinc disc, its longitudinal proximad motion is replaced by the
 motion I have called clock-rotation. When it is held near the dextral
 cardinal point, versed rotation manifests itself.

This second result establishes that the longitudinal proximad current
extends laterally to the edges of the disc; but that, when near to
them, the force of the co-existing transverse current asserts itself,
driving the odometer (on the left) off in a sinistro-proximad diagonal,
which ends in the establishment of clock-rotation; on the right driving
the central current off, in a dextro-proximad diagonal, resulting in
versed rotation. (See fig. 7.)

Parallel and opposite results are obtained by the odometer when these
experiments are repeated with the copper disc; and necessarily the
clock-rotation appears near the proximad margin of the disc, the versed
rotation near the distal edge.

Therefore it is evident that the great longitudinal and transverse
currents extend over the whole disc, but not beyond it. Experiment _a_,
section II., and figs. 3 and 4, show that, immediately beyond the
cardinal points, single forces are in operation.

Other interesting results follow from trying with the odometer the
extra-marginal spaces between the cardinal points.

 _d._ First let the central points between each pair of cardinal points
 be tried with the zinc disc. _Result_—(see fig. 9,)—a dextro-proximad
 current is manifested between the sinistral and distal points, and
 between the proximal and dextral points; a sinistro-proximad current
 is manifested between the dextral and distal, and between the proximal
 and sinistral points—giving the impression that there exist two
 diagonal forces, comparable to the longitudinal and transverse forces.

Fig. 10 gives the corresponding, but opposite, results obtained upon
the copper disc.

It is, however, doubtful whether these currents traverse the whole
disc. For if the experiment is made of following each upon the disc,
their influence disappears at less than a quarter of the diameter,
where the odometer is found to obey on the zinc disc the proximad
current, on the copper disc the dextrad current. Or, probably, these
currents are the simple expression of the action of two equal forces
moving the body operated on by them (at right angles to each other)
in the diagonal. These effects thus form a remarkable contrast with
the results given in figs. 7 and 8, wherein rotatory movements are
manifested; and they seem to show that an essential element in these
rotatory movements is, that one of the two currents acting on the
odometer must, in the latter case, be of superior force to the other.

 _e._ Repeat the last experiments versed, or with the thumb applied to
 the forefinger. _Results_—(see figs. 11 and 12)—Tangential forces are
 developed, the directions of which are opposite, as obtained over the
 zinc and over the copper discs.

 _f._ Repeat the extra-marginal trials of the odometer in all the
 halves of the inter-cardinal spaces, both with the zinc and with the
 copper discs. (See figs. 13 and 14.) _Result_—A complicated series of
 rotatory movements, eight for each disc; four in each case showing
 clock-rotation—four versed rotation—but opposite in the corresponding
 spaces of the two discs. On applying the thumb to the odometer finger,
 the rotations become exactly inverted so that, in that case; fig. 14
 represents what is now manifested in the zinc disc, fig. 13 what is
 now manifested in the copper disc.

III. Motions of the odometer obtained over the same class of
substances, when of irregular figure and unequal thickness.

 _a._ Let the odometer be held over the middle of a line of four
 sovereigns disposed either longitudinally, transversely, or obliquely.
 _Result_—Long oscillations over the axis of the line of sovereigns.
 But the oscillations are not of equal length. At one end of the line
 they extend to the edge of the fourth sovereign. At the other, they
 pass an inch beyond it.

 _b._ Repeat the experiment, touching the odometer-finger with the
 right thumb. _Result_—Axial oscillations as before, and unequal as
 before, but in the contrary direction.

 _c._ Dispose four sovereigns in a line; then place two others upon any
 one of the four, and hold the odometer over the table at three inches
 to one side of the middle of the line. _Result_—The odometer swings
 in each instance towards that sovereign on which the two additional
 are placed—but unequally. We will suppose that it has swung with
 sufficient strength to reach the disc of the loaded sovereign,—the
 oscillation in the contrary direction is but two inches in length.

 _d._ Repeat the experiment, with the thumb applied.
 _Results_—Oscillations ensue of the same length, and they are again
 unequal, but in the contrary direction. Now they do not reach the pile
 of sovereigns by an inch, but they pass three inches in the opposite

[Illustration: Diagram showing figs. 15-24]

[Illustration: Diagram showing fisg 25-29]

Thus a force is brought into view having this new quality: when the
Od-relations of the experimenter are versed, a change ensues, not into
motion in a plane transverse to the former one, but the direction of
the new motion is simply the opposite of the first, or the odometer
appears to be attracted or repelled towards the Od-subject alternately.

 _e._ Try the same experiment with a single sovereign, or with the zinc
 disc. _Result_—The odometer held at four inches distance is attracted
 and repelled just as in the preceding instance.

Then an irregular form of the Od-subject, or its unequal mass at
different parts, have nothing to do with this new motion; and it
is evident that the relation of the latter to the former class of
oscillatory motions will be easily determinable.

 _f._ Lay the proper disc before you (see fig. 15,) and hold the
 odometer over the production in each direction of its transversal line
 beyond the limits of the disc. _Results_—When held near the right edge
 of the disc, as before mentioned, a dextrad motion is developed; that
 is to say, the odometer moves off from the dextral cardinal point of
 the disc, oscillatively. This movement, or those oscillations outward,
 are fainter and fainter, as the odometer is held over points more and
 more remote from the disc. At length, at the distance of an inch and a
 half, the odometer becomes absolutely stationary. When moved, however,
 still farther off, motion begins again, which is very lively at four
 to five inches distance from the disc, its direction being sensibly
 toward the disc. Moved farther off, still the same motion continues,
 and is detectable ten to twelve inches off the Od-subject.

When the same experiments are made on the left edge of the Od-subject,
phenomena just the reverse are manifested for the same distance. The
extra-marginal dextrad motion is transverse for an inch and a half.
Then there occurs a point of quiescence; on the other side of which
the odometer swings in free and long sinistrad or repelled oscillations.

 _g._ Repeat these experiments (fig. 16,) with the thumb applied.
 _Result_—On the left side the near extra-marginal dextrad motion
 is replaced by a tangential proximad motion; and the centrifugal
 oscillations beyond the point of quiescence are replaced by
 centripetal oscillations. On the right side again, the near dextrad
 extra-marginal oscillations are replaced by a proximad tangential
 current: while beyond the point of quiescence, the remote centripetal
 oscillations are reversed into centrifugal ones.

Effects parallel to these are attained at each of the cardinal and
inter-cardinal points of the whole circumference, upon the zinc or
copper disc, but as usual always reversed.

Opposite to the eight intervening spaces, the character of the remote
motion is changed. _There_ it is a rotatory motion in a direction the
reverse of the rotatory motion shown in figs. 15 and 16.

Thus, there exists all round the disc, at a distance of about an inch
and a half, a circle of complete repose. Within this the proper, or
near, extra-marginal movements of the odometer are manifested: without
it, the motions of the second and remote force last described.

But to return to the facts mentioned at the beginning of this section.

The movements of the odometer over a line of sovereigns, or from a
distance towards its centre of gravity, are evidently the consequences
of this remote force coming into operation; the long and forcible
oscillations caused by which toward or from a remote point override
the smaller near extra-marginal, and the super-discal forces of the

IV. I have next to deal with the effects obtained by trying the
odometer with mineral bodies, in which electric, chemical, or magnetic
forces are energizing, or that force on which crystalline structure
depends, and with organized bodies in possession of life.

In this section, I propose to describe the simple resultants, analogous
to the two diametral movements, obtained when the odometer is held
over a sovereign. It will be remembered that, of these two, one only
manifested itself at a time; and that their meridians were determined
by the person of the experimenter. One movement was either in the
direction of the mesial plane of his person, or in one parallel to
it—namely, the longitudinal oscillations; the other was in a plane at
right angles to the first.

The corresponding movements of the odometer with the class of bodies
now to be considered are rotatory; and two, at least, are always
simultaneously manifested—one a clock rotation, the other a versed
rotation. These opposite rotations are likewise always manifested on
opposite sides or opposite ends of the Od-subject, indicating the
development of polarity. Finally, the force of this polarity is such as
to render the influence of the person of the experimenter nugatory as
to the direction of the forces. Accordingly, if a horse-shoe magnet is
laid in any position in reference to the experimenter, clock-rotation
is always obtained by holding the odometer half an inch above, and
beyond its northward pole; and versed rotation is invariably obtained
in like manner at its southward pole. The effect of touching the
odometer-finger with the thumb is exactly to reverse the two rotations.

I will now describe the individual instances in which these rotations
are manifested; or the parts of each Od-subject over which the odometer
rotates in opposite directions.

              CLOCK-ROTATION.                        VERSED-ROTATION.

  _a._ A stick of sealing-wax excited       A glass tube similarly excited.
     by friction with flannel or silk.
     A glass tube excited by rubbing
     it with fur.

  _b._ The zinc disc of an arrangement      The copper disc of the same, the
     of two zinc and copper discs           odometer being held over against
     moistened with salt and water, the     the surface of the copper disc;
     odometer being held opposite to the    for again, if it be held to the
     middle of the zinc disc; for if it     edge of the copper disc, the
     be held beyond the disc, half an       opposite result follows, and the
     inch from and on the exact level       rotation is clock-rotation.
     of the zinc disc, versed-rotation
     is manifested round the whole

  _c._ A mixture of half a drachm of        A mixture of half a drachm of
     bicarbonate of soda and five grains    tartaric of bicarbonate
     acid and five grain of tartaric acid,  of soda.
     when effervescing upon a plate after
     the addition of water.

  _d._ The northward pole of a horse-shoe   The southward pole of the same.
     magnet, or of a magnetic
     needle freely suspended.

  _e._ One pole of a large crystal, which,  The opposite pole.
     is to be found out by this

  _f._ The root of a garden weed freshly    The leaves of the same.
     taken from the ground.

  _g._ The stalk end of an orange, and      The opposite points of the same.
     of an apple, and of an orange pip.

  _h._ The small end of an egg.             The large end of the same.

  _i._ The tips of the fingers on either    The top of the thumb and great
     hand, and of the toes of either        toe.

  _k._ Right side of the head of a          Left side.

The last holds likewise with the greater part of the human body;
but the results of trying the odometer with the human frame are so
complicated, that I shall reserve their consideration for a separate

V. The mechanical solution of these phenomena is simple enough. The
odometer must be under the influence of two constant and unequal
rectilinear forces, operating at right angles to each other on the gold
ring, the effects of which are modified by the centripetal force of its
gravitation. All that is required is, to determine by observation the
place, direction, and limits of the two forces.

It will render the description which follows easier, to suppose that
the pole of the Od-subject which causes clock-rotation be turned
directly from the experimenter; for example, that an egg be placed
longways to the experimenter with its small end from him, or a bar
magnet with its northward pole from him. In the case of a horse-shoe
magnet, both poles are then turned from you. So, too, in the case of
the hand, the fingers and thumbs are both to be turned away.

 _a._ Odometer held immediately before, and a quarter of an inch from,
 the small end of an egg. _Result_—Distad motion, or motion in the
 direction of the long axis of the egg, from the egg.

 _b._ Odometer similarly held to the great end. _Result_—Proximad
 motion of the odometer—that is, again, motion directly from the axis
 of the egg.

 _c._ Hold the odometer near either side of the egg, one-fifth of the
 distance from either end. _Results_—Transverse sinistrad oscillations.
 The same current may be detected above the egg on the same parallels.

The effects described are given in fig. 17. Then here are, at either
end of the egg, two rectilinear currents acting at right angles to each
other. Fig. 18 represents the complementary motions to the above,
which are obtained by touching the odometer finger with the thumb. A
parallel combination of rectilinear motions is produced, but in another

The next three figures exemplify the composition of forces necessary to
produce the rotatory motion of the odometer.

Figs. 19 and 20 are intended to represent the large ends of two eggs,
so placed that the axial currents of the two shall cross at right
angles, at a point equidistant, let us say at half an inch exactly,
from the end of each egg. If the ring be suspended exactly at the point
of meeting of the two forces, it will be driven off in the diagonal,
and continue simply to oscillate in the line A B. But if either of the
eggs is moved back to double its former distance from the point of
intersection of the two forces, the forces will be rendered unequal,
and new results will ensue. The two experiments by which the results
of this arrangement may be tried are represented in figs. 21, 22, and
figs. 23, 24. The longer current is necessarily thereby the weaker of
the two in each combination. Accordingly, rotatory motion supervenes
in each case instead of diagonal oscillation; and the direction of the
rotation is from the stronger towards the weaker current.

Figure 25 represents the various motions which may be elicited by
holding the odometer at the sides or over different parts of a
horse-shoe magnet. The continued lines in all the diagrams represent
the primary motions, the dotted lines their complementary motions.

Figures 26 and 27 represent, in the same way, the primary and secondary
oscillations obtainable over the centre of, or parallel to the needle.

Figures 28 and 29 represent the motions displayed by the odometer,
when it is held above various points in the interval between two
sovereigns, placed upon the table an inch and a half asunder. Compound
effects follow, produced by the joint influence of the two bodies.

       *       *       *       *       *

VI. I will finally describe the phenomena elicited by the odometer
from the living human frame, including those which are dependent on
difference of sex.

Parties to experiments with the odometer may be in the position either
of Od-subjects, or of reversers of its effects in the hands of others,
or they may be themselves components of the odometer.

I can discover absolutely no difference in the results obtained by the
odometer on men and women, when treated as Od-subjects. The following
results appear to me equally obtainable with persons of both sexes.

With the exception of the arms below the elbows, the wrists and hands,
and of the legs below the knees, the ankles and feet, the two sides
of the person display the polar differences already noticed. If the
odometer be held over the right side of the head, (either front or
back,) over the right side of the face, over the right shoulder or
elbow, or right knee, it exhibits clock-rotation. Held over the same
parts on the left side, it exhibits versed-rotation. On touching the
odometer-finger with the thumb, these effects are of course reversed.

If the odometer be held over the middle and outside of either arm, or
over the middle and back of either fore-arm or hand, it oscillates
longitudinally and towards the hand or foot. On reapplying the
thumb, these longitudinal oscillations are replaced by transverse
oscillations, having a direction _outwards_—_i. e._, away from the
mesial plane of the frame.

The phenomena last described show that the primary idea of a
transverse polarity for the whole frame is still verifiable, even in
the extreme parts of either limb. But below the elbows and knees a
second polarity is superinduced upon the former. Below the elbows and
knees, one side of each limb repeats the phenomena of the right side of
the body, the other those of the left. The odometer held over the tips
of the fingers of either hand exhibits clock-rotation, over the thumb
of either hand versed-rotation; and with these, as I have mentioned,
all the other effects that can be elicited out of the two limbs of
a horse-shoe magnet. The same rotatory movements may likewise be
obtained by holding the odometer near the two edges of the hand, wrist,
fore-arm. The latter singularity, which contrasts with the simpler
effects on the upper arm, must result from the combination of the two
polarities—the systemic and the submembral one.

The odometer, held over the back of the neck or throat, oscillates
transversely. When versed, longitudinally.

It appears to me now that women generally are incapable of eliciting
the movements of the odometer when held by themselves, without touching
a second party.

I have already, in the introductory part of this letter, given a
summary of all the modes I am acquainted with of reversing the motions
of the odometer.

Perhaps I have presumed too much in heading this letter with the title
of “The Solution.” But what is the solution of physical phenomena
but the displaying of the forces which compel their sequence? As an
inquiry progresses, a few general expressions take the place of the
first imperfect and complicated explanation. But the first step made
was still a solution; and the highest solution ever yet obtained has
probably still to be merged in some expression yet more general. So the
attraction of gravitation is probably connected with, or balanced by,
a corresponding repulsive force, coming into operation at some enormous
distance from the centre of each planetary sphere, and the two may
eventually prove to form one law.

But I had hoped that I was not presuming in asserting that the present
inquiry has immediate practical applications, such as seldom fall to
the lot of so young an investigation. The odometer may prove a useful
test of the presence and qualities of electric, chemical, and magnetic
actions; it will probably help to determine the electrochemical
qualities of bodies; and in large or small crystalline masses—in the
diamond, for instance—will serve to show the axes and distinguish the
opposite poles. In reference to biology, it will probably furnish the
long-wanted criterion between death and apparent death; for I observe
that, with an egg long kept, but still alive, though no longer likely
to be very palatable, the odometer freely moves in the way described in
the fourth section. But it treats the freshest egg, when boiled, as if
it were a lump of zinc.

Nevertheless I am not without certain misgivings. I suspect that the
divining-ring will be found to manifest genuine Od-motions in the hands
of as small a number as succeed with the divining-rod. And I fear that
overhasty confidence in results only seemingly sound, may lead many
astray into a wide field of self-deception.


An accident has given me the opportunity of making further additions to
this little volume, of which I proceed to avail myself; and, first, by
communicating my latest experiments with the divining-ring, July 24.

I. I have stated that, if a fresh egg be placed upon the table, with
the small end directed _from_ me—or a crystal, with one definite
pole so turned from me—or a bar-magnet, with its northward pole so
disposed—and I then suspend the divining-ring half an inch above either
of the three so averted ends, and half an inch further off from me,
the ring exhibits clock-rotation in each instance. Held in a parallel
manner over the opposite ends—that is, half an inch from, and half an
inch higher than, the same—the ring exhibits versed-rotation. If the
three Od-subjects be moved round, so that their hitherto distal ends
point to the right, or if they be further turned, so as to bring the
previously distal ends now to point directly _towards_ me, the ring
continues to exhibit exactly the same motions as in the first instance.

If, these objects being removed, I lay a horse-shoe magnet on the table
before me, with its poles turned directly _from_ me, the northward
limb being on my left hand, the southward limb-pole on my right, and
experiments parallel to those just described are made, the results
remain the same. If, near one side of the horse-shoe magnet, I lay my
left hand on the table, the palm downwards, the thumb held wide of the
fingers, the ring, if suspended half an inch from and above either of
the finger-points, displays clock-rotation; suspended similarly before
and above the point of the thumb, versed-rotation. Or the fingers of
the left hand, so disposed, may be compared, in reference to Od, to the
northward pole of a horse-shoe magnet, while the thumb corresponds with
its southward pole.

If, removing my left hand, I turn the horse-shoe magnet, without
altering the side on which it rests, half round, so that the poles
point directly _towards_ me, the northward pole being now, of course,
on my right, the southward pole on my left, the ring held as before
over either of the two poles, displays the same results. If I now
move the magnet still nearer to me, so that its two poles are an inch
beyond the edge of the table, I can obtain results which furnish a more
precise explanation of the two rotatory movements already described,
than I had before arrived at.

If I now suspend the ring, with its lowest part on a level with the
magnet, and half an inch from its northward pole—that is, half an
inch nearer me—it begins to oscillate longitudinally, with a bias
towards me, as if it were repelled from the pole of the magnet. If
I then suspend the ring an inch vertically above the first point of
suspension, it begins to oscillate transversely, with a bias towards
the right, or as if impelled by a dextrad current. If I then lower the
ring half an inch, the first effect observed is, that it oscillates
obliquely, being evidently impelled at once to the right and towards
me—that is, in the diagonal of the two forces, of each of which I had
before obtained the separate influence. In this third variation of the
experiments, I have brought the ring to the limit of the two currents,
where both tell upon it. This oblique oscillation soon, however,
undergoes a change: it changes into clock-rotation, showing that the
transverse or dextrad current is stronger than the longitudinal or
proximad current.

If parallel experiments be made at levels below that of the pole of the
magnet, corresponding but opposite results ensue. If the whole series
be repeated upon the south pole of the magnet, opposite but perfectly
corresponding results are again obtained: and similar results may be
obtained with the two poles of an egg.

II. The mode in which I have latterly educed the rotatory movements
depending upon galvanism, has been this. I have laid two discs, one
of zinc, the other of copper, one on the other, having previously
moistened their surfaces with salt and water. Then, as I mentioned,
the ring held over the middle of the zinc disc (that being uppermost)
exhibits clock-rotation. Held over the middle of the copper disc, when
that is laid uppermost, versed-rotation. I mentioned, too, that if held
beyond, but near the circumference of the same discs, the direction of
the motion of the ring is reversed.

The discs which I employ are circular, an inch and a half in diameter,
and about as thick as a sovereign. Upon these I do not fail to obtain,
when dried and used singly, the first series of phenomena described in
the preceding letter. But it occurred to me to try what would be the
result of suspending the ring over the two together, and alternately
laid uppermost, when they had been well cleaned and dried. This is
evidently a still simpler voltaic arrangement than when the salt and
water is additionally used. The result was in the highest degree
interesting. When I suspend the ring half an inch above the centre
of the copper disc, (that being laid uppermost,) the first motion
observed is transverse; but after a few oscillations it becomes
oblique—dextrad and proximad combined, in the diagonal between the
primary influences of the zinc and of the copper. This change does not
last long; the transverse force again carries it, in this instance, and
clock-rotation is permanently established. When the zinc is uppermost,
the corresponding opposite phenomena manifest themselves; and in either
case a reversed movement occurs, if the ring is held extra-marginally
to the discs.

III. I may say that I have now obtained positive evidence that these
motions of the odometer do not depend upon my own will, or the sympathy
of my will with existing conceptions in my mind; for they succeed
nearly equally well when the discs are covered with half a sheet of
writing-paper. In nine cases out of ten, when I thus manage to be
in perfect ignorance which disc, or what combination of the two, is
submitted to the odometer, the right results manifest themselves, and
the cause of the occasional failures is generally obvious. Let me add
upon this topic, that one day, the weather being cold and wet, and
myself suffering severely with rheumatism, the odometer would not move
at all in my hand. On another day, late in the evening it was, when I
happened to be much fatigued and exhausted, the ring moved, indeed,
but every motion was exactly reversed; thus my left hand I found now
obtained exactly the results which, on other occasions, I got with the

       *       *       *       *       *

IV. But by what cause, then—through what mechanism, so to speak, are
the movements of the odometer immediately produced? Early in the
inquiry I made this experiment. Instead of winding the free end of the
silk round my finger, I wound it round a cedar-pencil, and laid the
latter upon the backs of two books, which were made to stand on their
edges, four inches apart, with the Od-subject on the table between
them, the ring being suspended half an inch above it. The ring, of
course, remained stationary. Then I took hold of the pencil with my
finger and thumb, at the point where the silk was wound round it; my
finger and thumb rested on the silk; but no motion of the odometer
ensued. Hence it follows, that the odometer is, after all, always set
in motion _by the play of my own muscles_. I venture then to suppose
that my sentient nerves, unknown to me, detect on these occasions
certain relations of matter—let me call them currents of force—which
determine in me _reflexly_ certain sympathetic motions of the very
lightest, and even of an unconscious character. This idea, which I am
sure affords the just solution of the matter, is highly consistent
with some observations which I have before recounted. It explains how
the primary delicate impression should yield to the coarser influence
of a strong conception in the mind, that this or that other motion
of the ring is about to follow, or even to that of a vivid and, so
to say, abstract conception of another motion. It explains what I
have several times verified, that on certain days a person standing
behind me with his hand on my ear, or on my shoulder, can, by an
effort of his will (mine not resisting,) make the odometer which I am
holding move whichever way he happens strongly to image to himself,
without communicating the same to me. It explains to me on what the
difference consists between those who can set the divining-ring in
motion, without a conscious effort, and those who cannot. The former,
it will be found, are persons of so great nervous mobility, that any
such motions, if their occurrence be forcibly anticipated by them, will
certainly be realized by their sympathetic frames. Among this class
should be sought, and would still remain to be detected by experiment,
those whose _impressionability by Od should prove commensurate with
their nervous mobility_. Finally, I cannot doubt that the view which
I have thus arrived at respecting the mechanism of the motions of the
odometer, is equally applicable to the explanation of those of the
divining-rod. I see that, through its means, many before anomalous
facts, with the narrative of which I have not bored the reader, which
emerged in my former trials of the divining rod, made by the hands of
others, lose their obscurity and contradictoriness, and leave the whole
subject in the condition of an intelligible and luminous conception.

N. B.—It is a pity that of the inquirers who now amuse themselves with
investigating these subjects, very few realize in their minds the idea
of Von Reichenbach, that Od, though often exhibiting the same relations
with electricity and magnetism, is yet an utterly different principle.


 HYPNOTISM. TRANCE-UMBRA.—Mr. Braid’s discovery—Trance-faculties
 manifested in the waking state—Self-induced waking

It is an advantage attending a long and patient analysis of, and
cautious theorizing upon, a new subject of inquiry, that when fresh
facts and principles emerge in it, instead of disturbing such solid
work as I have supposed, they but enrich and strengthen it, and find,
as it were, prepared for them appropriate niches. Something of this
satisfaction I experience, when I have to render tardy justice to Mr.
Braid’s discovery, and to give an account of the wonders realized by
Dr. Darling, Mr. Lewis, and others.

Or, I have observed, that trance, considered in reference to its
production, has a twofold character. It presents itself either as a
spontaneous seizure brought on unexpectedly by a continuance of mental
or physical excitement or exhaustion; or as intentionally induced
through the systematic direction by some second person, more or less
cognisant what definite effects he can produce, of certain moral and
physical influences upon the party intended to be wrought on. Mr.
Braid has added a third causal difference to the theory of trance.
He has shown that trance can be induced by the subject of it himself
voluntarily, by the use of certain means, which call into operation
a special principle. The effects which he obtained by these means,
but which he perhaps studied too much to separate from the effects of
mesmerism—these and their principle he denominated _Hypnotism_.

Again, I have shown that all the forms of trance may be, and require to
be, arranged under five types—viz., death-trance, trance-coma, initial
trance, half-waking trance, full-waking trance. I mentioned, besides,
that in the manifestation of Zschokke’s seer-gift, and in the accounts
which we receive of the performances called second-sight, the extended
exoneural perception was introduced by a brief period, in which the
performer was _in a degree_ absorbed and lost, yet did not pass on
into a second and separate phase of consciousness. He was still always
himself, and observed and remembered as parts of his natural order of
recollections the impressions which then occurred to him. This same
state must be that which I have seen described as one peculiarly suited
to the exhibition of phreno-mesmerism. Mr. Braid appears likewise often
to have brought it on in his curative applications of hypnotism. But
now it has new importance and distinctness conferred upon it, as being
the state in which the wonderful phenomena of “mental suggestion” are
best displayed, and in which conscious clairvoyance is manifested.
As this state does not amount to complete trance, but as it is a
fore-shadowing of it, as it were, I venture to propose for it the name
of trance-umbra.

I. _Hypnotism_.—Mr. Braid discovered that if certain sensitive persons
fix their sight steadily upon a small bright object, held near and
above the forehead, or their sight becoming fatigued, and the eyelids
fall, if they keep their attention strained as if they were still
observing the same object, both in the upward direction of the eye and
in their thought, they lose themselves and go off into a state which,
in its full development, is, in fact, initial trance, bordering often
on trance-coma. The party thus fixed sometimes exhibited many of the
humbler performances of ordinarily mesmerised persons. But Mr. Braid
shall speak for himself; I quote from his _Neurhypnology_, published in
London in 1843. “I requested,” narrates Mr. Braid, “a young gentleman
present to sit down, and maintain a fixed stare at the top of a
wine-bottle, placed so much above him as to produce a considerable
strain on the eyes and eyelids, to enable him to maintain a steady view
of the object. In three minutes his eyelids closed, a gush of tears ran
down his cheeks, his head drooped, his face was slightly convulsed, he
gave a groan, and instantly fell into profound sleep—the respiration
becoming slow, deep, and sibilant, the right hand and arm being
agitated by slight convulsive movements,” (p. 17.) Again, (p. 18,) “I
called up,” continues Mr. Braid, “one of my men-servants, who knew
nothing of mesmerism, and gave him such directions as were calculated
to impress his mind with the idea, that his fixed attention was merely
for the purpose of watching a chemical experiment in the preparation
of some medicine; and being familiar with such he could feel no alarm.
In two minutes and a half his eyelids closed slowly with a vibrating
motion, his chin fell on his breast, he gave a deep sigh, and instantly
was in a deep sleep, breathing loudly. In about one minute after his
profound sleep, I roused him, and pretended to chide him for being so
careless, said he ought to be ashamed of himself for not being able to
attend to my instructions for three minutes without falling asleep, and
ordered him down stairs. In a short time I recalled this young man and
desired him to sit down once more, but to be careful not to fall asleep
again, as on the former occasion. He sat down with this intention; but
at the expiration of two minutes and a half, his eyelids closed, and
exactly the same phenomena as in the former experiment ensued.” Mr.
Braid adds, “I again tried the experiment of causing the first person
spoken of to gaze on a different object to that used in the first
experiment, but still, as I anticipated, the phenomena were the same. I
also tried on him M. Lafontaine’s mode of mesmerising with the thumbs
and eyes, and likewise by gazing on my eyes without contact; and still
the effects were the same.”

It is indeed perfectly obvious that Mr. Braid succeeded in producing
a heavy form of initial trance in these cases. Nor is it easy to get
rid of the impression that the effect was not partly at least owing
to his personal Od-influence. But, remembering what I witnessed of
his performances, and construing candidly all his statements, I am
disposed to believe that his method, adopted by the patient when in a
room alone, upon himself, would throw susceptible persons into trance.
Mr. Braid appears to me to have the double merit, first of having
discovered the means of self-mesmerising—of so disturbing by very
simple and harmless means the nervous system, that trance would appear
without the influence of a second party to aid its supervention—and
secondly, of having, at an early period, when prejudice ran very high
in England against these practices, availed himself of this disguised
mesmerism to do much good in the treatment of disease. Mr. Braid does
not appear to have fallen on any instances of clairvoyance, but he
narrates many observations relating to phreno-mesmerism.

II. _Trance-Umbra._—This is the best title I can hit on to designate
the peculiar condition, the study of which promises to exceed in
interest that of any of the phases of perfect trance; inasmuch as in
this state the same extraordinary powers are manifested as in trance,
without the condition of an abstracted state of consciousness, which
rendered the possession of those powers useless, at least, directly,
to the person who manifested them. It is true that this law could
be broken; the mesmeriser can desire an entranced clairvoyante to
remember, when she awakes, any particular event or communication
made by her. But for this exceptional power a special injunction or
permit is necessary. In trance-umbra, on the contrary, the subject
is throughout _himself_. When exhibiting the wildest phenomena he is
conscious of what he is doing, and preserves afterwards as accurate a
recollection of it as any of the spectators.

Then, how is trance-umbra induced? How is it known that the shadow of
trance has enveloped the patient, and that, though quite himself to all
appearance, he is in a state to manifest the highest trance-faculties?

The way to induce trance-umbra, is to administer a little dose of
mesmerism. One operator, like Dr. Darling, (I quote from Dr. Gregory’s
most instructive and interesting _Letters on Animal Magnetism_,)
directs his patient to sit still with his eyes fixed, and his attention
concentrated on a coin held in his hand, or on a double-convex bit
of zinc with a central portion of copper so held. This is, in truth,
a gentle dose of hypnotism. The patient looks in quiet repose at a
small object held in his hand or his lap, instead of fatiguing his
sensations by straining the eye-balls upwards. Suppose a group of a
dozen persons sitting thus in a half-darkened, still room, preserving
a studied quietude, and concentrating their attention on one point
of easy vision; in from fifteen to twenty minutes one or more is
found to be in the state of trance-umbra. Mr. Lewis (I quote again
the same authority) employs a different process. He eyes his patients
intently as they sit in a row before him, still and composed, with a
concentrated will, and its full outward expression by him, to influence
their psychical condition. In five minutes it often happens that the
state of trance-umbra supervenes.

In the mean time, what has marked its arrival? The Rev. R. S. F. writes
me, that he had been three times the subject of the first of the
two methods: the operator was Mr. Stone, Lecturer at the Marylebone
Scientific Institution. The first two experiments were successful,
the third failed. Then Mr. F. writes, “The only circumstance which
I noticed (bearing upon the above question) in myself, and which I
afterwards found tallied with the experience of others, was this: On
the two occasions when I was affected, after about ten minutes the coin
began to disappear from my sight, and to reappear a confused, brilliant
substance, similar to those appearances which remain on the retina
after one has been looking towards the sun for a few minutes, and I
seemed for the moment to have fallen into a half-dreamy state; but in
the subsequent part of the experiments, I appeared to myself to be in
my ordinary state. On the third occasion, when the experiment failed
with myself and with all the others, (which I think might be accounted
for by the accidental irregularity of the proceedings,) I did not
experience the sensations mentioned above.” This account tallies with
other evidence upon the point; a brief period of disturbed sensation,
or threatening confusion, or loss of consciousness, passes over the
patient. The wing of the unseen power, to speak figuratively, has
cast its shadow upon him. It is evident that this transient psychical
disturbance is the same phenomenon with that which Zschokke experienced
whenever his seer-gift was manifested. The agency which thus can at
pleasure be used to call forth trance-umbra, is the same which employed
longer, or more intensely, produces perfect trance. The little dose
thrilling through the system, without driving sense and apprehension
from their usual seats, seems, as it were, to remove their fastenings;
to throw up, as it were, the sashes of the body, so that the soul can
now look forth and see, not as through a glass, darkly, but free to
grasp directly things out of its corporeal tenement, whether of the
nature of matter or mind.

But, at the same time, this same loosening of physical bonds renders
the mind correspondingly denuded to aggressions from without. We have
seen how strangely the entranced mind becomes sympathetically subject
to the will, and the subject of the sensations of the person with whom
it has been brought into mesmeric relation. But now a new feature, or
one feebly manifested as yet in trance, but parallel to the influence
of sympathy, displays itself. The person in trance-umbra is an absolute
slave to the spoken, or even to the unexpressed “mental suggestions”
of the operator. Sense, memory, judgment, give way at his word. The
patient believes whatever he is told to believe,—that an apple is an
orange,—that he himself is the Duke of Wellington,—that the operator
standing before him is invisible to him,—and makes fruitless efforts to
execute any voluntary movement the moment he is told he cannot. I will
quote a passage, in illustration of the above, again from Mr. F.’s
letter:—“After a quarter of an hour Mr. Stone came to us, and looked
in our eyes for a few seconds, and desired us to close them. He then
placed his thumb lightly on my forehead, and said, peremptorily, ‘You
cannot open your eyes.’ I had great difficulty in doing so, but at
last succeeded, with a violent struggle. After Mr. Stone had repeated
the order or suggestion once or twice more, I was quite unable to open
my eyes. Five out of the number, (about a dozen,) who sat down were
affected, all more than myself. On a succeeding evening, however, Mr.
Stone was able to proceed so far as to make me forget my name and
address, by the simple assertion, ‘You cannot remember your name,’
&c., though he had before this just asked for them, and the answer was
scarcely out of my mouth when he made me forget it. I think I never
exerted my will more strongly than in trying to open my eyelids when
they had been thus closed; but it appeared simply impossible to do this
till the operator’s magic ‘All right,’ immediately set them free. On
several, who were highly susceptible, Mr. Stone proceeded with other
experiments. A stick was said to be a rattlesnake, and believed to be
so. The room became a garden at his command, with wild beasts in it.
One was set a-fishing and snow-balling; another taken up in a balloon.
A still more curious instance was when the subject was told that he
was in the dark, and a candle was passed before his eyes, almost close
enough to singe the eyebrows, without producing any visual impression
on the eye, though the party operated on said he felt the warmth of it.”

I have preferred giving additional and unpublished evidence of the
wonderful control which can thus be “suggestively” exercised over the
belief of a person in trance-umbra, to quoting Professor Gregory’s
most interesting cases, for which the reader must consult his recent
valuable work. In the sixth letter in the present volume, (that on
Somnambulism,) I have exemplified the manifestation of the same
phenomena in the case of the sleep-walker Negretti. As a large number
of persons can be thrown easily into the state of trance-umbra; and
as then they are totally in the power of the operator, it is surely
most desirable that this and the parallel easily induced conditions
of the frame should be made subjects of careful observation and study
by many competent persons, in order that the conditions necessary to
their induction may be exactly ascertained, and made public, for the
protection of society.

Of equal interest is the discovery that clairvoyance may be manifested
in the state of trance-umbra. Major Buckley is spoken of by Professor
Gregory as a gentleman possessing mesmerising force of a remarkable
quality and degree. It appears that he had been long in the habit of
producing magnetic sleep, and clairvoyance in the sleep, before he
discovered that, in his subjects, the sleep might be dispensed with.
Dr. Gregory gives the following account of his present method:—

“Major B. first ascertains whether his subjects are susceptible, by
making, with his hand, passes above and below their hands, from the
wrist downwards. If certain sensations, such as tingling, numbness,
&c., are strongly felt, he knows that he will be able to produce the
magnetic sleep. But to ascertain whether he can obtain conscious
clairvoyance, he makes slow passes from his own forehead to his own
chest. If this produce a blue light in his face, strongly visible, the
subject will probably acquire conscious clairvoyance. If not, or if
the light be pale, the subject will only become clairvoyant in the
sleep, (that is, when in perfect trance.) Taking those subjects who see
a very deep blue light, he continues to make passes over his own face,
and also over the object—a box or a nut, for instance—in which written
or printed words are enclosed, which the clairvoyante is to read. Some
subjects only require a pass or two to be made: others require many.
They describe the blue light as rendering the box or nut transparent,
so that they can read what is inside. This reminds us of the curious
fact mentioned by Von Reichenbach, that bars of iron or steel, seen
by conscious sensitives, without any passes, shining in the dark with
the Od glow, appeared to them transparent like glass. If too many
passes are made by Major B., the blue light becomes so deep that they
cannot read, and some reverse passes must be made to render the colour
of the light less deep. Major Buckley has thus produced conscious
clairvoyance in eighty-nine persons, forty-four of whom have been able
to read mottoes contained in nutshells purchased by other parties for
the experiments. The longest motto thus read contained ninety-eight
words.” “A lady, one of Major Buckley’s waking clairvoyantes, read
one hundred and three mottoes contained in nuts in one day, without a
pass being made on that occasion. In this and in many other cases, the
power of reading through nuts, boxes, and envelopes, remained, when
once induced, for about a month, and then disappeared. The same lady,
after three months, could no longer read without passes; and it took
five trials fully to restore the power. This may be done, however,
immediately by inducing the mesmeric sleep and clairvoyance in that
state, when the subjects, in the hands of Major Buckley, soon acquire
the power of waking clairvoyance.”

But stranger things remain behind—corollaries, however, of the
preceding, yet which eclipse these wonders, if possible. For a
knowledge of these, I am exclusively indebted to Professor Gregory’s
recent publication, and I give them on his authority.

If the looking intently upon a piece of metal will produce trance and
trance-umbra, why should not the account of the Egyptian boy-seers be
correct? If their performance be often a trick, may not the protracted
gaze on the black spot in their hand sometimes render them waking
clairvoyantes? and why, on the same showing, might not the gazing upon
magic crystals or mirrors of jet occasionally have thrown the already
awe-struck and fitly disposed lookers on them into the state in which
either the magician at their side might compel _suggestively_ images
into their fancy, or they, acting for themselves, have exercised
independent ultravision, retrovision, prevision? Why, again, should not
simple concentration of thought upon one uninteresting idea convert a
susceptible subject into a soothsayer? Then read the following facts
recorded by Dr. Gregory; I at least do not question their fidelity.

“Mr. Lewis possesses at times the power of spontaneous clairvoyance, by
simple concentration of thought. He finds, however, that gazing into a
crystal substance produces the state of waking clairvoyance in him much
sooner and more easily. On one occasion, being in a house in Edinburgh
with a party, he looked into a crystal, and saw in it the inhabitants
of another house at a considerable distance. Along with them he saw two
strangers, entire strangers to him. These he described to the company.
He then proceeded to the other house, and there found the two strangers
whom he had described.”

“On another occasion he was asked to inspect a house and family, quite
unknown to him, in Sloane Street, Chelsea, he being in Edinburgh with
a party. He saw in the crystal the family in London; described the
house, and also an old gentleman very ill or dying, and wearing a
peculiar cap. All was found to be correct, and the cap was one which
had lately been sent to the old gentleman. On the same occasion Mr.
Lewis told a gentleman present that he had lost or mislaid a key of a
very particular shape, which he, Mr. L., saw in the crystal. This was
confirmed by the gentleman, a total stranger to Mr. Lewis.”

  “Sistimus hic tandem.”

I think that I have tolerably succeeded in establishing the thesis
with which these Letters started, that every superstition is based
on a truth; and I am in hopes that the mass of evidence which I have
adduced—the very variety of the phenomena described, joined to their
mutual coherence—the theoretical consistency of the whole, as if it
were truly a vast body of living science, and not the “disjecta membra”
of a dream—will remove every remaining shade of doubt among candid
readers, that these inquiries are not less sound than they are curious.


An acquaintance with the facts which it has been the object of the
foregoing pages to assemble, and to render into philosophy, suggests
one or two serious reflections.

We have seen the different results which have ensued when these
facts have emerged into day in times of ignorance and in times
of enlightenment. On the first occasion they were viewed with
terror—became instruments of superstition—were used for bad designs—and
even originated new forms of crime, before which common sense fled,
and justice became blind and iniquitous. On the latter—I speak of the
reception of these facts towards and in the present century—they were
recognised by one after another of the most sagacious observers of
nature; by Jussieu, for instance, and by Cuvier, to begin with; and
gradually by an increasing host of candid, well-informed, and able
followers, as forming a part of natural science, and as susceptible of
important applications.

He is ranked among the wisest of mankind, who announced that “knowledge
is power.” Divine Wisdom goes further, and reveals to us that knowledge
is a good and virtuous thing, while ignorance is stamped by the same
seal as sinful; or how otherwise can we interpret the course of history
and human experience, which proves that, by the very constitution of
our being, and the laws impressed upon the moral and physical world,
increase of knowledge contributes to promote general and individual
well-doing and happiness, while ignorance never fails to be followed by
the contrary penal consequences? Therefore it is that those who unite
good intentions and good principles, with sound and well-cultivated
abilities—in other words the truly wise—humbly deem, that among the
most acceptable offerings to our common Maker must be diligence in
exploring _all_ the sources of knowledge which he has placed within our
reach, (which were hidden only that we might seek for them,) so as to
unveil more and more of the forces and powers of nature, in publishing
the same abroad, that all may profit by them, and in striving to bend
their agencies towards good, and high, and useful purposes.


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