Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/175

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out any indication being given to the "sensitive" of this change of its conditions. And the same remark applies to the more recent statement of Lord Lindsay, as to Mr. Home's recognition of the position of a permanent magnet in a totally-darkened room; the value of this solitary fact, for which there are plenty of ways of accounting, never having been tested by the use of an electro-magnet, whose active or passive condition should be entirely unknown, not only to Mr. Home but to every person present.

That "sensitives" like Von Reichenbach's, in so far as they are not intentional deceivers (which many hysterical subjects are constitutionally prone to be), can feel, see, or smell, anything that they were led to believe that they would feel, see, or smell, was soon proved by the experimental inquiries of Mr. Braid, many of which I myself witnessed. He found that not only in hysterical girls, but in many men and women "of a highly-concentrative and imaginative turn of mind," though otherwise in ordinary health, it was sufficient to fix the attention on any particular form of expectancy—such as pricking, streaming, heat, cold, or other feelings, in any part of the body over which a magnet was being drawn; luminous emanations from the poles of a magnet in the dark, in some cases even in full daylight; or the attraction of a magnet or crystal held within reach of the hand—for that expectancy to be fully realized. And, conversely, the same sensations were equally produced when the subjects of them were led to believe that the same agency was being employed, although nothing whatever was really done; the same flames being seen when the magnet was concealed by shutting it in a box, or even when it was carried out of the room, without the knowledge of the subject; and the attraction of the magnet for the hand being entirely governed by the idea previously suggested, positive or negative results being thus obtained with either pole, as Mr. Braid might direct. "I know," he says of one of his subjects, "that this lady was incapable of trying to deceive myself or others present; but she was self-deceived and spellbound by the predominance of a preconceived idea, and was not less surprised at the varying powers of the instrument than were others who witnessed the results."[1]

One of Mr. Braid's best "subjects" was a gentleman residing in Manchester, well known for his high intellectual culture, great general ability, and strict probity. He had such a remarkable power of voluntary abstraction as to be able at any time to induce in himself a state akin to profound reverie (corresponding to what has been since most inappropriately called the "biological"), in which he became so completely "possessed" by any idea strongly enforced upon him, that his whole state of feeling and action was dominated by it. Thus it was sufficient for him to place his hand upon the table and fix his attention upon it for half a minute, to be entirely unable to withdraw

  1. "The Power of the Mind over the Body," 1846, p. 20.