Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/465

This page has been validated.

of complicated grouping and combinations of many muscles, far beyond any educated capacity which the individual is known to have acquired. This expectation is frequently realized in individuals when under the dominion of exalted emotions, in insane persons, and in persons when in mesmeric, somnambulic, trance, and other abnormal conditions, who often perform feats of agility, dexterity, and wonderful freedom and precision in the combined contractions of a great many muscles of the body, equaling the nimbleness and mobility of the ballet-dancer, the surefootedness of the rope-walker, and the consummate skill of the trained acrobat, although they had no special training calculated to qualify them for the performance of such feats. In fact, in their normal states, they did not believe themselves capable of performing such feats, because they had not yet learned that the feats, marvelous as they seemed to themselves and others, were already accomplished facts, packed away in their organizations, awaiting the magic word, the real "open sesame" to command them to come forth. The records are loaded with such unused facts, that are simply labeled "abnormal," and then abandoned. It will generally be found, however, that the abnormal, simply from the fact that it is abnormal—an outlaw to all that is now considered fixed and established in science—is the key to a higher law and a broader generalization. A few illustrations will suffice:

Dr. Rush relates the case of a young man named Wilkison, in whom the habit of stammering was suspended during his mental derangement, but returned as soon as he began to mend.[1] It is evident that, in stammering, the groupings of muscular contractions which produce articulate sounds are very different from those which produce the sounds without stammering. From some cause, not yet understood, there is in stammering an interference with the correct muscular groupings which, we claim, are organic and inherited, and a series of random, confused, and semi-spasmodic muscular movements become mixed up with the correct groupings. In this instance, the mixture had continued from childhood up to manhood, a period long enough surely to have agglutinated them indissolubly together, if practice, habit, or education, ever caused such agglutinations, as some believe. It is evident, therefore, that this man not only had not learned or acquired by education the correct use of his muscles of articulation, but had seemingly acquired an incorrect use of them; yet, the moment he became insane, the impediment was removed, the habits of a lifetime vanished, and his organically inherited command over those muscles asserted itself, and enabled him to do what he had never done before, and what, unless the views which we have presented are correct, must be acquired after birth, and can only be acquired after birth by long-continued practice.

The following case is related by Dr. Abercrombie: A lady laboring under some disease of the nervous system, not disclosed by an autopsy,

  1. Rush, "Medical Inquiries and Observations on Diseases of the Mind, p. 254.