Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/684

This page has been validated.

these shows well the purely nervous character of these singular affections. We read of Boerhaave staying an epidemic of hysterical convulsions in a boarding-school by threatening to burn, with a red-hot iron, any of the girls who should be attacked. Practitioners in our own time adopt analogous processes and artifices to conquer those passions which degenerate into morbid states. They strive to inspire the patient with a passion different from that which possesses him, and to fix his attention on subjects disconnected with those which occupy his mind.

This style of physic—this moral therapy—requires infinitely more tact and discernment than the application of the usual remedies of the pharmacopœia. Nor is it in our medical schools that young men, who intend to practise the healing art, can learn to diagnose and to treat those maladies wherein the soul wrecks the body. This is a vocation which requires profound personal study and observation, and wherein the student would do well to draw on a source too much overlooked in our times, viz., those old authors who treat questions of this kind. The young physician will find equal profit and delight in studying those profound connoisseurs of the human mind, La Chambre, Stahl, Pinel, Hoffmann, Bichat, Tissot, Richerand, Alibert, Georget. From them the student will not only learn how to judge wisely of the passions of others and of the best means of treating them, but will also get sage counsels for the government of his own. There he will see that there is nowhere perfect health, save when the passions are well regulated, harmonized, and equipoised, and that moral temperance is as indispensable to a calm and tranquil life as physiological temperance. He will see that, without going the lengths of stoicism—in which there is more pride than wisdom, more ostentation than virtue—the noblest and the most desirable state for the mind and body alike is equidistant from all extreme passions, i. e., situated in the golden mean. And this conviction that regular living and moderation in material as in emotional life are the secret, not, indeed, of happiness—which is nowhere in this world—but of serenity and security, he will strive to spread abroad as being the most useful precept of the medical art. If it is your desire that your circulatory, respiratory, and digestive functions, should be discharged properly, normally, if you want your appetite to be good, your sleep sound, your humor equable, avoid all emotions that are over-strong, all pleasures that are too intense, and meet the inevitable sorrows and the cruel agonies of life with a resigned and firm soul. Ever have some occupation to employ and divert your mind, and to make it proof against the temptations of want or of desire. Thus will you attain the term of life without overmuch disquiet and affliction.—Revue des Deux Mondes.