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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/90

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

this position as if they were pieces of wax. That is, however, a symptom of a cataleptic condition, such as is seen in human beings under pathological conditions of the nervous system.

After I had discovered the events which I have just communicated to you concerning the hens and pigeons, two things were clear to me; 1. That the drawing of the chalk-line in Kircher's experiment was of some significance. The hand which draws the line, and the line itself, are transferred to an object in which the animal's look and attention are placed, through which a marvelous condition of certain parts of its nervous system is called forth, accompanied by cataleptic phenomena, and which can change to sleep.

2. That it produces soporific phenomena in animals, as has long been conjectured, but, until now, never investigated or proved; a peculiar and mysterious state, resembling sleep, accompanied by cataleptic appearances and a change in the nervous system. This can be produced in many men by a simple fixing of the look on some small object, and through a concentration of the will.

It is well known that, in the year 1851, Mr. Braid, a Scotch surgeon, established in Manchester, who was present at the mesmeric exhibitions of Lafontaine, was first struck with the idea that these phenomena, proclaimed as the effect of a magnetic fluid, were only a natural consequence of the fixed look and entire abstraction of the attention, which present themselves under the monotonous manipulation of the magnetizer. Mr. Braid proved in his experiments the entire dispensableness of a so-called magnetizer, and his supposed secret agents, or fluids, produced through certain manipulations; he taught the subjects of the experiments to place themselves in this sleeping condition, by simply making them gaze fixedly at some object for a long time with strict attention and unmoved gaze. It is therefore clear that this condition of the nerves, caused by the steady look and attraction of attention, in one part of the brain, brings the other parts into action with it and changes the functions, to whose normal activity the phenomena of the will are united. This is the actual, natural, physiological connection of this mysterious appearance. It only remains to us now to ascertain which portions of the brain first and secondly become altered, and in what these changes consist.

According to Braid, for example, on one occasion, in the presence of 800 persons, ten out of fourteen full-grown men were placed in a sleeping condition in this way. All began the experiment at the same time; the former with their eyes fixed upon a projecting cork, placed securely on their foreheads; the others, at their own will, gazed steadily at certain points in the direction of the audience. In the course of ten minutes the eyelids of these ten persons had involuntarily closed. With some, consciousness remained; others were in catalepsy, and entirely insensible to being stuck with needles, and others, on awakening, knew absolutely nothing of what had taken place during their