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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/371

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SUGGESTION IN THERAPEUTICS.

koff. The professor, however, adds some important points bearing upon the case: The patient is of neurotic temperament; his sister is highly hysterical; he had frequently had boils on both arms with a marked tendency to symmetry in position; and the sycosis itself showed some signs of being, if not of nervous origin, at least under nervous influence. The impressive surroundings under which the 'cure' was wrought, and the mysterious cabalistic prayer—which the woman refused to divulge, lest it should begin to act with the person to whom she told it and cease to act with herself—are also factors to be remembered in connection with the neurotic-and impressionable character of the patient."

I might extend this catalogue almost indefinitely, but my space is limited. What shall we say of these facts? It is evident that they can not be explained by our present psycho-physiological theories, and many other attempts at explanation have been offered. The Roman Catholic ascribes them to the supernatural intervention of the Virgin or saints; the evangelical Christian sees in them the power of God, and an attempt has been made in recent years by the "faith healers" to make them an essential part of an evangelical creed in which "faith" is the divinely ordained instrument, not merely for the purification of the soul from sin, but for the deliverance of the body from disease as well. The self-styled "Christian scientists" and "metaphysical healers" approach the question from a pseudo-idealistic point of view. Mind, say they, is the only reality; things are nothing but very stable thoughts; the body exists only because the soul thinks it; disease is therefore merely a pernicious fixed idea: abolish the idea, and the disease is ipso facto abolished.

It is impossible for any one who has been trained in the study of natural phenomena to revert to such crude theories as these. The "scientific" man, to whom nothing is intelligible unless it is capable of interpretation in the mechanical conceptions of our latter-day atomism, usually finds it simpler to deny all facts which he cannot at once bring under those conceptions. He forgets that experience is the only test of truth, that our scientific conceptions are merely the tools which the human mind has devised in order to grapple with the infinite manifold of experience. They are good tools. They are as much better than the animistic conceptions of primitive man as our modern machinery is better than his axes and chisels of stone; yet our mental as well as our material tools can be improved. There are, I believe, engineering feats which our present appliances can not accomplish, and there are also, I believe, phenomena of Nature which our present conceptions are insufficient to explain. Yet I would not pronounce the former impossible or the latter essentially unintelligible.