Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/478

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
468
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

education furnishes him with the means of determining the symptoms of true organic disorder, of functional derangement and of the modifications of these under the more or less unconscious interference of an unfortunate nervous system. It is quite as human for the physician as for other mortals to err, and there is doubtless as wide a range among them as among other pursuits, of ability, tact and insight. 'But when all is said and done' the fundamental fact remains that the utilization of the mental factor in the alleviation of disease will be best administered by those who are specifically trained in the knowledge of bodily and mental symptoms of disease. Such application of an established scientific principle may prove to be a jewel of worth in the hands of him who knows how to cut and set it. The difference between truth and error, between science and superstition, between what is beneficent to mankind and what is pernicious, frequently lies in the interpretation and the spirit as much as or more than in the fact. The utilization of mental influences in health and disease becomes the one or the other according to the wisdom and the truth and the insight into the real relations of things that guide its application. As far removed as chemistry from alchemy, as astronomy from astrology, as the doctrine of the localization of function in the brain from phrenology, as 'animal magnetism' from hypnotic suggestion, are the crude and perverse notions of Christian Scientist or Metaphysical Healer removed from the rational application of the influence of the mind over the body.

The growth and development of the occult forms an interesting problem in the psychology of belief. The motives that induce the will to believe in the several doctrines that have been passed in review are certainly not more easy to detect and to describe than would be the case in reference to the many other general problems—philosophical, scientific, religious, social, political or educational—on which the right to an opinion seems to be regarded as an inalienable heritage of humanity or at least of democracy. Professor James tells us that often "our faith is faith in some one else's faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case." Certainly the waves of popularity of one cult and another reflect the potent influence of contagion in the formation of opinion and the direction of conduct. When we look upon the popular delusions of the past through the achromatic glasses which historical remoteness from present conditions enables us to adjust to our eyes, we marvel that humanity could have been so grossly misled, that obvious relations and fallacies could have been so stupidly overlooked, that worthless and prejudiced evidence could have been accepted as -sound and significant. But the opinions to which we incline are all colored o'er with the deep tinge of emotional reality, which is the living expression of our interest in them or our inclination toward them. What they require is a more vigorous infusion of the pale cast of