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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84

The Antiquity of Mesmerism

The Antiquity of Mesmerism.

Misapplied and very thoughtlessly used are many of the adages with which our language is embellished; but we do not think we shall have to plead guilty to such a charge if, in selecting the maxim, "As old as the hills," we state that it would be a very appropriate one in connection with much we see around us in science, and perhaps not more so than to mesmerism. For, although Mesmer is often accredited with being the discoverer of animal magnetism, yet he was nothing more nor less than a reviver of its laws and practice, which, to a very great extent, had by his time been lost and fallen into disuse. Doubtless he did much to renovate and reintroduce this noble science for the benefit of mankind; but that in so doing he sadly intermixed many absurd formulas, invocations, and a great deal of superstitious nonsense, cannot be denied. It is true that in 1778 Mesmer made a great noise and attracted much attention by his experiments in Paris; but it must not be forgotton that long before his time others had done as much, if not a vast deal more. About the year 1658, one named Greatrakes, a magistrate for the county of Cork, in Ireland, proved that he had remarkable power as a magnetizer. He cured thousands of sick people with his own hands, and never received any reward, but worked only in the purest spirit of benevolence; and in his zeal for doing good and the alleviation of human suffering he travelled all over the country seeking the most troublesome and obstinate cases of disease. The Bishop of Derry declared that he himself had witnessed cases of the blind and the deaf both being cured, and that oftentimes he had seen "pain drawn out at some distant part, grievous sores of many months' date in a few days healed, obstructions disappear, and stoppages removed and cancerous knots in the breast dissolved," and all by the magnetic manipulations of this extraordinary man. Such, indeed, was the stir created throughout the country, that even the Royal Society took the matter up, and after fully investigating it, published some of his cures, accounting for them" by a samtive contagion in Mr. page 73 Greatrakes' body, which had an antipathy to some particular diseases, and not to others." In following the trail of the antiquity of mesmerism we can go still further; for the practice of animal magnetism is of such ancient existence that we might almost trace back its footsteps to the margin of the flood, and in so doing we should discover that mesmeric phenomena have played, in most parts of the world, a very important part in all ceremonial rites of pagan religion. Turning to ancient Greece, we have only to search her classics, and there we have frequent allusion made to the sanitive and mystic power of the human hand. Solon, who lived 594 years before Christ, tells us:—" Oftentimes great suffering arises from trifling pain, which cannot be allayed by the administration of soothing medicines, but touching with the hands the sufferer from malignant and obstinate diseases, you immediately restore him to health." Again, there is a passage of Aeschylus, who flourished 500 B.C., where Io is told by Prometheus that notwithstanding all her sufferings, and the many fruitless journeys she has made to physicians living far and wide apart, she will at last find relief by applying to one Zeus, at the mouth of the Nile : "There Zeus will restore you, stroking you with his gentle hand, and simply touching you." The old Greek father of physic, Asclepiades, practised to a great extent frictions with the hand for the purpose of inducing sleep in curing frenzy and insanity. This we have on the good authority of Celsus, the Roman physician, who shows clearly that animal magnetism was the means employed as the curative agent, for he adds, "by too much friction there was danger of inducing sleep." Perhaps we could advance no better proof that the priests of pagan Rome practised magnetism, than that the poets and philosophers constantly speak of passes, and stroking the body to induce sleep and allay pain. In Plautus we find a passage in his Amphytrion, Act 1, where Mercury and Sosia are introduced. Mercury appears to be troubled greatly as to how to get rid of Sosia, whether by giving him a good thrashing or putting him to sleep. "What if I should put him to sleep by long passes ?" "You will save my life," replies Sosia, "for I have not slept these last three nights." In a future paper, which we intend to devote to the practical part of mesmerism, we shall show that it is the long pass, as it is still technically called, that is used to produce sleep—that the short, horizontal, oblique, and various other passes are used for very different purposes.

Virgil speaks of a priest who had very great power in soothing serpents to sleep, and who afterwards healed those who had been bitten by them: "Moreover the brave Umbro, a priest who was wont, both by in- page 74 cantation and by the hand, to spread sleep on the race of vipers, making-them breathe heavily, and soothed their rage; also by his skill he healed their bites."

In every land mesmerism has, without doubt, been practised in some form or other, and that for many ages. In pushing forward our research, if we even penetrate into the history of Egypt and examine that wonderful race, and perhaps most ancient of allnations—the Egyptians—there we shall discover hieroglyphical paintings of human figures in mesmeric positions, and, what is very remarkable, holding the first three fingers extended, and the others bent under the hand—a powerful method of magnetising, by the way, to which we shall have to allude hereafter when treating of the practice of magnetism. Warburton, in the Crescent and the Cross, says, "Magnetism appears to have been well understood by the Egyptian hierarchy, not only from some of the effects we find recorded, but in one of the chambers, whose hieroglyphics are devoted to medical subjects, we find a priest in the act of mesmerizing. . . .... The patient is seated in a chair, while the operator describes the mesmeric passes, and an attendant waits behind to support the head, when it has bowed in the mysterious sleep." There can be no doubt but that the temple of Isis was consecrated by the Egyptians principally for the cure of diseases by magnetism. History, hieroglyphics, and monuments all agree in testifying to this. Diodorus tells us how they claimed for the goddess numerous cures through sleep, and that standing by the sick in sleep she relieved their disorders, and "those who attended to her were cured beyond all expectation. Multitudes despaired of by physicians were saved by her; and many who had entirely lost the use of their organs of sight, or other parts of the body, having recourse to the goddess, were perfectly restored." Search where we may, this force—magnetism—has been universally acknowledged and practised by all tribes and nations. Even the gods of India have been carved in mesmeric postures. Of the four arms and eight hands given to the god Vishnu, two arms and their hands are raised, the thumb and two adjoining fingers of which are extended, the two other fingers being bent, and each of the hands is surrounded by a flame representing the odylic light which emanates and surrounds the hands of a good operator when he is energetically engaged at work, and is frequently seen by those near who may be watching the mesmeric sitting. History relates that Pythagoras, who flourished five centuries before Christ, would often, for the instruction of those around him, exhibit his magnetic influence, which was very great over the lower animals. On one occasion he is said to page 75 have tamed a furious bear in a very short space of time; on another, some fresh beans having been placed before a hungry ox, he prevented him from eating them; and on another, perceiving an eagle soaring forth, he stopped it in its flight by the magnetic power of his hand and eye. We have endeavoured to show that, so far from mesmerism being but a science of yesterday, it enjoys the double reputation of being very old and having stood the test of ages; indeed we insist that it is the oldest science extant, and that nothing was practised as a science prior to it. Magnetism, as such, then, was the keystone of medicine or the success of the physician, and it was the pillar of religion, or the power of the priest; and surely we must one and all admit that these only can lay any claim to the greatest antiquity of having practised the science which is intimately connected with the profession they follow. Now, mark well what such an authority as Father Heboid says:—"The occult science, designated by the ancient priests under the name of regenerating fire, is that which, at the present day, is known as animal magnetism—a science that for more than three thousand years was the peculiar possession of the Indian and Egyptian priesthood, into the knowledge of which Moses was initiated at Heliopolis when he was educated, and Jesus, among the Essenian priests of Egypt or Judea, and by which these two great reformers, particularly the latter, wrought many of the miracles mentioned in Scripture.

"Whilst reflecting upon this, it is necessary we should bear in mind that it was not only the curative or medical application of magnetism which engaged the attention of the ancients, and which was so well known and successfully used; but all its phenomena were equally well studied, including clairvoyance, and even the still higher psychological degree—extasis. Furthermore, as might have been expected, the study of magnetism with such a people necessarily introduced a knowledge of its sister-science—magic, and, of course, as a consequence, they then discovered the use of the magnetic magic mirror—the Urim and Thummim of Scripture. Of this occult power—magic, we shall have to say something hereafter; meanwhile, suffice it to know that a knowledge of it can only be attained by studying the higher phenomena of mesmerism. Armed with such powers as these, the ancients were equal to much that has been ascribed to them, and the student of occult science will not, therefore, be surprised to find that in all history, nine-tenths of that which has generally been put down to the impossible and fabulous can be easily and readily accounted for on these premises.

Claiming, then, that magnetism is at the least over three thousand page 76 years old, or, as we started by asserting, nearly "as old as the hills," we shall now retrace our steps, and coming back to the time of biblical history, we shall find very many passages in the Bible illustrative of mesmeric phenomena; but the brief review of a few must here suffice, although, if time and space permitted, many more might be adduced. Let us analyze the following :—" But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, 'Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand' (or, as in the margin, move it tip and down) ' over the place, and recover the leper.'" Here, Naaman evidently expected that the prophet would move his hand up and down over the place, and as a necessary adjunct, call upon his God before making the passes. This gives us some insight into pagan ceremonial. Doubtless he had been accustomed to see his own priests call upon their gods, and oftentimes make passes in vain. He was naturally "wroth" when told by the prophet to wash in a river, for he thought all rivers were alike as regards their curative effect, but he knew all hands were not, and thus it was lie was led to try the prophet solely for the purpose of seeing whether he possessed more magnetic power than the priests of his own neighbourhood. A powerful mesmeric operation is recorded of Elisha in restoring to life the Shunammite's son, who had probably received a sunstroke whilst in the field with the reapers. He lay upon the child, putting "his mouth upon his mouth," and the result was the child "waxed warm," or regained magnetic electricity. But "then he returned and walked in the house to and fro," after which he repeated the same process of magnetizing, and the child opened its eyes."

The mesmerist will here observe, that in "walking in the house to and fro," he was simply doing what all operators are obliged to do in cases calling for immediate and powerful application of magnetism—that, is recharging his brain and body withmagnetism or odylic fluid. Indeed, in the 4th chap, of Second of Kings, 34th and 35th verses, we have a splendid illustration of a mesmeric operation; and apropos to this we would refer the thoughtful student to the first four verses of the 1st chap. 1st Book of Kings, wherein it will be seen that the ancients were not ignorant of the laws of polarity, or positive and negative forces, even in their application to lengthening life. Turning to the New Testament, we find that they brought unto Christ "those that were sick with divers diseases, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them." In the case of the woman who touched the hem of his garment, and so became whole, he "perceived that virtue had gone out of him." The magnetizer page 77 frequently feels the force leave him, more particularly as the patient gains strength by it. The leper said, "Lord, if thou Wilt, thou canst make me clean." Jesus stretched forth his hand and touched him, and said I Will, be thou clean, and his leprosy was cleansed." Enough for the antiquity of mesmerism; in a future paper we hope to show its utility.

R. Williams, M.A..

Punt Road South, Richmond, Melbourne.