BLTC Press Titles


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The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


Mesmerism

by John James

Excerpt:

When sleep is produced, it should be welcomed as a proof of the susceptibility of the patient to the mesmeric influence promising some substantial benefit, and naturally encouraging the mesmeriser to persevere. But the mesmeric coma is not absolutely necessary, except in cases where an operation is to be performed and complete insensibility to pain is required, or when the patient has been deprived of natural sleep for any length of time; in the latter case the mesmeric passes, even if they do not produce any immediate and marked effect, will often tranquillise the system, assist nature, and lead to the patient's enjoyment of a good night's rest.

In fact, one of the most remarkable and valuable virtues of mesmeric treatment, is this very power of inducing a sound and healthy natural sleep, and probably medical men would be the first to acknowledge that in the majority of cases, whether of fever or nervous disorders, or, in fact, of any form of disease, that a few hours of refreshing sleep without the use of opiates, would do more for their patients than half the drugs named in the Pharmacopoeia.

Beginners are sometimes afraid of producing bad effects on their patients, in fact, of doing them more harm than good, and when they have succeeded in entrancing them are anxious, and even alarmed, if they cannot easily awaken them. Now, I never heard but one opinion from the most experienced mesmerisers, with Dr. Elliotson at their head, and it was that they had never met with a case where any mischief could have been fairly attributed to mesmerism, and that the longest and deepest sleep will always pass off spontaneously. For my own part, I should not hesitate to mesmerise a patient suffering from the worst form of heart disease, and that is about the strongest illustration of my opinion as to the safety of the treatment of which I can think.

At the same time I should not venture to undertake the treatment of any severe form of disease, without the express sanction of the patient's ordinary medical adviser. As a rule, I have found members of the medical profession to be remarkably liberal on this subject, and have frequently been asked by them to try the effects of mesmerism on their patients, when the usual resources of medicine had failed in producing natural sleep or the alleviation of pain.

They were evidently determined to give the sufferer every possible chance of relief, whether the treatment was or was not in the Pharmacopoeia, or whether it was popular or unpopular. Of course there are exceptions to this liberal feeling, and there have been many instances where medical men have bitterly opposed the practice of mesmerism—though entirely ignorant of the subject—simply because it appeared as a trespasser on their domain, and they evidently thought it a piece of gross impertinence that it should cure when they had failed.

The most troublesome cases that I have met with have been where the patients were naturally highly nervous and excitable, and where symptoms of hysteria had declared themselves, mixed up with the mesmeric sleep; and in these cases the mesmeriscr often finds it difficult to establish and retain his control. But after a very little practice the mesmeriser will discover methods of tranquillising the patient, such as breathing slowly over the region of the heart, or at the back of the neck, just at the junction of the head with the back of the neck, and sometimes by passes from the region of the heart carried down to the extremities.

It is in those cases mixed with hysterical symptoms where we generally find the greatest difficulty in determining the sleep, and restoring the patients to the normal state.


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