Page images
PDF
EPUB

las's experience ever swelled out so indignantly as sue under the digestion of this trivial intelligence about her Marco. She seemed to put on inches of stature, and the flashing of her eyes, the scorn and wrath—he had never seen the like on so pretty a young face. She said something firat in dialect that Douglas missed. Then out shot her arm as she pointed to the door.

"Go, siguore! Have the kindness to go from this room. i command it.

Without words!" she cried, as diguificd as a stone Juno.

Hat in hand, Douglas obeyed.

"Certainly," he said, "certainly. i am sorry if 1 have said anything to annoy you; but, remember, 1 am your friend."

•'i want no such friend, siguore." she said, her eyes like lamp-lit blue diamonds. "Do me the favor to withdraw."

Charles Edirardex.

(To be concluded.)

Chuniiieru'ti Journal.

THE POWER OF SUGGESTiON.

We are living in the midst of a great movement which seems destined to exercise a revolutionary influence on human life. This movement is here fantastic and extravagant, there superstitious and even disgusting, and there, again, scieutilic, progressive, and healthy. Speaking summarily, it may be said to be a revolt against the materialistic trend which till recent years dominated medical science, a revolt brought about by a more vivid realization of the power of mind over bodily states. it is this fact which lies at the root of "Christian Science," "Mind Cure." "faith Cure," "Metaphysical Healing," and many other quasi-philosophical. l|uasi-religious systems of Transatlantic origin. The point to be emphasized is that these more or less elaborate doctrines, partly theological, partly psychological, ought to be kept distinct from the fundamental fact to which they seek to give expression.—the fact. namely, that mind can. and does, affect the fortunes of the body, and that mental influence can be utilized in the scientific treatment of disease. While it is true that "Christian Science." to take for illustration the most popular of these cults, rests upon a misinterpretation of matter, a kind of ill-understood Herkeleyism. teaches the unreal

ity of sin and sickness, and repudiates academic medicine as an immense illusion, yet the valuable truth which lies behind these irrational notions deserves our recognition, and ought to receive practical application at our hands.

The wise man will not be frightened away from any beneficent principle by the bizarre and grotesque shapes with which credulity may have clothed it. Here, indeed, we may recall the Aristotelian maxim, and say that the truth lies midway between two extremes,— between a hard, hide-bound materialism, and an airy, ungrounded, unreasoned spiritualism. One of the basic ideas of modern psychology is the mutual influence of mind and body springing out of their profound unity. Any doctrine that contradicts this scientific postulate must be deemed outside tinboundaries of right reason. As to ibe influence of the body upon the mind there is no room for doubt. The witness of everyday life is reinforced by the detailed tests of the psychological laboratory. Mental disease can be traced to brain degeneration: physical injuries create psychical discomfort: mental processes are deeply affected by drugs, such as alcohol, opinm, cocaine morphine, and many others. Hut it is equally true that mental states affect bodily processes. The famous saying of Huxley that consciousness has no more to do with physical conditions than has a steam whistle with the driving of a locomotive sounds like an absurdity in the light of recent investigations. We are now informed that the emotion of fear may produce paralysis, jaundice, sudden decay of teeth, erysipelas, eczema, and even death. "The fact is." says Professor James, the American psychologist, "that there is no sort of consciousness whatever, be it sensation, feeling, or idea which does not directly and of itself tend to discharge into some motor effect. The motor effect need not always be an outward stroke of behavior. it may be only an alteration of the heart-beats or breathing, or a modification of the distribution of the blood, such as blushing or turning pale; or else a secretion of tears or what not. But, in any case, it is there in some shape when any consciousness is there; and a belief as fundamental as any in modern psychology is the belief at last attained that conscious processes of any sort must pass over into motion, open or concealed."

Now if one could pierce through the adverse physical conditions of a victim of neurasthenia, or "nerve prostration," to the mind within, and by bright and optimistic suggestions awaken the idea of health, mental and spiritual poise, one would have set the sufferer on the rond to recovery. Every clergyman is brought into contact with people who are nervous, fretful, foreboding. For them each day seems to portend disaster; at night visionary phantoms murder sleep. These are the miserable victims of insomnia, hypochondria, egotism, religious melancholy, remorse, and so forth. The family physician in the presence of such cases is tempted to echo the words of his famous professional brother: "This

L1V1NG AGE. VOL. XXXV. 1N2H

disease is beyond my practice

more needs she the divine than the physician." What is really needed is an alliance between the clergyman and the doctor. The Church, in imitation of her Founder, ought to take compassion on these unhappy people, and come to their aid with all the liberating and recreating powers of genuine religion, combined with the technical skill of the most advanced medical science of our time. And the clearer understanding of the great law of suggestion is no mean help in this much-needed work. By suggestion as here used is not meant anything of a compulsory character such as is characteristic of hypnotism, but rather the holding before the mind of the afflicted person ideals of health and poise until they become his own and gain outward physical expression.

Every human being is more or less open to suggestion; indeed, a recent writer proposes to define man as "a suggestible animal." And the records of suggestive therapeutics as set forth in the pages of Professor Dubois's recently translated "Psychic Treatment of Nervous Diseases" (Funk and Wag nails) prove that physical functions, as well as deeply rooted habits and desires, can be altered permanently by suggestion.

Probably the most momentous discovery in mental science for a century is that of the part played by the "subconscious" in our experience. Consciousness is the wonderful candle of the Lord, that reveals all marvels and makes all that we call knowledge. But the dominant light of consciousness is not all. Around the little flame lie great fruitful fields of personality wrapped in darkness, and in God's economy the darkness is as necessary as the light. it has been compared to an iceberg floating on the sea.—only a relatively small portion rises above the water and is visible, but this small segment is supported by one mucb larger which remains submerged. Now this subconscious self is the portion of our nature that is most closely related to the organs and functions of our physical body. it is this self which sees that the commands of the will are carried out. it sets in motion all that complicated machinery in the body involved, for example, in moving a limb, of which we know nothing or next to nothing. This portion of the soul lies deeper than the ordinary, waking consciousness. it is nearer the underlying laws of Nature. The fret and fume of daily life disturb it not at all. it contains within itself those healing, recuperative processes that take place in silence and darkness, usually in sleep. Through hypnotism it has been learned that this "subliminal self," to use Mr. F. W. H. Myers's phrase, is not usually affected by the ordinary means of receiving knowledge,—reading, writing, conversation, etc. it can be influenced by suggestion; but to do this otherwise than through a hypnotic trance it is necessary for one to brood more or less over a few simple ideas, to let these sink into the mind by silent meditation or frequent repetition, or by visual impression. There they are matured by a process of "unconscious incubation," and create knowledge, faith, and dynamic energy for use in the conscious region.

Of course the principle of suggestion is available only within certain limits. it is not a panacea or cure-all. The extravagant and pretentious mlsstate

Tb« Spectator.

ment of the suggestive principle lies at the root of many of the absurd cults that to-day defy the reason of the world. As a matter of fact, its genuine successes have been achieved only in the treatment of functional nervous disorders, of hypochondria, insomnia, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, the drug-habit, hysteria, and the like. in spite of the assertions of Christian Scientists, mindcurists, metaphysical healers, esoteric vibrationists, et id genus omne, there is no evidence worthy of the name that where an organic change has taken place in the body any benefit can come through suggestion whether in hypnotic sleep or waking state. A cancer, for example, is not amenable to suggestive treatment. The surgeon's knife is at present the only fit remedy for such a disorder.

Within the region, however, of the functional as distinguished from the organic, it is impossible to set any limit ,, to the potency of suggestive therapeutics. Mind is the true magician. Through contact with a healthy, wellpoised personality the children of melancholy may learn to gain self-control, to banish fear, anxiety, and the sensations of the passing hour; above all. to exorcise the demon of egotism by ideals of goodness and unselfishness. And as they do so, so thaumaturglc is the soul that the nerves which a little before were harassed and jarred by suffering will experience an unaccustomed calm, as though a heavy load had been lifted from the heart, and life once more seemed worth living.

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS.

The democracy of Great Britain is at a point where it has to make its choice between a form of Socialism, scientific or unscientific, thorough or partial, and continuance under the quasi

individualistic conditions which have hitherto prevailed in the land. As it is not the habit of the British, and especially the English, people to face changes of social creed or ideal in the

form of an accepted statement of principles or corpus of doctrine, or in any abstract shape whatever, it is possible that they may pass into practical Socialism sang le savoir, by a aeries of lapses, just as it is possible that they may maintain an Individualistic system without recognition of that fact or its consequences.

The drift has for some time tended towards Socialism: that is, to minor measures of empirical Socialism which commend themselves to sentiment or to the sense of expediency. For instance, there has been a strong inclination to relieve the poorer parents in the community of a part of the burden of their duty to their children, and to help the more indigent class generally to avoid the full results of their economic disadvantages. This, being done by a common effort of the other members of the State, is a step within the bounds of Socialism.

Here one comes at once upon a criticism which applies to the arguments of convinced Individualists, at least as to their practical bearing, and when their practical bearing is disregarded they have only an academic value. To ask people to permit the unrestricted results of Individualist methods to operate among the poorest Is to ask them to repudiate all the dictates of compassion, and to deny the fundamental principles of the religion which most of them profess. It is absurd to teach a student on one day of the week in a lecture-room that Free Competition, unhampered and unmitigated, is the essential condition of the progress of the race and the nation, and to tench him on another day of the week, in a church or chapel, that he should love tils neighbor as himself and do to his neighbor as he would that his neighbor should do to him.

And this leads to another criticism which strengthens the hands of those who seek to promote Socialism. Indi

vidualists, as a school, are not prepared to offer any humane system as an alternative to it. Many do little more than denounce the creed of Marx and his successors with equal vehemence and honesty; but mere denunciation, in the end, strengthens a plausible case by arousing Interest in it and some sympathy for it, and Invective is a weapon which grows weaker the oftener it is used against the same opponent. What is wanted, at least for people who prefer to hold their opinions in a logical form, is a system for the amelioration of social conditions which will satisfy the human conscience as it exists in Western lands' to-day without destroying the sound foundations of society in accordance with socialistic Incitements; In. a word, construction instead of destruction, or healthy evolution instead of a revolution prompted by visionaries and carried out in despair.

It is well to admit that the Individualist pur sang has failed as a social philosopher and will fail, precisely because he ignores the human conscience and fails to realize that sympathy is as natural and inherent a force In human nature as selfishness itself; indeed, it is one of the basal laws of life, long antecedent to the appearance of man upon the earth, and one of the primary factors of the individual. And, in face of this fact, in order to criticise Socialism effectively, it is expedient to give due recognition to some of its strongest positions and not to advance against the whole line without making due allowance for them.

It is often urged that all progress in evolution from the protozoa to man has been accomplished by the aid of unrestricted competition in the struggle for life. And if this be granted, the individualist says, "How will you ensure further progress if this mainspring of evolution be taken away V But the aritfuiueiit is fallacious. Considering the matter from the biological point of view, it is plain that unrestricted competition among the creatures lower than man evolved at length a power, thought, which overthrew the previous conditions and dominated the world of bnite force and blind contest for survival. This force has its own way of dealing with things, and the more completely that is followed the greater is the success of those who follow it. No human beings approach so nearly to the kind of competition that prevails among beasts as the lowest races of mankind, who are rightly called the most backward. The proposal to eliminate the results of thought in order that we may revert to that condition of affairs over which thought has trinmphed, and the belief that further progress can only be attained by returning to the form of competition which at last produced thought as its mastering term, are illusory; in fact the suggestion is that we should decapitate progress, sr• to speak, in order that advance may continue. Nor is the protective p •wcr of organized "social" life, as distinct from the free struggle of individuals, without example even outside humanity. The development of instinct g ves examples of it . "The phases of social life exhibited by animals other than man," said Huxley, "sometimes curiously foreshadow human policy."' 1nstances in the insect world are well known, and for one example among many in the case of the higher animals it is interesting to refer to the account given from personal observation by Mansfield Parkyns of the organization of baboons in their forays on the cornfields.2

Nor, indeed, is a return to the Free Competition, the unrestricted struggle for existence, as it flourishes outside humanity, practicable; but this is what the individualist system postulates if it is logical in its doctrine of progress.

< "The Anatomy of Invertebrated Animals." '" Life in Abyssinia."

Law, from the point of view of the strict individualists, is Socialism; at least, one of its most important functions is the use of the power of the community to protect those who are not strong enough to enforce their own rights. if it were the solemn duty of humanity to adopt consistent and thorough individualism, law should be abolished; he only should preserve his property, or even his life, who could do so by his own hand or cunning; widows and orphans should be a prey to those strong enough to seize them. The decalogue should be deleted. Then we should „indeed have reverted to the kind of competition which prevails in the ocean and the forest. But it would hardly mean progress.

As compared with a doctrine which, pushed to its logical extreme, involves the disappearance of morality, the creed of Socialism appears, in the abstract, a most beneficent gospel. it proposes to use the individual for the best advantage of the State and to organize the State for the best advantage of the individual. And if practice could be made to conform to theory. Socialism would have a claim upon humanity that could not rightly be repudiated.

A principle enunciated in a few lines in the late Professor W. Wallace's "Prolegomena to the Study of Hegel's Philosophy" may be cited:

The apprehension of a thing from one side or aspect—the apprehension of one thing apart from its connections—the retention of a term or formula apart from its context—is what Hegel terms "abstract" ... To abstract is a necessary stage in the process of knowledge. But it is equally necessary to insist on the danger of clinging, as to an ultimate truth, to the pseudo-simplltity of abstraction, which forgets altogether what it is in certain situations desirable for a time to overlook.

in this sense, Socialism is a system full of the err6r of "abstraction." it

« PreviousContinue »