Page images

Since the foregoing article was written, a Bill to make Provision for the Government of Western Samoa' has been passed by the New Zealand Parliament. It declares the Executive Government to be vested in His Majesty the King in the same manner as if the territory were part of His Majesty's Dominions, and sets out a comprehensive code of laws for the government of the islands. It provides that the Administrator is to be assisted in the framing of local ordinances or bye-laws for the peace, order, and good government of the territory (not inconsistent with the Act) by a Legislative Council, to be composed of official members (not less than four in number), and an equal number of non-official members, to be appointed by the Governor-General of New Zealand. During the debate on the Bill reference was made to a petition to the King, signed by a number of the Faipules, asking that a Governor should be sent out by His Majesty, and that the residents, Samoan and European, should make the laws. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Lee) stated that the petition was engineered by some of the white residents, and did not reflect the general opinion of the natives throughout Samoa. In reference to the population of the Group, it may be added that the census taken on April 17, 1921, gave the total number of Samoans as 33,336, showing a gratifying increase of upwards of 2000 since the epidemic.



1. La Maîtrise de Soi-même. Par Émile Coué. Chez

l'Auteur, Nancy, 1921. 2. Suggestion and Auto-Suggestion. By Charles Baudouin.

English translation by Eden and Cedar Paul. Allen &

Unwin, 1920. 3. Papers on Psycho-Analysis. By Ernest Jones, M.D.

Baillière, 1913. 4. Man's Unconscious Conflict. By Wilfrid Lay, Ph.D.

Kegan Paul, 1918. 5. The British Journal of Psychology-Medical Section,

Cambridge University Press.

THE wandering ballad-singer of the Middle Ages has been replaced by the modern peripatetic lecturer. Not in the courtyard of a feudal castle or on the green of a mediæval village, but in public balls and private drawing-rooms does the latter give his performance. His audience is drawn from a more restricted class, but the motive of its attendance is not dissimilar. It wants to kill the old enemy, Time, to hear the latest topic that is proclaimed, and to gather something to talk about. Here and there a deeper nature endeavours to satisfy, or at any rate to‘lull, a more serious craving. There are a few who pursue the culture of which Matthew Arnold made himself the prophet; there are many who seek the culture that we have learned to associate with Garden Suburbs. An American once said that Boston was not a place, it was a state of mind. The dwellers in like Cities of the Soul are those who fill the lecture rooms of every newcomer and discuss his message over the teacups. It may be a Philosopher, discoursing, in an

, expensive hotel, on the doctrine of anti-intellectualism to a fashionable audience, hardly culpable of a too great idolatry of the intellect. It may be a Political Economist, or the Priest of a New Religion. The subject matters little. The personality of the lecturer matters much. The absence of rival distractions matters most of all.

The latest hero, or victim, of this nine days' wonder, has been M. Coué of Nancy. Ironic Fate decreed that this modest and disinterested gentleman, whose life is given to the battle against human suffering, should have


[ocr errors]

come among us in the fashion of a medicine man at a country fair, heralded by the blare of a brass band, proclaimed by strident voices and the thumping of a drum. Perhaps it is only through similar methods that any gospel of physical or spiritual health can reach a widespread audience in the modern world. They do not enhance the dignity of Science.

There was no great novelty in the subject which M. Coué came to announce. Suggestion and AutoSuggestion, even under those names, have been recognised as therapeutic agents for a good many years past; and, under other names, they have played a part—often an heretical and proscribed one-in the eternal battle of Health since remote times. Any novelty that M. Coué can claim must lie in his treatment or in his theory. And here, perhaps, we arrive at debatable matter.

Let us glance back at these methods of healing in the past. They played a part in the medical science of Egypt and of Greece. Both the Old and the New Testaments provide obvious evidence that they were known to the Jews. They pervaded the ancient world. The rules of practice were always much the same verbal suggestion, and the laying on of hands. The former has more openly survived. The latter, though much modified, is not extinct. During the Middle Ages, these powers were widely invoked, both for good and for evil. Spells, incantations, curses, were all really of the nature of suggestion. And one cannot feel quite certain that they were always without effect. On the other hand, medical practice employed similar means, which must have been an agreeable variation from some of the forms of physic and surgery then fashionable. It was still the age of miracles, and it would be hard to exclude miracles from the category. Many of the cures reported from Lourdes are undoubtedly genuine.

Paracelsus, that wild, drunken, romantic blend of genius and quackery, who flamed through the heaving, many-coloured pageant of the early 16th century, practised both the magic of the Dark Ages and the rudimentary science which was beginning to emerge from a mist of superstition. Out of Alchemy Chemistry was being born, Astronomy out of Astrology. In the last, of course, Paracelsus was a believer. He maintained


that a magic fluid came from the stars, and that it was the operation of this fluid wbich worked his cures, There can be little doubt that cures in some cases did take place, whatever the agency. A few instances may have been enough to provide a vast legend. The belief in the King's Evil-in the cure for scrofula by the touch of a royal hand-persisted through centuries. Considering the quality of so much royalty, this was a wonderful example of faith; and faith, in all probability, still had power, at times, to make whole. What virtue lay in the suggestion, and what in the touch, might also provide matter for controversy.

There are, of course, many who entirely disbelieve in any of the cures thus reported. Those who have personally made an impartial practical investigation of the subject will not unreservedly agree with them. In matters so difficult to put to an exact test, it is hard to say how much a rational person should believe or disbelieve. As Henri Poincaré, the mathematician, said of credulity in general, 'to doubt everything and to believe everything are equally convenient as solutions, for both dispense with the necessity of thought.' In a province which has been the hunting-ground of so many charlatans one must walk with caution. But a great mass of testimony, partly confirmed by modern experiment, cannot be entirely dismissed with scorn.

The attention of the world was vividly recalled to these modes of healing by Mesmer, in France, during the latter half of the 18th century. Mesmer's name, like that of Captain Boycott, has added a word to the language; and the verb fathered on the latter largely expresses the fate of the noun due to the former. Campbell, in his “Lives of the Lord Chancellors,' referring to Lord Nottingham's belief in astrology, says, • If he joined Dryden in such vagaries, need we be much astonished when we find grave characters believing in Mesmerism at the present day?' That expresses concisely the opinion of most educated people. Yet it is almost impossible to doubt that Mesmer worked many

The Commission appointed by the French Government to investigate his case, though it condemned his theories, did not dispute the results of his practice. Mesmer began, like Paracelsus, with a belief in a magic


[ocr errors]


fluid from the stars. From this he passed to a conviction of the healing power of magnets. And finally he developed the theory of Animal Magnetism, which, after much controversy, has been more or less obliterated by the contempt of the scientific world. Whether that contempt is entirely just, whether there is never any healing power in touch, is a matter on which some of those who have experimented in these things will prefer not to be too dogmatic.

Mesmer's methods of practice, with darkened rooms and mirrors and mysterious ceremonies, helped to bring suspicion on the reality of his phenomena. A host of disreputable imitators, including the prince of charlatans, Cagliostro, have kept, and still keep, Mesmerism in discredit. But out of it grew a science now regarded as rather more creditable—the science of Hypnotism. At the beginning of the 19th century a Scotch physician, James Braid, became interested in Mesmerism. At first quite incredulous, he gradually came to the conclusion that genuine effects were produced. But he discarded altogether the hypothesis of Animal Magnetism, and became convinced that hypnosis was induced automatically by the patient, and that the operator merely supplied the necessary stimulus to the patient's imagination, and effected nothing by personal contact or influence. This interpretation has been generally accepted to the present day.

But in a region where all is of necessity so obscure, doubt can never be mute. Popular delusions about hypnotism are many. The more elderly among us remember a book called Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist,' which thrilled our schoolboy souls. The hero performed marvellous feats with his voice, throwing it about and exploding it at a distance, like a Mills bomb. Not more absurd are the beliefs which many people hold about hypnotic forces. They regard them as diabolical and dangerous, giving to certain strong and probably evil natures irresistible power over the weak. It is safe to say that this is nonsense. Hypnotism is not a thing to play with. Harm may, in certain circumstances, result from it. Public exhibitions of it are degrading, and should not be allowed. But it is difficult to hypnotise people. Some people cannot be hypnotised at

Vol. 238.–No. 473.


« PreviousContinue »