THE present edition of a translation of these Researches owes its existence perhaps to one, perhaps to a series of misapprehensions, with which the public may have little concern. Certain it is, that at no time, have I had the slightest intention to be guilty of a want of courtesy towards the gentleman who had, by the publication of a very skilful abstract of his labours in the year 1846, the merit of introducing the Baron von Reichenbach to the British public, as an investigator of the Philosophy of Mesmerism. Various efforts have been made to convince me that I did not act as I ought to have done, in omitting to place myself in communication with Professor Gregory, when I was applied, to by the Publisher, through a well-known literary physician, to furnish some notes to a complete edition of these researches ; but I confess my obtuseness shuts out from my mind the light of all the reasoning that has been brought to bear on this matter. All that I can allow is, that, although I have no personal acquaintance with the Professor, I am very sorry in any way to have injured his feelings, and I am grieved to find myself in such a relative position with a man for whom I am bound to entertain a deep respect ; for, besides his high scientific reputation, he is known to have the courage to avow his belief in Phrenology and in Mesmerism, " even in the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him ; but," to all like the Professor, it may be said, " ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you !" To me, feeling quite innocent of all wrong intention, in the perfect freedom of action which, under the circumstances, I claim for myself, it is sad to be at opposite poles with one who is of the salt of this earth. To those who cannot know of the dire consequences resulting from the aggregation of the petty and repulsive mental forces concentrating and directing in society the baneful powers of their various influences upon characters who dare to think for themselves,— who are hardly aware that new truths are met so frequently by sneers, taunts, ridicule, or that unworthy social persecution, at once the proof of a want of capacity to be noble and just, and the disgrace of an advanced civilization,—the exalted courage of such persons must be lost. To those who know how to respect scientific ardour, and a pure love of truth, the fortitude of a faithful and sincere man is for high admiration, and for deep respect.
Such observations are perhaps equally applicable to the Professor, and to his friend the Baron, and I may be regarded as bold in remarking, as freely as I have done, on some of the philosophy in the following pages. No one can entertain a deeper veneration for large cerebral organizations than I do. I am clear, from the work before us, that so much patience, so much ingenuity, so much caution, so much concentration, so much ideal resource, so much just and honest desire to be true, could not characterize any individual, who had not a rare combination of organs in his magnificent head. Regarding any person in this point of view, one is immediately at liberty to look out for all those inconsistencies that belong to humanity ; deeply respecting the excellencies, and always, with due humility, doubting one's own power of detecting the weakness that may belong to any logical edifice he may construct.
There are not wanting persons who doubt entirely of the Baron's power of accurate and severe observation. They doubt some of his most striking facts. They deny the accuracy of his results with the magnet and photographic plate. Some, and among them are persons of no mean note as scientific characters, affect to hold him in very secondary estimation—pitying him for wild ideas, and denying that his researches deserve any rank as philosophy.
But the Baron is not the builder up of a tall house of loose cards to be toppled down by a breath. I have not tried all his experiments. I have tried, comparatively, only a few. Where I have found.the suitable cases, the results have been, with few exceptions, identical.
Then, because I have been disappointed in the results of many other experiments, I have no right to conclude that the Baron is at fault, but rather that I have not yet been fortunate enough to meet with exactly the same description of case he terms the "sick sensitive,"—a vague expression of an idea, with which, surely, it is not criminal to disagree. Long before I had read Professor Gregory's abstract, I had arrived at conclusions on differences, as well as analogies, between electric, magnetic, and mesmeric agencies, and, operating differently, have witnessed many confirmations of the facts established by the Baron. Dr. Elliotson has noted many remarkable analogies in many pages of the Zoist. But then, the greater number of our cases have been in mesmerized persons. How the Baron would have fared, as to his conclusions, if he had not taken up the study of his subject, in its most elemental form, is another question. Seeing, as I do, the conditions of his patients, in a different. point of view, from that in which he regards them, I cannot concede to him that, professing to contemn the mesmeric state, as one unfit for his purpose, he has not been operating with persons, who, though not at all asleep, have actually been in a state constituting the very condition which distinguishes some of the phenomena of somnambulism. One mistake has been, to suppose that the truthfulness of an individual depends upon a certain normal state of the general fibres of the brain, instead of the tendencies derived from a particular relative size, and combination of certain organs of that viscus. A patient, who is a sleep-waker, may, from a certain configuration of organs, be a most just and honourable character, and have that fine disposition considerably exalted by the state of somnambulism ; while a wide-awake person may be a most cunning and habitual deceiver. Another mistake is, to suppose that the " sensitive," and " sick sensitive," form a category, independent of all phrenological, and all mesmeric considerations. They are, in fact, those most easily affected by mesmeric and crystallic agencies— those most obedient to the influence of the silent will—and those most easily stimulated to clairvoyance, in the state of wide vigilance. Certain I am, that with the advantages offered by the power of his head, the Baron would have advanced both further and faster, if, to all his other knowledge, he had combined a more extensive view of physiological pathology, with a study of phrenology and mesmerism. They may oppose the truth in Germany, as they do here. The Author exhibits some of their doings, but the Baron has the courage flowing from a sense of justice. He worships the spirit of truth, which must eventually prevail. I marvel at many of the objectors to his philosophy, for in regarding these researches with the eye of criticism, ready to seize a weak point, I feel that one is at a loss which most to admire,—the plain, straightforward, philosophical acumen which guides each consecutive inquiry, or the combination of ingenuity and common sense with which questions of great delicacy are made subservient to the progress of severe inquiry. Time and opportunity only are required to corroborate rather than to correct the facts he has advanced. Those who venture to risk their own reputations in throwing doubts on the Baron's results, should remember that the conditions under which the experiments were originally made, must, in justice, be strictly repeated. The discoverer of creosote, paraffin, eupion, and many other new compounds, for the knowledge of which the world is indebted to his laborious researches, is not a common-place authority; and he has now taken up a subject, the truth of which will roll with tremendous force over all obstacles.
Those who regard the science of Physics, in the isolated form in which it is generally presented in most of the Elements of Natural Philosophy, must necessarily have a very limited view of the importance of the researches now presented to the public. Indeed, it would be, at present, almost impossible to indicate all the points in cosmogony, to which the Baron von Reichenbach's commencement, in strict logical deduction, on imponderable agencies, may not, at a future period, have a positive reference. It may be remarked, that the evolution of each new fact is a step in that progress, which may be ultimately connected with the forces, agencies, fluids, or powers that pervade space in universal nature.
Undoubtedly, the attempt to place Mesmerism within the domain of physics was a bold conception. It is an attempt to bring the whole of physiology into the strict limits of chemical philosophy. The establishment of the existence of the odic force is that which was wanting to reply to most of the questions respecting life. No doubt much is yet to be desired in order to clear the obscurities enveloping the innumerable modifications of this force ; but enlightenment reaches us from the enlightened, and the Baron pursues his continued researches with a zeal which promises to unfold to us many a new principle, as well as many a new fact connected with this subject ; and, considering the very curious investigations which will be published in the second part of this work, it is hardy too much to anticipate that we may, ere, long be favoured with some insight into the philosophy of a subject evidently connected with the matter of light, or in some way allied with that of the development of either latent light, or of some combination of a share of this principle with certain organic reagents. The researches into odic light by the Baron do not appear yet to belong immediately to clairvoyance, and yet the links which connect the inquiries are not far off. Numerous questions suggest themselves in an examination of the philosophy of this subject :- Why the condition of brain favourable to the development of clairvoyance should belong to certain individuals, and not to others ? Why it should belong to some nervous susceptible temperaments, and not to others ? Why some insane persons should be in the category, and not others ? Why in some brains these peculiar developments of mental lucidity should take place, quickly and easily, by peculiar stimulants, while others should require a long period for the attainment of the object ? Why, in some, the phenomena are not produced without a long course of mesmeric sleep, while in others, the presence of certain individuals, or of certain crystals, or of clear bottles of clean mesmerised water, in the same room, suffice to excite the brain to the requisite condition? In one and the same person, one mesmeriser shall never be able to produce clairvoyance ; another mesmeriser will establish it, at the first séance. I have no doubt of these facts : I have often witnessed them. I have produced the condition of clairvoyance ; but the kind and the degree of the phenomena differed, very remarkably, from those produced by Major Buckley, in the same patients. Repeatedly I have tried, in vain, to make clairvoyant somnambul es read printed words which were enclosed in a pill-box. Major Buckley, ignorant of the same words, has had them quickly read in the innermost of a nest of five, four of them tightly-fitting silver boxes. The stimulus afforded by the odic lights issuing from my brain, must then be very different from that of those emitted by his. I have elsewhere said, (Zoist, vol. iv., p. 125) before the abstract of the work of Reichenbach appeared here, that " striking facts may be adduced which may tend to the conclusion that the exercise of the faculties of the human mind, and particularly tint of the will, is attended by the emanation of a fluid from the brain, from the fingers, seats of the functional extremities of the nerves, or from some part of the person who may be exercising the mental faculties. I propose to show that the same series of events may be produced in individuals of a certain nervous diathesis, by the impingement of a fluid evolved by the will of another ; or by manipulations attended by the emanation of the same fluid, or by certain emanations from magnets, or from some metallic wires, through which currents of electricity are passed ; or from the direct application of certain metals. I do not attempt to establish the identity of these fluids, for the facts daily developing themselves tend to show that the distinctive properties of these fluids are as various as the substances from which they emanate; and it may be that the great power, antecedent to all consequents, may ordain the simplicity and unitrof one electric, and gravitating with centrifugal force, evolving an infinite complication and variety of magnetic cohesive and repulsive agencies ; the entire system emerging from the volonte directing ' La Grande Formule.' ."1 All these considerations are for inquiry. They must meet with scrutiny, and new truths will be elicited, multiplying the facts, prolonging the interest and the fame attached to the genius of the discoverer of the odic force. We are but at the commeteement of the wonders of clairvoyance, and can certainly be in no position to estimate the great fund of new truths, that, by means of its cultivated agency, are in store for us. We are so often met with objections as to the possibility of the phenomena of clairvoyance, that after the Baron von Reibenbach's arguments on the varying powers of various individuals to perceive the odic flames, one is tempted to adduce the fact discovered by Sir Isaac Newton, that the densest and heaviest metal, gold, has more pores2 in it than solid metallic particles, and consequently that light may be transmitted through it ; and if so, it is quite possible to conceive of its being diaphanous to certain individuals possessed of a highly sensitive nervous system. But what are the marvellous things of clairvoyance, compared to those contained in a supplementary note to the relation between Holy Scripture and some parts of geological science, by Dr. Pye Smith, to which I refer below in order to cause reflection on such matters ?3 Here our object is not to display wonders, but while in passing we reply to objectors, we must continue to illustrate the leading purpose of these researches, really and truly the philosophy of mesmerism. Strange would it be if the wonders of clairvoyance ; those of the phenomena detected by the telescope ; the events accruing from the nature of living organisms, in all their infinite varieties, should finally be dependent on the same force, which Newton contemplated, in his acute conjecture that water was a compound body, and which gave rise to the wild but important speculations of Mesmer, on the existence of an universal fluid, when he led the way to the facts of a new science, which, after a struggle of eighty years, has emerged in the hands of Von Reichenbach into principles applicable to all nature.
A remarkable fact connected with the emergence of mesmerism into its present importance is the serious neglect of its merits which has marked the conduct of those who were bound to encourage them, by study and inquiry. Really, practically, mesmerism has deserved very different treatment. It has merited high civic honours. It has, under the patient philosophic guidance of Dr. Elliotson, conquered malignant cancer. It has removed enormous growths known as polypus, as I can testify. I know that it has chased away large ovarian tumors, and dropsies that have defied all medical skill. It has cured malignant fevers in their advanced stages. It has removed tubercles, and healed abscesses. To enumerate all the good that has been done by this agent, combined with the essence of human kindness—for without that the practice of mesmerism is useless— would take many volumes. Thousands of cases are now extant of the benefits derived from this holy power. The Zoist is the grand English work of testimony on this subject, and it is full of useful information, as well as of noble essays to advance the cause of humanity. The defenders of mesmerism have, in that work, laboured hard for the truth, which they have advocated with the boldness belonging to sincerity. How much soever they have been opposed by the sordid and the mean, by those systematically opposed to the progress of expansion—with whatever success falsehood has retarded the march of useful knowledge—it is consoling to the writers in the Zoist to know that the great cause is advancing. Small-minded men, not capable, from unfortunate organization of brain, of believing in truths at variance with the idols they have been accustomed to worship, set themselves up as oracles of wisdom. Too many implicitly give up their convictions to such incompetent leaders 1 Fight, however, as a31 they will against the truth, it is always too strong for its opponents. Time, which settles all differences, by changing old things and by bringing forward new, sweeps away the fallacies of the obstinately proud and ignorant. Would it were possible for small minds to reflect, that all their efforts to establish falsehood will not alter the laws of nature, and no folly of striving to prove that falsehood is truth can change these established laws 1 For nearly eighty years has the professional world of science opposed itself to the discovery of Mesmer, yet still the facts exist. Turn to the truths placed before mankind by the stupendous powers of observation and catenation of that rare genius, Gall It is sickening to note the causes which have hitherto deprived society of the advantages, destined to accrue to our race, at a later period, by the cultivation of phrenology. How curiously and strikingly has mesmeric science verified all the discoveries of Gall ! Still the flood of opposition pours on, and the pretenders to religion, real enemies of the spirit of truth, with awful pride and cunning, endeavour by sly arts to crush its rising light.
It is remarkable that three great philosophers, each in succession, in some measure contemning the labours of his predecessor, should have arisen in the same spot ; that each should have put forth a discovery of signal importance to the philosophy of mind ; that Vienna should be the wellspring, whence these lights should radiate ; that the sparkling, crystalline, luminous knowledge emanating from that fountain, placed in the central capital of European civilization, should have reflected a glory round the names of three philosophers, which will emblazon their researches as amongst the most important that can occupy the attention of mankind ; that Mesmer, Gall, and Reichenbach, first announced their grand ideas from the capital of the Austrian empire.
The Baron von Reichenbach may not believe himself complimented by this allocation. He may have some scientific pride, notwithstanding the size and quality of the majority of the organs of his brain ; nevertheless, the reflection must be made, that all knowledge is relative, as every atom of matter is relative. Nothing is fixed and absolute ; but in the vast range of human acquirement, it would be difficult to exhibit three sets of facts, announced at separate intervals of time, having so intimate a relation to each other, and which are so interwoven in their dependencies, as those Viennese discoveries; having, moreover, such numerous alliances to all the circumstances to which man can, by turns, transfer his attentions.
Where will all this philosophy lead us ? Can any sincere person entertain a doubt ? It is the spirit of truth which is about to be victorious. It is not a question as to the appreciation, at the present moment, of the best knowledge, of the soundest philosophy. Educated in selfishness, we live in a world of hallucinations. It has been well said that we form one large lunatic establishment. We are surrounded by influences that are always tending to impress upon us a desire to succumb to the tyranny of falsehood. The conventional habits of our lives make us, more or less, hypocrites ; and according to the energy, originality, or some other individual peculiarity of our character, we swerve from the leaning of our fellowmen. If the proposition be offered to his innate desire for justice, it is not that man does not essentially love truth, but that the progress of his organization, through ages, has not yet ripened sufficiently to allow that expanded development which, as science advances, must have place in a more perfect arrangement of society. Man cannot yet worship truth as the best knowledge. He has not yet passed the age of idols. The knavery of the selfish and interested is always ready to excite his lower feelings against that which is really holy and reverential, the sacred will of the Most Just. But the good time approaches—for science advances with immensely rapid strides. Those who are now young have to witness many improvements, all tending, like the researches of the Baron von Reichenbach, to expand the intellects and morals of man, and to lead him finally to the realms of light.
65, Grosvenor Street, April 25, 1850.