This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
These will be treated here only so far as they reflect light upon "faith-cures".
(a) That trances and healings occurred under the performances of Mesmer is as well established as any fact depending upon testimony. French scientists who investigated the subject divided into two hostile parties upon the explanation, and in some cases as to whether they were genuine or fraudulent; but they agreed as to the genuineness of many of the cures. The Government established a commission of physicians and members of the Academy of Sciences to investigate the phenomena. Benjamin Franklin, who was at that time in Paris in the interest of the United States, and the distinguished J. S. Bailly were of that commission, with Lavoisier, Darcet, and others. They presented an elaborate report, specifically admitting many of the alleged facts, but denying the necessity of assuming " animal magnetism." Forty years afterward,— namely, on October 11,1825,—the Royal Academy of Medicine in Paris was addressed by a noted physician, Foissac, who called its attention to the importance of a new inquiry. After a long debate the Academy appointed a committee to inquire whether it would or would not become the Academy to investigate "animal magnetism." The report was favorable, and was debated at great length; it was finally decided to investigate, and the Academy, by a majority of ten in a total vote of sixty, appointed a permanent committee on the subject. This committee reaffirmed the facts, and did not divide as in the former instance, two merely declining to sign the report because not present at the experiments. The subject was reopened in 1837, and further reports and discussions of great importance resulted. These are referred to here simply to show the amount of testimony to certain facts of trance conditions, so called, and cures.
The following is given on the authority of Dr. Tuke, who says, " It is afforded by a highly respectable surgeon and attributed by him to mesmerism." It is the case of Edward Wine, aged seventy-five, who had been paralyzed two years in one arm and leg. The left arm was spasmodically fixed to the chest, the fingers drawn toward the palm of the hand and wasted, quite incapable of holding anything; walked with a crutch, drawing the left leg after him. After several mesmerizing operations the surgeon put " a nosegay in his coat and posted him off to church, and he tells me he walked like a gentleman down the aisle, carrying his stick in his lame arm".
The noted Mr. Braid in many authentic instances restored lost sight, greatly improved the condition of the paralyzed, in some instances entirely curing the patient, and had very little difficulty with most cases of rheumatism. Dr. W. B. Carpenter investigated many of these cases.
But what is mesmerism, magnetism, electro-biology, etc.? It is a subjective condition. The notion that a magnetic fluid passes from the body, or that passes are of utility in producing the state except as they act upon the mind of the candidate, was exploded long since; and both in Europe and America the discovery of the real principle was accidental and made by a number of persons. About fifty years ago an itinerant lecturer on these phenomena, who had great success in experiments, used an old-fashioned cylinder electrical machine. The "subjects" took hold of the wire. He gave them a slight electrical shock, and " concentrated his will upon them." Those that were susceptible passed into the trance state. On a certain occasion, when trying the experiment with several gentlemen in a private room, the operator was called out just as the candidates had taken hold of the wire. He remained twenty minutes, not supposing that the experiment was being tried; on his return, to his great surprise, he found three of them as much "magnetized," " mesmerized," electro-biologized," " hypnotized," or "psycodunamized" as any he had ever seen. This showed that the entire effect was caused by their own mental states. Further experiments made it clear that neither the will of the operator, nor any " magnetism " from his body, nor electricity, nor the influence of the candidates upon each other had anything to do with the result. Mesmer himself used magnets until he fell in with the Roman Catholic priest Gassner, before mentioned, when, perceiving that he used none, he renounced magnets, afterward depending solely on manipulation.
Twenty-three years ago I was present at a private meeting of twenty-five ladies and gentlemen, at the residence of Mr. Henry R. Towne, president of the Yale and Towne Manufacturing Company. On two successive evenings these phenomena had been explained. It had been maintained that all the results were subjective, arising from the concentrated attention, expectancy, and reverence of the persons trying the experiment. At the close of the two lectures, after divesting the subject of mystery, and, apparently, rendering it impossible to produce reverence or confidence, I was urged to test the theory by experiment. Accordingly eight gentlemen and ladies were requested to rise, stand without personal eon-tact with one another or myself, close their eyes, and clasp their hands. In a few minutes five passed more or less fully into the trance state, two becoming unconscious of their surroundings and the others exhibiting peculiar phenomena. One thus affected was a prominent lawyer of the city of New York, another a recent graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School, and the third the bookkeeper in a large establishment. Nothing was done by the experimenter during the interval after these persons closed their eyes and clasped their hands, save to wait in silence and require silence from spectators. Among those who witnessed and critically studied these phenomena with the writer were Professor Fuertes, Dean of the Department of Civil Engineering in Cornell University, whose letter, herewith printed,1 explains itself; Mr. Henry R. Towne, before mentioned; the Rev. Dr. A. S. Twombly, pastor of the Winthrop Congregational Church of Charlestown, Mass.; and J. B. Williams, Esquire, of the city of New York.