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thing is on its face impossible. Such, for example, is the clairvoyance notion, with all its pretensions so many times killed and brought to life again. The thing is morally, physically, and rationally impossible and ridiculous. Not but that we would believe it on proof proportionate to the à priori disbelief: as, for instance, if a somnambulist would give us the English news, and anticipate the steamers, or even read us the Philadelphia papers, or bring us from a distance any public and notorious news, he might thus raise up such clouds of witnesses as to overcome all our preconceived notions of possibility, and make us admit new ones instead of them. But the occasion calls for this kind of public proof, it calls for an appeal to general experience, general in some large proportion to that experience which is to be confuted. Such proof could be easily, and would be readily given, if the thing were true; it is not given; therefore the thing is false. And in an argument which calls for proof of this sort, it is not worth our while to attend at all to anything inferior; to details about how such a one's house was described to him five hundred miles off by a person who never saw it, and who did not know him; how the wrinkles were counted at that distance in the face of his aged grandmother, and the pieces of broken china enumerated which stood in the corner cupboard. But what was the price of cotton that day in that same distant city, or whether it rained or snowed or shone, or anything else that the public can take cognizance of, deponent invariably saith not. To all these histories then, we answer, that one man has been duped in one way, another in another, that some have deceived themselves, and some would deceive us; and to conclude, that the whole thing is a hoax, and a very childish one. The seeing through sealed papers and into pockets, or in the dark, is an imposture still more difficult to keep up, and is now pretty generally scouted and abandoned.
Whoever has read Townsend's book on Mesmerism, may see in that the difference between a true science and a false one. The book has no progression; any page or paragraph might be either at the beginning, middle, or end of the work. The same sort of stories
are continually repeated; additional instances heaped on instances; but all on the same authority, and adding therefore nothing to the proof, as their sameness sheds no new light on the theory. Townsend says in one place, that the mesmerised patient has no corporeal sensations but those of the Mesmeriser; but, in other parts of his book, he makes them hear music, and feel hunger, and other sensations entirely independently. So that he evidently has no distinct idea himself how he means to represent the effect of this sleep, which is the main symptom and very embodiment of the influence he treats of. This mesmeric sleep very many persons believe in, and no doubt it appears in many cases to be produced in the way described by the believers. But when produced, whether by the imagination of the patient, or by the magnetic mummery, it is a plain, simple, unapprehensive stupor. This one circumstance perhaps exists, and on this has been built a superstructure in which all our ideas of truth, possibility, and evidence, have been mocked and set at defiance.
Mesmerism lies under one great disadvantage, which is, that in practice it affords no amusement. Nothing can be duller than trying to put a person to sleep, and failing, which in general is the most that can be made of our attempts to apply this science. In this respect, Phrenology is infinitely preferable, and it is even a more amusing paradox for discussion, because its conclusions have a certain range of degree and modification, which, when they happen to be too abominably wrong, always admits of their being explained away. Here is acquisitiveness bulging out like coach lamps on the temples of the most liberal-minded man in the world; but then there is benevolence, or veneration, or some other mighty fine quality in such counteracting predominance; oh, that explains it entirely. And then, Phrenology leads to discussions of character, and observation of characteristic traits, things naturally extremely interesting and amusing. It developes anecdote, it affords good scope for satire; and, in short, has in it many principles of fun, which will infallibly make it immortal as a joke. But to treat of it seriously, to suppose that the brain, a perfectly homogeneous mass, is divided into
organs by imperceptible lines and partitions, that these organs, which are none of them themselves protuberant, and which produce no protuberances on the bone with which they come in contact, do yet produce them on the exterior skull; all this is too nonsensical for refutation. Some people make money, or gain notoriety by asserting, nobody can get either by contradicting it; and some proselytes having had this camel crammed down their throats, the way is widened for more, and more are bred expressly to drive down. One man polarises the organs, that is, he discovers that each bump or protuberance on the head has its opposite pole, where also all its own characteristics are developed. These organic poles, by some strange notion of sphericity, are all found to be in the face, and thus they constitute a new system of physiognomy. Here is a flood of new light poured out upon the world; here is risen up a new and great name in Israel, a profound thinker, deep and patient scholar, and rival of Copernicus, John Locke, Franklin and Pythagoras-admission to his lectures, half-a-dollar. Another comes forward with a galvanic battery, and offers to excite your combativeness, or discompose your organ of order, in the most convincing manner, having usually provided subjects himself if his audiences decline to furnish any, on whom the experiment may be made. Another will excite the phrenological organs during the magnetic sleep, and make them give unequivocal proofs of their own existence and powers. Here is the penultimate effort of these gropings after truth, the night growing ever darker till the day begins. Now comes the final flourish :
he was first to reach the goal, yet several competitors were pressing onward close behind him, and just ready to touch it. Such is the history of the integral calculus, of the circulation of the blood, and even of the great theory of gravitation itself. Such, also, is the condition of Neurology with respect to the great men above enumerated; for really one sees that, from exciting the brain by touching the outside of the head of a sleeping person, to doing the same to a waking one, was but a step, and not a long one. Still, a short step may sometimes be made by a longlegged man; and such it appears, by the article on Neurology in your last, is the case in the present instance. I do not call this in question; Dr. Buchanan may be all that he is there represented to be, but I deny entirely that he is proved to be so by this discovery of the Neuraura, or by anything connected with the doctrines as whose advocate he is here chiefly known. And allow me to say to you, Mr. Editor, having a certain misgiving that you will print this philippic of mine reluctantly, if at all, allow me to say that I think the other side of this very disputable matter has a right to be heard, after the full hearing you gave the assertors in your last. The other side should be heard in a full and unrestrained outpouring, not limited by respect of persons,-a principle which, when extended to the things those persons patronize, is subversive of all freedom of discussion. It would please me much better could I put this thing in the light I believe to be its true one, without displeasing anybody, but my object is not now to be "cautious and friendly," but to be just. I deal absolutely with what is before the public and I speak out with regard to that my whole meaning, and insinuate nothing that I do not say. Dr. Buchanan, then, is the gentleman who has made this notable step, not from the sublime to the ridiculous, yet nevertheless to the same end. He it is who discovers that the brain can be excited by touching the skull, at any time and in any manner that can be desired or imagined. Hope, Fear, Hunger, Thirst, Childhood, Old Age, Insanity, Genius, Folly, Physical Strength and Weakness, Virtue and Vice, and good and evil passions;-he has them all at his fingers' ends, and plays them on your head as
if its bumps were piano keys, and he the tuner of the instrument. But, inasmuch as everybody knows this is not so, it becomes necessary to get rid of the contradiction of universal experience; and this is done by setting up against it the experience of a class of persons denominated "impressible," who are said to exist among us in the proportion of one to a thousand. That there are such persons, and that they have such experience, is a position which rests, so far as the New York public are concerned, chiefly on the assertions of three or four individuals, of whose characters that public knows nothing, indeed, in most instances, it has not been told their names. These people testify, as may be seen in the article I am answering, both by parole and by pantomime, that when Dr. Buchanan touches their heads, his neuraura or nervous fluid passes into and excites their cerebral organs, producing effects which, if in fact so produced, are very marvellous. But as none of these effects are such as might not easily be counterfeited or imagined, the disbelievers of neuraura, so long as such remain, will of course resort to these explanations to support their incredulity. Fingers have come in contact with heads in all possible ways since the creation until now, and the impressible one in each thousand has always failed to be excited. Three or four hundred people there must now be in this great city, who are highly impressible, and many thousands of persons have been set to make experiments by the notoriety of this doctrine; but we hear of no discoveries of good subjects by anybody but Dr. Buchanan.
I shall animadvert here briefly on one experiment performed before the investigating sub-committee, whose "cautious but candid" Report is the subject of the review in your last. It is omitted, and I think judiciously, by the cautious and candid reviewer, but it was set forth in the original Report, and the purport of it was, that, by exciting a certain organ on the head of a lady, known to us as "Mrs. R.," she was carried back to the feelings and condition of childhood. She played infantine antics, wanted pretty books with pictures in them, &c., &c. Twenty, thirty, or forty years, may be thus stricker off at a blow, and the brain of
a mature human being may be made to act like that of a child. Experience is gone, memory is gone, and all that time has written there, and the characteristics also which belong to the physical condition of a child's brain, lightness, buoyancy, and versatility, are all restored! I am not an anatomist, but I know that the brain undergoes a progressive change from infancy to age in every human being. It grows less in volume and weight, and also eventually specifically lighter, changing no doubt in faculties and properties in a correspondent degree; and are we now to be told that, with a touch of a finger, all this effect can be undone? The Spirits in Manfred had "no power upon the past," nor Jove in Horace
"Non tamen irritum Quodcumque retro est efficiet, neque Dittinget infectumque reddet
Quod fugiens semel hora vexit." But here comes a man who sets Jupiter and Nemesis aside, razes out our "written troubles," expels our "perilous stuff," and opens anew to our ravished eyes the regretted vision of childhood! Can human credulity go this length? Can it admit a system whose witnesses bear witness to this? Why then
"Believers of incredible creeds Whose faith inshrines the monsters that
it breeds; Who bolder even than Nimrod seek to rise
By nonsense piled on nonsense to the skies,
You have your miracles; aye, sound ones
Seen, heard, attested; everything but true.
Which simple votaries shall on trust receive, While craftier feign belief-till they believe!"
Dr. Buchanan has brought forward one other idea, having no necessary connection with neuraura, of medicine acting on the system by external application, in the palm of the hand or otherwise. The experiments detailed by the sub-committee on this subject appear very wonderful; and, although fraud and good luck in guessing might in some degree explain them, if supposed, yet such supposition is not satisfactory, and the thing seems to merit further investigat on
But such investigation having been publicly challenged and declined, I can only remark on this, that it is a phenomenon perfectly distinct from the Phrenologico-Mesmerico-Neuraurico-physiological theory, and that it is quite impossible to prove or corroborate that by taking physic through the palm of your hand.
Something has been said about ridicule and obloquy, with a slant toward the hackneyed adage that ridicule is not the test of truth. Yet truth is never ridiculous, and among the doctrines which have stood the test of time, there are none, as far as I know, which even in their earliest infancy feared ridicule. But charlatanism does naturally fear and hate it; could she cease to be ridiculous, she would be sublime, for there is but a step, everybody knows, from the latter quality to the former. No, there is but a step; but do the charlatans consider that that step was never made backward? Reverse the idea-how far is it from the ridiculous to the sublime? and who ever passed through that distance?
In conclusion, Mr. Editor, while I am quite willing that in comparison with these last discoveries, those of Gall and Spurzheim should dwindle into insignificance," I object decidedly to your coupling with these two names that of Sir Charles Bell, as if the three stood in one rank as "benefactors of their race." Let us keep the substantial and unsubstantial separated by a line; and, at all events, wait for further advisement before classing Gall and Spurzheim with men whose discoveries are of daily, practical, and universal application; or Sir Charles Bell with these questionable suns that shine only for the elect.
It would be utterly impossible to start a doctrine so wild and absurd that it should not, in the hands of a clever man, find witnesses and proselytes, witnesses, too, who should Delieve what they said in some cases, and who should in others act their parts so well as to deceive their very instructor. Fancy and caprice play strange tricks, and all they lack is order, and persistance, and repetition, and universality, to make their evidence resemble that of truth. In insulated cases the resemblance is often perfect, and hence it is that questionable docines are always maintained by insiston what has been or is said to have
been done, and bringing testimony to prove that, rather than by freely and frequently repeating the experiments and showing the recurrent phenomena. No questions of veracity ever arose about gravitation; none about logarithms or the life of the blood. Men verified the calculations and experiments in the absence of the originator, and could do them as well as he; his personal character was nothing to the argument, nor the characters of his opponents. It was quite otherwise in a case which I am about to narrate, in which a great man hatched suddenly out of a small one rose up to fame and eminence and sunk again,
"Leaving a gap in the clouds."
His life was a continual battle, not usually about his theory, for that was not of a nature to be easily contradicted, or much argued on; but about collateral issues. The question always was, was this or that man to be believed?-was this or that attack within the reasonable bounds of civil controversy? Questions of veracity and courtesy, varied by attempts to make out that his opponents were enemies to all faith and all law, wore out the great man's time, talents, money, and reputation. Envy and malignity attended every step of his career, detraction obscured his noonday brightness, and hastened his decline. Withering neglect at length dug his early grave, ridicule pushed him into it, and I wrote his elegy and epitaph as follows:
I knew a certain Dr. Budge, and he was Study had turned his nose sky-blue, and a singular fellow,
the tips of his eyebrows yellow; And with intensity of thought, the tail of his curly queue
Was twisted up behind his head, in the shape of the letter U.
But the Doctor, with all his study and thought, had brought very little to pass,
And only his intimate friends believed, And his prospects faint and fainter grew, that he wasn't a stupid ass;
of making a ground to claim A sinecure under government, or a niche So, as a last resource, he tried to find out in the Temple of Fame. something new,
To improve upon Redfield like Espy, or
field of invention alone
He went to grub and endeavor to find
On one in a thousand, the Doctor said,
The ideas that float in a poker's head by
I say the poker speaks to me, how can
The theory took; the Doctor blazed in lecture and in column,
But as negation nothing proves, I'll show, without more apology,
The way to prove something, or anything, particularly New-Ology.
And how, whosoever wants witnesses to a scientific fact,
And the poker and I stay cheek by jowl
From every thousand may pick out one, if he has but a little tact.
you gravely touch his nose with yours, and add, Indeed 'tis true; I think you can hear what the poker says, just take it up and see,
If you can, it's a rare and precious gift,
But failing of this, he will comprehend,
say to a man, I think, my friend, there's a faculty in you;
And he was a distinguished man, and the truth he preached was solemn. Sweetly and gently I said, I doubt; but he gave me gall for honey, And told me I was an Infidel and resister And this is the true New-Ology; and this is the mother science,
Now I am a very quiet man, and I stay by Of a brood now somewhat numerous, which my own fireside, bids Common Sense defiance; For the art of producing witnesses, when once well understood,
In a parlor which, for the sake of peace, my wife and I divide;
From Spurzheim's bumps to Brandreth's pills, makes every humbug good.
NOTE. We have thus proved our witty friend mistaken in his doubts as to the insertion of his pungent and high-peppered paper; though, with the exception of some of its general remarks, there is but little in it to which we are disposed to assent. As a "Democratic Reviewer," he is entitled-certainly, at least, welcome-to some liberties of speech in addressing us and our readers, which it may perhaps require a little effort of magnanimity to concede. Respecting Dr. Buchanan, and the philosophical investigations in which he is engaged, it is proper that the same occasion that carries forth the strong and severe satire which we have not shrunk from inserting, should carry with it the renewed expression of our well-assured confidence in the integrity and intelligence of that gentleman, as well as in the general views of the Article in our last, which has elicited this replication from our very clever and caustic correspondent. By a coincidence of time which suggests a duty of justice to Dr. Buchanan not to be disregarded, while the present sheet is passing through the press we find in the New York Evening Post (January 14) the following communication, which may be fairly set off as a per contra to the reasoning, if not to the satire, of Irenæus. The members of the class referred to are, as we are saisfactorily informed, persons of intelligence and respectability, many of them physicians or medical students, and cultivators of science for its own sake, whose testimony as to facts and observations is entitled to all respect, whatever each reader may choose to think for himself as to their deductions.-ED. D. R.