481. Do spirits play a role in the phenomena exhibited by individuals called convulsionaries?
“Yes, a very important one, just like magnetism, which is the original source of these phenomena. Charlatans have infated these effects and made them a matter of speculation, which has demeaned them.”
a) What is the general nature of the spirits who help produce this type of phenomena?
“Not very elevated. Do you think that higher spirits would waste their time in such a manner?”
482. How can the abnormal state of convulsionaries and hysterical individuals suddenly strike an entire population?
“Out of sympathy. Moral dispositions are communicated quite easily in certain cases. Surely you are not so unaware of the effects of human magnetism that you are unable to understand this. There is also the natural role of certain spirits in such occurrences, through sympathy with those by whom they are produced.”
Somnambulism and magnetism show us numerous examples of bizarre behavior identical to the ones convulsionaries display. These include physical insensitivity, thought reading, sympathetic transmission of pain, and so on. This makes it impossible to doubt that these hysterical individuals are experiencing some sort of waking somnambulism, determined by the infuence that they inadvertently exercise upon each other. At the same time, they are both magnetizers and magnetized without even realizing it.
483. What is the cause of the physical insensitivity sometimes observed in convulsionaries, and even in other people, when subjected to the most brutal torture?
“In some cases it is simply an exclusively magnetic effect, which acts upon the nervous system as certain substances do. In other cases, mental excitement stifes the sensitivity of the body, with life seeming to withdraw from the body to concentrate on the spirit. Have you not observed that when the spirit is intensely concerned with any matter, the body neither feels, nor sees nor hears?”
The excitement of fanaticism and enthusiasm often offer, by individuals subjected to tortures, examples of a tranquility that could hardly trump excruciating pain unless the sensitivity of the patient was defused by some kind of anesthetic effect. In the heat of battle, a severe wound is often obtained without being noticed, while a mere scratch is intensely felt under ordinary circumstances.
Since these phenomena are due to both the action of physical causes and that of spirits, one may wonder how public authorities, in some cases, were able to stop them. The answer is very simple. The action of spirits is only secondary. They do nothing more than take advantage of a natural predisposition. Public authorities did not overcome this predisposition, but rather the cause that stimulated it, reducing it from an active state to a latent one. They were right in doing this because this phenomenon was the impetus of exploitation and scandal. This interference, however, is ineffective when the action of spirits is direct and spontaneous.