The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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In the October 1858 issue of the Spiritist Review we published an article under the title Official Application of Animal Magnetism and Magnetism and also Somnambulism Taught by the Church. In the first we discussed the magnetic treatment prescribed to King Oscar of Sweden, by his own doctors; in the second we mentioned several questions and answers extracted from a book entitled Elementary Christian Course of Catechism for Christian Schools, published in 1853 by Abbot Marotte, general vicar of the dioceses of Verdun, in which magnetism and somnambulism are clearly defined and recognized. Now the justice system give them a reverberating sanction through the judgment passed by the Correctional Court of Douai, on August 27th last. Since all newspapers have covered that trial it would be useless to repeat it. We will summarize the events.

A young man who only knew magnetism by name and who had never practiced it, consequently ignoring the measures of prudence advised by experience, one day proposed to magnetize the nephew of a head waiter of the hotel where he used to dine. After a few passes the boy fell deep into a somnambulistic state but the improvised magnetizer did not know how to proceed to make the boy return to his normal state, fact followed by the boy’s persistent nervous breakdowns. Hence the boy’s uncle filed a court suit against the magnetizer. Two doctors were summoned as experts. Here is an extract of their affidavit, more or less identical, at least regarding the conclusions. After having described and attested the somnambulistic state of the boy, the first doctor says:
“I absolutely don’t believe in the existence of a new fluid, of a physical agent more or less similar to the Earth’s magnetism, developing in human beings under the influence of passes, touches, etc., which would sometimes produce miraculous effects on the influenced persons. The existence of such a fluid has never been scientifically demonstrated. Far from that, every time that members of the Academy of Science or well-known doctors, people who are hard to deceive, wanted to verify the alleged facts, the princes of magnetism retreated; shielded by very clear pretexts, subtracted themselves, so that neither the question of fact nor even less and with stronger reason the question of doctrine could be clarified. Then, to the whole scientific world, there is no animal magnetism. Nevertheless, it does follow that the practice of the magnetizers does not produce any effect, and if with good reason magnetism is denied, can’t magnetization be admitted?
“I am convinced that if susceptible and nervous imaginations are daily and strongly impressed by the aforementioned maneuvers, we must see the presented phenomena there and not in a kind of radiation from the experimenter. This explanation would be applicable to the Jourdain case, if the attacks that followed the first one, supposing that it had been produced by magnetization, would have been scarcer and weaker in intensity, once a single impulse must logically produce diminishing effects. Well, in the present case the opposite happens: as time goes by the events speed up and increase in intensity. This confuses me. There is evidently an undetermined influence at play. What would that be? I don’t have sufficient health and behavioral background information about Jourdain to attribute those things to his temperament. I must declare that I can’t establish the cause.”
At that point in time the boy has one of his attacks. Like his colleague, the witness attests general and intermittent muscular contractions; no sensitivity in the skin and eyes, which deviate under the action of light when the eyelids are opened; absence of mouth secretion and thumb flexion. No repetition of initial screams; besides, the crisis stops gradually, passing through the somnambulistic period. The doctors declared that the boy does not bear signs of epilepsy or catalepsy.
The witness was questioned about the word somnambulism, with the objective of establishing if the patient, considered somnambulist, would have had an event of that kind of illness on August 15th, responding: “to begin with, it has not been established that the boy was a somnambulist and besides, the referred phenomenon had occurred under entirely remarkable conditions; instead of occurring at night, during natural sleep, it had happened in day light, in the vigil state. The magnetic passes, as it seems to me, are the cause of the boy’s condition. I see no other cause.”
Here the second doctor’s statement:
“I saw the little patient on October 13th, 1858. He was in a somnambulistic state, enjoying voluntary motion. He would recite catechism. My son saw him in the evening of the 15th. He was in the same state, conjugating the verb can. It was only sometime later that I learned about his magnetization and that a visitor would have said: if he is not demagnetized he may stay like that for his whole life. I knew a student, in my youth, who was cured without medical support, becoming a distinguished man in his profession. The accidents experienced by the patient are nervous breakdowns only. There is no symptom of epilepsy or catalepsy.”
The court pronounced the following sentence:
“Considering that as a result of the debates, on August 15th, 1858 imprudently applying touches and approximations qualified as magnetic passes on the 13 year old Jourdain, and at least impressing the weak imagination of the boy by such unusual apparatus and maneuvers, the accused produced a super excitation on the patient, a nervous disorder, and finally a lesion or disease, whose events have since repeated at different intervals;
“Considering that the imprudent maneuvers which provoked the so called lesion or disease constitute crime as stated in Art. 320 of the Penal Code;”
“Considering that the referred fact caused losses to the plaintiff who must be repaired;”
“Considering that there exist attenuating circumstances;”
“The Tribunal condemns the accused to pay a fine of 25 francs; another 1,200 francs of losses and damages and to cover for the legal fees.” 
We have nothing to say about the trial itself. Was the court right or wrong to condemn the accused? Was the sentence too harsh or too weak? That is none of our business. Justice has been pronounced and we respect its decision, but we will examine the consequences of the trial, which has a fundamental reach. There was condemnation thus there was a crime. How was that crime carried out? The sentence says: by touches and approximations qualified as magnetic passes. Then the touches and magnetic passes have an action and are not simple gestures. These touches and passes differ somehow from the ordinary touches and gestures. But how can they be distinguished? This is an important difference for if there were no difference it would no longer be possible to touch anyone or make signals without the risk of committing a crime or being subjected to a fine.
It is not the Court that we have to teach and even less to say how the passes and touches, having a magnetic character, may produce any given effect. It attests the fact of an accident and its cause. It duty is to assess the damage and determine the compensation. However, the experts called in to clarify the Court will certainly teach us about the facts. Even not having a formal training about the subject they must substantiate their opinion, as in all cases of legal medicine, for this is the first condition to be fulfilled by an expert. Well, we were shocked by the opinion of those gentlemen. Their affidavit reveals a complete ignorance about what they must give their opinion. They not only ignore magnetism but also the facts of natural magnetism are unknown to them. That is why they think that – at least one of them – those phenomena can only be produced at night, during the natural sleep, a fact contradicted by experience.
However, that is not the most remarkable part of the statement, at least from the first witness. He says: “if with good reason magnetism is denied, can’t magnetization be admitted?” In reality I don’t know if it is a matter of logic, but I humbly confess that it goes beyond my intelligence and that many others are in the same situation as I am, since it would be the same as saying that it is possible to magnetize without magnetism, or that a man may be hit by a walking stick without the existence of the stick. Well, we firmly believe, as from an old saying and until proven otherwise, that to be hit by the walking-stick, the walking-stick is necessary, and by analogy in order to magnetize someone, magnetism is necessary in the same way that to purge something the purgative is necessary. Our intelligence cannot reach an effect without a cause.
You may say that I don’t deny the effect; on the contrary, I attest it; what I deny is the cause to which you attribute the effect. You say that between your fingers and the patient there is something invisible, which you call magnetic fluid. I say that there isn’t such a thing; that such a fluid does not exist. Now, what does exist is magnetism and your gestures are magnetization. Agree. You then admit that simple gestures without intermediaries may produce nervous crises, somnambulistic effects, cataleptics and others, exclusively because imagination was touched. Be it. I want a person impressed by such means to the point of sleeping in daylight, and against their will, which would already be a remarkable fact – as you should agree. Would that sleep be natural, as some say? In that case how can you explain the instantaneous sleep, produced in a few seconds? Why can’t you easily awake that person by just shaking her arm? Let us leave aside many other phenomena not much explained by your system, for obvious reasons. There is one, however, whose solution you can certainly provide, as I don’t believe that you have created a theory about such an important subject, not making sure that it resolves all cases, theory which must be so certain that you announce it to the tribunal. Hence you must be sure. Well then! For the benefit of general instruction and every person simple enough to believe in the existence of a magnetic fluid, kindly resolve the following two questions by your system:
1. If the effects attributed to the magnetic fluid are not but the simple result of an excited and strongly impressed imagination, how can they be produced by default when the person is magnetized during natural sleep or when she is in an adjacent compartment, not seeing the magnetizer and not knowing that she is magnetized?
2. If the touches or magnetic passes may produce nervous breakdowns and somnambulistic states, how can those same touches and passes produce the opposite effect; destroy what they did and calm down the most violent nervous crisis which they provoked; suddenly and like by magic, stop the somnambulistic state? Would that be an effect of imagination, considering that the person does not see or hear what happens around her? Or we do have to admit that it is possible to act upon imagination without imagination, what would be perfectly possible once it is possible to magnetize without magnetism? This reminds me of a little joke. A reckless person was manipulating a rifle. He shot and killed another person. An expert called in to examine the weapon declared that the person had been killed by a rifle shot, but the rifle was unloaded.
Isn’t that the case of our magnetizer, who harms through magnetization, but without magnetism? The Court of Douai, in its elevated wisdom, certainly did not mess up with all these contradictions, about which it did not have to pronounce. As we have seen, the Court only considered the effect that was produced and declared that it was produced by magnetic touches and passes. It was not up to the Court to decide if there is or there isn’t a magnetic fluid. The trial attests with authenticity that magnetism is a reality; otherwise the magnetizer would not have been condemned for the application of insignificant gestures. May this serve as a lesson to the reckless, those who play with what they ignore.
Those gentlemen did not notice that, through their issued assessment, the attained result was opposite to their objective; endowing the magnetizers with such a power which they are far from claiming. In fact, the magnetizers state that they can only act with the help of an intermediary; that their action is null when they lack such intermediary. They do not attribute to themselves the power of hitting someone without the walkingstick or killing with rifle shots of an unloaded rifle.
Very well! With their theory those gentlemen come to realize another prodigy, because they act empty handed and empty pocketed. There are things in fact which cannot be taken seriously. We apologize but it does not diminish their merit. They may be very skillful and very well prepared as physicians. That is why the Court consulted with them. We only take the liberty of criticizing them with respect to magnetism. We finish by an important observation.
If magnetism is a reality, why hasn’t the Academia officially recognized it? There would be a lot of things to say about it. We limit ourselves, however, to one consideration only, asking why the discoveries that are well accepted today haven’t been so much accepted in the beginning, by the scientific organizations? I leave the task of responding to others. The medical class is divided with respect to magnetism, as with homeopathy, allopathy, phrenology, the cholera treatment, the use of purgatives, bleeding and a number of other things. Thus, an opinion is always individual, not bearing the power of law. What is worth is the general opinion established about the facts, despite all opposition, exerting an irresistible pressure onto the recalcitrant. That is what happens to magnetism as well as to Spiritism, and it is not too much to say that half of the doctors today recognize and admit magnetism, and even that three quarters of the magnetizers are physicians.
The same happens to Spiritism, which counts on a number of doctors and people of science in its ranks. Why does it matter then those focused on process or opinion? Let time pass, sweeping away the hurt self-love and the petty concerns! Truth may be discussed but not destroyed and posterity will register the names of those who attacked or sustained it. Had magnetism been a utopia, it would be gone long ago whereas like its brother, Spiritism, it sows its roots everywhere. Fight, then, against the ideas that invade the whole world, from top to bottom of the social scale!

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