Primitive Psycho-Therapy and Quackery
by Robert Means Lawrence
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Thou shalt on paper write the spell divine, Abracadabra called, on many a line, Each under each in even order place, But the last letter in each line efface; As by degrees the elements grow few, Still take away, but fix the residue, Till at the last one letter stands alone, And the whole dwindles to a tapering cone. Tie this about the neck with flaxen string, Mighty the good 't will to the patient bring. Its wondrous potency shall guard his bed, And drive disease and death far from his head.[127:1]

Another favorite therapeutic spell, no less venerable than Abracadabra, was the mystical word Abraxas, which was first used by Basilides, a leader of the Egyptian Gnostics in the second century. This word, engraved on an antique precious stone, sometimes accompanied by a magical emblem and meaningless inscription, was commonly used as a medical amulet, and was well adapted to fire the imagination of ignorant patients.

The following curious extract is taken from a rare book published by W. Clowes, serjeant-surgeon to Queen Elizabeth, entitled, "A Proved Practice for all Young Chirurgians," 1588:

It is not long since that a subtile deluder, verie craftely having upon set purpose his brokers or espials abroade, using sundry secret drifts to allure many, as did the syrens by their sweet sonets and melody seduce mariners to make them their pray, so did his brokers or espials deceive many, in proclayming and sounding out his fame abroade from house to house, as those use which crye, "Mistresse, have you any worke for the tincker?" At the lengthe they heard of one that was tormented with a quartaine; then in all post haste this bad man was brought unto the sicke patient by their craftie means, and so forth, without any tariance, he did compound for fifteene pounde to rid him within three fits of his agew, and to make him as whole as a fish of all diseases: so a little before the fit was at hand, he called unto the wife of the patient to bring him an apple of the biggest size, and then with a pinne writte in the rinde of the apple Abracadabra, and such like, and perswaded him to take it presently in the beginning of his fit, for there was (sayeth he) a secret in those words. To be short, the patient, being hungry of his health, followed his counsell, and devoured all and every peece of the apple. So soon as it was receyved, nature left the disease to digest the apple, which was to hard to do; for at length he fell to vomiting, then the core kept such a sturre in his throate, that wheretofore his fever was ill, now much worse, a malo ad pejus, out of the frying-pan into the fire: presently there were physitions sent for unto the sick patient, or else his fifteene pound had been gone, with a more pretious jewell: but this lewde fellow is better knowne at Newgate than I will heere declare.[128:1]

Certain mystic sentences of barbaric origin, mostly unintelligible, and known as "Ephesian Letters," engraved upon the famous statue of Diana at Ephesus, were popular among the Greeks as charms wherewith to drive away diseases, to render the wearer invincible in battle, or to purify demon-infested places. Their invention was attributed to the fabulous Dactyls of Phrygia, and they appear to have been held in equally great esteem, whether pronounced orally as incantations, or inscribed upon strips of parchment and worn as amulets.

In ancient Hibernia, the former western limit of the known world, the Druids, in their medical treatment, relied much upon magic rites and incantations.[129:1] And the early Irish physicians, who belonged to the Druid priesthood, were devoted to mystical medicine, although they also prescribed various herbs with whose therapeutic use they were familiar.[129:2] In Ireland according to Lady Wilde,[129:3] invocations were formerly in the names of the Phenician god Baal, and of the Syrian goddess Ashtoreth, representing the sun and moon respectively. . . . After the establishment of Christianity, formulas of invocation were usually in the names of Christ or the Holy Trinity, and those of Mary, Peter, and numerous saints were also used. In Brand's "Popular Antiquities,"[129:4] we find a long list of the names of saints who were invoked for the cure of particular ailments; and the same authority quotes from a work entitled "The Irish Hubbub," by Barnaby Rich, 1619, these lines: "There is no disease, no sicknesse, no greefe, either amongst men or beasts, that hath not his physician among the saints."

The devotion of the Teutonic tribes to magical medicine is not surprising to any one versed in the mythological lore of Scandinavia, which is replete with sorcery. And throughout the Middle Ages, although medical practice was largely in the hands of Christian priests and monks, yet sorcerers and charlatans continued to employ old pagan usages and magical remedies. The German physicians of the Carlovingian era pretended to cure ailments by whispering in the patient's ear, as well as by the use of enchanted herbs. They inherited ceremonial formulas from the practitioners of an earlier age, for the treatment of ophthalmic diseases; and in addition to such spells, they made use of various gestures, and were wont to thrice touch the affected eyes.[130:1]

In Grimm's "Teutonic Mythology"[130:2] is to be found an old German spell against gout, as follows: "God, the Lord went over the land; there met him 70 sorts of gouts and goutesses. Then spake the Lord: 'Ye 70 gouts and goutesses, whither would ye?' Then spake the 70 gouts and goutesses: 'We go over the land and take from men their health and limbs.' Then spake the Lord: 'Ye shall go to an elder-bush and break off all his boughs, and leave with [such an one, naming the patient] his straight limbs.'"

Many old German healing-spells contain the names of our Lord and of the Virgin, which probably superseded those of pagan deities and sacred mythological personages, the formulas remaining otherwise the same. Such spells are akin to pious invocations or actual prayers. Others exhibit a blending of devotion and credulity, and appear to have degenerated into mere verbal forms.

According to a tradition of the North, while Wodan and Baldur were once on a hunting excursion, the latter's horse dislocated a leg; whereupon Wodan reset the bones by means of a verbal charm. And the mere narration of this prehistoric magical cure is in repute in Shetland as a remedy for lameness in horses at the present day.

A remarkable cure for intermittent fever, in a marshy district of Lincolnshire, is described in "Folk-Lore," June, 1898 (page 186). An old woman, whose grandson had a bad attack of the fever, fastened upon the foot-board of his bed three horse-shoes, with a hammer laid cross-wise upon them. With the hammer the old crone gave each shoe a smart tap, repeating each time this spell: "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, nail the Devil to this post, one for God and one for Wod and one for Lok. . . . Yon's a sure charm," said she, "that will hold the Old One as fast as t' church tower, when next he comes to shake un." The chronicler of this curious incantation calls attention to the association of the name of God with two heathen personages: Wodan, the chief ruler, and Loki, the spirit of evil, in the mythology of the North.

The early Saxons in England knew little of scientific medicine, and relied on indigenous herbs. They were much addicted to the use of wizard spells, a term which originated with them; and were too ignorant to adopt the skilled methods of the practitioners of Greece and Italy.

The invention of some especially forceful words for exorcising fiends and illnesses was ascribed to Robert Grosseteste (about 1175-1253), Bishop of Lincoln; and the fact that a learned prelate should devote attention to the subject is strong testimony to its importance in medieval times. There is indeed abundant evidence that throughout that period verbal charms were very commonly worn, whether devotional sentences, prayer formulas written on vellum, or mystic letters, words, and symbols inscribed on parchment.[132:1] For many centuries medical practice consisted largely of prayers and incantations, the employment of charms and talismans, and the performance of superstitious rites. Until the seventeenth century these methods were more or less in vogue. Thus, a verse from the Lamentations of Jeremiah was thought to be a specific for rheumatism.[133:1]

The Atharva-Veda, one of the ancient Vedas, or religious books of the Hindus, contains hundreds of healing-spells, as well as formulas to secure prosperity, in expiation of sin, and as safeguards against robbers and wild beasts. They are repeated either by the person expecting assistance therefrom, or by a magician for his benefit. Of the therapeutic verses brief examples are here given:

(A charm against fever.) "O Takman (fever), along with thy brother balasa, along with thy sister cough, along with thy cousin paman, go to yonder foreign folk!"

(A charm against cough.) "As a well-sharpened arrow swiftly to a distance flies, thus do thou, O Cough, fly along the expanse of the earth!"

(A charm against the demons of disease.) "O amulet of ten kinds of wood, release this man from the demon and the fit which has seized upon his joints!"

While reciting the above formula, a talisman consisting of splinters from ten kinds of wood is fastened upon the patient, and ten of his friends rub him down.[133:2]

The following translation of an old Scottish incantation against disease is taken from a collection of charms, chiefly of the Outer Hebrides Islands, and included by Alexander Carmichael in his "Carmina Gaelica," Edinburgh, 1900.

Peter and James and John, The Three of sweetest virtues in glory, Who arose to make the charm, Before the great gate of the City, By the right knee of God the Son, Against the keen-eyed men, Against the peering-eyed women, Against the slim, slender, fairy darts, Against the swift arrows of fairies. Two made to thee the withered eye, Man and woman in venom and envy, Three whom I will set against them. Father, Son, and Spirit Holy. Four-and-twenty diseases in the constitution of man and beast. God scrape them, God search them, God cleanse them, From out thy blood, from out thy flesh, From out thy fragrant bones, From this day, and each day that comes, Till thy day on earth be done.


[111:1] A. J. L. Jourdan, Histoire de la Medecine, tome ii, p. 139.

[112:1] Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Babylonia."

[112:2] Francois Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 45.

[112:3] Hermann Peters, Pictorial History of Pharmacy.

[113:1] A. Laurent, La Magie et le Divination chez les Chaldeo-Assyriens, p. 33.

[113:2] Francois Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 244.

[114:1] Book vi, 452.

[115:1] Lowell Institute Lecture; Boston, November, 1906.

[116:1] John Thrupp, The Anglo-Saxon Home, p. 277.

[116:2] Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, p. 1177.

[116:3] The Unconscious Mind, pp. 348-349.

[118:1] Journal of Science, vol. xiii, p. 101; 1876.

[118:2] Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers, p. 219.

[118:3] Alfred Wiedmann, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, p. 272.

[119:1] Francois Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 12.

[119:2] Johann Hermann Baas, The History of Medicine, tr. by H. E. Henderson, p. 23.

[119:3] R. Dunglison, History of Medicine, p. 23.

[119:4] Boston Transcript, March 4, 1900.

[120:1] A. Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, vol. i, p. 96.

[120:2] Larousse, Grand Dictionnaire, art. "Incantation."

[120:3] T. Witton Davies, Magic, Divination, and Demonology, p. 62.

[121:1] John Potter, Antiquities of Greece, vol. ii, p. 244.

[121:2] Georg Conrad Horst, Zauber-Bibliothek, vol. iii, p. 62.

[122:1] Alfred C. Garratt, M.D., Myths in Medicine, p. 47; Dublin University Magazine, Feb., 1874, p. 221.

[122:2] J. P. Mahaffy, Greek Antiquities, p. 71.

[123:1] J. B. Thiers, Traite des Superstitions, p. 420.

[124:1] Herbert Spencer, Principles of Sociology, vol. iii, p. 37.

[124:2] The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

[125:1] M'Clintock and Strong, Biblical Cyclopaedia, art. "Incantations."

[125:2] Kurt Sprengel, Histoire de la Medecine, tome i, p. 123.

[126:1] Rodolfo Lanciani, A Manual of Roman Antiquities, p. 357.

[126:2] Frank Granger, The Worship of the Romans, p. 227.

[127:1] C. W. King, The Gnostics and their Remains, p. 316.

[128:1] Archaeologia, vol. xxx, pp. 427-28; 1884.

[129:1] Brand, Popular Antiquities, vol. iii, p. 269.

[129:2] Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, vol. ii, p. 74.

[129:3] Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland, p. 9.

[129:4] Vol. i, pp. 356 seq.

[130:1] George F. Fort, Medical Economy during the Middle Ages, p. 296.

[130:2] Vol. iv, p. 1698.

[132:1] George F. Fort, Medical Economy, p. 296.

[133:1] Robley Dunglison, History of Medicine, p. 18.

[133:2] The Sacred Books of the East, edited by F. Max Mueller, vol. xlii, p. 2.



The discovery of the script of the ancient Germans, supposed to be of Egyptian or Phenician origin, was attributed to Wodan, who was regarded as the chief expert in magical writing. The so-called noxious runes were thought to bring evil upon enemies; the helpful ones averted misfortune, while the medicinal runes were credited with healing properties.[135:1] These ancient characters formed the earliest alphabets among the Germanic peoples, and are found throughout Scandinavia, as well as in Great Britain, France, and Spain, engraved upon monuments, stones, coins, and domestic utensils. The Gothic word runa meant originally a secret magical character, and was used to signify a mysterious speech, song, or writing. The reputed inherent therapeutic qualities of medicinal runes were potent psychic factors, through the subconscious mind, in healing disease.

The Anglo-Saxons made use of runic inscriptions, not only as curatives, but also to banish melancholy and evil thoughts. After their conversion to Christianity, biblical texts were substituted for the runes, and the art of composing the former was studied with as much care as had been devoted to the heathen charms.[136:1] The term rune became a synonym for knowledge and wisdom; an oracular, proverbial expression.[136:2] The traditional belief of the Anglo-Saxons in the efficacy of healing runes persisted in the fourteenth century. When foreign medical practitioners settled in England at that period, the cures wrought by them were attributed to the superior virtues of the charms employed, rather than to their professional skill.[136:3]

The ancient Saxons, before their arrival in Britain, were wont to go forth into battle, having engraven upon their spears certain runic characters, which were valued as protective charms, and served to inspire confidence on the part of the warriors. These magic inscriptions were believed to have been either invented or improved by Wodan, who taught the art of putting them into rhyme, and engraving them upon tables of stone.[136:4] In William Camden's "Britannia,"[136:5] are described divers medicinal inscriptions, found in Cumberland. These were used as spells among the borderers even as late as the close of the eighteenth century. A book of such charms, of that era, taken from the pocket of a moss-trooper or bog-trotter, contained among other things a recipe for the cure of intermittent fever by certain barbarous characts.

In Paul B. du Chaillu's work, "The Viking Age" (London, 1889), mention is made of the ancient northern custom of employing runes as medical charms.

One Egil went on a journey to Vermaland, and on the way he came to the house of a farmer named Thorfinn, whose daughter, Helga, had long been ill of a wasting sickness. "Has anything been tried for her illness?" asked Egil. "Runes have been traced by the son of a farmer in the neighborhood," said Thorfinn.

Then Egil examined the bed, and found a piece of whalebone with runes on it. He read them, cut them off, and scraped the chips into the fire. He also burned the whalebone, and had Helga's clothes carried into the open air. Then Egil sang:

As man shall not trace runes, except he can read them well, it is thus with many a man, that the dark letters bewilder him. I saw on the cut whalebone ten hidden letters carved, that have caused the woman a very long sorrow.

Egil traced runes and placed them under Helga's pillow. It seemed to her as if she awoke from a sleep, and she said that she was then healed.[138:1]

The ancient northern peoples wore protective and defensive amulets, which were fastened around the arm, waist, or neck. These amulets were styled ligamenta, ligaturae, or phylacteria, by the writers of the early Middle Ages. They were usually fashioned as gold, silver, or glass pendants. Cipher-writing and runes were commonly inscribed upon them, often for healing, but contrariwise, to bewitch and injure.[138:2]

Among the peoples of Western Europe, ancient magical healing formulas, relics of previous ages, were employed in medieval times by rural charlatans, who professed to cure ophthalmic disorders by the recitation of ritualistic phrases, together with suitable gestures of the arms and fingers over the affected eyes. Dislocations were said to have been promptly reduced by means of runic enchantments, which were doubtless supplemented by mechanical treatment; while fractured bones of man or beast were alleged to unite readily under the influence of Odinic charms. Wherever the Teutonic races were found, a knowledge of runic remedies appears to have prevailed.[138:3]


[135:1] M. Mallet, Northern Antiquities, p. 226.

[136:1] John Thrupp, The Anglo-Saxon Home.

[136:2] Nelson's Encyclopaedia.

[136:3] H. D. Traill, Social England, vol. ii, p. 110.

[136:4] Joseph Strutt, Manners of the English, vol. i, p. 17.

[136:5] Vol. iii, p. 455.

[138:1] The Egil's Saga, chap. 72.

[138:2] Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, pp. 1173-1174.

[138:3] George F. Fort, Medical Economy in the Middle Ages.



Metallo-therapy has been defined as a mode of treating various affections, chiefly those of a nervous character, by the external application of metals. It was recommended by Galen and other medical writers, but they attributed its curative powers to the magical inscriptions which the metals bore.

Mesmer experimented with magnets extensively, but soon abandoned their use, as he found that he could obtain equally good results without them.

The so-called "metallic tractors" originated with Dr. Elisha Perkins (1740-1799), a practising physician of Norwich, Connecticut, and consisted of two rods, one of brass, and the other of steel. In cases of rheumatism and various neuroses, the affected portions of the body were lightly stroked by means of the tractors, and many remarkable cures were reported. The new therapeutic method was endorsed by many reputable practitioners, both in the United States and Europe, and its fame spread like wild-fire.

It was soon discovered, however, that wooden tractors were fully as efficacious as the metallic ones, and that the many vaunted cures were psychic. Thus Perkins's tractors afford a striking example of the curative force of suggestion.

Thereby (wrote John Haygarth, M.D., Fellow of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, in a brief treatise on the Imagination, published in the year 1800) is to be learned an important lesson in Medicine, namely, the wonderful and powerful influence of the passions of the mind, upon the state and disorders of the body. This fact, he continued, was too often overlooked in Practice, where sole dependence was placed upon material remedies, without utilizing mental influence. To the latter, this sagacious physician, writing more than a century ago, was shrewd enough to ascribe the marvellous cures attributed to the remedies of quacks, whose magnificent and unqualified promises inspire weak minds with confidence.

In one of his Lowell Institute lectures, at Boston, November 14, 1906, Dr. Pierre Janet described the development of metallo-therapy in France between the years 1860 and 1880. Metallic discs were applied to the patient's body. These discs were of different kinds, sometimes being composed of two or more metals. In some cases a magnet was used. Different subjects, it was found, did not manifest sensitiveness to the same metals, some being cured by iron, others by copper, while the greatest number were susceptible to gold. Many interesting facts relating to these cures were noted, such as periods of transition and oscillation in the maladies, and most curious of all, a kind of transference. For example, should a paralysis or a contraction seat itself on the right side, the application of the discs would effect a cure, but the malady would often return to the opposite side. And there were other curious phenomena. A modification of sensation was invariably observed.

Under the influence of the metal disc, the shin and muscles, which before were numb, regained their normal states, and the return of sensation preceded the cure, and was an indispensable condition. One can obtain exactly the same results with discs composed of inert substances. An old-fashioned letter-wafer, for instance, applied to the hand, has produced similar effects. According to Dr. Janet, these phenomena are wholly due to psychic agencies, partly akin to suggestion and partly different. They depend upon the mechanism of attention. This faculty, when directed upon any organ, will bring into prominence sensations not ordinarily felt.

Consciousness is limited, in that it does not always take cognizance of all the existing sensations. This explains the phenomenon of transference, in that the suppression of those sensations which were prominent brings to the surface others which were not before recognized by the consciousness.

As a result of the introduction of metallo-therapy in the hospitals of Paris, an enormous number of hysterical patients applied for treatment, influenced partly, no doubt, by the love of notoriety.



Although curative attributes were ascribed to the magnet in ancient times, and the same belief prevailed in the Middle Ages, the noted charlatan Paracelsus (1493-1541) was the first to propound the theory of the existence of magnetic properties in the human body. During the seventeenth century several persons in Great Britain claimed the ability to cure diseases by stroking with the hand, and of these the most notable was the celebrated Irish empiric, Valentine Greatrakes (1628-1700).

It was asserted, moreover, by certain practitioners, that by magnetizing a sword it could be made to cure any wound which the sword had inflicted. And about the year 1625, Dr. Robert Fludd, an English physician of learning and repute, introduced the famous "weapon-salve," which became immensely popular. Its ingredients consisted of moss growing on the head of a thief who had been hanged, mummy dust, human blood, suet, linseed oil, and Armenian bole, a species of clay. All these were mixed thoroughly in a mortar. The sword, after being dipped in the blood from the wound, was carefully anointed with the precious mixture, and laid by in a cool place. Then the wound was cared for according to the most approved surgical methods, with thorough cleansing and bandaging.

The successful results naturally attending this treatment were attributed by the ignobile vulgus to the wonderful ointment. There were sceptics who denied its efficacy, but the new remedy appealed to the popular imagination. However, a certain Pastor Foster issued a pamphlet entitled "A Spunge to wipe away the Weapon-Salve," which latter the writer affirmed to be an invention of the Devil, who gave it to Paracelsus, by whom it was bequeathed to the eminent Italian physician, Giambattista della Porta, and finally was acquired by Doctor Fludd. In reply to this attack, the latter published a vigorous refutation, under the following caption: "The Squeezing of Parson Foster's Spunge, wherein the Spunge-bearer's immodest carriage and behaviour towards his brethren, is Detected; the Bitter Flames of his slanderous reports are, by the sharp Vinegar of Truth, Corrected and quite Extinguished, and lastly, the virtuous validity of his Spunge in wiping away the Weapon-Salve, is crushed out and clean abolished."

In commenting on certain superstitious methods in surgery, which were in vogue in the sixteenth century, the noted chemist and physician, Andrew Libavius, a native of Halle, in Saxony, remarked that while wounds are healed by nature, pretended magical remedies may be of use by directing the natural forces to the spot, through the imagination.

Another favorite remedy, somewhat akin to the weapon-salve, was the so-called "sympathetic powder," which was said to consist of sulphate of copper prepared with mysterious ceremonies.

According to popular report, the recipe was brought from the East by a Carmelite friar, and was introduced in England by Sir Kenelm Digby, a noted chemist and philosopher of the seventeenth century, who was also a Gentleman of the Bedchamber of Charles I. He published a volume on the healing of wounds by means of this preparation. Portions of the patient's bloodstained apparel were immersed in a solution of the sympathetic powder, the wound meantime being cleansed and bandaged. A strictly enforced regimen also formed part of the treatment.

As may readily be inferred, this wonderful powder, like the weapon-salve, was equally efficacious, whether used at a distance from the patient, or near by.

But it has ever been true, that the positive and reiterated assertions of a charlatan will usually avail to delude not only the wonder-loving public, but even persons of intellect and distinction. The secret of the sympathetic powder became known to Dr. Theodore Turquet de Mayerne (at one time the chief physician of James I), who is said to have derived considerable profit from the sale of this once famous nostrum.[146:1]

The system of therapeutics known as Mesmerism, originated by Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1733-1815), a German physician, affords a notable example of the influence of the mind upon the body through the imagination. In its essential principles, it does not materially differ from the ancient method of healing by laying-on of hands. As a young man Mesmer became interested in astrology, believing that the stars exert, according to their relative position at certain times, a direct influence upon human beings. He at first identified this supposed force with electricity, and afterwards with magnetism. Later he claimed to be endowed with a mysterious power available for the cure of various diseases. Removing to Paris in 1778, Mesmer at once began to demonstrate his theories, maintaining that he was able to exercise a therapeutic effect upon his patients, by virtue of a magnetic fluid proceeding from him, or simply by the domination of his will over that of the patient.

He asserted that the magnetic fluid is the medium of a mutual influence between the stars, the earth, and human beings. By insinuating itself into the substance of the nerves of the human body, it affects them at once, being moreover capable of communication from one body to other bodies, animate or inanimate. It perfects the action of medicines, and heals affections of the nerves. In animal magnetism nature presents a universal method of benefiting mankind. Such, at least, was the declaration of Mesmer.[147:1]

With a view to influencing the imaginations of his patients, this shrewd practitioner caused his consulting apartments in Paris to be dimly lighted and surrounded by mirrors. Strains of soft music were heard, subtle odors pervaded the air, and the patients were seated around a circular oaken trough or baquet, in which were disposed a row of bottles containing so-called electrical fluid. A complicated system of wires connected the mouths of the bottles with handles, which were grasped by the patients. After the latter had waited for a while in expectant silence, Mesmer would appear, wearing a coat of lilac silk, and carrying a magician's wand, which he manipulated in a graceful and mysterious manner. Then, discarding the wand, he passed his hands over the bodies of the patients for a considerable time, "until the magnetized person was saturated with the healing fluid."

So great was the interest aroused by Mesmer's methods and the many seemingly marvellous cures resulting therefrom, that the Royal Society of Paris appointed a commission, which included Benjamin Franklin, to investigate the subject. The members of this commission reported that those patients who were not aware of the fact that they were being magnetized experienced no effects from the treatment. Those who were told that they were being magnetized experienced symptoms, although the magnetizer was not near them. Imagination, apart from magnetism, produced marked effects, while magnetism, without imagination, produced nothing. The benefits resulting from Mesmer's treatment were due, according to the commission's report, to three factors, namely: (1) actual contact; (2) the excitement of the imagination; and (3) "the mechanical imitation which impels us to repeat that which strikes our senses."

The ability to cure disease without the use of medicines or surgical appliances has been claimed by alleged healers in all ages. When such cures were effected, they were attributed to a special gift with which the healer was divinely endowed, and this gift was bestowed, in rare instances, upon individuals who were distinguished by especial sanctity. Mesmer did not claim this quality, and yet he performed cures which were as notable as those of any saint or inspired healer of earlier times. He believed that through animal magnetism a direct physical effect was exerted upon the human body. And this effect he held to be due to the virtues of a subtle fluid.

Frank Podmore, in "Mesmerism and Christian Science" (1909), expresses the belief that Mesmer obtained many of his ideas from his contemporary, Gassner. For even if he did not actually meet the latter, Mesmer must have known him by reputation and doubtless was familiar with his methods of healing. Gassner was a believer in the demoniac theory of disease, and sought to expel the evil spirit by chasing it from one part of the body to another, finally driving it out by word of command, from the fingers or toes. Similar procedures were characteristic of Mesmer's earlier methods, but were not retained by his successors.

One of Mesmer's most prominent followers was Armand Marc Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur, born of noble ancestry at Paris, March 1, 1751. He entered early upon a military career, and attained by successive promotions the rank of colonel in the Royal Artillery in 1778. Serving with distinction at the siege of Gibraltar during the Spanish campaign, he was appointed field-marshal in 1789, and lieutenant-general in 1814. Meanwhile he had become greatly interested in the subject of animal magnetism, having been at one time a pupil of Mesmer, whom he had assisted at the latter's seances. Retiring to his chateau at Buzancy, Department of Aisne, in northern France, he devoted himself to the study of the phenomena of mesmerism, and to practical experimentation of its therapeutic value in the open air, beneath the dense foliage of the forests, after the style of the ancient Druids. Puysegur introduced new methods of magnetizing, and demonstrated that many of the resultant phenomena could be made to appear by gentle manipulation, and without the mysterious appliances and violent procedures of Mesmer. Mindful of the latter's assertion that wood could be magnetized, he decided to experiment upon a large elm tree which grew upon the village green. As a result, streams of magnetic fluids were alleged to pass from its branches by means of cords twisted around the bodies of patients, who sat in a circle about the tree, with thumbs interlocked, in order to afford a direct passage for the healing influence.

In his work entitled "Memoires pour servir a l'histoire et a l'etablissement du Magnetisme Animal" (London, 1786), Puysegur affirmed his belief in the ancient doctrine of the existence of a universal fluid, vivifying all nature, and always in motion. This doctrine he maintained to be an ancient truth, the rejection whereof was due to ignorance. He continued his researches and practice until his death at Buzancy, August 1, 1825.

The magnetic fluid, according to some authorities, may be reflected like light or propagated like sound, and increased, opposed, accumulated, and transmitted to another object. Moreover this principle, which is akin to a sixth sense, artificially acquired, may be employed for the cure of nervous affections, by provoking and directing salutary crises, thus bringing the healing art to perfection.

Mesmerism clearly appears to be no more than an antecedent of hypnotism; few, if any, of the distinctive features of the modern science appearing in an appreciated form in its practices. Mesmer had little experience and no appreciation of the hypnotic state, or of the phenomena of suggestion; he constantly elaborated his physical manipulations, denied the imagination any place in his effects, and regarded the crisis as the distinctive and essential factor in his cures; and when confronted with subjects in hypnotic state, pronounced the production of this state as foolish and regarded it as a subordinate phase of the magnetic crisis.[151:1]

Thomson Jay Hudson, in his volume, "The Law of Mental Medicine," affirms that the therapeutic successes of the ancient method of laying-on of hands, the King's touch, metallic tractors, and mesmerism are fully explained by the doctrine of suggestion, the mental energy of the healer being transmitted as a therapeutic impulse from his subjective mind through the medium of the nerves to the affected cells of the patient's body, connection being established by so-called cellular rapport, that is, "by bringing into physical contact the nerve-terminals of the two personalities."

The distinguished psychologist, James Braid, said that whoever supposes that the power of imagination is merely a mental emotion, which may vary to any extent, without corresponding changes in the physical functions, labors under a mighty mistake. Suggestions by others of the ideas of health, vigor, and hope, are influential with many people for restoring health and energy both of mind and body. Having then such an effective power to work with, the great desideratum has been to find the best means for regulating and controlling it, so as to render it subservient to our will for relieving and curing diseases. The modes devised, both by mesmerists and hypnotists, for these ends, are a real, solid, and important addition to practical therapeutics.[152:1]

The importance of suggestive healing methods can hardly be overestimated, and has been emphasized by many writers. Notable among recent publications on the subject are Dr. T. J. Hudson's work, entitled "The Law of Psychic Phenomena," and Dr. A. T. Schofield's "Unconscious Mind." Dr. Pierre Janet, in one of his Lowell Institute lectures, in Boston, November 3, 1906, remarked that

Before the time of Mesmer the sleep produced by magnetizers was really the cause of numberless cures. Hypnotism, which has replaced it little by little since 1840, and has been more rapidly developed since 1878, differs from its ancestor more in the interpretation of the phenomena than in the practices themselves. It has naturally had the same therapeutic applications, and its methods are probably legitimate. Hypnotic sleep has had many helpful influences. It is really a change in the equilibrium of the brain and mental faculties and produces great modifications in the memory and in sensibility. Life is indeed a long series of habits to which we are accustomed; hypnotism changes these habits which in a normal condition we do not try to modify, and on awakening, all memory of the change is gone, although its effects may remain.

Now oftentimes the nervous system becomes fixed in certain disagreeable or dangerous habits, and the upsetting of these, the uplifting of the mind from the rut, is of great service. In the sleep of hypnotism speech, action, methods of thought, all are changed, there is a cerebral rest, and beneficial results often follow.

From the period following Braid's contributions up to the foundation of modern hypnotism, . . . the history of the subject may be briefly told. The field is occupied largely by propagandists of one or another of the extravagant forms of animal magnetism . . . by traveling mesmerists, by sensationally advertised subjects, and by a small and unorganized number of scientific men, attempting to stem the tide of mysticism and error with which the others were deluging the public. The recognition of hypnotism as an altered physiological and psychological condition, after repeated demonstrations, at last gained the day, securing for the phenomena a place in the accepted body of scientific doctrines.[153:1]

Professor Bernheim says that the hypnotic condition and the phenomena associated therewith are purely subjective, and originate in the nervous system of the patient.

The fixation of a brilliant object, so that the muscle which holds up the upper eyelid becomes fatigued, and the concentration of the attention on a single idea, bring about the sleep. The subjects can even bring about this condition in themselves, by their own tension of mind, without being submitted to any influence from without. In this state the imagination becomes so lively that every idea spontaneously developed or suggested, by a person to whom the subject gives this peculiar attention and confidence, has the value of an actual representation to him.[154:1]

It has been well said that if Mesmer's methods served only to demonstrate the curative power of the imagination, they have been of some benefit to humanity.

The consideration of hypnotic cures does not appertain to our theme. Far from these being primitive methods, they represent what is most modern and advanced in psycho-therapeutics.


[146:1] Francis J. Shepherd, M.D., Medical Quacks and Quackery.

[147:1] F. A. Mesmer, Memoire sur la Decouverte du Magnetisme Animal; Paris, 1779.

[151:1] The Cosmopolitan, vol. xx, p. 363.

[152:1] Braid, Neurypnology, p. 338.

[153:1] The Cosmopolitan, February, 1896.

[154:1] H. Bernheim, M.D., Suggestive Therapeutics, p. 111.



From early times it was a universal custom to place at the beginning of a medical prescription certain religious verses or superstitious characters, which formed the invocation, or prayer to a favorite deity.[155:1] Angelic beings were frequently appealed to, and among these the Archangel Raphael was thought to be omnipotent for the cure of disease. John Aubrey, in his "Miscellanies," relates that a certain physician, Dr. Richard Nepier, a person of great piety, whose knees were horny with much praying, was wont to ask professional advice of this archangel, and that his prescriptions began with the abbreviation "R. Ris." for Responsum Raphaelis, Raphael's answer. The name of Raphael was often seen on amulets and talismans. But our information regarding this angel is derived chiefly from the Book of Tobit, where Raphael is represented as the guide and counsellor of the young Tobias. In one of the later Midrashim, Raphael appears as the angel commissioned to put down the evil spirits that vexed the sons of Noah with plagues and sicknesses after the Flood, and he it was who taught men the use of "simples," and furnished materials for the "Book of Noah," the earliest treatise on materia medica.[156:1]

A recent writer affirms that [Rx] is the emblem of the sun-god Ra, and signifies "In the name of Ra," or "Ra, God of Life and Health, inspire me."[156:2] This deity was regarded as the Supreme Being, not only by the Egyptians, but by other heathen people of antiquity, because the sun was the greatest and most brilliant of the planets.

In Egyptian hieroglyphics[156:3] Ra was represented as a hawk-headed man, holding in one hand the symbol of life, and in the other the royal sceptre.

The medical symbol [Rx], still in use at the present day, owes its origin, however, neither to the angel Raphael nor to the god Ra. It is the ancient sign of Jupiter. This sign, which also symbolized the metal tin, had many modifications, some of which were as follows: [Symbol: Jupiter], [Symbol: Jupiter], [Symbol: Jupiter].

These were gradually replaced by the letter R, or its astrological modification [Rx], which was equivalent to Recipe, Jupiter,—Take, O Jupiter! We are told that the astrological signs were thus brought into use during Nero's reign, and that the practice of Medicine was then and afterwards regulated by the government. It is not improbable that Christian physicians were obliged to follow the example of their heathen professional brethren in prefixing to their prescriptions invocations to Jupiter.[157:1]

Johann Michael Moscherosch (1600-1669), a learned German writer, offered a unique explanation of the meaning of the medical symbol [Rx], which he maintained to be equivalent to Rec, an abbreviation for per decem. And he explained the significance of the latter as being that one prescription out of ten might be expected to prove beneficial to the patient. It is certain, wrote Dr. Otto A. Wall, in his volume, "The Prescription," that pharmacies for the dispensing of medicines on physicians' prescriptions were already in existence at the ancient Spanish city of Cordova, and at other large municipalities under the control of the Arabs, previous to the twelfth century. And as early as 1233, pharmacy laws had already been passed in the Two Sicilies. By that time, it appears probable that medical prescriptions were no longer mere superstitious formulas, but that they contained directions for compounding material remedies having more or less medicinal virtues.

Modern medical prescriptions may be classed as lineal descendants of the healing-spells of former ages. In the most ancient known pharmacopoeia, a papyrus discovered about the year 1858 in the Necropolis at Thebes, and believed to date from the sixteenth century B. C., no invocations or symbols are found, nor were the latter generally employed as prefixes to medical formulas prior to the first century A. D.; when their use appears to have originated among the Greeks and Romans, and the custom has continued until the present day. At the time of the alchemists, in the sixteenth century, "the influence of the Church on the minds of men, or perhaps the fear of the Inquisition, led physicians to adopt an invocation to the Christian God; just as they abbreviated a prayer to crossing themselves with their fingers over their foreheads and breasts, so they contracted the invocation to the sign of the cross as a superscription."[158:1]

Thus instead of the sign [Rx] some physicians began their prescriptions with the Greek letters Alpha. Omega.; or the letters J. D. for Juvante Deo, C. D. for Cum Deo, or N. D. for Nomine Dei.

Dr. Rodney H. True, lecturer on botany at Harvard College, in a paper on Folk Materia Medica, read at a meeting of the Boston branch of the American Folk-Lore Society, February 19, 1901, gave a list of therapeutic agents, mostly of animal origin, forming the stock in trade of a European druggist some two hundred years ago. This list includes the fats, gall, blood, marrow from bones, teeth, livers, and lungs of various animals, birds, and reptiles; also bees, crabs, and toads, incinerated after drying; amber, shells, coral, claws, and horns; hair from deer and cats; ram's wool, partridge feathers, ants, lizards, leeches, earth-worms, pearl, musk, and honey; eyes of the wolf, pickerel, and crab; eggs of the hen and ostrich, cuttlefish bone, dried serpents, and the hoofs of animals.

With the development of materia medica in Europe, the use of animal drugs diminished; but during the last decade of the nineteenth century, extracts of animal organs were manufactured on a large scale, and found a ready market. Thus some of the articles mentioned are reckoned among remedial agents to-day, but most of them doubtless owed their virtues to mental action. Wolf's eyes in former times and bread pills nowadays may be cited as typical remedies, acting through the patient's imagination and possessing no intrinsic curative properties, yet nevertheless valuable articles of the pharmacopoeia from the standpoint of suggestive therapeutics. In a list of Japanese quack medicines, of the present time, we find mention of "Spirit-cheering" pills.[159:1]

In "A Booke of Physicke and Chirurgery, with divers other things necessary to be knowne, collected out of sundry olde written bookes, and broughte into one order. Written in the year of our Lorde God 1610," among many curious prescriptions we find the following: "A good oyntment against the vanityes of the heade. Take the juice of worm woode and salte, honye, waxe and incens, and boyle them together over the fire, and therewith anoynte the sick heade and temples." The volume referred to was the property of Mr. William Pickering, an apparitor of the Consistory Court at Durham, England.

A commentator on the above prescription observed that few coxcombs, dandies, and heads filled with bitter conceits, would like to be anointed with this cure of self-sufficiency. The wax might make the plaster stick, but it might be feared that the honey and the incense would neutralize the good effects to be expected from the wormwood and salt. If, however, the phrase "vanityes of the head" be interpreted to mean a dearth of ideas, we may assume that the above prescription was intended as a stimulus to the imagination, and as such it might well have a therapeutic value.

Dr. William Salmon, a London practitioner, published in the year 1693 "A Short Manual of Physick, designed for the general use of Her Majestie's subjects, accommodated to mean capacities, in order to the Restauration of their Healths."

In this little volume we find a prescription for "an Elixer Universall, not particular for any distemper," as follows:

[Rx] Rex Metallorum [gold] [ounce] ss. Pouder of a Lyon's heart [ounce] iv. Filings of a Unicorn's Horn [ounce] ss. Ashes of the whole Chameleon [ounce] iss. Bark of the Witch Hazle Two handfulls. Lumbrici [Earth-worms] A score. Dried Man's Brain [ounce] v. Bruisewort } Egyptian Onions } aa lbss.

Mix the ingredients together and digest in my Spiritus Universalis, with a warm digestion, from the change of the moon to the full, and pass through a fine strainer. This Elixer is temperately hot and moist, Digestive, Lenitive, Dissolutive, Aperative, Strengthening and Glutinative; it opens obstructions, proves Hypnotick and Styptick, is Cardiack, and may become Alexpharmick. It is not specially great for any one Single Distemper, but of much use and benefit in most cases wherein there is difficulty and embarrassment, or that which might be done, doth not so clearly appear manifest and Open to the Eye.

The above elixir is a fine specimen of the product of a shrewd charlatan's fertile brain, and doubtless found a ready sale at an exorbitant price. The fact that one, at least, of its ingredients is mythical, probably enhanced its curative properties, in the minds of a gullible public. The horn of the unicorn was popularly regarded as the most marvellous of remedies. In reality, it was the tusk of a cetaceous animal inhabiting the northern ocean, and known as the sea-unicorn or narwhal. In the popular mind it was of value as an effective antidote against all kinds of poisons, the bites of serpents, various fevers, and the plague.

In describing a scene in the Arctic regions, Josephine Diebitsch Peary wrote as follows in her volume, "The Snow Baby" (1901):

Glossy, mottled seals swim in the water, and schools of narwhal, which used to be called unicorns, dart from place to place, faster than the fastest steam yacht; with their long, white ivory horns, longer than a man is tall, like spears, in and out of the water.

One of the teeth of the narwhal is developed into a straight, spirally fluted tusk, from six to ten feet long, like a horn projecting from the forehead. This horn is sometimes as long as the creature's body, and furnishes a valuable ivory. The narwhal also yields a superior quality of oil.[162:1]

Sir Thomas Browne in his "Pseudo-doxia Epidemica"[162:2] remarked that many specimens of alleged unicorn's horn, preserved in England, were in fact portions of teeth of the Arctic walrus, known as the morse or sea-horse. In northern latitudes these teeth are used as material wherewith to fashion knife-handles or the hilts of swords. The long horns, preserved as precious rarities in many places, are narwhal-tusks.

The belief in the medicinal virtues of unicorn's horn is comparatively modern, as none of the ancients, except the Italian writer AElian (about A. D. 200), ascribed to it any curative or antidotal properties. Sir Thomas Browne characterized this popular superstition of his time as an "insufferable delusion."

H. B. Tristam, in his "Natural History of the Bible," remarks that there is no doubt of the identity of the unicorn of Scripture with the historic urus or aurochs, known also as the reem, a strong and large animal of the ox-tribe, having two horns. This animal formerly inhabited Europe, including Great Britain, and survived until comparatively recent times, in Prussia and Lithuania. The belief in the existence of a one-horned quadruped is very ancient. Aristotle mentions as such the oryx or antelope of northern Africa. The aurochs was hunted and killed by prehistoric man, as is shown by the finding of skulls, pierced by flint weapons.[163:1]

In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word reem was translated monoceros in the Greek text. This is alleged by some authorities to be an incorrect rendering. The Vulgate has the Latin term unicornis, the one-horned.

In Lewysohn's "Zoologie des Talmuds" is to be found the following rabbinical legend: When the Ark was ready, and all the creatures were commanded to enter, the reem was unable to pass through the door, owing to its large size. Noah and his sons were therefore obliged to fasten the animal by a rope to the Ark, and to tow it behind. And in order to prevent its being strangled, they attached the rope to its horn, instead of around its neck. . . . It was formerly thought that the legendary unicorn was in reality the one-horned rhinoceros, but this seems improbable. The fabulous creature mentioned by classic writers as a native of India was described as having the size and form of a horse, with one straight horn projecting from its forehead. In the museum at Bristol, England, there is a stuffed antelope from Caffraria, which closely answers this description. Its two straight taper horns are so nearly united that in profile they appear like a single horn.

The unicorn of Heraldry first appeared as a symbol on one of the Anglo-Saxon standards, and was afterwards placed upon the Scottish shield. When England and Scotland were united under James I, the silver unicorn became a supporter of the British shield, being placed opposite the golden lion, in the royal arms of Great Britain.[164:1]


[155:1] Jonathan Pereira, Selecta e Prescriptis, p. 5.

[156:1] Roensch, Buch der Jubilaeen, p. 385.

[156:2] Notes and Queries, Tenth Series, June 4, 1904.

[156:3] F. Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 81.

[157:1] Evidence of the old belief in planetary influence is found in our language in the words "jovial," "mercurial," "saturnine," "martial," "disastrous," and "ill-starred."

[158:1] Otto A. Wall, M.D., The Prescription, pp. 12-23. In this work much space is devoted to the history and evolution of medical recipes.

[159:1] Boston Herald, February 27, 1908.

[162:1] The Century Dictionary.

[162:2] Book iii, p. 130.

[163:1] Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Unicorn"; Rev. J. G. Wood, Bible Animals.

[164:1] F. S. W., Dame Heraldry, p. 175.



A relic has been defined as an object held in reverence or affection, because connected with some sacred or beloved person deceased. And specifically, in the Roman Catholic and Greek churches, a saint's body or portions of it, or an object supposed to have been associated with the life or body of Christ, of the Virgin Mary, or of some saint or martyr, and regarded therefore as a personal memorial, worthy of religious veneration.[165:1]

The worship of relics and the belief in their healing properties appear to have originated in a very ancient custom which prevailed among the early Christians, of assembling at the tombs of martyrs, for the purpose of holding memorial services. The bones of saints also became objects of great veneration, and this doctrine was supported by the teachings of Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, and other Fathers of the Church, of the fourth and fifth centuries. The belief in the marvellous virtues attributed to sacred relics was sustained by such miracles as that recorded in 2 Kings, xiii, 21: "And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha; and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet."

Some authorities, however, ascribe the origin of the cult of relics to the words contained in Acts, v, 15: "Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them."

In the year 325, Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where she was alleged to have discovered the wood of the true Cross. This, according to tradition, was found, with two other crosses and various sacred relics, under a temple of Venus, which stood near the Holy Sepulchre. And the true Cross was identified by means of a miraculous test; for when a sick woman was touched with two of the crosses, no effect was apparent; but upon contact with the true Cross, she was immediately restored to health.[166:1] Such is the legend.

Of the four nails found in the place where the Cross was buried, one was said to have been sent to Rome. Another the Empress Helena threw into the Gulf of Venice, to allay a storm; while the other two were sent by her to Constantine, who welded one of them to his helmet, as an amulet, and affixed the other to his horse's headstall.

Among the classic peoples, symbols of their gods were used by physicians in writing prescriptions for material remedies, as invocations or charms, and were credited with the same wonderful healing powers which were ascribed to holy relics, blessed medals and amulets, and in later times to many purely superstitious remedies.[167:1]

The worship of relics naturally afforded a strong impulse to visit sacred places, and especially Palestine.

Generally speaking, the prized relic, a piece of the true cross, whether possessed by a church, a crowned head or a private individual, is a minute speck of wood, scarcely visible to the naked eye, set sometimes on an ivory tablet, and always inclosed in a costly reliquary. M. Rohault de Fleury, who calculates that the total volume of the wood of the original cross must have been somewhere about 178,000,000 cubic millimetres, has made a list of all the relics of which he can find any record, and the sum of their measurements amounts to only 3,941,975 cubic millimetres, or about one forty-fifth of the amount of wood necessary to reconstruct the original cross. In the United States there is not an authenticated relic of the cross as large as half a lead-pencil, and some are so minute as to be visible only through the aid of a microscope. The Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York has a fragment which is exposed for veneration on Easter Sunday, as is the custom in European churches possessing a relic. Another fragment, at the Cathedral, is shown on Good Friday. This relic is in a crystal and gold casket, set with precious stones, which form the centre of a handsome altar cross. The French Church of St. Jean Baptiste, in East Seventy-sixth Street, also possesses a relic of the cross.[168:1]

The powder obtained by scraping the tombstones of saints, when placed in water or wine, was in great repute as a remedy. The French historian, Gregory of Tours (544-595), was said to have habitually carried a box of this powder, when travelling, which he freely dispensed to patients who applied to him.

Great was his faith in this substance, as is apparent from his own words: "Oh, indescribable mixture, incomparable elixir, antidote beyond all praise! Celestial purgative (if I may be permitted to use the expression), which throws into the shade every medical prescription; which surpasses in fragrance every earthly aroma, and is more powerful than all essences; which purges the body like the juice of scammony, clears the lungs like hyssop, and the head like sneezewort; which not only cures the ailing limbs, but also, and this is much more valuable, washes off the stains from the conscience!"[168:2]

Chrysostom (350-407) commented on the fact of the whole world's streaming to the site of Christ's crucifixion. Rome was also a favorite resort of pilgrims, chiefly as the site of the graves of the great apostles, while many flocked to the tomb of Saint Martin of Tours. Meanwhile, wrote Henry C. Sheldon in a "History of the Christian Church," there were emphatic cautions against an overestimate of the value of pilgrimages. The eminent Greek Father, Gregory of Nyssa (332-398), said that change of place brings God no nearer.

The cult of relics developed rapidly in the Middle Ages. Even the theft of these precious objects, we are told, was condoned, "in virtue of the benevolent intent of the thief to benefit the region to which the treasure was conveyed."[169:1] The custom received encouragement from many eminent scholars, who appear to have been deceived by certain mysterious physical phenomena, the nature of which was not understood even in comparatively recent times.[169:2]

Pope Gregory the First (550-604), we are told, was wont to bestow, as a mark of his special favor, presents of keys, in which had been worked up some filings of Saint Peter's chains, accompanied with a prayer that what had bound the apostle for martyrdom, might release the recipient from his sins.

The second Nicene Council (A. D. 787) decreed that no church should be consecrated unless it enshrined some relics.[170:1]

At the celebrated Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, in southern Italy, which was founded in the year 529, the care of the sick was enjoined as a pious obligation. There diseases were treated chiefly by means of prayers and conjurations, and by the exposition and application of sacred relics, which appealed to the patients' imagination, and thereby, through suggestion, assisted the healing forces of nature.[170:2]

Thomas Dudley Fosbroke, in "British Monachism," states that among the early monks of England, medical practice devolved on clerks, on account of their ability to read Latin treatises on therapeutics.

Until the middle of the fifteenth century, physicians were forbidden to marry, owing to the prevalent opinion that the father of a family could not heal so well as a bachelor. The art of writing prescriptions was made to conform to the dogmas of the existing religion, "for which reason relics were introduced into the Materia Medica."

The medieval priests and monks, who were actively interested in the development of medical science, encouraged the therapeutic use of such relics. Miraculous agencies were the more eagerly sought after on account of the popular belief in devils and witches as morbiferous creatures.

The reliquary, or repository for relics, was regarded as the most precious ornament in the lady's chamber, the knight's armory, the king's hall of state, and in the apartments of the pope or bishop.[171:1]

Gradually the custom of relic-worship degenerated into idolatry. In the year 1549 John Calvin published a tract on the subject, wherein he stated that the great majority of alleged relics were spurious, and that it could be shown by comparison that each Apostle had more than four bodies, and that every Saint had two or three at least. The arm of Saint Anthony, which had been worshipped at Geneva, when removed from its case, proved to be part of a stag. Among the vast number of precious relics, presumably false, which were exhibited at Rome and elsewhere, were the manger in which Christ was laid at his birth, the pillar on which he leaned, when disputing in the temple, and the waterpots in which he turned water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana at Galilee.[171:2]


[165:1] Century Dictionary.

[166:1] E. Cobham Brewer, A Dictionary of Miracles, art. "Relics."

[167:1] Otto A. Wall, M.D., The Prescription.

[168:1] Boston Courier, March 26, 1910.

[168:2] Dr. Hugo Magnus, Superstition in Medicine.

[169:1] H. C. Sheldon, op. cit.

[169:2] William Smith and Samuel Cheetham, A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, art. "Relics."

[170:1] All the Year Round, vol. 69, p. 246; 1891.

[170:2] Time, vol. v; February, 1887.

[171:1] Henry Hart Milman, D.D., History of Latin Christianity, vol. vi, p. 248.

[171:2] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church.



Dubito, an omnia, quae de incantamentis dicuntur carminibusque, non sint adscribenda effectibus musicis, quia excellebant eadem veteres medici. HERMANN BOERHAAVE. (1668-1738.)

Preposterous ass! that never read so far To know the cause why music was ordained. Was it not to refresh the mind of man, After his studies, or his usual pain?— The Taming of the Shrew, Act III, Scene 1.

I think sometimes, could I only have music on my own terms, could I live in a great city, and know where I could go whenever I wished and get the ablution and inundation of musical waves, that were a bath and medicine. R. W. EMERSON.

Musick, when rightly order'd, cannot be prefer'd too much. For it recreates and exalts the Mind at the same time.

It composes the Passions, affords a strong Pleasure, and excites Nobleness of Thought. . . .

What can be more strange than that the rubbing of a little hair and cat-gut together, should make such a mighty Alteration in a Man that sits at a distance? JEREMY COLLIER, Essay on Music: 1698.

"Music the fiercest grief can charm." POPE, St. Cecilia's Day, I, 118.

From time immemorial the influence of musical sounds has been recognized as a valuable agent in the treatment of nervous affections, and for the relief of various mental conditions. According to one theory, the healing quality of a musical tone is due to its regular periodic vibrations. It acts by substituting its own state of harmony for a condition of mental or physical discord. Noise, being inharmonious, has no curative power. Music may be termed the health and noise the disease of sound.[173:1]

"The man that hath no music in himself," says Shakespeare ("The Merchant of Venice," Act v, Scene 1), "nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils. The motions of his spirit are dull as night, and his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. . . ."

The ancient Egyptians were not ignorant of musico-therapy. They called music physic for the soul, and had faith in its specific remedial virtues. Music was an accompaniment of their banquets, and in the time of the fourth and fifth dynasties consisted usually of the harmony of three instruments, the harp, flute, and pipe.[173:2] The Persians are said to have cured divers ailments by the sound of the lute. They believed that the soul was purified by music and prepared thereby for converse with the spirits of light around the throne of Ormuzd, the principle of truth and goodness. And the most eminent Grecian philosophers attributed to music important medicinal properties for both body and mind.

John Harrington Edwards, in his volume, "God and Music,"[174:1] remarks that the people of antiquity had much greater faith than the moderns in the efficacy of music as a curative agent in disease of every kind; while the scientific mind of to-day demands a degree of evidence which history cannot furnish, for asserted cures by this means in early times.

Impressed with the sublime nature of music, the ancients ascribed to it a divine origin. According to one tradition, its discovery was due to the sound produced by the wind whistling among the reeds, which grew on the borders of the Nile.

Polybius, the Greek historian of the second century B. C., wrote that music softened the manners of the ancient Arcadians, whose climate was rigorous. Whereas the inhabitants of Cynaetha (the modern town of Kalavrita) in the Peloponnesus, who neglected this art, were the most barbarous in Greece. Baron de Montesquieu, in "The Spirit of Laws," remarked that as the popular exercises of wrestling and boxing had a natural tendency to render the ancient Grecians hardy and fierce, there was a necessity for tempering those exercises with others, with a view to rendering the people more susceptible of humane feelings. For this purpose, said Montesquieu, music, which influences the mind by means of the corporeal organs, was extremely proper. It is a kind of medium between manly exercises, which harden the body, and speculative sciences, which are apt to render us unsociable and sour. . . . Let us suppose, for example, a society of men so passionately devoted to hunting as to make it their sole employment; they would doubtless contract thereby a kind of rusticity and fierceness. But if they happened to imbibe a taste for music, we should quickly perceive a sensible difference in their customs and manners. In short, the exercises used by the Greeks could raise but one kind of passions, namely, fierceness, indignation, and cruelty. But music excites all these, and is likewise able to inspire the soul with a sense of pity, lenity, tenderness, and love.

In a rare work, styled "Reflexions on Antient and Modern Music, with the application to the Cure of Diseases,"[175:1] we find that the custom prevailed, among certain nations of old, of initiating their youth into the studies of harmony and music. Whereby, it was believed, their minds became formed to the admiration and esteem of proportion, order, and beauty, and the cause of virtue was greatly promoted. "Music," moreover, "extends the fancy beyond its ordinary compass, and fills it with the gayest images."

Christianus Pazig, in "Magic Incantations," page 29, relates that the wife of Picus, King of Latium, was able by her voice to soothe and appease wild animals, and to arrest the flight of birds.

And the French traveller Villamont asserted that crocodiles were beguiled by the songs of Egyptian fishermen to leave the Nile, and allowed themselves to be led off and exposed for sale in the markets.

Recent experiments have confirmed the traditional theory of the soothing effect of music upon wild animals. A graphophone, with records of Melba, Sembrich, Caruso, and other operatic stars, made the rounds of a menagerie. Many of the larger animals appeared to thoroughly enjoy listening to the melodious strains, which seemed to fascinate them. The one exception, proving the rule, was a huge, blue-faced mandrill, who became enraged at hearing a few bars from "Pagliacci," and tried to wreck the machine. Of all the animals, the lions were apparently the most susceptible to musical influence, and these royal beasts showed an interest in the sweet tones of the graphophone, akin to that of a human melomaniac.[176:1]

There is abundant evidence of the fondness of spiders for soothing musical tones. The insects usually approach by letting themselves down from the ceiling of the apartment, and remain suspended above the instrument.[176:2] Professor C. Reclain, during a concert at Leipsic, witnessed the descent of a spider from a chandelier during a violin solo. But as soon as the orchestra began to play, the insect retreated. Mr. C. V. Boys, who has made some interesting experiments with a view to determining the susceptibility of spiders to the sound of a tuning-fork, reports, in "Body and Mind," that by means of this instrument, a spider may be made to eat what it would otherwise avoid. Male birds charm their mates by warbling, and parrots seem to take delight in hearing the piano played, or in listening to vocal music.

Charles Darwin, in "The Descent of Man," remarks that we can no more explain why musical tones, in a certain order and rhythm, afford pleasure to man and the lower animals, than we can account for the pleasantness of certain tastes and odors. We know that sounds, more or less melodious, are produced, during the season of courtship, by many insects, spiders, fishes, amphibians, and birds. The vocal organs of frogs and toads are used incessantly during the breeding season, and at this time also male alligators are wont to roar or bellow, and even the male tortoise makes a noise.

Music is the sworn enemy of ennui or boredom, and the demons of melancholy. It "hath charms," wrote William Congreve (1670-1729), "to soothe the savage breast."[177:1] Orpheus with his lyre was able to charm wild beasts, and even to control the forces of Nature; and because of its wonderful therapeutic effects, which were well known to the Greeks, they associated Music with Medicine as an attribute of Apollo.[178:1] Chiron the centaur, by the aid of melody, healed the sick, and appeased the anger of Achilles. By the same means the lyric poet Thales, who flourished in the seventh century B. C., acting by advice of an oracle, was able to subdue a pestilence in Sparta.[178:2]

Pythagoras also recognized the potency of music as a remedial force. Tuneful strains were believed by the physicians of old to be uncongenial to the spirits of sickness; but among medicine-men of many American Indian tribes, harsh discordant sounds and doleful chants have long been a favorite means of driving away these same spirits.[178:3] Aulus Gellius, the Roman writer of the second century, in his "Attic Nights,"[178:4] mentioned a traditionary belief that sciatica might be relieved by the soft notes of a flute-player, and quoted the Greek philosopher Democritus (born about B. C. 480) as authority for the statement that the same remedy had power to heal wounds inflicted by venomous serpents. According to Theophrastus, a disciple of Plato and Aristotle (B. C. 374-286), gout could be cured by playing a flute over the affected limb;[179:1] and the Latin author Martianus Capella, who flourished about A. D. 490, asserted that music had been successfully employed in the treatment of fevers, and in quieting the turbulence of drunken revellers.

Among the ancient northern peoples, also, songs and runes were reckoned powerful agents for working good or evil, and were available "to heal or make sick, bind up wounds, stanch blood, alleviate pain, or lull to sleep."[179:2] A verse of an old Icelandic poem, called the "Havamal," whose authorship is accredited to Wodan, runs as follows: "I am possessed of songs, such as neither the spouse of a king nor any son of man can repeat. One of them is called, 'the Helper.' It will help thee at thy need, in sickness, grief, and all adversities. I know a song which the sons of men ought to sing, if they would become skilful physicians."[179:3]

The Anglo-Saxons appreciated the healthful influence of music. At a very early period in their history, a considerable number of persons adopted music and singing as a profession. It was the gleemen's duty to entertain royal personages and the members of their courts. Afterwards these functions devolved upon the minstrels, a class of musicians who wandered from castle to camp, entertaining the nobility and gentry with their songs and accompaniments. The intermediate class of musicians, whom the later minstrels succeeded, appeared in France during the eighth century, and came, at the time of the Norman Conquest, to England, where they were assimilated with the Anglo-Saxon gleemen.[180:1] In the early poetry of Scandinavia there is frequent reference to the magical influence of music. Wild animals are fascinated by the sound of a harp, and vegetation is quickened. The knight, though grave and silent, is attracted, and even though inclined to stay away, cannot restrain his horse.[180:2]

The earliest biblical mention of music as a healing power occurs in Samuel, XVI, 23, where David (the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite) cured the melancholy of King Saul by playing upon the harp. "So Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him."

In medieval times, music was successfully employed in the treatment of epidemic nervous disorders, a custom which probably originated from the ancient song-remedies or incantations.[180:3] The same agent was also used as an antidote to the poison of a viper's fang, especially the tarantula's bite, which was believed to induce tarantism, or the dancing mania. Antonius Benivenius, a learned Italian physician of the fifteenth century, related that an arrow was drawn from a soldier's body by means of a song.

A notable instance of the power of vocal music in charming away obstinate melancholy is in the case of Philip V of Spain, where the melodious voice of the great Italian singer Farinelli proved effective after all other remedies had failed.

Such are a few instances of the influence of song and melody as seemingly magical agencies, and therefore not inappropriately may they be classed under that branch of folk-lore which deals with healing-spells and verbal medical charms.

It has been well said that music is entitled to a place in our Materia Medica. For while there may not be much music in medicine, there is a great deal of medicine in music. For the latter exerts a powerful influence upon the higher cerebral centres, and thence, through the sympathetic nervous system, upon other portions of the body. Indeed the entire working of the human mechanism, physical and psychical, may be aided by the beautiful art of music. With some people the digestion is facilitated by hearing music. Voltaire said that this fact accounted for the popularity of the opera.

In such cases the music probably acts by banishing fatigue, which interferes with the proper assimilation of food. Hence one may derive benefit from listening to the orchestra during meal-times at fashionable hotels. Milton believed in the benefit to be derived from listening to music before dinner, as a relief to the mind. And he also recommended it as a post-prandial exercise, "to assist and cherish Nature in her first concoctions, and to send the mind back to study, in good tune and satisfaction." Milton practised what he preached, for it was his custom, after the principal meal of the day, to play on the organ and hear another sing.[182:1]

The Reverend Sydney Smith once said that his idea of heaven was eating foie gras to the sound of trumpets.

There is evidence that in ancient times the banquets, which immediately followed sacrifices, were attended with instrumental music. For we read in Isaiah, v, 12: "And the harp and the viol, the tabret and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts." And in the households of wealthy Roman citizens, instruction was given in the art of carving, to the sound of music, with appropriate gestures, under the direction of the official carver (carptor or scissor).[182:2]

We find in the "Apocrypha"[182:3] the following passage: "If thou be made the master of a feast . . . hinder not musick. . . . A concert of musick in a banquet of wine is as a signet of carbuncle set in gold. As a signet of an emerald set in a work of gold, so is the melody of musick with pleasant wine."

Chaucer, in his "Parson's Tale," speaks of the Curiositie of Minstralcie, at the banquets of the well-to-do in his day.

The banquets of the Anglo-Saxons were enlivened by minstrels and gleemen, whose visits were welcome breaks in the monotony of the people's lives. They added to their musical performances mimicry and other means of promoting mirth, as well as dancing and tumbling, with sleights of hand, and a variety of deceptions to amuse the company.[183:1] In the intervals between the musical exercises, the guests talked, joked, propounded and answered riddles, and boasted of their own exploits, while disparaging those of others. Later, when the liquor took effect, they were wont to become noisy and quarrelsome.[183:2] "Then wine wets the man's breast-passions; suddenly rises clamour in the company, an outcry they send forth various."[183:3]

In the great houses of the nobility and gentry, minstrels' music was the usual seasoning of food. It is true, wrote Mons. J. J. Jusserand, in "English Wayfaring Life of the Fourteenth Century," that "the voices of the singers were at times interrupted by the crunching of the bones, which the dogs were gnawing under the tables, or by the sharp cry of some ill-bred falcon; for many lords kept these favorite birds on perches behind them."

We learn from the same authority that in the great dining-halls of the castles of the wealthy, galleries were placed for the accommodation of the minstrels, above the door of entrance, and opposite to the dais upon which stood the master's table.


[173:1] Boston Transcript, March 10, 1900.

[173:2] George Rawlinson, History of Ancient Egypt, vol. ii, p. 49.

[174:1] J. G. Millingen, M.D., Curiosities of Medical Experience.

[175:1] London, 1749.

[176:1] Boston Sunday Herald, May 2, 1909.

[176:2] George J. Romanes, Animal Intelligence.

[177:1] The Mourning Bride, Act I, Scene 1.

[178:1] Joseph Ennemoser, The History of Magic, vol. i, p. 358.

[178:2] Music, vol. ix, p. 361; 1896.

[178:3] Daniel G. Brinton, The Myths of the New World, p. 306.

[178:4] Book iv, chap. 13.

[179:1] Larousse, Dictionnaire, art. "Incantation."

[179:2] Brand, Popular Antiquities, vol. iii, p. 1226.

[179:3] M. Mallet, Northern Antiquities, p. 351.

[180:1] Century Dictionary, under "Minstrel."

[180:2] Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology, p. 98.

[180:3] George F. Fort, Medical Economy during the Middle Ages, p. 365.

[182:1] Music, vol. ix; 1896.

[182:2] William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, art. "Coena."

[182:3] Ecclus. xxxii, 1-6.

[183:1] Joseph Strutt, Sports and Pastimes of the People of England.

[183:2] Thomas Wright, A History of Domestic Manners and Sentiments in England during the Middle Ages.

[183:3] Exeter Manuscript; British Museum.



Dr. Herbert Lilly, in a monograph on musical therapeutics, expresses the opinion that musical sounds received by the auditory nerve, produce reflex action upon the sympathetic system, stimulating or depressing the vaso-motor nerves, and thus influencing the bodily nutrition. He maintains, without fear of contradiction, that certain mental conditions are benefited by suitable musical harmonies. Muscle-fatigue is overcome by stimulating melodies, as is strikingly exemplified in the effect of inspiring martial strains upon wearied troops on the march. And it appears to be an established fact that the complex process of digestion is facilitated by cheerful music, of the kind termed "liver music" by the French, which is provided by them at banquets.[185:1]

But in regard to this subject, there have been not a few scoffers and dissenters, even among people of distinction. Douglas Jerrold, the playwright, was one of these, for he declared that he disliked dining amidst the strains of a military band, because he could taste the brass in his soup. Charles Lamb, in his chapter on "Ears," remarked, that while a carpenter's hammer, on a warm summer day, caused him to "fret into more than midsummer madness," these unconnected sounds were nothing when compared with the measured malice of music. For while the ear may be passive to the strokes of a hammer, and even endure them with some degree of equanimity, to music it cannot be passive. The noted author relates having sat through an Italian opera, till, from sheer pain, he rushed out into the noisiest places of the crowded streets, to solace himself with sounds which he was not obliged to follow, and thus get rid of the distracting torment of endless, fruitless, barren attention! According to his frank avowal, music was to him a source of pain, rather than of pleasure.

The Reverend Richard Eastcott, in his "Sketches of the Origin, Progress and Effects of Music," told of a "gentleman of very considerable understanding," who was heard to declare that the rattling of a fire-pan and tongs was as grateful to his feelings as the best concert he ever heard. However, such rare exceptions, if not germane to our subject, may be said to prove the general rule that music is of real value in therapeutics, and that most people are susceptible to its beneficent influences.

Music has accomplished a great many things and has been put to many uses, but it is seldom employed in making good boys out of bad.

An almost accidental experiment at the Middlesex County truant school at North Chelmsford has shown it to be a truth, that wickedness takes flight at martial strains; for a full-fledged brass band, in which the delinquent youths are the musicians, has fairly revolutionized the discipline of the school, and many a lad who did not have half a chance has been started "right" on the road to success.

The question is often asked: How can music effect a character-metamorphosis in the boy who has every mental and moral indication of turning out badly?

Music is an educative factor of prime importance, and promotes the evolution of good hereditary traits. Whatever the psychologic explanation of its effects may be, it appears to develop the qualities of kindness and manliness.[187:1]

Not every one, however, is influenced by the foregoing considerations. A recent writer, in an essay on the "Plague of Music," remarks that under the name of music we are afflicted with every variety of noise; for example, the sounds produced by hurdy-gurdies, bag-pipes and minstrels; the harpman, the lady who has seen better days, and who sings before our house in the evening. "Not to mention the millions of pianos and the millions of fiddles that never cease being thumped and scratched all the world over, night and day. The contemplation of such collective discord is truly appalling."[188:1]

The famous English philosopher, Roger Bacon (1214-1292), known as "The Admirable Doctor," wrote that a cheerful mind brings power and vigor, makes a man rejoice, stirs up Nature, and helps her in her actions and motions; of which sort are joy, mirth, and whatever provokes laughter, as also instrumental music and songs, facetious conversation, and observation of the celestial bodies.

It has been proved, by physiological experiments upon men and the lower animals, that musical sounds produce a marked effect upon the circulation. The pulse-rate is usually quickened, and the force of the heart-beats increased in varying degrees, dependent upon the pitch, intensity and timbre of the sounds, and the idiosyncrasy of the individual.[188:2]

It may be safely affirmed, therefore, that music should have a place among psychic remedial agents.

A recent writer has remarked that the "Marsellaise" was like wine to the French revolutionists, and lifted many a head, and straightened many a weary back on some of those terrible forced marches of Napoleon's.

Music may be classed in the same category with certain drugs, as a therapeutic agent. And like drugs, each composition has its own special effect. Thus a brisk Strauss waltz might act as a stimulant, but it would not answer as a narcotic. A nocturne would be sure to soothe.[189:1]

The time may come when a German street-band will be recognized as a powerful tonic; a cornet solo will take the place of a blister; a symphony or a sonata may be recommended instead of morphine; the moxa will give way to Wagner, and opium to Brahms. A prolonged shake by a singer will drive out chills and fever, according to the theory of Hahnemann. Cots at symphony concerts may yet command the highest premiums.[189:2]

Music is one of those intangible but effective aids of Medicine, which exert their healthful influence through the nervous system. It is in fact a mental tonic. A writer in the London "Lancet" remarks that "a pleasing and lively melody can awake in a faded brain the strong emotion of hope, and energizing by its means the languid nerve control of the whole circulation, strengthen the heart-beat and refresh the vascularity of every organ. Even aches are soothed for a time by a transference of attention, and why then should not pain be lulled by music?"

Robert Burton, author of "The Anatomy of Melancholy," in commenting on the curative effects of music, remarked that it is a sovereign remedy against mental depression, capable even of driving away the Devil himself.

"When griping grief the heart doth wound, And doleful dumps the mind oppress, Then music with her silver sound, With speedy help doth lend redress." Romeo and Juliet, Act IV, Scene 5.

The nurse's song, Burton wrote, makes a child quiet, and many times, the sound of a trumpet on a sudden, bells ringing, a carman's whistle, a boy singing some ballad on the street, alters, revives and recreates a restless patient who cannot sleep in the night. Many men are made melancholy by hearing music, but the melancholy is of a pleasing kind.

In a curious German treatise, "Der Musikalische Arzt,"[190:1] we find the following quotation from an article entitled "Reflections on Ancient and Modern Music."[190:2]

"If it be demanded how musick becomes a remedy, and inciteth the patient to dance, 'tis answer'd that sound having a great influence upon the actions of the air, the air mov'd causeth a like motion in the next air, and so on till the like be produced in the Spirits of the body, to which the air is impelled."

According to the French physician, Jean Etienne Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840), music acts upon the physique by determining nervous vibrations, and by exciting the circulation. It acts upon the morale by fixing the attention upon sweet impressions, and by calling up agreeable recollections.

Francois Fournier de Pescay, a contemporary of the above-named, commented on the fact that many famous writers of antiquity regarded music as a panacea, whereas in the light of modern medical science, it cannot be considered as an effective remedy in such affections as rheumatism, for example.[191:1]

An adagio may set a gouty father to sleep, and a capriccio may operate successfully on the nerves of a valetudinary mother. A slight indisposition may be removed by a single air, while a more obstinate case may require an overture or a concerto. The tastes of the patient should be consulted.

Country squires, when kept indoors by stress of bad weather, will experience much relief in a hunting-song, while young gentlemen of the town will perhaps prefer an old English derry-down. Hospital inmates will usually be content with hurdy-gurdies, and the poorer classes may be supplied with ballads at their own homes. Some patients will recover with all the rapidity of a jig, while others will mend in minuet-time. And surely the public welfare will be eminently promoted, when our physicians' prescriptions are printed from music-type, and when we have nothing more nauseous to swallow than the words of a modern opera.[192:1]

According to the Dutch physician Lemnius (1505-1568), music is a chief antidote against melancholy; it revives the languishing soul, affecting not only the ears, but the vital and animal spirits. It erects the mind, and makes it nimble.

The Reverend Sydney Smith graphically described the effect of enlivening music upon an audience, who had been manifestly bored and were gaping with ennui during the execution of an elaborate fugue, by a skilled orchestra. Suddenly there sprang up a lively little air, expressive of some natural feeling. And instantly every one beamed with satisfaction, and was ready to aver that music affords the most delightful and rational entertainment.

And such is doubtless the opinion of the great majority of people of culture and refinement, especially those of a jovial or mercurial temperament. According to Martin Luther, the Devil is a saturnine person, and music is hateful to him.

Many and sundry are the means, says Robert Burton, which philosophers and physicians have prescribed to exhilarate a sorrowful heart, to divert those fixed and intent cares and meditations, which in this malady so much offend; but in my judgment, none so present, none so powerful, none so apposite as mirth, music and merry company.[193:1]

During recent years the influence of music in disease has been the subject of renewed attention. In London Canon Harford, an enthusiastic believer in the efficacy of this method of treatment, organized bands of musicians, under the auspices of the Order of Saint Cecilia, who visited certain hospitals, where permission had been given, and there exercised their art with results highly encouraging and beneficial.

And in Boston Dr. John Dixwell has for many years been active in providing music for hospital patients. His admirable enterprise has been successful, and has received the endorsement of the medical fraternity. A wise discrimination is essential in the selection of music especially adapted to benefit any particular class of cases.

The National Society of Musical Therapeutics was founded in the city of New York, by Miss Eva Augusta Vescelius, in the year 1903, with the object of encouraging the study of music in relation to life and health; and also for the promotion of its use as a curative agent in hospitals, asylums, and prisons. The therapeutic use of music is believed to have passed the experimental stage. It is now admitted, says Miss Vescelius, that music can be so employed as to exercise a distinct psychological influence upon the mind, nerve-centres and circulatory system; and may serve as an efficient remedy for many ills to which the flesh is said to be heir. The selection of music in hospitals and asylums needs thoughtful consideration, for there we meet with all kinds of discord. An emotional song, for example, which would give pleasure to one, might sadden another, and a patient suffering from nostalgia would not be benefited by a melody suggesting a home-picture.

Will the trained nurse of the future have to include voice culture in her training before she is declared competent to minister to the wants of the sick?

This question is raised by Dr. George M. Stratton, professor of experimental psychology in Johns Hopkins University. In an address on "The Nature and Training of the Emotions," delivered before more than a hundred nurses of the hospitals of Baltimore, he made the broad statement that music would be a vital factor in treating the sick in the future.

Dr. Stratton did not insist that every nurse of the future must be a Patti, a Melba, or a Nordica; but he held that in the future a young woman who devotes her life to nursing the sick should be able to sing to the patient under her care.[194:1]

The mental effect of music is generally recognized as beneficial, in that it lifts the entire being into a higher state. That this effect is communicated to the body, is admitted, but the extent of physical benefit has not been sufficiently investigated either by musicians or by scientists. In the application of music for the treatment of disease, it should be remembered that the seat of many disorders is primarily in the mind, and that therefore the mental condition must be radically changed before a cure is possible. "In listening to music, the mind absorbs those tones which have become silenced in itself, and in the body as a necessary consequence; just as the stomach assimilates those food-elements which are required to repair the waste of the system. Thus our music-food is selected and distributed where it is most needed, and this natural selection of musical vibrations acts specifically upon those parts of the body which are out of harmony. A concert programme is a menu for the multitude. We hear all the music printed on it, but digest very little of it. Some kinds of music thus heard, must inevitably be wasted on the listener, or cause a musical dyspepsia."[195:1]

The English clergyman and writer, Hugh Reginald Haweis, extols music as a healthy outlet for emotion, and as especially adapted for young ladies. Joy flows naturally into ringing harmonies, says he, while music has the subtle power to soften melancholy, by presenting it with its fine emotional counterpart.

A good play on the piano has not unfrequently taken the place of a good cry upstairs, and a cloud of ill-temper has often been dispersed by a timely practice. One of Schubert's friends used to say that, although very cross before sitting down to his piano, a long scramble-duet through a symphony or through one of his own delicious and erratic pianoforte duets, always restored him to good humor.[196:1]

For many years the subject of musico-therapy has been discussed editorially in the columns of the "London Lancet." We give some statements emanating from this authority.

Music influences both brain and heart through the spinal cord, probably on account of its vibratory or wave motion, which stimulates the nerve-centres. . . .

It acts as a refreshing mental stimulant and restorative. Therefore it braces depressed nervous tone and indirectly through the nervous system reaches the tissues. It is of most use in depressed mental conditions. . . . The value of music as a therapeutic agent cannot yet be precisely stated, but it is no quack's nostrum. It is an intangible, but effective aid of medicine.

It seems strange that the healing influence of music has not been more thoroughly studied from a psychological standpoint, and utilized, when one is mindful of the great store of evidence, gathered for centuries, of the marked power of this agent upon the lower animals, and of its worth as a mental, and therefore as a physical tonic and stimulant, for human beings. A chief reason for this neglect has been ascribed to the materialistic views which have prevailed in therapeutics.

It was formerly believed quite generally, in Italy and elsewhere, that music was the only efficient cure for the effects of the bite of the tarantula, a species of large spider, so called from the city of Taranto. These effects consisted of a feigned or imaginary disease known as tarantism, which was prevalent in Apulia and other portions of southern Italy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Tarantism was an epidemic nervous affection characterized by involuntary dancing, gesticulations, contortions and cries. In spite, however, of all that has been written on this subject by physicians and historians, it appears to be a fact that the bite of the tarantula is not more venomous than that of other large spiders. Indeed, Dr. H. Chomet, who diligently investigated the matter, never succeeded in finding a case of tarantism, nor was he able even to obtain a glimpse of one of these insects.

It is certain, however, that tarantism was very prevalent in earlier times. J. F. C. Hecker, M.D., in his "Epidemics of the Middle Ages," stated that the music of the flute, cithern or other instrument alone afforded relief to patients affected with this disease. So common was it, that the cities and villages of Apulia resounded with the beneficent strains of fifes, clarinets and drums. And the superstition was general that by means of music and dancing, the poison of the tarantula was distributed over the whole body, and was then eliminated through the pores of the skin.

The bite of the star-lizard, Stellio vulgaris, of Southern Europe, was also popularly believed to be poisonous.

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