Imagens das páginas

leptic patient, would at first suppose her, putting aside the spasmodic affection of the body, to be simply awake in the ordinary way. By-and-by her new powers might or might not catch his observation. But a third point would certainly escape his notice. I refer to her mental state of waking trance, which gives, as it were, the local colouring to the whole performance.

To elucidate this element, I may avail myself of a sketch ready prepared by nature, tinted with the local colour alone—the case of simple trance-waking, unattended by fits or by any marvellous powers, as far as it has been yet observed, which is known to physicians under the name of double consciousness.

A single fit of the disorder presents the following features :—The young person (for the patient is most frequently a girl) seems to lose herself for a moment or longer, then she recovers, and seems to be herself again. The intervening short period, longer at first, and by use rendered briefer and briefer, is a period of common initiatory trance. When, having lost, the patient thus finds herself again, there is nothing in her behaviour which would lead a stranger to suppose her other than naturally awake. But her friends observe that she now does everything with more spirit and better than before—sings better, plays better, has more readiness, moves even more gracefully, than in her usual state. She manifests an innocent boldness and disregard of little conventionalisms, which impart a peculiar charm to her behaviour. Her mode of speaking is perhaps something altered; a supernumerary consonant making its undue appearance, but upon a regular law, in certain syllables. But the most striking thing is, that she has totally forgotten all that has passed during the morning. Inquire what her last recollections are, they leave off with the termination of her last fit of this kind; the intervening period is for the present lost to her. She was in her natural state of waking when I introduced her to your notice; she lost herself for a few seconds, found herself again; but found herself not in her natural train of recollections, but in those of the last fit.

These fits occur sometimes at irregular intervals, sometimes periodically and daily. In her ordinary waking state, she has her chain of waking recollections. In her trance-waking state, she has her chain of trance-waking recollections. The two are kept strictly apart. Hence the ill-chosen term, double-consciousness. So at the occurrence of her first fit, her mental existence may be said to have bifurcated into two separate routes, in either of which her being is alternately passed. It is curious to study, at the commencement of such a case, with how much knowledge derived from her past life the patient embarks on her trance-existence. The number of perviously realised ideas retained by different patients at the first fit is very various. It has happened that the memory of facts and persons has been so defective, that the patient has had to learn even to know and to love her parents. To most of her acquaintances she is observed to give new names, which she uses to them in the trance-state alone. But her habits remain ; her usual propriety of conduct: the mind is singularly pure in trance. And she very quickly picks up former ideas, and restores former intimacies, but on a supposed new footing. To complete this curious history, if the fits of trance recur frequently, and through some accidental circumstance are more and more prolonged in duration, so that most of her waking existence is passed in trance, it will follow that the trancedevelopment of her intellect and character may get ahead of their development in her natural waking. Being told this, she may become anxious to continue always in her entranced state, and to drop the other: and I knew a case in which circumstances favoured this final arrangement, and the patient at last retained her trance-recollections alone, from long continuances in that state having made it, as it were, her natural one. Her only fear wasfor she had gradually learned her own mental history, as she expressed it to me—that some day she should of a sudden find herself a child again, thrown back to the point at which she ceased her first order of recollections. This is, indeed, a very extreme and monstrous case. Ordinarily, the recurrence of fits of simple trance-waking does not extend over a longer period than three or four months or half-a-year, after which they never reappear; and her trance-acquirements and feelings are lost to the patient's recollection for good. I will cite a case, as it was communicated to me by Dr G. Barlow, exemplifying some of the points of the preceding statement.

“ This young lady has two states of existence. During the time that the fit is on her, which varies from a few hours to three days, she is occasionally merry and in spirits ; occasionally she appears in pain, and rolls about in uneasiness; but in general she seems so much herself, that a stranger entering the room would not remark anything extraordinary: she amuses herself with reading or working, sometimes plays on the piano—and better than at other times—knows everybody, and converses rationally, and makes very accurate observations on what she has seen and read. The fit leaves her suddenly, and she then forgets everything that has passed during it, and imagines that she has been asleep, and sometimes that she has dreamed of any circumstance that has made a vivid impression upon her. During one of these fits she was reading Miss Edgeworth’s Tales, and had in the morning been reading a part of one of them to her mother, when she went for a few minutes to the window, and suddenly exclaimed, 'Mamma, I am quite well, my

headach is gone.' Returning to the table, she took up the open volume, which she had been reading five minutes before, and said, What book is this?" she turned over the leaves, looked at the frontispiece, and replaced it on the table. Seven or eight hours afterwards, when the fit returned, she asked for the book, went on at the very paragraph where she had left off, and remembered every circumstance of the narrative. And so it always is; she reads one set of books during one state, and another during the other. She seems to be conscious of her state ; for she said one day, · Mamma, this is a novel, but I may safely read it; it will not hurt my morals, for, when I am well, I shall not remember a word of it.'

To form a just idea of a case of catalepsy, the reader has to imagine such a case as I have just instanced, with the physical feature added, that the patient, when entranced, is motionless and fixed as a statue; the spasmodic state, however, not confining itself closely to one type, but running into catochus, or into partial rigid spasm, or into convulsive seizures, (see Letter V.) capriciously.

The psychical phenomena exhibited by the patient when thus entranced, are the following :

1. The organs of sensation are deserted by their natural sensibility. The patient neither feels with the skin, nor sees with the eyes, nor hears with the ears, nor tastes with the mouth.

2. All these senses, however, are not lost. Sight and hearing, if not smell and taste, reappear in some other partmat the pit of the stomach, for instance, or the tips of the fingers.

3. The patient manifests new perceptive powers. She discerns objects all around her, and through any obstructions, partitions, walls or houses, and at an indefinite distance. She sees her own inside, as it were, illuminated,

and can tell what is wrong in the health of others. She reads the thoughts of others, whether present or at indefinite distances. The ordinary obstacles of space and matter vanish to her. So likewise that of time; she foresees future events.

Such and more are the capabilities of cataleptic patients, most of whom exhibit them all—but there is some caprice in their manifestation.

I first resigned myself to the belief that such statements as the above might be true, upon being shown by the late Mr Bulteel letters from an eminent provincial physician in the year 1838, describing phenomena of this description in a patient the latter was attending. In the spring of 1839, Mr Bulteel told me that he had himself in the interim often seen the patient, who had allowed him to test in any way he pleased the reality of the faculties she possessed when entranced. As usual, in the hours which she passed daily in her natural state, she had no recollection of her extraordinary trance performances. The following are some of the facts, which Mr Bulteel told me he had himself verified.

When entranced, the patient's expression of countenance was slightly altered, and there was some peculiarity in her mode of speaking. To each of her friends she had given a new name, which she used only when in the state of trance. She could read with her skin. If she pressed the palm of her hand against the whole surface of a printed or written page deliberately, as it were, to take off an impression, she became acquainted verbally with its contents, even to the extent of criticising the type or the handwriting. One day, after a remark made to put her off her guard, a line of a folded note was pressed against the back of her neck; she had read it. She called this sense-feeling-contact was necessary for its manifestation. But she had a general perceptive power besides. She

« AnteriorContinuar »