Natural And Supernatural -- By: G. H. Estabrooks
BSac 85:338 (April 1928) p. 224
Natural And Supernatural
Imagination is as fatal as tuberculosis and mental diseases sometimes cause as much distress as real physical suffering. For instance, I stick a pin into your finger and you say it hurts. And there is a very good reason why it should hurt; namely, the pin. On the other hand I may hypnotize you, tell you while in hypnosis that I am going to stick a pin into you and that your finger will be very sore after I wake you up. Actually I will do nothing, but sure enough, after you wake up your finger will be very painful—just as much so as if I had really used the pin. It may even become red and inflamed. But, mark you, there is no earthly reason for your finger being sore. It is all in your imagination. And yet for all that, the pain is very real and the inflammation may be very real as well.
Again, let us suppose that you receive a heavy blow on the temple which fractures your skull. This causes pressure on a certain part of the brain—the motor area— and as a result let us suppose that your right arm becomes paralyzed. That looks reasonable enough. A blow on the head might very easily cause paralysis. There is nothing astonishing in that to the average person. But now, suppose that I hypnotize you and suggest to you in hypnosis that your right arm is paralyzed and that it is going to remain paralyzed after I wake you up, that you feel nothing in it and that you cannot make the least movement with it. Strange to say, on awakening, your arm will be helpless, as useless and as numb as a stick. But why? I have not injured your arm or your head or hurt you in any way.
Similarly a heavy blow on the back of your head might cause blindness, since those parts of the brain which have to do with vision are situated here. Strange to say, by using hypnotism I could also cause blindness, just as complete and in most respects indistinguishable
BSac 85:338 (April 1928) p. 225
from the blindness caused by the head blow. It would take an expert physician to tell the difference either here or in the case of paralysis, and even the best of medical men are liable to confuse these two types of trouble.
There are two broad kinds of nervous disease; one is called structural, the other functional. These words pretty much explain themselves. In the structural diseases there is something actually wrong with the structures in the body. For instance, a nerve is actually cut or a blood vessel bursts in the brain or some germ attacks the spinal cord. Here you have a definite and obvious cause for the trouble which results. But in the other type of nervous disease you have no apparent cause for the disorder. The patient simply goes blind, or becomes paralyzed in some part of his body...
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