Trall thought of electricity as a means of controlling and directing the remedial activities of the body. He said: "It is capable of exciting motion or action in muscular fibers and of determining vital action in particular points, circumstances which, to a greater or lesser extent, are useful in many morbid conditions." Thus, as will readily be seen, we are back to the primary mistake of the early Hygienists--that the body's remedial efforts require to be directed and controlled. More attention to Graham and Jennings would have dispelled this illusion.
Among the electrical appliances that achieved popularity among Hygienists and hydropaths was the electro-chemical bath, which was supposed to work wonders in removing metallic substances from the body. Not all the Hygienic and hydropathic practitioners adopted the electro-chemical bath; indeed, some of them denounced it as a humbug. It enjoyed considerable vogue for a time and then ceased to be used. Dr. Gorton said of this bath that "the merits of this celebrated bath may have been overestimated by some. There are those, however, who discard its use altogether; while by others it has been, and is now, lauded to the skies. I regard it as efficacious in some particular complaints."
With biting sarcasm, Dr. Kittredge describes the views of many with respect to this miracle bath. He said: "Be you lame, halt, or blind, stiff in the joints as a ten years foundered horse, or as twenty years enlargement of the heads of the bones can make you, you have only to step into an acidulated bath, and have a streak of lightning run through you! and 'presto, or given to change,' and you are well again, rather, better than new, if anything."
If unable to afford the expense of one of these modern miracle-working gadgets (electro-chemical baths), one had only to go to a clairvoyant and he--though stupid as a dolt when awake--would, asleep, tell him all the ills he suffered with and how to cure them. What a convenience! The most highly educated are as prone as the ignorant to patronize the popular cure craze, be it a new "wonder drug" or a skilled mountebank who has magic in his hands.
Aye! By the mere laying on of hands you may be cured in a trice of disease you have been years in building and all this may be done without removing or correcting a single etiological factor that has contributed to the building of your extensive and long-standing pathology. Not only is there not the slightest need to disturb the causes, it is not even necessary to know cause from effect. Like the infallible "specifics" of the medical profession that immunize you against causes that are daily parts of your life, these marvelous magnetic procedures work their wonders independently of the laws of being.
How inconsistent to believe that a man can be made whole in a few minutes or in a few days by the simple laying on of hands by some pretender, while rejecting with horror the belief that this same man can obtain absolution of his sins from a priest! With what alacrity they believe in the absurd dogmas and damaging practices of the drugging school which, like the magnetic healer, also believes that it is not necessary to remove causes, but simply to violate the laws of life still more by taking poisons!
In discussing the electro-chemical bath and a few other crazes, Dr. Kittredge said: "I don't believe in the possibility of anything or anybody, or any combination of things or any number of bodies making a man well in three-quarters of an hour, or three hours, or three weeks, or three months, that has been twenty or thirty years getting sick; simply because, we know, it is impossible. Nothing short of a miracle could do it, and I am free to confess, I don't believe that God would subvert the wisest laws He ever made in order that some ignorant pretender might make a noise in the world."
That an animal magnetism of one man can be made to operate upon another to radically and permanently cure disease without the cause of the disease being removed, is a proposition as absurd and irrational as that drugs can do so. Yet, many Hygienists adopted magnetism and employed it in their practice. In spite of the opposition to which it was subjected and its condemnation as the rankest kind of charlatanism by the learned men of the day, Hygienists were inclined to accord animal magnetism an integral place in the Hygienic System. In Europe the subject received far more favorable attention from medical men than it did in this country, so that in espousing its cause, Hygienists were almost alone on this side of the Atlantic.
At that time there was much excitement over the cures reported to have been effected by the spirits of the dead--spiritualism was enjoying a revival. People were hearing strange noises and feeling queer sensations--raps, taps, knocks, thumps, bumps, pinchings, squeezings, rattlings, chatterings, rollings, poundings, tippings, tumblings, scratchings, scorchings, freezings. A desk, a table or a chair would rise up without visible means of lifting it; a chair would reverse position; a man's pen would be wrong end up but would write quite as well; nevertheless, everything behaved contrary to all known laws. The victims of the delusion would see a phosphorescent face staring down at them, appearing to be constituted of fog and electricity. It would develop into a human form--head, trunk and limbs--so demi-ethereal and semi-transparent that one could think only of gas and magnetism.
New fangled notions were few and just emerging, but they attained great popularity in a short time. Many Hygienists became converts to spiritualism. Among those who adopted spiritualism, magnetism and hypnotism were Mary Gove and Dr. Thomas Low Nichols. The most difficult obstacle Hygiene had to hurtle then, as now, is its simple naturalness. Few people are content with nature or with simplicity. They prefer the mysterious, the incomprehensible, the complex and the artificial.
Is it not strange that these departed spirits, who while "in the flesh" were farmers, mechanics, merchants, lawyers, etc., all become healers as soon as they "pass beyond the veil?" Dr. G. H. Taylor said of the spirit healing of his time: "I ought, perhaps, to add as an inference from sober inquiry, that the spirits of the departed dead are usually engaged in some higher pursuit than the attempt to interrupt the relations between transgression and its consequences; nor is the presence of hypothetical influences sufficiently plain to be reliable. There must always be a connection between life, whether in its normal or depressed manifestations, and the material things that contribute more or less perfectly to sustain physiological phenomena."
If our forerunners of 150 years ago could not boast of their mesmeric influences or table-turning or spirit-wrapping, they were the victims of a marvellous list of charlatans of other descriptions. It is very unfortunate for the Hygienic cause that many of these popular fallacies found their way into Hygienic practices.