Pliny says, 'There are men whose whole bodies possess medicinal properties, - as the Marsi, the Psyli, and others, who cure the bite of serpents merely by the touch.' This he remarks especially of the island of Cyprus, and later travellers confirm these cures by the touch. In later times the Salma-dores and Ensalmadores of Spain became very celebrated, who healed almost all diseases by prayer, laying on of the hands, and by the breath. In Ireland, Valentine Greatrakes cured at first king's evil by his hands; later, fever, wounds, tumors, gout, and at length all diseases. In the seventeenth century the gardener Levret and the notorious Streeper performed cures in London by stroking with the hand. In a similar manner cures were performed by Michael Medina and the Child of Salamanca; also Marcellus Empiricus. Richter, an innkeeper at Royen, in Silicia, cured, in the years 1817,1818, many thousands of sick persons in the open fields by touching them with his hands. Under the popes, laying on of the hands was called "chirothesy.'"
Again, Ennemoser says: -
"As regards the resemblance which the science bears to magnetism, it is certain that not only were the ancients acquainted with an artificial method of treating disease, but also with somnambulism itself. Among others, Agrippa von Nettesheim speaks of this plainly when he says, in his 'Occulta Philosophia' (page 451): ' There is a science, known to but very few, of illuminating and instructing the mind, so that at one step it is raised from the darkness of ignorance to the light of wisdom. This is produced principally by a species of artificial sleep, in which a man forgets the present, and, as it were, perceives the future through divine inspiration. Unbelieving and wicked persons can also be deprived of this power by secret means".
Coming down to more recent times, we find that cures, seemingly miraculous, are as common to-day as at any period of the world's history. In fact, one unbroken line of such phenomena is presented to the student of psychotherapeutics, which extends from the earliest period of recorded history to the present time. At no time in the world's history has there been such a widespread interest in the subject as now; and the hopeful feature is that the subject is no longer relegated to the domain of superstition, but is being studied by all classes of people, from the ablest scientists down to the humblest peasant. The result is that theories almost innumerable have been advanced to account for what all admit to be a fact, namely, that there exists a power to alleviate human suffering, which lies not within the domain of material science, but which can be invoked at the will of man and controlled by human intelligence.
It would be tedious and unprofitable to discuss at length the numerous theories advanced by the different sects and schools which have an existence to-day. It is sufficient to know that all these schools effect cures of the most wonderful character, many of them taking rank with the miracles of the Master. This one fact stands out prominent and significant, namely, that the theories advanced to account for the phenomena seem to have no effect upon the power invoked.
Paracelsus stated what is now an obvious scientific fact when he uttered these words: -
"Whether the object of your faith be real or false, you will nevertheless obtain the same effects. Thus, if I believe in Saint Peter's statue as I should have believed in Saint Peter himself, I shall obtain the same effects that I should have obtained from Saint Peter. But that is superstition. Faith, however, produces miracles; and whether it is a true or a false faith, it will always produce the same wonders".
Much to the same effect are the words uttered in the sixteenth century by Pomponazzi: -
"We can easily conceive the marvellous effects which confidence and imagination can produce, particularly when both qualities are reciprocated between the subjects and the person who influences them. The cures attributed to the influence of certain relics are the effect of this imagination and confidence. Quacks and philosophers know that if the bones of any skeleton were put in place of the saint's bones, the sick would none the less experience beneficial effects, if they believed that they were near veritable relics".
Bernheim,1 quoting the foregoing passages, follows with a story, related by Sobernheim, of a man with a paralysis of the tongue which had yielded to no form of treatment, who put himself under a certain doctor's care. The doctor wished to try an instrument of his own invention, with which he promised himself to get excellent results. Before performing the operation, he introduced a pocket thermometer into the patient's mouth. The patient imagined it to be the instrument which was to save him. In a few minutes he cried out joyfully that he could once more move his tongue freely.
"Among our cases," continues Bernheim, "facts of the same sort will be found. A young girl came into my service, having suffered from complete nervous aphonia for nearly four weeks. After making sure of the diagnosis, I told my students that nervous aphonia sometimes yielded instantly to electricity, which might act simply by its suggestive influence. I sent for the induction apparatus. Before using it I wanted to try simple suggestion by affirmation. I applied my hand over the larynx and moved it a little, and said, ' Now you can speak aloud.' In an instant I made her say 'a,' then 'b,' then 'Maria.' She continued to speak distinctly; the aphonia had disappeared.
1 Suggestive Therapeutics, p. 197.
" ' The " Bibliotheque choisie de Medicine," ' says Hack Tuke, 'gives a typical example of the influence exercised by the imagination over intestinal action during sleep. The daughter of the consul at Hanover, aged eighteen, intended to use rhubarb, for which she had a particular dislike, on a following day. She dreamed that she had taken the abhorred doss. Influenced by this imaginary rhubarb, she waked up, and had five or six easy evacuations.'
"The same result is seen in a case reported by Demangeon.1 'A monk intended to purge himself on a certain morning. On the night previous he dreamed that he had taken the medicine, and consequently waked up to yield to nature's demands. He had eight movements.'
"But among all the moral causes which, appealing to the imagination, set the cerebral mechanism of possible causes at work, none is so efficacious as religious faith. Numbers of authentic cures have certainly been due to it.
"The Princess of Schwartzenburg had suffered for eight years from a paraplegia for which the most celebrated doctors in Germany and France had been consulted. In 1821 the Prince of Hohenlohe, who had been a priest since 1815, brought a peasant to the princess, who had convinced the young prince of the power of prayer in curing disease. The mechanical apparatus, which had been used by Dr. Heine for several months to overcome the contracture of the limbs, was removed. The prince asked the paralytic to join her faith both to his and the peasant's. 'Do you believe you are already helped?' 'Oh, yes, I believe so most sincerely!' 'Well, rise and walk.' At these words the princess rose and walked around the room several times, and tried going up and down stairs. The next day she went to church, and from this time on she had the use of her limbs." 2