The suggestion to the patient's subjective mind that he was dead, rendered that mind unconscious of its own mental operations, and he was, to all intents and purposes, dead.
This is, obviously, but a feeble illustration of the principle involved. It is, however, sufficient to show how the soul may be deprived of a conscious existence. A life-long scepticism regarding the existence of the soul, and a consequent disbelief in immortality, constitute a suggestion that must operate to deprive the soul of a conscious existence, if the law of suggestion is universal in its operations.
The phenomena of experimental hypnotism also demonstrate the truth of the proposition. Every hypnotist knows that a suggestion to a deeply hypnotized subject that he is dead will produce a condition of such profound lethargy or catalepsy as closely to simulate death, and were the impression not removed, it would doubtless end in death. When the subject remembers what has passed, he testifies that he believed himself dead, and saw no incongruity in the situation. A settled belief that the death of the body ends all, and the absence of any belief or knowledge of the subject, must each operate to the same end.
It is this principle which constitutes the difference between men and animals, and which gives the one the power and potency of immortality, and leaves the other to perish. Animals, in common with men, are possessed of a duality of mind; the subjective in the former being proportionately stronger than in the latter, as is shown in their stronger instincts. Objective reason being weak, and the power of speech being absent, there is no possibility of the idea or suggestion of immortality being imparted to the animal. Hence its soul can have no conscious existence after the death of the body. It has the instinct of self-preservation in common with man, but it is the preservation of the life of the body. If the animal has any definite idea regarding life and death, it all pertains to the body. An animal certainly can have no idea of the possession of a soul, much less of its immortality.
When, therefore, Jesus proclaimed the law that belief was a condition precedent to immortal life, he formulated a scientific proposition then new to the world, and at the same time proclaimed himself master of the science of the soul. He had declared the law of faith as it applied to the power of the soul to heal the sick, and he knew that the same law governed the soul in its relations to eternal life. He did not formulate his propositions in the terms demanded by the science of the nineteenth century, nor did he give such reasons for his conclusions as inductive processes require. The time for that had not yet come. Reasons would not have been appreciated in his day and generation. Nor was it necessary for the accomplishment of his mission - which was to proclaim the law of immortality - to show that the man whose soul has not been aroused to consciousness dies as the brute dieth. This was his mission; and in so far as he has accomplished that mission is he entitled to be called the Saviour of the souls of mankind. He preached no new doctrine other than this. His code of ethics was sublime and godlike in its purity and simplicity, but it was not new.
He taught the doctrine of future rewards and punishments; but the symbols which he employed to describe the condition of the soul after death - the rewards bestowed and the punishments inflicted - were those which were current among the people with whom his earthly lot was cast; nor does this fact argue for or against his omniscience. It would, obviously, have been impossible for him to convey to the world any adequate idea of the modes of spiritual existence in terms which could be understood. He used the current coin of expression to convey to mankind the broad idea that the soul that is "saved" to immortal life through "belief" will then be punished or rewarded according to the deeds done in the body. It would, obviously, have been useless and confusing to his hearers had he attempted to employ any new symbols, or any language to which they were not accustomed, to convey that idea.
His mission, therefore, as the Saviour of the souls of men was accomplished when he revealed to the world the essential condition of immortal life. His mission as a moral teacher was secondary in importance. The one doctrine was new, the other old. The one was a scientific fact, the other a code of ethics. The one was essential to the attainment of man's ultimate destiny as an immortal entity, the other a standard of right and justice in this world, and a condition of felicity in the world to come.
It is said that when Hillel, who flourished in the century preceding Christ, was asked whether he could give the whole Jewish law in one sentence, he answered: "Yes, perfectly well. What you do not want anybody to do to you, do not you to them. That is the whole law; everything else is only commentary".
The same may be truly said of the New Testament doctrines and the law of faith. The only thing wholly new was the doctrine of faith. That is the whole law; everything else is commentary.