An Australian Miracle-Worker.
The reputation which Mr. Milner Stephen has earned for himself in Sydney for what in the dialect of the Spiritualists is called-healing mediumship, has made him an object of as much Curiosity as the celebrated Dr. Newton r was some years ago : n London, and we suppose we must look upon his visit to jvielbourne therefore as as: an event of .equal interest to society., lake Dr. ■Newton, Mr. Stephen works most of his cures by. the. laying on of■ hands and, like Dr. Newton, he claims that his cures are wrought by an influx of power from an invisible source. Like Dr. Newton, too, he works some of his cures in public; and the amount of public and private testimony which has been borne to them by newspaper critics, medical men, and eye-witnesses of varied sagacity, including patients who have been cured or relieved themselves, is certainly as great as that upon the strength of which we accept the reality of nine-tenths of the facts and events that are occuring about us every day. The instances in which he is said to have successfully treated such diseases as paralysis, rheumatism, deafness, dumbness, and blindness are both fairly numerous and carefully attested ; and unless we can dispute the value of the attestations, there seems no help for it but to admit the success of the treatment. By this we mean that the alleged phenomena not only occurred, but that they were wrought by Mr Stephen, and that, a large per centage of them at any rate cannot be explained except in association with him. This being admitted, the questhat remains to be answered is, what can that agency be ? Mr. Stephen professes to be a spiritualist, and so far as we can understand, he agrees with the spiritualists in.attributing the vis medicatrix which he possesses to the influence of invisible intelligence working through him, as the invisible electric current works through the wire which conducts it to'its destination. If is quite needless to say that only a spiritualist could advance such an hypothesis for a moment, and to the man of science, it is absolutely without mean ing. There is one a priori argumen against it, which may as well be slated, namely, that if the cures were supernatural they would' be permanent, whereas . we know, for a fact that some of them are only temporary. The cither alternative, then, is to suppose that when they do take place they are the manifestations of a latent powerj inherent in some organisms and wanting in others, which require certain conditions to bring it into activity. If we adopt this theory, we are at once relieved of the element of the mjraculous, with- which . .Mr. Stephen and his friends: would need-: lessjy embarrass the problgrp. The cures wrought by the laying on of his hands would then be no more supernatural than the cures wrought by an electric bath, or a galvanic battery, or the mesmeric coma. . It is a matter of common experience that cures are worked by these agencies,- and yet they are just, as little-susceptible .of,a strictly scientific explanation as Mr. glephen’s .manipulations. Miss Hariett Marfineau ;was one of the driest and most sceptical minds of tjie;century.q-; She was one of the very few people who have succeeded in divesting themselves of every shred of belief in the spiritual p and her autobiography, which is as interesting . .for philosophic .purposes . as that of Mbntaigne’s, discloses a picture
of naked, unrelenting infidelity, which places her above all suspicion of sympathy with anything not to be accounted for on purely rationalistic principles. Yet this same autobiography tells the story of her.restoration to health, after six years’ desperate illness, by means of mesmerism, and she further gives in it two cases of clairvoyance occurring within her own experience, from which the.possibilities of fraud- are carefully excluded. The only explanation she allows herself is that “ there are facts in human nature which require a good deal of humble and candid study before we can honestly claim to know the extent and character of human powers.” Since she wrote, the well-known experiments of Dr. Baird have placed beyond doubt the benefits of mesmerism as a remedial agent, though we are still as much in the dark as ever as to the nature and working of the remedy. In conclusion, the Age says “ Nobody can feel more, acutely than the scientific medical man himself the Cimmerian darkness in which he gropes his way to the cure of disease, and how brutally coarse and inadequate arc the instruments that he uses to lead the errant forces of nature along their wonted channels again—those sub.tle forces whose temporary estrangement has, in Tennyson’s language, — ’ Confused the chemic labors of the blood. Made havoc among the.tender cells, and landed the unhappy victim m jaundice or the gout. Think of the gain to telheticism alone if we could always get a fresh supply of nerve force direct from the overstocked ganglia of the Milner Stephens of the future instead of through the sickening medium of the druggists’ herbs and minerals! The transfusion of blood from one man’s veins to another is, we believe, a medical fact; why not the transfusion of nerve-fluid from one set. of nerves to another ?”
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