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Hack Tuke, Daniel – Healing - Inducing Anaesthesia without anaesthetics



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As described in Illustrations Of The Influence Of The Mind Upon The Body In Health And Disease, Designed To Elucidate The Action Of The Imagination - Daniel Hack Tuke, M.D., M.R.C.P.,


Anaesthesia. — Insensibility to bodily pain, artificially induced, without drugs and solely by psychical means, is a most interesting and important fact, and would require a chapter instead of a few paragraphs to do it justice. No one who has studied the history of anaesthetics in all forms, doubts that, whether by inducing a profound and peculiar kind of sleep, or by merely rendering the patient insensible to sensorial impressions related to a certain idea or train of ideas, severe as well as trivial operations may be performed without any pain.

It is a remarkable fact that in all, or nearly all histories of anaesthetics, psychical anaesthetics are not even mentioned. Yet they preceded drug-anaesthesia, and to a large extent suggested it. Cloquet removed a woman's breast, during the mesmeric sleep (she being able to converse, but insensible to pain), so far back as 1829. It is said that no fatal case from psychical anaesthesia has occurred.

A few words on anaesthesia, especially in connection with Dr. Elliotson and Mesmerism, may not be out of place here. A passage written by Dr. Forbes in the " British and Foreign Medical Review," on its employment in surgical operations, is now of real historical interest, and the period which it marks ought not to be overlooked by anyone who undertakes to write a complete history of anaesthetics.

[Vide Remarks by the writer on the occasion of Dr. Elliotson's death, in the Medical Times and Gazette, August 29, 1868. ]

Four years before (in 1842) at a discussion at the Medical and Chirurgical Society, on an operation performed without pain under the influence of Mesmerism (so-called), a distinguished member of the profession, the late Dr. Copland, asserted that the fact was unworthy of the Society's consideration, because pain is a wise provision of nature, and patients are all the better for it, and recover more quickly!

In 1843 appeared Dr. Elliotson's well-known work, "Numerous Cases of Surgical Operations without Pain in the Mesmeric State."

Then after the lapse of a few years, a large number of capital operations in various countries (especially in India by Dr. Esdaile) having been painlessly performed, a considerable change of opinion evidently took place, and Dr. Forbes, in his "Review" for October, 1846, thus writes:

"Indeed, we hesitate not to assert that the testimony is now of so varied and extensive a kind, so strong, and, in a certain proportion of cases, so seemingly unexceptionable, as to authorize us — nay, in honesty to compel us — to recommend that an immediate and complete trial of the practice be made in surgical cases."

But scarcely had this number of the "Review" appeared when the first operation under the influence of ether was performed in America ! This was on October 16th, and the news reaching England on December 17th, its discovery was announced in the "Medical Gazette" of the 18th, under the head of "Animal Magnetism Superseded," and on the following day Liston operated for the first time upon a patient under its influence. It was soon seen that many phenomena, such as partial consciousness, calling out as if in pain, sensitiveness to slight touch, were quite consistent with perfect anaesthesia, and were not, as many had supposed when they occurred in mesmeric patients, proofs of imposture.

Now, Dr. Elliotson and his opponents were both right and wrong; — he wrong; in asserting; that Mesmerism would be the anaesthetic ultimately adopted by the profession, but right in his belief that operations had been painlessly performed under its influence; however its mode of action be explained.

The source of the experience

Hack Tuke, Daniel

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Being anaesthetised