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Observations placeholder

Hack Tuke, Daniel – Sickness - Summary: Disease is caused by extreme emotions



Type of Spiritual Experience


The gist of the argument here is that it is the intensity of the emotion that results in disease.  Excessive joy for example is as damaging as excessive love [lust] and excessive sadness [grief and melancholy].


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.,


Prof. Rolleston observes that, ……defeat upon an army, makes it readily succumb to dysentery, scorbutus, and malaria….

Everything goes to prove that purely intellectual pursuits influence the organic functions much less powerfully than pursuits involving the passions.

It shows the necessity of distinguishing between different forms of mental manifestation ; the much closer connection which some mental processes have with the bodily organs than others ; the far greater tendency some have to interrupt and suspend their operation than others.

Thus, it is obvious that Sir Isaac Newton's intense concentration of thought did not imperil the action of the heart, while John Hunter's intense indignation suspended its action. All forms of disease are indiscriminately laid at the door of study by Tissot, namely, gout, tumours, aneurisms, inflammations, scirrhosities, ulcers, dropsies, baldness, apoplexies, convulsions, &c. ; but it would be altogether opposed to medical experience to assert that the chances of inflammation or aneurism, and apoplexy or convulsions arising from study, are equal.

An aortic aneurism or a dropsy is much more likely to result from passion or other sudden emotional action than from thought.


The ill effects of Joy, when excessive, so contrary to its beneficial influence in moderation, has often been a subject of philosophical remark. I have seen it stated, within a few years, that several convicts, Irishmen, undergoing imprisonment for life, fell down dead on being informed that they were liberated.

The following well-known instances may here be added :

Valerius Maximus states that two Roman matrons died with Joy on seeing their sons return in safety from the battle fought near Lake Thrasymenus. "One died while embracing her son; the other was suddenly surprised by the sight of her son while she was deeply lamenting his supposed death."

I may add that quite recently similar fates, the result of a rebound from Grief to Joy, have awaited several women in connection with shipwrecks, their husbands having been reported as certainly lost and then turning up.

That this influence would resolve itself into one of sorrow in some instances may be suggested by the cynic, but we decline, for the honour of human nature, to accept this explanation.

History also records that "Sophocles, at an advanced age, and in the full possession of his intellectual power, composed a tragedy which was crowned with such success that he died through Joy ; that Chilon, of Lacedemon, died from Joy while embracing his son, who had borne away the prize at the Olympic games. Juventius Thalma, to whom a triumph was decreed for subjugating Corsica, fell down dead at the foot of the altar at which he was offering up his thanksgiving. Fouquet, upon receiving the intelligence of Louis XIV having restored him to liberty, fell down dead " (On Superstitions connected with the History and Practice of Medicine and Surgery. By T. J. Pettigrew, F.R S. 1844, p. 96).

To these examples may be added those of Diagoras, an athlete of Rhodes, who died from seeing his three sons return crowned from the Olympic games ; and Dionysius, the second tyrant of that name, who died on hearing the award of a poetical prize to his own tragedy (Mental Hygiene. By Dr. Sweetser. 1844, p. 18).

The source of the experience

Hack Tuke, Daniel

Concepts, symbols and science items


Activities and commonsteps