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Observations placeholder

Hack Tuke, Daniel – Sickness - Heart failure induced by powerful emotions – shock



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.,


Sweetser reports a case of Pelletan's as follows:

"The subject of this record was an Irishman, set. 36, and of the most ungovernable passions. Having experienced during the revolutionary struggles various misfortunes and sufferings, he at length, on the affairs of France assuming a more favourable aspect, obtained a pension of 12,000 francs, but which was immediately taken from him on the death of the patron by whom it had been procured. This last misfortune, it would seem, completely overthrew him.

'He has told me a hundred times,' says Pelletan, ' that on hearing the news of his loss he immediately felt a dreadful weight in his chest. His respiration became fatiguing, and. the palpitation of the heart assumed an irregularity which had no' interruption during the two years and a half that he survived his misfortune.'

"On inspecting the body,. the heart was found colourless and its whole substance in a remarkable state of flaccidity, such as the distinguished narrator never before witnessed. The parietes of the cavities fell together, and the flesh of this organ might be compared to the pale and shrunken muscles of an old woman. There was an astonishing contrast between the flesh of the heart and that of the other muscles of the body. M. Pelletan did not hesitate to believe that the heart, in consequence of the violent mental shock, was struck with a sort of paralysis, and that death ultimately took place from the complete palsy of the organ."...............

In death from sudden emotion "an excitation is produced," says Brown-Sequard, "on the roots of the par vagum, which appear to have their true origin in the neighborhood of the seat of the calamus scriptorius, and in consequence the blood vessels of the heart contract and expel the blood they contained, and with it the natural excitant which causes the movements of the heart. So that a complete syncope and death take place." He also speaks of death through the lungs from morbid action on the branches of the par vagum in these organs (Phantasmata. By K. R. Madden, P. ECS. 2 vols. 1857, p. 226).


Dr. Carpenter explains the mode in which emotional shock destroys the heart's action as follows :

"Just as electricity developed by chemical change may operate (by its correlation with chemical affinity) in producing other chemical changes elsewhere, so may nerve-force, which has its origin in cell-formation, excite or modify the process of cell-formation in other parts, and thus influence all the vital manifestations of the various tissues, whatever may be their own individual characters."

 After applying this law to the influence of mental states upon the properties of the various tissues and the composition of the secretions, he proceeds:

"Further, it not only appears that a simple withdrawal or disturbance of the nervous force supplied to particular organs, occasions a retardation or perversion of their vital operations, but there also seems evidence that an influence of an opposite kind may be transmitted through the nervous system which is positively and directly antagonistic to the exercise of the vital powers of the several tissues. Such, at least, appears to be the only legitimate mode of accounting for the extraordinary effect of "a shock," physical or mental, in at once and completely destroying the contractility of the heart, and in bringing to a stand the vital operations of other parts. If the nervous force be regarded as a polar force, analogous in its mode of transmission to electricity, it is not difficult to understand that the reversal of the usual direction of its action may produce the effects in question; especially when it is borne in mind that the direct and inverse electric currents (as shown by Prof. Matteuci) exert opposite influences upon the nervous excitability " (Human Physiology. By Dr. Carpenter. 4th Edit. 1853, p. 346).


The source of the experience

Hack Tuke, Daniel

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Types of hurt and organs

Activities and commonsteps