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Observations placeholder

Perkins, Dr Elisha – Curing Rheumatism and Gout using tractors



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.,

SECTION V. — Combined Influence of Arousing" certain Mental States, and lightly touching the Affected Part.

The same [positive] mental states may be more or less strongly called into action, assisted by a direct physical action upon the part. This is what occurs in the employment of the tractors, a very allowable mode of treatment, when the true principle at work is recognized.  

The Attention is first directed to the seat of disease, and is then conveyed from it, under the impression that the pain or other morbid sensation will concurrently pass away, and escape at the extremity of the limb or organ affected. Faith is no doubt a very useful adjuvant, but it does not appear to be essential; as in many instances the operator makes no appeal whatever to this principle, and the patient does not anticipate benefit from the treatment.

Lastly, there is the local traction, an unquestionable influence, although merely wooden tractors are employed, and one which has been too much overlooked by those who attribute the success attending tractorism entirely to metal agency. It is difficult to separate these complex influences, but it is clear that the simple passing of a substance, whether it be a wooden point or a finger, over the surface of a sensitive part of the body, must in itself exert a considerable influence over its capillary circulation, apart from its action in fixing the Attention.

I have before me a large number of cases of the successful treatment of disease by tractors, both metallic and wooden ; but shall only select a few, in order to show their effect. It is sufficient to maintain, for the present purpose, that part of the result was due to mental influence.

At the time when the metallic tractors of Perkins excited so much attention, and their efficacy was attributed to galvanism, Drs. Haygarth and Falconer, of Bath, selected certain patients in the General Hospital for their experiments, employing two wooden tractors of nearly the same shape as those used by Perkins, and painted so as to resemble them in colour.

The cases chosen were those of chronic rheumatism — in the ankle, knee, wrist, and hip. One attributed his pain to gout. With the exception of the hip case, the joints were swollen, and all had been ill for several months.

"Of five patients, all except one assured us that their pains were relieved, and three of them that they were much benefited by the first application of the remedy. One felt his knees warmer, and he could walk much better, as he showed us with great satisfaction. One was easier for nine hours, till he went to bed, when the pain returned. One had a tingling sensation for two hours. The wooden tractors were drawn over the skin so as to touch it in the slightest manner. Such is the wonderful force of the Imagination.

" Next day, January 8th, the true metallic tractors of Mr. Perkins were employed exactly in like manner, and with similar effects. All the patients were in some measure, but not more, relieved by the second application, except one, who received no benefit from the former operation, and who was not a proper subject for the experiment, having no existing pain, but only stiffness of her ankle. They felt (as they fancied) warmth, but in no degree greater than on the former day" (Of the Imagination as a Cause and as a Cure of Diseases of the Body, exemplified by fictitious Tractors and Epidemic Convulsions. By Dr. Haygarth. 1801., p. 3).

Dr. H. adds, "If any person would perform these experiments, they should be performed in due solemnity. During the process, the wonderful cures which this remedy is said to have performed, ought to be particularly related. Without these indispensable aids, other trials will not prove as successful as those which are above reported. The whole effect undoubtedly depends upon the impression which can be made upon the patient's Imagination."

The source of the experience

Perkins, Dr Elisha

Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps



Rheumatoid arthritis