Religious Revivals, visions, hallucinations and other side-effects
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.,
PART II. THE EMOTIONS.
CHAPTER VIII. INFLUENCE OF THE EMOTIONS UPON THE VOLUNTARY MUSCLES.
SECTION II. — Irregular and Excessive Muscular Contraction : Spasms and Convulsions.
Were we to take our description of the scene often presented on such occasions from the accounts of one which occurred more than half a century ago in Cornwall (when four thousand in various towns, Falmouth, Redruth, Camborne, &c, were convulsed), and compare it with the descriptions so frequently given in recent times of the effects produced in America, Ireland, and England by excited harangues and denunciations of eternal perdition, we should not fail to find a striking similarity in the symptoms.
The writer himself heard the following from one of these preachers : Addressing "the dear children," he exclaimed, "If you are wicked you will go to the devil, and live with him and his angels. Won't it be very awful to be put into a great blue flame? Your hands will be all burnt with the big fire, and your feet and all your body ; and the worst of it is that you will be always burning, and yet never burnt out!"
For instance, the account given in "Fothergill and Want's Medical and Physical Journal" (Hecker's Epidemics of the Middle Ages. Translated for the Sydenham Society by Dr. Babington. 1844., p. 145), so long ago as 1814, would do as well now as then for one class of cases. Thus we find :
Yawning, violent spasms of the muscles of the eyelids, the eyeballs themselves being fixed and staring, frightful contortions of the countenance, then convulsions (passing downwards) of the muscles of the neck and trunk, sobbing respiration. General agitation and tremors, the head thrown from side to side; convulsive beating of the breast, and clasping the hands, accompanied by many frightful gestures, followed, the lower extremities alone escaping.
At Ballymena, at the commencement of the Irish Revivals, the physical phenomena were very similar, and others were present of a more tetanic character. We are indebted to Dr. Massie's "Revivals in Ireland " for the following illustration of the influence of the emotions upon the body, especially the muscular system :
A neatly attired young woman, about 22, had been stricken an hour previously, and was supported in the arms of an elderly female, who was seated upon a low stool. Her face was deadly pale, her eyelids firmly closed, except when partially raised by a convulsive paroxysm, and then no part of the eye was visible, except a narrow line of white ; pulse intermittent ; great perspiration ; arms extended or elevated, and then the hands clasped with great energy, and her features rigidly fixed into an expression of supplication ; utterance rather incoherent ; agonizing expressions of despair.
A striking expression is employed in one description of the stricken.
"In all cases it appeared as if every fibre of the heart and every muscle of the body were wrung with the same excruciating torture."
A young woman is described as lying extended at full length ; her eyes closed, her hands clasped and elevated, and her body curved in a spasm so violent that it appeared to rest, arch-like, upon her heels and the back portion of her head. In that position she lay without speech or motion for several minutes. Suddenly she uttered a terrific scream, and tore handfuls of hair from her uncovered head. Extending her open hands in a repelling attitude of the most appalling terror, she exclaimed,
" Oh, that fearful pit !" During this paroxysm three strong men were hardly able to restrain her. She extended her arms on either side, clutching spasmodically at the grass, shuddering with terror, and shrinking from some fearful inward vision ; but she ultimately fell back exhausted, nerveless, and apparently insensible. In a third case, the face of a woman was deadly pale, the features rigid, the lips clenched, the hands clasped firmly together, and the head moved from side to side, as if to indicate internal agony.
At other times the force of the emotions fell chiefly on the vagus and spinal accessory ; the thoracic muscles were spasmodically fixed ; "an intolerable weight was felt upon the chest, and a choking sensation experienced." Such cases have more especially suggested the employment of the word hysteria in reference to the revival cases, because the most prominent symptoms of hysteria betoken functional disorder in the range of the respiratory nerves.