"This success made him reflect whether all maladies could not be cured by exorcism . . . The experiment which he tried on the invalids of his parish were so successful that his renown soon opened through all Suabia, and the regions roundabout. Then he began to travel, being called for everywhere."
GASSNER was so successful that at Ratisbon he had, it is said, 6,000 patients of all ranks encamped in tents. He cured by simply touching with his hands. But that in which he appears original was that he not only made his patients sleep or become insensible by ordering them to do so but caused them to raise their arms and legs, tremble, feel any kind of pain, as is now done by the hypnotist. "'In a young lady of good family' he caused laughter and weeping, stiffness of the limbs, absence of sight and hearing, and anæsthesia so as to make the pulse beat at his will."
M. FIGUIER and others do not seem to have been aware that a century before GASSNER, a PIETRO PIPERNO of Naples published a book in which there was a special exorcism or conjurations, as he calls them, for every known disorder, and that this possibly gave the hint for a system of cure to the Suabian. I have a copy of this work, which is extremely rare, it having been put on the Roman prohibited list, and otherwise suppressed. But GASSNER himself was suppressed ere long, because the Emperor, Joseph II, cloistered-that is to say, imprisoned him for life in the Monastery of Pondorf, near Ratisbon. One must not be too good or Apostle-like or curative-even in the Church, which discourages trop de zéle.
But the general accounts of GASSNER give the impression, which has not been justly conveyed, that he owed his remarkable success in curing himself and others not to any kind of theory nor faith in magnetism, or in religion, so much as unconscious suggestion, aided by a powerful Will which increased with successes. To simply pray to be cured of an illness, or even to be cured by prayer, was certainly no novelty to any Catholic or Protestant in those days. The very nature of his experiments in making many people perform the same feats which are now repeated by hypnotizers, and which formed no part of a religious cure, indicate clearly that he was an observer of strange phenomena or a natural philosopher. I have seen myself an Egyptian juggler in Boulak perform many of these as professed tricks, and I do not think it was from any imitation of French clairvoyance. He also pretended that it was by an exertion of his Will, aided by magic forms which he read from a book, that he made two boys obey him. It was probably for these tricks which savored of magic that GASSNER was "retired."