[On Hysteria, Anesthesia and Occult Phenomena]
Theosophist, January, 1880
Paris is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world for the study of that Protean malady, hysteria; two years ago the “Charité” could display a fasting girl who might have held her own against any of the female saints of the Middle Ages, and who thrived on the diet that proved fatal to her Welsh sister. Now Monsieur Dujardin-Beaumetz has discovered a “femme lithographique” in whom the lightest contact gives rise to an urticarious eruption. Upon tracing his name upon her flesh, the letters immediately appear in red relief, and this is accompanied by a local rise of temperature of from 1° to 2°.
There is a complete anesthesia of the whole body. Those who have studied the occult sciences know that this last symptom used to be a mark of demoniacal possession, and it will be remembered that the mother superior of the bewitched convent of Loudun could produce on her arms the raised names of the devils who infested her body. A few years ago the spiritualists of Toronto used to converse with their departed friends by the same means through the arms of a servant girl of that city; and a similar phenomenon is observed with “mediums.” It will be well, therefore, to weigh thoroughly the claims of the supernatural before giving a scientific explanation of the phenomenon, and it would perhaps be better to look on the “femme lithographique” as an embryonic St. Catherine, rather than run the risk of being considered an atheist by explaining away stigmatisation by a theory of periodic urticaria.