Frederik Lange.

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DEGENERATION

IN

FAMILIES



R. LANGE M.D.,




DEGENERATION IN FAMILIES



THE

TREATMENT OF NEURASTHENIA



BY

A. PROUST

PBOFESSEUB A LA FACULTE DE MEDECINE DE PARIS,
INSPECTEUB GENEBAL DBS SERVICES SANITAIBE8, ETC.

AND

GILBERT BALLET

PBOFESSEITB AGBEGE A LA FACULTE DE MEDECINE DE PABIS,
MEDECIN DE L'HOPITAL SAINTE-ANTOINETTE



TRANSLATED BY

PETER CAMPBELL SMITH,

L.B.C.P. & S. EDIN., LF.P.S. OLAS.

In one handsome pott octavo volume of 227 pages. Cioth.
Price 5s. net.



".',.. This little book is a really excellent translation of a work
by Prof. A. Proust and Prof Gilbert Ballet. . . . The treatment
which is recommended in the pages of this little book is essentially
common sense in character, and may be summed in the following words:
Good Moral and Physical Hygiene, a well-considered dietaiy and en-
couragement by suggestion "Lancet.

". . . The work may be commended to the notice of practitioners
desirous of guidance in the recognition and treatment of a very difficult
class of cases. The subject is admirably treated, and the advice given
is sound. We may add that the work is clearly printed, and attractively
turned out." Medical Press.

" . . . It is an eminently practical little work." Medical News.



DEGENERATION IN FAMILIES

OBSERVATIONS
IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM



BY

FR. LANGE, M.D.
1

MEDICAL SUPERINTENDENT OP THE LUNATIC ASYLUM NEAB MIDDELFABT, DENMABK

Author of " On the Influence and Heredity in Mental Diseases" "A Brief Outline
of the most Important Groups of Mental Disease' 1



AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION FROM THE DANISH

BY

C. CHE. SONNE



LONDON:

HENRY KIMPTON
13, FURNIVAL STREET, HOLBORN, E,C.

GLASGOW: ALEXANDER STENHOUSE

40 AND 42 UNIVERSITY AVENUE

1907



COPYRIGHT



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

HUMAN society has in its development and
progress through all ages submitted to the
"Family" theory, which overlies it as a firm
and binding network. This has been acknow-
ledged from time immemorial, even as far back
as Moses, whose books are essentially of a
genealogical character. The Bible states tike-
wise that from the family of David salvation
was to spring. When ancient free Greece was
at the zenith of her power, her great families
either stood forth on the pedestal of glory,
or were seen dwindling into insignificance in
the way of ordinary mortals. The firmly con-
solidated Roman community during its rise
was based on the power and unity of her
families. In ancient Scandinavia family stood
opposed to family, and the duty of vengeance
was incumbent on each member as a sacred
obligation against any member who trespassed
on its prerogatives.

It is again the generic idea which reunited
and assumed the mastery under the hard rule

263104 1



2 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

of the feudal system and of the nobility in
the new community established in Europe,
until it finally developed into absolute monarchy
the final triumph of the family. After the
dissolution of the old state of affairs, caused
by the migrations in the fifth and sixth cen-
turies, the new world had again congregated
under the banner of Christianity. Monarchy
was now all-powerful, eclipsing in form the
most tyrannic periods of the Roman Empire,
owing to its ruling families changing so fre-
quently in those days. In more recent times
the opposition to this state of affairs has become
of vital importance. The struggle against so
complete a predominance of the family theory
lasted through generations; but natural deve-
lopment and evolution resulted in the family
rule obtaining a power hitherto unknown.
There was no question whether the individual
was endowed with superior talent or high-
minded; the individual was sustained entirely
by his family renown or coat of arms. No
one seemed to take the slightest interest
whether the individual who was destined to
rule the fate of nations was an immature
infant, or constitutionally infirm or of unsound



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM 6

mind, or a poor degenerated irresponsible being.
The theory of- family had taken such a hold
on the human mind that not only did no one
oppose it, but it was actually looked upon
throughout as a symbol of supreme happiness
as the natural and only valid reflection of a
Divine Empire, Heaven itself transferred to
earthly relations.

And family prestige gives strength, because
it gives unity, from the central scions to
its widest extended branches. "Outside of
his tribe the Arab is without rights and sub-
ject to the arbitrary interference of everybody;
within it, he is protected, and knows that
every one of the members of the tribe considers
him as one of their own" (Buhl: Life of
Mahommed). True, it is the individual man
who acquires and creates, but it is the family
that preserves and solidifies, maintains, fixes
and strengthens. Family is the conservative
principle that gives firmness and character to
the evolution of humanity, that slowly adopts
and formulates those ideas which are qualified
to live and grow, that makes them thrive and
strengthens them and protects them against
those hasty and sudden changes, which are



4 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

contrary to the nature and feelings of the
human organism.

The family is composed of individuals. But
as long as these single members do not feel
themselves as part of the great community
which the family forms, the latter does not
exist as an actual power. The family can
only be formed through this feeling ; but, once
formed, any single member will hardly quite
free himself from the tie by which he feels
himself more or less bound. The individual
may break away from the family, may even,
under outside influence, place himself in opposi-
tion to it ; but this very opposition will in itself
form a restricting bond, which holds him and
makes him to a certain extent a bondsman.

Behind the existing families stands the future
generation mere atoms who have not yet seen
the light of day; those families also who
seem as yet unconcerned; those groups who
are only gradually forming and awakening to
a sense of power. This is the soil from which
the ever fresh growth emanates which is to
take the place of the existing families when
they succumb; which is to receive the inheri-
tance, and carry it forward until it grows into



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM 5

family itself grows, conquers, rules, and then
vanishes.

Throughout all ages, some families have been
in possession of an almost unlimited power,
and have formed the principal groundwork on
which human society has been constructed.
True, according to the laws of nature, the
sprouting and luxurious underwood grows up
and chokes them; but it is not the families,
nor the Family idea, that suffer by this defeat
only the single particular family. In the course
of time attempts have been made to overthrow
the importance of the families. Revolutions have
brought changes in this respect; it may even
be said that every revolution, against whichever
power it may have been directed, has always
turned against those families who have, accord-
ing to its inspired authority, been in possession
of the ruling power. But the vigorous life, and
the importance to the progress of the world,
of the families have again overshadowed
this. And even if the revolutions have not
been without their effects, yet the continuous
march of evolution has maintained itself, and
carried on its straight course in the form of
families.



6 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

This is the Family in its glory! But from the
oldest traditions we learn that the Family, like
everything else, is subject to the law of change ;
that alongside the progress and splendour of
the ancient family run other strings which
draw it to its fall and ruin what nowadays we
call its degeneration. Cain is, within the Family,
the first instance of this kind. While the race
of Adam, according to the legend of Genesis,
is elevated to such power and glory that all
the world is to be peopled by his descendants,
Cain stands as the prototype of -the curse of
the race. While the progeny of Seth propagates
itself through infinite generations, Cain's is ex-
tinguished henceforth and for ever. Is this not
the same idea that repeats itself in the family
of the Atrides with the heavenborn and the
earthly children, where the dark and gruesome
form of Clytemnestra bodes the dissolution and
destruction of the family! And the further we
study history, the surer the foothold w r e gain, the
more this experience assumes a definite shape.
The Julian Family, once so glorious, ends its
days in insanity and crime-laden disaster. Dur-
ing the older mediaeval ages the mighty ruling
family of the Carlo vingians, which at its climax



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM 7

stood as the most powerful supporter of civili-
zation, ends in weak-minded dissolution. The
great English Royal Families, those depicted
by Shakespeare in his historical plays, end in
either mental weakness, or else degenerate into
violent criminal characters. And the same facts
repeat themselves everywhere, as the history
of every country offers ample material for illus-
tration.

As yet, however, the matter was only broadly
understood and taken notice of in its general
aspect. The natural order of individual life
growth, maturity, decline was transferred
to the life of the families, and accepted as a
universal fact and a law for all creation. The
Family theory itself continued triumphant in
all its power and glory, and had probably
never held greater sway than at the beginning
of the nineteenth century.

But after the great flourish with which the
French Revolution heralded the advent of a new
era, these conditions came to be more and more
interfered with. The direct consequence of this
event was the Napoleonic rule, which, looked
upon from one point of view, was a direct
negative to the Revolution and its principles ;



8 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

seen from another standpoint, however, it was
the very perfection and crowning feature of
these, inasmuch as it proved the power and
strength of the individual in the face of the
might and traditions of the family rule, the
inheritance of centuries. The waves of evolution
did, indeed, close again over this episode for it
can hardly be called more than an episode but
this grand isolated figure, Napoleon, however
much he may have sinned against the prevail-
ing dynastic powers, still stands, as a model
and unique example, indelible in the history
of the evolution of the human race.

The ring of defence had been breached. The
wall which had formerly surrounded existence
and secured to it firmness and position had
cracked, and was no longer an unassailable
entity, but a feature whose worth was, like
everything else, subject to doubt and criticism.
Formerly, the family theory had been so strong
that later generations when the natural, actual
connection had been severed had attempted to
connect themselves to ancient families by adopt-
ing their names and family coat of arms. But
the nineteenth century, which may be said to
be one of the most enterprising and effective



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM \)

which humanity has ever known, was able
to transform the appearance and the conditions
of the universe within a very short space of
time, and sought and found a by no means
unimportant task in undermining and de-
stroying old ideas and traditions, which were
encumbering life as a restricting and ruling
power, and substituting for them remedial
measures. And amongst these new ideas the
doctrine of Degeneration of the process of the
natural dissolution of the families is doubt-
lessly one with which it occupied itself with
the greatest interest, not to say with the
greatest enthusiasm.

And it may be almost taken as an every-
day occurrence that, once a matter has been
called into question, searching and critical in-
vestigation is sure to arise spontaneously and
attack the case, perhaps from sides which had
from the first not been considered as bearing on
the matter. This also applies here. And the in-
vestigation and solution of the question was to
come just from one of the innovations of recent
times the modern Lunatic Asylum such as
the humane and democratic view of poor and
suffering humanity had recently modelled it.



10 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

Formerly the Lunatic Asylums had merely
been a defence used by the community for
protecting itself against its unruly and unman-
ageable elements; but from the beginning of
the century, when Final, in the true sense
of the word, broke the chains of the lunatics,
the asylum became a defence to the afflicted
one, a means of restoring him to health, or,
failing this, a home offering him rest and
peace from the molestations and misunder-
standings of the outer world constituting, at
the same time, a medium for acquiring an
understanding of this, perhaps the most terrible
of all human sufferings.

And from this new field of observation the
doctrine of the degeneration of families
started especially in connection with the
famous name of Morel. Thenceforward science
did not rest satisfied with the general theory
of the evolution of families being subject to
the law of change; a more exact and deeper
knowledge of the special laws of this process
of dissolution was acquired. It was seen that,
as certain fixed rules apply to the single indi-
vidual whose short span of life makes it easier
to follow these where growth and evolution



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM II

are followed by maturity, which again ends
in decline and dissolution, so the same law
was applicable to the family. It was proved
beyond doubt that when a family has reached
its climax, it again declines through a certain
regular number of generations, until it ends in
the process of dissolution, of degeneration, and
finally dies out for want of vigour and germi-
nating power. In spite of certain elements,
which might seem to destroy, or at least to
derange this law, yet the clear lines of its
merciless biddings have been so firmly fixed
that, although they were met from the first,
all over the world, with doubts and protests,
they soon gained general and uncontested
approval. And it is a sure proof of their having
taken effect, of their having struck humanity
as a ray of light contributing its share to-
wards the understanding of the whole problem
of existence, that this law of the degeneration
of the family has during the last generation
unquestionably occupied the human mind per-
haps more than any other of the great problems
of the time, so that it is now hardly possible
to open a new book, or to skim a newspaper,
without meeting with themes often in a loose



12 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

and misunderstood form from this, the great
tragic master theme of the life of mankind.

It is thus not by accident that this light,
which has penetrated into the world, emanates
from the Lunatic Asylum. These homes,
where certain phases of human suffering have
found either restoration or alleviation, offer
exceptional opportunities for investigating and
measuring this process of dissolution, simply
because it is the same organ with which we
are here principally concerned which in its
pathologic state brings the individual into the
asylum, and upon which, on the other hand,
the degeneration of the family is contingent.
As an individual, the single human being is
something by himself: he consists of an agglo-
meration of organs which hold certain relations
to each other, and which in their ensemble
determine the nature and character of the
individual. As part of a greater community
in the first instance of the family, in a wider
sense of the whole human society the indi-
vidual is only represented by his brain. On
the brain only depends his place and rank
within society, be this narrow or wide : all other
organs and faculties of the individual are



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM 13

subject to its guidance. Even sexual life, the
other sally-port towards the surrounding world,
is, as far as its value to the world is concerned,
entirely dependent on the ruling and regulating
power of the brain. It is only under the supreme
direction of the brain that the other organs
gain any importance beyond the life of the
individual. Consequently, it is the brain, and
only the brain, which gathers the individuals
into families. Progeny in itself does not mean
family. The family is only formed by means
of the comprehending and conscious life which
has its seat in the brain.

And, as it is thus the strength or the
weakness of the brain-organ that determines
the real position of the individual in every
one of the manifold relations of life, so it is
also ultimately the object of all human know-
ledge to understand the importance and power
of the brain, inasmuch as it is the vehicle
of the highest, the psychic, functions of life.
The brain in its entirety comprises many other
factors, but these only refer to the individual
human organism ; and the study of their in-
finetely varied reciprocal relations is ultimately
only the connecting-link which is to lead us



14 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

to a clear understanding of man in his glorious
position as bearer of the human intellect.
And this rule applies everywhere. When Nature
is investigated in its most hidden recesses, it
is, in the first instance, a result of the human
brain's never satisfied craving for work, which
seeks its field everywhere ; but the final object
always turns out to be the finding of supposi-
tions, points of view, or comparisons, which
may help towards throwing light upon and
understanding man's own particular highest
vital functions. And when we delve into the
ground to search for relics from the civilization
of bygone times, it is not, indeed, the things
found, however splendid and beautiful they
may be, that in themselves awake our most
intense enthusiasm; but we are interested in
them mainly and chiefly because they supply
us with materials for understanding the develop-
ment in the ages through which the human
intellect that is, the human brain, has passed.
As everything human which has been done, i
now, or will be, done on earth is only a result
of the human brain's workings, so all our
endeavours only tend to subordinate all the
world to this power to reduce the earth to



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM 15

subjection to ourselves and at the same time
to become acquainted with its power and its
limitation. But while most other lines only
indirectly and by circuitous routes lead us
towards this centre, the Lunatic Asylum un-
doubtedly offers one of the nearest fields of
observation for this, the most central of all
studies. Here one gets to know the organ
directly in its manifold psychical workings
from its wrong side, it is true, in its defective,
partly destroyed form; but even thus, light
is thrown over its functions and peculiarities.
And in this connection it is just the point
to get a clear understanding of human nature
in its decline, its degeneration. It is not my
intention here to repeat all that has been
observed and learned about this matter. It
has been so often repeated ; I have myself in
another publication * briefly summed up what
appear to me the most important guiding lines
in this relation. What I am aiming at here
is to draw the lines somewhat further ahead,
to bring the knowledge of the phenomena

* On the Influence of Heredity in Mental Diseases and
A brief Outline of the most Important Groups of Mental
Disease.



16 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

under a sharper and more definite point of
view. I shall not dwell upon the conditions
of the individual disease or general state ; but
by means of the facts as they appear in the
asylum, I will attempt to throw light upon
them as they manifest themselves in outer life
with its rich and varying relations, and try
to define the part which they as far as our
defective knowledge goes appear to play there.
I assume the existence of degeneration to be
a definite, indisputable fact.

In order to consider the variegated relations
of life 1 then take my starting-point from the
Lunatic Asylum, seeing that there is hardly any
working field where one has so ample, as well
as so easy, opportunities as present themselves
there for estimating the importance of the brain
and its working, both as far as the individual
as well as existence in general are concerned.
When one sees the whole chain of these
invalids, whether their disease is only of a
passing nature, or likely to be lifelong, it is
impossible not to notice how an anomalism
in this organ isolates the individual from all
his natural connections, and displaces his
whole existence inside the normal frame of



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM 17

life, in quite a different degree from that in which
the other organs of the body are concerned.
There are, of course, differences in degree, of
great and far-reaching importance, within these
limits. There are mentally diseased persons,
about whom it may be said, at least metaphori-
cally, that they are removed from a clear view
and a correct perception merely by a shade of
colour, a slight variation of light; and there
are others, in whose sight the whole firm frame-
work of existence is distorted and disarranged ;
finally, there are some whose whole comprehen-
sion and understanding is so dull and blunted
that they are no longer able to recognise the
lines and forms of life ; but they all stand
though in different degrees as strangers, un-
versed and uncomprehending towards the actual
world and its phenomena.

It is then the value of the individual brain
which determines a person's status in life and
society. This is, of course, also affected by
numerous external relations and conditions; it
naturally gives a person widely different bases
and starting-points in whichever rank of society
destiny may have precipitated him. But the

real crux of the matter is ultimately and solely

2



18 OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM

determined by and depending upon the strength
and value of the organism. A brain which
works healthily and energetically is capable of
attaining anything which lies at all within the
limits of possibility. To elucidate my meaning,
I again revert to Napoleon I., who promulgated
the dictum: " Every man in my army carries
a marshal's baton in his knapsack." Hence
external obstacles are of subordinate importance
as compared to power inherent in the brain.
Seeing that no brain enters life without certain
inherited qualities, it will, presumably, even in
the most normal state in which it has ever
been known, contain a certain amount of one-
sidedness in its disposition, which in the indi-
vidual case makes it more fit for the one than
for the other of the tasks which life proffers.
On the whole, earth can hardly offer a goal
which cannot be reached by a brain in posses-
sion of its perfect working power. It is there-
fore the chief economical consideration of this
world of ours to keep one's brain-organism in
the most perfect order possible. All qualifica-
tions for life ultimately depend on this. And
as the brain holds all the active power, so it
also contains the faculty for carrying the



OBSERVATIONS IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM 19

burdens, for composedly bending under the
stress of existence. This is also in inverted
image learned in a Lunatic Hospital.

The brain I am here only speaking of it
as the carrier of psychic life, that is to say,
in a narrower sense, the cortex of the brain
is an organ like all other organs of the body,
intended for taking up certain matters, utilising
them and discharging them transformed and
burnt through the influence of heat. So far,
it does not differ from any other organ of the
body. As the digestive tube takes in the
alimentary substances and transforms them
during their passage, so the cortex takes up
and burns its proper aliment, without any
active or conscious interference with the process
from the individual, although he may be able
from time to time to observe its progress, the
same as during the process of combustion in
the digestive organs. But while these have
only to deal with the nutritive matter required
for maintaining the private economy of the in-
dividual, the stuff which is supplied through
the sensory organs to the cerebral cortex is of
quite a different nature; but it is burnt like
the former, and again leaves the organ in the



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