Isaac G Briggs.

Epilepsy, hysteria, and neurasthenia, their causes, symptoms & treatment; online

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Self -abuse is a bad habit, and no more a " sin " than


is biting the nails. Unfortunately, people with no
other qualification than a desire to do good, wrongly
harp on the " sin " of it and draw lurid pictures of
physical and mental wreck as the end of such
" sinners ", ignorant that if all masturbators went
mad the world would be one huge asylum.

Exaggeration never pays in teaching youth. Tell
the truth, which is bad enough without adding " white
lies " with an eye to effect.

Coitus causes slight prostration, Nature's device
to remind man to keep sexual intercourse within
bounds, for while in moderation it is harmless, in
excess it causes great prostration. Exactly the same
applies to self-abuse, for, paradoxical as it seems, the
real harm is done by the fear of the supposed

The masturbator first suffers from the knowledge
he is indulging in a pleasure he knows would be
forbidden, and from fear of being found out ; later he
learns from friends, quack advertisements, or well-
meaning books that self-abuse is a most deadly
practice, and thereupon a tremendous struggle occurs
between desire and fear, each act ending in an agony
of remorse and dread of future consequences, which
struggle does a thousand-fold more harm than the loss
of a little semen.

The ill-effects of these mental struggles disappear
after marriage, which means greater indulgence, but
indulgence free from mental stress. In neuropaths,
these mental struggles are the worst things that could
occur, for they tend to make permanent the states
we are trying to cure.

The most serious results of masturbation are moral
not physical. Loss of will-power, self-reliance,
presence of mind, reasoning power, memory, courage,
idealism, and self-control ; mental and physical
debility, laziness, a diseased fondness for the opposite


sex, and in later years, some degree of impotence or
sterility, are its commoner results.

Teach your child, therefore, not from fear of physical
harm, but because you wish him to be one of those
fortunate few who live and die " gentlemen unafraid ",
because they had wise parents.

Let the mother instruct a girl, the father a boy, and
not leave so vital a matter to an unsuitable pamphlet.

Buy one of the many " Knowledge for Boys or
Girls " books and read it carefully.

Having made sure you can convey a simple account
of the wonders of reproduction, and that you have
rooted out the idea that sex is something to be
apologized for, see the child and tell him it is time he
learned of his private parts, as manhood draws near.

Then, speaking in a quiet, unembarrassed way,
deliver your little homily, all the time insisting on the
marvel, the romance, the poetry and the beauty of the
sex. Let chivalry be your text, not fear, and repeat
the Squire's sound parting advice to Tom Brown :

" Never listen to or say things you would not
have your mother or sister hear."

Give a clear and complete description in simple
words of the mechanism and marvel of reproduction,
for half -knowledge generates a prurient curiosity about
the other sex, thus defeating the very end you have
so earnestly striven for.

Purity not impurity should be your text, and you
should only refer to masturbation as a harmful habit,
which should not be contracted.

Warn them to

"Keep the heart with all diligence, for out of
it are the issues of life ! "

by turning their thoughts instantly and determinedly


away from sex ideas when they arise, as they will
arise, time and again. It is useless to try not to think
of them, the child must instantly turn its thoughts to
to something else, for one who cannot stamp out a
spark will not subdue a fiercely-raging conflagration.

Babies should not be carelessly caressed, and a
fretful infant must never be soothed by playing with
the genitals, as is done innocently by some mothers
and nurses, and by others from motives more question-
able. Freud showed that there are subconscious
sexual desires in infants, which die out until reanimated
at puberty in Nature's own way. If exaggerated
by exuberant fondling, they gather force in the dark
corners of the mind, and are later manifested in morbid
sexual or mental perversity.

If you have good grounds for believing the habit
has already been contracted, enlist medical advice.
A great factor in the successful treatment of self-
abuse is early recognition, and, after the unhygienic
nature of the habit has carefully been pointed out, the
child's sense of honour should be invoked.

Without further reference to the matter, try
to become your child's confidant, for he will have
to fight fires within and foes without. See that his
time is filled with healthy sport and play, and ennoble
his ideas with talk, books and plays which lay stress
on chivalry and manliness. Give him plain food,
tepid douches, and a firm bed with light, fairly warm
clothing. Get him up reasonably early in the morning,
and let him play until he is " dog-tired " at night.

Let children rub shoulders with others, keep them
from highly exciting tales, let them read but little,
and train them to be observant of external objects
all the time.

Neuropaths develop very early sexually, and
contract bad habits in the endeavour to still their
unruly passions ; with them, the future is darker


than with the normal child, and the parent who
neglects his duty may justly be held accountable for
what happens to his child or his child's children.

Puberty is always a critical period in epilepsy,
many cases commencing at this time, while in a
number, fits commence in infancy, cease during
childhood, and recommence at puberty, the baneful
stimulus of masturbation being undoubtedly a factor
in many of these cases.



A THOUGH most people would assume that
epileptics are unable to follow a trade, there
is hardly an occupation from medicine to
mining, from agriculture to acting, that does not
include epileptics among its votaries.

Outdoor occupations involving but little mental
work or responsibility are best, but unfortunately
just those which promise excitement and change are
those which appeal to the neuropath.

A light, clean, manual trade should be chosen, and
those that mean work in stuffy factories, amid whirring
wheels and harmful fumes, using dangerous tools, or
climbing ladders, must be avoided.

For the fairly robust, gardening or farming are good
occupations, such workers getting pure air, continuous
exercise, and little brain-work. Wood-working trades
are good, if dangerous tools like circular saws are left
to others.

For the frail neuropath with a fair education,
drawing, modelling, book-keeping, and similar semi-
sedentary work may do. Other patients might be
suited as shoemakers, stonemasons, painters, plumbers
or domestic servants, so long as they always work on
the ground.

Some work is essential ; better an unsuitable
occupation than none at all, for the downward tendency
of the complaint is sufficiently marked without the
victim becoming an idler. Work gives stability.

Epilepsy limits patients to a humble sphere, and



though this is hard to a man of talent, it is but one of
many hard lessons, the hardest being to realize clearly
his own limitations.

If seizures be frequent, the ignorant often refuse to
work with a victim, who can only procure odd jobs,
in which case he should strive to find home-work, at
which he can work slowly and go to bed when he feels
ill. A card in the window, a few handbills distributed
in the district, judicious canvassing, and perhaps the
patronage of the local doctor and clergy may procure
enough work to pay expenses and leave a little over, for
the essential thing is to occupy the mind and exercise
the body, not to make money.

Very few trades can be plied at home and many
swindlers obtain money under the pretence of finding
such employment, charging an excessive price for an
" outfit ", and then refusing to buy the output, usually
on the pretext that it is inferior. Envelope-addressing,
postcard-painting and machine-knitting have all been
abused to this end.

An auto-knitter seems to offer possibilities, but
victims must investigate offers carefully.

Photography is easy. A cheap outfit will make
excellent postcards, modern methods having got rid
of the dark room and much of the mess, and postcard-
size prints can be pasted on various attractive mounts.

If the work is done slowly, and in a good light, and
the patient has an aptitude for it, ticket-writing is
pleasant. Among small shopkeepers there is a constant
demand for good, plainly printed tickets at a reason-
able price.

On an allotment near home vegetables and poultry
might be raised, an important contribution to the
household, and one which removes the stigma of being
a non-earner.

The mental discipline furnished by this home-work is
invaluable. Neuropaths, especially if untrained, are


unable to concentrate their attention on any matter
for long, and do their work hastily to get it finished.
When they find that to sell the work it must be done
slowly and perfectly they have made a great advance
towards training their minds to concentrate. Their
weak inhibitory power is thus strengthened with happy
results all round.

When the work and the weather permit, work should
be done outdoors, and when done indoors windows
should be opened, and, if possible, an empty or sparsely-
furnished bedroom chosen for the work.

Recreations. These offer a freer choice, but those
causing fatigue or excitement must be avoided, for
patients who have no energy to waste need only fresh
air and quiet exercise.

Manual are better than mental relaxations. Dancing
is unsuitable, swimming dangerous, athletics too
tiring and exciting. Bowls, croquet, golf, walking,
quoits, billiards, parlour games and quiet gymnastics
without apparatus are good, if played in moderation
and much more gently than normal people play them.
Play is recreation only so long as a pastime is not
turned into a business. When a player is annoyed at
losing, though he loses naught save his own temper,
any game has ceased to be recreative.



" Man is composed of characters derived from pre-existing
germ-cells, over which he has no control. Be they good,
bad, or indifferent, these factors are his from his ancestry ;
the possession of them is to him a matter of neither blame nor
praise, but of necessity. They are inevitable."


THE body is composed of myriads of cells of
protoplasm, in each of which, is a nucleus
which contains the factors of the hereditary
nature of the cell. In growth, the nucleus splits in
half, a wall grows between and each new cell has half
the original factors,

Female ovum and male sperm (the cells concerned
with reproduction) divide, thus losing half their factors,
and when brought together by sexual intercourse form
a germ-cell having an equal number of factors from
mother and father.

How these factors are mingled whether shuffled
like two packs of cards, or mixed like two paints we
do not know. If two opposite factors are brought
together, one must lie dormant. The offspring may
be male or female, tall or short ; it cannot be both, nor
will there be a mixture. This rule only applies to
clearly defined factors.

We are made by the germ-plasm handed down to us
by our ancestors ; in turn we pass it on to our children,
unaltered, but mixed with our partner's plasm.

" The Dead dominate the Living " for our physical



and mental inheritance is a mosaic made by our

Variations which may or may not be inheritable do
arise spontaneously, we know not how, and by varia-
tions all living things evolve.

A child resembles his parents more than strangers,
not because they made cells " after their own image "
but because both he and they got their factors from
the same source.

Man's physical and mental, and the basis of his moral,
qualities depend entirely on the types of ancestral
plasm combined in marriage. Man may control his
environment ; his heritage is immutable. To suppress
an undesirable trait the germ-cell must unite with one
that has never shown it one from a sound stock. An
unsuitable mating in a later generation, however, may
bring it out again (for factors are indestructible),
and the individual showing it will have " reverted to
ancestral type ".

To give an instance : Does the son of a drunkard
inherit a tendency to drink ? No ! The father is
alcoholic because he lacks control, consequent upon the
factors which make for control having been absent
from his germ-plasm. He passes on this lack ; if the
mother does the same, the defect occurs in a worse
form in the son. If the mother gives a control factor,
the son may be unstable or apparently stable, this
depending entirely on chance, but if the mother's plasm
contains a strong control-factor, the defect will lie
dormant in her son, who will have self-control, though
if he marries the wrong woman he will have weak-willed

If the son becomes a toper, therefore, it is because
he, like his father before him, was born with a defect
weak control which might have made of him a drug-
fiend, a tobacco-slave, a rake, or a criminal ; in his
home drink would naturally be the temptation nearest


to hand, and he would show his lack of control in

The way a lily-seed is treated makes a vast difference
to the plant which arises. If sown in poor soil, and
neglected, a dwarf, sickly plant will result ; if sown in
rich soil, and given every care that enthusiasm, money
and skill can suggest or procure, the result will be

So with man. A well-nourished mother, free from
care and disease, may have a finer child than a half-
starved woman, crushed by worry and work, but
neither starvation nor nourishment alter the inborn
character of the child.

The body-cells are greatly changed by disease, poison,
injury, and overwork, but these changes are not passed
on, and despite the influence of disease from time
immemorial, the germ-cell produces the same man as in
ancient days. Without this fixity of character, this
" continuity of the germ-plasm ", " man " would
cease to be, for the descendants of changeable cells
would be of infinite variety, having fixity of neither
form nor character.

Epilepsy, hysteria and neurasthenia are all outward
signs of defect in the germ-plasm, and so they (or a
predisposition to them) can be passed on, and inherited.

If a man shows a certain character, his plasm, had,
and has, the causative factor. He may have received
it from both his parents, when it will be strong, or from
one only, when it will be normal. If he have it not,
it is absent. The same applies to the plasm of the
woman he mates, so there are six possible combina-
tions, with results according to " Mendel's Law."

All the children will not inherit a taint unless both
parents possess it, but, however strong one parent be,
if the other is tainted, none of the children can be abso-
lutely clean, but will show the taint, weak, strong, or
dormant. This means that neuropathy will recur


and that it has previously occurred in the same
family, unless there be continual mating into sound
stocks. If there is continual mating into bad stocks,
it will recur frequently and in severe forms. All
intermediate stages may occur, depending entirely on
the qualities of the combining stocks.

From this we shall expect, in the same stock, signs
of neuropathic taint other than the three diseases
dealt with here, and these we get ; for alcoholism,
criminality, chorea, deformities, insanity and other
brain diseases, are not infrequent among the relatives
of a neuropath, showing that the family germ-plasm
is unsound.

Epilepsy, one symptom of taint, is more or less inter-
changeable with other defects ; the taint, as a whole,
is an inheritable unit whose inheritance will appear as
any one of many defects. This is shown by the fact
that very few epileptics have an epileptic parent.
Starr's analysis of 700 cases of epilepsy emphasizes
this point.

Epilepsy in a parent - 6

Epilepsy in a near relative - 136

Alcoholism in a parent - 120

Nervous Diseases in family - 118

Rheumatism and Tuberculosis - 184

Combinations of above diseases - 142

As medicine and surgery cannot add or delete plasmic
factors, the only way to stamp out neuropathy in
severe forms would be to sterilize victims by X-rays.
This would be painless, would protect the race and not
interfere with personal or even with sexual liberty.
In fifty years such diseases would be almost extinct,
and those arising from accident or the chance union of
dormant factors in apparently normal people could
easily be dealt with.


There are 100,000 epileptics in Great Britain, and as
all their children carry a taint which tends to reappear
as epilepsy in a later generation the number of epileptics
doubles every forty years. We protect these unfortun-
ates against others ; why not posterity against them ?

Neuropaths must pass on some defect ; therefore,
though victims may marry, no neuropath has a right to
have children.



" All men are not equal, either at birth or by training.
Nature gives each of us the neural clay, with its properties
of pliability and of receiving impressions ; nurture moulds
and fashions it, until a character is formed, a mingling of innate
disposition and acquired powers. But clay will be clay to
the end ; you cannot expect it to be marble."

Thomson & Geddes.

"Heaven lay not my transgression to my charge."

King John.

IT is essential that attendants, relatives, and
friends carefully study the character of neuro-
paths, and recognize clearly how abnormal it is,
for untold misery is caused by judging neuropaths by
normal standards.

Patients are often harshly treated because others
regard the victim of defective inhibition as having
gone deliberately to work, through wicked perversity
and pure wilfulness, to make himself a nuisance, to
persist in being a nuisance, and to refuse to be other
than a nuisance, rather than exercise what more
fortunate men are pleased to term self-control.

Character is usually appraised as " good " or " evil "
by the nature of a man's actions, the assumption being
made that he can control his impulses if he be so

This is not so. " Good " and " evil " are only
relative terms. What one man thinks " evil ", a second
holds " good ", while a third is not influenced.



Now the performance of the act judged is directed
by the performer's brain, the constitution of which
was pre-determined by the germ-plasm from which
he arose, so that the basis of character is inherited.

The moral sense is the last evolved and least stable
attribute of the last evolved and least stable of our
organs, the brain ; and brains are born, not made to
order. To blame a man for having weak control a
sick will is as unreasonable as to blame him for a
cleft palate or a squint. The " good " people who jog
so quietly through life little reck how much they owe
their ancestors, from whom they received stability.

These tendencies represent the total material for
building character. Training and environment can
only nourish good tendencies and give bad ones no
encouragement to grow gigantic.

If training and environment alone formed character,
then children reared together would be of similar dispo-
sition ; by no means the case. Similarly, if external
influences altered inborn tendencies, then, not only
would the evil man be totally reformed by strong induce-
ments to virtue, but strong inducements to vice would
lead totally astray the good man, for " good " is no
stronger than " evil ", both being attributes of mind.

In mind as in body, from the moment he is conceived
to the moment his dust rests in the tomb, man is
directed by immutable laws, though he is not simply a
machine directed by impulses over which he has no
control. There is real meaning in " strong will "
and " weak will " will being a tendency to deliber-
ate before and be steadfast in action, a tendency which
varies immensely in different people. The fallacy of
" free will " lies in assuming that every one has this
tendency equally developed, making character a mere
matter of saying " Yes ! " and " No ! " without
reference to the individual's mental make-up.

Deliberate, persistent wickedness implies a strong


will, just what neuropaths lack. A man of weak will
can never be a very good nor yet a very bad man. He
will be very good at times, very bad at times, and
neutral at times, but neither for long ; before sudden
impulses, whether good or bad, neuropaths are largely

The many perversities of a neuropath are not deliber-
ately put forth of his " free will " to annoy both him-
self and others, for the neuropath inherits his weak-
control no less than his large hands.

Friends must remember they are dealing with a
person whose nature it is to " go off half-cock ", and
who cannot be normal " if he likes ". The neuropath,
young or old, says what he " thinks " without thinking,
that is he says what he feels, and acts hastily without
weighing consequences.

Cassius : Have you not love enough to bear with me,
When that rash humour which my mother gave me
Makes me forgetful ?

Brutus : Yes, Cassius ; and, from henceforth

When you are over-earnest with your Brutus,
He'll think your mother chides, and leave you so.

One cannot detail the effects of neuropathy on
character, when its victims include madmen, sexual
perverts, idiots, criminals, imbeciles, prostitutes,
humble but honest citizens, common nuisances, invalids
of many kinds, misanthropists, designers, enthusiasts,
composers, communists, reformers, authors, artists,
agitators, statesmen, poets, prophets, priests and

Very mild epilepsy from one fit a year to one in
several years instead of hindering, seems rather to
help mentality, and many geniuses have been epileptic.
These talented victims, are less rare than the public


suppose, owing to the jealous care with which
symptoms of this disease are guarded. Socrates,
Julius Caesar, Mahomet, Joan of Arc, Peter the Great,
Napoleon, Byron, Swinburne, and Dostoieffsky are but
a few among many great names in the world of art,
religion and statecraft. Epileptic princes, kings and
kinglets who have achieved unenviable notoriety
might be named by scores, Wilhelm II being the most
notable of modern times.

This brilliant mentality is always accompanied by
instability, and usually by marked disability in other
ways. The success of these men often depends on an
ability to view things from a new, quaint or queer
standpoint, which appeals to their more normal fellows.

In matters that require great fertility, a quick grasp,
ready wit, and brilliant but not sustained mental effort,
numerous neuropaths excel. In things calling for
calm, well-balanced judgment, or stern effort to
conquer unforseen difficulties, they fail utterly.

Subtle in debate, they are but stumbling-blocks in
council ; brilliant in conception, they fail in execution ;
fanciful designers, they are not " builders of bridges ".
They are boastful, sparkling, inventive, witty,
garrulous, vain and supersensitive, outraging their
friends by the extravagance of their schemes ;
embarrassing their enemies by the subtlety of their

They wing on exuberant imagination from height to
height, but the small boulders of difficulty trip them up,
for they are hopelessly unpractical ; they have neither
strength of purpose nor fortitude, and their best-laid
schemes are always frustrated at the critical moment,
by either the incurable blight of vacillation, or by the
determination to amplify their scheme ere it has proved
successful, sacrificing probable results for visionary

Great and cunning strategists while fortune smiles,


they are impotent to direct a retreat, but flee before the
fury they ought to face. They rarely have personal
courage, but are timid, conciliatory and vacillating
just when bravery, sternness, and determination are
needed ; furious, obstinate and reckless, when gentle-

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Online LibraryIsaac G BriggsEpilepsy, hysteria, and neurasthenia, their causes, symptoms & treatment; → online text (page 8 of 11)