1st August 2014, Volume 127 Number 1399

Excerpt of an article by Stuart Moore, B.A., M.D., Dunedin. (Read at the Otago Division, B.M.A., May 28th.). Published in NZMJ September 1913;12(47):514–537.

This subject was far too long left in the hands of the unscientific. Unfortunately, by them it was submerged in a malodorous swamp of superstition, humbug and confusion of thought.

In the earlier attempts made by men imbued with honest scientific purpose to rescue the treasures of knowledge from this precarious position, the smell of the swamp has been apt to prove tenacious. If one roads the earlier and some of the later works on hypnotism—works, I mean, which have done their part in advancing our knowledge—the impression one is apt to gain is that stupendous results are obtained with marvellous facility and certainty. This impression is false. It is significant that in these works we read little of failures. It was only when methods were devised of successfully treating these failures that we heard much about them.

The danger of psychotherapy seems to be that brilliant temporary results are apt to cause an observer to lose his judgement. This subject has been left too long in the hands of the triumphant quack. Although to-day, medical men have established broad scientific foundation for this subject, and have erected a by no means ignoble edifice thereon, yet the medical profession as a whole are not yet in possession of this wealth of knowledge and of power. It is open to anyone of us who will read, and, with labour, investigate, to attain a knowledge and skill in this matter, which will far transcend that of the quacks. But this knowledge, which should permeate and influence our whole work in medicine, surgery, and midwifery, stands woefully neglected and quackery triumphant, spews forth its unscientific statement and superstitions on a credulous public. The overthrow of quackery must be brought about by the systematic attaining and dissemination of knowledge in the, medical profession.

A very little scientific knowledge and contact with the systematic practical application of this therapy, would enable our students to go forth able easily to outdistance the quack in what is regarded too often as the peculiar province of the irregular practitioner. The treatment of many psychical cases, however, must be in the hands of specialists. The great need at the present time in this subject seems to me to be increased accuracy of definition with corresponding increase in precision of thought.

Despite all the nonsense with which this subject is popularly surrounded, I hope by giving a brief account of its modern scientific foundation to show that the line which divides true science from its counterfeit is here, as everywhere, distinct. The best presentation of the subject with which I am acquainted is “Munsherberg's Psychotherapy.” For many of the conceptions and for a good deal of the phraseology in this paper I am indebted to that book.

Religion, morality, mysticism, have nothing to do with our subject. We, as physicians, must abstract the subject from such entanglement, by carefully distinguishing between the causal and purposive view of man.