Day By Day in Every Way I Am Getting Better and Better: Emile Coué and the Birth of American Positive Thinking (Unpublished 1972)

PREFACE/INTRODUCTION

In Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, published in 1956, Martin Gardner does a splendid job of describing several dozen of history’s most convincing “sciosophs” and their eccentric theories. Yet I miss any mention of Philip Emile Coué (1857-1926) and his program of induced conscious autosuggestion. For a brief but spectacular period during the early ’20s, this French apothecary’s marvelously simple system of mental healing and his word-a-day theory of human personality captured the imagination — if not the intellect — of countless millions both here and abroad. Overnight Coué’s formula for recovery, “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better,” became the stock phrase of the country.

Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the genial, greathearted Coué in no way fits Gardner’s profile of the typical pseudo-scientist: he did not consider himself a genius, did not despise professional contemporaries, did not suffer from paranoid delusions, did not have “strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greater scientists and their theories,” or write in a complex, technical jargon. Quite the opposite was true: the pudgy chemist was extremely modest and self-deprecating, never claiming to have been an original thinker; he saw himself as an ally rather than a foe of the medical and scientific establishment; the jovial old man was anything but paranoid, and he could not have confused any literate person with his plain-worded theory. All of this, of course, only served to increase his appeal. Note also that Coué refused to charge for his service as autosuggestionist and lecturer; one hesitates to brand him a charlatan because of his unmistakable charity.

Couéism is actually a borderline case in intellectual history. The amazing reception he was according when he toured the Midwest in 1923 made it clear that his movement was not only a medical fad, but a religious fad as well, probably related to the phenomenal recrudescence of fundamentalism during the decade. To be sure, the stoop-shouldered Frenchman insisted that his personality was of no account in explaining his cures; he disavowed miraculous power insofar as it concerned the operation of his own mind on those of others. The real miracle was individual, the source of healing power resided within the individual’s spirit and imagination. Yet how slight was the difference between this doctrine and that of faith-healing — too slight for the public to discern, in fact. Ralph Mowry asserts in his anthology, The Twenties: Fords, Flappers and Fanatics (1963), that “the widespread appeal of this simple self-help doctrine indicated a mass dissatisfaction with the contemporary church and the old theology.”

Clergymen were alarmed by the popularity of autosuggestion, fearing that it would be used as a substitute for religion — as it was. Coué’s “method” disturbed them even more than did the other faith cures making inroads among their congregations, such as Christian Science and the Emmanuel Movement and New Thought, since it encouraged the heretical notion that man could attain spiritual well0beling without any help from God whatsoever. (Although Couéism disappeared from the American scene by 1924, the spiritual solipsism of which it was a manifestation remained, thereby explaining the continued growth of Christian Science.)

America was infatuated with psychology during the 1920s; it was “king” among the popular sciences according to Frederick L. Allen, author of that renowned informal history of the decade, Only Yesterday. Coué’s fame can at least partially be ascribed to the fact that conscious autosuggestion, like the controversial psychoanalytic method, was supposed to give one control over that mysterious force known as the sub-conscious (Coué, as will be seen, more commonly referred to it as the Will); but much more rapidly — and much less expensively. “I wish to be taken seriously by serious-minded people. I want everyone to be convinced that the theories I advance, reduced as they are to their simplest expression, are nevertheless built upon a groundwork of scientific fact.” Many were thus convinced. Autosuggestion was scientific — and it was easy, as easy as a twelve word lullaby.

In an article on “Nerves” written for that round-robin critique of American civilization, Civilization in the United States (edited and orchestrated by that notorious soon-to-be expatriate, Harold Stearns), published in 1922, the very same year during which Couéism was developing into a national obsession, Albert Kuttner suggested, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not:

…If Freud, instead of saying that the incestuous longing of the child for the parent of the opposite sex is a natural impulse, though normally sublimated during the period of adolescence, had put the same idea into the phraseology of so many popular songs which reiterate the theme about mother being her boy’s first and last truest love, he would have encountered little opposition….

An anonymous co-critic contributed a sardonic essay on “Medicine,” offering corroborating testimony to the gross humbugability of Americans:

…The average American can believe firmly and simultaneously in the therapeutic excellence of yeast, the salubrious cathartic effects of a famous mineral oil, the healing powers of chiropractors, and in the merits of the regimen of the Corrective Eating Society….

No wonder that Americans could also be seduced into believing in the efficacy of Induced Conscious Autosuggestion.

As Dean Inge of St. Paul’s noted at the time, “America… is the happy-hunting-ground for every kind of quack.” (He was specifically referring to autosuggestion and its “irrational” cousins. See pages 20-21.) If one can’t quite bring oneself to labeling the guileless, truthful, hyperphilanthropic, humble, buxom, friendly, grandfatherly apothecary a quack, one is easily convinced that Coué’s Pollyannaistic counsel was quackery nonetheless. The incident at Tooting Hospital in London (described in detail on page 19), offered dramatic evidence of the foolhardiness of introducing ideopathy into the field of psychiatry. Coué stopped short of claiming that his do-it-yourself suggestion therapy would be of use in treating every sort of illness and disability — but just barely. A cure was possible if it was “within the realm of material possibility,” but the chemist’s conception of “material possibility” was provocatively ambiguous (pages 8-10.) Reading his best-selling primer, Self Mastery through Conscious Autosuggestion, even the victim of distemper or typhoid might be induced to begin using the Coué reads:

Every morning before getting up and every evening as soon as you are in bed, shut your eyes, and repeat twenty times in succession, moving your lips (this is indispensable), and counting mechanically on a long string with twenty knots, the following phrase: ‘Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.’ Make this autosuggestion with confidence, with faith, with the certainty of obtaining what you want. The greater the conviction, the greater and the more rapid will be the results obtained.

The following text basically assumes the form of a chronicle. Parts I and II are a brief treatment of Coué’s unspectacular pre-autosuggestion years and include a reference to the forgotton “Nancy School of Suggestive Therapeutics,” Coué’s incubator; Part III is a synopsis of the system, theory and applications of Induced Conscious Autosuggestion; Part IV describes the typical séance at Nancy; Part V recounts Coué’s journey to England and his impact there. Parts VI and VII provide semi-impressionistic documentation of the development of the Couéite craze here in America in 1922 and 1923 as well as an account of the autosuggestionist’s impressive first appearances. Part VII serves as a brief epitaph to the man and the movement.

Many thanks to those who somehow managed to suffer me without protest throughout the entire wacky affair. Christine, Bob, Gary and Professor Moore and particularly worthy of praise in this respect. – Ithaca, 1972

I.

Phillip Emile Coué of Troyes, France had been a practicing pharmacist for a little more than ten years when he decided that his purse was heavy enough to allow him and his wife to retire. That was in 1896. Coué was 39. An associate assumed the management of the well-stocked drugstore and an adjoining chemical laboratory. [1]

The young pudgy retiree spent many of his idle hours playing chess, billiards and bridge with his neighbors in his large, drab, comfortable residence, one of the finest in Troyes. [2]

He did not attend church. His parents had thoroughly immersed him in Catholicism as a child, but he had long since lapsed into non-practice. Coué later confided that he “had not ever had a faith.” [3] On another occasion he declared that he believed in the “religious of humanity.” [4]

He probably did not read many books. “Reading,” he told a puzzled interviewer, “does not let one think.” [5] (Coué, however, was a fairly well-educated man, having received his professional degree at the University of Paris.) Presumably the affable apothecary’s imagination was more excited among flowers; to be sure he chrished his large colorful garden and could often be found there, smilingly contemplating the eager blossoms. One feels sure that his garden included a sizable contingent of gladioli for Coué’s father-in-law was none other than Lemoine, the horticulturalist, famed as the inventor of the gladiolus. [6]

During a visit to his in-laws, who lived in ear-by Nancy, Lemoine prevailed upon her son-in-law to attend a demonstration of drugless healing at the local school of suggestive therapeutics.

Coué was — there is no other word for it — enchanted…

…To be sure, many Frenchmen were trying their hand at hypnosis at the turn of the century. Some were occultists, some just pranksters. Yet alongside these there were also students of medicine, psychology and philosophy with a very serious and practical interest in the workings of the subconscious.

A.A. Liebault, of Nancy, was probably the first physician to make extensive use of hypnotic suggestion in the battle with disease. [8] Beginning in 1860 Liebault offered his services free of charge to any and all who agreed to his special form of treatment. Fifteen thousand beat a track to this country doctor’s door, mostly from the peasant class. His fame spread throughout the provinces; he was the first “psychotherapist,” father of what would come to be known as “the Nancy School of Suggestive Therapeutics.” [9]

Inspired by Liebault’s progress a group of faculty at the University of Nancy began conducting their own research into suggestive and auto-suggestive (self-induced) phenomena; Hippolyte Bernheim, professor of medicine, was the most outstanding. Meanwhile, Charcot, renowned professor of psychology at the University of Paris, was engaged in similar investigations. His work is also of interest. [10]

Charcot ultimately concluded that hypnotic suggestibility was an indication of the subject’s insanity. Burnheim disagreed, contending that the psychology of both the sane and the insane contained the apparatus of suggestion, challenging the notion that the will was the agent of crime and evil and thus, once and for all eliminating the “persisting concern with demoniac possession.” (Although, unfortunately, his work does not allow of further treatment here, it should be noted that today various psychiatrists regard Bernheim to have been the first to have attempted “to evolve a general understanding of human behavior.”) [11]

In 1901 Monsieur Coué left retirement and returned to work, ostensibly to retrieve control of his business from his grossly incompetent subaltern. Yet given his growing interest in suggestive therapeutics — Coué was by now a regular visitor to Bernheim’s psychopathological laboratory in Nancy — it is probable that he also returned in order to experiment on his own. [12]

To be sure, the friendly neighborhood apothecary recruited increasing numbers of trusting customers willing to submit to his hypnosis over the next few years: soon he was dispensing more suggestions than he was drugs. [13]

But Coué’s enthusiasm for mesmerism would eventually wane. On close inspection the chemist discovered, to his disappointment, that he could not induce complete sleep in more than one tenth of his patients. [14]

Combining his familiarity with placebos (bread pills, etc.), a rather nebulous understanding of psychology derived from his jaunts to Nancy, a bit of Catholic ritual, perhaps some knowledge of the Christian Science movement, a set of autosuggestive exercises which he learned from a Rochester correspondence school — as well as a certain dosage of optimisticalness — the modest apothecary’s mental mortar and pestle furnished a universal medication:

Induced Conscious Autosuggestion. [14]

III.

Every morning before getting up and every evening as soon as you are in bed, shut your eyes, and repeat twenty times in succession, moving your lips (this is indispensable), and counting mechanically on a long string with twenty knots, the flowing phrase: “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.’ Do not think of anything particular, as the words ‘in every way’ apply to everything.

Make this autosuggestion with confidence, with faith, with the certainty of obtaining what you want. The greater the conviction, the greater and the more rapid will be the results obtained.
Further, every time in the course of the day or night that you feel any distress physical or mental, immediately affirm to yourself that you will not consciously contribute to it, and that you are going to make it disappear; then isolate yourself as much as possible, shut your eyes, and passing your hand over your forehead, if it is something physical, repeat extremely quickly, moving your lips, the words: ‘It is going, it is going–,” etc., etc., as long as it may be necessary. With a little practice the physical or mental distress will have vanished in 20 or 25 seconds. Begin again whenever it is necessary. Avoid carefully any effort in practicing autosuggestion.15

Thus in 1922 Emile Coué explained how to practice conscious autosuggestion.

Aware of the remarkable simplicity of his technique, Coué underscored his desire to be taken seriously. “I want every one to be convinced that the theories I advance, reduced as they are to their simplest expression, are nevertheless built upon a groundwork of scientific fact.” [16] To be sure, his system made use of a number of psychological “laws.” (Ernest Jones would contemptuously characterize the same as “a repetition of the more elementary truisms enunciated by the Nancy School of forty or fifty years ago.” [17])

The most important of Coué’s axioms dealt with what he regarded as the incessant conflict between the “two absolutely distinct selves within us,” “the conscious and the unconscious,” a.k.a. “the imagination and the will.” To wit: “When the will and the imagination are antagonistic, it is always the imagination which wins, without any exception.” This was called “the law of reversed effort.”

To prove the superiority of the imagination the druggist suggested the following experiment:

Suppose that we place on the ground a plank 30 feet long by 1 foot wide. It is evident that everybody will be capable of going from one end to the other of this plank without stepping over the edge. But change the conditions of the experiment, and imagine this plank placed at the height of the towers of a cathedral. Who then will be capable of advancing even a few feet along this narrow path? Could you hear me speak? Probably not. Before you had taken two steops you would begin to tremble, and in spite of every effort tof your will you would be certain to fall to the ground… in the first case you imagine that it is easy to go to the end of this plank, while in the second case you cannot do so. [18]

If the will, frustrated by the imagination’s greater power, grew more combative, the result could only be exponentially more distressing. “In the conflict between the will and the imagination, the force of the imagination is in direct ratio to the square of the will.” [19]

Witness the miserable insomniac: the harder and harder the poor fellow tries to fall asleep, the more he tosses and turns. Or the slightly more amusing dilemma of the person quaking with laughter who finds that he becomes delirious whenever he tries to control himself. And can not everyone testify to the exasperating fruitlessness of trying to remember something on the tip of the tongue?

The Frenchman cited all these predicaments (and more) as revelations of the omnipotence of the imagination. If this was not enough proof for the doubting Thomas he was invited to attend one of Coué’s séances and participate in the “hand-clasping test of suggestibility.” Guests were asked to extend their arms in front of their bodies full-length and clasp their hands together very tightly. Then in quick repetition (so as to assure the purity of the message), “I cannot unclasp my hands, I cannot unclasp my hands,” etc., etc. As long as they said this their hands remained firmly clasped; the Will was powerless to intervene. If an individual attempted to free his digits from the clutch of the imagination the law of reversed effort would take effect: the grip would become tighter, even to the point of pain. [20]

However, once the subjects were directed to say, instead, “I can,” everyone’s hands would immediately spring apart! What had happened?

To be sure, according to the chemist-turned-psychologist, the imagination had sent the will, or the subconscious (recall that Coué used the two terms interchangeably) a counter0suggestion and, as always, the latter had obeyed. Sometimes, of course, the hand-clasping test of suggestibility would not work. The failing subject would then be gently admonished by the kind autosuggestionist to think more and try less. (“Avoid carefully any effort in practicing autosuggestion.”) [21]

Contrary to established rules and general opinion, the imagination, not the will, was man’s crucial property. People are always preaching the doctrine of effort, but this idea must be repudiated. Effort means will and will means the possible entrance of the imagination in opposition, and the bringing about of the exactly contrary result of the desired one. [22]

Therefore, insisted Coué, it was incumbent upon man to train and control his imagination if he sought to master himself, not the will. The technique: induced conscious autosuggestio. Thus equipped, he believed, humanity might draw closer indeed to the blissful millennium.

By inducing in oneself a general suggestion of well-being a person could get better and better and better, and so on, even when wracked by maladies which physicians considered incurable. Paralysis, tuberculosis, diabetes, endocarditis, clubfoot, Pott’s disease (curvature of the spine), fibroid tumors, glaucoma, asthma, anemia, enteritis, gout, dyspepsia, eczema, and neurasthenia in all its manifestations — these are but a few of the ailments which the cheerful Coué claimed he had yielded to medicated suggestions. The list increased every year as he received more and more letters of thanks and testimonial from his “cures.” [23]

Certain it is that cases declared to be incurable have been cured by autosuggestion. And not only diseased of a functional nature. Sores and wounds of long standing which had resisted all other treatment have been healed rapidly by suggestion. [24]

Why had these afflictions vanished? Because “good” autosuggestions had replaced “bad” autosuggestions in the subconscious, thus ending the senseless strive between the Imagination and the Will (I frequently capitalize the two terms since Coué was so intent on assigning them personality) — a condition better known as fear — which had caused them in the first place. The good literally drove out the bad. [25]

Coué did not quite tout autosuggestion as a panacea. At his Nancy “clinic,” he never rejected the possibility of self-cure, according to one observer; however, “with several patients suffering from organic disease in an advanced stage, he admitted its unlikelihood.” [26] Furthermore he cautioned his audiences not to expect anything “which is obviously outside the realm of material possibilities.” [27] “For instance, it would be absurd to ask for the growth of a new arm or a new leg — despite the fact that the lobster seems to know how to grow a new claw.” [28] In spite of occasional clarifications such as these, no one was ever quite sure what Coué considered “materially possible” — a fact which ballyhoo men would later exploit.

The Frenchman was extremely sensitive to allegations of quackery. Again and again he emphasized that his system was designed as an adjunct to medicine, not a substitute for it. He objected strenuously to being addressed as “Doctor” rather than “Mister” and evinced “the greatest desire to co-operate with the medical profession.” [29]

Nevertheless it is difficult to distinguish the role of the physician in the Couéite scheme of things other than as one who helps his patients “get better” by prescribing placebos.

Indeed the public was most interested in the great medical benefits to be derived form the proper use of induced conscious autosuggestion. Yet Coué claimed that the uses of his system need not be restricted to medicine. In fact the power of the imagination could be brought to bear upon countless other problems of society.

“Education,” for instance.

In one memorable passage from his best-selling manual, Self-Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion (1922), the optimistic Frenchman describes that the pregnant woman can make sure that her baby will come out just the way she wants it:

It may seem paradoxical, but nevertheless, the Education of a child ought to begin before its birth.

In sober truth, if a woman, a few weeks after conception, makes a mental picture of the sex of the child she is going to bring forth into the world, of the physical and moral qualities which she desires to see it endowed and if she will continue during the time of gestation to impress on herself the same mental image, the child will have the sex and qualities desired. [30]

As soon as the young child is able to speak, give him or her a rosary and instructions on how to use it. Just like his Mom and Dad, junior ought to practice conscious autosuggestion every morning and every evening — and whenever he hurts himself. Bad autosuggestion are to be avoided at all costs, lest the youngster grow up absurd: if junior’s progress in school was less than satisfactory he was not to be punished or reprimanded, but congratulated on a job well done. [31] Similarly Coué warned parents not to “make the child nervous by filling his mind with stories of hob-goblins and were-wolves–” [32]

Teachers were advised that they could arrest the spread of juvenile delinquency among their pupils by having them all close their eyes while they were reminded:

Children, I expect you always to be polite and kind to everyone, obedient to your parents and teachers, when they give you an order, or tell you anything; that you will always listen to the order given or the fact told without thinking it tiresome when you are reminded of anything, but now you understand very well that it is for your good that you are told things, and consequently, instead of being cross with those who speak to you, you will now be grateful to them…. [33]

Furthermore Monsieur Coe asserted that vice and crime could be eliminated by his “scientific” approach. The cinema, because of “the terrible effects of suggestion on illbalanced or unformed minds,” was nothing less than a “school of crime” and as such ought to be abolished, or at least censored. The autosuggestionalist also favored the confiscation of the popular Nick Carter novels which he alleged to have been responsible for the corruption and ruination of scores of his suggestible countrymen. Hope for the rehabilitation of these dissolutes lay in application of The Method, Coué solemnly affirmed.

Why, the buoyant autosuggestionalist even held out hope to those women who could not afford the services of a beautician:

…Yes, just train your imagination to visualize your face or body as you would like it to be, and you will have a very good chance of seeing them approach pretty near your ideal. Mind, I don’t tell you that you can change the color of your hair, or modify the shape or your chin or nose…. [35]

“The power of thought, of idea, is incommensurable, is immeasurable,” wrote Coué in My Method, Including American Impressions (1923). “The world is dominated by thought. The human being individually is also entirely governed by his own thoughts, good or bad–.” [36]

…Thus we are so proud of our will, who believe that we are free to act we like, are in reality nothing but wretched puppets of which our imagination holds all the strings. We only cease to be puppets when we have learned to guide our imagination…. [37]

Everyone of our thoughts, good or bad, becomes concrete, materializes, and becomes in short a reality. [38]

IV.

But what is extremely poignant is at the end of the séance to see the people who came in gloomy, bent, almost hostile (they were in pain), go away like everybody else; unconstrained, cheerful, sometimes radiant (they are no longer in pain!). With a strong and smiling goodness of which he has the secret, M. Coué, as it were, holds the hearts of those who consult him in his hand; he addresses himself in turn to the numerous persons who come to consult him, and speaks to them in these terms:

‘Well, Madame, and what is your trouble?….’

Oh, you are looking for two [sic] many whys and wherefores; what does the cause of your pain matter to you? You are in pain, that is enough… I will teach you to get rid of that…. [39]

In 1910, Coué sold his pharmacy in Troyes and moved with his wife to Nancy where he bought another large, drab, comfortable residence and established himself in his new profession, autosuggestion. (He may have moved in order to facilitate closer contact with Bernheim et al., also because Nancy was by then presumably quite tolerant of those of his ilk.) Like the venerated Liebault, he refused either to charge or accept any payment in return for his aid. The handsome exchequer which he had earned as an apothecary apparently served as the Coués’ sole means of financial support throughout his career as asutosuggestionalist. [40]

Indeed, his popularity quickly exceeded that of the renowned Liebault: by the first year of the Great World War, at least 40,000 had visited Coué. [41]

During the war Nancy was often subjected to merciless shelling from German artillery. Yet the intrepid benevolist remained and continued to hold his daily séances. He was indefatigable, always working fifteen or sixteen hours a day, never turning away the sick and infirm who desired his succor. [42]

Basically the autosuggestionalist set only one condition: that all who sought him attend the group séances; he would no receive individual for treatment. This of course was no whim. Coué knew (as does any amateur psychotherapist), that the human mind is usually more influencable in crows. The forthright Frenchman readily acknowledged that he practiced with groups

…in order that the more suggestible people who are most easily and quickly cured may infect by their example and convince by their cries of delight and astonishment the more phlegmatic individualists who scoff…. [43]

The jovial old man would begin the typical conference on a deliberately light note, cracking jokes, laughingly chiding a couple of the most downhearted not to worry so much about their health. Once satisfied that he had created the proper regenerative mood, Coué would show individuals how easy it was to “get better.” [44]

First perhaps he “fertilized the mind” of the sickling by telling him: “You have been sowing bad seed in your Unconscious; now you will soon sow good seed.” He would then soothingly instruct the subject to sit down in a chair, relax and cease thinking about his affliction at once. [45] Finally Coué and his patient would quickly recite together the “Ca passé” — “it is passing” — formula.

Sometimes the autosuggestionist would personally touch the affected area, but such intervention was optional. The short message of well-being, if delivered to the subconscious with adequate speed and self-confidence, was deemed sufficient in itself to effect an on-the-spot cure, or at least initiate the healing process. Sure enough, after a short period of chanting, the jubilant patient would report that “it” had passed, that he was — by jove! — able to use his once-paralyzed arms or legs, or that his painful headache was gone — that he was cured! If not completely recovered, the patient reassured the audience that, at any rate, he was feeling much better. In this case, Monsieur Coué promised him that with repeated use of The Method, he or she would continue to get better and better and better, etc. [46]

No doubt an occasional subject might confess in apologetic or even irritated tone of voice that he did not sense any improvement in his condition. But such failures were reportedly rare at Nancy. [47]

Furthermore, Coué was prepared for duds. The radiant autosuggestionalist never denied that among the general population there were two classes of persons in whom it would nearly always be difficult to arouse conscious autosuggestion: those unfortunates possessed of unsuggestible temperaments (usually as a result of over-education) and mental retards. [48]

Rarely was a celebrity so self-depreciating. The humble apothecary obviously believed that in induced conscious autosuggestion he had found something of earth-shaking import; nevertheless he conceded, practically broadcast, the unoriginality of his thought for fear that he would be accorded undeserved praise. Coué saw himself merely as one who was reminding humanity of the power of the Imagination — a humble bearer of a useful message.

The diminutive autosuggestionalist always objected to the suggestion that he employed either personal power or religious aid at his séances. He was not a divine agent; some of his cures might appear miraculous, but they weren’t really miracles. If he bore a striking resemblance to a faith-healer, it was only a resemblance. [49]

V.

The affable chemist became world-famous when in October of 1919 he held a series of lecture-demonstrations in Paris.

Gossip about autosuggestion and Monsieur Coué quickly crossed the English Channel.

One British physician journeyed to Nancy to investigate. He was so impressed by what he saw that upon his return to London he immediately set up his own “clinic.” [50]

Coué visited the English capital in November of 1921 and April of the next year and on each occasion was apparently greeted with enthusiasm by some of the public.

The Times of April 3, 1923 reports of the great “rush” to see the famed autosuggestionists. Every one of his scheduled demonstrations had been sold out far in advance, nevertheless crowds of sufferers without tickets gathered at the door each time, “begging” to be let in. People came “from all parts of the country on the bare chance of being admitted to one of the collective treatments.” [51]

The magazine New Statesman interprets the Frenchman’s generous reception as evidence of a resurgence of superstitiousness, remarking with tongue-in-cheek wit that it was “pleasant to see miracles coming back again.” [52]

The British Minister of Health reportedly displayed considerable interest in the psychotherapeutic use of autosuggestion. [53] Perhaps, then, it was he who invited Coué to speak before various groups of wounded and disabled war veterans in the London area.

On April 5, for example, the distinguished visitor appeared before several hundred blind ex-servicemen at St. Runstan’s and was moderately successful. To be sure, no one’s vision was restored; a patient selected by M. Coué disappointed the audience when he failed at the hand-clasping test. However, a woman in attendance was relieved of a stiff neck and one veteran drew applause from his companions when he testified that after his brief encounter with the autosuggestionist he no longer felt a severe pain in the stump of his amputated leg. [54]

Two days later the durable optimist called upon a ward of shell shock victims at Tooting Special Neurological Hospital. It had been supposed that the employment of remedial autosuggestions would prove particularly effective in treating both shell shock and battle fatigue because of their ideational etiology. Nonetheless Coué met with disaster. After selecting at random one bed-ridden man, the smiling Frenchman began to pass his hands rapidly over the miserable fellow’s quivering legs, chanting “Ca passé, ca passé, ca passé–” Almost immediately the patient emitted a violent, piercing shriek, tumbled out of bed and threw a fit on the floor. The delirium quickly became general, the other shell shock victims laughing, crying, yelling and running around in pell-mell fashion. [55]

Outraged doctors told reporters that the fiasco had set back their progress at least two years. The New York Times gave a caustic account of the incident, concluding: “That much harm, if any, was done to the men is improbable, but the episode is more than likely to close Professor Coué’s career as a suggestionist in London.” [56]

The chagrined Coué appears to have departed for France posthaste soon after. (There is no mention of his activities in the Times after the first week of April.)–

It is interesting to read an essay on “Psychotherapeutics” written in 1922 by the revered English essayist and theologian Dean Inge, in which frequent reference is made to the infatuation with Coué. As Inge sees it, Couéism is a product of “an orgy of irrationalism” which was also responsible for “pragmatism in philosophy, pseudo-Catholicism and Christian Science in religious, antinomianism in morals, post-impressionism in art, and Bolshevism in politics.” [57]

He loathes autosuggestion, asserting that he will not “have anything to do with this world of make believe.” [58] That many of the English clergy took a dim view indeed of the merry Frenchman’s machinations can be inferred from Dean Inge’s scathing commentary:

…I believe that my reason was given to me that I may know things as they are, and my will that I may bring my refractory disposition into harmony with the laws of my Creator. If I can help it, I will play no tricks with my soul, in the faith that though bluff may sometimes pay very well in this world, it will out a very poor figure in the next. [59]

The theologian foresees great success for Induced Conscious Autosuggestion and her abominable cousins among the American populace, whose humbugability far surpasses that of the English:

…The Americans make fortunes by bluffing each other, so they have begun to believe in bluffing themselves, and are even ready for a game of poker with Dame Nature. Their country, accordingly, is the happy-hunting-ground for every kind of quack. [60]

VI.

…Less precise, less unerringly logical, perhaps, in its working than the French or Latin mind in general, the American mind impressed me as being more open in character, more pliable and more imaginative than the European… as Celtic in its tendency to sacrifice reason to imagination. [61]

America was infected with Couéism in the summer and fall of 1922. Interest in autosuggestion among the English seems more or less to have been confined to the city of London; it certainly never reached mania proportions.

It did here.

“Autosuggestion, dear boy! Haven’t you heard? It’s the rage!”

Thanks to an ingenious rewrite man assigned to the editorship of Self Mastery through Conscious Autosuggestion, the standard 12-word autosuggestion, rather than being translated literally from the French so as to read, “Day by day, in every respect, I am getting better and better,” became, “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” Surely a stroke of linguistic genius: how much easier it was for the tongue to fetch the euphonious American rendition. On commentator would actually attribute the Coué craze solely to the catchiness of the slogan. [62]

DAY BY DAY, IN EVERY WAY, I AM GETTING BETTER AND BETTER. DAY BY DAY, IN EVERY WAY –

“Couéism as a topic of discussion eclipses psychoanalysis, the gland-theory, and all the other remedies for human ills that have lately been offered,” reported Current Opinion in its June (1922) number. [63]

A spate of books dealing with autosuggestion and its countless applications were offered to the inquisitive (and suggestible?) American public that happy year (and the next), the two most notable being Self Mastery, putatively authored by Coué, and Mrs. Ella Boyce Kirk’s heart-warming testimony, My Pilgrimage to Coué. Both were published by American Library Service, a firm bastily established in the hope of cashing in on the new fad (a hope generously fulfilled). The former is an odd, almost zany pastiche containing “the thought and precepts of E. Coué” (including short, snappy disquisitions on “Will and Imagination,” “Suggestion and Autosuggestion,” “Education as It Should Be” and miscellaneous aphorisms), a lengthy eloge of Coué penned by a French disciple, and a collection of letters of gratitude from “cures.”

Altogether it is such an inflammatory and exaggerated publication that one wonders whether Coué actually approved the final draft. The latter is the emotional account of an American invalid’s visit to Nancy (her “pilgrimage”), her subsequent restoration to excellent health, and her ultimate conversion to something approaching Coué-worship. On the last page her extraordinary “Credo” is reproduced for the edification of scoffers:

I believe in the earnestness of purpose of Emile Coué, in his devotion to and sincerity in his work; in his great kindness to all patients, whether they are in the highest or more humble paths of life; in his affirmations of recovery to all, when he believes a cure is possible; in his statement that he has limitations and that many cures cannot be effected by him; in his assertion that dread and fear are the great hindrances to health; in the spiritual thought that his patients receive from him, renewing their interest in life and their courage to go on under the most adverse conditions; in fact, I believe in all his methods, all his attitude toward sickness, sorrow, or distress. I believe that in all this he approaches very near to the Great Comforter, for he certainly lives up to all His precepts. He epitomizes every word and deed of the command–”freely ye have received, freely give.” [64]

American Library Service reportedly spent millions on deliberately provocative advertising campaign for its Coué series. (“Self Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion gives in detail, step by step, word for word, just what you should do to get immediate and complete benefits from his system” — advertisement.) A welter of newspaper and magazine articles contributed to the propulsion of a mash of mythic and mystical notions about the controversial system and its originator.

Everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

A book reviewer for the staid New York Times was moved to exalt the roseate Frenchman as a “living monument to the efficacy of Induced Conscious Autosuggestion.” [65] “From every side there came rumors and first hand testimony as to how these people were profiting by the idea in ways that seemed nearly miraculous.” [66]

In November, Mrs. Kirk introduced herself to the public as Coué’s self-anointed American disciple. In a New York City auditorium she gave her own demonstration of the power of Imagination before a capacity crowd. Afterwards, in conversation with a reporter from the Times, the novice autosuggestionist spoke glowingly of her mentor: “I consider him the Mother Goose of psychology– the Wordsworth of healing.”[67]

Within days New York police were complaining of a sudden wave of Kirk-inspired autosuggestionists charging extravagant prices for admission to their sessions.

“The neurotic invalid needs to be jarred out of his mental rut, and M. Coué succeeds in this well enough.” [68]

In October the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association warned their readership of the hazards of Couéism.

…The physician who has learned the phenomena of disease at bedside, and the structural alterations caused by them in the laboratory, will read with his tongue in his cheek– If he reads otherwise, the physician may be compelled to make free use of his handkerchief, for tears of laughter and of pity are bound to flow–. Purveyors of cloudy stuff, like M. Coué, cure many persons who are ill or who comport themselves as if they were ill, and for this we are, and continue to be grateful. But to accept any of his ‘laws’ as established, or as consistent with established principles of psychology, is quite impossible. [69]

News of the great impact of his thought upon America reached Coué in Nancy. In December he decided that he would visit this exciting country and personally sow his good seed.

The medical community was alarmed. On December twenty seventh it was widely-reported that the respected Life Extension Institute was reminding its thousands of subscribers by special delivery that instilling the sick with Couéite cocksureness was dangerous since it might encourage them to refuse desperately-needed professional treatment. [70] On December 29, The New York Times offered similar counsel. [71] On January second Coué arrived in America.

VII.
A minute after the SS Majestic had docked a battalion of scoop-hungry journalists stormed aboard to greet its distinguished passenger.

The venerable ex-pharmacist was stunned by the noisy reception. Fortunately he (or his press agent) had come prepared with a handout:

–.I come not as a miracle man, but as the humble bearer of a useful message; not as a doctor, but as one who would be a teacher and help mankind in a practical way… My method is an adjunct to and not a substitute for existing methods for helping suffering humanity. I claim for it nothing that is in violation of the rules of common sense.

I bring no challenge to the great professions of medicine, or of surgery, and I make no claim in contravention of religious faith… I… have never cured anybody and am not going to cure anybody on this trip–.

Self mastery through conscious autosuggestion is my message and there is no mystery attached to it or myself. [72]

During an impromptu press conference in his cabin Coué continually rebuked reporters for addressing him as “Professor” or “Doctor.” He wasn’t either of these things he insisted.

Presently Monsieur Coué was whisked ashore by his hosts.

Over the next two tumultuous months the cheerful, chubby, goateed autosuggestionalist conveyed his disarmingly simple message to thousands of Americans, believing and unbelieving, sick and well, in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and New Haven. “…The little dried-up Frenchman from Nancy was suddenly the most talked-of person in the country….” [73]

America’s specific problems did not figure in Coué’s lectures. He offered exactly the same advice which he had offered to his European audiences; again he offered what the New Statesman called a “ragged hotchpotch of advice, experiments and readings of testimonials.” [74] The dull, flat tire delivery had not improved. But this was enough to make believers out of skeptics.

Robert Littell of The New Republic was in attendance at one of the first conferences. He writes that his initial doubts and disdain were rapidly melted by the sight of that plain, undissembling, pleasant visage, by its “simple, human twinkle of friendliness and common sense.” (“O wizened and solid and twinkling and inscrutable and shrewd and winning face, you might belong to the most honest station master in all of France.”) “The more on listens to M. Coué, the more one likes him, and the more his theories and methods exchange mystery for simplicity.” [75]

“All the world is speaking about Emile Coué, the modest French chemist, who has cured some of the most obstinate diseases.” [76] A fierce debate over the place of autosuggestion is medicine raged as Coué began his tour of the New York metropolitan area. Dr. George Draper of Presbyterian Hospital lent credence to the Frenchman’s extravagant claims when he declared that “Coué had devised a practical technique for the application of sound and fundamental psychological principles to the treatment of the sick,” and pleaded for his hostile colleagues to give the good Frenchman a chance to prove himself. “He succeeds in a simple way of stripping disease of its dignity.” [77]

(Saturday Evening Post:

–.If you are suffering from a pain in your stomach you don’t say ‘Pain, pain, go away, come again another day,’ but you do say — so rapidly that your will cannot interrupt: ‘It is passing, it is passing,’ about twenty times — and the pain is so ashamed of itself that it sneaks off, never to return–.[78])

There were no glaring failures, like the English hospital panic. Just the same there weren’t any marvelous recoveries, at least not until Coué left for the Midwest. He cured no more serious functional disorders than stammering, flatulence and excessive oscitation (yawning) and strengthened the medical profession’s conviction that his brand of optimism was of great peril to invalids, no matter how effective it might be in “shaming” a few hypochondriacs into well-being.

(“–Rheumatism, asthma, and deformity of the spine have been reported cured through his methods. Minor ailments of all sorts yield readily to his methods ” — advertisement.)

Nevertheless some six thousand New Yorkers confidently lined up for Couéite treatment. One observer reports seeing a man agonized by rheumatic twitches repeating “Day by day — ” over and over as he walked Fifth Avenue. [79]

In his first press release Coué reiterated his confidence in autosuggestion as a means of prisoner rehabilitation, claming that it was already in use in French reformatories. [80] On January 28, Coué visited the women prisoners on Welfare Island accompanied by Dr. William Love, Chairman of the New York Senate’s committee on penal institutions (a possible sign of serious governmental interest in Coué’s recommendations.) But the results were unimpressive. An aged female convict failed repeatedly at the hand-clasping test. She apologized: “You know, of course, that I could have opened my hands at any point I pleased. I don’t think that I got all of your message.” “You must think, think, think,” the unflappable autosuggestionist reminded her. (During January a Western follower of Coué donated some two thousand Coué rosaries to San Quentin. Picture, if you will, Jimmy Cagney snarling to himself over and over, “Day by day — “)[81]

Coué’s reception in the East was generally warm, but not sensational. Yet when the energetic chemist crossed the Appalachians there was unabashed furor.

“Everywhere he was received with enthusiasm and even the largest halls were too small to contain the multitudes who wished to hear him,” recalls Mark Sullivan in Our Times. [82]

In Cleveland Coué was flattered when the local Chamber of Commerce requested that he hold a special session for them; he assured the assembled hail fellows that autosuggestion could boost sales and efficiency. “Nothing can prevent the realization of the projects of a man or woman imbued with the principles of autosuggestion.”[83] (Meanwhile The New York Times made a droll suggestion: “It was the beautiful simplicity of Couéism that took Clevelanders — and perhaps it was the beautiful simplicity of the Clevelanders that took Coué.”)

In Chicago Coué was greeted as if he were a true messiah:

In Michigan Avenue people knelt to him as he passed into the hall, and begged him to help them, and mothers held their wizened babies up to him, imploring him to heal their crooked bodies. Others paid fabulous sums to owners of front row seats, and once there, hoisted themselves painfully onto the stage, and panting crawled on helpless limbs to a spot where they might hope to catch the eye of the ‘Miracle Man.’

One after another crippled or paralyzed men and women dragged themselves or were wheeled to him and under his encouragement, as though under magic touch, threw away their crutches or canes and walked. Some who had not walked for years, even ran. Others recovered instantaneously the flexibility of long-stiffened limbs.

A woman, paralyzed nine years and unable to walk, walked off the stage unaided. From a young man who trails a useless leg, Coué snatched his cane and bid him walk, and the man strutted along the footlights while the huge audience, fanned to frenzied mysticism, yelled its wildest. Policemen had to come to the platform to keep order and prevent Coué from being swamped by the rush of wondering spectators at the ‘miracles’ of auto-suggestion performed on people possessed of blind faith. [84]

In St. Louis he proclaimed to three thousand admirers, “You see, I am not extraordinary,” but they “screamed and shouted and wept their denial.” [85] “M. Coué was being called, among other things, the Henry Ford of psychology.” [86] The adulation would not cease.

“–I make no claim in contravention of religious faith.” Reactions to Couéism among the religious community in America ranged from outright endorsement and praise to utter paranoia.

The Christian Register announced that, “To follow Coué’s plan is only to do what religion has always recommended–to keep the victorious tone, and to live in the golden age that never leaves the world.” [87]

Nevertheless, the consensus among the clergy seems to have been quite the opposite: that, as proven by demonstrations like the one in Chicago, the buoyant Frenchman was deceiving people into believing that miracles could be performed without the aid of God and ought therefore be considered antagonistic to the church. Mankind needed “God-direction,” as one reverend admonished his Manhattan congretation, not autosuggestion; if human beings could be as spiritually self-sufficient as Coué implied, then, he continued, “there would have been no necessity for Christ to come and die for us on the cross.”[88]

While the pudgy chemist was still on tour an excessively agitated churchman adopted the anonymous persona of “Another Gentleman With A Duster” and rushed to print with a rabid critique, Is Coué a Foe of Christianity? This sniper not only accused Coué of establishing a healing cult “artfully designed to leave out religion,” the common grievance, but of deliberately provoking mass abulia (loss of will) among the American people. Day by day, under the pretext of inducing conscious autosuggestion, the wily foreigner could very well be recruiting latah (will-less) for an American fifth column:

…Suppose some group whose plans are anti-social or anti-Christian, or anti-Government were to find out just who is latah, tabulate the whole lot of will-less men and women, organize them without the knowledge and set them to work?

That is something to think about — battalions in our civil population which, in time of disturbance, could then be used.

Particularly as latah people may be increased in number–virtually manufactured by the simple method of telling them to surrender their wills! [89]

(It is highly unlikely that more than a handful shared the gentleman with a duster’s terror. I mention the book nevertheless, since I find it remarkable that (a) anyone at all could be so fearful of Coué; and (b) a Fifth Avenue publisher could be induced to promote such alarmism.)

In My Method, Including American Impressions, written upon his return to France, Coué complains of the never-racking hustle-bustle of American life. [90] (A problem which he ascribes to the effect of “ever-growing masses of suggestion emanating from successive generations of vigorous minded ancestors.” [91]) But America really delighted him.

Nowhere — certainly not Europe — was the power of imagination and suggestibility as wondrously apparent. For example, the Frenchman was particularly struck by the ability of party-goers and diners to convince themselves that the iced water which they sipped from champagne glasses was as exhilarating as the real thing. This capacity for auto-intoxication he considered a vindication of his theories. [92]

Indeed, for Coué, America’s superior imagination made its destiny as “guardian of civilization” manifest. (One feels sure that his conservative fellow countrymen would have balked at his evaluation of American culture, with the possible exception of the jazz-crazy Parisian Dadaists.)
All in all the autosuggestionist considered his journey to America a resounding success. “I have rarely met with such success in teaching patients how to get rid of their ailments as I did at my American audiences.” [93] This was undeniable, especially in the light of his phenomenal Midwestern tour. Of course he deplored what he considered to be serious misrepresentations and misconceptions of his system — but as long as the beneficent apothecary speeded the recovery of the suffering, he was content. (To be sure, the merry old man’s obsessive desire to heal struck some as slightly abnormal: “His venerable sprightliness, his sinister joy in doing good, his gleeful, chuckling attitude in the face of the most discouraging maladies, cause him to appear a little affected by some kind of madness.” [94])

Current Opinion concluded in its April issue: “The chief result of Emile Coué’s recent visit to the United States has undoubtedly been to strengthen his hold on the imagination and to give a new importance to the theory of autosuggestion.” [95] Tributes from Edison and Ford must have convinced many skeptics; so did testimony from a distinguished scientist like Dr. Henry Osborne, director of the American Museum of Natural History: “American high speed life needs the calming effects of Couéism.” [96] Clergy and physicians were dismayed; but the fad grew.

It has remained for M. Coué to discover the real nature of the unconscious, and to present it not as an evil genius, rising from the depths from time to time under emotional impulsion to defeat our most earnest purposes; but that it is a deep and vital force, capable of being educated and directed, provided that the laws under which it works are observed…. [97]

VIII.

The tireless autosuggestionalist returned to the United States for another round of speaking engagements within the year. Again Town Hall (in New York City) was filled to hear the wisdom of “the good little Frenchman.” He returned to the Midwest, making stops at over thirty cities and lecturing to some thirty five thousand. [98]

Coué now claimed to be able to cure baldness with autosuggestion:

–.On our heads are small depressions called follicles, depressions from which the hair grows. When they lose their elasticity, their hair falls out. When autosuggestion begins to work, these follicles begin to close up and to secrete normally, and soon the hair grows. [99]

Perhaps in anticipation of more broadsides from the clergy Coué announced to his surprised audiences that faith was no longer necessary to achieve self-mastery. Simple, mechanical repetition of the “Day by day — ” formula was all that one needed to get the magic words etched into the sub-conscious mind and automatically initiate the comforting process. Reaching the point beyond which it was impossible to further streamline his system without appearing to be a driveling idiot, the elderly autosuggestionist declared in New York that lazy individuals could still derive benefits merly by listening over and over to a phonographic recording of the famous message whenever the will was sufficiently quiescent. [100] (“Day by day in every way you are getting better and better… REPEAT: Day by day in every way you are getting better and better… REPEAT:)

That winter of 1924, the chubby Frenchman continued to attract enthusiastic audiences wherever he went, but the fact of the matter was that his following had greatly diminished, if not entirely disappeared. A crop of “Coué institutes” had vanished. American Library Service, principal financial beneficiary from the craze — while it lasted — was close to extinction. The talk of the town was no longer autosuggestion, but the thrilling news of the discovery of the tomb of King Tut-Ankh in Egypt. And the catchiest jingle around wasn’t the “Day by day — ” ditty, but the swell opening lines of “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”

The New York Times Index alone serves as illustration of the rapidity with which Coué and his ideas drifted into obscurity. It lists several hundred articles on Emile Coué in 1923, the year of his first triumphant visit, about a dozen in 1924 and but one in 1925 — a tiny bottom-of-the-page dispatch in November (the kind the Times uses for brief diversion from serious news) confirming that the aged optimist had successfully cured himself of a nosebleed.

The next year, on July second, Philip Emile Coué died in his Nancy home. This is silly, but I keep seeing the smiling evangel on his deathbed, rosary in hand, maintaining with his last breath:

TOUS LES JOURS, A TOUS POINTS DE VUE, JE VAIS DE MIEUX EN MIEUX–. [101]

NOTES AND REFERENCES

1. “Life-story of Emile Coué: from Drug Clerk to Drugless Healer,” Current Opinion, LXXIV (February 1923), p. 204
2. Another Gentleman with a Duster (anonymous), Is Coué a Foe of Christianity? (New York, 1923), p.21.
3. Ibid, p. 21. Later, knowledge of Coué’s agnosticism would reinforce the clergy’s belief that he was trying to “de-religion” healing.
4. Gertrude Mayo, Coué for Children (New York, 1923), p. 109.
5. Another Gentleman, p. 21.
6. Emile Coué, My Method, Including American Impressions (Garden City, 1923), xvi.
7. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines autosuggestion as being “suggestion to oneself arising within one’s own mind and having effects on one’s thinking and bodily functions.”
8. “Psychiatry,” Encyclopedia Britannica (1966), XVII, p. 729).
9. Ella Boyce Kirk, My Pilgrimage to Coué (New York, 1922), p. 70.
10. “Psychiatry,” Encyclopedia Britannica
11. Ibid.
12. “Emile Coué and the Nancy School of Suggestive Therapeutics,” Review of Reviews, LXVII (March 1923), p. 327
13. “Life Story,” Current Opinion.
14. Coué, My Method, p. 97.
15. “Emile Coué, Self Mastery through Conscious Autosuggestion (New York, 1923), p. 94.
16. Coué, My Method, p.97.
17. “Autosuggestion Comes to the Fore,” Current Opinion, LXXII (June, 1922), p. 792.
18. Coué, Self Mastery, p. 15. This experiment was taken from Sage of Rochester’s correspondence course in hypnosis.
19. Ibid., p. 15. Also: “When the will and the imagination are in agreement, one does not add to the other, but one is multiplied by the other–.”
20. Ibid., p. 17.
21. Ibid., p. 18.
22. Ibid., p. 38.
23. Kirk, p. 62
24. Coué, My Method, p. 20. Typical letter: “As I am feeling better and better since I began to follow your method of autosuggestion, I should like to offer you my sincere thanks. The lesion in the lungs has disappeared, my heart is better. I have no more albumen, in short I am quite well.
Mme. Lemaitre
Richemont, June, 1920.”
Coué, Self Mastery, p. 68.
25. Coué, Self Mastery, p. 26.
26. C. Harry Brooks, Emile Coué’s Method–The Practice of Autosuggestion (New York, 1922), p. 18.
27. J.M. Gillis, “Couéism and Catholicism,” Catholic World, CXVI (March, 1923), p. 795
28. Ibid.
29. “Coué Here, Says He Is No Miracle Man,” The New York Times, January 5, 1923, p. 5. “In my opinion, if the doctor only prescribes a regimen without any medicine, his patient will be dissatisfied, he will say that he took the trouble to consult him for nothing, and often goes to another doctor. It seems to me then that the doctor should always prescribe medicines to his patient, and, as much as possible, medicines made up by himself rather than the standard remedies so much advertised and which owe their only value to advertisement–.” Coué, Self Mastery, p. 25.
30. Coué, Self Mastery, p. 50. “Spartan Women only brought forth robust children, who grew to be redoubtable warriors, because their strongest desire was to give such heroes to their country; whilst, at Athens, mothers had intellectual children whose mental qualities were a hundred fold greater than their physical attributes.” Coué, Self Mastery, p. 25. Who needs the test tube baby?
31. Ibid., p. 51. “The child, flattered by the unaccustomed commendation, will certainly work better the next time, and little by little, thanks to judicious encouragement, will succeed in becoming a real worker–.” An American educator agreed wholeheartedly: “To think cheerful thoughts is excellent pedagogical advice. To dwell upon the possibility of failure is to covert failure. –Especially the mind of the young should be focused upon the bright side of things: the seamy side of life should be ignored. “Facts of Fancy in Couéism,” Literary Digest, LXXVI. (March 3, 1923), p. 35-36.
32. Ibid., p. 51. “–for there is always the risk that timidity contracted in childhood will persist later.” No fooling.
33. Ibid., p. 53-54.
34. Coué, My Method, p. 54.
35. Ibid., p. 43 –.of course not.
36. Ibid., p. 2.
37. Coué, Self Mastery, p. 10.
38. Ibid., p. 38. In other words, you don’t have to drop acid to hallucinate.
39. Ibid., p. 55.
40. I have not seen any evidence to support the contrary.
41. Lyman Powell, “Coué: An Estimate and a Comparison,” The American Review of Reviews, (December, 1922), p. 158.
42. Van Buren Thorne, “Coué’s Autosuggestion Method,” The New York Times, August 6, 1922, III, p. 11.
43. Kirk, p. 43.
44. Ibid., p. 43-44.
45. Ibid., p. 44.
46. “Just to see him, just to hear him give assurance with that smile which never seems to leave his face, makes many a sick person feel well.” Powell, “An Estimate,” p. 622.
47. “It’s the greatest enemy of effort. The more simple and unforced the manner of its performance the more potently and profoundly it works. This is shown by the fact that its most remarkable results have been scored by children and by simple French peasants.” “Autosuggestion Comes to the Fore,” p. 791.
48. Coué, Self Mastery, p. 15. “–who fortunately represent barely 3 per cent of the whole.” Mrs. Kirk, Coué’s American disciple, elaborated on the former group: “The more sophisticated mind cannot so easily be worked upon. People of higher education and wider experience demand that results seemingly so iraculous be brought into conformity with the general laws of science. They want to see how it is possible for the mind to perform cures of maladies that have not yielded to medicine. (Bunch of killjoys.) Kirk, p. 79.
49. “I have no magnetic fluid. I have no influence. I have never cured anybody. My disciples obtain the same results as myself.” Kirk, p. 66. “Others attribute to the natural force of my personality any success achieved by my teaching. I say emphatically that my personality is of no account in the matter save in the same that I may have powers of suggestion that call forth faith; and it is faith that heals. That is all.” Coué, My Method, p. 112.
50. Coué, My Method, xv.
51. “Rush to x. Coué’s Sessions,” The Times, April 3, 1922, p. 14.
52. “Miracles,” New Statesman, XIX (April 8, 1922), p. 8.
53. “M. Coué and Blind Soldiers,” The Times, April 6, 1922, p. 9.
54. M. Coué and Blind Soldiers,” The Times, April 4, 1922, p. 11.
55. “Coué in Hospital Panic,” editorial, The New York Times, April 9, 1922, II, p. 6.
56. “His Magic Failed for Once,” The New York Times, April, 10, 1922, p. 14.
57. William Ralph Inge, Lay Thoughts of A Dean (Garden City, New York, 1926), p. 230-232.
58. Ibid., p. 235.
59. Ibid., p. 236.
60. “Autosuggestion Comes to the Fore,” p. 791.
61. Coué, My Method, p. 141.
62. “Every Day, in Every Way, a Slogan,” Nation CXVI (January 10, 1923), p. 32. “We only heartily wish that some –translator could–devise–a–slogan for–cancer.”
63. “Autosuggestion Comes to the Fore,” p. 791.
64. Kirk, p. 92.
65. Van Buren Thorne, p. 11.
66. Mayo, p. 28. “In the twenties, newspapers provided a major publicity outlet for the speculations of eccentric scholars–.The pages of the daily press were spotted with such stories as unconfirmed reports of enormous sea serpents, frogs found alive in the cornerstones of ancient buildings, or men who could hear radio broadcasts through teeth.” Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York, 1957), p. 4.
67. “Dr. Coué, By Proxy, Treats an Audience,” The New York Times, November 16, 1922, p. 2.
68. “Growing Better with Monsieur Coué,” Current Opinion, LXXIII (November, 1922), p. 586.
69. “Medical Derision of Coué,” The Literary Digest, LXXV (October 28, 1922), p. 21.
70. People with clubfoot and infantile paralysis were especially feared for.
71. “Such Action Really is Required,” editorial, The New York Times, December 29, 1922, p. 12. Therin the Times warned that Coué’s disinterestedness made him no more competent than the average charlatan. Two days later, a spokesman for the American Academy of Medicine issued a tough statement in which Coué was threatened with legal action if he undertook the prescription of medicine or the establishment of “clinics.” The threat was not followed through, however, since Coué merely “lectured.”
72. “Coué Here, Says He is No Miracle Man,” The New York Times , January 5, 1923, p. 5.
73. Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920′s (new York, 1931), p. 69. “The country felt that–it might as well play–take up the new toys–go in for the new fads, savor the amusing scandals–By 1921 the new toys and fads were forthcoming–” p. 64.
74. “Miracles,” New Statesman, p. 9.
75. Robert Littell, “Emile Coué,” New Republic, XXXIII (January 24, 1923), p. 224-225. “–Any man with the faintest touch of charlatanism, any man who had the slightest reason to fear suspicion would not dare read the letters of testimonial which M Coué takes from his pocket. He reads them with the warmth of feeling of a man who is justly proud of a good deed done partly with his help–. York opinion of his sincerity goes up tremendously at this, for he seems to have no idea how much he is laying himself open to the attacks of the doctors by accepting such letters as proof–.”
76. Another Gentleman, p. 11.
77. “A Physician’s Plea for Coué,” Literary Digest, LXXVI (January 6, 1923), p. 24-25. “–.He has gone a long way in eliminating symptoms from which people suffer, whether or not he has cured the causes which underlie the symptoms–. He is humorous, clever, kindly and understanding–. I do not think that the medical profession can afford to ridicule Coué until they have looked into his work–.”
78. “Coué Reestimated in the Light of his Visit,” Current Opinion, LXXIV (April, 1923), p. 471.
79. Another Gentleman, p. 86. The observer was Rev. John Roach Straton, D.D., pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, New York City.
80. “Coué Here,” The New York Times, p. 5.
81. “Coué Treats Many on Welfare Island,” The New York Times, January 29, 1923, p. 15. “I am absolutely convinced that if suggestion were daily applied to vicious children, more than 50 per cent could be reclaimed. Would it not be an immense service to render society, to bring back to it sane and well members of it who were formerly corroded by moral decay?” Coué, Self Mastery, p. 29.
82. Mark Sullivan, Cur Times, The United States 1900-1925 (London, 1935), VI, p. 594.
83. Coué, My Method, p. 134.
84. “Couéism and Catholicism,” Current Opinion, p. 798. “Be sure, Mrs. Kirk, that I do not perform these cures that are attributed to me. Patients cure themselves–.Kirk, p. 34
85. “Coué Makes Cripples Walk,” The New York Times, February 7, 1923, p. 15. Five cripples were cured here, including Mr. Thomas Greenleaf, stage doorkeeper.
86. Mayo, p. 31. “–.Ford had taken the complicated and expensive rich man’s automobile and simplified it part by part until he had at last produced the little ‘flivver’ within the reach of every farmer. He had begun with an engine that had to be cranked from without, but later substituted a self-starter, as safter and more efficient. Just so M. Coué had first started the engine of the unconscious mind with hypnotic hetero-suggestion and later had substituted the self-starter of conscious autosuggestion, and thanks to him people by tens and hundreds of thousands, who had never known before that they possessed unconscious minds, were finding not only that they had but that they could command them to their great personal advantage and convenience.” A comparison like this was bound to impress the imagination of the Ford-conscious Midwest.
87. “Coué Reestimated in the Light of His Visit,” p. 468.
88. Another Gentleman, p. 88. The reverend referred to is Dr. Straton, already mentioned. The caustic sermon from which the quote is extracted was “Who Is Our Saviour–Christ or Doctors Coué and Grant?” “Dr. Coué would have us exalt the imagination to the supreme place, instead of the will. He would have us delude ourselves. He would have us practice self-decpetion– But who can believe that any good can spring from mere self-delusion?… Surely, my friends, Thomas Carlyle lived before his day. We need him in this generation supremely to properly classify and excoriate our unlimited varieties of fools.”
89. Another Gentleman, p. 99. “Note that a latah man is, first of all, a serious man–just as are the many who flock hither and thither asking help for imagined or real illness. Note, next, that he loses all control of himself, and will do whatever he is told, without reasoning, until he regains his will.
These latah men and women will take a kris and, without hesitation, slay when they are bidden to slay; will take a lighted brand and fire a house; will cast themselves into a raging torrent, and almost drown, then, if saved, will repeat the performance, and anyone can make them do these things–.
The writer is told that there are many of these susceptible men and women among our American Negroes; that law-abiding, kindly colored people have been known to surrender their wills to unscrupulous, cunning whites and be led to perpetrate acts absolutely foreign to themselves– There are many will-less men and women shut up in our prisons today– And–there are many latah, or will-less people among French-Canadian lumbermen.*
*[Publisher's Note: It is well known among men interested in one certain form of athletics that a man who, until recently, was famous as an athlete, is a latah man, and can be made to do what any companion wills by the simple process of pointing a pencil at him--.]” Screaming meemies! What a capital idea for science fiction! If only Wells had known about–latah.
90. Coué, My Method, p. 72. “They live most of their time probably in their automobiles and their offices; eat wrongly, too quickly, and maybe too much; and disdain to breathe in their race to their goal of achievement.”
91. Ibid., p. 73.
92. Ibid., p. 173-174.
93. Ibid., p. 112. Here he acknowledges his debt to the ballyhoo and propaganda for fertilizing the minds of Americans with the thought of cure. “The thought grows into a belief, and by the time the patient reaches me the idea has been transformed into a reality–.”
94. Kirk, p. 64.
95. “Coué Reestimated in the Light of His Visit,” p. 469. Coué claimed that Americans had long used autosuggestion without knowing it. The Saturday Evening Post agreed: “You say in the morning, quite possibly to your business partner, ‘It would be a wonderful afternoon, this afternoon, for golf,’ and he snorts and replies, ‘With all the orders on hand! You’re crazy!’ And at 1:30 P.M. he stands over you and says, ‘Come on, we haven’t any time to lose!’ That’s the way it works on others. Autosuggestion is playing the same with yourself, by saying casually, ‘I’ll do so and so tomorrow.’ And when tomorrow comes, just this preadjustment makes you want to get your teeth right into it. All successful workers use it more or less. You just kid yourself along in advance.”
96. DeWitt Pelton, “M. Coué and the Church,” Forum, LXIX (April, 1923), p. 1393.
97. Kirk, p. 50
98. “Reception to M. Coué,” The New York Times, March 11, 1924, p. 11. “I understand now why so many European lecturers prefer to address the American public. They are sure of getting an attentive, comprehending and appreciative audience–.I shall never forget the delight of watching my American listeners’ eyes riveted on me in a manifest desire to lose nothing of my lecture–.” My Method, p. 112.
99. “Hope for the Bald Held out by Coué,” The New York Times, January 15, 1924, p.2.
100. Ibid. “–.I do not care whether they believe. Formerly I asked them to think carefully of what they were saying when they repeated the formula. Now I only ask them to say ‘Day by Day, in every way, I am getting better and better’ in a voice loud enough for them to hear it themselves. Doing that gets it written in the sub-conscious mind.” To be sure.
101. “Precisely what you suffered from what not so much disease as a moral disaster; the cure has given you more than the absence of pain. Something positive has been gained–what M. Coué calls “Self Mastery.” You are led to see that life has more spiritual value than you had given heed to. It is this intangible gain that I am anxious to pass on.” Kirk, 40.
“Lead a rational life. Do not overeat. Masticate your food thoroughly. Take sufficient exercise. Avoid excesses. They are Nature’s Law. Their observance, combined with the knowledge of the all-powerful effects of autosuggestion, will keep you in good physical and moral health and enable you to combat successfully any of the ills to which the human body is heir to through tradition and heredity.” My Method, p. 45.

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