HYPNOTISM AND MESMERISM

Thus far little has been said regarding the light which has been shed
upon the subject under consideration by the discoveries of modern
science. The more important of these discoveries having resulted from
investigations of the subject of hypnotism, it will be necessary
briefly to review the more salient features of that science, and to
trace its progress from the time of Mesmer down to the present day.

Since the time when Mesmer first brought his discoveries to the
attention of the scientific world the students of the phenomena which
he evoked have been hopelessly at variance. That they should entertain
diverse theories regarding the cause of phenomena so strange and full
of mystery is natural. That they should, in the absence of knowledge of
the subject, abuse and vilify each other because of their differences
of opinion, was to be expected. Hatred of our neighbor because his
problematical theories do not agree with our undemonstrable hypotheses
is, unfortunately, one of the salient weaknesses of human nature.

It is, however, comparatively rare that scientific investigators
disagree regarding the demonstrable facts pertaining to a subject
under investigation. Yet this is the condition in which we find the
science of hypnotism after more than a century of research by some of
the ablest scientists of the world. They are divided into schools,
to-day, as they were in the infancy of the science. Indeed, the science
is still in its infancy. Facts have accumulated, it is true; and they
will be found to be of infinite advantage to some future investigator
whose mind is capable of rising above the prejudices which characterize
the different schools, and of assimilating and harmonizing their
demonstrated facts into one comprehensive system.

Thus far the different schools have distrusted or denied each other’s
facts, and waged war upon each other’s theories. The most carefully
conducted experiments of one school will, in the hands of the other,
produce opposite results. Hence each experimenter is irresistibly led
to distrust the scientific accuracy of the methods employed by others,
or to admit their integrity only at the expense of their intelligence.
In the mean time each school has conducted its experiments seemingly
by the most rigid scientific methods and with conscientious fidelity
to truth; but the results of each apparently disprove the conclusions
of all the others. Hence it is that, in the bibliography of hypnotism,
we find an immense mass of well-authenticated facts which, tried
by the standards of any one of the different schools, appears like
an appalling hodge-podge of falsehood and delusion, chicanery and
superstition. Indeed, no other science, since the dawn of creation,
has suffered so much at the hands of ignorance and superstition as
the science under discussion. Its ancient history is the record of
the supernatural in all the nations of the earth. Its phenomena have
been the foundation of all the religions and all the superstitions of
ancient times. Its modern history has also been largely a record of
superstitious belief, fostered by chicanery and ignorance; the nature
of the phenomena being such that in the hands alike of honest ignorance
and conscious fraud they may be made to sanction every belief, confirm
every dogma, and foster every superstition. It was these facts which
drove scientific men from the field of investigation in the early
modern history of the science. Mesmer himself, in the light of modern
knowledge of the subject, is apt to be accused of charlatanism;
but, as we shall see further on, he is entitled, in common with all
investigators, to the largest measure of charity.

As before remarked, the facts of hypnotism obtained by the
experimenters of the different schools appear to contradict each
other. This, however, is obviously only an apparent contradiction, for
it is axiomatic that no one fact in Nature is inconsistent with any
other fact. It follows that there must be some underlying principle or
principles, heretofore overlooked, which will harmonize the facts. It
is the purpose of this chapter to outline a few fundamental principles
which, properly understood, will enable the student of hypnotism to
reconcile many seeming inconsistencies. An understanding of the salient
points of difference between the various schools can best be conveyed
by briefly outlining the modern history of the science.

Mesmer is entitled to the credit of having first brought the subject to
the attention of the scientific world, although probably his attention
was attracted to it by the writings of Paracelsus and Van Helmont. In
the early part of his career he was deeply interested in the study of
astrology, and he fancied that the planets somehow exerted an influence
on the health of human beings. He at first thought that this influence
was electrical, but afterwards referred it to magnetism. At that time
his cures were effected by stroking the diseased bodies with artificial
magnets. He achieved considerable success by such means, and published
a work in 1766 entitled “De Planetarum Influxa.” In 1776, however, he
met Gassner, a Catholic priest who had achieved great notoriety by
curing disease by manipulation, without the use of any other means.
Mesmer then threw away his magnets, and evolved the theory of “animal
magnetism.” This he held to be a fluid which pervades the universe, but
is most active in the human nervous organization, and enables one man,
charged with the fluid, to exert a powerful influence over another.

Two years after meeting Gassner he went to Paris, and at once threw
that capital into the wildest excitement by the marvellous effects
of his manipulations. He was treated with contumely by the medical
profession; but the people flocked to him, and many wonderful cures
were effected. His methods, in the light of present knowledge, smack
of charlatanism; but that he believed in himself was demonstrated by
his earnest demand for an investigation. This the Government consented
to, and a commission, composed of physicians and members of the Academy
of Sciences, was appointed, of which Benjamin Franklin was a member.
The report admitted the leading facts claimed by Mesmer, but held
that there was no evidence to prove the correctness of his magnetic
fluid theory, and referred the wonderful effects witnessed to the
“imagination” of the patients. Their conclusion was that the subject
was not worthy of further scientific investigation.

It is difficult at this day to conceive by what process of reasoning
that learned body could arrive at such a conclusion. They admitted
the existence of a motive force capable of controlling man’s physical
organization, that this force is amenable to control by man, and that
this control is capable of being reduced to an art. Then they proceed
to announce a discovery of their own,–a discovery, by the way, which
turns out to be the most important which modern science had, at that
time, contributed to the solution of the great problem. They discovered
that the phenomena were purely subjective, thereby demonstrating the
power of mind over matter. If they had stopped there, or if they had
concluded that this wonderful force was worthy of the most searching
scientific investigation, they would have been entitled to the
gratitude of all mankind, and the science would have been at once
wrested from the hands of ignorance and empiricism. That they should
content themselves with disproving Mesmer’s theory of causation, and,
after having themselves made a discovery of the true cause, should
announce that their own discovery was not worth the trouble of further
investigation, is inexplicable.

Soon after this, Mesmer was driven into exile, followed by the
execrations of a majority of the medical profession, and died in 1815.
He left many disciples, a majority of whom were shallow empirics, and
mesmerism was brought still further into disrepute. There were a few
able and scientific men, however, who still pursued the investigation,
among whom were the Marquis de Puységur, Deleuze, and others. These
gentlemen revolutionized the art by first causing their subjects to
sleep by means of gentle manipulation, instead of surrounding them
with mysticism in dimly lighted apartments filled with sweet odors
and the strains of soft and mysterious music, as was the practice of
Mesmer. They developed in their subjects the power of clairvoyance,
and demonstrated it in a thousand ways. They caused them to obey
mental orders as readily as if the orders were spoken. They healed the
sick, caused the lame to walk, and the blind to see. In short, they
so far revived the interest in the subject that the Royal Academy of
Medicine, in France, felt compelled to order a new investigation. This
was done in 1825. A committee was appointed, composed of the ablest
and most cautious scientists in their body. For nearly six years that
committee pursued its investigations, and in 1831 it submitted its
report. It would be tedious to enumerate all the conclusions at which
it arrived. Its principal efforts were directed to the determination
of the therapeutic value of mesmerism. It confirmed much that had
been claimed for it in that respect, and demonstrated the power of
clairvoyance, by indubitable tests. It also confirmed the claim that
persons could be magnetized at a distance as well as by contact,
although there is nothing in the report which shows how far the
possibilities of suggestion were removed in that class of experiments.
Indeed, in deference to truth it must be here remarked that mesmerists
at that time had but a faint and undefined notion of the subtle _rôle_
which suggestion plays in all psychological phenomena. Hence it follows
that in examining the record of experiments in the higher phenomena of
hypnotism we must make due allowance for possible error in all cases
where the nature of the experiments does not preclude the possibility
of suggestion having influenced the result, or where the possibilities
of suggestion have not been intelligently eliminated.

The effect of this report was instantaneous and remarkable. The
advocates of magnetism as a therapeutic agent, and the believers
in the occult features of the phenomena, such as clairvoyance and
thought-transference, had scored a triumph. But it served only to
exasperate the average scientist and to intensify his prejudices.
The Academy refused to dignify the report by printing it, and it
rests to-day in silent oblivion in the manuscript archives of the
institution. Another committee was soon after appointed, headed by a
member who had openly sworn hostility to the doctrine. The result was
what might have been expected. After the examination of two subjects
under circumstances which, in the light of what is now known, rendered
failure inevitable, the committee made a very undignified report,
announcing the failure to produce the occult phenomena promised,
and impugning the intelligence of the former committee. Strange and
illogical as it may seem, the later report, which proved nothing, which
was confined to an announcement of merely negative results, which
simply showed that the committee did not witness certain promised
phenomena, was accepted by the average scientist as containing the
gospel of hypnotism, as against the report of the earlier committee,
which, after five years of laborious research, announced that it had
witnessed the phenomena in question and demonstrated their reality.

For some years subsequent to this the investigation of the subject
was confined to its psychological and therapeutic features; but
every scientist who dabbled in it was tabooed by the majority of his
associates. Many able works were produced on the subject, but none of
them attracted the attention of the academicians until Dr. Braid, of
Manchester, undertook to demonstrate the theory that the hypothetical
magnetic fluid had nothing to do with the production of the phenomena.
Braid discovered that by placing a bright object before the eyes of the
subject, and causing him to gaze upon it with persistent attention,
he could be thrown into the hypnotic sleep, during which many of the
well-known phenomena ascribed to magnetism could be produced. This
seemed to point to the possibility of a physiological explanation of
the subject-matter. It attracted the attention of the scientists,
and thus to Braid belongs the credit of causing the subject to be at
last acknowledged as being within the domain of the exact sciences.
The academicians were now mollified. The pet theory of the mesmerists
appeared to have been demolished. The method was simple and easily
applied. The phenomena of thought-transference could not be produced
by its methods. It promised a physiological explanation; and, best of
all, it had been given a new name. It had received many names before
Braid undertook the task of rechristening it; but, with the exception
of “mesmerism,” each was objectionable, because it implied a theory
of causation. The name “mesmerism” was obviously improper, because
Mesmer was neither the discoverer of the force, nor the inventor of the
practical method of evoking it. “Animal magnetism” implied Mesmer’s
theory of magnetic currents. “Mental or animal electricity” implied
practically the same theory. “Neurology” indicated the science of
the nervous system. “Patheism” (from the Greek radical signifying
disease or suffering) and “etherology” (which means the science of the
refined part of the atmosphere) were equally meaningless as applied
to the subject. “Psycodunamy” signified the power of the soul; and
“electro-biology” was American, and not to be tolerated. But when
Braid denominated it “hypnotism,”–from the Greek word signifying
sleep,–it was hailed as a compromise sufficiently noncommittal to
entitle it to recognition, and “hypnotism” it will be called until some
academician drags to light the ultimate cause of all things.

Braid has been accorded a great deal of credit for his original
researches and discoveries, but it is questionable whether he has
not been the indirect means of retarding the true progress of the
science. It is a remarkable fact that since his method of hypnotizing
has been generally adopted, the higher phenomena, such as clairvoyance
and thought-transference, have fallen into disrepute, and are now
rarely produced. Indeed, it may be said to be practically a lost art,
considered as a result of hypnotic processes. The cause of this will
receive attention hereafter. Braid could not cause his subjects to obey
his mental orders, and he disbelieved in the power of clairvoyance. He
acknowledged that some of his subjects could tell the shape of what
was “held at an inch and a half from the skin, on the back of the
neck, crown of the head, arm, or hand, or other parts of the body,”
but held that “it is from feeling they do so.”[13] He demonstrated the
extreme sensitiveness of one subject by causing her to obey the motion
of a glass funnel held in his hand, at a distance of fifteen feet.[14]
Truly, a remarkable case of “feeling.”

Braid is entitled to great credit for the discovery that the hypnotic
state can be induced independently of the presence or co-operation of
another person. Further than that, his work is practically valueless,
for the reason that he never understood the power or influence of
suggestion. It is therefore manifestly impossible to determine the
value of any experiment of his, except in cases the nature of which
precludes the possibility of suggestion being employed, or in cases
where it was expressly eliminated.

Two facts, however, seem to have been demonstrated by his experiments,
both of which are of the utmost importance:

1. That the hypnotic sleep can be induced independently of personal
contact with, or the personal influence of, another.

2. That the sleep can be induced by his method without the aid of
suggestion.

The mistake which his followers have made is in jumping to the
conclusion that because one of the primary conditions of hypnotic
phenomena can be induced without the aid of the magnetic hypothesis,
therefore the magnetic hypothesis is necessarily incorrect. The same
logic would induce a man who for the first time sees a railroad
train in motion to conclude that any other method of locomotion is
impracticable. Braid himself was not so illogical; for he expressly
says that he does not consider the methods identical, but does
“consider the condition of the nervous system induced by both modes to
be analogous.”

Another mistake, shared in common by both the modern schools of
hypnotists, is the failure to appreciate the significance of the fact
that by Braid’s method the hypnotic condition can be induced without
the aid of suggestion. One school ignores the fact altogether, or
considers it of doubtful verity, and the other regards it merely as
an evidence that suggestion plays a secondary _rôle_ in hypnotic
phenomena. That both are to some extent wrong will appear at the proper
time, as will also the fact of the failure of all the schools to grasp
its real significance.

For some years after the appearance of Braid’s book there was but
little, if any, progress made in the science. His methods, however,
were generally adopted, but the value of his discovery was not
appreciated by his own countrymen; and it was not until the Continental
scientists extended his researches that he obtained substantial
recognition. Liébault was the first to confirm his experiments, and in
1866 he published a work, in which he advanced much that was new in
fact and theory. He was, in fact, the founder of what is now known as
the Nancy school of hypnotism. Many prominent scientists have followed
him, and many able works have been produced, prominent among which
may be mentioned “Suggestive Therapeutics,” by Professor Bernheim, and
“Hypnotism,” by Albert Moll, of Berlin.

Professor Charcot, of the Paris Salpêtrière, is also the founder of a
school of hypnotism, which is generally known as the Paris school, or
school of the Salpêtrière. Charcot’s great reputation as a scientist
obtained for him many followers at first, prominent among whom are
Binet and Féré, whose joint work, entitled “Animal Magnetism,” has been
widely read both in Europe and America.

These schools differ widely both in theory and practice, their only
point of union being their utter contempt for the theory and practice
of what must still be known, for want of a better term, as the mesmeric
school.

These three schools represent the grand divisions which it will
be necessary to recognize in the discussion of the subject under
consideration.

The leading points of difference between the three schools may be
briefly stated as follows:–

1. The theory of the Nancy school is that the different physiological
conditions characterizing the hypnotic state are determined by mental
action alone; that the phenomena can best be produced in persons of
sound physical health and perfect mental balance; and that this mental
action and the consequent physical and psychological phenomena are the
result, in all cases, of some form of suggestion.

2. The Paris school holds that hypnotism is the result of an abnormal
or diseased condition of the nerves; that a great number of the
phenomena can be produced independently of suggestion in any form;
that the true hypnotic condition can be produced only in persons whose
nerves are diseased; and that the whole subject is explicable on the
basis of cerebral anatomy or physiology.

3. The mesmerists hold to the fluidic theory of Mesmer: that the
hypnotic condition is induced, independent of suggestion, by passes
made by the operator over the subject, accompanied by intense
concentration of mind and will on the part of the former; that from
him flows a subtle fluid which impinges upon the subject wherever it
is directed, and produces therapeutic or other effects in obedience
to the will of the operator; that these effects can best be produced
by personal contact; but that they can be produced at a distance and
without the knowledge of the subject, and independently of suggestion.

In discussing the merits of these several schools, it is perhaps
superfluous to say that it is self-evident that neither school can be
entirely right. Each presents an array of facts which seems to support
its theory; but as the theories are irreconcilable, and the facts
apparently contradict each other, it follows that some fundamental
principle underlying the whole subject-matter has been overlooked. It
is the purpose of this book to suggest a possible way to the discovery
of the principle,–the missing link which will unite the chain and bind
the facts of psychological science into one harmonious whole.

The Nancy school of hypnotism is entitled to the credit of having made
the most important discovery in psychological science. The fact that
the subjective mind is constantly amenable to control by the power of
suggestion, constitutes the grand principle in psychological science,
which, when properly appreciated and applied, will solve every problem
and illuminate every obscurity in the labyrinthian science of the
human soul, so far as it will ever be possible for finite intelligence
to penetrate it. It is safe to say that in all the broad realm of
psychological science there is not a phenomenon upon which it will not
shed light. It is no discredit to that school to say that its leaders
and teachers do not yet seem to comprehend the profound significance of
their discovery, and that in one direction they have extended it too
far. It is the latter proposition which will first receive attention.

They hold, very correctly, that all the phenomena of hypnotism,
subsequent to the induction of the hypnotic condition, are due to
the power of suggestion in some form. That this is true, admits of
no possible doubt. They also find by experiment that the hypnotic
condition can be induced simply by the power of suggestion. Their
conclusion is that suggestion is a necessary factor in the induction
of the hypnotic condition. That this is not true can be very readily
demonstrated by reference to a few well-known and admitted facts. One
of the first discoveries made by Braid was that by his methods the
hypnotic condition could be induced in persons who had never seen or
heard of hypnotic phenomena.

The following passage from that learned author seems to have been
overlooked by those of his commentators who seek for evidence in his
experiments to prove that suggestion is a necessary factor in the
induction of the hypnotic condition:–

“In order to prove my position still more clearly, I called up
one of my men-servants, who knew nothing of mesmerism, and gave
him such directions as were calculated to impress his mind with
the idea that his fixed attention was merely for the purpose of
watching a chemical experiment in the preparation of some medicine,
and being familiar with such, he could feel no alarm. In two
minutes and a half his eyelids closed slowly with a vibrating
motion, his chin fell on his breast, he gave a deep sigh, and
instantly was in a profound sleep, breathing loudly…. In about
one minute after his profound sleep I aroused him and pretended
to chide him for being so careless, said he ought to be ashamed
of himself for not being able to attend to my instructions for
three minutes without falling asleep, and ordered him downstairs.
In a short time I recalled this young man, and desired him to sit
down once more, but to be careful not to go to sleep again, as
on the former occasion. He sat down with this intention; but at
the expiration of two minutes and a half his eyelids closed, and
exactly the same phenomena as in the former experiment ensued.”[15]

Now, whilst it is true that Braid did not realize the supreme potency
of suggestion as it is now understood by the Nancy school, he did
intelligently eliminate it in the experiment above related. It was his
purpose to demonstrate his theory that “the phenomena of mesmerism were
to be accounted for on the principle of a derangement of the state of
the cerebro-spinal centres, and of the circulatory and respiratory and
muscular systems.”[16] In other words, he was seeking to demonstrate
his theory that the phenomena of mesmerism are attributable to a
physical rather than a mental cause. Hence his care to select a subject
who knew nothing of what was expected of him.

Braid relates another circumstance equally demonstrative of the
proposition that suggestion is not a necessary factor in the induction
of the hypnotic state. He says:–

“After my lecture at the Hanover Square Rooms, London, on the 1st
of March, 1842, a gentleman told Mr. Walker, who was along with
me, that he was most anxious to see me, that I might try whether I
could hypnotize him. He said both himself and friends were anxious
he should be affected, but that neither Lafontaine nor others who
had tried him could succeed. Mr. Walker said, ‘If that is what
you want, as Mr. Braid is engaged otherwise, sit down, and I will
hypnotize you myself in a minute.’ When I went into the room, I
observed what was going on, the gentleman sitting staring at Mr.
Walker’s finger, who was standing a little to the right of the
patient, with his eyes fixed steadily on those of the latter. I
passed on and attended to something else; and when I returned a
little after, I found Mr. Walker standing in the same position,
_fast asleep, his arm and finger in a state of cataleptiform
rigidity_, and the patient wide awake and staring at the finger all
the while.”[17]

This is a clear case of the induction of the hypnotic condition
without the aid of suggestion. Mr. Walker had no thought of going
into the state himself, but was intent on hypnotizing the patient.
The suggestion in his mind was, therefore, in the opposite direction.
He had, however, inadvertently placed himself in the proper attitude,
and so concentrated his gaze as to induce the state, and that directly
contrary to his auto-suggestion.

These two instances have been cited from Braid for the reason that
(1) he was the discoverer of the method of hypnotizing by causing the
subject to gaze steadily upon an object; and (2) he was not attempting
to prove or disprove the theory of suggestion. His testimony is
obviously all the more reliable for that reason, for one is prone to
distrust the verity of experiments made for the purpose of sustaining a
theory. Many facts have been recorded which demonstrate the proposition
that by Braid’s method the hypnotic state can be induced independently
of suggestion. One class only of such facts needs to be cited to
convince the most sceptical.

I allude to religious devotees, who are often thrown into the hypnotic
state, even to the degree of ecstasy, by gazing upon the crucifix, or
upon pictures of the Holy Virgin or of the saints. The Catholic clergy
would seem to have a dim perception of the principle involved when they
elevate the cross above the eyes of those in whom they wish to excite
devotional enthusiasm. Be that as it may, the fact is of scientific
value to the investigator of psychological phenomena. The natural
attitude of prayer–the eyes raised towards heaven–is certainly not
only conducive to devotional feeling, but, in emotional natures, to a
state at least cognate to hypnotism, if not identical with it. Hence
the subjective hallucinations which often result from the long and
earnest prayers of religious enthusiasts.

More conclusive still is the fact that animals can be hypnotized.
Albert Moll, who is one of the ablest, and certainly one of the most
unprejudiced, of modern scientific writers on the subject of hypnotism,
writing from the standpoint of the Nancy school, makes the following
observations on the subject of hypnotizing animals:–

“States resembling, or perhaps identical with, hypnosis, are
also found in animals, and can easily be experimentally induced.
The first experiments of this kind are referred to by the Jesuit
Kircher,–the so-called _experimentum mirabile Kircheri_. Kircher
described these experiments in 1646; but according to Preyer, the
experiment had been made by Schwenter several years earlier. The
most striking of these experiments, which are being continued in
the present day, is as follows: A hen is held down on the ground;
the head in particular is pressed down. A chalk line is then drawn
on the ground, starting from the bird’s beak. The hen will remain
motionless. Kircher ascribes this to the animal’s imagination;
he said that it imagined that it was fastened, and consequently
did not try to move. Czermak repeated the experiment on different
animals, and announced in 1872 that a hypnotic state could be
induced in other animals besides the hen. Preyer shortly after
began to interest himself in the question, and made a series of
experiments like Czermak’s. Preyer, however, distinguishes two
states in animals,–catalepsy, which is the effect of fear; and the
hypnotic state. Heubel, Richet, Danilewsky, and Rieger, besides the
authors mentioned above, have occupied themselves with the question.

“Most of the experiments have been made with frogs, crayfish,
guinea-pigs, and birds. I have made many with frogs. This much is
certain: many animals will remain motionless in any position in
which they have been held by force for a time. There are various
opinions as to the meaning of this. Preyer thinks many of these
states are paralyses from fright, or catalepsy, produced by a
sudden peripheral stimulus. In any case they vividly recall the
catalepsy of the Salpêtrière, also caused by a strong external
stimulus.”[18]

The experiments of Kircher, above mentioned, were undertaken with a
view of demonstrating his theory that animals possessed great powers of
imagination. The chalk mark, he held, represented to the imagination
of the hen a string with which she supposed herself to be bound. In
his day, of course, nothing was known of hypnotism. It has since been
demonstrated that the chalk mark has nothing to do with the production
of the phenomenon. The same result follows when the chalk mark is
omitted. The writer has hypnotized a pet rooster by Braid’s method
without using any violence whatever, or even touching the fowl. He was
exceedingly tame, and it was only necessary to hold a small object
directly before his eyes; when his attention was attracted, he would
gaze steadily upon it, and in a very few minutes would go fast asleep.
This could not have been a catalepsy caused by fright, nor could it
have been the result of a belief in his inability to move, nor a
peripheral stimulus caused by friction against the skin, nor could
it have been suggestion. In fact, there is no legitimate conclusion
apparent except that it was a true hypnosis, identical with that
produced on human beings by Braid’s methods.




This branch of the subject has been dwelt upon somewhat at length,
not merely for the purpose of showing that the adherents of the Nancy
school carry the doctrine of suggestion too far, but because it is an
important point in the study of the subject, and throws a flood of
light upon many important and perplexing problems, as will be seen
hereafter. The principle to be borne in mind is this: hypnosis can be
produced by Braid’s method either with or without the aid of suggestion.

This does not militate in the slightest degree against the doctrine of
suggestion when its powers and limitations are properly understood.
It still remains true that all hypnotic phenomena subsequent to the
induction of the condition are the result of suggestion in some
form. This is the grand discovery of the Nancy school; and when it
is once appreciated and understood, it will be found to constitute
the master-key which will unlock the secrets of every psychological
mystery. That it is unqualifiedly true no longer admits of serious
doubt; it is acknowledged by nearly every scientist in the civilized
world who has given the subject intelligent attention. It is true
that the great name of Charcot has commanded a following; but however
valuable may have been his observations in the infancy of the science,
it has become obvious to most of his former followers that his
fundamental hypothesis is defective, and that his conclusions are
therefore necessarily unreliable.

The discussion of the merits of the Paris school will be brief, and
will be chiefly confined to a statement of the reasons for considering
its experiments and conclusions unreliable, and to pointing out a few
of the more obvious sources of its errors.

The first source of error lies in the fact that the experiments of
this school are made almost exclusively upon hysterical women. The
assumption is that hypnotism is a nervous disease, and that the disease
is found in its most pronounced form in hysterical subjects. That this
proposition is unqualifiedly wrong is positively known to every student
of hypnotism outside the Paris school, and needs no further refutation
than the bare statement that the experience of all other schools goes
to demonstrate the fact that the best hypnotic subjects are perfectly
healthy persons.

Another source of error lies in the fact that they ignore suggestion
as a necessary factor in the production of hypnotic phenomena. Of
course they are aware of the potency of suggestion when purposely
and intelligently employed; but they hold that very many of the most
important of the phenomena can be produced without its aid. These,
however, are principally physical effects, such as causing any muscle
of the body to contract by pressing upon the corresponding nerve, and
then releasing the tension by exciting the antagonistic muscle. The
condition necessary for the production of this phenomenon is called
by Charcot, “neuro-muscular hyperexcitability.” In the able and
interesting work by Binet and Féré, pupils of Charcot, a chapter is
devoted to this branch of the subject. They record, with a scientific
exactitude that is very edifying, many curious results in the way
of causing contracture of various muscles by kneading, pressure,
percussion, etc., releasing the tension by exciting the opposing
muscles, and transferring the contractures from one muscle to another
by the magnet. Then, with an ingenuousness that is truly charming, they
add, as a “singular fact,” that “contractures can be easily produced in
many hysterical patients in their waking state, either by kneading the
muscles, by pressure on the nerves, or by striking the tendons. These
contractures in the waking state are, indeed, of the same nature as
those which occur during lethargy, since they yield to the excitement
of the antagonistic muscles, and may be transferred by the magnet.”

After this admission it seems superfluous to remark that this class of
experiments prove nothing more than that the state of neuro-muscular
hyperexcitability is a pathological symptom common to hysterical
patients, whether in the waking state or in hypnotic lethargy. They
certainly prove nothing which can be construed as characteristic of
hypnotism; and the Nancy school wastes its time in demonstrating that
the symptoms cannot be reproduced in healthy persons except by the aid
of suggestion.

Another serious error into which the Charcot school has fallen in
its effort to eliminate the effects of suggestion consists in the
assumption that subjects in the lethargic state know nothing of what
is passing around them, either objectively or subjectively. No greater
mistake is possible. _The subjective mind never sleeps._ No matter how
profound the lethargy, it is ever alert, and comprehends instantly,
with preternatural acuteness, everything that occurs. Professor
Bernheim, in the preface to “Suggestive Therapeutics,” makes the same
assertion. He says:–

“One should first be aware of the fact that in all degrees of
hypnosis the subject hears and understands everything, even
though he may appear inert and passive. Sometimes the senses are
particularly sharp in this state of special concentration, as if
all the nervous activity were accumulated in the organ of which the
attention is solicited.”

The state of lethargy is that in which Charcot supposes his subjects to
be incapable of receiving a suggestion. Acting upon that hypothesis,
it is not astonishing that he should deceive himself as well as the
students and spectators attending his clinic. He believes that they
hear nothing when they hear everything. It is easy to see how every
suggested phenomenon is promptly produced under such conditions.
But there is one phenomenon of which the learned professor fails to
note the significance, and that is, that, no matter how profound the
lethargy, his subject promptly awakens at the word of command.

The simple truth regarding the experiments of the Paris school is in a
nutshell. Its fundamental error lies in the assumption that hypnosis
has a purely physical origin, and that the phenomena are explicable
on physiological principles. The phenomena which can be produced
independently of suggestion are purely physical, and depend upon the
physical condition of neuro-muscular hyperexcitability. That this is
true is shown by the fact that the physical phenomena produced by
Charcot upon his hysterical patients cannot be produced on healthy
subjects without the aid of suggestion. But such experiments do not
properly belong to the domain of psychic science proper, but rather
to the Bradian system of physical manipulation. This is as much as
confessed by Binet and Féré, when they divulge the fact that the
physical phenomena in question can be produced on hysterical patients
in their waking condition.

Another prolific source of error which besets the pathway of the Paris
school consists in its disbelief in, and consequent disregard of,
the possibility that its subjects may be possessed of clairvoyant or
telepathic powers. That this frequently happens, especially in subjects
of the character employed by Charcot and his coadjutors, admits of no
possible doubt in the minds of those who have studied the higher phases
of hypnotic science. The London Society for Psychical Research has
demonstrated beyond all question the fact that telepathy is a power
possessed by many; and the early mesmerists have shown conclusively
that the hypnotic condition is the one of all others the most favorable
for the development and exhibition of that power. This subject will be
dwelt upon more at length in its proper place. It is sufficient for
present purposes to remark that no line of experiments in hypnotism,
in which telepathy and clairvoyance are ignored as possible factors,
can be held to be demonstrative of any proposition or theory whatever.
But whatever of pathological value or interest may be attached to the
physical phenomena evoked by the Paris school, they certainly shed no
light upon psychological science, nor do they properly belong to that
domain.

And just here I wish to suggest a reform in the nomenclature of the
science under consideration. The word “hypnotism” was adopted by Braid
at a time when he regarded himself as the discoverer of a principle
which embraced the whole science of induced sleep. It is from the
Greek word “hypnos,” which broadly signifies sleep. But, without some
qualifying word, it is too broad, inasmuch as the system to which Braid
applied it is now known to be but one of many processes of inducing
sleep. He imagined that he had discovered a full explanation of all
psychic phenomena of the class then known as mesmeric; whereas he
had only discovered the one fact that the sleep could be induced by
producing an abnormal physical condition of certain nerve-centres. It
was a very important discovery, for psychic science would be incomplete
without it; but it does not constitute the whole science. It does,
however, explain many phenomena otherwise inexplicable, and marks a
line of distinction which could not otherwise be drawn. The methods of
the Charcot school are essentially Braidian, and hence its results are
limited largely to physical phenomena, and its conclusions necessarily
pertain to physical science.

The Nancy school, on the other hand, produces all its phenomena by
oral suggestion, and ignores the fact that the sleep can be induced in
the absence of any form of suggestion. It repudiates Braid’s method of
inducing it as unnecessary, and also as injurious, in that the physical
disturbance of the nerve-centres unduly excites the patient.

The mesmeric school differs from both the others in methods and theory,
as we shall see further on.

It seems necessary, therefore, that the terminology of the science
should be changed so as clearly to define the theoretical differences
of the three schools. It is obvious, however, that the terminology
cannot be based on results, for they are inextricably intermingled.
Thus, the Braidian or Charcot operator might accidentally produce
psychic phenomena identical with that produced by the mesmerists, and
_vice versa_. And so might the suggestive school. Indeed, the writings
of both schools occasionally betray the fact that they sometimes catch
glimpses of something in their patients which defies chemical analysis,
and cannot be carved with the scalpel.

The terminology must, therefore, refer to the methods of inducing the
subjective state. If the word “hypnotism” is to be retained because it
embraces all degrees of induced sleep by whatsoever process it may have
been induced, it would seem proper to designate the Braidian process
as _physical hypnotism_, the Nancy process as _suggestive hypnotism_,
and the mesmeric process as _magnetic_, or _fluidic_, _hypnotism_.

I merely throw this out as a suggestion to be considered by future
writers on the subject. For my own purposes I shall hereafter employ
the word “hypnotism” to define the Braidian and suggestive processes as
distinguished from all others when these are contrasted, while the word
“mesmerism” will be employed as it is generally understood. When they
are not contrasted, “hypnotism” will be used as a generic term.

Last in the order of mention, but really first in importance, is the
school of mesmerism. The theory of the mesmerists has undergone little,
if any, modification since it was first promulgated by Mesmer himself.
It is, as before stated, that there exists in man a subtle fluid, in
the nature of magnetism, which, by means of passes over the head and
body of the subject, accompanied by intense concentration of mind and
will on the part of the operator, can be made to flow from the ends
of his fingers and impinge upon the subject, producing sleep and all
the varied subsequent phenomena at the will of the operator. In the
early days of mesmerism suggestion was ignored as a possible factor in
the production of the phenomena, this law not having been discovered
previous to the experiments of Liébault. The same is practically true
to-day. Mesmerism has made very little progress within the last half
century. Its votaries cling to the old theories with a pertinacity
proportioned to the opposition encountered at the hands of the
hypnotists. On the whole, the progress of mesmeric science, _per se_,
has been backward since the discoveries of Braid,–not because Braid
disproved the fluidic theory, for he did not disprove it, nor did he
claim to have done so, but for reasons which will appear in their
proper place.

Suggestion is now, as before the discoveries of Liébault, ignored
by mesmerists as a necessary factor either in the induction of the
mesmeric condition, or in the production of the subsequent phenomena.
In this they are partly right and partly wrong. Suggestion, in the
ordinary acceptation of the term,–that is, oral suggestion,–is not
an indispensable factor in the induction of the condition. This is
shown in a great variety of ways. One fact alone demonstrates the
principle, and that is, that subjects who have been often mesmerized
by a particular individual can be by him thrown into that state, under
certain favorable conditions, even though the two may be many miles
apart. Account is not taken in this of the many experiments of the old
mesmerists, who previously informed their subjects of the intended
experiment. But many instances might be cited where this has been
accomplished under test conditions, the element of suggestion being
carefully eliminated. The writer has mesmerized a subject at a distance
of three hundred miles, and that under conditions which rendered oral
or objective suggestion impossible. Particular instances will not be
cited here, for the reason that in subsequent chapters of this book the
principle involved will be rendered so plain that further proofs would
be superfluous. A further demonstration of this principle lies in the
fact that children, too young to understand what is expected of them,
and animals of various kinds, can be mesmerized. This is abundantly
proved by the experiments of Wilson, who, as early as 1839, mesmerized
elephants, horses, wolves, and other animals in London. Obersteimer
states that in Austria the law requires army horses to be mesmerized
for the purpose of shoeing them. This process was introduced by a
cavalry officer named Balassa, and hence it has been termed and is now
known as “the _Balassiren_ of horses” (Moll). This is the secret of
the celebrated horse-tamers, Sullivan and Rarey. By their methods the
wildest colts and the most vicious horses could be subdued in an hour.
Mesmerism is the power exerted by the lion-tamer and the snake-charmer.
The power is often exerted unconsciously,–that is, without a knowledge
on the part of the operator of the source of his power.

The mesmerists of the present day are not, of course, ignorant or
unmindful of the potency of suggestion in the production of mesmeric
phenomena subsequent to the induction of the condition. But, like the
Paris school of hypnotists, they hold that suggestion plays a secondary
_rôle_ in the production of many of the phenomena. That they are wrong
in this will more fully appear in subsequent chapters of this book.

The points of difference between the three schools of this science
have now been reviewed, and the theories of each briefly stated. It is
found,–

1. That the Nancy school attributes all the phenomena, including the
induction of the state, to the power of suggestion, and that it is to
the psychic powers and attributes of man alone that we must look for an
explanation.

2. The Paris school, on the other hand, ignores suggestion as a
necessary factor either in the induction of the state or in the
production of subsequent phenomena, and seeks an explanation of the
subject-matter on the bases of physiology and cerebral anatomy.

3. The mesmerists ignore suggestion as a necessary factor at any stage
of their experiments, and explain the whole on the magnetic fluid
theory.

We also find three distinct methods of inducing the sleep; and as it is
of the utmost importance to bear the different methods in mind, they
will be here restated:–

The Nancy school, true to its theory, employs suggestion alone to
induce the condition. Passes are sometimes made over its subjects after
the manner of the mesmerists, but only with a view of giving an air of
mystery to the proceedings, and thus adding potency to the suggestion.

The Paris school employs physical means to induce the state almost
exclusively. They are practically the same as those employed by
Braid, namely, causing the subject to gaze steadily at a bright
object,–although many variations of the method have been introduced,
such as flashing an electric light in the eyes of the subject, striking
a gong without warning close to his ears, or by some peripheral
excitation, such as rubbing the scalp, etc.

The mesmeric method proper consists in making passes from the head
downwards, gazing fixedly into the subject’s eyes, and concentrating
the mind upon the work in hand, strongly willing the subject to sleep.
It is true that many of the so-called mesmerists now employ Braid’s
method entirely, and others depend largely upon suggestion. But the
true mesmeric method is as has been stated.