Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/30

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20
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

this state (which he designated as hypnotism) could be induced in a large proportion of individuals of either sex, and of all ranks, ages, and temperaments, who determinately fix their gaze for several minutes consecutively on an object brought so near to their eyes as to require a degree of convergence of their axes that is maintainable only by a strong effort.[1]

The first state thus induced is usually one of profound comatose sleep; the "subject" not being capable of being roused by sensory impressions of any ordinary kind, and bearing without the least indication of consciousness what would ordinarily produce intolerable uneasiness or even severe pain. But, after some little time, this state very commonly passes into one of somnambulism, which again corresponds closely on the one hand with natural, and on the other with mesmeric, somnambulism. In fact, it has been by the study of the somnambulism artificially induced by Mr. Braid's process that the essential nature of this condition has been elucidated, and that a scientific rationale can now be given of a large proportion of the phenomena reported by mesmerizers as having been presented by their somnambules.

It has been claimed for certain mesmeric somnambules, however, that they occasionally possess an intelligence altogether superhuman as to things present, past, and future, which has received the designation "lucidity;" and it is contended that the testimony on which we accept the reality of phenomena which are conformable to our scientific experience ought to satisfy us equally as to the genuineness of those designated as "the higher," which not only transcend but absolutely contradict what the mass of enlightened men would regard as universal experience. This contention, however, seems to me to rest upon an entirely incorrect appreciation of the probative force of evidence; for, as I shall endeavor to prove to you in my succeeding lecture, the only secure basis for our belief on any subject is the confirmation afforded to external testimony by our sense of the inherent probability of the fact testified to; so that, as has been well remarked, "evidence tendered in support of what is new must correspond in strength with the degree of its incompatibility with doctrines generally admitted as true; and, where statements obviously contravene all past experience

  1. Mr. Braid's peculiar success in inducing this state seemed to depend partly upon his mode of working his method, and partly upon the "expectancy" of his subjects. Finding a bright object preferable, he usually employed his silver lancet-case, which he held in the first place at ordinary reading-distance, rather above the plane of the eyes; he then slowly approximated it toward the middle point, a little above the bridge of the nose, keeping his own eyes steadily fixed upon those of his "subject," and watching carefully the direction of their axes. If he perceived their convergence to be at all relaxed, he withdrew the object until the axes were both again directed to it; and then again approximated it as closely as was compatible with their continued convergence. When this could be maintained for a sufficient length of time upon an object at no more than about three inches' distance, the comatose state generally supervened.