Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/31

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21
MESMERISM, ODYLISM, TABLE-TURNING, ETC.

and the universal consent of mankind, any evidence is inadequate to the proof, which is not complete, beyond suspicion, and absolutely incapable of being explained away."

Putting aside for the present the discussion of these asserted marvels, I shall try to set before you briefly the essential characters which distinguish the state of somnambulism (whether natural or acquired) on the one hand from dreaming, and on the other from the ordinary waking condition. As in both these, the mind is in a state of activity; but, as in dreaming, its activity is free from that controlling power of the will by which it is directed in the waking state; and is also removed from this last by the complete ignorance of all that has passed in it, which is manifested by the "subject" when called back to his waking self, although the events of one access of this "second consciousness" may vividly present themselves in the next, as if they had happened only just before. Again, instead of all the senses being shut up, as in ordinary dreaming sleep, some of them are not only awake, but preternaturally impressible; so that the course of the somnambulist's thought may be completely directed by suggestions of any kind that can be conveyed from without through the sense-channels which still remain open. But, further, while the mind of the ordinary dreamer can no more produce movements in his body than his impressions on sense-organs can affect his mind, that of the somnambulist retains full direction of his body (in so far, at least, as his senses serve to guide its movements); so that he acts his dreams as if they were his waking thoughts. The mesmerized or hypnotized somnambule may, in fact, be characterized as a conscious automaton, which, by appropriate suggestions, may be made to think, feel, say, or do, almost anything that its director wills it to think, feel, say, or do; with this remarkable peculiarity, that its whole power seems concentrated upon the state of activity in which it is at each moment, so that every faculty it is capable of exerting may become extraordinarily intensified. Thus, while vision is usually suspended, the senses of hearing, smell, and touch, with the muscular sense, are often preternaturally acute, in consequence, it would seem, of the undistracted concentration of the attention on their indications. I could give you many curious instances of this, which I have myself witnessed, as also of the great exertion of muscular power by subjects of extremely feeble physique; but as they are all obviously referable to this one simple principle, I need not dwell on their details, preferring to narrate one which I did not myself witness, but which was reported to me on most trustworthy authority, of a remarkable manifestation of a power of imitative vocalization that is ordinarily attainable only after long practice. When Jenny Lind was singing at Manchester, she was invited by Mr. Braid to hear the performances of one of his hypnotized subjects, an illiterate factory-girl, who had an excellent voice and ear, but whose musical powers had received scarcely any cultivation. This girl, in the hyp-