Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/540

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From the social point of view these new states of instantaneous loss of consciousness into which hypnotic or merely fascinated subjects may be made to pass deserve to be considered with lively interest. As I shall have to explain to you later, the individual in these novel conditions no longer belongs to himself; he is surrendered, an inert being, to the enterprise of those who surround him. At one moment, in the passive stage in this condition of lethargy or of catalepsy, he is absolutely defenseless and exposed to any criminal attempt on the part of those who surround him. He can be poisoned and mutilated. Where a woman is concerned, she may be violated and even infected with syphilis, of which I have recently observed a painful example in my practice. She may become a mother without any trace existing of a criminal assault, and without the patient having the smallest recollection of what has passed after she has awakened. Sometimes, in the active condition, the state of lucid somnambulism, and even in the condition of simple fascination, the subject may be exposed to the influence of suggestions of the most varied kind on the part of the person directing his actions. He may be induced to become a homicide, an incendiary, or suicide, and all these impulses deposited in his brain during sleep become forces stored up silently, which will burst forth at a given moment with the precision, accuracy of performance, and automatic impetuosity of acts performed by the really insane. Gentlemen, bear this well in mind; all these acts, all these phenomena unconsciously accomplished are no mere vague apprehensions and vain suppositions; they are real facts which you may meet with this very day in ordinary life. They are apt to develop, and to appear around you and before you in the most inexplicable manner.

Of course the question will be asked, Are the practical uses or the applications of the artificial sleep (the induction of which is the residuum of this psychological puddle) of such value as to counterbalance its evils? As to its surgical uses, which at first sight are the most obvious, Luys himself says:

At the first appearance of hypnotism, when Braid had shown that hypnotized subjects are insensitive to external stimuli, surgeons conceived the idea of using this method for the performance of certain operations. In fact, some among them had the opportunity of testing it with a certain amount of advantage. But since the wonderful discovery of chloroform (and, it might be added, of local anæthesia by cocaine, the vaporization of ether, etc.) these attempts, so far as concern surgical anæsthesia, have been justly abandoned. At the present time the application of hypnotism to surgical therapeutics is of absolutely no account, since it concerns only a small number of persons—namely, the class of hypnotizable subjects.[1]

In the domain of medicine M. Luys is naturally more hopeful and more affirmative; but obviously inspires less confidence than his calmer and more critical colleagues at the Salpêtrière, who have abstained from following him in these new developments and who regard them with disfavor and distrust. To me, the so-called medical cures by hypnotism seem to rank in precisely the same class as those of the faith-curer.

  1. Applicatlons thérapeutiques de l'Hypnotisme. Par le Dr. J. Luys. Paris: Imprimerie F. Lève, 17 Rue Cassette, 1889.