Popular Science Monthly/Volume 67/November 1905/Hypnotism, its History, Nature and Use

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

HYPNOTISM, ITS HISTORY, NATURE AND USE.
By HAROLD M. HAYS,

COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS, NEW YORK CITY.

It is perhaps unnecessary to state that the word hypnotism brings to the mind of the average person timid recollections of many criminal acts. That is because few people hear of hypnotism in its proper sphere. It is clothed with the garb of shame; it is surrounded with all the horror belonging to the age of witchcraft. Newspapers delight in depicting its bad sides, in painting to the world the crimes that have been committed under its influence, the fearful results of its all powerful spell. To most it means a giving up of one's will to another who is superior, the crushing of one's entity by the power of another, the total abstinence of individual self-control, the entire weakening of one's higher intelligence. Vivid imagination supplies the result—suffering, hardship, labor and total subservience.

The question arises, 'Why should hypnotism have been thus derided?' Simply and plainly because the ignorance of people in general has given it no opportunity to show its good sides. Unfortunately people are always looking for the 'eternal gullible' and are not satisfied until they get a taste of it. And as hypnotism was first practised solely and is now practised mostly by men who have made the world their dupes, the world has had to suffer in the advancement of hypnotism on a scientific basis. But it has been so with other sciences. Astrology and alchemy are now things of the past; but astronomy and chemistry are their results—two great and everlasting sciences. There is therefore still great hope for hypnotism; for, although known under different names for so many hundreds of years, it is still in its infancy and the scientific aspect of the subject is yet in embryo.

Before, however, proceeding to cases in point, we may review briefly the history of hypnotism up to the present day. Call it what we may, since the beginning of the world, before Noah ever went on the Ark or the whale swallowed Jonah (much to the discomfort of both), hypnotism has been practised. The influence of one man over another by a certain innate quality or by personal magnetism has always been. Even Eve exerted an influence over Adam which has precipitated the world into misery and kept it there ever since. As time went on, people recognized this influence, gave it a name and called it the influence of the gods, the result being that those who were ordained with this wonderful power were called God's ministers. Soothsayers, divine healers, the oracle ministers, all made the oriental people construe this power by religious means. Among the Chaldeans, Babylonians, Persians, Hindoos and other ancient peoples, there were priests who, because of their power of exerting a superhuman influence over others, were considered divine. To this day the vogis and fakirs of India use this power and throw themselves into a state of hypnotic ecstacy and revery. In the eleventh century it was used in the Greek church, as it is now by the omphalopsychics. In the middle ages it was practised by Paracelsus, who maintained that the human body possessed a double magnetism, the first magnetism coming from the planets, the second from flesh and blood. All through the middle ages, hypnotism was practised under different names such as witchcraft, divinations, etc. It was supposed to be a supernatural power derived from Satan himself, and, therefore, the user of this power was expelled from society and sometimes put to death. Magic spells where people went into trances or out of their head were of common occurrence. Religious ecstasy, demon-possession, cures by shrines and relics, the cure by the king's touch, etc., were all phenomena of this same sort.

During the seventeenth century, a number of faith-healers sprang up all over the continent and British Isles. Many of these men were noted for their skill, but the one who attained the greatest reputation was one by the name of Greatrakes, who was horn in Ireland about 1628. This 'healer' was sent for by a Lord Conway who expressed his message in the following language: "to cure that excellent lady of his, the pains of whose head, as great and unparalleled as they are, have not made her more known or admired abroad than have her other endowments." At Lady Conway's was a miscellaneous gathering, chiefly engaged in mystical pursuits, 'an unofficial but active society for psychical research, as that study existed in the seventeenth century.' Says Mr. Lang: Greatrakes' special genius in these mystical pursuits was of divine agency; for he tells us that at one time "he heard a voyce within him (audible to none else), encouraging to the tryals: and afterwards to correct his unbelief the voice aforesaid added this sign, that his right hand should be dead, and that the stroaking of his left arm should recover it again, the events whereof were fully verified by him three nights together by a successive infirmity and cure of his arm." We are told that he failed to cure the lady's malady but that he worked some wonderful miracles of healing among the sick of the neighborhood.

Henry Stubbe, a physician of Stratford-on-Avon, thus comments on Greatrakes' miracles. He says "that God had bestowed upon Mr. Greatrakes a peculiar temperament, etc., composed his body of some particular ferments, the effluvia whereof, being sometimes introduced by a light, sometimes by a violent friction, should restore the temperament of the debilitated parts, reinvigorate the blood and dissipate all heterogeneous ferments out of the bodies of the diseased, by the eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet." Indeed, he recognized the difference between functional and organic complaints; and he only meddled with such diseases as 'have their essence either in the masse of blood and spirit (or nervous liquors) or the particular temperament of the part of the body' and attempted to cure no disease 'wherein there is a decay of nature.' "This is a confessed truth by him, he refusing still to touch the eyes of such as their sight has quite perished." None the less his cures were regarded as miraculous, and Dr. Stubbe tells us that 'as there is but one Mr. Greatrakes, so there is but one Sonne'; Greatrakes' method consisted principally in stroaking and passings and in driving the pains from one point to another until they went out at the fingers or toes.

In the latter half of the eighteenth century many fakirs, alleged philosophers, quacks and cosmongerers came to the front. Swedenborg, with his inspirations; Cagliostro, with his idea of personal power; Schrepfer, with the beginning of spiritualism; and then Gassner, the priest healer, who gave to Mesmer later on some of the ideas for the foundation of his theories.

Johann Joseph Gassner, a Swabian priest, appeared upon the scene in 1773. He was a forerunner of our modern spiritualist in a way, but had the added distinction of attributing all diseases to the devil. So his object was to pray for the expulsion of this satanic being. The patient had to have implicit faith and was made to give a detailed account of his malady. Gassner's next procedure was to chant various symptoms such as pain, weakness, stiffness, etc., and at his peremptory command to 'stop,' these symptoms would disappear and the patient be well again. At the words 'You will cease being disabled,' the patient's symptoms vanished. 'Your right hand and arm will become somewhat weak,' he says; and no sooner are the words out his mouth than the right hand is cold and numb and the pulse is accelerated. 'Your left hand will become as your right one was and this one will be normal,' is his next invocation, whereupon the left hand is cold and numb and the right returns to normal. Gassner keeps up these incantations until the patient is entirely cured, each prayer being accompanied by the invocation that 'this is accomplished in the name of the Lord, Our Father.' Gassner's cures in theory and practise were identical with those of Greatrakes, except that the mystery was now clothed in a religious garb. In both, the predominant idea was the suggestion to the patient that he would get well.

The reason why hypnotism was not studied scientifically until the middle of the eighteenth century was that there was too much of an air of mystery surrounding the workings of the phenomena. Whenever hypnotic power was discovered in a person, he at once considered himself as one who possessed attributes which placed him above the plane of society. Suggestion was of course practised as it always has been, but the true idea of what the power consisted of was unknown. At last, toward the close of the century, Frederick Anton Mesmer rose before the world as a disciple of a new force which was destined to turn the scale on to the side of science and forever after to present hypnotism in a new light.

Frederick Anton Mesmer was born at Weil, near the point at which the Rhine leaves the Lake of Constance, on May 23, 1733. He studied medicine at Vienna under eminent masters, although at first his parents had destined him for the church. Interested in astrology, he imagined that the stars exerted an influence on beings living on the earth. He identified the supposed force first with electricity and then with magnetism; and it was but a short step to suppose that stroking diseased bodies with magnets might effect a cure. In 1776, meeting Gassner in Switzerland, he observed that the priest effected cures without the use of magnets, but by manipulation alone. This led Mesmer to discard the magnets, and to suppose that some kind of occult force resided in himself by which he could influence others. Mesmer's first practical work with magnets was in 1779, when he magnetized a young lady complaining of various functional disorders. This emotional young lady 'felt internally a painful streaming of a very fine substance, now here, now there, but finally settling in the lower part of her body and freeing her from all further attacks for six hours.' She was extremely sensitive to any of Mesmer's suggestions, but would obey no one but him. Thus we see the primeval workings of animal magnetism, afterwards called hypnotism.

Mesmer removed to Paris in 1778, and in a short time the French capital was thrown into a state of great excitement by the marvelous effects of what he called mesmerism. Mesmer soon made many converts; controversies arose; he excited the indignation of the medical faculty of Paris, who stigmatized him as a charlatan; still the people crowded to him.

While at Paris his practise became so enormous that it was impossible for him to handle all his patients. So he invented a scheme by which a number of his patients could be magnetized at once. He had troughs filled with bottles of water and iron filings, around which the patients stood holding iron rods which issued from the troughs. All the subjects were tied to each other by cords so that they could not break away and thus spoil the contact. Perfect silence was necessary and soft music was heard. The patients were affected variously, according to the suggestion Mesmer gave them. Some became hysterical, others crazed, some became affectionate and embraced each other, while others laughed and became repulsive. This lasted for hours and was followed by states of dreaminess and languor. A picture given by Binet and Feret, two eminent French scientists, will present an idea of these meetings.

Mesmer, wearing a coat of lilac silk, walked up and down amid this agitated throng accompanied by Deslon and his associates whom he chose for their youth and comeliness. Mesmer carried a long iron wand, with which he touched the bodies of the patients and especially the diseased parts. Often laying aside the wand, he magnetized the patients with his eyes, fixing his gaze on theirs, or applying his hand to the hypochondriac region and to the abdomen. This application was often applied for hours, and at other times the master made use of passes. He began by placing himself 'en rapport' with his subject. Seated opposite to him, foot against foot, knee against knee, Mesmer laid his fingers on the hypochondriac region and moved them to and fro, lightly touching the ribs. Magnetism with strong electric currents was substituted for these manipulations when more energetic results were to be produced. The master, raising his fingers in a pyramidal form, passed his hands all over the patient's body, beginning with the head, and going downward over the shoulders to the feet. He then returned to the head, both back and front, to the belly and the back and renewed the process again and again until the magnetised person was saturated with the healing fluid and transported with pain or pleasure, both sensations being equally salutary. Young women were so much gratified by the crisis that they wished to be thrown into it anew. They followed Mesmer through the halls and confessed that it was impossible not to be warmly attached to the person of the magnetizer.

Mesmer was not an impostor by any means. He had deceived himself and had thus deceived others. But the Academy of Sciences in Paris believed that he was a mystic and a fanatic, and made it so hot for him that he was finally forced to leave France, where, however, he returned later. He died in 1815, and for a time animal magnetism fell into disrepute and Mesmer was denounced as an impostor.

Before Mesmer's death, he moved from Paris to a secluded spot among the hills. We see him at the last—bitterly complaining of the treatment he had received, thoroughly convinced as to the truth of his pet theories, performing various cures for the peasants about him, and living the simple life of a hermit.

Throughout Mesmer's career, the streets were not paved with gold. Many people died under his treatment, giving the belief that the treatment itself was the cause of death. He was treated with ridicule wherever he went. Papers, plays, etc., brought him even more prominently before the public in a more ridiculous light than his own hypothetical and mystical performances. A comedy, 'Docteur Modernes' brought his procedures on the stage. It severely criticized his 'fanatical' enthusiasm for a quondam science and portrayed the supposed abuses of his treatment. In England notices like the following appeared in the leading journals:

The Wonderful Magnetical Elixir. Take of the chemical oil of Fear, Dread and Terror, each 4 oz.; of the Rectified Spirits of Imagination, 2 lbs. Put all these ingredients into a bottle of fancy, digest for several days, and take forty drops at about nine in the morning, or a few minutes before you receive a portion of the magnetic Effluvia. They will make the effluvia have a surprising effect, etc., etc.

Once, in 1785, a mock funeral oration upon Mesmer took place, making his exhibitions and theories seem more ridiculous than ever. Thus he was tossed about between ridicule and praise until, as we have seen, his life was hardly one of harmony or joy.

 

Braid.

Although a number of men followed Mesmer, appropriating his method, enlarging upon it and changing it somewhat—such men as de Puysegur—it will be impossible in such a brief essay to tell of all of them. However, there is one man who rose up in the chaos of the times and again added new facts and theories to the science. This man was Braid, a surgeon of Manchester, England. Braid was born in the year 1795 on his father's estate in Fifeshire. He received his education at the University of Edinburgh, later being apprenticed to Dr. Chas. Anderson, of Leith. After graduating, he was appointed surgeon to the Hopetown mining works in Lanarkshire, later moving to Dumfries, where he engaged in practise with a Dr. Maxwell. An accident happening at that time brought to his town a Mr. Petty, who finally persuaded him to move to Manchester. It was here that he carefully worked on his new discovery and practised his cures. He died on March 25, 1860.

There is very little in Braid's life of especial interest, except his investigations in animal magnetism. His life seems to have been particularly free from the early struggles of a young practitioner. His interest in animal magnetism dates from the time he witnessed a séance by a M. Lafontaine, a traveling mesmerist. He was extremely skeptical, but this one urged him to try experimenting himself.

In 1866 this M. Ch. Lafontaine, a traveling mesmerist, published his 'Memoirs of a Magnetizer.' If it had not been for this, the electro-biologists of America, under one named Grimes, might have claimed prior right to the discovery of hypnotism. M. Lafontaine thus describes the state of affairs at that time.

Having accomplished the cure of numerous deaf and blind persons, says he with modest assurance, as also numerous epileptic and paralytic sufferers at the hospital (this was in Birmingham), I repaired to Liverpool, but only to meet with disappointment; few persons attended the séance; and on the following day I proceeded to Manchester in which city my success was conspicuous. The newspapers reported my experiments at great length, and to give some idea of the sensation I created, I may say that my séances returned me a gross total of 30,000 frances. I put to sleep a number of persons who were well-known residents of Manchester. I caused deaf mutes to hear, operated a number of brilliant cures. After my departure, Dr. Braid, a surgeon in Manchester, delivered a lecture in which he proposed to prove that magnetism was non-existent. From this lecture Braidism, afterwards called hypnotism, originated, ardent discussions arising, even from the beginning over this pretended discovery. I received letters from Manchester entreating me to return, and I did so on a date when Dr. Braid had announced a demonstration. His experiments were given but unfortunately, on this occasion none of them succeeded; neither sleep nor catalepsy was obtained, and every moment I was appealed to. In the facts that were advanced on this occasion by Dr. Braid, there was in my opinion, absolutely nothing that was remarkable, and had not that gentleman been honorably known in the town, I should have supposed that he was mystifying his audience. The next day, and for six days consecutively, I experimented after his own fashion on fifty or sixty subjects and the results were practically nil. I then gave a magnetic seance and the results on Eugene and Mary were marked and positive.

The value of the quotation rests solely on the opportune remark that Braid was the first to apply the name hypnotism to animal magnetism. One should not forget that Eugene and Mary were two subjects whom Lafontaine carried with him from town to town and on whom he could rely for phenomena.

Though Braid survived his discovery by not more than eighteen years, he lived to know that it was well on the road to acceptance by the competent opinion of the time. In the latter part of his life he said, "I feel no great anxiety for the fate of hypnotism, provided it only has 'a fair field and no favour.' I am content to bide my time, in the firm conviction that truth for which alone I most earnestly strive, with the discovery of the safest, and surest, and speediest modes of relieving human suffering, will ultimately triumph over error" ('Magic, Witch' p. 53).

The enemies of Braid were as vociferous in their denunciation of him as his friends were earnest in their praise. And what may seem the greatest surprise and yet what seems to be a natural consequence of opposition, the Mesmerists themselves were the ones who were the loudest in opposing him. However, his method has stood the test of years and still prevails among those who practise the art now-a-days.

As was said before, the first exhibition that Braid ever attended was one given by this same Lafontaine. One fact, the inability of the patient to open his eyelids, arrested his attention. He considered this a real phenomenon and was anxious to discover the physiological cause of it.

In two days afterward, he says, I developed my views to my friend Captain Brown, as I had previously done to four other friends; and in his presence and that of my family and another friend, the same evening, I instituted a series of experiments to prove the correctness of my theory—namely that the continued fixed stare, by paralyzing nervous centers in the eyes and their appendages and destroying the equilibrium of the nervous system, thus proved the phenomenon referred to. The experiments were varied so as to convince all present, that they fully bore out the correctness of my theoretical views. My first object was to prove, that the inability of the patient to open his eyes was caused by paralyzing the upper muscles of the eyes, through their continued action during the protracted fixed stare, and thus rendering it physically impossible for him to open them. With the view of proving this, I requested Mr. Walker, a young gentleman present, to sit down, and maintain a fixed stare at the top of a wine bottle, placed so much above him as to produce a considerable strain on the eyes and eyelids, to enable him to maintain a steady view of the object. In three minutes his eyelids closed, a gush of tears ran down his cheeks, his head drooped, his face was slightly convulsed, he gave a groan and instantly fell into a profound sleep, the respiration becoming slow, deep and sibilant, the right hand and arm being agitated by slight convulsive movements. At the end of four minutes, I considered it necessary, for his safety, to put an end to the experiment.

Braid became so convinced that his interpretation of the phenomena was the correct one that he used it universally, succeeding in a remarkable number of cases. His method was as follows:

He would take any bright object, most often his lancet case, and holding it about fifteen inches from the eyes and in such a position as to strain them and still allow the patient to gaze steadily at it, he would carry it slowly toward them until the eyelids closed involuntarily. After a preliminary contraction of the pupils, they would; dilate, and finally a tremulous motion of the iris would take place. If this did not succeed after a few minutes, he would try again, letting the patient understand that his eyes and mind had to be riveted on the one idea of the object before him. The primary fact was the fixation of the mind on a certain object. Nay, even the hynotist himself, if he use the method of attraction, may be hypnotized, as Braid shows in the following example. Mr. Walker, Braid's friend, offered to hypnotize a certain person. When Braid went into the room where the experiment was going on, he saw the gentleman sitting staring at Mr. Walker's finger. Mr. Walker was standing a little to the right of his patient with his eyes fixed steadily on those of the latter. Braid passed on, and when he returned he found Mr. Walker standing in the same position fast asleep, his arm and finger perfectly rigid and the patient wide awake, staring at the finger all the while.

After Braid, many men pursued the scientific investigation of the phenomena. The interest in the new science since 1875 has spread quickly over Europe. In Belgium, the eminent psychologist Delboeuf of Liège, made a path for it. In Holland such men as Van Reuterghem, VanEiden and De Jong used hypnotism for curative purposes; in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, there were Johannessen, Sell, Frankel, Calsen and Wetterstrand, of Stockholm, and finally Swedenborg. In Russia were Strembo and Tokarski; in Greece, Italy and Spain, hypnotism has greatly come into play in medical treatment. In England, Carpenter, Laydock, Sir James Simpson, Lloyd-Tuckey, Mayo and others have used it for curing the sick. In America, the science also has its advocates. It is one of the subjects constantly appearing before the Society for Psychical Research. In South America, it numbers among its adherents, David Benavente and Octavio Maria, of Chili. The interest in hypnotism in France centered around two schools, the school of Salpêtrière and the school of Nancy. The former was led by Charcot, whose luminous researches in this subject are epoch-making.

The Paris school held that hypnotism is the result of an abnormal or diseased condition of the nervous system; that suggestion is not at all necessary to produce the phenomena; that hysterical subjects are the most easily influenced; and that the whole subject is explainable on the basis of cerebral anatomy and physiology. But lately the followers of Charcot, who had been numerous in the beginning because he was so highly reliable a man, have begun to dwindle away and have turned to the school of Nancy. The reason for this is obvious to any one who has studied hypnotic phenomena. The first objection to the school of Salpêtrière is that most of the experiments have been made on hysterical women. In the second place, this school ignores suggestion, which has been found to be one of the most important factors in hypnotism. They appreciate of course that it can be used, but assert that it is not necessary.

The school of Nancy, led by Bernheim, met with equal success and is now upheld by more people than the other school. The theory of the school of Nancy may be summed up in a few words: first, the different psychological conditions in the hypnotic state are determined by mental action; secondly, people of good sound physical health and of perfect mental balance can produce the best results; and thirdly, all the mental and physical actions are the result of suggestion. In fact suggestion is the all important factor in producing the various phenomena.

Liebault, and Bernheim, his pupil, by bringing forth the idea of suggestion, have made themselves in a way the equal of Braid, for in continuation of the latter's method, the method of the former is always used now-a-days. The influence of Bernheim over his patients is remarkable. His great success may be accounted for by the confidence his patients have in him. Of course the low intellectual, state of the peasant class of France may have something to do with it, for one can hardly think that in any ordinary community this supreme belief and trust in a human being could exist. To Nancy people come from all over the provinces to visit this 'Man of God' who performs experiments and cures which seem divine. Bernheim goes from one patient to another, shouting 'sleep.' Many of them having been hypnotized by him often fall into the state immediately. When the experiments are over he goes the rounds of his patients, snapping his fingers, in which way he awakens them.

To sum up then, we may say the history of hypnotism may be divided into five epochs. The first before the time of Mesmer; the second, the age of Mesmerism, when personal magnetism was supposed to be the attractive power; the third, the age of Braid, when the science was put on a physiological basis; the fourth, the age of Bernheim and Charcot, when the idea of suggestion was brought to the front and hypnotism was used indiscriminately; and lastly, the fifth, the age we are in now, where the tendency is to restrict hypnotism and to classify it for specific uses.

 

The Nature of Hypnotism.

Each individual has a separate state of consciousness which changes as do the thoughts therein. It is in the waking state that we have separate individualities. Now let us see the gradations of this consciousness. At this present moment we shall say we are listening intently to a sermon. That is the thing uppermost in our minds, and as long as our minds are upon it we are exercising acute consciousness. But, even if our attention to this sermon is the central thing, in the fringe of our mental picture a number of other thoughts are jumping around, any one of which may be powerful enough to force its way into the middle of the picture and to usurp its place. For example, all the while we are listening to this sermon we are more or less conscious that the seats we are in are hard, that somebody is talking next to us, etc. Our seats may become so uncomfortable that it may occupy our whole attention, or something outside may seem of more interest. If our attention jumps from one thing to another, it is called diffused consciousness. The next step to diffused consciousness is the dreamy state where the mind is half way between waking and sleep. Anything may come into the mind while in this state and be the predominant idea, to be chased out again by a next idea. It is for this reason that dreams usually present such a chaos and jumble. Our thoughts tumble over one another to get from the fringe of consciousness to the foreground. Any external sensation will be greatly exaggerated and may turn the trend of our thought. A warm bed might feel like the fire of hell, a heavy dinner with indigestion like the battles of heroes using our poor bodies as the fighting ground. As dreams gradually fade away we approach our first hypnosis or sleep, which, in the beginning, is slight, but gradually deepens, finally consciousness being entirely lost.

Thus we have traced the process of natural sleep to which hypnotic sleep is closely akin. The person at first has a diffused attention, he then confines his attention to sleep, he next passes into a dreaming state, then into a light sleep and lastly into a deep sleep.

The differences between it and natural sleep are as follows: first, the state ordinarily is produced by another; secondly, the person must have faith; and thirdly, the phenomena in the sleep must be produced by suggestion. The two latter were fully recognized years ago and have formed the basis of all psychical cures ever since. How the sleep can be produced by another was seen in the experiments of Braid, where one appreciates fully that the person really hypnotizes himself by gazing at an object. The full understanding between hypnotized and hypnotist has never been really understood, and so here we are stopped short.

The theory of Dr. Hudson may put us on the right track. Because it is so convenient a theory and tends to make plausible a number of things which otherwise could not be understood, I am going to take the liberty of detailing it here. Dr. Hudson claims that every normal person is possessed of two minds, a subjective one and an objective one. The objective mind is the one we use every day, a mind fully capable of forgetting and the only one of which we are ordinarily cognizant. The subjective mind is the perfect mind wherein are stored up all the numerous thoughts that have ever come into it, there lying dormant, only to be reawakened when a new set of associations brings them forth.

It is this mind which we may say is used in hypnotism, in somnambulism, the one which shows itself in altered personality and in various other abnormalities. Some authors consider this the subliminal or subconsious mind.[1]

That there is another mind far more perfect and which brings to our recollection many things forgotten, seems to be an undisputed fact. When a drug like Cannabis Indica is used or when a person is drowning, there come before his mind's eye, in a single moment, the doings of years. And so in some recorded cases of trance states the same thing is proved. A highly interesting case is given by Mr. Coleridge in his 'Biographica Literaria.'

Mr. Coleridge says:

It occurred in a Roman Catholic town in Germany, a year or two before my arrival at Göttingen, and had not then ceased to be a frequent subject of conversation. A young woman of four or five and twenty, who could neither read nor write, was seized with a nervous fever, during which, according to the asseverations of all the priests and monks of the neighborhood, she became possessed and as it appeared, by a very learned devil. She continued incessantly talking Latin, Greek and Hebrew, in very pompous tones, and with a most distinct enunciation. This possession was rendered more probable by the known fact that she was, or had been, a heretic. The case had attracted the particular attention of a young physician, and by his statement, many eminent physiologists and psychologists visited the town and cross-examined the case on the spot. Sheets full of her ravings were taken down from her own mouth and were found to consist of sentences, coherent and intelligible each for itself, but with little or no connection with each other. Of the Hebrew, a small portion only could be traced to the Bible; the remainder seemed to be in Rabbinical dialect. All trick or conspiracy was out of the question. Not only had the young woman been a harmless simple creature, but she was evidently under a nervous fever. In the town in which she had been resident for many years as a servant in different families, no solution presented itself. The young physician, however, determined to trace her past life, step by step; for the patient herself was incapable of returning a rational answer. He at length succeeded in discovering the place where her parents had lived, travelled thither, found them both dead, but an uncle surviving, and from him learned that the patient had been charitably taken by an old Protestant pastor at nine years old, and had remained with him some years, even till the old man's death. Of this pastor the uncle knew nothing, but that he was a very good man. With great difficulty and after much search, our young medical philosopher discovered a niece of the pastor's who had lived with him as housekeeper and had inherited his effects. She remembered the girl; related that her venerable uncle had been too indulgent, and could not hear the girl scolded; that she was willing to have kept her, but that, after her parent's death, the girl herself refused to stay. Anxious inquiries were then, of course, made concerning the pastor's habits; and the solution of the phenomenon was soon obtained. For it appeared that it had been the old man's custom for years to walk up and down a passage of his house into which the kitchen door opened, and to read to himself, with a loud voice, out of his favorite books. A considerable number of these were still in the niece's possession. She added that he was a very learned man and a great Hebraist. Among the books was found a collection of Rabbinical writings, together with several of the Greek and Latin fathers; and the physician succeeded in identifying so many passages with those taken down at the young woman's bedside that no doubt could remain in any rational mind concerning the true origin of the impression made on her nervous system.

The same power of the subjective mind is many times seen in hypnotic phenomena. The case cited is but one of a number, all of which are just as wonderful. Being a mind so perfectly endowed, it is hardly too audacious to say that this mind exercises its influence over all bodily functions, so that any function may be inhibited or accelerated by its influence. For example, the following is related of Henry Clay.

On one occasion he was unexpectedly called upon to answer an opponent who addressed the Senate on a question in which Clay was deeply interested. The latter felt too ill to reply at length. It seemed imperative, however, that he should say something; and he exacted a promise from a friend, who sat behind him, that he would stop him at the end of ten minutes. Accordingly, at the expiration of the prescribed time the friend gently pulled the skirts of Mr. Clay's coat. No attention was paid to the hint, and after a brief time it was repeated a little more imperatively. Still Clay paid no attention and it was again repeated. Then a pin was brought into requisition; but Clay was by that time thoroughly aroused, and was pouring forth a torrent of eloquence. The pin was inserted deeper and deeper into the orator's leg without eliciting any response, until his friend gave up in despair. Finally Mr. Clay happened to glance at the clock and saw that he had been speaking two hours; whereupon he fell into his friend's arms, completely overcome by exhaustion, upbraiding his friend severely for not stopping him at the prescribed time.

The fact that Mr. Clay, on that occasion, made one of the ablest speeches of his life, two hours in length, at a time when he felt almost too ill to rise to his feet, and that his body was at the time in a condition of perfect anæsthesia, is a splended illustration of the synchronous action of the two minds, and also of the perfect control exercised by the subjective mind over the functions and sensations of the body ('Law of Psychic Phenomena').

I now propose to attempt to explain some of the phenomena of hypnotism by reviewing thoroughly a specific example.

On November 23, 1901, I was asked by a young lady to try to cure her of biting her finger nails. She was then about 18 years of age. I immediately replied that I should be glad to do so if I had her full permission. Besides her and myself, there were four or five other persons in the room, including her father and mother. Getting her perfectly composed, I placed my hand on the top of her head, and told her to turn her eyes in the direction of the hand. This tired her eyes very readily. They became heavier, the eyelids twitched and inside of five minutes they fell and she was sound asleep. I first placed her in a cataleptic condition. I told her her arm was a piece of stone and therefore could not be bent. Two or three of those assembled tried to bend it, but failed. Then by more suggestions I placed her in an anesthetic condition and rubbed the ball of her eye. She neither winked nor flinched. I then gave her a few post-hypnotic suggestions. For example, I told her that when she awakened she would go over and close the window, that she would then thank me for what I had done, and would feel no bad effects and also would remember nothing. Then I told her that the following Sunday I would come over, and, as soon as I told her to go to sleep, she would do so. When she awoke, she went over and closed the window, and then thanked me for what I had done. She remembered nothing and felt much rested. Of course, suggestions were constantly given that she would not bite her nails.

The following Sunday, I went over there again. She had not bitten her finger nails since the last time I saw her. I told her to lie down and that in three minutes she would be sound asleep. I used no method whatsoever. In fact, I was in another room. When the three minutes were up, I went in to her and found her in a deep sleep. I impressed on her a number of times that she would never bite her finger-nails again. I placed her in a chair, telling her to open her eyes. She was to see or hear nobody but me. A number of people stood before her, but she could not see them. I asked her a question which she readily answered. Then somebody else asked her the same question, but no answer could be got from her. She seemed perfectly deaf to their words. I asked her if she heard anybody else and she answered 'No.' I next procured a needle which was perfectly clean, and telling her she would feel no pain, I ran it into her forearm for over half an inch. Very little blood appeared, as I had suggested, and she felt nothing. In fact, after the experiments were over she did not know anything about the wound. Taking a glass of water, I told her it was whiskey. She took a little with some show of difficulty in swallowing and when I told her to walk, about the room, she reeled around as though she were overcome by the' liquor. I then procured some salt, telling her it was sugar and that it would cure her of her dizziness immediately. She took the salt, a half teaspoonful, said it tasted sweet, asked for more, and was entirely herself again. Finally I placed her between two people putting her head on one's lap and her feet on the other's. She became cataleptic on my suggestion and when two hundred and fifty pounds were put on her body she sustained them very readily.

Before she awakened, I gave her three suggestions: (1) That as soon as she awoke she would go into the front room and lie down on the sofa for a few minutes; (2) that she would go up to her parents and tell them that she was never going to bite her nails again; and (3) that two weeks from that night she would sit down after supper and write me a letter, thanking me for what I had done. All these suggestions were carried into effect.

On Monday, December 9, two weeks and a day after the experiment had been made, I received the following letter:

Dec. 8th, 1901.
Dear Mr. Hays:
I feel as though I owe you a note of thanks for the wonderful cure you have effected on me. I have not bitten my nails since three weeks ago to-night and I am very proud of them. I am writing this to try to let you know how much I thank you. It seems remarkable that a little thing like hypnotism can do so much good and I shall always feel grateful and indebted to you for this.
Yours sincerely,
E.

Not until after the letter had been sent did she find out that it had been I who prompted her to do it. This young lady has not bitten her finger nails since and is entirely cured.

We have already found the primary cause of the sleep when produced by the tiring of the eyes. The eyelids droop because the muscles become temporarily paralyzed. There is one advantage in placing the hand on top of the head. It is that it rolls the eyeballs upward, thus putting them in a natural position for sleep. The various other processes after the sleep has been produced are all dependent on the workings of the nervous system. Let us first try to explain the cataleptic state—how it is that the arm becomes so rigid that the bones can be broken before the arm will bend. The most plausible explanation to my mind is that impulses are sent from the brain which make one set of muscles counteract the influence of another set. For example, let us say that two men of equal strength are pulling with all their might on a thick stick. As long as the pull is the same on both sides, the stick won't move. How the mind can exert such an influence we do not know. This same idea of the counter-action of various muscles applies to the whole body as well as to one arm. Yet some one may ask how these muscles can have the power to stand more strain than they do in the waking state. It is only that as our normal selves we never use our full muscle power. This is because not enough stimulation is ever given to the muscle to make it work to its full extent. But in cases of great excitement or danger, even the weakest seem to have superhuman strength.

The loss of the sense of pain or anesthesia can also be accounted for by the brain. When we say we have a pain in our finger, we don't really mean that. The cut is in the finger, but the pain is in the brain, and consciousness is necessary for us to have pain. Suppose a man is going to have an operation on his finger and is made unconscious. Now the finger is there, but the pain has disappeared, showing that pain is not located in various parts of the body, but in the domain of consciousness. So if, under hypnotic influence, you tell the patient that he will have no pain, he thinks the pain away, so to speak—knocks it out of his consciousness.

How we can run needles into people and produce no blood seems still more remarkable, but physiologically it can be explained. Let me say here that if any one should pierce a large artery with a needle, serious consequences might result. Let us say that we penetrate the skin in a place where there are thousands of little capillaries. Each one of these vessels is connected with the nervous system by two sets of nerve fibers—those which can dilate the vessels, those which can constrict them. Now, suppose I give the suggestion that I am going to run a needle through a certain part of the arm. An impulse, sent from the brain, constricts the blood vessels at this spot, inhibits the sense of pain, and the needle comes out again wthout a drop of blood following it.

The explanation of the dizziness from water supposed to be whiskey and the cure by salt supposed to be sugar is that both are the result of an unexplainable force whereby the patient takes every word of the hypnotizer as gospel, though it is contradictory to his own ideas. For example, in one case a patient told me that he knew the glass contained water and yet it tasted like whiskey, and he also knew that the sellar contained salt and yet it tasted like sugar.

The cure of the finger-nail habit and all the post-hypnotic suggestions may be summed up briefly. All we should do is to refer back to the perfect or subjective mind where all these suggestions are stored up and say that the objective mind draws nutriment from it, and in this nutriment these suggestions given under the hypnotic influence come into play.

Before closing this portion of the essay I should like to say that I believe hypnotism is not an occult power, but is a simple, natural physiological process. And again, anybody can use the power just as any one can become a good piano player, or student or business man by training. Yet it is only those with the natural tendency toward personal power who will make the greatest success.

It would indeed be pleasing to me to cite a number of wonderful cases where hypnotism has been used experimentally in order to show the great influence of the mind over the body—how a horse can be ridden over the outstretched body of a man in a cataleptic state, how illusions and hallucinations can be produced, how we may even obtain negative hallucinations, how we can turn an adult into a child, how we can conjure before the mind's eye vistas grand and superb, panoramas gorgeous and elegant, how the commonest man may become an orator, a saint, an assassin perhaps. But all these things would be far beyond the scope of this essay. However, one case seems to be of especial interest as it shows how far hypnotism may be used in the cure of various inflammations.

The experiment is on a nurse 28 years old, who is not at all hysterical. She is a daughter of plain country people, and has been for a long time an attendant in the Zurich Lunatic Asylum, which Forel directs. He thinks her a capable honest person, in no way inclined to deceit. The experiments were as follows: A gummed label was fixed upon her chest on either side; the paper was square. In no case was an irritating gum used. At mid-day Forel suggested that a blister had been put on the left side; and at six o'clock in the evening a moist spot had appeared in that place; the skin was swollen and red around it, and a little inflammation also appeared on the right side, but much less. Forel then did away with the suggestion. On the next day there was a scab on the left side. Forel had not watched the nurse between noon and six o'clock, but had suggested that she could not scratch herself. The other nurses said that the subject could not raise her hand to her chest, but made vain attempts to scratch. Forel repeated the experiment later; he put on the paper at 11:45 a. m. and ordered the formation of blisters in two and one half hours. Little pain was suggested, and the nurse therefore complained but little. At two o'clock Forel looked at the paper on the left side, for which the suggestion had been made, and saw around it a large swelling and reddening of the skin. The paper could with difficulty be removed. A moist surface of epidermis was then visible, exactly square like the paper. There was nothing particular under the paper on the right side. Forel then suggested the disappearance of the pain, inflammation, etc.

In time everything disappeared.

Many investigators have been able to bring about a change in blood supply and other visceral changes of a similar kind. Changes in temperature have been made as much as three degrees centigrade. Bernheim found that by suggestion he could induce local reddening of the skin. This is undoubtedly a vaso-motor change. These local red spots were often found in the middle ages on the hands of monks and nuns after they had been looking steadily at a cross for hours. At that time it was supposed to be a miracle and a message from the Divinity. In 1860, a woman was found with these spots or blisters caused by something unknown. It was learned that she got these while in the hypnotic state. The wounds healed in the normal way and all that remained to make it necessary for it to be commented upon, was that it gave the investigators the idea of trying to produce these spots by artificial means. Krafft-Ebing, a noted German physician, produced certain results analogous to those cited above. He would put something in the patient's hand and give him the suggestion that it was burning. A reddening would appear. He would take a scissors, a piece of metal and a postage stamp (saying it was a mustard plaster) and would produce the same results.

Wonderful as it may seem—that hypnotic suggestion can produce such grave organic changes—the physician has only to reflect for a moment on the powerful changes which the mind exerts over the course of a disease. He realizes only too well that the mental attitude of the patient toward his malady is of almost as much importance in the cure as the therapeutic measures he may advise. Processes of inflammation are purely physiological in the light of modern medicine and yet there can be no inflammatory process which can not be made worse by concentrated mental worry. A sore finger to the phlegmatic individual is a trifle: but the hysterical woman makes a 'mountain out of a mole hill' of it and thereby actually makes the inflammation worse.

 

The Uses of Hypnotism.

The general tendency has been in the last decade to use hypnotism indiscriminately; but like every therapeutic agent, it in time will become restricted and only used in certain complaints. It surely should be included by every physician in his 'therapeutic arsenal.' It has one thing in its favor which places it above all remedial agents and that is, that when it is used properly it can do no harm. We must recognize that in all the scientific literature on the subject, there has not a single death been reported from its use. The unscientific application is its abuse.

We must also recognize that there are many cases that are practically incurable by medical treatment, cases which defy the greatest physicians, cases which are surprising because of their persistency. When the last extreme has been reached, when physicians consult and pronounce the case as practically incurable, hypnotism may be tried.

Before the advent of ether or chloroform, the possibility of using hypnotism for anesthetic purposes was thought of and apparently its use in this direction met with success in a limited number of cases. In 1859, Dr. Guérineau announced that he had amputated a thigh under hypnotic anesthesia. Some other reports are as follows: Jules Cloquent amputated a breast in 1845; Dr. Loysel of Cherbourg amputated a leg and removed some glands in 1846; a double amputation of the legs by Drs. Fanton and Toswel in 1845; amputation of an arm by Dr. Joly in 1845; and in 1847 a tumor of the jaw was removed by Drs. Ribaud and Kiaro of Potiers—all under hypnotic anesthesia (Bernheim's 'Suggestive Therapeutics').

But hypnotism was found to have more drawbacks than advantages in these cases of major surgery. In the first place, hypnotic anesthesia is a difficult state to produce and even a more difficult state to maintain. Secondly, there is always the possibility of the patient awakening unexpectedly and dying from the shock of the operation.

Although it has thus fallen out of use as an anesthetic in these serious cases, still it is used constantly, and more and more every day, in minor surgery. In dentistry it certainly has its place; in outpatient departments of our hospitals it is often of value, as it has no after effects.

The various medical cases that have been treated by the hypnotic method are too numerous to recount. They include nearly every form of mental non-equilibrium and also cases of general organic trouble dependent more or less on the mental attitude of the patient. They include habits of various kinds, such as {{wikt:|onychophagy|onycophagie}} or finger-nail biting, excessive smoking, dypsomania, nervous twitchings, etc., nervous headaches, insomnia and neuralgias; chronic nervous constipation and diarrhœa and dyspepsia; local and general pain, insomnia and neurasthenia. Nor is this all. Hypnotism's greatest blessing consists in the cure of psychic paralytics and psychic hysterics. In this connection we may say that it should be used unconditionally. Dr. Starr in a lecture at the College of Physicians and Surgeons cited a case of paralysis in the left arm from the shoulder to the elbow. A physician knows that it is impossible to get a true paralysis of this kind. Dr. Starr hypnotized the patient in his clinic and in less than three minutes the arm was in as good working order as ever. During the course of the past year, I have worked on a few hysterical cases for physicians where nothing but hypnotism could cure them. A remarkable case of true organic nature came to my notice over a year ago. A lady had a severe swelling on her finger which was so painful that I could hardly bandage it for her. I put her to sleep, suggested the pain away, told her the inflammation would subside the next day and awakened her. I could then do anything I wished to the finger without hurting her.

I have left aside the part that hypnotism plays in mental and moral culture—a phase of the subject so vast that it deserves more consideration than could be given here.

  1. One can not help realizing that this theory will never be fully accepted. Most psychologists are still quarreling over concepts, and no two will agree as to what is meant by a subjective or an objective mind.