Page images

ties due to muscular weakness and contraction, pain and palpitation of the heart, dyspepsia, spasms. He also succeeded in restoring the sense of smell, and in extracting teeth, as well as performing some other operations, under hypnotic anæsthesia. With the exception of the last two points, it will be observed that his clinical experiences were precisely similar to those of Mesmer. Later, however, he extended his speculations and developed the theory of suggestion.' Hypnotism acts subjectively not objectively, he found; and the expectant idea in the mind of the patient is the real agent.

'Inasmuch as words spoken or other sensible impressions made on the body of an individual by a second party act as suggestions of thought and action to the person impressed-whatever influence such suggestions and impressions are capable of producing during the ordinary waking condition, should naturally be expected to act with correspondingly greater effect during the nervous sleep, when the attention is so much more concentrated.'


'The active and concentrated state of mind engendered excites the sleeper to speak or exhibit physical manifestations of the suggestion received through words audibly uttered or ideas previously existing in his mind or excited by sensible impressions made by touches or passes of the operator, which... thereby direct his current of thought.' 'Definite physical changes could be excited and regulated and controlled at will-according to the suggestion of another person.'

Thus, for instance, coloured water was made to act as an emetic. Moreover, he found that suggestion was possible without hypnotism by mere concentration of mind and expectancy; but he was constrained to admit that the expectant idea was not the only thing, as in one case after succeeding once it failed a second time, and only succeeded eventually on the patient being hypnotized in addition.

The above is a fair summary of Braid's contributions to mesmerism. He investigated and collected the physiological phenomena in a systematic way, he developed suggestion, and invented the word Hypnotism. It passed with but little notice here. The British Association refused his offer to read a paper on it in 1842: but ten years later one was read before the Edinburgh Royal Medical Society, and very favourably received. The profession at large, however, paid no regard to the subject: it was considered to be connected with the spiritualistic_frauds rife at the time, and so gradually dropped. To-day Braid's 'Neurypnology' (dreadful word!) is almost a text-book on the Continent.

R 2


Mention ought here to be made of Dr. Esdaile, a Scotch surgeon in India, and a contemporary of Braid's, who was at this time, but quite independently, making use of mesmerism for the performance of surgical operations to an extent unapproached either before or since. The introduction of chloroform, however, in 1846, superseded this method of inducing anæsthesia, and robbed mesmerism of the most striking benefit it has afforded or is likely to afford mankind. Esdaile seems to have been a superior man. His book is very interesting, and much better written than Braid's; and there is no sort of question as to the accuracy of his facts. Among other things, he gives some curious information with regard to the practice of mesmerism from time immemorial in the East; for instance, the Jar-phoonk of Upper India, a system of treatment practised by the Indian conjurers, or Jadoo-walla, by stroking and breathing on the limbs or body.

We have said that mesmerism was practically killed in France about 1840, so far as the medical profession was concerned. Here and there it was taken up again, by Liébeault of Nancy, for instance, in 1860, and even earlier by Dr. Azam of Bordeaux. The latter attracted the attention of two or three distinguished men, but little or no notice was taken of the matter by the profession in general. In the year 1877, however, Dr. Charcot, who is not only the head of the profession in France, but perhaps the most distinguished physician living, was nominated with two eminent colleagues to investigate Dr. Burq's treatment of hysteria by means of metal discs-metallotherapy, as it is called. He was convinced of the reality of the phenomena and began experiments in his own wards at La Salpêtrière. He soon stumbled on the hypnotic or mesmeric condition, precisely as Mesmer had done in the course of precisely similar experiments. In short Charcot re-discovered mesmerism exactly 100 years after the original discoverer, and his name worked wonders. Others had preceded him, notably Dr. Richet, but now the attention of many of the leading Paris physicians was arrested and an extensive series of experiments inaugurated. In 1880 Dr. Bernheim of Nancy began his researches. Dr. Liébeault, a general practitioner in the same town, had been a consistent mesmerizer for twenty years, and had published a book on the subject in 1866, but without recognition on the part of his eminent colleagues. Now, however, that the practice was sanctioned by a great name, they came to sit at his feet, and thus arose the celebrated school of Nancy, which includes the names of Bernheim, Beaunis, professor of physiology, Liébeault, and Liégeois, professor of


law. In 1880 also Professor Heidenhain of Breslau, the eminent physiologist, took advantage of the visit of Hansen, a well-known professional mesmerizer, to study the phenomena from a scientific point of view. His researches were published in a volume, in which he fully admits and establishes most of the leading facts of mesmerism and propounds his well-known theory that they are due to inhibition' of the higher centres in the brain, caused by rhythmical stimulation of the senses. From this time, when mesmerism may be considered to have been fairly taken under the wing of science, up to the present its interest and popularity has grown steadily and rapidly among the medical profession. In 1889 an International Hypnotic Congress was held in Paris, at which were present representatives from every European country, from Canada and the United States, from Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Haiti. Among the honorary presidents were Charcot, Brown-Séquard, Brouardel, Richet, and Lombroso. The president was Dr. Dumontpallier, and the secretary Dr. Bérillon. These are honourable, even illustrious names, and proceedings that go forth to the world under their auspices have all the authority that science can give.

To give anything like a full account of all the work done during this third epoch in the history of mesmerism would be impossible in a limited space. We will endeavour to summarize the leading points dealt with and the leading facts established.

Methods of inducing the hypnotic or mesmeric state.—These are almost as numerous as the persons employing them. Every operator has his own method. The most usual means are the following:-fixing the gaze on some object: gentle monotonous stimulation of any of the senses, as by rubbing the ball of the thumb or brushing the hair or repeating a word: sudden and intense noise or light: pressing the eyelids: the simple word of command-Go to sleep: 'passes' made by the hand: the mere statement that the subject is going to sleep. Finally some subjects pass into the state spontaneously. To bring them out again it is only necessary to blow lightly on the face, or say, Wake up! If left to themselves, subjects eventually return to

the normal state sooner or later.

Susceptibility. The Paris practitioners hold that susceptible persons are always to some extent neuropaths, and generally hysterical; and that only the hysterical are capable of the profounder degrees of the condition. But it is to be remarked that they do not experiment on any one else, and negative results in no case disprove positive ones; moreover universal


experience seems to be against them. At Nancy on the other hand it is held that everybody is susceptible, though by no means equally. Some subjects are very refractory and require daily attempts to be made for months before an effect is made; but they succumb in the end. Five degrees are recognized there, viz.:—(1) sleepiness; (2) light sleep; (3) deep sleep; (4) very deep sleep; (5) somnambulism (Mesmer's 'telescopic arrangement); and the actual figures showing percentage of subjects susceptible to these degrees are as follows. Out of 753 cases of Dr. Liébeault in the year 1884, there were susceptible to

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and out of 1014 cases of Dr. Bernheim there were susceptible to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Men and women are about equally susceptible, children particularly so; not a single failure occurred under fourteen years of age. Susceptibility decreases after middle-age. The insane are very refractory. Hospital patients are, according to Bernheim, much better subjects than other townsfolk, which seems to corroborate the opinion held in Paris, that the best subjects are those suffering from some disorder. The quality or qualities which make individuals good or bad subjects have never been thoroughly investigated. Mental acuteness does not seem to be a barrier. The very excitable and the very apathetic are bad subjects. It is supposed that the strongminded (whatever may be meant by that) are difficult to influence; but such a theory is necessarily hard to prove. The English are apparently less susceptible than most continental peoples. Repeated hypnotization renders subjects more and more susceptible, so that eventually the least thing is sufficient to throw them into the profoundest stage. A very interesting and obscure point, suggested by the figures given above, is the value of the personal factor of the operator. The


difference in the results obtained by Liébeault and Bernheim, tend to show that some operators are more powerful or at least more successful than others. In what the difference consists we do not know and cannot even guess, but it is clear that there is a personal factor.

Another point of the greatest importance is the question of resistance. Can people be influenced against their will? There is no doubt, that at all times complete acquiescence on the part of the subject renders the operation proportionately easy, and that most people cannot be influenced for the first time if they resolutely set themselves against it; but after repeated hypnotization the power of resistance becomes less and less, until in some cases it is absolutely nil. Professor Beaunis speaks very strongly on this point:-'A certain number are absolutely in the power of him who hypnotizes them often; resistance on their part is wholly impossible.' But more; it is possible also to influence certain subjects for the first time against their will and in spite of every resistance. We have ourselves seen it done upon a personal friend, a gentleman of ordinary intelligence and by no means a neuropath. He was fixed on a sudden by the operator's gaze at a distance of twenty or thirty feet, and though resisting with all his might and assisted to resist by the encouragement of those about him, after a very painful struggle, lasting fully ten minutes, he succumbed to the influence, rushed to the operator's feet, and then fell into the usual state of unconscious obedience. It was a scene not easily forgotten.

Effects produced. While at Nancy, as we have seen, five states are recognized, in Paris they only see three, described by Charcot in this order :-Catalepsy, Lethargy, and Somnambulism. Subjects may be sent direct into any of these states or may be made to pass from one to another. It is claimed that these states are accurately distinguished by certain well-marked physiological phenomena, and an ingenious theory has been developed, according to which they stand in a certain definite order of approximation to the natural waking state. Somnambulism is the nearest to waking, then catalepsy, then lethargy, in which there is most complete abeyance of all the functions; and they form a descending and ascending curve thus:


[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »