There is one peculiarity, however, pertaining to subjective activity when the life of the individual is in danger, or that of offspring is imperilled, that is not so generally appreciated. In such cases the subjective mind takes prompt possession of the individual, and every act is subjective as long as active exertion is required to preserve the imperilled life. That this is true is shown, first, by the preternatural strength with which the person is endowed under such circumstances; second, by the total absence of fear; and third, by the wonderful presence of mind displayed in the instantaneous adaptation of every means to its proper end, and in doing exactly the right thing at the right time. Comment is often made on the wonderful "presence of mind" displayed by persons in great peril when instantaneous action is required, and there is no time for reflection or reasoning out a plan of action or defence. This presence of mind, so called, is nothing more or less than subjective activity, or, in other words, instinctive action, the objective faculties being in almost complete abeyance for the time being.
That this is true is further shown by the fact that a person in imminent and deadly peril will often emerge from the very jaws of death with nerves unshaken, the coolest and most collected person present. This is often mistaken for courage. It has, however, nothing whatever to do with the question of personal bravery. The veriest coward will, under circumstances of unavoidable danger, act with the same coolness, and evince the same presence of mind, as the bravest man. The most timid woman will fight like a demon, and display preternatural strength and courage, for the preservation of her own life or that of her offspring. The action is instinctive. In other words, it is the normal function of the subjective entity.
The condition of the person at such times is akin to, if not identical with, the state of hypnotism or partial hypnotism. It may be that the objective and subjective faculties act at such times in perfect synchronism; but certain it is that every evidence of subjective activity is present, even the phenomenon of anesthesia. This is shown by the fact that at such times the body feels no pain, no matter how severe the injury. The universal testimony of soldiers who have been in battle is to the effect that the time when fear is experienced is just before the action commences. When the first gun is fired, all fear vanishes, and the soldier often performs feats of the most desperate valor and evinces the most reckless courage. If wounded, he feels nothing until the battle is over and all excitement is gone. It is a merciful provision of nature that the nearer we approach death, the less we fear it. This law is universal. It is only in the vigor of youth and manhood that death is looked upon with horror. The aged view its near approach with calm serenity.
The convicted murderer, as long as there is hope of pardon, reprieve, escape, or commutation of the death-penalty, evinces the utmost dread of the scaffold; but when the death-penalty is pronounced, and all hope has fled, he often evinces the utmost indifference, welcomes the day of his execution, and marches to the scaffold without a tremor. The newspapers speak with wonder and admiration of his courage, and the universal verdict is that he was a brave man, and "died game." The truth is that the universal law of which we speak, that merciful provision of nature which nerves alike the brave man and the coward, steps in to his defence, his objective senses are benumbed, and he submits to the inevitable change without fear and without pain.
The testimony of Dr. Livingstone is to the same effect. He was once seized by a lion when hunting in the jungles of Africa, and carried some distance, his body between the lion's jaws. When death seemed inevitable, he testifies that all fear left him, and a delicious languor stole over his senses. The grasp of the lion's jaws caused no pain, and he felt fully resigned to his fate. A fortunate shot from the gun of one of his companions released him, and he was rescued.
This, however, is a digression. The main point which it is desired to enforce is, first, that the strongest instinct in mankind is that of self-preservation; and second, that this instinct, this strong desire to preserve the life of the body, constitutes a subjective, or an instinctive, auto-suggestion of such supreme potency that no suggestion from another, nor any objective auto-suggestion, could possibly overcome it. The inevitable conclusion is that suicide is certainly not a crime which can be successfully instigated by means of hypnotism.
Criminal abortion is another of the crimes which, the people are told, can be performed by means of hypnotic suggestion. The inherent absurdity of this statement is almost as great as that suicide can be successfully instigated by such means. It is here that another strong instinct prevails against a suggestion of that character, namely, the desire inherent in the soul of the mother to preserve her offspring. It is possibly true that conception could be prevented by hypnotic suggestion, and it may be true that barrenness is sometimes caused by unconscious auto-suggestion: but a very different state of affairs exists after the foetus if once formed. The instinctive desire to preserve the life that exists, constitutes an instinctive auto-suggestion which no suggestion from another, nor even the objective auto suggestion of the mother, could prevail against.
It may be safely set down, therefore, as a fundamenta truth of hypnotic science that the auto-suggestion mos difficult to overcome is that which originates in the norma action of the subjective mind, - otherwise, instinctive auto suggestion.
The same line of reasoning applies, though with some what diminished force, to the commission of other crimes We will suppose the most favorable condition possible fo procuring the commission of a capital crime; namely,; criminal hypnotist in control of a criminal subject. The disposition of the subject might not stand in the way there might be no auto-suggestion against the commission. of crime in the habits and principles of the life of the sub ject; and yet the instinct of self-preservation would have its weight and influence in suggesting to him that the com mission of a murder would imperil his own life. Such ; consideration would operate as potently in the hypnotic condition as it would in the normal state. It would be an instinctive auto-suggestion, just the same as in the case c suicide, although it would operate indirectly in one case and directly in the other. The deductive reasoning of the subjective mind, as we have seen in preceding chapters, in perfect; and in the case supposed, the subject would instantaneously reason from the proposed crime to its con sequences to himself. The same law would operate it preventing the commission of crimes of less magnitude with a resistance decreased in proportion to the nature c the offence.