It promised a physiological explanation; and, best of all, it had been given a new name. It had received many names before Braid undertook the task of rechristening it; but, with the exception of "mesmerism," each was objectionable, because it implied a theory of causation. The name "mesmerism" was obviously improper, because Mesmer was neither the discoverer of the force, nor the inventor of the practical method of evoking it. "Animal magnetism" implied Mesmer's theory of magnetic currents. "Mental or animal electricity " implied practically the same theory. "Neurology" indicated the science of the nervous system. "Patheism" (from the Greek radical signifying disease or suffering) and "etherology" (which means the science of the refined part of the atmosphere) were equally meaningless as applied to the subject. "Psycodunamy" signified the power of the soul; and "electro-biology" was American, and not to be tolerated. But when Braid denominated it "hypnotism," - from the Greek word signifying sleep, - it was hailed as a compromise sufficiently noncommittal to entitle it to recognition, and "hypnotism" it will be called until some academician drags to light the ultimate cause of all things.
Braid has been accorded a great deal of credit for his original researches and discoveries, but it is questionable whether he has not been the indirect means of retarding the true progress of the science. It is a remarkable fact that since his method of hypnotizing has been generally adopted, the higher phenomena, such as clairvoyance and thought-transference, have fallen into disrepute, and are now rarely produced. Indeed, it may be said to be practically a lost art, considered as a result of hypnotic processes. The cause of this will receive attention hereafter. Braid could not cause his subjects to obey his mental orders, and he disbelieved in the power of clairvoyance. He acknowledged that some of his subjects could tell the shape of what was "held at an inch and a half from the skin, on the back of the neck, crown of the head, arm, or hand, or other parts of the body," but held that " it is from feeling they do so."1 He demonstrated the extreme sensitiveness of one subject by causing her to obey the motion of a glass funnel held in his hand, at a distance of fifteen feet.2 Truly, a remarkable case of "feeling".
Braid is entitled to great credit for the discovery that the hypnotic state can be induced independently of the presence or co-operation of another person. Further than that, his work is practically valueless, for the reason that he never understood the power or influence of suggestion. It is therefore manifestly impossible to determine the value of any experiment of his, except in cases the nature of which precludes the possibility of suggestion being employed, or in cases where it was expressly eliminated.
Two facts, however, seem to have been demonstrated by his experiments, both of which are of the utmost importance:
1 Braid on Hypnotism, p 37 ,note.
1. That the hypnotic sleep can be induced independently of personal contact with, or the personal influence of, another.
2. That the sleep can be induced by his method without the aid of suggestion.
The mistake which his followers have made is in jumping to the conclusion that because one of the primary conditions of hypnotic phenomena can be induced without the aid of the magnetic hypothesis, therefore the magnetic hypothesis is necessarily incorrect. The same logic would induce a man who for the first time sees a railroad train in motion to conclude that any other method of locomotion is impracticable. Braid himself was not so illogical; for he expressly says that he does not consider the methods identical, but does "consider the condition of the nervous system induced by both modes to be analogous".
Another mistake, shared in common by both the modern schools of hypnotists, is the failure to appreciate the significance of the fact that by Braid's method the hypnotic condition can be induced without the aid of suggestion. One school ignores the fact altogether, or considers it of doubtful verity, and the other regards it merely as an evidence that suggestion plays a secondary role in hypnotic phenomena. That both are to some extent wrong will appear at the proper time, as will also the fact of the failure of all the schools to grasp its real significance.
For some years after the appearance of Braid's book there was but little, if any, progress made in the science. His methods, however, were generally adopted, but the value of his discovery was not appreciated by his own countrymen; and it was not until the Continental scientists extended his researches that he obtained substantial recognition. Lie-bault was the first to confirm his experiments, and in 1866 he published a work, in which he advanced much that was new in fact and theory. He was, in fact, the founder of what is now known as the Nancy school of hypnotism. Many prominent scientists have followed him, and many able works have been produced, prominent among which may be mentioned "Suggestive Therapeutics," by Professor Bernheim, and "Hypnotism," by Albert Moll, of Berlin.
Professor Charcot, of the Paris Salpetriere, is also the founder of a school of hypnotism, which is generally known as the Paris school, or school of the Salpetriere. Charcot's great reputation as a scientist obtained for him many followers at first, prominent among whom are Binet and Fere, whose joint work, entitled "Animal Magnetism," has been widely read both in Europe and America.
These schools differ widely both in theory and practice, their only point of union being their utter contempt for the theory and practice of what must still be known, for want of a better term, as the mesmeric school.
These three schools represent the grand divisions which it will be necessary to recognize in the discussion of the subject under consideration.