The leading points of difference between the three schools may be briefly stated as follows:-
1. The theory of the Nancy school is that the different physiological conditions characterizing the hypnotic state are determined by mental action alone; that the phenomena can best be produced in persons of sound physical health and perfect mental balance; and that this mental action and the consequent physical and psychological phenomena are the result, in all cases, of some form of suggestion.
2. The Paris school holds that hypnotism is the result of an abnormal or diseased condition of the nerves; that a great number of the phenomena can be produced independently of suggestion in any form; that the true hypnotic condition can be produced only in persons whose nerves are diseased; and that the whole subject is explicable on the basis of cerebral anatomy or physiology.
3. The mesmerists hold to the fluidic theory of Mesmer: that the hypnotic condition is induced, independent of suggestion, by passes made by the operator over the subject, accompanied by intense concentration of mind and will on the part of the former; that from him flows a subtle fluid which impinges upon the subject wherever it is directed, and produces therapeutic or other effects in obedience to the will of the operator; that these effects can best be produced by personal contact; but that they can be produced at a distance and without the knowledge of the subject, and independently of suggestion.
In discussing the merits of these several schools, it is perhaps superfluous to say that it is self-evident that neither school can be entirely right. Each presents an array of facts which seems to support its theory; but as the theories are irreconcilable, and the facts apparently contradict each other, it follows that some fundamental principle underlying the whole subject-matter has been overlooked. It is the purpose of this book to suggest a possible way to the discovery of the principle, - the missing link which will unite the chain and bind the facts of psychological science into one harmonious whole.
The Nancy school of hypnotism is entitled to the credit of having made the most important discovery in psychological science. The fact that the subjective mind is constantly amenable to control by the power of suggestion, constitutes the grand principle in psychological science, which, when properly appreciated and applied, will solve every problem and illuminate every obscurity in the labyrinthian science of the human soul, so far as it will ever be possible for finite intelligence to penetrate it. It is safe to say that in all the broad realm of psychological science there is not a phenomenon upon which it will not shed light. It is no discredit to that school to say that its leaders and teachers do not yet seem to comprehend the profound significance of their discovery, and that in one direction they have extended it too far. It is the latter proposition which will first receive attention.
They hold, very correctly, that all the phenomena of hypnotism, subsequent to the induction of the hypnotic condition, are due to the power of suggestion in some form. That this is true, admits of no possible doubt. They also find by experiment that the hypnotic condition can be induced simply by the power of suggestion. Their conclusion is that suggestion is a necessary factor in the induction of the hypnotic condition. That this is not true can be very readily demonstrated by reference to a few well-known and admitted facts. One of the first discoveries made by Braid was that by his methods the hypnotic condition could be induced in persons who had never seen or heard of hypnotic phenomena.
The following passage from that learned author seems to have been overlooked by those of his commentators who seek for evidence in his experiments to prove that suggestion is a necessary factor in the induction of the hypnotic condition:-
"In order to prove my position still more clearly, I called up one of my men-servants, who knew nothing of mesmerism, and gave him such directions as were calculated to impress his mind with the idea that his fixed attention was merely for the purpose of watching a chemical experiment in the preparation of some medicine, and being familiar with such, he could feel no alarm. In two minutes and a half his eyelids closed slowly with a vibrating motion, his chin fell on his breast, he gave a deep sigh, and instantly was in a profound sleep, breathing loudly. ... In about one minute after his profound sleep I aroused him and pretended to chide him for being so careless, said he ought to be ashamed of himself for not being able to attend to my instructions for three minutes without falling asleep, and ordered him downstairs. In a short time I recalled this young man, and desired him to sit down once more, but to be careful not to go to sleep again, as on the former occasion. He sat down with this intention; but at the expiration of two minutes and a half his eyelids closed, and exactly the same phenomena as in the former experiment ensued." 1
Now, whilst it is true that Braid did not realize the supreme potency of suggestion as it is now understood by the Nancy school, he did intelligently eliminate it in the experiment above related. It was his purpose to demonstrate his theory that "the phenomena of mesmerism were to be accounted for on the principle of a derangement of the state of the cerebro-spinal centres, and of the circulatory and respiratory and muscular systems."1 In other words, he was seeking to demonstrate his theory that the phenomena of mesmerism are attributable to a physical rather than a mental cause. Hence his care to select a subject who knew nothing of what was expected of him.
1 Neurypnology, p. 18.