The simple truth regarding the experiments of the Paris school is in a nutshell. Its fundamental error lies in the assumption that hypnosis has a purely physical origin, and that the phenomena are explicable on physiological principles. The phenomena which can be produced independently of suggestion are purely physical, and depend upon the physical condition of neuro-muscular hyperexcitability. That this is true is shown by the fact that the physical phenomena produced by Charcot upon his hysterical patients cannot be produced on healthy subjects without the aid of suggestion. But such experiments do not properly belong to the domain of psychic science proper, but rather to the Bradian system of physical manipulation. This is as much as confessed by Binet and Fere, when they divulge the fact that the physical phenomena in question can be produced on hysterical patients in their waking condition.
Another prolific source of error which besets the pathway of the Paris school. consists in its disbelief in, and consequent disregard of, the possibility that its subjects may be possessed of clairvoyant or telepathic powers. That this frequently happens, especially in subjects of the character employed by Charcot and his coadjutors, admits of no possible doubt in the minds of those who have studied the higher phases of hypnotic science. The London Society for Psychical Research has demonstrated beyond all question the fact that telepathy is a power possessed by many; and the early mesmerists have shown conclusively that the hypnotic condition is the one of all others the most favorable for the development and exhibition of that power. This subject will be dwelt upon more at length in its proper place. It is sufficient for present purposes to remark that no line of experiments in hypnotism, in which telepathy and clairvoyance are ignored as possible factors, can be held to be demonstrative of any proposition or theory whatever.
But whatever of pathological value or interest may be attached to the physical phenomena evoked by the Paris school, they certainly shed no light upon psychological science, nor do they properly belong to that domain.
And just here I wish to suggest a reform in the nomenclature of the science under consideration. The word "hypnotism" was adopted by Braid at a time when he regarded himself as the discoverer of a principle which embraced the whole science of induced sleep. It is from the Greek word "hypnos," which broadly signifies sleep. But, without some qualifying word, it is too broad, inasmuch as the system to which Braid applied it is now known to be but one of many processes of inducing sleep. He imagined that he had discovered a full explanation of all psychic phenomena of the class then known as mesmeric; whereas he had only discovered the one fact that the sleep could be induced by producing an abnormal physical condition of certain nerve-centres. It was a very important discovery, for psychic science would be incomplete without it; but it does not constitute the whole science. It does, however, explain many phenomena otherwise inexplicable, and marks a line of distinction which could not otherwise be drawn.
The methods of the Charcot school are essentially Braidian, and hence its results are limited largely to physical phenomena, and its conclusions necessarily pertain to physical science.
The Nancy school, on the other hand, produces all its phenomena by oral suggestion, and ignores the fact that the sleep can be induced in the absence of any form of suggestion. It repudiates Braid's method of inducing it as unnecessary, and also as injurious, in that the physical disturbance of the nerve-centres unduly excites the patient.
The mesmeric school differs from both the others in methods and theory, as we shall see further on.
It seems necessary, therefore, that the terminology of the science should be changed so as clearly to define the theoretical differences of the three schools. It is obvious, however, that the terminology cannot be based on results, for they are inextricably intermingled. Thus, the Braidian or Charcot operator might accidentally produce psychic phenomena identical with that produced by the mesmerists, and vice versa. And so might the suggestive school. Indeed, the writings of both schools occasionally betray the fact that they sometimes catch glimpses of something in their patients which defies chemical analysis, and cannot be carved with the scalpel.
The terminology must, therefore, refer to the methods of inducing the subjective state. If the word "hypnotism" is to be retained because it embraces all degrees of induced sleep by whatsoever process it may have been induced, it would seem proper to designate the Braidian process as physical hypnotism, the Nancy process as suggestive hyp-notism, and the mesmeric process as magnetic, or fluidic, hypnotism.
I merely throw this out as a suggestion to be considered by future writers on the subject. For my own purposes I shall hereafter employ the word "hypnotism" to define the Braidian and suggestive processes as distinguished from all others when these are contrasted, while the word " mesmerism" will be employed as it is generally understood. When they are not contrasted, "hypnotism" will be used as a generic term.
Last in the order of mention, but really first in importance, is the school of mesmerism. The theory of the mesmerists has undergone little, if any, modification since it was first promulgated by Mesmer himself. It is, as before stated, that there exists in man a subtle fluid, in the nature of magnetism, which, by means of passes over the head and body of the subject, accompanied by intense concentration of mind and will on the part of the operator, can be made to flow from the ends of his fingers and impinge upon the subject, producing sleep and all the varied subsequent phenomena at the will of the operator. In the early days of mesmerism suggestion was ignored as a possible factor in the production of the phenomena, this law not having been discovered previous to the experiments of Liebault. The same is practically true to-day. Mesmerism has made very little progress within the last half century. Its votaries cling to the old theories with a pertinacity proportioned to the opposition encountered at the hands of the hypnotists.