The power to mesmerize by this method is within the reach of any one with sufficient intelligence to understand the directions, and sufficient mental balance to follow them with persistency; provided always the subject is willing to be mesmerized, and is possessed of the requisite mental equilibrium to enable him to become passive and receptive.
All mesmerists and all hypnotists agree in holding that self-confidence is a necessary part of the mental equipment of the successful operator. This is true. It is also true that the possession of the requisite confidence is the one thing which distinguishes the successful from the unsuccessful operator. The foregoing remarks show how that confidence can be commanded, in spite of objective unbelief.
Much has been said by mesmerists about the exertion of "will power; "but no one has ever explained just how that power is to be exerted, or in what it consists. Most people seem to imagine that it is exercised by compressing the lips, corrugating the brows, and assuming a fierce, determined, not to say piratical, aspect. It is perhaps needless to remark that the attitude of mind indicated by such an aspect is the farthest possible from that which is required for the successful exercise of so-called will power. It requires no mental or nervous strain to exert that power. On the contrary, a calm serenity of mind is indispensable. When that is acquired, the only other requisites are confidence and an earnest desire to bring about the results sought. That these three requisites can easily be acquired by any one of common intelligence has already been shown.
From what has been said it seems evident that the force developed by mesmeric manipulations has its origin in mental action. That that is the motive power is certain. Whether this mental action creates or develops a fluid akin to magnetism, is a question which may never be solved. Nor is it deemed important that it should be; and it may be as well to class it at once among the many things unknowable, as to waste valuable time in a vain effort to wrest the secret from Nature. Electricity is known as a great force in physical nature; and it is harnessed and made to perform many services to mankind. Like all the great forces of nature, it is invisible, except through its effects, and it defies analysis. It will never be known to man except as one of the great correlated forces. It is equally impossible to know just what the force is which emanates from the mesmerist and controls his subject. We know that it exists, and that it can be utilized, and that is all. Whether it is a fluid or not is as impossible to know with certainty as it is to know what electricity is made of, if we should determine it to be a substance.
For some purposes, as has been remarked, the fluidic hypothesis is as good as any, and for such purposes it may be provisionally accepted. But the question is, Will that hypothesis apply to all the phenomena? If that question is answered in the negative, it demonstrates its incorrectness, and it becomes imperative that it should be abandoned. When mesmeric passes are made over a patient, a fluid appears to emanate from the hands of the operator. An effluence of some kind certainly does come from that source, and one that is perceptible to the physical senses of the patient. Is it not a fact, nevertheless, that the passes are principally useful as a means of controlling the minds both of the subject and the operator? There are many facts which seem to point unmistakably in that direction. The one fact alone that persons can be mesmerized at a distance, seems conclusive. No passes are then made, and yet all the effects of personal contact are produced. Thousands of persons have been healed at a distance, by simple concentration of mind on the part of the operator, the patient knowing absolutely nothing of the proposed experiment.
This branch of the subject will be more fully treated in a future chapter on psycho-therapeutics. It is sufficient to remark now that the method of healing here indicated is, when intelligently applied, the most effective of all systems of mental therapeutics. And the significant fact is that in the majority of cases the best results are produced when the patient is kept in absolute ignorance of what is being done for him. The reason for this will more fully appear as we proceed.
Again, the manner of mesmerizing animals is proof positive that the successful exercise of mesmeric power is not dependent upon passes made by the hand of the operator, for the usual method is to gaze steadily into the eyes of the animal.
And this brings us to the discussion of some important distinctions pertaining to the mesmerization of animals, which seem not to have been observed by the investigators of that subject, but which show more clearly than almost anything else the line of distinction between hypnotism and mesmerism.
The intelligent reader will not have failed to observe that the effect produced upon hens, frogs, crayfish, guinea-pigs, and birds is purely hypnotic. The methods employed are Braid's. That is to say, they are purely physical, sometimes produced by sudden peripheral stimulus, as in flashing a Drummond light in the eyes of a cock (Richer). But in general the external stimulus used with animals is tactile, as in seizing them (Moll); or in causing them to gaze upon an object, as in Kircher's method of hypnotizing a cock; or in gently stroking the back, as in hypnotizing a frog or a crayfish. Each of these methods may be classified as a hypnotic process, and the full equivalent of the method discovered by Braid. The effect is also purely hypnotic; that is to say, sleep is induced, varying in degree from a light slumber to a profound lethargy.
On the other hand, such animals as horses, wild beasts, etc., may be mesmerized, but not hypnotized. The processes are purely mesmeric, and generally consist in gazing into the animal's eyes. The effect is simply to render the animal docile, and obedient to the will of the operator. No one was ever able to put an animal to sleep by gazing into its eyes; but the most ferocious of the animal tribe may be tamed and subjected to the dominion of man by that simple process. A celebrated horse-tamer, who travelled through this country a few years ago, was in the habit of astonishing and amusing his audiences by selecting the wildest horse present, walking up to him, gazing into his eyes (apparently) for a few moments, and walking away, when the horse would follow him wherever he went, apparently as perfectly fascinated as any hypnotic or mesmeric subject was ever fascinated by a professional mesmerist. A close observation of the horse-tamer's methods revealed the fact that he simply rolled his eyes upward and inward, precisely as Braid compelled his subjects to do by holding a bright object before their eyes.