"Here, again, is a man twenty-six years old, a workman in the foundries. For a year he has experienced a painful feeling of constriction over the epigastrium, also a pain in the corresponding region of the back, which was the result of an effort made in bending an iron bar. The sensation is continuous, and increases when he has worked for some hours. For six months he has been able to sleep only by pressing his epigastrium with his hand. I hypnotize him. In the first seance I can induce only simple drowsiness; he wakes spontaneously; the pain continues. I hypnotize him a second time, telling him that he will sleep more deeply, and that he will remember nothing when he wakes. Catalepsy is not present. I wake him in a few minutes; he does not remember that I spoke to him, that I assured him that the pain had disappeared. It has completely disappeared; he no longer feels any constriction. I do not know whether it has reappeared."1
The foregoing extracts present the gist of the methods employed by the Nancy school of hypnotism. The hypnotic condition is induced solely by oral suggestion, and the disease is removed by the same means. There can be no doubt of the efficacy of the method, thousands of successful experiments having been made by the author and his colleagues. These experiments have demonstrated the existence of a power in man to control by purely mental processes, - the functions and conditions of the human body. They have thus laid the foundation of a system of mental therapeutics which must eventually prove of great value to mankind. But they have done more. They have demonstrated a principle which reaches out far beyond the realm of therapeutics, and covers all the vast field of psychological research. They have demonstrated the constant amenability of the subjective mind to control by the power of suggestion. It is not surprising that those who have discovered this great principle should insist upon its applicability to every phenomenon within the range of their investigations; but it is strange that they should fail to recognize a co-ordinate power governed by the same law, within the same field of operations.
Yet this is true of the modern scientific school of hypnotism to-day. The Nancy school believes in the power of suggestion, but confines its faith to oral suggestion. Having demonstrated that oral suggestion is efficacious in the production of psychic phenomena, they hold that mental suggestion has no power in the same direction. Having demonstrated that certain phenomena can be induced independently of any so-called fluidic emanation or effluence from the hypnotist, they hold that no fluidic emanation is possible. These conclusions are not only illogical, they are demonstrably incorrect. The Christian scientists are constantly demonstrating the potency of purely telepathic suggestion by what they denominate "absent treatment; " i. e., treatment of sick persons without the knowledge of the patients. That there is a power emanating from the operator who hypnotizes by means of mesmeric passes, seems to be very well authenticated by the experiments recorded by the old mesmerists. It must be admitted, however, that many of their experiments do not conclusively prove anything, for the reason that they were made before suggestion as a constant factor in hypnotism had been demonstrated.
Recent experiments by members of the London Society for Psychical Research have, however, now placed that question beyond a doubt. Their methods of investigation are purely scientific, and were made with a full knowledge and appreciation of the principle of suggestion, and of the distinction between mesmerism and hypnotism.
1 Suggestive Therapeutics, p. 206.
In an account of some experiments in mesmerism, written by Mr. Edmund Gurney, and recorded in vol. ii. pp. 201-205, of the Proceedings of the Society referred to, a very interesting experiment is mentioned, which demonstrates the fact that there is an effluence emanating from the mesmerizer which is capable of producing very marked physical effects upon the subject. In this case the subject was blindfolded and allowed to remain in his normal condition during the whole of the experiment. His hands were then spread out upon a table before him, his fingers wide apart. The mesmerizer then made passes over one of the fingers, taking care not to move his hand near enough to the subject's finger to cause a perceptible movement of the atmosphere, or to give any indication in any other way which finger was being mesmerized. The result was, in every instance, the production of local anaesthesia in the finger operated upon, and in no other.
Oral suggestion, or any other form of physical suggestion, was here out of the question; and telepathic suggestion was extremely improbable, in view of the fact that the subject was in his normal condition, and consequently not in subjective rapport with the operator. A further experiment was then tried, with a view of ascertaining whether it was necessary for the mesmerist to know which finger he was operating upon. To that end, the operator's hand was guided by the hand of a third party while the passes were being made; and it was found that the selected finger was unaffected, when the operator did not know which one it was.
The first of these experiments demonstrates the fact that there is an effluence emanating from the mesmerist; and the second demonstrates the fact that this effluence is directed by his will.
What this effluence is, man may never know. That it is a vital fact in psychic phenomena is certain. Like many other subtle forces of nature, it defies analysis. That it exists, and that under certain conditions not yet very clearly defined it can be controlled by the conscious intelligence of man, is as certain as the existence of electricity. Its source is undoubtedly the subjective mind, and it is identical with that force which, under other conditions, reappears in the form of so-called spirit-rappings, table-tipping, etc.