It is well known that the symptoms of almost any disease can be induced in hypnotic subjects by suggestion. Thus, partial or total paralysis can be produced; fever can be brought on, with all the attendant symptoms, such as rapid pulse and high temperature, flushed face, etc.; or chills, accompanied by a temperature abnormally low; or the most severe pains can be produced in any part of the body or limbs. All these facts are well known, and still more wonderful facts are stated in all the recent scientific works on hypnotism. For instance, Bernheim states that he has been able to produce a blister on the back of a patient by applying a postage-stamp and suggesting to the patient that it was a fly-plaster. This is confirmed by the experiments of Moll and many others, leaving no doubt of the fact that structural changes are a possible result of oral suggestion. On this subject Bernheim makes the following observations: -
"Finally, hemorrhages and bloody stigmata may be induced in certain subjects by means of suggestion.
"MM. Bourru and Burot of Rochefort have experimented on this subject with a young marine, a case of hystero-epilepsy. M. Bourru put him into the somnambulistic condition, and gave him the following suggestion: 'At four o'clock this afternoon, after the hypnosis, you will come into my office, sit down in the arm-chair, cross your arms upon your breast, and your nose will begin to bleed.' At the hour appointed the young man did as directed. Several drops of blood came from the left nostril.
"On another occasion the same investigator traced the pa. tient's name on both his forearms with the dull point of an instrument. Then, when the patient was in the somnambulistic condition, he said, 'At four o'clock this afternoon you will go to sleep, and your arms will bleed along the lines which I have traced, and your name will appear written on your arms in letters of blood.' He was watched at four o'clock and seen to fall asleep, On the left arm the letters stood out in bright red relief, and in several places there were drops of blood. The letters were still visible three months afterwards, although they had grown gradually faint.
"Dr. Mabille, director of the Insane Asylum at Lafond, near Rochelle, a former pupil of excellent standing, repeated the experiment made upon the subject at Rochefort, after he was removed to the asylum, and confirmed it. He obtained instant hemorrhage over a determined region of the body. He also induced an attack of spontaneous somnambulism, in which the patient, doubting his personality, so to speak, suggested to himself the hemorrhagic stigmata on the arm, thus repeating the marvellous phenomena of the famous stigmatized auto-sugges-tionist, Louis Lateau.
"These facts, then, seem to prove that suggestion may act upon the cardiac function and upon the vaso-motor system. Phenomena of this order, however, rarely occur. They are exceptional, and are obtained in certain subjects only. I have in vain tried to reproduce them in many cases. These facts are sufficient to prove, however, that when in a condition of special psychical concentration, the brain can influence even the organic functions, which in the normal state seem but slightly amenable to the will." 1
These facts demonstrate at once the correctness of two of the fundamental propositions before stated; namely, the constant amenability of the subjective mind to the power of suggestion, and the perfect control which the subjective mind exercises over the functions, sensations, and conditions of the body. All the foregoing phenomena represent abnormal conditions induced by suggestion, and are, as before stated, all the more conclusive proofs of the potency of the force invoked.
If, therefore, there exists in man a power which, in obedience to the suggestion of another, is capable of producing abnormal conditions in defiance of the natural instincts and desires of all animal creation, how much more potent must be a suggestion which operates in harmony with the natural instinctive desire of the patient for the restoration of normal conditions, and with the constant effort of nature to bring about that result! At the risk of repetition, the self-evident proposition will be restated, that the instinct of self-preservation is the strongest instinct of our nature, and constitutes a most potent, ever-present, and constantly operative auto-suggestion, inherent in our very nature. It is obvious that any outside suggestion must operate with all the greater potentiality when it is directed on lines in harmony with instinctive auto-suggestion. It follows that normal conditions can be restored with greater ease and certainty, other things being equal, than abnormal conditions can be induced.
And thus it is that by the practice of each of the various systems of psycho-therapeutics we find that the most marvellous cures are effected, and are again reminded of the words of Paracelsus: "Whether the object of your faith be real or false, you will nevertheless obtain the same effects".
1 Suggestive Therapeutics, pp. 36, 37.
This brings us to the discussion of the essential mental condition prerequisite to the success of every experiment in psycho-therapeutics, - faith.
That faith is the essential prerequisite to the successful exercise of psychic power is a proposition which has received the sanction of the concurrent experience of all the ages. Christ himself did not hesitate to acknowledge his inability to heal the sick in the absence of that condition precedent, which he held to be essential, not only to the enjoyment of the blessings which he so freely bestowed in this world, but to the attainment of eternal life. "Oh, ye of little faith," was his reproof to his followers when they returned to him and announced the decrease of their powers to heal the sick; thus proving that he regarded faith as an essential element of success, not only in the patient, but in the healer also.