As before remarked the phenomena of hypnotism may be viewed from two distinct standpoints - one, that from which the physical and especially the therapeutic features are most prominent, the standpoint from which we have already viewed the subject; the other is the psychical or mental aspect, which presents phenomena no less striking, and is the one which is especially attractive to the most earnest students of psychology.
The hypnotic condition has been variously divided and subdivided by different students and different writers upon the subject; Charicot, for instance, makes three distinct states, which he designates (1) catalepsy, (2) lethargy, and (3) somnambulism, while Bernheim proposes five states, or, as he designates them, degrees of hypnotism, namely, (1) sleepiness, (2) light sleep, (3) deep sleep, (4) very deep sleep, (5) somnambulism.
All these divisions are arbitrary and unnatural;
Bernheim's five degrees have no definite limit or line of separation one from the other, and Charcot's condition of catalepsy is only lethargy or sleep in which the subject may, to a greater or less degree, maintain the position in which he is placed by his hypnotizer.
There are, however, as already stated, two distinct and definite conditions, namely, (1) lethargy, or the inactive stage, and (2) somnambulism, or the alert stage, and if, in examining the subject, we make this simple division, we shall free it from much confusion and unnecessary verbiage.
When a subject is hypnotized by any soothing process, he first experiences a sensation of drowsiness, and then in a space of time, usually varying from two to twenty minutes, he falls into a more or less profound slumber. His breathing is full and quiet, his pulse normal; he is unconscious of his surroundings; or possibly he may be quiet, restful, indisposed to move, but having a consciousness, probably dim and imperfect, of what is going on about him.
This is the condition of lethargy, and in it most subjects, but not all, retain to a greater or less degree whatever position the hypnotizer imposes upon them ; they sleep on, often maintaining what, under ordinary circumstances, would be a most uncomfortable position, for hours, motionless as a statue of bronze or stone.
If, now, he speaks of his own accord, or his magnetizer speaks to him and he replies, he is in the somnambulic or alert stage. He may open his eyes, talk in a clear and animated manner; he may walk about, and show even more intellectual acuteness and physical activity than when in his normal state, or he may merely nod assent or answer slowly to his hypnotizer's questions; still, he is in the somnambulic or alert stage of hypnotism.
The following are some of the phenomena which have been observed in this stage. It is not necessary to rehearse the stock performances of lecture-room hypnotists. While under the influence of hypnotic suggestion a lad, for instance, is made to go through the pantomime of fishing in an imaginary brook, a dignified man to canter around the stage on all fours, under the impression that he is a pony, or watch an imaginary mouse-hole in the most alert and interested manner while believing himself a cat; or the subject is made to take castor oil with every expression of delight, or reject the choicest wines with disgust, believing them to be nauseous drugs, or stagger with drunkenness under the influence of a glass of pure water, supposed to be whisky.
All these things have been done over and over for the last forty years, and people have not known whether to consider them a species of necromancy or well-practiced tricks, in which the performers were accomplices, or, perhaps, a few more thoughtful and better-instructed people have looked upon them as involving psychological problems of the greatest interest, which might some day strongly influence all our systems of mental philosophy.
But whether done by the mesmerist of forty years ago or the hypnotist of the past decade, they were identical in character, and were simply genuine examples of the great power of suggestion when applied to persons under the mesmeric or hypnotic influence. Such exhibitions, however, are unnecessary and undignified, if not positively degrading, to both subject and operator, whether given by the self-styled professor of the town-hall platform or the aspiring clinical professor of nervous diseases before his packed amphitheatre of admiring students.
One of the most singular as well as important points in connection with hypnotism is the rapport or relationship which exists between the hypnptizer and the hypnotized subject. The manner in which the hypnotic sleep is induced is of little importance. The important thing, if results of any kind are to be obtained, is that rapport should be established.
This relationship is exhibited in various ways. Generally, while in the hypnotic state, the subject hears no voice but that of his hypnotizer; he does no bidding but his, he receives no suggestions but from him, and no one else can awaken him from his sleep.
If another person interferes, trying to impose his influence upon the sleeping subject, or attempts to waken him, distressing and even alarming results may appear. The degree to which this rapport exists varies greatly in different cases, but almost always, perhaps we should say always, the condition exists in some degree. In some rare cases this rapport is of a still higher and more startling character, exhibiting phenomena so contrary to, or rather, so far exceeding, our usual experience as to be a surprise to all and a puzzle to the wisest.
One of these curious phenomena is well exhibited in what is known as community of sensation, or the perception by the subject of sensations experienced by the operator. The following experiment, observed by Mr. Gurney and Dr. Myers of the Society for Psychical Research, will illustrate this phase of the subject.