So, curiously enough, it happened that Charcot commenced exactly where Mesmer had commenced a hundred years before. He experimented upon hysterical patients in his wards at La Salpetriere, and, as a result, he rediscovered mesmerism under the name of hypnotism, just a century after it had been discovered by Mesmer and disowned by the French Academy.
But Charcot, after having satisfied himself by his experiments, did not hesitate to announce his full belief in the facts and phenomena of hypnotism, and that was sufficient to rehabilitate the long-neglected subject. The attention of the scientific world was at once turned toward it, it 3 became a legitimate subject of study, and hypnotism at once became respectable. From that time to the present it has formed one of the most conspicuous and interesting subjects of psychical study; it has become to psychology what determining the value of a single character is to reading an ancient inscription in a lost or unknown language - it is a bit of the unknown expressed in terms of the known and helps to furnish clues to still greater discoveries.
With the scientific interest in hypnotism which was brought about through the great name and influence of Charcot, all doubt concerning the reality of the phenomena which it presents disappeared. Hypnotism was a fact and had come to stay.
Charcot, who conducted his experiments chiefly among nervous or hysterical patients, looked upon the hypnotic condition as a disease, and considered the phenomena presented by hypnotic subjects as akin to hysteria. In addition to the method of producing the hypnotic condition used by Braid, he used, among others, what he called "massive stimulation," which consisted in first fully absorbing the subject's attention and then producing a shock by the loud sounding of a concealed gong, or the sudden display or sudden withdrawal of an electric light. By this means hysterical subjects were often thrown into a condition of catalepsy, from which somnambulism and other hypnotic phenomena were sometimes deduced.
I have myself seen nervous patients thrown into the cataleptic state by the "massive stimulation " of a huge truck passing by, loaded with clanging rails or building iron, or by other sudden shock, but I did not consider the process therapeutic nor in any way useful to the patient. Indeed, I have considered the present method of transporting those beams and rails of iron through our streets and past our dwellings, without the slightest attempt to modify their shocking din and clangor, a piece of savagery which should at once be made the subject of special legislation looking to the prompt punishment of the perpetrators of the outrage.
As a matter of fact, neither the methods employed, the psychical conditions induced, nor the therapeutic effects attained at La Salpetriere, where most of these experiments were at that time carried on, were such as to particularly commend themselves to students of psychology. Nevertheless the great name and approval of Charcot served to command for hypnotism the attention and the favorable consideration of the scientific world.
Soon after the experiments of Charcot and his associates in Paris were published, Prof. Bern-heim commenced a most thorough and important study of the subject in the wards of the hospital at Nancy. These studies were made, not upon persons who were already subjects of nervous disease, as was the case with Charcot's patients, but, on the contrary, upon those whose nervous condition was perfectly normal, and even upon those whose general health was perfect.
The result of Bernheim's experiments proved that a very large percentage of all persons, sick or well, could be put into the hypnotic condition. He claimed that suggestion was the great factor and influence, both in bringing about the condition, and also in the mental phenomena observed, and the cures which were accomplished.
He claimed, moreover, that the hypnotic sleep did not differ from ordinary sleep, and that no magnetism nor other personal element, influence, or force entered in any way into the process- it was all the power and influence of suggestion.
Four distinct and important periods then are found in the history of hypnotism:
First, the period of the early mesmerists, extending from the time of Mesmer, 1773, until that of Braid, 1842 - nearly seventy years - during which the theory of animal magnetism, or of some actual force or subtle influence proceeding from the operator to the subject, prevailed.
Second, the period of thirty-five years during which the influence of Braid's experiments predominated, showing that other methods, and especially that by the fixed gaze, were efficient in producing the hypnotic sleep.
Third, the short period during which the influence of Charcot and the Paris school prevailed.
Fourth, the period since Bernheim began to publish his experiments, and which may be called the period of suggestion.
With this brief sketch in mind, we are prepared to examine some of the more important phenomena of hypnotism, both in its early and its later developments. A simple case would be as follows: -
A patient comes to the physician's office complaining of continual headaches, general debility, nervousness, and unsatisfactory sleep. She is willing to be hypnotized, and is accompanied by a friend. The physician seats her comfortably in a chair, and, seating himself opposite her, he takes her thumbs lightly between his own thumbs and fingers, asks her to look steadily at some convenient object - perhaps a shirt-stud or a specified button upon his coat. Presently her eyelids quiver and then droop slowly over her eyes; he gently closes them with the tips of his fingers, holds them lightly for a moment, and she is asleep.
He then makes several slow passes over her face and down the front of her body from head to foot, also some over her head and away from it, all without contact and without speaking to her. He lets her sleep ten or fifteen minutes- longer, if convenient - and then, making two or three upward passes over her face, he says promptly: "All right; wake up."