Advocates of Telepathy divided into Two Groups—Investigations of the Psychical Research Society—Rapport —Braid’s Position — Theories of Bernheim and Liébeault—The Author’s Conclusions.
Many of the mesmerists, including Elliotson and Esdaile, believed in the existence of telepathy, clairvoyance, and other so-called “higher” or “occult “phenomena. In telepathy, thought was supposed to be conveyed directly from the brain of one person to that of another, without the intervention of any of the usual media of transmission in clairvoyance, the subject was supposed to see, as in a mirror or picture, events which were taking place at a distance. Braid showed that the belief in telepathy and clairvoyance was the result of mal-observation and self deception. Within recent times, however, there has been a revival of belief in the existence of telepathy and clairvoyance, particularly the former. As to telepathy, we find its existence asserted by two classes of observers:
A small group—mainly composed of men who had distinguished themselves in one or more branches of science —who claimed to have investigated the alleged phenomena by scientific methods. Amongst these may be cited the late Professor Henry Sidgwick, Frederic Myers and Dr. A. T. Myers. Although their experiments were carefully conducted, it is doubtful whether all possible sources of error were excluded; and I am unable to accept them as conclusive.
The second group—who boldly assert that telepathy is an accepted scientific fact, a phenomenon which any expert can produce at will—belong to a totally different class. Thus Hudson, in his book “The Law of Psychic Phenomena,” talks of telepathy as a recognised commonplace, and describes it as the basis of the most successful branch of Christian Science, namely the “absence treatment.” Here, the physician sits dreamily in his consulting room at home, and sends mental curative suggestions to his different patients. Or, better still, he just thinks of them a moment before going to sleep at night; and then his “subconscious mind “works on their “subconscious minds,” while all of them are sleeping. The patients are not aware of receiving any impression from the operator, but that is easily explained—their normal consciousness does not know what is happening to their “subconscious mind.” For these extraordinary statements Mr. Hudson has no evidence of value to offer.
After many years of hypnotic work, and frequent opportunities of investigating the experiments of others, I have seen nothing, absolutely nothing, which might fairly be considered as affording eyen the slightest evidence for the existence of telepathy, or of any of the so-called “occult “phenomena.
For several years a committee of the Society for Psychical Research, of which I was a member, devoted itself mainly to telepathic experiments. Our methods were simple and effective, and yet placed no unnecessary barrier in the way of the occurrence of the phenomenon. The subject, generally hypnotised, was placed in an arm-chair, and told that the operator would select different cards from a pack, and that he (the subject) was to try to indicate the card selected. The operator, who was so placed that the subject could not see what he was doing, drew the cards from the pack at random, told the subject he had selected one, was looking hard at it and that he (the subject) would see or know what it was. Meanwhile the operator stared fixedlyat the card for several minutes and concentrated his attention entirely on it. In these experiments, as well as in a long series of private ones, the percentage of correct indications fell below the number which ought to have been reached, according to the laws of chance. Despite all this, it would be unphilosophic to deny the possibility of telepathy and I am quite ready to be convinced of its existence, if anyone can divine even as few as six out of every dozen cards selected by the operator under circumstances similar to those described.
Rapport.—According to Braid, the condition of the attention in hypnosis favoured response to external suggestion, but not to suggestion conveyed by any particular person, such as the hypnotiser. It was possible by suggestion to create an artificial state in which the subject seemed to be en rapport with the operator only, but this condition was only an apparent, not a real one. The subjects really heard the suggestions of others, though special artifices might be necessary in order to make them respond to them. In illustration of this, Braid cited a case in which he made a somnambule respond to his indirect suggestions, conveyed in the form of confident predictions of what was going to happen, though the subject was supposed to be asleep when he entered the room, and was apparently only en rapport with the original operator. Carpenter drew attention to the fact that rapport was unknown to Mesmer and his immediate disciples, and was not discovered until long after the practice of mesmerism had come into vogue. The phenomena of rapport only acquired constancy and fixity in proportion as its laws were announced and received. Mesmerists, ignorant of rapport, produced a great variety of remarkable phenomena, but did not discover this one until the idea had been put into their heads, and thence transferred to their subjects.
According to Bernheim and Libeault, a real rapport exists between the subject and the operator, and this follows, as a natural consequence, from the methods employed in inducing hypnosis. Not only does it exist, but, according to Bernheim, the operator’s power of evoking hypnotic phenomena depends on it. While Bernheim and Liebeault agree on this point, they differ on another. For Bernheim finds in rapport the sole difference between hypnotic and ordinary sleep; while Liébeault, on the contrary, tried, by means of it, to establish an analogy between them.
My own observations in reference to rapporthave led me to conclusions similar .to those of Braid, viz.: (1) that rapportdoes not appear unless it has been directly or indirectly suggested; (2) that the condition is always an apparent—never a real—one. Thus, it could always be experimentally proved that the subjects actually had been cognisant of what had been said and done by others, who had not been placed en rapportwith them. In those who did not know what was expected of them, and to whom neither direct nor indirect suggestions of rapportwere made, this condition did not appear. On the contrary, they heard and responded to anyone who spoke to theni.
Moll, in “Der Rapport in Hypnose,” published in 1892, comes practically to the same conclusion as Braid in regard to rapport, viz, that it is caused by direct or indirect suggestions of the operator, or by self-suggestions which result from the subject’s conception of the nature of the hypnotic state.
My newsletter brings you insights, information and practical tools you can use to create more happiness and inner peace in your life. Sign up to the newsletter here.