Enhanced Intelligence under Suggestion—Ammsthesia and Analgesia —Volition—Mesmeric Theories: The Salpêtrière School; the Automatism Theory; Bennett’s Physiological and Psychical Theories; Bernheim’s Theory; Heidenhain’s Theory; the “Unconscious Cerebration ‘”Theory; the Secondary Consciousness Theory, as formulated by Delbeuf and by Myers— Summary of the Phenomena which point to a Secondary Consciousness.
Before discussing hypnotic theories, I wish to draw attention to the cases and experiments just cited. In some, the condition termed hypnosis was present. This varied from slight drowsiness or lethargy to. apparently profound sleep, followed by amnesia on waking, i.e. the subjects were unable to recall the events of the so-called hypnosis. At first, both Braid and Liebeault regarded this as artificially induced sleep, and believed that it must be evoked before patients would respond to suggestions, either curative or experimental. The condition, however, might be More accurately described as “imitation sleep.” The deeply hypnotised subject believed he had been asleep, because lie could not afterwards recollect what had happened. Various facts, however, show great dissimilarity between imitation and natural sleep. When the subject is re-hypnotised and questioned, he can relate all that took place in the previous hypnosis, with the exception of any special sensations inhibited by suggestion, Thus, my patients who had undergone painless hypnotic operations could afterwards describe them, and knew what bad been said and done by those around them. They were only unable to recall pain, as that sensation had never reached consciousness. Further, in the so-called lethargic state, the subjects, who lie apparently asleep, hear and respond to the operator’s suggestions, even if these are whispered so softly that they could not have heard them in the normal condition. They also hear what is said by others, even when a special rapporthas been established between them and the operator. It is true that, under this condition, they will not respond to the suggestions of others, unless special means are adopted; if questioned, however, by the operator in subsequent hypnosis, it will be found that they were conscious of what was said. Again, some subjects, like Miss A-and Miss B--, while apparently profoundly asleep, were actively engaged in intelligently solving difficulties which had baffled their waking powers. In every instance, where I questioned so called hypnotic somnambules as to their mental condition in previous hypnoses, I found that they knew where they had been and what they had been doing or thinking about. They felt that they were the same persons in the so-called hypnotic state as in the waking one, and were conscious that their reason and volition were unimpaired.
Further, subjects in whom hypnosis had been evoked would afterwards pass into the suggestible condition characteristic of it, at any signal to which they had been taught to respond, and without going through any intermediate state even superficially resembling sleep. Of this the following is an example:—
Mr. C--, aged-25, had been hypnotised for operative purposes. At a later date, when a medical man came to ask for information about hypnotism, I used C--, with his consent, for a demonstration. Without making him sit down, close his eyes, or pass through any condition resembling sleep, I induced, practically instantaneously, the condition of suggestibility characteristic of hypnosis. I then said to C--, “Come to another room; there is a doctor there—entertain him until I am free to join you.” I introduced him to the doctor and went away. When I returned, Dr. -said, “Your patient has given me an interesting account of your hypnotic operations at Leeds.” I asked, “Do you think he is in the normal or the hypnotic state? “He replied, “Of course, the normal.” I explained that C--=. was in the condition described as the alert stage of Somnambulism, and induced anaesthesia by suggestion to demonstrate this. I then said to C--, “Wake up!” and found, on questioning him, that he had no recollection of what had passed. I reinduced the state just described and asked him what had happened. He said, “You hypnotised me in your consulting-room, said that you were going to introduce me to a doctor and asked me to entertain him. I guessed he had come about hypnotism and so told him what would interest him.” While speaking to the doctor, his eyes were open and he presented in intelligence and appearance no indication of being in any condition other than the normal waking one, except by his suggestibility as shown by the induction of anaesthesia and the like.
In some of the cases nothing even superficially resembling sleep was induced: the patients simply rested in an arm-chair while suggestions were made. Yet, in many instances, the curative results were as striking as those obtained after the induction of so-called hypnosis.
In both groups increased suggestibility had been developed, and a control of the organism obtained far beyond the will-power of ordinary life. Examples of this are found in the influence of suggestion upon menstruation, perspiration, the secretion of milk, the action of the bowels, etc.
Intelligence.—In some instances the phenomena observed during so-called hypnosis, or following post-hypnotic suggestion, showed increased intelligence. Case No. 69 illustrates this. Here the subject developed a quite exceptional power of time-appreciation, and made subconscious arithmetical calculations far surpassing anything she had done in ordinary life. Further, in subsequent hypnoses, she recalled complicated series of figures, which had been read to her once, or at most twice, in a previous hypnosis—a feat quite beyond her usual memory.,
Anaesthesia and analgesia.—In some of my cases anaesthesia or analgesia could be produced by suggestion, even when the patients were obviously awake. Of the two phenomena the latter is the more remarkable. Insensibility to pain, produced by a narcotic such as ether, is characterised by general loss of consciousness; whereas, in hypnotic analgesia, absence of pain is due to the inhibition, from amongst all the patient’s possible sensations, of disagreeable ones alone. As Frederic Myers pointed out, intelligence is involved in this achievement; it is not a mere anaesthetisation of nerve-endings such as cocaine produces; it. includes also the removal of concomitant feelings of nausea, exhaustion, and anxiety — not always directly dependent on the principal pain, but requiring to be first subjectively distinguished as disagreeable before they are picked out for inhibition. This freedom from pain is obtained without deadening or dislocating the general nervous system; without either coma or hysteria. The so-called hypnotic trance is not necessary: pain can be prevented by “post-hypnotic “suggestion, fulfilled after awakening. Hypnotic analgesia is no mere ordinary narcotic—not a fresh specimen of familiar methods of checking pain by arresting all conscious cerebration. It is a new departure; the first successful attempt at dissociating forms of sensation which, throughout the known history of the human organism, had almost invariably been found to exist together.
Volition in hypnosis.—It can be, and has been, fully demonstrated that volition is unimpaired in so-called hypnosis, and that the subject cannot be dominated by the operator. Further, instead of the moral sense being diminished, it is increased, and the subjects are more sensitive and scrupulous than in ordinary life. The will, instead of being weakened, is often enormously developed; and to this is due the cure of moral insanity, drunkenness, drug habits and the like. To the same cause we owe the results obtained in hysteria, neurasthenia, obsessions, etc. Convulsions, and other muscular movements which had become involuntary, are again controlled. Obsessions, which dominated the mind and influenced the actions, are abolished; and patients who were constantly introspective and haunted by painful thoughts and fears acquire increased control of their own minds.
Above everything, it must be clearly understood that the object of all so-called hypnotic treatment is the development of the patient’s will-power and control of his own organism, and that this, once gained, makes him independent of the operator, or of other outside aid.
The problem, therefore, that hypnotic theory has to explain, is this far-reaching control of the human organism —greatly exceeding that of ordinary life—obtained without any sacrifice of volition, intelligence or moral sense, and frequently, also, under conditions which do not in any .way even superficially resemble sleep.
Hypnotic theories are numerous, varied and conflicting, and want of space prevents mydiscussing them in detail. The more important are:
The theories of the later mesmerists and of the Salpetriere School.
The “automatism” theory.
The theory which attempts to explain the phenomena of hypnotism by the intelligent and voluntary action of a secondary or subliminal consciousness.
1. Mesmeric theories. According to Elliotson and Esdaile, the phenomena of mesmerism, entirely physical in origin, were due to a curative fluid, or peculiar physical force —called “odylic”—which, in given circumstances, could be transmitted from one human being to another. Certain metals, crystals and magnets were supposed to possess it; to be capable of inducing and terminating the mesmeric state, and of exciting, arresting and modifying its phenomena. Apparently, one metal produced catalepsy, another changed this into paralysis; and even a glass of water became charged with odylic force when breathed upon by the mesmeriser. Everyone was not susceptible to these influences: those who were—called “sensitives”—seemed to develop strange faculties.
Esdaile thus summarised his theory of the therapeutic action of mesmerism:—“There is good reason to believe that the vital fluid of one person can be poured into the system of another. A merciful God has engrafted a communicable, life-giving, curative power in the human body, in order that when two individuals are found together, deprived of the aids of art, the one in health may often be able to relieve his sick companion, by imparting to him a portion of his vitality.” Esdaile believed in clairvoyance, and held that mesmeric influence could be exercised at a distance, and conveyed by means of inanimate objects.
Braid investigated the supposed facts, with the following results:—The phenomena appeared when the subjects knew what was expected, or received the information from the suggestions or leading questions of the operator; apart from this they were invariably absent. Thus, imitation magnets produced the phenomena when it was believed real ones were being used, but real ones produced nothing if the subjects were ignorant of their presence.
The Salpetiere School.—The theories of the Salpetriere School are now discredited. As far back as the Second International Congress of Experimental Psychology (London, 1892), they had almost ceased to attract attention; it was obvious that the views of the Nancy School had supplanted them. They cannot, however, be passed without examination, for many in this country still regard them as affording a satisfactory explanation of hypnotic phenomena. The following is a summary of these theories:
Hypnosis is an artificially induced morbid condition; a neurosis only found in the hysterical.
Women are more easily influenced than men; children and old persons are insusceptible.
Hypnosis can be produced by purely -physical means; a person can be hypnotised unknown to himself.
Hypnotic phenomena can be induced, transferred or terminated by magnets, metal, etc.
This theory was attacked by the Nancy School. They pointed out the insufficiency of its data, and cited the confession of one of its supporters that only a dozen cases of hypnosis had occurred in the Salpetriere in ten years (a very large proportion of the experiments had been made on one subject, long an inmate of that hospital); whereas their conclusions—i.e. those of the Nancy School—were drawn from the study of thousands of cases.
Charcot argued that hypnosis and hysteria were identical, because in both the urine was similar. In reply, Moll pointed out that all Charcot’s subjects were hysterical; and as the phenomena of waking life are readily induced in hypnosis, Charcot had created a type of hysteria by suggestion. If the hysterical alone can be hypnotised, we must conclude, from statistics of suggestibility, that at least 80 % of mankind suffer from hysteria. Further, the highest percentage of successes was obtained amongst those likely to be free from hysteria. Thus, Liebeault found soldiers and sailors particularly easy to influence, while Grossmann, of Berlin, stated that hard-headed North Germans were very susceptible. Professor Forel, of Zurich, told me he had hypnotised nearly all his asylum warders; he selected these himself and did not choose them from the ranks of the hysterical. Most of Esdaile’s patients were males, and he drew particular attention to the fact that they were free from hysteria.
These facts justify the statement of Forel and Moll that “it is not the healthy, but the hysterical, who are the most difficult to influence. Forel asserts that every mentally healthy man is naturally hypnotisable; while Moll says that if we take a pathological condition of the organism as necessary for hypnosis, we shall be obliged to conclude that nearly everybody is not right in the head. The mentally unsound, particularly idiots, are much more difficult to hypnotise than the healthy. Intelligent people, and those with strong wills, are more susceptible than the dull, the stupid, or tile weak-willed. Forel says that the most difficult to influence are the insane; while the number of mentally healthy persons hypnotised by Liébeault and Bernheim alone amounts to many thousands. My experience accords with this: I found it easy to hypnotise healthy Yorkshire peasants for operative purposes, but, when my patients were chronic nervous invalids, my difficulties greatly increased.
All observers, with the exception of the Salpetriere School, agree that sex has little influence upon susceptibility. According to Liebeault, the difference between the two sexes is less than 1 per cent.
Wetterstrand found that he could invariably hypnotise children between the ages of 3 and 15, while Bérillon, out of 250 cases, succeeded with 80 % at the first attempt. In one of Liébeault’s statistical tables he recorded. 100 % of successes up to the age of 14. In adult life, age makes little difference. In the same table, between the ages of 14 and 21 the failures were -10 %, and from 63 years and upwards 13%.
Can hypnosis be induced by mechanical means alone? This question is answered by the Nancy School in the negative, and I know of no instance where hypnosis has followed the use of mechanical methods, if mental influences have been excluded.
Can various hypnotic phenomena be excited by metals, magnets, etc.? Here, in the assertions of the Salpêtrière School, we have a counterpart of the controversy between Braid and the mesmerists. All the old errors, the result of ignoring mental influences, are again revived: medicines are alleged to exercise an influence from within sealed tubes, and the physical and mental conditions of one subject are stated to be transferable to another, or even to an inanimate object. It is useless to refute these statements again; this would be needlessly repeating the work of Braid, and, indeed, their absurdity renders argument unnecessary.
The Salpetriere theory not only resembles that of the mesmerists in attributing to magnets and metals the power of exciting wonderful phenomena, but also differs little from it in other respects. Thus, the mesmerists stated that all were not susceptible to the influences referred to, and described those who were as “sensitives.” The Salpetriere School say the same thing, but call their sensitives “hysterical.” Again, both Schools regarded the influence as a purely physical one, which could be exerted without the knowledge and against the will of the subject. There is one important difference, however, between the later mesmerists and the Charcot School. Elliotson knew nothing about suggestion; thus, his errors were excusable and almost unavoidable. When Charcot started his researches, not only had Braid already demonstrated as fallacious all the errors Charcot and his followers adopted later, but Liébeault also had pointed, out the influence of suggestion, and how, through ignorance of its powers, false conclusions were sure to be drawn. Despite this, Elliotson’s pioneer work brought upon him bitter attacks and threatened ruin, while Charcot’s fallacies did not injure the reputation he had established in other departments of science.
2. The automatism theory.— At first Braid regarded mesmeric trance as an artificially induced sleep; he called this “hypnosis,” and invented the terminology we still use. Later, observing that only 10 % of those who recovered under suggestive treatment passed into a state even superficially resembling sleep, be proposed to abolish his entire terminology. The public, he said, had accepted the idea that artificially induced sleep must precede cure, and he found this preconceived idea had to be removed before they responded to suggestion.
In 1847, Braid stated that the so-called hypnotic condition was one of mental concentration; the mind, engrossed with a single idea, was indifferent to other influences. This monoidism was brought about by a physiological and psychological inhibition; the activity of certain nerve centres was suspended, owing to the monotonous stimulation of others, and this had its psychological equivalent in the interruption of the voluntary association of ideas. This explanation was accepted and elaborated by Professor John Hughes Bennett, in 1851.
Bennett’s physiological theory.— Hypnosis, according to Bennett, was characterised by alterations in the functional activity of the nerve cells of the white matter of the cerebral lobes. A certain proportion of these became paralysed through continued monotonous stimulation; while the action of others was consequently increased. As these tubes connected the cerebral ganglion-cells, suspension of their function was assumed to bring with it interruption of the connection between the ganglion-cells.
Bennett’s psychical theory.—From the psychical side, Bennett explained the phenomena by the action of predominant unchecked *ideas. These obtained prominence because other ideas, which in ordinary circumstances would have controlled their development, did not arise; the portion of the brain with which the latter were associated had its action temporarily interrupted, i.e. the connection between the ganglion-tells was broken, owing to the suspended action of the “fibres of association.” Memory of a sensation could always be recalled; but, in ordinary circumstances, from the exercise of judgment, comparison, etc., we knew it was only a remembrance. When these were not exercised, the suggested idea predominated and the individual believed in its reality. Thus, the faculties of the Mind, as a whole, had the power of correcting the fallacies into which each might fall; just as the illusions of one sense could be corrected by the. healthy use of others. There were mental and sensorial illusions: the former caused by predominant ideas, and corrected by proper reasoning; the latter caused by perversion of one sense and corrected by the right application of others. In hypnosis, according to this theory, a suggested idea obtained prominence, and excited mental and sensorial illusions, because the check action—the inhibitory power—of certain higher centres had been temporarily suspended.
This explanation was one which Braid later emphatically repudiated, increased knowledge having caused him to change his views. Despite this, although its terms have varied, it has, till recently, been the usual explanation of hypnotic phenomena. If we join Heidenhain’s purely physiological theory to Bernheim’s purely psychical one, we obtain a reproduction of Bennett’s two theories.
Bernheint,s theory.—The whole nervous force of the subject, according to Bernheim, is fixed upon a single idea; this concentration may be changed from one point to another by the suggestions of the operator; but the focus alone shifts its place and concentration continues. In the normal state we are subject to errors, illusions and hallucinations—sometimes spontaneous, at others suggested to us and accepted unchallenged. There is also a tendency to receive and respond to suggested ideas; these, however, are questioned before being accepted or rejected. In hypnosis, on the other hand, there exists a peculiar aptitude for transferring the suggested idea into an act. This is done so quickly that the intellectual inhibition has not time to prevent it; when it comes into play the idea has already been translated into its physical equivalent. If consciousness follows the suggested act, it is too late to interfere with its fulfilment, Bennett regarded the phenomena of hypnosis as the result of a definite physical change in the subject; Bernheim, on the other hand, attempts to explain them by an analogy between these phenomena and those of the normal state, and by means of suggestion.
According to Bernheim, hypnotic phenomena are analogous to normal, automatic, involuntary and unconscious acts; and natural and artificial sleep are identical. If any distinction exists, this can be explained by suggestion. The normal and the hypnotised subject are both influenced by it; but, as it has been suggested to the latter that he should become more responsive, a peculiar aptitude for transforming the idea into an act has been artificially developed. .
Heidenhain’s theory.—This is a type of the purely physiological one: the phenomena being explained by the arrested activity of the ganglionic cells of the cerebral cortex. These cells are supposed to be inhibited by the monotonous stimulation of other nerves, i.e. by fixed gazing, passes, etc.; and sensory impressions which usually produce movements after passing to the higher centres and evoking consciousness are now said to do so by going directly to the motor centre’s. This is essentially a “short-circuiting of nervous currents” theory. The hypnotised subject is a pure automaton, who imitates movements made before him, but is quite unconscious of what he does.
Some other modern theories are based on a supposed cerebral inhibition. For example, Sidis, in the “Psychology of Suggestion,” asserts that in hypnosis there is “a functional dissociation between the nerve-cells. The association-fibres, that connect groups into systems, communities, clusters s’and constellations, Contract. The fine processes of the nerve-cells, the dendrons, or the terminal arborisation, or the collaterals that touch these dendrons, thus forming the elementary group, retract and cease to come into contact.” He further discusses which association-fibres give way first, and whether the neuraxon is contracted as a whole, or the fibrillae alone contract, and so withdraw the terminal arborisations for minute distances.
Dr. William McDougall, in his paper entitled “The State of the Brain during Hypnosis “(Brain, Part cxxii., vol. xxxi., 1908), expresses the view that the main distinction between the dissociation Of sleep and that of hypnosis is that, in the latter state, the monotonous stimulation of a sensory organ tends to keep a minor disposition in dominant activity as a path of neurokymic discharge, thus draining off the general supply of neurokyme. At the same time the operator, by his passes and suggestions, keeps a path of ingress open,. a system active and waking, by which channel ideas may be invoked, accepted and acted upon by the rest of a sleeping and uncritical mind.
All this might be of interest if it were related in any way to the subject in dispute. The phenomena of hypnosis, however, which demand explanation—increased volition, memory, intelligence and other evidences of self-control of the organism—are just the exact opposite of those which have been supposed to be invariably present in that condition. Hence, theories, no matter how elaborate or learned in terminology, are valueless, when founded upon imaginary mental states, the existence of which is simply assumed by the operator. What does it matter whether lack of consciousness, loss of memory or automatic action, be produced by interruption of association-fibres, arrested action of ganglionic cells of the cerebral cortex, retracted dendrons or disconnected neurons, or even by “inhibition of the amaeboid movements in the pseudopodic, protoplasmic prolongations of the neuro-spongium,” if the problems we are dealing with actually involve an increase of intelligence, consciousness, volition and memory?
3. The theory which attempts to explain the phenomena of hypnotism by the intelligent and voluntary action of a secondary or subliminal consciousness.—This, instead of explaining hypnosis by the arrested action of some of the brain centres which subserve normal life, attempts to do so by assuming the arousal of certain powers oven which we normally have little or no control. The principle on which the theory depends is admitted by science. William James, for example, says: “In certain persons, at least, the total possible consciousness may be split into parts; which co-exist, but mutually ignore each other.”
Before discussing this theory, I wish to draw attention to some of Braid’s later views, when he had ceased to believe in involuntary monoideism and asserted that volition was absolutely unimpaired in hypnosis—not only could the subject successfully resist attempts to hypnotise him against his will, but, when hypnotised, would also reject suggestions disagreeable to him. The moral sense was raised, not lessened: it was impossible to make a hypnotised, subject commit a crime, or even do anything which involved indelicacy. Braid recognised the complexity of the so-called hypnotic condition, and the fact that it was often characterised by physical and mental activity. He taught some subjects Greek, Latin, French and Italian during hypnosis, and found that they had forgotten it all in the normal state on being re-hypnotised the lost memories returned spontaneously. He described this condition as “double consciousness.” These later views attracted no attention, and when Myers published his theories no one seemed to he aware that they had been forestalled. Braid’s work is all the more remarkable as he had no scientific forerunners, and evolved his theories out of the mesmeric superstitions of his day.
Another worker in the same field ought not to be forgotten, Carpenter’s “unconscious cerebration” theory dealt with phenomena similar to those Myers described the difference between the two being that, while Carpenter regarded this .particular form of intellectual activity as unconscious, Myers believed that it was carried on consciously, but apart from normal consciousness.
According to Carpenter, much of our intellectual activity —both reasoning and imaginative—was essentially automatic, and might be described physiologically as the reflex action of the cerebrum. There was a further question, namely, whether this action might not take place unconsciously. The view had been held by German metaphysicians, from Leibnitz onwards, that the mind might undergo modifications, without being itself conscious of the process until the results presented themselves to the consciousness in the new ideas the process had evolved. This “unconscious cerebration,” taking place in the higher sphere of cerebral activity, had its parallel in automatic acts, when the latter occurred while the attention was diverted from them.
As an example of this unconscious mental activity, Carpenter cited the spontaneous remembrance of some name wehad vainly tried to recollect. This suddenly flashed into consciousness when we were thinking of something different, or had just awakened from sleep. In the first case, the Mind was engrossed with other ideas, and we could not detect any link of association by which the result had been obtained, although we could remember the whole “train of thought “which had passed through the mind in the interval. In the second place, the missing idea was more likely to present itself after profound than disturbed sleep. So familiar is this phenomenon that we are accustomed in similar straits to say, “Never mind, I shall think of the missing word by and bye”; and we deliberately turn away, just as if we possessed an obedient secretary whom we could order to hunt it up while we were otherwise occupied. The more this common phenomenon is studied, the more the observer of his own mental processes will be obliged to concede that, so far as his own conscious self is concerned, the research is made absolutely without him. He has neither pain, pleasure., nor sense of labour in the task, and his conscious. self is all the time suffering, enjoying or labouring on totally different ground.
In speaking of the same phenomenon, the late Dr. Wendell Holmes said that the idea we were seeking came all at once into the mind, delivered like a prepaid parcel at the door of consciousness, or like a foundling in a basket. How it came there, we do not know. The mind must have been at work, groping and feeling for it in the dark; it could not have come by itself. Yet, all the while, our consciousness, so far as we were conscious of our consciousness, was busy with other thoughts. Carpenter said that he was in the habit of trusting to this method, and found he was much more likely to recover his lost memories in this way than by consciously searching for them.
In the phenomena observed with “talking tables” and “planchettes,” ideas which had passed out of the conscious memory sometimes expressed themselves in involuntary muscular movements, to the great surprise of the individuals executing them. Generally the answers given in this way only expressed ideas consciously preSent in the minds of the operators. True answers were, however, sometimes given to questions, notwithstanding that there might be entire ignorance. (proceeding from complete forgetfulnes) of the facts, or absolute disbelief in the statement of them. These results, which were falsely attributed to “spiritual “agency, were really due to the revival of lost impressions, which now disclosed their existence through the automatic motor apparatus.
Carpenter, again, asserted that there were cases in which two distinct trains of mental action were carried on simultaneously—one consciously, the other unconsciously; the latter guided the movements, which might express something quite unrelated to the subject that was entirely and continuously engrossing the attention. In support of this he quoted the following passage from Miss Cobbe:— “Music-playing is of all others the most extraordinary manifestation of the powers of unconscious cerebration. Here we seem to have not one slave but a dozen. Two different lines of hieroglyphics have to be read at once, and the right hand has to be guided to attend to one of them, the left to another. All the ten fingers have their work assigned as quickly as they can move. The mind, or something which does duty as mind, interprets scores of A sharps and B flats and C naturals into black ivorykeys and white ones, crotchets and quavers and demisemiquavers, rests, and all the other mysteries of music. The feet are not idle, but have something to do with the pedals, and, if the instrument be a double-action harp (or an organ), a task of pushings and pullings more difficult than that of the hands. And all this time the conscious performer is in a seventh heaven of artistic rapture at the results of all this tremendous business, or perchance lost in a flirtation with the individual who turns the leaves of the music-book.”
Carpenter received the following account of another form of unconscious cerebration from a bishop:—“I have for years been accustomed to act upon your principle of unconscious cerebration, with very satisfactory results. I am frequently asked to preach occasional sermons; and I am in the habit of setting down and thinking over the topics I wish to introduce, without in the first instance endeavouring to frame them into any consistent scheme. I then put aside my sketch for a time, and give my mind to some altogether different subject; when I come to write my sermon, perhaps a week or two afterwards, I very commonly find that the topics I set down have arranged themselves, so that I can at once apply myself to develop them on the plan in which they present themselves before me.”
In the following example, given by Wendell Holmes, the individual was conscious of the flow of an undercurrent of mental action, although this did not riseto the level of distinct ideation A business man, who had an important question under consideration, gave it up for the time as too much for him. Immediately afterwards he was conscious of an action going on in his brain, which was so unusual and painful as to excite his apprehensions that he was threatened with paralysis. After some hours of uneasiness, his perplexity was all at once cleared up by the solution of his doubts coming to him—worked out, as he believed, in that obscure and troubled interval.
According to Wendell Holmes, it is doubtful whether the persons who think most—that is, have most conscious thought pass through their minds—do most mental work. The tree you plant, he said, grows while you are sleeping. So with every new idea that is planted in the real thinker’s brain: it will be growing when he is least conscious of it. An idea in the brain is not a legend carved on a marble slab it is an impression made on a living tissue, which is the seat of active nutritive processes. “Shall the initials I carved in bark increase from year to year with the tree,” he asked, “and shall not my recorded thought develop into new forms and relations with my growing brain?”
Carpenter believed that the same mode of unconscious action had a large share in the process of invention, whether artistic or poetical, scientific or mechanical. When inventors were stopped by some difficulty, the -tangle was more likely to unravel itself if the attention were completely withdrawn from it, than by any amount of continued effort. They kept the desired result strongly before their attention in the first instance, just as we did when we tried to recollect something we had forgotten, by thinking of everything likely to lead to it; but, if they did not succeed, they then put the, problem aside for a time and gave their minds to something else. Later, just what they wanted “came into their heads.”
Somewhat similar views are also expressed by Professor Beaunis: the cerebral activity, at a given instant, represents a collection of sensations, ideas and memories; of those, some alone become sufficiently conscious to enable us to perceive them clearly and precisely, while the remainder pass without leaving durable traces. In a series of cerebral acts a certain number of intermediate links frequently escape us, and it is probable that the greater number of mental phenomena take place without our knowledge. Sensations to which we do not pay any attention may nevertheless excite cerebral action, and originate ideas and movements of which we afterwards become conscious. Our brain works with an activity of which we are unable to form an idea; and the facts of consciousness are only feeble fugitives from this mysterious work. Hypnotic phenomena are examples of this subconscious cerebration.
Delbceurs theory.—In the hypnotic state the mind is in part drawn aside from the life of relation, while at the same time it preserves its activity and power. Voluntary attention can be abstracted from the outer world and directed with full force upon a single point, and the hypnotic consciousness is thus able to put in movement machinery which the normal consciousness has lost sight of and ceased to regulate. It may be able to act, not only on the reflexes, but also on the vasomotor system, the unstriped muscles, the apparatus of secretion, etc. If a contrary opinion has prevailed, this is because observation has been exclusively directed to the normal exercise of the will. It can, however, in the hypnotic state, regulate movements which have become irregular, and assist in the repair of organic injuries. In a word, hypnosis does not depress but exalts the will, by permitting it to concentrate itself upon the point where disorder is threatened.
By this theory Delboeuf attempted to explain the mechanism of the inverse action of the moral on the physical, which was sometimes, in his opinion, almost, if not quite, equal to that of the physical on the moral.
The following is one of the most interesting of the experiments upon which he formed his conclusions. The subject, J--, was a healthy young woman, who had for several years been one of his servants. Delboeuf first explained what he wished to do and obtained her consent in the waking state; then he hypnotised her and extended her arms upon a table, heated red-hot a bar of iron, eight millimetres in diameter, and applied it to both of them, taking care that the burns should be identical in duration and extent, while at the .same time he suggested that she should feel pain in the left arm alone. The operation was performed at seven o’clock in the evening, and immediately afterwards each arm was covered with a bandage. During the night J-had pain in the left arm, but felt nothing in the right. Next morning Delboeuf removed the bandages; the right arm presented a defined eschar, the exact size of the iron, without inflammation or redness; on the left was a wound of about three centimetres in diameter, with inflamed blisters. Next day the left arm was much worse and J-- complained of acute pain; Delboeuf hypnotised her and, removed the pain by suggestion. The wound dried and inflammation rapidly disappeared.
In Delbceuf’s opinion the persistent belief that one is suffering from disease may ultimately cause disease; and, in the same way, the conviction that a morbid condition does not exist may contribute to its disappearance. He considered that the organic changes, in the case of J—, were not alone due to the burn itself, but were also partly caused by the patient’s consciousness of pain. The absence or presence of pain may, to a greater or lesser extent, influence vasomotor conditions. On the one hand, organic injury, unassociated with pain, may not be followed by congestion, inflammation or suppuration, while in an identical injury, accompanied by pain, these conditions may be present. The consciousness of pain, in addition to being sometimes responsible for morbid changes at the site of injury, may also help to spread them to other parts more or less remote, and thus, when pain is removed or relieved, this really means the disappearance or decrease of one of ihe factors of the organic malady.
Myers’ theory.—The clearest statement of the secondary consciousness theory was given by Frederic Myers; he suggested that the stream of consciousness in which we habitually live is not our only one. Possibly our habitual consciousness may be a mere selection from a multitude of thoughts and sensations, some at least equally conscious with those we empirically know. No primacy is granted by this theory to the ordinary waking self, except that amongst potential selves it appears the fittest to meet the needs of common life. As a rule, the waking self is remembered in hypnosis, but the hypnotic self is forgotten in the waking state; this destroys any claim of the primary memory to be the sole memory. The self below the -threshold of ordinary consciousness Myers termed the “subliminal consciousness,” and the empirical self of common experience the “supraliminal.” He held that to the subliminal consciousness and memory a far wider range, both of physiological and psychical activity, is open than to the supraliminal. The subliminal or hypnotic self can exercise over the nervous, vasomotor and circulatory systems a degree of control unparalleled in ordinary life.
Myers did not consider the subliminal self free from disease any more than the supraliminal; subliminal disturbances might arise and make themselves felt in the supraliminal being. He drew attention to the analogy which existed between the changes in the nervous, vasomotor and circulatory systems which occur in hypnosis and those presented by hysteria. Hysterical phenomena were produced by self-suggestions of an irrational and hurtful kind; they were diseases of the hypnotic substratum. Hypnosis was not a morbid state; it was the manifestation of a group of perfectly normal, but habitually subjacent powers, whose beneficent operation was seen in cures by therapeutic suggestion, its neutral operation in ordinary hypnotic experiment, and its diseased operation in the vast variety of self-suggested maladies.
According to Myers, works of genius, instead of being the result of an “infinite capacity for taking trouble,” were due to the intelligent action of a secondary consciousness. The labour was performed in a “subterranean workshop,” as it were, and then presented in completed form to the normal consciousness. The latter not only believed that it had done the work itself, but thought that this had been performed instantaneously.
This view practically reproduced that of Carpenter, as to the origin of what he termed invention. The incursion of the inspiration into the normal consciousness is often sudden and startling. While the subject of it undoubtedly believes that he—i.e. his ordinary waking self—originated it, he, at the same time, often acts as if it were something unconnected with his usual stream of consciousness. He feels that the inspiration may escape him, and with feverish haste tries to record it with pen, pencil, or brush.
The time-appreciation experiments, already cited, furnish one of the most striking instances of double consciousness with which I am acquainted. Further, the fact that nothing could be recalled by the ordinary hypnotic self regarding calculations which must inevitably have been made in some form of hypnosis, apparently showed that the subject possessed a third substratum of the personality. This view is also held by Professor William James, who wrote me as follows:—“Miss A—‘s case is most extraordinary. I agree entirely with you that a ‘third self’ must be involved, but what such a third self in its totality may signify, I haven’t the least idea.”
The solution of a dressmaking problem in the hypnotic state (page 123) is also an interesting example of the spontaneous action of the hypnotic self. Further, it illustrates experimentally the probable origin of the inspirations of genius and the way in which they reach the normal consciousness. Miss A , in her waking state, was striving after a result which she could not obtain, just as an inventor or artist might have done. Later, when she was again in the waking state, and thinking of something else, the solution of the problem came suddenly into her mind, She thought she had solved it there and then. Questioning in a subsequent hypnosis, however, quite accidentally revealed the following facts: (1) She had worked out the problem when profoundly hypnotised, her condition at the time apparently resembling deep sleep. (2) On awaking, she knew nothing of what she had done, and it was only some .hours afterwards that the uprush into ordinary consciousness occurred. (3) This uprush brought with it no knowledge of its origin, i.e. her waking self knew neither then nor afterwards whence the inspiration had been derived. (1) When again hypnotised, she recalled that the problem had been present in her mind during hypnosis. She remembered having solved it, and also that her primary consciousness was ignorant of the fact. Further, she knew the exact moment at which the uprush had taken place, and was evidently amused at the primary consciousness claiming as its own the work done by the secondary one.
Many cases of alternating consciousness have been observed in the non-hypnotised subject. As a rule this has, been associated with hysteria, or some other morbid condition. Sometimes the primary waking state has been morbid, the secondary one comparatively healthy. Of this class, Félida X., so ably described by Dr. Azarn, is the familiar example. At the age of fourteen and a half, Félida began to have attacks of sharp pain in both temples, followed by profound stupor which lasted ten minutes. She then spontaneously opened her eyes and appeared to awake, but in reality passed into a condition of secondary consciousness. This lasted for an hour or two, then the stupor and sleep reappeared, and she passed into her ordinary waking state the secondary state differed markedly from the primary one. In ordinary life she was a miserable, querulous, hysterical invalid, and remembered nothing of her secondary life, which was superior, both intellectually and physically, to the primary one. In the secondary state she was gay, active and -intelligent; and remembered not only all the events which had taken place in former attacks of secondary consciousness, but also those of normal life. As time went on, the frequency of the secondary attacks became greater and their duration longer, till, at the age of 24, they commenced to exceed the periods of normal life. From 24 to 27 years of age she remained in the normal state; then the secondary attacks became more and more frequent, and, finally, almost completely occupied her entire existence. In 1875, Félida, who was then 32 years of age, told Azam that she still suffered from attacks associated with loss of memory. These so-called “attacks,” however, were simply lapses from her secondary consciousness into her ordinary primary one. Thus, once when returning from a funeral, she felt her attack—i.e. her normal state—come on. She became unconscious for a few seconds without her companions noticing it; then awoke in the primary state, absolutely ignorant of the reason for which she was in a mourning coach. Accustomed to these accidents, she waited till, by skilful questions, she was able to grasp the situation, and thus none of those present knew what had happened. Later, she lost her sister-in-law after a, long illness, and, during a relapse into the normal state, knew nothing about the death, and only guessed at it from the fact that she was in mourning. In the earlier periods of her life the transition from one state to another was marked by a state of more or less prolonged unconsciousness. As time went on this diminished, and, finally, the loss of consciousness became so brief that Felida was able to disguise it. In 1887, when Azam published the account of the case, Felida was 44 years of age, and her lapses into normal life had become more and more rare.
The works and papers of Edmund Gurney, Frederic Myers, A. T. Myers, Pierre Janet, William James, and many others have rendered us familiar with the phenomena of secondary or multiple consciousness in hypnosis. Further, it can be experimentally demonstrated not only that the hypnotised subject possesses a secondary consciousness, which alternates with his primary one, but also that it is possible for the two to coexist and to manifest different phenomena simultaneously. For example, as we have seen, an individual may have his attention concentrated upon the act of reading aloud from a book, with which he was previously unacquainted, and, at the same instant, he may be writing automatically—as far as his primary consciousness is concerned—the result of a problem, suggested to him in hypnosis the moment before that state was terminated. The primary waking consciousness retains no recollection of the hypnotic suggestion; does not know that the secondary consciousness, after the hypnotic state has terminated, first solves the problem and then directs the motor acts which record it; and is also unconscious of the motor acts themselves.
The following is a summary of the phenomena which indicate the existence of a secondary consciousness:—
1. In normal life. (a) Involuntary. The sudden remembrance of a lost name when we have ceased to try to find it. Awaking at a fixed hour, as described by Dr. George Savage and Professor Marcus Hartog. The inspirations of genius, when these have occurred suddenly and spontaneously.
(b)Voluntary. The recovery of lost names and the like; when we deliberately turn away from the fruitless search and expect the secondary consciousness to perform the work for us. Cases like that of the bishop who made sketches of his sermons, put them out of his mind for a week or two, and called on his secondary consciousness to fill in the details for him. Complicated acts, such as playing the piano, performed while the attention is consciously and voluntarily directed into another channel.
In so-called hypnosis, and in conditions resembling it in essence, although no sleep-state has been developed. Here we have hypnotic and post-hypnotic appreciation of time, automatic writing, curative results obtained by influencing physical conditions which are beyond the control of the ordinary will—menstruation, secretion of milk, etc.
In disease. Cases of alternating personality, where the secondary one is on a lower mental and physical plane than the primary, fall under this head, but the commonest examples are the self-suggested maladies grouped under the head of hysteria.
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