THE laws governing nervous action, which we have endeavoured to elucidate in dealing with the physiology of hypnosis, may be studied in a variety of conditions other than that of hypnosis, and whilst the hypnotic state provides us with the best means of demonstrating the various reactions of the nervous system to stimuli, since we are able to alter the conditions of the experiment at will, yet many more or less abnormal conditions of the nervous system provide us in one way or another with examples of the results following a change of balance in the relative activity of the various neuronic groups. Regarded in this light they are the more interesting, as in many cases the altered balance is part of a normal process of more or less spontaneous origin within the cerebrum. Leaving out of consideration the technical treatment of suggestion, we may turn our attention to the mental processes in their normal and slightly abnormal everyday aspects. Our methods here cannot be experimental, nor can they be so definite, yet much may be learnt by a tentative comparison of these conditions. Here, then, we should distinguish the methods by which the brain trains itself. For the logical faculty of the brain is chiefly the result of training and education, and this logical faculty, even in the spheres where it should be most used, is always modified by the senses of emotion and affection; whilst, in the predisposition towards certain modes of thought and action, heredity plays an important part. The exercise of discrimination in the acceptance of statement and dogma comes to us as we recognise the necessity of such scepticism. During childhood this faculty does not exist, and statement and dogma are impressed on the infant mind without arousing any logical resistance; nor does the child possess any reasoning consciousness of possible error. The education of the child, unless it be peculiarly and exceptionally wise, tends to restrain, the action of free-will, and it may be doubted whether any mind is capable of altogether withdrawing itself from the bonds of training, circumstance, and environment, to which during its infancy it has been subjected. For the mind of great reflective and analytical power is apt to resent all ideas which appear to have been impressed on it by such means, and is, in consequence, attracted by views and theories of an opposite nature Thus, in the latter case, there is a prejudice against belief, and, in the former, there is a wish to believe; both impulses springing, not from an inherent power in the mind, but from an external impression.
Nor do men base their reasonable acts on any logical process; the object of the public speaker, of the religious preacher, of anyone who tries, with any success, to bring the majority round to his side, is not to put before his hearers or readers a course of philosophic thought in which no flaw is to be found, but, rather, to touch some common chord, and elicit for his doctrines a sympathetic predisposition and attention. Given this, his views do not meet With the calculating, fault-finding criticism of the cold opponent, but are received by minds already prepared to explain away difficulties and invent further theories of their own to -account for any apparent inconsistency or want of harmony; so that in reality our question with reference to a statement is not, Is it true? but, Does it coincide with our previous impressions?
Thus logic provides excuses and smoothes the way for, but does not primarily induce, the acceptance or rejection of any dogma.
Nevertheless, the very use of the logical faculty to justify a course of action, primarily instituted by the emotion, is an evidence of the importance given to reason; and, as the critical side of the mind is more cultivated, so will the emotional become more modified, the result being an intellectual harmony hard to realise and incapable of analysis.
Still, however subdued or modified this emotional part of the brain may be, it is never altogether absent, and indeed, if not in all, at least in the majority, it may be said to. predominate. The real and proper use of the logical faculty is plainly the pursuit of knowledge - a pursuit dictated by the love of truth. Thus not only is the belief or the disbelief of any proposition an act in which the logical and the emotional are combined, but the cause of such intellectual action is purely emotional. That these statements may seem rash and paradoxical is more than probable; yet it is only possible to avoid these conclusions if we are able to show that there are any whose acts and thoughts, in their origin and execution, are purely logical. We have, therefore, a mental state to consider which, in its normal condition, is the result of an elaborate balancing of ideas, sentiments, theories, and facts; neither the reason nor the emotion is capable of acting entirely independently of the other, they perform their functions in such subtle harmony that no single act can be described as purely reasonable, emotional, or ideational. It follows, then, that an impression made on the emotion by no means remains merely an emotional impression, but will lead the reasoning faculty to adapt the actions it dictates, to a harmony with the emotions aroused; an impression is not confined to the particular group which is primarily affected, but extends its influence over the whole brain. As we study the phenomena of what is termed suggestion, we see the importance of clearly appreciating this complex action of the brain, in virtue of which an impression received by a single sense is converted, by the persistent tendency of the brain to harmonise all its perceptions and emotions, into an impression received and endorsed by the whole of the reasoning and perceptive faculties.
Thus far we have only touched on the psychological aspect of this mental action; we have still to note that, if the brain be the organ of the mind, it is equally the organ of the animal functions. To its initiative is due every act of the body, and here the harmony of the human organism is more apparent. Illness of the body will result in illness of the mind. We have only to stay in a town where the climate is enervating to find that a corresponding lassitude of mind accompanies the enfeebling of the animal functions. We feel ill and go to the theatre or spend some time amidst a brilliant society, and forget, in the excitement and pleasure of the moment, our ills and pains, to find, when we cease from the enjoyment, that we no longer feel ill and depressed but well and happy. The degree of influence which is exerted over the body by the mind necessarily varies largely; in the person of dull, heavy, and stupid disposition its results are by no means striking; to the brilliant, vivacious disposition, where the mental instrument is of fine adjustment and delicate structure, we look for our best examples; whilst we learn much from the study of those abnormal cases, where the brain is over sensitive and more or less out of balance, and where, in consequence, results are obtained of a more striking character. From the results of a pathological condition we may learn something of the physiology of the normal. We may then consider the various states of the brain in some of the many aspects it presents under normal and under exceptional conditions.
Profound sleep is a suspension of the animal powers of sense and motion. In this state the consciousness is not excited by the transmission of sensation to the brain, nor by the transmission from the brain of nervous impulses. During the deepest -sleep the animal processes proceed uninterruptedly.
Pulsation, respiration, continue; while the unconsciousness of the sleeper remains apparently perfect he is capable of adapting himself to outside circumstances; thus, he will turn in his bed from weariness of the same posture; will rub a limb or any part of his body in order to allay irritation. Carpenter quotes a case showing the possible adaptation of actions to a definite purpose. “It is said that the Dacoits or professional thieves of India have been .known to steal a mattress from beneath a sleeper by taking advantage of this tendency. They begin by intensifying his sleep, by gently fanning his face, and then, when they judge him to be in a stale of profound insensibility, they gently tickle whatever part of his body may lie most conveniently for their purpose. The sleeper withdrawing himself from this irritation towards the edge of the mattress, the thief again fans his face for a while, and repeats the tickling, which causes a further movement. And at last the sleeper edges himself off the mattress, with which the thief makes away.”
Profound sleep is to be distinguished from coma by the fact that, in the one case, it can be ended by strong sense-impressions, whilst, in the other, the sleeper cannot be aroused; but there are transitional stages between the two. Sleep may partake of the nature of coma. During the heat of the battle of the Nile some of the powder boys fell asleep upon the deck; and during the attack upon Rangoon, in the early Burmese war, the captain of one of the steam frigates most actively engaged, worn out by the continued mental tension, fell asleep, and remained perfectly unconscious for two hours, within a yard of one of his largest guns, which was being worked energetically during the whole period.
Between the condition of. normal profound sleep and the normal waking state, there are many gradations.
The dreaming state seems to be one in which the sensory function of the neuronic groups is primarily though not always completely interfered with, but the inhibition of the higher intellectual functions has been more or less completely withdrawn; the motor functions are, however, still inhibited.
For the induction of sleep several concomitant conditions are necessary, the chief of which appear to be an exhaustion of potential energy in the brain cells, caused. by previous functional activity; a less and decreasing flow of blood through the brain; chemical changes in the tissue and brain due to the waste products caused by nervous action. Other conditions are more or less necessary, such as a comfortable posture, a peaceful state of the mind, the absence of external excitement, etc. Sometimes, however, the presence of external excitement is necessary; those accustomed to sleep in the midst of great noise find it difficult to sleep when there is perfect silence. Monotonous repetitions have a tendency to induce sleep; the unvarying accents of an unskilful lecturer are an instance. The transition from the waking to the sleeping state, and vice versa, may be sudden; but generally there is a noticeable gradation. Thus, the man who, when sitting in his arm-chair, “dozes,” is brought back to a partial degree of consciousness by his head falling forward. It is a common experience with many to wake up at any time they may have previously decided upon. It is possible to awake a heavy sleeper by means which would fail entirely with another-the means being incident to his calling or profession. Carpenter gives a graphic illustration of this:-”Most sleepers are awoke by the sound of their own. names uttered in a low tone, when it requires a much louder sound of a different description to produce any manifestation of consciousness: The same thing is seen in comatose states; a patient being often found capable of being momentarily aroused by shouting his name into his ear, when no other sound produces the least effect. Themedical practitioner, in his first profound sleep after a laborious day, is awakened by the first stroke of the clapper of his night-bell, or even by the movement of the bell-wire which precedes it. The telegraph clerk, however deep the repose in which be has lost the remembrance of his previous vigils, is recalled to activity by the faintest sound produced by the vibration of the signalling needle.”
Thus, in ordinary sleep, there is often present a peculiar receptivity for certain definite sense-impressions acquired by reason of the previous direction of the mind.
Dreaming sleep presents many noteworthy peculiarities. The consciousness of the external is completely absent; the mind is more or less active consciousness of this action is more or less present, and the subsequent remembrance of the dream is sometimes complete, sometimes hazy, and sometimes non-existent. All control over the current of thought is suspended. There are many instances where the sleeper in his dream has been able to complete calculations, write poems, compose music. Many have solved problems in the dreaming state, and have remembered sufficient of the train -of thought, on waking, to be able to put the solutions down on paper. These, however, are_ exceptional; and by far the most common dream is that in which the thoughts run on, from one circumstance to another, in an incongruous and ridiculous maze. In the dream the ridiculously impossible chain Of events excites neither wonder nor surprise. There is no operator to suggest a train of thought or an idea, and the active part of the brain seizes on the thoughts and events that engaged its attention during the waking state; if a hypnotist could by; delicate and skilful suggestion, provided the sleep were not too deep, establish rapport between the sleeper and himself, there seems great probability that the sleeper might in some cases be as susceptible to suggestion as any hypnotised subject. It is said that this experiment has been tried with success, and if this rapport could be clearly established in even a few eases, the demonstration of the essentially physiological characters of hypnosis would be complete. The exact point, however, is very difficult to hit upon. If the person be sleeping lightly the speech necessary in making the experiment would be likely to wake him; or, on the other hand, he would be insensible to any suggestion by reason of his deep sleep. In the few experiments of this nature that the writer has been able to make, he has met with some satisfactory but not conclusive results.
The various hypnotic states seem in some degree to find their counterparts in dreaming sleep. There seem to be in fact three phases of dreams: dreams occurring most frequently in deep sleep, which, in the waking state, are quite forgotten; dreams remembered on waking; dreams in which the sleep is so light that they are not only remembered, but their unreality is recognised during the dream itself.
For all these curious facts, we find striking analogies in the various degrees of hypnosis. There is a more intense form of dream-sleep-walking, or somnambulism-which differs from the lighter forms in the fact that the dreamer not only thinks but acts. The sensory functions are still interfered with, but inhibition has been withdrawn in these cases from both the intellectual and the motor functions of the neuronic groups affected. Here again there are many stages, from that of the one who mutters incoherent words to the deepest somnambulism. The somnambulist can clearly see his way as he passes by, but he does not see any persons who may be watching him; nor does he hear words that are addressed to him. He is awake, apparently, only lo perform the particular act which is in his mind. It is possible, however, for the somnambulist to hear words addressed to him if they have reference to the subject on which he is intent. The following, quoted from Carpenter, is a case in point:- “A young lady, when at school, frequently began to talk after having been asleep an hour or two; her ideas almost always ran upon the events of the previous day; and, if encouraged by leading questions addressed to her, she would give a very distinct and coherent account .of them, frequently disclosing her own peccadilloes and those of her schoolfellows, and expressing great penitence for the former, whilst she seemed to hesitate about making known the latter. To all ordinary sounds, however, she seemed perfectly insensible. A loud noise would awake her, but was never perceived in the sleep-talking state; and if the interlocutor addressed to her any questions or observations that did not fall in with her train of thought, they were completely disregarded.. By a little adroitness, however, she might be led to talk upon almost any subject-a transition being gradually made from one to another by means of leading questions.”
Perhaps the most important note of the somnambulic state is that nothing of the thought or action is remembered in the waking state, or is remembered only as a dream. Every particular, however, is often remembered on the next occasion. Another case is quoted, by Carpenter, proving clearly this fact. “A servant-maid, rather given to sleep. walking, missed one of her combs; and being unable to discover it, on making the most diligent search, charged the fellow-servant, who slept in her room, with having taken it. One morning, however, she awoke with the comb in her hand; so that there can be no doubt that she had put it away on a previous night, without preserving any waking remembrance of the occurrence; and that she had recovered it when the remembrance of its hiding-place was brought to her by the recurrence of the state in which it had been secreted.” This recurrence of memory coincides precisely with the features of the hypnotic state, where the subject on awaking will know nothing of the experiment, performed, but on the next hypnosis will remember them all. Finally, we may quote one of the most complete cases extant, recorded by Abercrombie on the authority of James Gregory. An officer who served in the expedition to Louisburgh in 1758 was subject to dreaming. The course of this individual’s dreams could be completely directed by whispering into his ear, especially if this was done by a friend with whose voice he was familiar, and his companions in the transport were in the constant habit of amusing themselves at his expense. At one time they conducted him through the whole progress of a quarrel, which ended in a duel; and when the parties were supposed to be met, a pistol was put into his hand, which he fired, and was awakened by the report. On another occasion they found him asleep on the top of a locker in the cabin, when they made him believe he had fallen overboard, and exhorted him to save himself by swimming. He immediately imitated all the motions of swimming. They then told him that a shark was pursuing him, and entreated him to dive for his life. He instantly did so, with such force as to throw himself entirely from the locker upon the cabin floor, by which he was much bruised, and of course awakened. After the landing of the army at Louisburgh, his friends found him one day asleep in his tent, and evidently much annoyed by the cannonading. They then made him believe that he was engaged, when he expressed great fear, and showed an evident disposition to run away. Against this they remonstrated, but at the same time increased his fears, by imitating the groans of the wounded and dying; and when he asked, as he often did, who was down, they named his particular friends. At last they told him that the man next to himself in the line had fallen, when he instantly sprang from his bed, and was aroused from his danger and his dream together by falling over the tent ropes. After these experiments he had no distinct recollection of his dreams, but only a confused feeling of oppression and fatigue, and he used to tell his friends that he was sure they had been playing some trick upon him. Liébeault and Bernheim have all along maintained the close relationship of natural and hypnotic sleep. Moll and Lloyd Tuckey, however, though they both adopt the methods and theories of Nancy, differ from this opinion. Tuckey says, “I cannot but think that Bernheim has somewhat exaggerated the closeness of the analogy between hypnotic and natural sleep,” and unquestionably in the lighter forms of hypnosis the resemblance is not, at first sight, great; but the fact of the subject’s expectancy and of the artificial induction of the state may serve to explain the increased powers of that state compared with light natural sleep; hypnosis, however, always presents phenomena differentiating it from sleep.
The influence of the “mind” upon the “body” to those who have studied at all the nervous system, seems no more wonderful than the influence which the body has over the mental state; but the sudden physical changes which occur in response to a mental impression, often occasion surprise from the fact that the cause is a power so intangible and so little understood as the mental processes. The nature and power of this influence vary greatly in individuals, but its universal presence is demonstrated. Willer said that “Ideas do not act merely on the motor apparatus by which they are expressed; they as frequently affect the organs of sense, which then present sensorial impressions or images of the ideas.” Herbert Spencer, by his own account, experienced the same thrill if he thought of seeing a slate rubbed by a sponge that actually seeing it produces. The well-known tale of the butcher who, when getting down a joint of meat, fel1 and was caught up by the hook, is another instance. The hook, as a matter of fact, only passed through his coat; but he imagined that he was literally hung up by the flesh, and experienced in consequence, the most acute agony. Hack Tuke relates a curious illustration of the influence of the imagination upon sensorial impression, which occured during the fire at the Crystal Palace in 1867. When the animals were destroyed by the fire; it was supposed that the chimpanzee had succeeded in escaping from his cage. Attracted to the roof with this expectation in full force, men saw the unhappy animal holding on to it, and writhing in agony to get astride one of the iron ribs. It need not be said that its struggles were watched by those below, with breathless suspense and “sickening dread.” But there was no animal whatever there, and all this feeling was thrown away upon a tattered piece of blind, so torn as to resemble to the eye of fancy the body, arms, and legs of an ape. Tuckey quotes a case recorded by Woodhouse Braine. The anaesthetist had placed the inhaling bag, without any ether or other anaesthetic, over the mouth and nose of the patient -a young girl- in order to familiarise her with the treatment. He was astonished to find that in a moment or two the patient . was becoming unconscious; and, soon, her eyes turned up and she was perfectly insensible, and a painful operation was performed without the use of any anaesthetic. “Imagination” is a proper term to use in such cases, if it be properly understood; but it must be remembered that the effect is as real and just as much a fact as if the effect had been produced by the ordinary means; and that the effect of “imagination” is not imaginary.
This is conclusively shown in the instances quoted, and, however wonderful or inexplicable it may seem to many, it cannot be denied that the imagination was sufficient to produce a state in which a most painful operation could be performed without in the least distressing the patient. But, in reality, the phenomenon is no more, inexplicable than the ordinary and more normal action of the nerves, and for this reason we may prefer the term “Ideation” to that of “Imagination,” since the latter word, by its frequent use, in many different senses, is easily capable of misconstruction, and is likely, therefore, to be misleading Ideation is the name given to a certain function by virtue of whose activity the stimuli received by the brain are brought into connection with and developed in harmony with the reactions of previous stimuli:
It is well-known that under circumstances of extreme fright acts have been performed which, under ordinary conditions, would never have been attempted. Men chased by bulls have jumped across streams, cleared hurdles, and accomplished athletic feats which, in their every-day life, they would have laughed at the idea of trying. Tuckey records the case of a young lady who had for months been confined to her bed, or couch, unable to walk a step, from apparent paralysis which defied all treatment. One morning news was brought that her brother, to whom she was devotedly attached, had fallen from his horse and was lying in a critical condition some miles away. She immediately got up, herself helped to saddle a horse, rode to the scene of the accident, and nursed her brother night and day for a week. The nervous shock had brought the will into operation, and she was permanently cured.
Many more instances might be adduced, but those quoted are sufficient to illustrate the influence of suggestion on the nervous, and consequently on the physical, system. It may be said, however, that the practice of suggestion in the case of weak-minded persons is no doubt of value, but that it is unlikely to be applicable to one possessed of a really healthy mind and body. In reality, every one is influenced by suggestion; in the case of one with no great strength of will, a word or an act may be sufficient to attain the purpose, whilst a healthy mind will generally only respond to a more hidden and a more subtle impulse. What is it that so imbues the mind of the Conservative with his principles, that he completely fails to appreciate the qualities and doctrines of his opponents? And why such contempt in the Liberal for the ideas of Conservatism?
Training, education, environment, in the large majority of cases, account for the political and other views of men. All these are but forms of suggestion, emphasised, possibility, at no given time with any great insistence, but, year by year, engrafted on the mind.
The influence which a learned and patient scholar will exert over many of his listeners and readers is of a similar nature. The most successful leaders of thought are those who best know how to “suggest” by a subtle combination of the tentative and the dogmatic.
Thus, there seems to be in the human organism a dual nervous action, the one “automatic” and intuitive, the other rational, volitional, and deliberative.1 They may act separately, or together, as circumstances demand. Generally, walking, seeing, hearing are automatic actions in which no exercise of the will is necessary; nor can it be said that, though the action of the will is not felt, it may, nevertheless, be necessary to, and acting in, these “automatic” acts. Such an hypothesis is not applicable to the involuntary movements of the hand or arm, often made on the impulse of the moment, to he checked the next moment by the action of the reasoning and deliberative centres; and it is not possible to allow of any volitional act in the performance of the organic function of respiration. Whilst the action of these two parts of the nervous system-the automatic and the rationalist frequently distinct, it is almost equally common for the two to be working in harmony, leading thereby to increased functional power.
By the concentration of the attention and the will, a small or distant object can be discerned, which otherwise would be indistinct; and similarly, sound may be heard by concentration or expectant attention, which would otherwise escape the ear. Many, when working at some difficult problem, are accustomed to close their eyes for several moments, and this instinctive action leads to greater power in the other centres.
It is well known that the constant use of any one sense by such concentration will lead to increased automatic function of that sense. The extraordinary extent to which these powers may be increased in abnormal conditions of the waking state is exemplified by the fine senses of touch and hearing developed in the blind. Au interesting case of increased faculties in such an one has been communicated to the writer by a lady. The blind man is an adept organist; by the difference of sound, which his footstep makes, he can tell when he is approaching a tree or a lamp-post, and can distinguish between them. In the same way he will distinguish between a house, a wall, or railings. By the sound of his voice he knows whether the door of a room be open or shut. The senses of touch and smell are developed to a similar extent, till it would seem that he could hardly do more had he the use of his sight.
Intellectual affections are capable of producing sensation-increasing the sensation to an abnormal degree, or suspending it altogether. Instances of the production, increase, or suspension of sensation are to be found in large numbers. All three may occur in the same individual at different times, but the individual is more often found to be subject to only one of these intellectual influences. -
Braid records an experiment bearing on this point. ile requested four gentlemen in good health to lay their arms on a table with the palm of the hand upwards. Each was to look at his palm for a few minutes with fixed attention, and watch the result. In about five minutes the first, a member of the Royal Academy, stated that he felt a sensation of great cold in the hand; another, who was an author of note, said that for some time he thought nothing was going to happen, but at last he experienced a darting, pricking sensation in the palm of the hand, as if electric sparks were being drawn from it; the third gentleman, who had been mayor of a large borough, said that he felt a very uncomfortable sensation of heat come over his hand; the fourth, secretary to an important association, had become rigidly cataleptic, his arm being firmly fixed to the table.
The noticeable point about this experiment is that Braid made no suggestion that there should be any sensation, and in trying experiments of this kind the writer has frequently sought to find some connection between the intellectual disposition of the individual and the nature of the sensation experienced. In young women of good mental capacity and of sensitive disposition, the arm will most frequently become cataleptic; in men and women of brilliant capacity, the arm generally becomes rigid, or they feel a sensation often described as “pricking,” but more often as “.very strange “; whilst in those of somewhat lower mental order, but of a more even temperament, heat or cold is most commonly felt. The explanation seems to lie in the fact that the blood supply of a part will be increased if attention is devoted to that part.
John Hunter said, “I am confident that I can fix my attention to any part until I have a sensation in that part.” The fact of this increased flow of the blood does not, however, explain the varying nature of the sensations, nor the catalepsy, and it is probable that the sense of constriction, due to the excess of blood, acts as ‘a suggestion per se in persons of “electric” or sensitive nature, resulting in partial or complete inhibition of the motor impulses. This seems the only possible explanation of the catalepsy; but there are other explanations applicable to the simple sensation. The constant changes which take place in the tissues are unobserved by the individual in normal. circumstances; but it is not impossible that on the attention being directed to a particular part, those processes may, to a certain extent, affect the consciousness, and thus form an inherent suggestion. Reichenbach imagined he had discovered a new power which he termed the “Odic” force. This power he found to proceed from magnets, and he elaborated his theories with much eloquence. Braid investigated these discoveries, and found that, drawing a magnet or other object from the wrist to the point of the fingers produced nearly always some effect. The persons would experience a change of temperature, tingling, creeping, pricking, etc., whilst when he drew the magnet from the fingers to the wrist, it was generally followed by a change of sensation from the altered current of ideas suggested by the reversed motion. In order to satisfy himself that these were all due entirely to suggestion, Braid requested his patients to look aside, or interposed a screen, and if they were requested to describe their sensations during the repetition of the processes, similar symptoms were realised when there was nothing done beyond watching them and noting their responses. Braid quotes another case. The patient was a lady, whom he placed in a dark room, he then requested her to look at the poles of a powerful horse-shoe magnet; and to describe what she saw. After some time she declared that she saw nothing. He then told her to look attentively and she would see fire come out of it. She soon saw sparks, and after a little time, in great numbers. The trunk which contained the magnet was then closed, but she still saw the sparks. Making the suggestion to her, by-leading questions, Braid asked her to describe what she saw from another part of the room, where there was nothing but bare walls, when she described the most brilliant coruscations.
Wigan records a striking instance which occurred within his own experience. He was attending a soire given in Paris by M. Bellart, shortly after the execution of Marshal Ney, which had created a profound impression at the time. On the arrival of a visitor, K Maréchal aîné, he was announced as Maréchal Ney. Wigan said that an electric shudder ran through the company, and the resemblance of the prince was, for a moment, as perfect to his eyes as if it had been the reality. With reference to this instance, as a confirmation of the fact that whilst due to the imagination, the illusion is not in the ordinary sense imaginative, Herbert Spencer may be quoted:-”Those vivid states of consciousness which we know as sensations, accompany direct, and therefore strong, excitations of nerve centres; while the faint states of consciousness which we know as remembered sensations, or ideas of sensations, accompany indirect, and therefore weak, excitation of the same nerve-centres.” John Hunter said that “every part of the body sympathises with the mind, for whatever affects the mind, the body is affected in proportion.”
Every human passion is betrayed in action when, apparently, such action is quite unnecessary. At a public meeting, where keen interest is aroused, the various emotions are depicted on the faces of the audience. The movements made in private conversation, often quite involuntary, and always in harmony with the thoughts and utterances of the speaker, betray to an extent frequently unappreciated, the subtle inner-action of the various neuronic groups. Not only does the intellect possess and use an enormous influence over the sensations and voluntary actions, but the organic functions are equally affected by it. One of the most curious instances recorded is that of a medical student in Paris, who was being initiated into the mystic rites of a Masonic society. His eyes were bandaged, a ligature bound round his arm, and the usual preparations made to bleed him. When a pretence of opening the vein was made, a, stream of water was spurted into a bowl, the sound of which resembled that of the flow of blood which the student was anticipating. The consequence was that in a few moments he became pale, and before long fainted away. Perhaps the strongest and most patent testimony of the Influence of the “Mind” on the “Body” is to be found in hysterical cases.
An hysterical patient will suddenly take to her bed and declare she has no feeling and no power in her arms or legs. The most careful examination shows that she is speaking the truth. Pins may be thrust into the limb, it may be punctured or scorched, and yet the patient neither winces nor betrays the least sign of pain. Analogies of such a state are to be found in ordinary life; when, by excitement or some disturbing influence, the brain is working at such a high strain as to be beyond its inhibitory and volitional control. Soldiers engaged in a furious battle have been seriously wounded and have fought on, unconscious of either pain or injury, and, still more frequently, in the midst of a game an injury has been received, of which the player is conscious, but, till his excitement has cooled down, he has not had the power to locate the injury. The extraordinary treatment to which hysterical persons can be subjected without experiencing any ill effects, is remarkable. Montgeron relates that many women who visited the tomb of the Abbe Paris gave themselves blows with instruments in such a manner that the sharp points were forced into the flesh. Fouilion states that another had herself hung up by the heels with the head downwards, and remained in that position three quarters of an hour. One day, as she lay extended on her bed, two men who held a cloth under her back, raised her up and threw her forward two thousand four hundred times, while two other persons placed in front, thrust her back. Another day, four men, having taken hold of her by the extremities, began to pull her, each with all his strength, and she was thus dragged in different directions for the space of some minutes. She caused herself to be tied as she lay on the table, her arms crossed behind her back, and her legs flexed to their fullest extent, and, while six men struck her without ceasing, a seventh choked her. After this she remained insensible for some time, and her tongue, inflamed and discoloured, hung far out of her mouth. Another insisted upon receiving a hundred blows upon the abdomen with a hand-iron, and these were so heavy that they shook the wall against which she was placed, and upon one occasion a breach in it was caused at the twenty-fifth blow.
A physician, hearing of these things, insisted that they could not be true, as it was physically impossible that the skin, the flesh, the bones and the internal organs, could resist such violence. He was told to come and verify the facts. He hastened to do so, and, scarcely believing his eyes, he begged to be allowed to administer the blows. A strong iron instrument, sharp at one end, was put into his hands; be struck with all his might and thrust it deep into the flesh, but the victim laughed at his efforts, and remarked that his blows only did her good.
Besides these, Dr Hammond relates some cases of his own experience. A young woman, a patient in the wards of the Pennsylvania Hospital, began a series of movements, which consisted in bending her body backwards till it formed an arch, her heels and head alone resting on the bed, and then suddenly straightening herself out, she would fall heavily. Instantly the arch was formed again; again she fell; and this process was kept up with inconceivable rapidity for several hours every day. In another instance, a lady, during an attack of hysterical paroxysms to which she was liable, beat her head with such violence against a lath and plaster partition, that she made a hole in it, while little or no injury was inflicted on herself. In another, a girl, eighteen years of age, lay down on the floor and made all the members of her family stand on her in turn. A lady, in order that she might resemble those martyrs who suffered on the rack, tied her wrists with a stout cord, mounted a step-ladder, fastened the cord to a hook in the wall, and jumping from the ladder succeeded in dislocating her shoulder. Another lady rigidly closed her mouth, and refused to open it either to take food or to speak for over forty-eight hours. No force, that it was safe to use, could overcome the contraction of her muscles, and no persuasion induce her to relax them. She only yielded to an irresistible impulse to talk, and to a degree of hunger that human nature could no longer endure.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries several convents in Europe were afflicted with an epidemic of hysteria. Such a disease is greatly increased by virtue of the imitative faculty, and many nuns were suffering from fearful convulsions and cataleptic paroxysms. The nuns of Loudon are a notable case. In these times “demoniacal possession” was believed to be of not infrequent occurrence, and, in fact, many of the nuns in their hysterical attacks accused persons of bewitching them.
The nature of the phenomena is shown in a series of curious questions put to the University of Montpellier by Fr. Santerre.
1. Whether the bending, bowing, and removing of the body, the head touching sometimes the soles of the feet, with other contortions and strange postures, are a good sign of possession?
2. Whether the quickness of the motion of the head forwards and backwards, bringing it to the back and the breast, be an infallible mark of possession?
3. Whether a sudden swelling of the tongue, the throat, and the face, and the sudden alteration of the colour, are certain marks of possession?
4. Whether dullness and senselessness, or the privation of sense, even to be pinched and pricked without complaining, without stirring, and even without changing colour, are certain marks of possession?
5. Whether the immobility of the whole body which happens to the pretended possessed, by the command of their exorcists during and in the middle of the strongest agitations, be a certain sign of a truly diabolical possession?
6. Whether the yelping or barking like that of a dog, in the breast rather than in the throat, be a mark of possession?
7. Whether a fixed, steady look upon some object, without moving the eye on either side, be a good mark of possession?
8. Whether the answers that the pretended possessed made in French, to some questions that are put to them in Latin, are a good mark of possession?
9. Whether to vomit such things as people have swallowed be a sign of possession?
10. Whether the prickings of a lancet upon divers parts of the body, without blood issuing thence, are a certain mark of possession?
In addition to these cases on the Continent, a similar form of hysteria was prevalent in America, instances of which Hammond records. They, however, did not last long. Mather writes that “Experience showed that the more these were apprehended the more were still afflicted by Satan, and the number of confessions increasing did but increase the number of the accused; and the executing of some made way for the apprehending of others. For still the afflicted complained of being tormented by new objects, as the former were removed. So that those who were concerned grew amazed at the number and quality of the persons accused, and feared that Satan by his wiles bad enwrapped innocent persons under the imputation of that crime; and at last it was evidently seen that there must be a stop put, or the generation of the children of God would fall under that condemnation. Henceforth, therefore, the juries generally acquitted such as were tried, fearing they had gone too far before, and Sir William Phips, the governor, reprieved all that were condemned, even the confessors as well as others.”
The striking fact is, that, in the majority of these cases, the mental faculties are in other ways unimpaired. Many of these epileptics and convulsionaires were even brilliant in their gifts and conversation. The altered balance of inhibition explains this.
Slight reference has already been made to the influence which powerful speakers or learned scholars may exert over the minds of those who are listening to them; such influence, so far from indicating any lack of power or strength in the hearer, may be an evidence of the hearer’s fine perception and delicate taste. Indeed, without the constant interaction which is the result of human thought, life would be nothing beyond existence. The suggestion, however, often hidden under this power or influence, may frequently bear with such force on persons as to entirely overcome the restraining action. They become imbued with an idea, which is the ruling passion, and no exterior circumstances can affect, or will be noticed, by them.
This state may occur in men and women of high mental calibre, and in fact is more likely to occur in such. It is no infrequent experience to hear persons say that, in listening to some performance of music or a drama at the theatre, for the time they quite “lost themselves,” and one has only to watch their countenance at such a time to find its conclusive verification. External circumstances have lost all hold of them. They are entirely dominated by the idea which has been presented to them; external consciousness is absent, and, often shaking, or some other more or less violent means, has to be resorted to in order to bring them back, once more, into touch with the outer world. One has only to study many of the convulsive religious movements to notice this influence exerted to such an extent that the devotees are absolutely beyond all reason and control. In India it is well known that there are many sects -who, by the practice of strange arts, reduce themselves to conditions in which they are able to perform feats that fill the onlooker with amazement. The Fakirs and others have filled the spectator with wonder and Se by many of their performances; though, by the testimony of critical observers, it seems as if with regard to the Fakir, the human tendency to exaggerate is responsible for some of the tales told of them. The Aissouans are a powerful religious sect in Morocco, and some of them were to be seen performing in London recently.
“These Aissouans bring on themselves a sort of delirium by dances and the repetition of special litanies chanted in chorus and by inhaling-perfume§ of a particular quality, the whole being accompanied by music of a strange and weird character. At first they all sit round, looking grave and with an air of thorough conviction. Each Aissouan performs in his turn; and then after a harum-scarum dance, without rhyme or rhythm, followed by disorderly leaps and bounds, they all howl and the music ceases. Each actor seems to feel a divine inspiration, and to be ready to dare and accomplish anything. These Aissouans, one by one, exhibited such specimens as the above of the manners of their country, before a crowd of spectators. One of them might be seen eating the thorny, leathery leaves of the cactus; another piercing his cheeks, tongue, neck, and arms, with long thick iron needles attached to heavy balls; another would greedily devour scorpions and live snakes; another would crack with his teeth, apparently with great gusto, sharp fragments of glass; a head man of the tribe licked a red-hot shovel and all this was repeated over and over again.
“The Aissouan will tear and lacerate his skin, scarcely making the blood run, and, while thus torturing himself, be will leap, bound, howl, and then salute his companions on the forehead and sit down gravely. He will let his stomach be pierced with long nails driven in with a mallet by one of his co-religionists; and not content with crunching glass with his jaws, and devouring it, he will swallow whole pebbles, devour living vipers, or make them bite with undisguised satisfaction.”
These, however, are probably forms of hypnosis induced by the fatigue or the drugs they inhale. Tuckey says that they are hypnotised by their priest before the performance.
There are many instances in modern times, in England, of the power of unhealthy suggestion on persons of morbid intellect. In this connection the diary of Wesley is interesting.
There are many subtle forms of suggestion which have not been touched in this chapter, but whichare curious and interesting as examples of its action in -the normal and perfectly healthy waking state. Dr Ochorowicz relates an experiment which is interesting.
“My friend P., a man no less absent-minded than he is keen of intellect, was playing chess in a neighbouring room. Others of us were talking near the door. I had made the remark that it was my friend’s habit, when he paid closest attention to the game, to whistle an air from “Madame Angot.” I was about to accompany him by beating time on the table; but this time he whistled something else-the march from Le Prophete. “Listen,” said I to my associates; we are going to play a trick upon P. We will mentally order him to pass from ‘Le Prophete’ to ‘La Fille de Madame Angot.’
“First I began to drum the march; then, profiting by some notes common to both, I passed quickly to the quicker and more staccato measure of my friend’s favourite air. P. on his part also suddenly changed the air, and began to whistle ‘Madame Angot.’ Everyone burst out laughing. My friend was too much absorbed in a check to the queen to notice anything. “Let us begin again,” said I, “and go back to ‘Le Prophéte.’”
“And straightway we had Meyerbeer once more with a special fugue.”
In the same way we could select almost innumerable instances of the varieties of nervous action, altered in a greater or less degree by the especial circumstances of the moment; but in all these conditions we have a more or less incomplete illustration of the results due to an excess of action in certain neuronic groups, concomitant with a deficiency of action in Other groups. Moreover, we are able in each case to accurately classify the condition in a definitely scientific manner by carefully studying the phenomena and examining the precise alterations present; but this is beyond our present scope, and we have sought simply to briefly describe some of the more interesting phenomena produced by a more or less spontaneous alteration in the relative balance of the nervous functions.
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