Just What Is The Hypnotic State
Over history there have been a number of ideas about just what is the hypnotic state.
It was James Braid (1795-1861) who both destroyed the superstition of “animal magnetism” and constructed the preliminary foundations of scientific hypnotism. He demonstrated, namely, that no invisible “fluid” passes between the practician and his subject in trance, and that the entire phenomenon depends simply on suggestion. Nothing illustrates this achieve¬ment better than the following incident related by Bramwell:1 “One day Braid called on a London physician who used mesmerism in his practice. The latter told him that he had been obtaining wonderful results from the use of magnets, and offered to demonstrate this on a subject who was at that moment in a state of mesmeric trance. He asserted, for example, that when he touched the subject’s limbs with the magnet, this produced catalepsy; and, certainly, what he had predicted, happened. Braid, in his turn, stated that he had an instrument in his pocket which was quite as powerful, and offered to prove this by operating on the same subject. He then informed the doctor, in the subject’s presence, that when he put the instrument into her hands it would produce catalepsy; and it at once did so, just as in the former instance. Having terminated the catalepsy by means of passes, Braid placed the instrument in another position, and stated that it would now have the very reverse effect—that the subject would not be able to hold it, owing to paralysis of her muscles: this, as well as many other experiments, was successful. Braid then privately explained to the doctor the real nature and powers of his apparently magical instru¬ment. It was nothing more than his portmanteau-key and ring, and its varied powers were merely the result of the predictions which the subject had heard Braid make. The experiments, he said, simply illustrated the power of suggestion during hypnosis: neither magnet nor portmanteau-key played any real part in them.”
Mesmerism, in its original form, has long been dead. However, every once in a while some scholar attempts to resuscitate the notion of “animal magnetism,” though the phrase itself is no longer used. Only recently S. Alrutz and G. Wallenius propounded the theory of “nervous effluence” and that of “nervous radiation.” Fortunately, few intelligent people took these views seriously. But then again, the belief in some substances or rays passing between two minds, unfounded as it is, might come back. Superstitions, it seems, have many lives. I shall not be surprised if the next form of mesmerism will be connected with “telepathy,” which intrigues today many an ignorant and mystical mind.
We now know what a hypnotic strate isn’t. My next post will move forward on to what it is.Tags: alrutz, braid, hypnotic, magnetism, state, wallenius