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202
HYPNOTISM


February 1628, and who attracted great attention in England by his supposed power of curing the king's evil, or scrofula. Many of the most distinguished scientific and theological men of the day, such as Robert Boyle and R. Cudworth, witnessed and attested the cures supposed to be effected by Greatrakes, and thousands of sufferers crowded to him from all parts of the kingdom. About the middle of the 18th century John Joseph Gassner, a Roman Catholic priest in Swabia, took up the notion that the majority of diseases arose from demoniacal possession, and could only be cured by exorcism. His method was undoubtedly similar to that afterwards followed by Mesmer and others, and he had an extraordinary influence over the nervous systems of his patients. Gassner, however, believed his power to be altogether supernatural.

But it was not until the latter part of the 18th century that the doctrine of a magnetic fluid excited great popular interest and became the subject of fierce controversy in the scientific world. F. A. Mesmer (q.'v.), a physician of Vienna, was largely instrumental in bringing the doctrine into prominence. He developed it by postulating a specialized variety of magnetic fluid which he called animal magnetism; and he claimed to'be able to cure many diseases by means of this animal magnetism, teaching, also, that it may be imparted to and stored up in inert objects, which are thereby rendered potent to cure disease. It would seem that Mesmer himself was not acquainted with the artificial somnambulism which for nearly a century was called mesmeric or magnetic sleep, and which is now familiar as hypnosis of a well-marked degree. It was observed and described about the year 1780 by the marquis de Puységur, a disciple of Mesmer, who showed that, while subjects were in this state, not only could some of their diseases be cured, but also their movements could be controlled by the “ magnetize, ” and that they usually remembered nothing of the events of the period of sleep when restored to normal consciousness. These are three of the most important features of hypnosis, and the modern study of hypnotism may therefore be said to have been initiated at this date by Puységur. For, though it is probable that this state had often been induced by the earlier magnetises, they had not recognized that the peculiar behaviour of their patients resulted from their being plunged into this artificial sleep, but had attributed all the symptoms they observed to the direct physical action of external agents upon the patients.

The success of Mesmer and his disciples, especially great in the fashionable world, led to the appointment in Paris of a royal commission for the investigation of their claims. The commission, which included men of great eminence, notably A. L. Lavoisier and Benjamin Franklin, reported in the year 1784 that it could not accept the evidence for the existence of the magnetic fluid; but it did not express an opinion as to the reality of the cures said to be effected by its means, nor as to the nature of the magnetic sleep. This report and the social upheavals of the following years seem to have abolished the public interest in “ animal magnetism " for the space of one generation; after which Alexandre Bertrand, a Parisian physician, revived it by his acute investigations and interpretations of the phenomena. Bertrand was the first to give an explanation of the facts of the kind that is now generally accepted. He exhibited the affinity of the “ magnetic sleep ” to ordinary somnambulism, and he taught that the peculiar effects are to be regarded as due to the suggestions of the operator working themselves out in the mind and body of the “ magnetized ” subject, i.e. he regarded the influence of the magnetize as exerted in the first instance on the mind of the subject and only indirectly through the mind upon the body. Shortly after this revival of public interest, namely in the year 18 31, a committee of the Academy of Medicine of Paris reported favourably upon “ magnetism” as a therapeutic agency, and before many years had elapsed it was extensively practised by the physicians of all European countries, with few exceptions, of which England was the most notable. Most of the practitioners of this period adhered to the doctrine of the magnetic fluid emanating from the operator to his patient, and the acceptance of this doctrine was commonly combined with belief in phrenology, astrology and the influence of metals and magnets, externally applied, in curing disease and in producing a variety of strange sensations and other affections of the mind. These beliefs, claiming to rest upon carefully observed facts, were given a new elaboration and a more imposing claim to be scientifically established by the doctrine of odylic force propounded by Baron Karl v'on Reichenbach. In this mass of ill-based assertion and belief the valuable truths of “ animal magnetism ” and the psychological explanations of them given by Bertrand were swamped and well-nigh lost sight of. For it was this seemingly inseparable association between the facts of hypnotism and these bizarre practices and baseless beliefs that blinded the larger and more sober part of the scientific world, and led them persistently to assert that all this group of alleged phenomena was a mass of quackery, fraud and superstition. And the fact that magnetism was practised for pecuniary gain, often in a shameless manner, by exponents who claimed to cure by its means every conceivable ill, rendered this attitude on the part of the medical profession inevitable and perhaps excusable, though not justifiable. It was owing to this baleful association that John Elliotson, one of the leading London physicians of that time, who became an ardent advocate of “ magnetism ” and who founded and edited the Zoist in the interests of the subject, was driven out of the profession. This association may perhaps be held, also, to excuse the hostile attitude of the medical profession towards James Esdaile, a surgeon, who, practising in a government hospital in Calcutta among the natives of India, performed many major operations, such as the amputation of limbs, painlessly and with the most excellent results by aid of the “ magnetic ” sleep. For both Elliotson and Esdaile, though honourable practitioners, accepted the doctrine of the “ magnetic” fluid and many of the erroneous beliefs that commonly were bound up with it.

In 1841 James- Braid, a surgeon of Manchester, .rediscovered independently Bertrand's physiological and psychological explanations of the facts, carried them further, and placed “ hypnotism, ” as he'named the study, on a sound basis. Braid showed that subjects in “ magnetic ” sleep, far from being in a profoundly insensitive condition, are often abnormally susceptible to impressions on the senses, and showed that many of the peculiarities of their behaviour were due to suggestions, made verbally or otherwise, but unintentionally, by the operator or by onlookers.

It seems, on looking back on the history of hypnotism, that at this time it was in a fair way to secure general recognition as a most interesting subject of psychological study and a valuable addition to the resources of the physician. But it was destined once more to be denied its rights by official science and to fall back into disrepute. This was due to the coincidence about the year 1848 of two events of some importance, namely-the 'discovery of the anaesthetic properties of chloroform and the sudden rise of modern spiritualism. The former afforded a very convenient substitute for the most obvious practical application of hypnotism, " the production of anaesthesia during surgical operations; the latter involved it once more in a mass of fraud and superstition, and, for the popular mind, drove it back to the region of the marvellous, the supernatural and the dangerous, made it, in fact, once more a branch of the black art. From this time onward there took place a gradual differentiation of the “ animal magnetism ” of the 18th century into two diverging branches, hypnotism and spiritualism, two branches which, however, are not yet entirely separated and, perhaps, never will be. At the same time the original system of “ animal magnetism ” has lived on in an enfeebled condition and is now very nearly, though not quite, extinct.

In the development of hypnotism since the time of Braid we may distinguish three lines, the physiological, the psychological and the pathological. The last may be dismissed in at few words. Its principal representative was I. M. Charcot, who taught at the Salpétriére in Paris that hypnosis is essentially a symptom of a morbid condition of 'hysteria or hystero-epilepsy. This

doctrine, which, owing to the great repute enjoyed by Charcot,