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lar forces or their paroxysmic exaltation, bringing into
play all the vital energies, for the struggle against mi-
crobes or the reparation of tissues impaired by morbid
causes, etc.

Here too we border upon mystery, or, more exactly,
upon the enigma of suggestion. For one cannot help
but believe that behind what is seen in suggestion —
the word of him who suggested the idea and the faith of
him who accepts it — there is also that which is not
seen: that is to say, the unknown state of the subcon-
sciousness and of the nervous system of the subject,
perhaps even some unknown influence emanating from
the operator which he himself does not doubt.

It is true, as we have remarked above, that it is
not important, for the practical use of suggestion, that
we know or that we ignore its real nature. If, how-
ever, it be once admitted — and a great number of facts
appear to authorize this — that suggestion brings to
light in human beings unsuspected powers, we cannot see
why there should be imposed a priori a limit to that
which it is possible to expect of suggestion, and why,
consequently, the savants do not try to obtain by it the
most improbable effects. Experiment alone can teach


us a posteriori that of which suggestion is or is not

Undoubtedly it is for this reason that the early mes-
merists suggested to their subjects to perceive things
situated outside of the normal field of action of their
senses, claiming thus to produce the state of second
sight in them; without, however, affirming that their
suggestion did anything but reveal a natural, preexist-
ent faculty, in itself independent of suggestion.

Whatever the opinion of the different schools may
be upon this particular point it does not seem to us
justifiable to confine in practise the use of suggestion
to a certain category of effects. Experimentation
alone can reveal its true limits.


It is necessary for us, meanwhile, to examine the
value of suggestion as a principle of explanation for all
this ensemble of phenomena which we designate as
parapsychic. For, in saying that suggestion is the key
to all these phenomena, the exclusive partisans of sug-
gestion mean, in our opinion, that all of the phenomena
of this order which are real must be able to be explained
by suggestion, and, inversely, all those that suggestion
does not explain must be considered as inexistent and

We wish to oppose to this assertion three objections:

First: In an order of researches so difficult and so

little advanced, the pretension to explain, to theorize,

to carry everything back to a unique principle, is in no

way scientific.


A more urgent task imposes itself : to observe a con-
tinually increasing number of facts, in conditions of
certainty and exactitude as rigorous as possible; to
compare, classify, analyze, and submit them, in a word,
to all the processes of the scientific method, in an en-
deavor to discover their laws.

It is not a paradox but a simple statement of the
truth to claim that the real scientific attitude consists
in being indifferent to the desire for explanation, while
confining one's energies to determining the phenomena.

It is true that the hypothesis intervenes necessarily
in this research; but it is then the experimental hypothe-
sis, whose aim is not to explain the facts and rapports
already known, but rather to discover new facts and
new rapports. The theoretical hypothesis, on the con-
trary — that which has for its aim the coordination and
integration of the results acquired — is placed at the
end of the operations of the method, not in the course
of the experiment being made but when the researches
are at an end. Can we truly believe that the study of
the parapsychic phenomena has reached this point,

Second: Any attempt to explain an ensemble of
facts as numerous and as varied as those we are now
discussing strikes itself against the difficulty resulting
from the plurality of the inter-substitution of the causes.
The exclusive partizans of suggestion reason invariably
as if the same phenomenon were always produced by
the same cause. " It is not true," said Stuart Mill,
" that the same phenomenon is invariably produced by
the same cause : the effect may come sometimes from A,


sometimes from B. There are often many independent
ways in which the same phenomenon may have origi-
nated. Many causes may produce mechanical mo-
tion; many causes may produce certain species of sen-
sations; and many others produce death. A given
effect can really be produced by a certain cause, and
nevertheless be perfectly capable of being produced
without it."

Thus, while suggestion produces certain parapsychic
phenomena — as, for example, somnambulism — it
does not follow ipso facto that these same phenomena
cannot be produced by any other cause than suggestion.

Third: It is admitted unquestionably that a prin-
ciple of explanation is all the more satisfactory, all the
more sure, the clearer it is, the more luminous, or, to
speak without metaphor, the less of the unknown it
contains. Now, the analysis of suggestion as made
above, either as a fact or as an operative process, dem-
onstrates that there exist few facts so obscure and in
which the part of the unknown is so great. To explain
a certain parapsychic fact by suggestion is usually to
explain obscarum per obscurum, if not per obscurins.

All these objections, which appear to be very great if
applied to the theoretical suggestion-hypothesis, would
singularly lose their force were they to aim at the ex-
perimental suggestion-hypothesis; for, in this case, it
no longer would be a question of an explanation which
is given to complete and define a whole order of phe-
nomena, but of a simple temporary interpretation of a
certain particular phenomenon or a certain particular
group of phenomena. Even if false, it carries its cor-


rective, for it contains in itself the project and the plan
of an experimentation by which it can immediately be
confirmed or disproved.

It does not seem to us that, up to the present time,
suggestionists have thought — with rare exceptions —
of supporting their affirmations and their deductions by
proofs, and especially by experimental counterproofs.
Their method consists, in general, in showing that sug-
gestion can produce — and consequently explain —
all the parapsychic phenomena. They conclude that it
is suggestion which produces and explains the phenom-
ena in every case, even where it is impossible to prove
that it may be present and active. When it can be
proved that suggestion is certainly absent and has not
been able to act in any way, then it must be concluded,
according to them, that the phenomena are in reality
imaginary, illusory — in a word, unscientific.

First of all, let us consider suggestion in itself:
Does it carry its own explanation?

" Yes," says the suggestionists; " for it is explained
by suggestibility, which is natural to every human brain v -
On the one hand, every human being is made to believe
what is said to him, and, on the other hand, it is suffi-
cient for him to believe in order to be made to realize
his belief, either in the field of perception or in that of

Thus suggestion is explained theoretically; and in
order to verify the theory experimentally, the sugges-
tionists are content to show that, by using the word to
bring the credulity of a subject into play, he is effectively
made to see or to do the most improbable things. This
manner of reasoning and experimenting is that which


Bacon called an induction " per enumerationem sim-
plicem, ubi non reperitur instantia contradictoria " —
induction by simple enumeration, where they do not give
themselves the trouble to seek contradictory facts.

It is true that there are people who are suggestioned
with the greatest ease by the word of others. But
does this signify that they are always and necessarily
people of a credulous nature? Are there not also
people — as in the case of Laverdant — who are in
no way credulous, and upon whom, however, suggestion
acts in spite of their incredulity? Inversely, are there
not people who, believing in the all-power of sugges-
tion, ardently desirous of being suggestioned, do not
succeed, nevertheless, in realizing the suggestions that
are made upon them?

It is these negative cases — which savants too often
believe themselves able to be rid of by qualifying as
exceptional — which are the really significant and in-
structive cases; for, in preventing us from stopping at
the apparent causes, they orient our researches toward
the determination of the real causes.

We have already shown that the hypothesis of sug-
gestion is not sufficient to explain all the characteristics
of hypnotism. It explains neither the exclusive rap-
port of the subject with the hypnotizer, nor the trans-
missibility of this rapport to an assistant placed in con-
tact with the hypnotizer. It explains neither the spon-
taneous anesthesia of the subject, nor the consecutive
amnesia. Nor does it explain the bringing into play
of curative powers of the organism, and perhaps other
still more mysterious powers. And there are many
other circumstances it does not explain. These may


not be encountered in all cases, but they are observed
frequently enough to demand an explanation of any
hypothesis which pretends to give us " the key to all
the phenomena of hypnosis."

There is no question that, with these characteristics
once known, it is always possible to try to reproduce
them, to imitate them, we would unhesitatingly say to
simulate them, by means of suggestion. One must
necessarily recognize that suggestion is quite an extraor-
dinary principle of imitation and of simulation. For
example, it can be suggested to a subject that, once
asleep, he will be en rapport with his hypnotizer only;
and in this case the exclusive rapport — the work of
suggestion — will imitate, simulate this same rapport
as it is produced spontaneously in other cases quite
apart from suggestion. Similarly, it can be suggested
to a subject that all his sensitiveness will be abolished
when he is asleep; and in this case the total anesthesia
— the work of suggestion — will imitate, simulate the
same anesthesia that is produced spontaneously in
other cases without suggestion. And so on. But,
we say, in the same way, the purgative effects of castor-
oil can be imitated, simulated in a subject by making
him swallow clear water: can it be concluded that any
one who takes castor-oil outside of all expressed sug-
gestion is in reality purged only by virtue of a tacit

It is this kind of reasoning, or rather sophism, that
is the basis of all the pretended experimental demon-
strations of the exclusive suggestionists.

On one hand, however great this power of imita-
tion and simulation may be, it is not without weakness


and limitations. We have more than once impera-
tively assured a subject that when he was asleep he
would be en rapport with no one but the operator; or
that he would lose all tactile sensibility; or that when
awakened he would have no recollection of what had
happened during his sleep. Yet, in spite of our sug-
gestions, the subject would continue to be en rapport
with all the assistants; to feel all the contacts; to re-
member all that we had said or done to him.

It is these characteristics of deep somnambulism, such
as the transmissibility of the rapport by contact or con-
duction, or such as the exteriorization of the sensitive-
ness, that suggestion alone, without recourse to fraud,
will remain always powerless to imitate.

The great tactic of the pure suggestionists consists
in denying all the phenomena which cannot be explained
or produced by suggestion alone.

" We have never constated," they say, " the ex-
teriorization of the sensitiveness, the transmissibility
of the rapport by contact or conduction, clairvoyance,
etc. ; therefore these phenomena cannot exist. Those
who believed they observed them have been duped by
the fraud of the subjects or by their own illusion."

We should like to know if the suggestionists have
ever tried to be placed in the conditions which would
permit them to constate these phenomena. Having
systematically decided never to employ in their experi-
ments anything but suggestion, they are thus condemned
never to see anything but suggestion, and it is with
entire good faith that they declare that there is not,
and cannot be, anything else.

It is thus that Dr. Bernheim held as valueless Dr.


Liebeault's curious work upon Zoomagnetisme, in which
he admitted the existence of a principle analogous in
its effects to suggestion, but different in its nature, and
which was no other than the old animal magnetism of
Mesmer, Puysegur, Deleuze, du Potet, etc.

It is thus, also, that all the domain of cryptopsy-
chism, of telepathy, of mental suggestion, and, more
especially, of spiritism, is closed to the partizans of a
school which considers that the boundaries of its doc-
trine are those of science and of reality.



Animal Magnetism, or " Biactinism "


Does the human organism really possess the prop-
erty of radiating a magnetic influence capable of acting
at a distance upon another human organism?

This is a question upon which the savants cannot

The problem, therefore, is an interesting one, and
it presents such great importance — from the point of
view of the general orientation of the psychical sci-
ences — that it is necessary to examine it here in detail.

Mesmer seems to have been the first to affirm the
existence of this radiation of the human organism,
which he compared to that of the magnet, or rather he
considered it as being — as is the radiation of the mag-
net — a particular case, a particular form of a uni-
versal energy. In any event, the usage of calling this
radiation animal magnetism, sometimes modified to
vital magnetism, began with Mesmer.

Perhaps a part of the disfavor which official scien-
tists still attach to all affirmation or even to all study
of human radiation comes really from this name. It
is not the only case in which the words are inappro-
priate to the ideas. The expression animal magnetism



not only designates a certain ensemble of facts; it in-
volves at the same time an hypothesis; it anticipates
the explanation of these facts. Consequently, all those
to whom this hypothesis is repugnant, or who consider
this explanation inadmissible, will reject in toto the
facts themselves, refusing to examine them, or declar-
ing them a priori impossible, illusory, inexistent.

Is this not what happened to the king's commission-
ers who were charged with officially controlling the as-
sertions of Mesmer?

We find at the present time a similar confusion, with
the same regrettable consequences, regarding spiritism.
This word, also, is used wrongly to designate two very
different things, wholly distinct from each other : ( i )
a certain ensemble of facts, which we have called spirit-
istic or spiritoidal; (2) a doctrine proposed by a par-
ticular group of people in order to explain these facts.

To admit the existence of spiritoidal facts, at least
as objects of possible study, is not by any means to
affirm the truth of this doctrine. Nevertheless, those ,
who reject the doctrine believe themselves ipso facto
authorized to deny the facts.

Similarly, the term animal magnetism is wrongly
used to designate, at one and the same time: (1) the
facts in which a sort of action of the human organism
at a distance seems to be manifested, and which we
have named magnetoidal without pretending in any
way to prejudge their nature; (2) a theory, that of
Mesmer and his disciples, which is presented to us as a
systematic explanation of these facts, more or less
assimilated to the phenomena of physical magnetism.

Could not the facts of animal magnetism be ad-


mitted, at least as objects of possible study, without
being obliged at the same time to profess the doctrine
of animal magnetism, either under the form that Mes-
mer gave it, or under any other particular form?

Perhaps the best way to remedy this confusion would
be to renounce absolutely this traditional term animal
magnetism and to employ wholly new words, neolog-
isms taken from the Greek or the Latin. Braid and
Bernheim did this in grouping under the names hypno-
tism and suggestion the phenomena described by them
and which they considered — rightly or wrongly — as
really different from those of animal magnetism.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to overcome usage
and tradition; and, indeed, few efforts have been made
in this connection. The only ones that, to our knowl-
edge, can be cited are those of Reichenbach, calling od
or odyle the supposed agent of human radiation (ca-
pable, moreover, of producing effects of the same kind
outside of man and in all nature) ; and that of Profes-
sor Thury (of Geneva) giving this same agent the
name psychode. But these denominations remain con-
fined to the works of their inventors. This is true,
also, of the term ecteneique 1 (ectenic state, ectenic
force) by which this same Professor Thury designated
the state in which a human being can extend the limits
of his action beyond his own organism, and the force
which is developed in this state.

Even though these words may have the advantage

1 From the Greek word extension. An abbreviated form of the
word, ecten, has been proposed, we believe — but without much more
success — to designate the force itself, and ectenic to qualify all that is
connected with this force.


of not involving any hypothesis as to the essential
nature and the deep cause of the facts being considered,
none of them has succeeded in supplanting in common
usage the old name of animal magnetism. We have
a proof of this in the title given by Barety to his great
work: Le magnetisme animal etudie sous le nom de
force neurique, where the new name, neuric force dares
to introduce itself only under the shelter and patronage
of animal magnetism, in spite of all the discredit
attached to it in scientific circles.

It seems very necessary, however, to break with all
associations of ideas which this expression animal
magnetism carries.

It is not doubted that the facts called animal mag-
netism present, at first sight, singular analogies with
the facts of physical magnetism. But these analogies
can be only apparent and superficial; it is very possible
that a more thorough study would cause us to con-
clude that there is no essential resemblance between
these two orders of facts. Moreover, the conception
that we form of physical magnetism is itself pro-
visional and largely hypothetical. It already has
changed many times, and undoubtedly will continue to
change as science progresses.

Is it rational to link thus, by giving them the same
denomination, two orders of phenomena which cannot
have in reality anything in common, as if it were pre-
tended to explain each of them by one and the same

We would suggest replacing, or at least adding to,
the term animal magnetism, by a new expression.
This should be free from all preconceived idea, by a


neologism taken from the Greek, alas! (but how can
we do otherwise?) and which means nothing more than
" human radiation " or " vital radiation."

In these conditions, the word biactinism is presented
to our mind; for it means exactly " radiation of life,"
from two Greek words, /?ios life, and aims ray. 2

" Biactinism " could be used, then, to define the
ensemble of facts when there is manifested in living
beings, and particularly in human beings, a radiating
influence, a radio-active energy, susceptible of being
exercised at a distance over other animate beings, or
even upon inanimate objects.

Observation and experimentation alone can enable
us to know by progressive steps the different properties
of this energy, the different effects of this influence.
Meanwhile, however, it can be said now that they
present close analogies to those of the natural radiating
forces already known : heat, light, electricity, magnet-

Until further researches are made, biactinism must
be considered as constituting a special order of facts,
to be studied in itself, and of which the rapports with
the other orders of natural facts must not be prejudged
in virtue of a priori conceptions, but determined experi-
mentally, in proportion to the progress of their

2 Perhaps the word zoactinism might be more correct; for, as has
been remarked, the Greek j3»>s means, rather, moral and social life;
organic life, an attribute common to animals and vegetables, would
be rather designated by the word &y. But usage has already pre-
vailed, in all modern languages, in employing the root bio in the
second sense — as proved by the words biology, aerobia, microbe, etc.,
which incontestably refer to organic life.



The first question that arises regarding biactinism is,
very evidently, the following:

Does biactinism exist? Is it really true that a living
organism generates — in conditions which permit it to
be established with certainty — a radiating force ca-
pable of acting even at a distance upon another organ-

We have indicated elsewhere 3 the reasons which
necessitate an affirmative answer to this question, at the
same time showing the processes and the methods by
which the effects and the conditions of biactinism can
be studied scientifically. We shall review these, how-
ever, in the present chapter.

Let us consider, for a moment, that the question is
answered in the affirmative. What shall we under-
stand by " radiation of an organism operating at a
distance"? For biactinism, or animal magnetism,
would consist in that, according to the definition we
have given.

From the strictly metaphysical point of view, it can
undoubtedly be claimed, with Leibnitz and the author
of a recent work, 4 that the notions of radiation and of
action at a distance are illusory, entirely relative to
false appearances, and that, in reality, there is neither
action nor radiation.

" Every time," says the author of Uunivers-organ-
isme, " that a body seems to act at a distance, it is
because there exists, between the body which acts and
the body which reacts, an intermediary agent which

3 Our Hidden Forces.

4 L'univers-organisme, Bardonnet. {Revue philosophique, 1914.)


transmits the excitation, having first undergone it itself.
This intermediary, in acoustic phenomena, we know, is
the atmospheric air; but it exists also in all other orders
of phenomena ; and it is, then, cosmic matter."

Properly speaking, the force does not radiate, is not
transmitted; or, as Leibnitz said, there is no really
transitive action, no action which passes from one sub-
ject to another as a rider would jump from one horse
to another because " force is the act, and the act is
necessarily inherent to its agent. An act cannot go
far from its agent."

Let us note that what is said here of " force " can
equally be said of " motion," of " excitation," of " sen-
sation," of " thought." Taken literally, such as ex-
pression as this : " motion is transmitted from one body
to another," is nonsensical, an absurdity. The motion
of a body is not separated, cannot be separated, from
that body itself: it is a state of the body, it is the body
itself in the state of motion. Thus the motion of a
first body A cannot become the motion of a second
body B ; but B can be brought to move as A, and because
A is already in a state of motion.

There is not, in that, a single movement passing from
one subject to another, but two movements produced
successively, one because of the other, in two different
subjects. If it be understood otherwise, the movement
then becomes a third body, a sort of invisible sub-

In the same way, it is erroneous to speak of an ex-
citation as being transmitted. Following and because
of a first excitation in the subject A, a second excitation,
more or less similar, is produced in B; and so forth.


But it is not one excitation, abstract, impersonal, anony-

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