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plain the latter. In appearance, it may be said, it is
the sensation of the hypnotizer which, by a sort of
nervous repercussion, is transmitted directly to the

For this it would be necessary that between the


nervous systems of the operator and the subject there
be a communication the possibility of which seems to
us, in the actual state of our physiological knowledge,
very difficult to admit. The phenomenon is in reality
much more complex. This is how it may be analyzed :

First stage: The nervous system of the hypnotizer,
under the influence of an exterior excitation, sends to
his brain a sensation which is immediately transformed
into an idea.

Second stage: That idea is transmitted by mental
suggestion to the brain of the hypnotized.

Third stage: The idea thus suggested (to the un-
conscious or subconscious state) influences the nervous
system of the hypnotized, which puts itself in the state
of reproducing the first sensation.

All happens as if the subject, divining the impres-
sions and the thoughts which took place in the mind
of the operator, said: " In that moment my hypno-
tizer experienced a sensation of pricking, of burning,
etc. ; then suggested to me, or I suggested to myself, to
experience an identical sensation."

From that conception sensorial diapsychism goes
back to the basis of intellectual diapsychism: the com-
munication of sensations is resolved into the communica-
tion of ideas. There remains then only the explana-
tion of this communication between two brains; at least,
if this be not admitted as a fact, even though inexplic-

It goes without saying that the partizans of biactin-
ism, or animal magnetism, will suggest an entirely
different interpretation. According to them, the first
and general fact is the reciprocal communication of


the nervous systems; the reciprocal communication of
the brains being but a secondary fact, derived from
the first. The subject is directly sensible to all the
influences which come to him, not only from the brain
but from all parts of the nervous system of the oper-
ator; and the transmission of the sensations is a phe-
nomenon as direct as the transmission of the thoughts.
It is then futile to suppose a mechanism as complicated
as that of mental suggestion: in the subject as well as
in the operator the brain plays but a secondary part: it
receives, it does not act; the real actor is the nervous
system, which, in both the operator and the subject,
carries to the brain the necessary excitation.

A schematic resume of the difference between the two
conceptions would appear to be as follows:

The first is a centrifugal phenomenon, since the
initial cause of the sensation sympathetically felt by the
subject starts from the brain of the operator, to be then
carried through the brain of the subject to his nervous

The second is a centripetal phenomenon, since, in
both the operator and the subject, the point of de-
parture of the sensation is in the nervous system and
its point of arrival in the brain.

Which of these two conceptions is closer to reality?

This is impossible to determine by analyses and rea-
sonings made in the abstract. It would be necessary,
in solving the problem, to institute experiments of a pre-
cise and delicate nature : real laboratory experiments,
which, owing to the actual state of psychical researches,
are practically unrealizable because of their lack of
organization. We shall return to this problem later.


Can there exist also a communication of the senti-
ments, or of the emotions?

W. Gregory says: "There is also, but perhaps in
a less degree than that of the senses, a community of
emotions. In cases of this kind, all mental emotion
experienced by the operator, or by other persons en
rapport with the subject, is also experienced by him.
I have not yet examined this phenomenon as minutely
or as completely as the others, because of the difficulty
of provoking at will a strong and decided emotion.
In this case the observations are ordinarily accidental.
Thus I have seen some subjects smile and laugh when
they reached the magnetic state; and I have seen also
— what very often has been described by others —
subjects painfully affected by the nervousness or dis-
traction of the operator."

It is also to this cause that Gregory attributes the
accidental phenomena which are sometimes produced
in the seances where " persons who have no experience
or knowledge of animal magnetism try, for amusement
or for curiosity, to produce magnetic effects."

The principal objection against the existence of an
emotional diapsychism is that emotion, however slight
it may be, is manifested by very easily perceptible signs,
and the sympathy of the subject for the operator would
naturally belong in the realm of normal sympathy.

In order to witness a diapsychic phenomenon it
would be necessary that the subject — either because of
the removal of the operator to another room or be-
cause of the interposition of a screen — be absolutely
incapable of being informed as to the emotional state
of the operator ; or the operator himself may be capable


of suppressing all exterior manifestations of the senti-
ment he experiences, or of simulating the manifesta-
tions of a contrary sentiment.

There can be conceived still a third form of diapsy-
chism, related to the two preceding. This is motor
diapsychism, and consists in the communication of
movements from one individual to another. I do not
know, however, that this form has been effectively
realized in the cases that have been observed. Per-
sonally, I do not know of an example; at least, those of
which I have knowledge appear very ambiguous and
very difficult to interpret. Even in the case of the fol-
lowing experiment, which I have conducted more than
once, it would be rash to draw any definite conclusions :

Some one places his hand on the table, with fingers
outstretched. The one who wishes to influence it
stretches his hand in the same way, facing the first hand
and about three or four centimeters from it, so that the
thumb is opposite the thumb of the first hand and each
of the fingers pointing at the other fingers. After a
few minutes the operator slowly raises a finger and
lets it drop, then raises it again and drops it again. If
the subject is a sensitive, his corresponding finger will
rise gradually and will reproduce precisely the move-
ments of the operator. However, as the subject, who
is not blindfolded and who moreover is in the waking
state, sees all that happens, it would seem that this is
no more than a phenomenon of ordinary suggestion
— suggestion by gesture, which is similar to sugges-
tion by word.

Is it the same thing that happens as in that other ex-
periment, described in the preceding chapter, where the


subject reproduced, without seeing, the movements of
the foot or the hand of the operator ? I have witnessed
the phenomenon in very singular conditions.

In a drawing-room filled with guests, while the others
danced and amused themselves, two people were talk-
ing together in the doorway. One of the two sus-
pected that the other was a subject. Without letting
him know his intentions, and while keeping up a lively
conversation, he placed the toe of his foot directly
opposite and about four or five centimeters from the
toe of his companion's foot; then he slid his foot several
times over the floor, to and fro. Soon the foot of the
other began to slide also, at first imperceptibly, then
with a rapidity increasing to the point of compromising
the equilibrium of the man thus being experimented
upon without his knowledge, for he was unconscious of
what he was doing.

Must we see there a case of magnetic attraction or
of mental suggestion? The answer remains uncertain.
It would be less certain, perhaps, if the attraction had
been involuntary and unconscious on the part of the
operator as well as the subject; as, for example, if there
were observed a motor communication of that nature
produced spontaneously without their knowledge be-
tween two individuals placed in two rooms sufficiently
far apart. But really such a case, were it actually ob-
served, would show us that diapsychism is related in-
sensibly to biactinism and to a degree where it is im-
possible to differentiate precisely the one from the



The most frequent form of diapsychism — that
which is generally studied and referred to — is what
we may call intellectual diapsychism.

In intellectual diapsychism it is ideas, or thoughts,
which are transmitted from one individual to another,
and not simply sensations, emotions, or movements;
consequently, the preponderant role, from the physio-
logical point of view, seems to belong not to a given
nerve, or to the nervous system in general, but to the
superior centers of the brain. It is this chiefly that is
called "mental suggestion" and "thought-reading";
and under these two names, and principally the former,
it holds an important place in the theories of con-
temporary psychists.

Let us remark, first of all, that these two denomina-
tions are not absolutely equivalent; for they represent
two ensembles of facts sufficiently different to enable
us to distinguish them.

( i ) In the communication of thought, or " mental
suggestion," the active pole, so to speak, is in the brain
of the hypnotizer or magnetizer — the operator, in a
word; and the passive pole is in that of the subject.
The first, more or less voluntarily, transmits to and im-
poses upon the second an idea. The phenomenon in
this case is entirely similar to ordinary suggestion: the
sole apparent difference — which is an important one
— is that in ordinary suggestion the transmission is
made by normal and known means of word or gesture,
whereas here it is made in ways unknown and really


(2) In "thought-reading," on the contrary, it
would seem as if the operator were exclusively engaged
in thinking on his own account, without directing any
action upon the subject; and that the subject himself, by
an action sui generis, penetrates the operator's con-
sciousness, divines its contents, and grasps his thoughts.

Certainly, cases of a mixed nature may be encoun-
tered wherein the effects proceed from the combined
actions of operator and subject: the former endeavor-
ing to project his thought, while the latter tries to
attract and receive it. More often than not, however,
each one of these two forms of intellectual diapsychism
presents itself alone to the observation, and it would
be well to consider them separately. To the first the
name mental suggestion is especially applicable; to the
second, thought-reading or thought-penetration would
appear to apply more exactly.

Whereas the early mesmerists saw in this second
form a sort of clairvoyance which might be called psy-
chological clairvoyance, in opposition to ordinary
clairvoyance although related to one physical world, it
is through the persistent and progressive study of sug-
gestion that the modern disciples of the Schools of the
Salpetriere and Nancy have been led first to suspect
and then to admit the reality of the first form, which,
consequently, they invariably conceive as in the light
of suggestion. A proof of this is found in the follow-
ing case reported by M. H. Beaunis and observed by
him with Dr. Liebeault:

The subject is a young man, a good somnambulist, in good
health, somewhat timid. He accompanied his cousin to the


clinic of Dr. Liebeault, who was then treating her by hypnotism
for certain nervous affections.

Dr. Liebeault put the subject to sleep, saying during the
comatic sleep: "When you wake, you will do the things
which you will be ordered mentally to do by the persons

I then wrote on a piece of paper these words: "Kiss your
cousin." This paper I showed to Dr. Liebeault and to the
other persons present, telling them to read it with their eyes
only, without pronouncing a single word or making any motion
with their lips. Then I added : " When he wakes, think
intensely of the act which he must execute ; but don't speak and
don't make any sign that may suggest the action to him."

The subject was awakened then, and we awaited the result
of the experiment.

Very soon after he woke we saw him laugh and hide his face
in his hands; and that continued for some time without other

I then asked him: "What is the matter? "

" Nothing."

" Of whom are you thinking? "

" You know," he answered.

" Then," said I, " you must do something to the one we
think of. If you do not wish to do it, at least tell us of what
we are thinking."

" No."

Then I said to him: " If you do not like to tell it aloud,
whisper it in my ear."

On going closer to him, he whispered to me : " To kiss my

And so our first experiment in mental suggestion was a

The experiments reported by Dr. Ochorowicz were
of a similar nature:


First Experiment

The operator, seated about four meters from the subject and
out of his sight, pretending to take notes, the head bent over,
thinks :

" Raise your right hand! "

Nothing happens the first minute ; at the second, agitation in
the right hand ; at the third, the agitation increases, the brows
are puckered, the right hand is raised, then dropped.

Second Experiment

" Get up and come to me! "

First minute, agitation and puckering of brows. Second
minute, the subject gets up slowly, with difficulty, and comes,
the arms outstretched.

Third Experiment

" Get up, go to the piano, take the box of matches, bring me
one of them lighted, then return to your place!"

The subject gets up and approaches the operator.

"Go back!"

He returns to his place.

"Still farther back!"

He goes forward toward the door. He stops and goes back
to the middle of the room, from where he had started. He
goes to the piano.

" Lower! Lower! "

His hand goes lower.

"Take the box!"

He takes it.

"Come to me!"

He comes.

"Light one!"

He takes out a match.

"Light it!"


He lights it and gives it to me.
" Return to your place ! "
He returns.

Fourth Experiment

" Go to your brother and kiss him! "

The subject gets up, advances toward the experimenter, then
toward his brother. He feels for his brother's head but he does
not touch it. He stops in front of him, hesitating; then he
slowly approaches and kisses him warmly on the forehead.

The idea to transmit or suggest in these different
examples was that of an act relatively complex in spite
of its apparent simplicity; and that act, in sleep, con-
sisted of a series of movements and muscular efforts.
It was, in one way, a motor mental suggestion. That
which in England is called the " willing game " — and
sometimes " cumberlandism," from the name of the
man who was first to conduct public exhibitions of these
phenomena — is based on mental suggestion of this

A subject or medium, with eyes bandaged, executes a
series of acts under the influence of the will of one of
the assistants, who thinks constantly and intensely of
what the subject must do, analyzing in his thoughts the
different movements of which the series is composed.
It is true that if the experimenter holds the hand of the
medium he may guide him unconsciously in many ways,
and in this case the phenomenon cannot be considered
one of a genuine communication of thought. But the
interpretation becomes more difficult when the experi-
ment is made without any contact between the operator
and the subject.


The idea to suggest mentally can also be that of a
state which can be a sensation or an emotion. For ex-
ample, it can be suggested mentally to a subject that he
is very warm, very cold, that he feels pain in a certain
part of his body, that he is frightened, that he is going
to laugh, to cry, etc. ; but in general the state which
experimenters most often try to produce in this way
by mental suggestion is sleep — meaning magnetic or
hypnotic sleep.

The most interesting and most demonstrative ex-
periments in this field are those which were made at
Le Havre in 1885 by Dr. Gibert and Dr. Pierre Janet
with the famous subject Leonie. The following de-
tailed account of them was presented by Dr. Pierre
Janet to the Society of Psycho-physiology and pub-
lished in the Revue phihsophique (1886) in two suc-
cessive articles, the first bearing the modest title, " Note
on Some Phenomena of Somnambulism"; the next,
" Second Note on Sleep Provoked at a Distance and
Mental Suggestion while in the State of Somnambu-

Leonie, or Madame B., subjected to hypnotic influ-
ence in the ordinary way, falls first into a state very
near to lethargy: flaccidity of the members, which, if
raised, fall back with all their weight and without any
movement; complete insensibility to all excitations, ex-
cept only one: the person who put her to sleep can,
to the exclusion of all other persons, provoke at will a
partial or entire contraction by placing his extended
hand a little distance from the subject's body; the con-
traction ceases when he touches lightly the part affected.
(This is a characteristic sign which will serve, in case


of necessity, to distinguish the person who put the sub-
ject to sleep.)

At the end of ten minutes, sometimes more, the
sleep seems to become lighter, and somnambulism suc-
ceeds the lethargic state. The subject is now very
sensitive to all impressions: she understands all that is
said to her and answers intelligently, but she remains
more strongly en rapport with the one who put her to
sleep and who alone can wake her.

Then again lethargy replaces the somnambulistic
state. And these two states succeed each other thus
alternately about every fifteen minutes as long as the
sleep lasts.

The process usually employed to put Leonie to sleep
was the pressure of the hand, especially of the thumb.
Nevertheless, " Dr. Gibert, while holding her hand one
day to put her to sleep, being visibly distracted and
thinking of other things, failed to obtain the desired
results." Dr. Pierre Janet repeated this many times,
but always with the same result, for sleep was not
produced. Therefore, " to put Madame B. to sleep
it was necessary to concentrate the thoughts strongly
on that one act; and the more the thoughts of the
operator were distracted, the more difficult the provo-
cation of sleep."

This influence of the operator's thoughts is so effi-
cient that it can replace all others.

" We left Leonie sitting at the end of the room,"
says Dr. Janet; " then, without touching her and with-
out speaking, Dr. Gibert, standing at the other end,
concentrated his thoughts on making her go to sleep.
After three minutes the lethargic sleep was produced."


And the same experiment was repeated many times by
Dr. Janet.

But, it may be said, could not the presence of the
experimenters, their attitude, their silence, provoke in
the subject the idea of sleep and consequently sleep

" There were many times," says Dr. Janet, " when
Dr. Gibert stood close to Leonie, in the same medita-
tive attitude, in the same silence, but without thinking
of sleep; and sleep was not produced. On the other
hand, as soon as, without changing my attitude, I men-
tally ordered sleep, the eyes of the subject became fixed,
and the lethargy began immediately." Furthermore,
how can one explain that only that one of the two ex-
perimenters who has provoked the sleep can provoke
during the lethargy the characteristic phenomenon of

In the preceding experiments the operator was in
the same room with the subject. Now, however:

Leaving Dr. Janet near Leonie, but without any knowledge
of his intention, Dr. Gibert shut himself up in a nearby room,
at a distance of six or seven meters, and there he mentally
ordered her to sleep. At the end of a few moments, Dr. Janet
verified the fact that the subject's eyes were closed and that
she had entered the sleeping state. He did not have any in-
fluence over her, whereas she obeyed readily and entirely Dr.
Gibert, who alone could cause the contraction and who himself
had to wake her — manifest proof that it was he who put her
to sleep.

Another experiment, still more conclusive from the
standpoint of true suggestion, is the following:


Dr. Janet suddenly asked Dr. Gibert, who was in his study,
to put Leonie to sleep. She was then in another house, about
five hundred meters away, and she had never been to sleep at
that hour of the day. He then went to Madame B. and, to
his disappointment, found her wide awake. He himself put her
to sleep in the usual way.

" I know very well," Leonie said to Dr. Janet, " that Dr.
Gibert has wished to put me to sleep ; but when I felt him, I at
once put my hands in cold water. . . . I know that he cannot
put me to sleep thus."

The truth was that she had actually put her hands in cold
water before the arrival of Dr. Janet.

What shows very well that in this case, and in all
cases of this nature, the essential element is the trans-
mission of thought — diapsychism and not suggestion
— is that when the subject enters spontaneously into
the state of somnambulism she does not obey the will of
the operator, and much less does she feel his influence
or receive the communication of his thought.

Can it be said, therefore, that this experiment failed,
as Dr. Janet claimed? On the contrary, it seems to us
that it succeeded even better than if the sleep had effec-
tively been produced; for that which is important is not
the obedience of the subject to the order given him
(obedience which is merely the banal fact of ordinary
suggestion), but it is the transmission of this order to
the subject, in conditions where it is impossible for him
to receive it by means of normal perception.

The same experiment was undertaken in somewhat
different conditions.

Dr. Janet asked Dr. Gibert to put Leonie to sleep, not at
that moment, but a quarter of an hour later. He then started


to go to her immediately, to watch the effects upon her and to
prevent her from putting her hands in cold water; but Leonie
had shut herself up in her room.

At the moment agreed upon with Dr. Gibert, Dr. Janet
went up to her, and found her lying across a chair, in a most
uncomfortable position, and sound asleep. Her first words, as
soon as she entered into the somnambulistic state, were a pro-
test against the surprise which had been given her: "Why
does Dr. Gibert put me to sleep from his house ? I did not have
time to put my hands in the basin of water. I will not. . . ."

Neither Dr. Janet nor any of the assistants had the least
influence over her, and none of them could provoke muscular
contraction. In order to wake the subject, they were obliged
to find Dr. Gibert.

The experiment of October 14 is perhaps even more

That day Dr. Gibert was in Granville, about two kilometers
from Leonie. Dr. Janet suggested that Dr. Gibert put
Madame B. to sleep at any hour whatever of the day — the
hour to be designated by a third person, so that he personally
should not know it. He went to Leonie at about half-past
four, and found that she had been sleeping soundly for a quarter
of an hour.

At five o'clock, still asleep, she began to moan, to tremble,
and to murmur: " Enough . . . enough ... do not do
that." She stood up, she took a few steps; then, bursting into
laughter, she threw herself backward into the chair, and was
instantly in deep sleep.

At five minutes past five, the same scene was repeated: the
trembling, the moaning, the efforts to get up, to walk, the
laughter, with these words : " You cannot ... if a little, if
only a little you are distracted, I shall wake. . . ." Then deep
sleep again.


At ten minutes past five, the same actions were repeated.

When Dr. Gibert arrived at half-past five, he showed Dr.
Janet a note which had been given to him by a third person,
M. D., and which asked him to command Leonie mentally
to perform different complicated acts every five minutes be-
ginning with five o'clock.

This time, also, true suggestion had failed, but

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Online LibraryEmile BoiracThe Psychology of the Future → online text (page 13 of 22)