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the result. We have hidden the magnet under a cloth,
and the same effects were produced; we have made the
magnet invisible by suggestion, and the effect has con-
tinued to be produced; we have used a magnet made of
wood, and the effects have been the same; we have
experimented upon entirely new patients, and have
obtained identical results."

All these assertions effectively exclude ordinary sug-
gestion. But, with the exception of the first, do they
equally exclude mental suggestion under the form of in-
voluntary diapsychism?

In order to answer this question satisfactorily, it
would be necessary to undertake experiments in condi-
tions that would prevent the operator, as well as the
subject, from being able to form in advance any idea of
the results.

It is not only with regard to transference that the
opponents of the School of Salpetriere might resort


profitably to the hypothesis of diapsychism; it is with
regard to almost all the particularities attributed to
hypnotism by the doctrines of this School. It is true
that it would be necessary for them to go beyond the
narrow circle of suggestion proper, where they believe
themselves on firm ground, and to venture upon the
quicksands of mental suggestion; but, sooner or later,
they will be forced to do so. We do not believe that
they can indefinitely claim, without giving precise
proofs, that all observers and experimenters who do
not agree with them upon a given detail of hypnotic
phenomena have owed to their suggestions the effects
they have related.

Although the phenomenon has been produced some-
times, often even, it does not necessarily follow that
it can be produced always. In some cases these savants
declare that they have scrupulously abstained from sug-
gesting anything to their subjects; and we have no rea-
son for doubting their word. But if they have sug-
gested nothing voluntarily, knowingly, it is possible —
if diapsychism exists — that their subjects have never-
theless divined their thought and that this thought may
be manifested in the phenomena observed.

It may be, for example, the phenomenon of neuro-
muscular hyperexcitability, which according to the
School of Charcot, characterizes one of the phases
of hypnotism: i. e., lethargy. The School of Nancy
asserts that it has never constated this phenomenon,
and it concludes, therefore, that it must be a simple
effect of suggestion. However, it is very difficult to
believe — so long as they have furnished no proof —


that all those who have observed it have begun by an-
nouncing it and describing it aloud in the presence of
their subjects. But if diapsychism actually exists, it is
possible that their thought, in the absence of their word,
has been sufficient to provoke the phenomenon.

We can say as much of the zones and the hypnogenic
points, and in general of the hysterical stigmata ad-
mitted by the School of the Salpetriere, as facts exist-
ing in themselves, previous to observation, which is
made only to reveal them, and considered by the School
of Nancy as illusions, created by the suggestions of
those who observe them.

If the intervention of diapsychism be admitted in all
these cases, one must believe that the idea alone is not
sufficient for the success of mental suggestion, but that
it is necessary to have, in addition, the belief (even
though in many other cases — and this is not the least
of the obscurities of the question — the idea, without
the belief, would appear sufficient).

Let us imagine that two observers experiment suc-
cessively with the same subject, one imbued with the
doctrines of the School of Salpetriere, and the other
with those of the School of Nancy. The first seeks
to verify the neuro-muscular hyperexcitability, and he
succeeds ; the second, proceeding by hypothesis in exactly
the same way, constates a negative result. The second,
as well as the first, has in his mind the idea of the phe-
nomenon and of its diverse particularities. But the
first believes that the phenomenon is possible and that
he will produce it; the second, on the contrary, believes
that the phenomenon will not be produced. The sub-
ject is, therefore, capable of perceiving the difference


between these two ideas; one accompanied by belief, the
other by unbelief, and this is why he reacts differently
to each of them.

What would happen if the two operators were to act
upon the subject at the same time, and one of them
were to have a preponderating influence upon him?
While one tends unconsciously to arouse the phenome-
non, the other tends unconsciously to hinder it. Does
the first prevail over the second? The partizan of
the School of Nancy will be astonished to see the sub-
ject realize — without apparent suggestion — what he
was assured could be realized only through suggestion.
The partizan of the School of the Salpetriere will be
equally astonished to see that the expected effect, often
obtained by him, is suddenly incapable of being pro-

Let us remark, however, that the inhibitory action of
mental suggestion, even also as that of ordinary sug-
gestion, is not necessarily confined to phenomena sus-
ceptible to be provoked by suggestion, and that conse-
quently the suppression of a phenomenon by an inhibi-
tory suggestion does not prove that in the absence of
this suggestion the phenomenon would not be produced
naturally. I could, by suggestion, suppress in a pa-
tient certain symptoms of his illness; is this a reason
for pretending that these symptoms in him were only
the effects of a counter-suggestion? Let us admit, for
hypothesis, that signs of hysteria exist effectively; if
we admit at the same time, the possibility of a dia-
psychic inhibition, an observer capable of exerting this
inhibition unconsciously upon hysterical subjects will
never constate these signs, because by his very presence


he will hinder their manifestation. Yet it cannot logi-
cally be concluded that other observers, who have con-
stated them, have been the playthings of illusion. Per-
haps certain operators may be particularly apt to in-
fluence the parapsychic phenomena thus negatively.

Certainly, this is only an hypothesis, but it is not
devoid of truth, and it would be well worth while
to control it experimentally.

It is especially in the realm of magnetoidal facts that
diapsychism is called upon to explain all that which
would appear to contradict the opinions of official
science, as if diapsychism were not itself in positive con-
tradiction to these opinions.

When M. de Rochas explained, under the name of
exteriorization of the sensitiveness, the singular phe-
nomena which he had discovered, they were at once
attributed to the suggestions that he had involunta-
rily made to his subjects; and when this explanation
appeared decidedly insufficient, it was claimed that the
silent thought of the experimenter had in some way
suggested to the subjects the manifestations of which
they had given him testimony.

Permit me here to cite a few personal experiments.

I happened to read in a prominent Parisian period-
ical an article upon M. de Rochas's discovery, which
explained the processes employed by him to "exterior-
ize the sensitiveness " of a hypnotized subject, and the
results which he thus obtained. This account had
aroused my curiosity, but at the same time had left me
very skeptical. I decided to learn how much reality
there was in all this. I had then at my disposal a large


After the hypnotized subject holds the glass a few moments, the
operator takes it and pinches the air above the water. Every pinch
thus inflicted — some distance away from the subject — is felt by
her keenly in the hand she has held above the glass.


number of subjects: all young people who would lend
themselves well to these experiments.

My first three attempts gave me only a negative re-
sult, although at least one of my subjects was of ex-
ceptional sensibility. It goes without saying that I be-
gan first by scrupulously imitating the operative method
of M. de Rochas. Then, seeing that it did not result
in any of the desired phenomena, I added verbal sug-
gestion, thus intentionally inciting the subjects to fraud.
It is necessary to believe that simulation, in the condi-
tions in which the subjects were placed, was not easy
for them; for, even thus, I obtained nothing. I was,
therefore, almost convinced that M. de Rochas had
either deceived himself or been deceived, that either
he had been more able than I to suggest the subjects un-
consciously, or that they had been more clever at simu-
lating than my subjects.

A short time afterward, being in a meeting of young
Parisian workmen, and having put one of them to sleep
— Auguste M., aged sixteen or seventeen — I suddenly
conceived the idea of trying once more to produce the
exteriorization of the sensitiveness.

11 Get me," I said, " a glass and a bottle of water."

The assistants believed that I intended to produce
a state of intoxication by suggestion. At least, that is
what they whispered among themselves.

The subject stood facing me, blindfolded. Having
filled the glass three-quarters full of water, I put it
upon the palm of his left hand, placing his right hand
above the glass, a few centimeters from the water.
After a few minutes I withdrew the glass and, without


speaking a word, bruskly pinched the air it contained.
Instantly, to my great surprise, the subject cried:
" Ouch! You are hurting me! " and quickly clasped
his right hand with his left.

11 1 have hurt you? " I said to him. " How? "

He took between the thumb and the index finger of
his left hand the skin of the back of his right hand
and twisted it, exactly as I had taken and twisted the

I then pricked the surface of the water with a pin.

"You are pricking me now! Will you soon stop
tormenting me? "

Going quickly behind him, I repeated the same oper-
ations ; and the subject again protested about my pinches
and pin-pricks.

Suddenly I held the glass to my lips and blew upon
the water. Instantly the subject raised his hands to
his eyes and awoke, exactly as if I had blown upon his
eyes to wake him.

I was thenceforth convinced that the exteriorization
of the sensitiveness, whatever its real nature may be,
was not in every case pure illusion, and I was more
than ever desirous of studying it. I asked young Au-
guste, therefore, to come again, with as many of his
friends as he wished to bring with him, but this time
to my clinic, where it would be easier for me to experi-

He came the following day; but what was my sur-
prise when, after placing myself in the same conditions
with him as before, I could not find in him any of the
expected reactions! Had I, then, dreamed when I
had believed that I observed them the preceding day?


Upon the remark of one of the assistants that this
lack of success was due perhaps to the fact that im-
mediately before coming to me, Auguste M. had been
the object of attempts at hypnotization on the part of
his comrades, I woke him, then plunged him into a
deeper sleep. I then had the satisfaction of provoking
in him again all the phenomena previously observed,
and this time with a more severe control, the eyes of
the subject being hermetically bandaged.

Since then I have been able to constate the exteriori-
zation of the sensitiveness, not, of course, in all sub-
jects upon whom I have experimented, but in a suffi-
ciently large number of them to convince me that it is
a real phenomenon, of which the cause, whatever it
may be, is certainly something other than ordinary sug-
gestion. Among these subjects I could mention Gus-
tave P., Jean M., and Ludovig S., of whom I have had
frequent occasion to speak elsewhere. 3

In the absence of ordinary suggestion, is it mental
suggestion that causes the exteriorization of the sen-

It is possible that it intervenes, in certain cases, as a
perturbant or stimulant cause ; for if it exists — and its
existence cannot be doubted — it is certainly capable of
playing this role. But it does not follow that it may
be taken for granted — a priori and without further
proof than this simple possibility — that it is the sole
and sufficient cause of every case observed.

Especially in my experiments with Auguste M., it
could not well have been my thought which provoked

3 Many interesting experiments with these subjects are described in
Our Hidden Forces.


the phenomenon. Because of the failure of all of
my preceding attempts, and now having a compara-
tively new subject, my thought was rather that I should
not succeed in obtaining any effect. And in the second
seance, because of the success I already had obtained,
my thought expected the exteriorization of the sensi-
tiveness, and solicited it intensely; yet, in spite of this,
the phenomenon refused to appear to me again.

Here, therefore, is a problem which one should not
be in haste to declare solved; for its solution must be
sought patiently, and by the application of the only
method which can enable us to discover it — the ex-
perimental method.

This is true, also, of the phenomenon of polarity.
The majority of early mesmerists believed that the
force known as magnetic, more aptly called " biactinic,"
is polarized — that is to say, is at the same time posi-
tive and negative, precisely as electricity and physical
magnetism. For example, the right side of the human
body, they believed, was positive, and the left side
negative. This would entail a whole series of conse-
quences as to the actions, isonomic and heteronomic,
exerted by one individual upon another.

I have made too few researches upon this subject
for my opinion — were I to risk forming one — to
have any value. If I speak only of my own personal
observations, I must say that I have encountered po-
larity in one subject only, Gustave P., in conditions
which I have given in detail in Our Hidden Forces.
To repeat them briefly:

The right hand held opposite the subject's forehead
for a few minutes made him pass successively through


three different and distinctly characterized states : fas-
cination, catalepsy, and somnambulism. The left
hand, inversely, destroyed the effect of the right hand,
causing the subject to pass successively from somnam-
bulism to catalepsy, from catalepsy to the state of
fascination, and from the state of fascination to the
waking state. Also, the operator's right hand, di-
rected toward the subject's hand, his elbow, his foot,
his knee, etc., determined movements of attraction; the
left hand produced, in the member aimed at, trembling,
agitation accompanied by a tingling sensation. And
this double action, positive and negative, was con-
ducted by means of a metal wire, according as the
operator held the wire in his right hand or his left

Certainly, verbal suggestion, as practised by the
School of Nancy, had no place in these manifestations,
since the experimenter operated in the most absolute
silence, after having thoroughly blindfolded the sub-

But cannot the effects be attributed to the communi-
cation of thought?

This hypothesis is seductive. It does not, however,
take into account a certain number of circumstances
which concur with it badly.

First: The operator, who had assisted previously
in experiments of polarity in a circle of mesmerists
with very restricted ideas on the subject, had seen four
states succeed one another in subjects submitted to the
actions of both hands; the state of fascination, cata-
lepsy, somnambulism, and lethargy; and among the
characteristics of the first state was total anesthesia.


If, therefore, the phenomena must be aroused and
formed by his thoughts, he should find the same phases
and the same characteristics. However, in spite of all
his efforts, he never found that lethargy succeeded the
somnambulistic state in Gustave P., nor anesthesia ac-
company the state of fascination.

Second: It was wholly by chance that the opera-
tor's right hand was placed near the subject's elbow,
when this appeared attracted in his direction. At
that moment the operator had no intention of making
any experiment whatever. When, however, he tried
the action of his left hand, he expected to obtain a re-
pulsion, and was thoroughly astonished to constate
trembling and tingling. The combined action of the
two hands must, he then supposed, produce a null
effect, one neutralizing the other; but, wholly on the
contrary, he found that there was a coexistence of their

Here again, we should not hasten to reach any con-
clusion, but should understand that the question must
remain open.

And there is greater reason why we should not con-
sider the reduction of biactinism (animal magnetism)
to diapsychism as definitely established. In France the
partizans of this theory are all those whom the study
of true suggestion, carried sufficiently far, has finally
induced to admit the reality of mental suggestion, and
who believe that by retaining the word " suggestion "
they keep also the fact and remain faithful to the
official doctrine. In England its partizans are those
whom the study of telepathy has convinced of the possi-
bility of an action exerted by one individual upon the


brain of another individual, in spite of the often con-
siderable distance which separates them.

While the partizans of animal magnetism attrib-
ute the effects produced by passes, the gaze, and also
the thought and the will of the operator, to a force sui
generis emanating from his organism and especially
from his nervous system, their opponents assert that
these effects are due exclusively to a mental action which
has for its starting-point the brain of the operator and
for its point of arrival the brain of the subject.
When my hand appears to anesthetize, contract, or at-
tract, etc., any part of the subject's body, it does not,
in reality, exert any action; behind this screen is hidden
the true agent, which is my thought, unconsciously
divined by the subject and making him obey, wholly as
if I were to give him the command aloud. I believe
that his arm will be contracted under my passes, but
only because of my belief. In order that the contrac-
tion may cease, it will be sufficient for me to make
further passes upon his arm, believing that they will
stop the contraction. This is not magnetism ; it is men-
tal suggestion or telepathy, according to the name you
prefer to give it.

If this theory be admitted, one must at the same
time admit that the communication of thought is a phe-
nomenon much more frequent than is ordinarily be-
lieved, and that it is produced much more easily than
one might think possible. This insidious character is
due to the fact that this happens especially in the
region of the subconsciousness : the conscious effort of
will to transmit its thought to other people, or to re-
ceive the thought of others, far from aiding diapsy-


chism, paralyzes it. This explains the reason why
those facts which prove it directly are relatively scarce
while those which prove it indirectly are frequent.

We already have shown, apropos of polarity, the
difficulties of this theory, and we should be able to make
the same objections to magnetism. They can be
summed up in the following:

The effects which we have observed in experiment-
ing upon the radiating action of the human body, and
especially of the human hand, are often produced (i)
in the absence of all thought and of all will on our part

— as, for example, when Gustave P.'s elbow was at-
tracted by a hand placed accidentally in its direction;
(2) contrary to our will and our thought — as when
the left hand, instead of exercising, as we expected, a
repulsive action, produced an entirely different effect.

Moreover, in supposing that magnetism may be only
a form of diapsychism, it would still be necessary to ex-
plain diapsychism itself, which, as we shall see, is scien-
tifically as inexplicable as magnetism.


It will be objected, undoubtedly, that as suggestion
is now an incontestable scientific truth, science must
equally recognize the communication of thought, which,
taken all in all, is but a particular form of suggestion

— as indicated by the name " mental suggestion,"
usually applied to it. If the former is explicable by
scientific laws actually known, then the latter also
must be thus explicable.

To reason in this manner is to take advantage of an


The pretended mental suggestion — badly named —
has nothing in common with true suggestion, at least
if we consider its essential components. I verbally
order a person to stand up, and in spite of his will to
the contrary he is forced to obey me. That is true
suggestion. I mentally send the same order to a per-
son who cannot see nor hear me; he does not obey my
order, but he tells those near him that at that very
moment I am commanding him to stand up. There
the communication of thought fully succeeds, but, at
the same time, suggestion completely fails.

There are, therefore, in the so-called mental sug-
gestion, two different phenomena :

( 1 ) The transmission of thought or of will, which
is made from one brain to another — and it is this that
it is necessary to explain, if mental suggestion can be
explained; in the present state of science, unfortunately,
it is inexplicable. 4

(2) Suggestion proper, which consists in the influ-
ence of an idea upon the brain which has received it
(however it may have entered this brain: by hearing,
sight, or in any other way) .

In order to connect mental suggestion with ordinary
suggestion, it would be necessary to prove that there
is no real difference in the way in which the subject
perceives the word or the gesture of the suggestioner

4 We are reminded of the words of Professor Pouchet (in Le Temps,
August 12, 1893) : "To show that one brain, by a sort of gravitation,
acts at a distance upon another brain, as the magnet upon a magnet,
the sun upon planets, the earth upon falling bodies, is to discover an
influence, a nervous vibration, diffusing itself without a material con-
ductor! . . . But find this for us, good people, show it to us, and your
name shall be greater in immortality than that of Newton. . . ."


and that in which he perceives his unexpressed thought.
This is what the author of an ingenious study upon " the
mechanism of mental hypnotic suggestion " 5 en-
deavored to do.

After having defined this suggestion from the idea
commonly admitted: " The influence that the thought
of the hypnotist exerts, in a determined sense, either
upon the thought of the hypnotized, or upon the appari-
tion in the hypnotized of somatic phenomena of hyp-
notic nature, without having the thought of the hypno-
tist accompanied by phenomena perceptible to the hyp-
notized and serving him as signs or indications" he
modifies thus the latter part of the definition, " without
having the thought of the hypnotist accompanied by
exterior signs of which he had consciousness and which
were perceptible to the assistants."

That which permits one to suppose that the influence
may be accompanied by signs perceptible to the subject
is, in fact, the very hypothesis which Dr. Ruault de-

In ordinary suggestion the hypnotist manifests his
thought by the aid of words; in mental suggestion he
does not speak. But Dr. Ruault assures us that " as,
according to all the experimenters, it is necessary that
the thought be distinct in order that the suggestion may
fully succeed" he gives to his thought the necessary dis-
tinctness by formulating it with the aid of the word
within. It is this interior word which the hypnotized
receives, thanks to his sensorial hyperacuteness.

Dr. Ruault recognizes, however, that this hyper-
acuteness is not one of the constant characteristics of

5 Dr. Albert Ruault, Revue philosophique.


somnambulism, and that physiologists who have at-
tempted to measure the sensorial acuteness of hypno-
tized subjects have found, sometimes an augmentation,
sometimes a diminution, in comparing it with that of

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Online LibraryEmile BoiracThe Psychology of the Future → online text (page 15 of 22)