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hallucination or a motor automatism.

The total number of persons examined with re-
spect to automatisms was 77. Of these, 20 had ex-
hibited such phenomena. Now, 13 of these 20 are
found among the 24 persoris in Groups I and III ;
that is, practically one sixth of the entire number of

1 The variation in the size of the groups is due to the fact that in respect to some
persons adequate information was obtainable on one point but not on another. It
is for this reason that Group I contains 17 persons in one case, iq in another, and
14 in a third. That is, there were 17 concerning whom it was possible to form a
Definite, judgment with respect to temperament, 19 with respect to automatisms,
and 14 with respect to suggestibility.

9 125


persons examined embraces two thirds of the cases
of automatisms. Putting these results in the form
of percentages, we get the following :

General average of automatisms for

77 persons 26 per cent.

Average for those who have experi-
enced a striking religious trans-
formation 54

Average for those who sought such a

transformation in vain 8 "

In other words, the average for those who had a
striking religious transformation is twice as high as
the general average, and nearly seven times as high
as the average for those who sought such a trans-
formation in vain.

If the general average of automatisms seems
rather excessive, the following explanatory circum-
stances should be borne in mind : First, motor autom-
atisms are included with hallucinations. Second,
nearly all the persons examined are too young to
have forgotten such experiences. Third, the cross-
questioning already described brought out a number
of facts not elicited by the questionnaire and not
likely to be elicited by a census of hallucinations con-
ducted by correspondence alone. Finally, it now be-
comes obvious that the high general average depends
upon the presence of a relatively large number of
persons who have experienced striking religious




The results here reached may be graphically repre-
sented by the accompanying squares. The shaded
portion of the first square indicates the general aver-

age of mental and motor automatisms. The shaded
portion of the second indicates the average for those
who experienced a striking religious transformation ;
that of the third, the average for those who sought
such a transformation in vain.

These results are so unequivocal that interpreta-
tion is unnecessary. It may be worth while to add,
however, that in two cases of motor automatism oc-
curring at the time of religious transformation there
was clear evidence of a congenital tendency to such
performances; in both cases a parent had exhibited
a similar automatism under similar religious con-
ditions. In a third case it was possible to identify a
phenomenon as probably automatic through a similar
but more pronounced phenomenon in a parent. One
case of hallucination was likewise clearly referable
to cor/genital tendencies. Three of these four cases
of congenital proclivity belong in Group I. Further-
more, to Groups I and III belong nearly, if not quite,



all the persons who have experienced the healing of
disease by faith, those who have received remark-
able assurance of answered prayer in advance of the
event, and those who reported other veridical pre-
monitions. The conclusion is that the mechanism
of striking religious transformations is the same as
the mechanism of our automatic mental processes.

Suggestibility as a Factor in Striking Transforma-

There remains for study the relative suggestibility
of the three groups ; that is, their susceptibility to i
such influences as appear most strikingly in hypno- \
tism. At first thought this seems to be a simple prob-
lem of more and less; but it is neither simple nor
merely quantitative. Indeed, the qualitative varieties
of suggestibility are quite as marked and quite as
important as the "suggestibility and nonsuggesti-
bility" which chiefly figure in the literature of sug-
gestion. It must have struck many experimenters
as a strange incident that, whereas persons of sound
body and trained mind make excellent subjects, most
of the literature represents suggestibility as identical
with relative prominence of the lower centers. The
fact seems to be that some persons are easily hyp-
notized, not because the higher rational centers are
undeveloped, but precisely because the high develop-
ment of these centers the habit of prompt concen-
tration of voluntary attention makes it possible to



follow the suggestions of the operator with pre-
cision. Moll remarks that the ability to direct one's
thoughts in any particular direction is favorable to
hypnosis, but that this ability is usually considered
to be a sign of strength of will. 1 As the persons
under examination in the present part of our study
are, perhaps without exception, healthy, and as all
have had considerable mental training, it will be seen
that ready response to suggestion cannot be regarded
as an unambiguous sign. The experimentation was
begun under the tentative hypothesis that auto-sug-
gestion might possibly account in part for the failure
of persons in Group II to secure the desired experi-
ences. The problem then became whether external
suggestion was more prominent in Group I and auto-
suggestion in Group II.

The problem may be more precisely put by distin-
guishing between passive suggestibility and sponta-
neous auto-suggestion. The necessity of thus stating
the distinction grows out of the ease of misun-
derstanding certain phenomena, particularly those
commonly described as "resisting the operator's sug-
gestion." Thus, if a subject struggles to open his
eyes when I tell him that he cannot do so, this is no
evidence of spontaneity. For the very assertion, in
the early stages of hypnosis, that the eyes cannot
open is a challenge to try ; it is a double suggestion.
This was exquisitely demonstrated upon one of my

1 Hvpnotism, London, 1895, 4-


subjects. For some time I had tried in vain to close
the eyes by making the usual passes and giving the
usual suggestions of drowsiness, etc. At last the
subject, who was apparently wide-awake, declared
that she could not close them and keep them closed.
Catching at this hint, I suddenly remarked, "You
cannot close them !" They immediately clapped shut
with every appearance of doing it automatically. In
another case in which the usual suggestions seemed
to have little or no effect the subject was instructed
to keep his eyes closed voluntarily for a while. But
his eyes opened very soon, and did so repeatedly.
He finally declared that it seemed as if he could not
keep them closed. In two other cases it was found
that a previously formed conviction on the part of
the subjects that they were suggestible had tended to
make them appear more passive than they really

What was looked for, then, was evidence of
spontaneity or originality rather than mere readiness
of response or its opposite. An illustration or two
will make this clear. To one subject I declared that
his outstretched arm was rigid and could not move.
The arm immediately stiffened out, but began a series
of incipient up-and-down motions. This was clearly
a product of my own suggestion, as were also, per-
haps, the sympathetic writhings of the body and con-
tortions of the face. The cataleptic arm was the

right one. Presently the left arm was raised and



began to push down on the right one, evidently in
an effort to lower it. Failing in the effort, the left
arm itself now became cataleptic, and could not
lower itself. Here the evidence of spontaneous auto-
suggestion is unmistakable. Contrast this, now,
with another case in which a suggestion was given
that an arm was cataleptic. Certain incipient re-
sponses to the challenge were made as before, but
they ceased in a few seconds, while the face and the
rest of the body expressed little or no interest in
what was going on.

Let us compare two other cases that are less strik-
ing, and yet unambiguous. In both, passes in front
of the eyes and suggestions of heavy eyelids, etc.,
meet with very slow response, so slow that I finally
close the lids with my fingers. If, now, I say, "Your
eyes are closed .tight ; you cannot open them," both
subjects open their eyes. Similarly, they can un-
clasp their hands, and the like, whenever they are
challenged to try. Thus far the two cases correspond
point for point. But if, after closing the eyes, I leave
the subjects alone, 'avoiding, as far as possible, the
giving of further suggestions, a decided difference
presently appears. One of the subjects sits with
closed eyes for an indefinite length of time, that is,
shows no initiative; but the other, as often as the
experiment is repeated, spontaneously opens his eyes
after a short interval.

Such experimentation resulted in separating the


cases according to two fairly well-marked types. In
respect to readiness of response to hypnotic sugges-
tion the two types do not seriously differ. Under
both types fall cases in which the response was al-
most immediate, and also cases in which it was very
slow. But the behavior under suggestion was decid-
edly different. Let jus call the two typ5 s tTie p a<; -
jive and the spontaneous. Under the former belong
those who take no decided or original part in the
experiment. Their response to external suggestion
may not be very pronounced, but they initiate noth-
ing after once they have begun to yield. Under the
spontaneous type belong, on the other hand, the few
who appear to be nonsuggestible and those who,
while responding to suggestion, take a more or less
original part by adding to the experiment or by
waking themselves up.

Comparing Groups I, II, and III with respect to
this point, we find certain plain differentiations. To
begin with, as might be expected, nearly all the per-
sons who have experienced any of the mental or
motor automatisms already described are "passives."
Thirteen such persons were experimented upon, and
of these ten clearly belonged to the passive type.
This fact makes it appear that the two types here de-
scribed are substantially parallel with those sifted
out by certain experiments at Harvard University. 1

1 Cultivated Motor Automatism, by Gertrude Stein, Psychological Review^
V, agsff.



A few cases were not accessible for purposes of
experiment. The numbers experimented upon in the
three groups were respectively 14, 12, and 5. The
results are as follows : In general, the line between
Groups I and II coincides with that between the pas-
sive and the spontaneous types, though apparent ex-
ceptions exist, and though the interpretation of the
facts is not equally clear in all cases. Of the 14 cases
in Group I (persons who expected a striking trans-
formation and experienced it) 13 are of the passive
type. Of the 12 persons in Group II (expectation
disappointed) 9 clearly belong to the spontaneous
type, i is entirely passive, and 2 are open to some
doubt. Of the 5 persons in Group III (striking ex-
perience, yet disappointed) 2 are passive and 3 spon-
taneous. In the accompanying diagrams the shaded
portions represent the percentage of passive sug-
gestibility in each of the three groups :

Group I.

Group II.

Group III.

The nature of the evidence may be further illus-
trated and the conclusion still further strengthened
by reference to the negative and doubtful cases. The


one case in Group I that is not clearly passive is the
one first mentioned on a preceding page in illustra-
tion of the double character of many verbal sug-
gestions. This case is therefore probably a passive
one, though not so counted in the above figures.
Another member of this group seemed for some time
to be an exception to the general rule. She had had
three striking experiences, and yet was apparently not
suggestible. One day, however, mention having been
made in the class in psychology of pain induced in a
tooth by imagining a dental operation, she soon felt
a toothache. It became intense and lasted for three
or four hours, the face meantime becoming sore and
apparently swollen. This settled the question of pas-
sive suggestibility. Turning, now, to the negative
and doubtful cases in Group II, we find that the one
clearly negative case is one that stands on the border
between Groups I and II. This subject had more
difficulty in classifying himself than any other one
in either group. Again, of the two cases scheduled
as doubtful, one is the only case in this entire group
in which any form of mental or motor automatism
was discovered. Nevertheless, the case remains
ambiguous ; for, though external suggestions are ac-
cepted with every sign of passivity, the subject has
heretofore practiced auto-suggestion, even to the ex-
tent of curing toothache and other minor pains there-
by. His present passivity, therefore, may be partly
or wholly due to training. By way of parenthesis


it may be remarked that each subject was questioned
as to whether he had ever been hypnotized or had
ever witnessed hypnotic experiments, and his re-
actions were judged according to his replies.

The correlation between one's religious experi-
ence and one's type of suggestibility was sometimes
found to be curiously complete. Here, for example,
is a subject whose response to passes and suggestions
of drowsiness is not prompt ; yet when the response
comes it simply plumps itself. The subject is now
very passive. In response to a suggestion an arm
quickly becomes cataleptic. But, in the midst of the
experiment, something having incidentally appealed
to the subject's interest, he spontaneously opens his
eyes and appears to be completely out of the hyp-
nosis. This man was converted at the age of six-
teen with marked manifestations. His whole being
was thrilled with joy, and he had what he regarded
as the witness of the Spirit. But from seventeen to
nineteen he endured terrible storm and stress in
which he sought in vain to recover his original
status. He finally settled down to the conviction
that we are children of God in our deeds and
thoughts rather than in our particular moods and

A still more remarkable parallel is as follows:
Response very prompt; lids clapped shut and trem-
bled. At the suggestion that they could not open
they quickly opened. The remark was then made



that perhaps the lids would not close so promptly
next time. The suggestion worked, for now it re-
quired many passes to shut the eyes. Arm refused
to become cataleptic, but when I began to breathe
deeply and slowly, as if asleep, the subject's head
promptly began to fall over 'forward; it continued
downward until it rested on the breast. Subject
now apparently in a deep sleep; but after a while a
spontaneous awakening occurs. He is now rehyp-
notized and told that he cannot pronounce his name ;
a gentle struggle ensues and lasts for a considerable
time, but the effort is not given up until the name is
successfully pronounced. The characteristics here
are initial passivity followed after a while by de-
cided spontaneity. This exactly describes the sub-
ject's religious experiences also. On two different
occasions, after earnestly seeking for a marked ex-
perience, he happened to notice some incidental
thing in his environment that he took to be a divine
token. Immediately he experienced great exalta-
tion. His heart's desire seemed to be realized. But
after a few days the emotion waned, and reflection
setting in pronounced a severe verdict upon the
whole performance.

In order to appreciate the weight of these results
concerning the relation of suggestibility to religious
transformations, it will be necessary to notice once
more the principle upon which cases were classed

in Group II. This group contains no case in which



there was not a distinct effort to obtain an experi-
ence that never came. Now, of the 77 persons ex-
amined there are many whose training and environ-
ment were equally adapted to induce expectation
and seeking but did not do so. It is therefore prob-
able that spontaneous auto-suggestion prevented
expectation in some as it prevented the fulfillment
of expectation in others. Hence, the sphere in
which it plays a decisive role is undoubtedly much
larger than the numerical proportions seem to in-

Moreover, no statistical display can do justice to
facts of this sort. For not only must the numbers
express in some degree one's interpretation of facts,
and not merely the bare facts themselves, but the
qualities with which we are dealing are too profound
and pervasive to be expressed in any simple for-
mula. The whole style of one's mental organization
is involved. It is safe to say that any observer of
human nature would perceive the propriety of set-
ting off Groups I and II from each other on general
grounds and without reference to the facts upon
which this part of our study is based. The per-
sonalities in each group taken by itself are relatively
alike, while the two groups are clearly different frbm
each other. Psychology merely renders this ob-
vious difference more precise by saying that the dif-
ference is one of temperament and of a more or less

spontaneous attitude toward environment.



Three Favorable Factors in Combination.

It has been shown that three sets of factors favorl
the attainment of a striking religious transforma-(
tion : the temperament factor, the factor of expecta-
tion, and the tendency to automatisms and passive
suggestibility. Let us, in conclusion, note the effect
of combining these three factors. Of 10 cases in
which there is expectation of a marked transforma-
tion, together with predominance of sensibility and
passive suggestibility, the number whose expecta-
tion was satisfied was 9. But of n cases of such
expectation, together with predominance of intellect
or of will, and with spontaneous auto-suggestion,
not one was' satisfied. These numbers include
cases from Group III as well as from Groups I
and II.

If our groups seem to contain rather few cases, it
should be remembered that a problem of this kind
requires relatively complete knowledge of a few
jcases rather than an item or two of knowledge re-
garding many cases. Our procedure must neces-
sarily consist in a gradual narrowing down of the
range of cases, together with increasing minuteness
of scrutiny in each case. As a matter of fact, we
have approached about as closely to the strict
method of experiment as the subject permits. The
factors are so definitely identified that prediction
becomes safe wherever either of the two combina-
tions just mentioned is found present. Given three



factors, the fourth the general character of one's*
religious experiences can be predicted with a highj
degree of probability.

It is supposed by many that striking transforma-
tions in the affective life are reserved for those who
have been great sinners. I know of more than one
person who has been tempted to become a great
sinner in order to be able to experience a brilliant
conversion. The idea seems to be that an abrupt tran-
sition from moral badness to moral goodness natu-
rally carries great emotional disturbances with it.
And doubtless such circumstances do tend to inten-
sify whatever happens. But it does not at all ap-/
pear that these circumstances are the chief factors J
that determine the degree of affective transforma- J
tion at conversion. For among the cases belonging
to Groups I and III there is only a meager sprin-
kling of persons who had ever been bad in any very
positive sense. In fact, of the entire 24 persons,
only 5 report having experienced any sorrow for
specific sins, and even then the sin repented of was
generally a bad temper or some similar infirmity.
On the other hand, of 13 persons in Group II,
all of whom sought a striking transformation in
vain, 3 also report sorrow for specific sins.

In short, everything goes to show that the chief/
mental qualities and states favorable to these strik- :
ing experiences are expectation, abundance of feel-
ing, and passive suggestibility with its tendency to


hallucinations and other automatisms. Shall we
therefore conclude that conversion is practically an
automatic performance ? Not unless we first define
conversion so as to ignore its profound relation to
God and to the principles of a good life. If conver-
sion is a moral renewal, it is not mere psychical pro-
cess of any sort. What has been proved is simply
that, when conversion or an equivalent change
takes place in one's moral attitude toward life and
destiny and God, it may clothe itself in certain
emotional habiliments provided certain factors are
/present, but otherwise not. The substance of re-
/ ligious experiences as far transcends their emotional
forms as a man transcends the clothes he wears.

We may, however, draw from these facts a wa/h-
ing against mistaking the clothes for the man.
"Would you cast the horoscope of a human life?"
says Fouillee. "It is not to be read in the con-
stellations of the sky, but in the actions and re-
actions of the interior astronomical system; do not
study the conjunction of the stars, but those of the
organs." 1 Similarly, we may now add : Would you
understand the emotional aspects of religious ex-
periences? Do not ascribe them to the inscrutable
ways of God, but to ascertainable differences in
men's mental constitutions; do not theorize about
divine grace, but study the hidden workings of the
human mind!

1 Temperament et Caractere % Paris, 1895, 88.


Explanation of Trances, Visions, the "Power/', and

the Like.

When the distinction just made has been firmly
grasped we shall be ready to perceive, without being
shocked by it, that the striking psychic manifesta-
tions which reach their climax among us in emo-
tional revivals, camp meetings, and negro services
have a direct relation to certain states^ of an essen-
tially hypnotic and hallucinatorYjdnd. In various
forms such states have appeared and reappeared
throughout the history of religion. Examples of
what is here referred to are found in the sacred
frenzy of the Bacchantes, the trance of the sibyls,
die ecstasy of the Neo-Platonists, the enlightenment
that came to Gautama Buddha under the sacred Bo-
tree, the visions of the canonized saints, the absorp-
tion into God experienced by various mystics, and
the religious epidemics of the Middle Ages, such as
tarantism and St. Vitus's dance. All these and a
multitude of similar phenomena were produced by
processes easily recognized by any modern psychol-
ogist as automatic and suggestive. Similarly, the
phenomenon in Methodist history known as the
"power" was induced by hypnntir. prnre^fg *^w
well understood, though h'idden until long after the
days of the Wesleys. John Wesley was puzzled
and troubled by these manifestations. For a time
it was not uncommon for men and women to cry out

in his meetings and fall unconscious, or seemingly
10 141


so, to the ground. They appeared to be seized by
some mysterious power that contorted their limbs or
rendered their bodies rigid. They saw visions, heard
voices, and became the organ of what seemed like
revelations. Perhaps nothing in the career of Mr.
Wesley more clearly reveals his marvelous practi-
cal capacity than his calm and, for the most part,
common-sense treatment of such occurrences. A re-
ligious leader who had been in touch with ghost-
experiences might be expected to be particularly im-
pressed by these new phenomena. Nothing would
seem "more natural than that he should cultivate
them, both as a means of attracting the attention of
the masses and as an attestation of divine truth. This
was, in fact, the policy of many religious leaders, as,
for example, of Swedenborg. We have had some
touches of that sort of religious propagandism even
in our own country. Both Increase Mather and his
son, Cotton, zealously asserted the truth of witch-
craft because it seemed to prove the reality of spirit-
ual things. But Wesley had the wisdom to perceive
that these apparently divine or demoniac posses-
sions were matters aside from his main business.

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Online LibraryGeorge Albert CoeThe spiritual life : studies in the science of religion → online text (page 8 of 16)