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Former Methods Of Hypnotization

All the methods of hypnotizing, then, are directed to securing this
state of concentration of the patient's mind. The hypnotic state is
brought about in different ways by different operators, and even the
same operator must employ quite different methods to secure hypnotic
influence over different subjects. In the old times, mysterious passes
and strokings and rubbings of various kinds, and instruments that
flashed light, or that made special sounds, were employed. Among the
pioneers, each worker invented methods of his own. A review of these
will bring out the fact that none of them represents essentials, and
that they are only auxiliaries to secure concentration of the
patient's mind.

The methods of hypnotism practiced by those most noted in the history
of the art were very different from one another, but not more
different than are the methods in vogue to-day among individual
hypnotizers. Indeed, the practices of the past have come down as a
heritage to our own time. Stroking and touching, of which we have
hints in the oldest times in Egypt and Babylonia and Greece, have
always been prominent features. Valentine Greatrakes dreamt that he
heard a voice in his dream telling him that his right hand should be
dead and that stroking it with his left should cause it to recover its
power once more. After this had happened three times in succession he
began to apply this method to the ills of others. Greatrakes seems
really to have come in to replace the touching by the king for the
King's Evil at a time when there was no king in England, Pastor
Gassner, the next worker who attracted attention by hypnotic
procedures, used words of command after attracting the profound
attention of his patients. Father Hell employed the touch of magnets.
Mesmer used music to predispose the mind, but had many of the methods
of modern hypnotists.

Mesmer.--While Mesmer undoubtedly attracted attention to certain
phases of hypnotism that were to prove valuable, he was by no means
the first to do so, and what he did had such a tincture of
charlatanism it is no wonder that he was discredited. There was a
little truth, but there was a deal of mere pretense in his work. While
he undoubtedly obtained results, he did so mainly because of certain
mentally impressive methods that he employed in connection with
whatever of hypnotism he used. Binet and Fere, who have given us some
details of his work, describe his methods in such a way as to make it
clear that they smacked largely of quackery:

Mesmer, wearing a coat of lilac silk, walked up and down amid his
agitated throng, accompanied by Dezlon and his associates, whom he
chose for their youth and comeliness. Mesmer carried a long iron
wand with which he touched the bodies of the patients and especially
the diseased parts. Often laying aside the wand, he magnetized the
patients with his eyes, fixing his gaze on theirs, or applying his
hand to the hypochondriac region and to the abdomen. This
application was often applied for hours, and at other times the
master made use of passes. He began by placing himself "en rapport"
with his subject. Seated opposite to him, foot against foot, knee
against knee, Mesmer laid his fingers upon the hypochondriac region
and moved them to and fro, lightly touching the ribs. Magnetism,
with strong electric currents, was substituted for these
manipulations when more energetic results were to be produced. The
master, raising his fingers in a pyramidal form, passed his hands
all over the patient's body, beginning with the head, and going
downward over the shoulders to the feet. He then returned to the
head, both back and front, then the belly and the back, and renewed
the process again and again until the magnetized person was
saturated with the healing fluid and transported with pain or
pleasure, both sensations being equally salutary. Young women were
so much gratified by the crisis that they wished to be thrown into
it anew. They followed Mesmer through the halls and confessed that
it was impossible not to be warmly attached to the person of the

De Puysegur and His Successors.--De Puysegur has some definite
instructions for hypnotizers, whom he called magnetizers. It is
instructive even now to read these, for they emphasize the most
important element in all hypnotism, the confidence of the operator in
his own power, for this, communicated to the subject, produces the
beneficial results:

You are to consider yourself as a magnet; your arms, and
particularly your hands, being its poles; and when you touch a
patient by laying one of your hands on his back, and the other in
direct opposition upon his stomach, you are to imagine that the
magnetic fluid has a tendency to circulate from one hand to the
other through the body of the patient. You may vary this position by
placing one hand on the head and the other on the stomach, still
with the same intention, the same desire of doing good. The
circulation from one hand to the other will continue, the head and
stomach being the parts of the body where the greatest number of
nerves converge; these are, therefore, the two centres to which your
action ought to be mostly directed. Friction is quite unnecessary;
it is sufficient to touch with great attention.

Some of these methods continued to be employed by the successors of
Mesmer and De Puysegur, the sense of touch being the principal
adjuvant, though Mesmer employed also the sense of hearing. Braid
seems to have been the first to realize that the sense of sight could
be used effectively, or perhaps that the tiring of the muscle sense
might well serve as a point for the concentration of attention. He
used the flash of a light from some bright object or tired the eye
muscles by having the patient look upward at some object brought near
so as to require convergence of vision. His methods were imitated by
most of the hypnotizers of the nineteenth century. Liebault and
Bernheim, at Nancy, employed them regularly, and they were used in the
investigations at the Salpetriere. It was found, however, that after a
patient had been once hypnotized, all that was needed was a word of
command or a definite suggestion, and the hypnotic state recurred.
Further experience showed also that the original hypnotic phenomena
might, in most cases, be secured very simply by word-suggestion to the
patient, though some individuals required persistent efforts in the
application of several methods to secure the concentration of
mind on a single idea or set of ideas that is the essence of

By most serious hypnotists, especially those who use hypnotism for
therapeutic purposes, all the rubbings and manipulations are now
either completely eliminated, or are used only under special
circumstances. The important element of the operator's influence
consists in obtaining the complete confidence of the subject in the
operator's power to control his intelligence for the time being;
getting the subject to resign himself completely, with absolute
assurance that his trust will be for his good, and can by no means
result in harm. Without this attitude of mind on the part of the
subject, anything like real hypnotism is impossible. Even with this,
only a slight degree of the hypnotic condition may be secured in
certain people, but the majority have a distinct susceptibility to it.

Next: Present Day Methods Of Hypnotization

Previous: Hypnotism

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