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 lig
t, 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.