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Mental Science vs. Hypnotism

The term “animal magnetism” is misleading, and is made to cover a great many phases of mental phenomena.

Some animals undoubtedly possess a kind of power that others do not seem to have. A small bird was seen fluttering a few feet above some bushes, dropping lower and lower as it circled around and making a peculiar noise, as if terrified. As the observer approached the bushes be frightened a large cat from under them. Immediately the bird regained its self-possession and flew away.

At another time, attention was attracted by the excited cackling of some, fowls that were under a large tree, and upon investigation the fact was revealed that the fowls were huddled together, apparently unable to move, and showing every evidence of being dominated by some external influence, which was found to be a large snake, ready to drop on its prey from a branch of the tree. Such incidents are common, and show the power one animal may exert over another.

This influence is sometimes exerted on certain persons by others, when all concerned are on the purely animal plane of existence. But no animal can exert this power upon entities living on the intellectual plane; therefore, when it is employed upon a plane other than the animal, the word “animal” should be dropped. It is no longer animal magnetism, but might more correctly be called intellectual magnetism. The power perceived in the animal kingdom becomes intensified on the intellectual plane, frequently dominating the animal to a marked degree. The strongest physical organisms seem to have but little power to cope with this magnetism. Sandow, a man noted for his wonderful strength, a few months ago submitted himself to hypnotic tests before a number of prominent physicians in New York City. It is well known that he is able to handle two-hundred-pound dumb-bells without apparent effort, and to perform other feats showing astounding muscular strength. One of the doctors, a small man, who would have been but a child in Sandow’s hands, put him under a hypnotic spell, and the famous “strong man” could not lift dumb-bells weighing even two pounds. He strained and tugged at them until he perspired profusely; yet he could not move them one inch from the floor. The physical giant was as clay in the hands of the potter.

If the fact were made clear that as man grows away from the animal plane his magnetic power increases, the term “animal magnetism” would soon be recognized as a misnomer. We often hear that a certain speaker has a ~ great deal of animal magnetism because of his power to move and control audiences, when there may be comparatively little of the animal in the man. The term “magnetism” may be used on all the varying planes of thought—physical, intellectual, and spiritual: for there is as truly a spiritual as a physical or intellectual magnetism. The spiritual, however, has this difference: it has eradicated the selfish propensities and desires that exist to a great degree on the other planes.

Coming directly to what has been known as mesmerism, but now as hypnotism—the only difference being that the phenomena have been greatly diversified since the latter name has been adopted—we find that knowledge concerning this subject was first acquired by Europeans about the middle of the last century. There is no doubt, however, that certain persons in the Far East have been familiar with it from the earliest times, and that their power ' greatly exceeds anything known either in this country or in Europe.

Thought travels in waves; hence, it is not strange that several persons in different parts of Europe should at the same time conceive the idea that men are sensible to the influence of magnetism. Among others thus convinced was Maximilian Hell, professor of astronomy at Vienna. He advised a physician of his acquaintance, Dr. Frederick Anton Mesmer, to try to cure diseases with a magnet. Mesmer made a number of experiments, and found that he could exercise a singular influence over his patients. He immediately laid claim to the discovery of a great curative agent, and public attention was at once called to the new way of treating disease. Hell also claimed to be the real discoverer, and a serious dispute arose between him and Mesmer, the latter declaring that he did not cure his patients by mineral magnetism but by animal magnetism —a peculiar agent developed in his own body and conducted to the patients either with or without magnets. There is this in, proof of his statement: that when he was graduated, and took his degree of M.D., in his thesis he held that the universe is pervaded by a subtle element having extraordinary influence on the human body and being identical with the magnetic element.

As a matter of fact, neither Mesmer nor Hell was the discoverer of magnetism and the curative properties of the magnet. In Dr. Franz Hartmann’s work on “Paracelsus,” we find the following:

“Paracelsus was well acquainted With the therapeutic powers of the magnet and used it in various diseases. He knew the powers of mineral, human, and astral magnetism, and his doctrines in regard to human magnetism have been confirmed to a great extent since the time of his death. More than a. hundred years ago Mesmer created a. sensation in the medical world by his discovery of animal magnetism and by his magnetic cures. His discovery was then believed to refer to something new and unheard of; but Lessing proved already in 1769 that the real discoverer of animal magnetism was Paracelsus.”

It was about the year 1778 that Mesmer made his appearance in Paris, which was then the world’s great center of science and literature. A commission appointed by the French Government to examine into Mesmer’s discovery was unfavorable to him. The report admitted that a great influence was wrought upon the subject, but this influence was ascribed chiefly to the imagination. The impression left on the public mind by the report was that Mesmer was a charlatan, and from that time onward his influence waned. 

The process of Mesmer was very different from that resorted to by latter-day hypnotists. His way of treating patients was to take several together, place magnets upon different parts of their bodies, and have each person hold in hand one of the rods of iron projecting from a tub filled with various kinds of minerals. The whole party was then connected by touching hands, and also by a cord passed around each person. The apartment was dimly lighted and hung with mirrors; strains of soft music occasionally broke the profound silence; odors were wafted through the room—while Mesmer, clad in the garments of a magician, glided among them, affecting some by making passes with the hands, others by look, and so on. The effects were various, although all were held to be in the highest degree beneficial.

Mesmer passed away in 1815, leaving many distinguished disciples, who continued his methods with varying success.

It would be both interesting and instructive to follow the study of this subject through its different phases up to the present, but space will not permit; so we will proceed to give some of the opinions and researches of the greatest hypnotists of to-day. Dr. Braid, of Manchester, England, who coined the word “hypnotism” to denote certain states of sleep into which the subject was thrown, demonstrated by experiment that it was possible to produce an artificial sleep without any act or aid of another; that one had only to fix his eyes for a few minutes upon some luminous object placed a little higher than the ordinary plane of vision, at a distance of two or three inches, to induce this impersonal sleep.

The word “hypnotism” is now generally used to cover various forms of magnetism.

The usual method employed by Charcot in hypnotizing a subject was first to get his good will, and then unexpectedly unmask before his eyes an electric or magnesium light. He could act equally well on the organs of hearing by suddenly and unexpectedly sounding a gong. The patient, not expecting it and becoming instantly motionless, would become transfixed in the gesture he was making at the moment the gong was sounded. Another method employed by Charcot was to place the subject near a large tuning-fork operated by an electromagnet. Little by little, under the influence of the swelling vibrations thus produced, sleep would supervene and become as profound as when the other methods were used.

Charcot says that the psychic characteristic of hypnotic somnambulism is one of absolute trust—a boundless confidence on the part of the subject toward the one that has hypnotized him. No matter .how improbable the story told in the presence of a person so hypnotized, he believes it, makes it his own, and it becomes the center of his entire cerebral activity. All his thoughts radiate from it until some new thought is furnished him that may be exactly opposite to the former. It is because of this state of mind that the phenomena of suggestion are so easily produced. Suggestion may be carried to almost any length.

“The more I have examined the facts and the more I have advanced in my study,” says Charcot, summing up, “the more I am convinced that hypnotism is a reaction, not an action.” This remark can only mean that hypnotism is a suspension to a certain degree of the vital force that animates and controls the body of man. But it is more than this; it is a withdrawal of the soul from the body, in proof of which numerous cases may be cited of persons under hypnotic influence seeing and hearing things that were occurring at great distances.

Medical men are now turning their attention to hypnotism as a power to be invoked for the healing of disease. In the past, no one thing has wrought so much suffering and so perpetuated disease as the poisonous drugs administered by the medical fraternity; but a greater evil will result from the wide employment of hypnotism than from the use of drugs. Hypnotism is an inversion of the truth. It is putting to a wrong use a God-given power that should never be used to produce a reaction whereby the will of man is lessened, the faculties of mind are weakened, and the subject comes and goes at the beck and call of the one that controls him. No soul should ever seek to control another. In doing so man violates the law of his own being; and as he metes it out it shall be measured to him again. We have no moral nor spiritual right to compel another to do anything, no matter whether we believe it to be beneficial to him or otherwise. Hypnotism is founded on selfishness; it is but a combination of animal and intellectual soul powers. There is no thought of spirituality in hypnotism from beginning to end; for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

Some will ask, If you succeed in relieving pain, is it not an agent for good? It is not, and never can be. Its advocates claim that it is harmless, and that beneficial results ensue when used aright by trained, scientific minds, but that the medical profession should alone use it, to the exclusion of impostors and charlatans. This, however, would only be a transfer of charlatanism from one class to another. It does not follow, because the medical profession has a certain knowledge of anatomy, that it understands the workings of the human mind. In fact the whole history of medicine shows rather the reverse of this, and hypnotism in medical hands would only become another instrument to destroy the liberties of the people.

Again, pain is not so much the enemy of man as it is his friend. It is a notification from Nature that man has transgressed her laws, and the dulling or overcoming of pain through other than a natural way is not going to benefit man in the end. It is only putting off the evil day.

We render an account in our bodies of the evil things we think. Mental science, therefore, would seek to overcome conditions of pain and disease, not through denying them away, but by seeking to make plain the laws that regulate life and by suggesting obedience thereto as the one thing needful to produce health and strength. It would emphasize the fact that there are powers latent in the life of man that if used aright would bring to him a greater fullness of life, and that freedom is needful for their development. Perfection of life comes to all through an understanding of the powers and forces latent in the soul and their rightful use in strengthening both mind and body. Mental science directs its efforts to the awakening of these inner forces and bringing about a true action of mind, which results in a controlled, regular movement of the different organs of the body.

Hypnotism weakens the will of the subject; it destroys his independence; it tends to a deadening of his mental faculties, so that in time he becomes more of an automaton, controlled and directed by the will of others, than a thinking, reasoning being , whose life and actions are under the control of his own mind. I do not question the sincerity or the humanitarian impulses of the advocates of this system, but I do question the good that is alleged to flow from its use. If we sacrifice our own independence, our own individuality, has not the price been greater than any seeming gain that may come to us through the overcoming of pain? When we are in harmony with the laws of Nature, we do not induce reactions; but we realize that a perfect, regulated action becomes necessary for either mental or physical health.

In conclusion, mental treatment produces true action, not reaction; the faculties of mind are quickened, not dulled; the will of the patient is increased, not lessened: showing that, while hypnotism is contrary to the law of God, mental healing is fully in accord therewith.

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Charles Brodie Patterson

  • Canadian New Thought author
  • Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917
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