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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




IN the preceding cases, the secondary personality appeared but once and then disappeared from life activity. Can it be shown that such a personality once formed in the womb of the subconscious and born and grown up in full consciousness and finally disappearing from life, is really not dead, but only submerged in the subconscious? Can this seemingly dead and buried personality be resurrected and brought to light, be made once more to enter the cycle of life and then be submerged again into the same obscurity whence it came, like the shade of Samuel recalled by the witch of Endor?

            Yes, this can be done, and in fact it has been accomplished. As examples, we may take the following interesting cases:

            The striking case of Ansel Bourne, described by Professor James in his “Psychology” and reported in “The Proceedings for Psychic Research,” is very interesting and clearly demonstrates the possible resurrection of the entranced and apparently dead secondary personality. “The Rev. Ansel Bourne, of Greene, R. L, was brought up to the trade of a carpenter; but in consequence of a sudden temporary loss of sight and hearing under very peculiar circumstances, he became converted from atheism to Christianity just before his thirtieth year, and has since that time for the most part lived the life of an itinerant preacher. He has been subject to headaches and temporary fits of depression of spirits during most of his life, and has had a few fits of unconsciousness lasting an hour or less. He also has a region of somewhat diminished cutaneous sensibility on the left thigh. Otherwise his health is good, and his muscular strength and endurance excellent. He is of a firm and self-reliant disposition, a man whose yea is yea and his nay nay; and his character for uprightness is such in the community that no person who knows him will for a moment admit the possibility of his case not being perfectly genuine.

            “On January 17, 1887, he drew $551 from a bank in Providence with which to pay for a. certain lot of land in Greene, paid certain bills and got into a Pawtucket horse-car. This is the last incident which he remembers. He did not return home that day, and nothing was heard of him for two months. He was published in the papers as missing and foul play being suspected, the police sought in vain his whereabouts. On the morning of March 14th, however, at Norristown, Pa., a man calling himself A. J. Brown, who had rented a small shop six weeks previously, stocked it with stationery, confectionery, fruit, and small articles, and carried on his quiet trade, without seeming to anyone unnatural or eccentric, woke up in a fright and called in the people of the house to tell him where he was. He said that his name was Ansel Bourne, that he was entirely ignorant of Norristown, that he knew nothing of shopkeeping, and that the last thing he remembered—it seemed only yesterday—was drawing the money from the bank, etc., in Providence. He would not believe that two months had elapsed. The people of the house thought him insane; and so at first did Dr. Louis H. Read, whom they called in to see him. But on telegraphing to Providence, confirmatory messages came, and presently his nephew, Mr. Andrew Harris, arrived upon the scene, made everything straight, and took him home. He was very weak, having lost apparently over twenty pounds of flesh during his escapade, and had such a horror of the idea of the candy-store that he refused to set foot in it again.

            “The first two weeks of the period remained unaccounted as he had no memory after he had once resumed his normal personality, of any part of the time, and no one” who knew him seems to have seen him after he left home. The remarkable part of the change is, of course, the peculiar occupation which the so-called Brown indulged in. Mr. Bourne has never in his life had the slightest contact with the trade. ‘Brown’ was described by the neighbors as taciturn, orderly in his habits, and in no way queer. He went to Philadelphia several times; replenished his stock; cooked for himself in the back shop, where he also slept; went regularly to church, and once at a prayer meeting made what was considered by the hearers a good address, in the course of which he related an incident which he had witnessed in his natural state of Bourne.

            “This was all that was known of the case up to June, 1890, when I induced Mr. Bourne to submit to hypnotism, so as to see whether in the hypnotic trance his ‘Brown’ memory would not come back. It did so with surprising readiness, so much so, indeed, that it proved quite impossible to make him while in the hypnosis remember any of the facts of his normal life. He had heard of Ansel Bourne, but ‘didn’t know as he had ever met the man.’ When confronted with Mrs. Bourne, he said that he had ‘never seen the woman before,’ etc.

            “On the other hand, he told of his peregrinations during the lost fortnight, and gave all sorts of details about the Norristown episode. The whole thing was prosaic enough; and the Brown personality seems to be nothing but a rather shrunken, dejected and amnesic extract of Mr. Bourne himself. He gives no motive for the wandering except that there was ‘trouble back there’ and he ‘wanted rest.’ During the trance he looks old, the corners of his mouth are drawn down, his voice is slow and weak, and he sits screening his eyes and trying vainly to remember what lay before and after the two months of the Brown experience. ‘I’m all hedged in,’ he says; ‘I can’t get out at either end. I don’t know what set me down in that Pawtucket horse-car, and I don't know how I ever left that store, or what became of it.' His eyes are practically normal and all his sensibilities (save for tardier response) about the same in hypnosis as in waking. I had hoped by suggestion, etc., to run the two personalities into one, and make the memories continuous, but no artifices would avail to accomplish this, and Mr. Bourne’s skull to-day still covers two distinct personal selves.”

            An examination of the case discloses a neuropathic family history and a psychopathic and neuropathic disposition in the patient. His maternal grandfather seemed to have suffered from senile dementia. “His father became dissipated. The patient, when about thirty, suffered from a severe functional psychopathic attack, involving loss of sight, hearing and speaking. Since childhood he has been subject to “blues,” to melancholic attacks and has had “fainting fits.”1 It is clear that the equilibrium of the associated systems could be easily overthrown by some physical or psychic stimuli, even of medium intensity. Such a stimulus was sure to come some time or other; it came at last in the form of “trouble back there.” The patient’s personality changed. He forgot the events of his former life, even his name; called himself Mr. Brown. His natural instincts, later acquirements and even habits did not change. He knew how to eat, drink, dress and take care of himself; he could speak, read and write, and could readily understand written and spoken language. He even retained his habit of church-going and making sermons. His sensibility did not change. The only profound change was in his memory and in his character. All the events of his former life were completely gone; he took up an occupation for which in his Bourne state he had a perfect horror, and he was described by the neighbors as “taciturn.” The change in his personality was profound, but it still retained much of the old content. We must call here the reader’s attention to the fact that once “at a prayer meeting the patient made what was considered by the hearers a good address, in the course of which he related an incident which he had witnessed in his natural state of Bourne.”

            The patient also presented hypnoidal states, inasmuch as the incident was not recognized by him as belonging to his past, the Bourne state. Two months later the patient woke up in his Bourne state and the whole intermediate period was totally erased from his memory; he did not know where he was; he could not recognize the people nor the surroundings; everything was strange to him. During hypnosis the patient passed into the Bourne state and all memory of the Brown state was gone.

            The explanation from our stand-point is the same in this case as in the preceding ones. The stimulus “trouble” had disintegrated, temporarily, though, the synthetic moment of self-consciousness, and another less complex moment took possession of the patient, a moment which Professor James aptly characterizes as “a rather shrunken, dejected, and amnesic extract of Mr. Bourne himself.” With the reorganization of the old systems, the new independent systems sunk into the subconscious. Periodicity in the alternation of consciousness was absent.

            About three years later Professor James conceived the idea of revealing these dissociated systems by putting the patient into the hypnotic trance. Sure enough, they did emerge, but the Bourne personality could not be reached. He had heard of Ansel Bourne, “but did not know as he had ever met the man.” “During the trance” or Brown personality the patient “looks old, the corners of his mouth are drawn down, his voice is slow and weak, and he sits screening his eyes and trying vainly to remember what lay before and after the two months of the Brown experience.” When asked insistently for his experiences, the answer of the Brown personality is highly interesting and remarkably characteristic of its mental state: “I'm all hedged in. I can’t get out at either end. I don’t know what set me down in that Pawtucket horse-car, and I don’t know how I ever left that store, or what became of it.”

            It is certainly a pity that the patient was not observed in his secondary state, but the hypnotic trance seemed to have brought forth in a more or less perfect form the original Brown personality.

            This case becomes still more interesting and instructive, because of the experiments that have been performed on it and also on account of the persistent attempts that have been made to run the two dissociated personalities into one. The experiments showed that the Brown personality, though complete in itself, knew nothing of the Bourne personality, and that when neither of them was present the state of the patient was that of indifferent aggregation of moment consciousness characteristic of hypnosis. “It is mixed up now,” is the answer, or he makes no reply at all and simply sighs.

            Professor James is right in summing up the case by the sentence, “Mr. Bourne’s skull covers two distinct personalities.” Two independent systems were formed within the mind of the patient. One belonged to his waking and one to his subconscious life. When one was removed, the other emerged. Usually the subconsciousness revealed in the hypnotic trance is, as we have pointed out, an indifferent aggregation of moments, any one of which can temporarily assume a leading part. Not so is it in the case of Mr. Bourne. In him the subconscious is under the lead of a more or less organized parasitic moment entirely dissociated from the waking synthetic moment. That is why hypnosis could not possibly effect a synthesis of the two dissociated moments. The waking state could give nothing else but Mr. Bourne’s personality; the hypnotic could only give Mr. Brown’s personality. By means of hypnotization, therefore, the two dissociated moments could not possibly be unified in one synthesis. Hypnosis alone is not sufficient to effect a synthesis of two dissociated moments. Had Professor James, however, induced a frequent alternation the two personalities and had he prolonged the first period of the intermediary state, the passing of the primary into the secondary state, so as to let Mr. Bourne catch a glimpse of Mr. Brown, he would probably have got better results. He would no doubt have got satisfactory results had he given to the patient while in the Brown state some strong toxic stimulus, and then induced alternation, prolonging the first period of the intermediary state.



1 See Proceedings of the Society of Psychical Research for 1891.


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