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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




THE hierarchy of moments, from the lowest to the highest, belonging to one organized constellation of moments, may be arranged in a series as to intensity and vividness of consciousness ranging from minimum to maximum through all degrees of intensity and vividness. The maximum of intensity is in the focus, in the nucleus of the moment, the minimum is at the periphery. Now a moment through frequent functioning gradually loses intensity and vividness and passes by degrees through all the intermediary stages from maximum to minimum. The fading moment passes by degrees from the centre to the periphery of consciousness. Under other conditions, such as the hypnotic trance, the moment may become suddenly submerged.

            As a case in point I bring the following experiment, made by me in the presence of Dr. Van Gieson, former Director of the Pathological Institute of the New York State Hospitals:

            I hypnotized Mr. V. F., and suggested to him that on awakening he should not recognize any of the people present, and that two or three minutes later he should throw out of the chair the gentleman whom he found sitting near by. That gentleman was Dr. Ira Van Gieson for whom the subject had the highest respect, and whom he would not have touched in his normal waking state.

            Before arousing the subject from the trance I took good care to dissociate the memory suggesting amnesia. The subject was then awakened. He looked round in a dazed way, as one who found himself in the company of utter strangers. He did not recognize any of his acquaintances, nor did he manifest the least sign of recognition of a near friend of his who was present at the experiments.

            About two minutes after awakening he suddenly turned to Dr. Ira Van Gieson, who was at that time sitting reading, and exclaimed gruffly: “I want that seat.” Without waiting for a reply, V. F. made a sudden onset, vehemently attacked the struggling doctor, seized him by the shoulders, pulled him out of the chair, and gave him a violent push. All this transpired in the twinkling of an eye, so that Dr. Van Gieson had no time to collect himself and show resistance.

            When Dr. Van Gieson asked V. F. why the later offended him without provocation, the subject answered, “because he wanted the seat.” When Dr. Van Gieson pressed him further to give his reasons why he did not ask for the seat in a polite way, and, besides, what right he had to throw a strange gentleman out of a seat while there were so many others which he could occupy as comfortably, the subject’s argument was that in this world the mere desire of having a thing is a sufficient reason and a good right. When it was still insisted on his giving a better reason than that the subject became angry and snappishly replied he wished Dr. Van Gieson would “shut up,” and said he was sorry he had not made him shut up before, as the gentleman seemed to be very loquacious.

            A quarter of all hour later the subject was brought into a passive state. Amnesia of the incident was enforced, and the subject was then awakened. Mr. V. F. woke up oblivious of the whole affair. Only when I inquired a of him, he told me he had a vague dream that he quarreled with someone, but he did not know the person, nor did he remember the circumstance. The subject regarded it as a mere idle dream, and gave no further attention to it. Mr. V. F. is now in complete ignorance of the whole affair. The whole incident faded from his conscious memory.

            If, however, the intensity and vividness of consciousness decrease from the centre to the periphery, the extent of content increases. The further away from the centre the greater is the number of the fading moments. At the periphery the number of moments is also the greatest. The immense number of outlived moments gradually fades away with the lapse of time and tends to pass to the periphery of consciousness. It is clear, then, that as we pass from the centre to the periphery the number of outlived moments increases proportionately. The deeper the regions of the subconscious the wider the extent of its contents. In hypnosis the intensity of consciousness becomes diffused over lower and lower moments, liberating their pent-up energy, and as with the depth of hypnosis the obscure regions of the subconscious come to light, their immense extent stands revealed before the astonished and bewildered eye of the observing self-consciousness.

            A lighting up of the subconscious regions can also be brought about by the use of toxic drugs. The pent-up neuron energy becomes liberated from lower and lowermost moment, consciousness becomes concomitantly manifested and long forgotten experiences well up to the centre of consciousness; outlived moments become resurrected and rise to the surface of full consciousness with all the vividness of a present reality. Thus De Quincey, in his “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” tells us that “the minutest incidents of childhood or forgotten scenes of later years were often revived. I could not be said to recollect them, for if I had been told of them when waking, I should not have been able to acknowledge them as my past experience. But placed as they were before me in dreams like intuitions and clothed in all their evanescent instances, and accompanying feelings, I recognized them instantaneously.”

            Hypnoidic states such as described by me in previous works1 also reveal the wealth and extent of psychic content present in the lower subconscious regions. Glimpses into the subconscious are also given in hypnoidal states which are induced by the process of hypnodization. The patient is asked to close his eyes and keep as quiet as possible without, however, making any special effort to put himself into such a state. He is then asked to tell anything that comes into his mind. The patient may also be asked to attend some stimuli, such as reading or writing or the buzzing of an electrical current, and he is then to tell the ideas, thoughts, images, phrases, no matter how disconnected, that happen to flitter through his mind. This same condition of hypnoidization is sometimes better accomplished through mental strain. The patient is put into a quiet condition, and with his eyes closed and the experimenter’s hand on the patient’s forehead, the latter is urged to mental effort and strain, and, if necessary, given some hints. Experiences seemingly inaccessible flash lightning-like on the upper regions of self-consciousness, revealing the depths below.



1 See Sidis, Psychology of Suggestion and Psychopathological Researches.


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