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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




THE movement of the moment from the subconscious to the nucleus of self-consciousness may sometimes take a different course. Instead of being centrally transmitted from the subconscious to the centre of the upper consciousness, the experience is projected into the external world in the form of a hallucination and then only perceived by the dominating moment consciousness.

            This process of reversion is met with in the phenomena of crystal gazing. In these phenomena experiences acquired subconsciously are projected into the crystal in the form of visual hallucinations. The crystal gazer sees in the crystal, images, pictures of events which he cannot remember directly, but which can be found in his subconscious. The changing light and shade due to reflection and refraction give rise to peripheral sensory processes which form the nucleus, the suggestion that awakens those subconscious psychic states. Experiences mainly of one sensory nature may be transformed into and assume the character of another sense; thus experiences, mainly of an auditory character, may be projected into the crystal as visual hallucinations.

            In the phenomena of shell hearing, we meet once more with a similar process of reversion. Psychic states originally experienced by the subconscious are objectified in the shell as auditory hallucinations. The vague, indistinct buzzing coming from the shell affects the sense-organ and gives rise to a peripheral process that forms the nucleus round which the subconscious experiences become crystallized and projected in the form of auditory hallucinations. Here, too, as in the case of crystal gazing, experiences of one sensory character may be transformed into that of another. Psychic states originally of a visual character become auditory on being projected by this reverse movement from the subconscious to the central consciousness.

            In automatic writing we meet once more with a similar process of reversion, only under a somewhat different form. The subconsciously acquired experiences, instead of being in a sensory form as hallucinations, are motor in character; they are expressed as written words, and by this means the upper consciousness becomes for the first time acquainted with the experiences of the subconscious. This process of reversion by means of automatic writing may be cultivated and may become so persistent that the subconscious regions may keep up a correspondence with the upper consciousness and reveal its experiences by “messages” apparently coming from another world.

            The phenomena of automatic speaking are rather rare, and are very much akin to those of automatic writing. The subconscious instead of projecting its experiences in the form of written words, does it by means of the spoken word. Here, too, as in the case of automatic writing, the process may become cultivated and the subconscious may carry on its intercommunications in a systematic form. The spoken messages, coming from the subconscious and revealing strange experiences first subconsciously acquired and then only made known in the way of the spoken word to the upper consciousness, appear inspired and awe-inspiring. They are “voices from another world.”

            The emergence of subconscious impressions, but in terms of another sense-organ, a condition somewhat similar to the phenomena of sensory automatism, such as those of crystal gazing and shell hearing, can also be effected by means of hypnosis. Anaesthesia to a definite class of impressions is produced in some parts of the body. These impressions are then made to emerge as experiences coming from another sense-organ. The following experiments be taken as typical of many others. A subject of mine suffering from alcoholic amnesia falls into a very deep state of hypnosis. When in this state his hand is made anaesthetic by post-hypnotic suggestions, it is then suggested to him that objects put into his anaesthetic hand will be seen by him on a screen. When he wakes up his hand is anaesthetic even to the most painful stimuli. The anaesthetic hand is then put behind a screen and another screen is kept in front of his eyes. When objects are put into the subject’s anaesthetic hand, he has visual hallucinations of them. Thus, if half a dollar is put into his anaesthetic hand, no matter how lightly, he sees it on the screen first as a circle on a flat surface, then the visual hallucination is gathering more solidity and reality, more details are gradually emerging, and finally it begins to look like a solid half dollar. This rather bewilders the subject, as this coin is not like ordinary ones, for it does not feel like a solid object at all when the hand is passed over it, and he looks up in surprise, asking for the explanation of this curious phenomenon. The additional interest here is the extreme hyperaesthesia which the patient manifests in his apparently anaesthetic hand. No matter how small the object is and no matter how lightly it touches his hand, he still gives a minute description of it, when he draws with his free hand the outlines of the visual hallucination of the object as it appears to him on the screen before his eyes.

            Instead of a visual hallucination of the tactile impressions, the subject may be made to have auditory hallucinations. When, on waking up, objects are put into the patient’s anaesthetic hand, he begins to listen intently. He hears voices accusing him of keeping in his hand money or the particular object placed there by the experimenter. He calls the voices “foolish and lying,” as he has no money about him, nor has he any other of the objects the voices tell him of. Subconscious tactile impressions become here converted into auditory experiences.

            Similarly, in an extremely interesting case which is at present under my investigation, the sensibility of the whole right side of the body presents striking phenomena. The patient feels neither touches nor pricks on the right side; even pain is completely gone, but when he looks into a glass of water while the anaesthetic hand is hidden from his sight by a screen, he has visual hallucinations of the correct numbers of touches, or of pricks given to the anaesthetic side, or of objects put into his anaesthetic hand; he has visual hallucinations of letters and words lightly written on the insensible hand. On the whole, he manifests extreme subconscious hyperaesthesia, but, strangely enough, in symbolic terms of another sense.1



1 This process of conversion is intimately related to secondary sensory elements which play such an important role in the structure of the percept in general, and in that of hallucination in particular. See my article on “Hallucination,” in Psychological Review, for January and March, 1904.


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