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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.
PICTURE DREAMS AND SUBCONSCIOUS STATES
IN the waking state Mr. Hanna could not give further data as to his dreams, and interrogation brought out no more than we have mentioned. Hence, an attempt was made to put him into the hypnoidal state, and with the material afforded by his dreams to get further information, to bring up entire scenes before his mind, and to find out the nature of the psychic state during the emergence of these visual images. (We must here remind the reader that the dreams were intensely vivid to Mr. Hanna.) He was put into the hypnoidal state by the usual method, directing him to remain quiet and passive, to listen intently, with closed eyes, to what was told to him, and to tell us what was passing in his mind, to represent to himself his former “picture dreams.”
We here give full notes of the experiments, as they are both interesting and instructive.
Q. What do you see now? A. I see a house with two or three steps.
Q. What more? A. Mr. Bustler and I are sitting on one seat.
Q. Do you know, or have you met the man you call Bustler? A. No. I saw him only in the dream.
Q. What more? A. There is a woman. The woman prepared his dinner. She is sitting on the other side.
Q. Describe the table, books, pictures, if you see any; try to see them fully; give close attention to what you see. Go on and describe. A. I can't see anything more.
Q. Do you see the woman? A. Yes.
Q. How does the woman look? A. Can’t see her well.
Q. Try as hard as possible to see her. Is she old or rather young? A. I think rather young.
Q. How old do you think she is? (No answer.)
Q. Is she about forty-five? A. I don't think so; perhaps.
Q. Is she thirty? Just say how old you think she is. A. I don’t know how old people are. (He was as yet unable to estimate the age of an individual from personal appearance.)
Q. How is she dressed? How does she look? (He did not answer the first question.) A. She is very stout.
Q. What is the color of her hair? A. I don’t see her hair.
Q. Do you know her? A. No.
Q. Do you see the door of the house? A. Yes.
Q. How does the door open? A. Inside.
Q. Is it open or closed? A. It is open.
Q. Look into the room and tell us what you see there? A. Nothing.
Q. Nothing at all? A. Yes, I see a little hall; that’s all.
Q. Try hard and you will be able to see more. Peep into the hall and tell us what is in there? A. No, I don’t see anything.
Q. Look into the street, then, and tell us what you see there? A. I see people. People walking by, two or three times.
Q. Do you know them? A. No.
Q. Describe the houses that are in the street. A. They are very close, are built close together, like down by the watering-trough at Plantsville.
Q. Do you see any other houses? A. No, I cannot see. I see only the buildings. They are all the same. (He probably saw a row of houses.)
Q. Have they numbers or any signs? A. I cannot see.
Q. Try to see; you can if you will try. You will be able to see well. Look down or up the street. Do you see any. I thing more that especially interests you? A. There is a
Catholic Church down the street (the word “Catholic” came spontaneously in his mind, as is usual in the hypnoidal states).
Q. How does the church look? A. Beautiful.
Q. Describe it to me. A. It is not all built.
Q. Describe as much as you can. A. It is made of brick.
Q. What more? A. Roof is only half made.
Q. What more? A. Steeple.
Q. Give more particulars. A. I cannot find names. (He was at this time deficient in familiarity with many common names.)
Q. Describe it as well as you can. A. I cannot tell. Big braces on the steeple.
Q. Anything written on the church? A. Nothing.
Q. How do the windows look? A. Glass is colored; one window is not made.
Q. What more can you tell about the church? You can describe it. Just do it. A. The church stands right by the hill. A high wall stands up, very high, right over the road.
Q. What more? A. That makes me very tired. (Here the hypnoidal state was interrupted. He was asked to open his eyes.)
Q. Do you remember anything that you told me? A. Yes.
Q. What did you tell me? A. I told you all about the house and the people and the church. Here the father put the following question to his son: “What church was it? The Polish or the Irish church?” A. I couldn’t tell.
(Mr. Hanna did not know the meaning of Polish or Irish, just as he did not know that of Catholic.)
Here the father gave a description of the city seen by the son in hypnoidal state. It was Mackinong City. He said: “Mackinong City lies in a valley between parallel ranges, and the southern one is evidently the one he means.”
Q. (To father.) How long is it since he lived there? A. Three years.
Q. (To Mr. H.) Did you ever see that church? A. No.
Q. When did the church first come into your mind? A. In the dream; but I couldn’t see it all.
Q. Do you have an impression when you see all this, as if it is something more than a dream? A. It is more like a dream or a story, but papa says it is true.
Q. Have you any feeling that this is not entirely a dream, but something that is true? A. I know what you mean, but I cannot see that way. I could remember all if I could see that way. I must just be satisfied with the picture.
Here we endeavored to make clear to him the difference between an impression just gained and one received in the past. We mentioned to him some proper names of cities which he had not heard since the accident, and a few minutes later repeated the same names. We then asked him if there was not a difference in his impressions as made by just hearing the names and those occasioned by hearing the names for the first time a few minutes ago.
Q. Now, in the dreams, were your impressions in this sense like the first or second hearing of the names read? A. It is not strange now, but it was all strange before, like the first.
Q. How was it in the dream itself; were the impressions strange as in the first reading? A. Oh, yes, it was very strange. I could not believe it was true until father told me; but now it is not strange.
The hypnoidal states, in which material from his forgotten life came up suddenly into Mr. Hanna's mind, strongly indicated the presence of former memories in the subconscious regions. Tests of his intelligence pointed to the same conclusion, namely, that the lapsed memories were still present in a more or less sound condition. For it would be unreasonable to assume that one who had lost completely all possession of the rich material of his whole life experience could possibly acquire so much in so short a time, could be so intelligent, reason so well, and arrange his ideas in a proper and logical order. Intelligence depends upon memory. One who is an infant in all relations as to the stock of experiences, both conscious and subconscious, cannot possibly be a good reasoner. A newly born babe is not a good logician. Evidently memories of his former life existed, though buried deeply in the underground regions of the subconscious, and it was from these regions that in the hypnoidal states bits of experience flashed, lightning-like, into the upper waking consciousness.
Mr. Hanna was given various arithmetical problems to solve. He had as yet learned but very little of arithmetic, and had acquired no knowledge of fractions. In order to test his intelligence and powers of reasoning, he was given the following problem to solve mentally: If three men, A, B and C, do a piece of work respectively in three, four and five days, how long would it take them to complete it, all working together? He arrived at the approximately correct result almost immediately, and showed great keenness of mind. The common denominator to which he reduced the amount of work done by each man in one day, he represented to himself as so many pieces of paper of equal size, made groups of them, taking for his numerators 12, 15 and 20 respectively. Adding these together, he found how much work, represented in terms of the bits of paper, the men could do in one day, namely, forty-seven. From this he concluded that the entire work, represented by sixty pieces, would require one whole day and about one-fourth more.
It is interesting to observe that he, at this time, had as yet learned nothing of fractions, was even unable to form the numeral five, not having seen that particular figure since the injury. When asked why, in his calculation, he had taken just sixty objects, he replied that he could not tell why, but that it appeared evident to him. It was clear from this and other experiments that it was the experiences buried within the subconscious that enabled him to solve the problem.
Geometrical problems were likewise given to him. He had learned in an elementary way something of angles, perpendiculars and so on. The first problem was the well-known theorem, that vertical angles are equal to each other. As he did not know what “vertical” meant, the term was explained and diagrams drawn and shown to him. After some moments of thought he demonstrated the theorem. It was interesting to note that his process of reasoning was quite analogous to that ordinarily given in geometry. When he was asked whether he had any sense of familiarity with such work, he replied it was entirely new to him.
The familiar theorem of Pythagoras was given in a concrete form expressed in numbers. “Suppose,” he was asked, “you have a right-angled triangle [the meaning of the term was explained to him], of which one side is three and the other four inches, what will be the length of the third side?” After some thought, he said he believed that the third side would measure five inches. The reason he could not give; it seemed to him that the length ought to be five. When pressed for a reason, he measured the line and showed it was so. Other less complex problems given him, he solved in his own crude way, although the results were uniformly correct. Here again we see clearly the subconscious work of memories lost to the upper consciousness.
As a further evidence of the remarkable intelligence of Mr. Hanna due to the work of memories, lost to the upper self-conscious personality, but present to the lower subconscious, we may mention the following interesting experiments: Mr. Hanna was taken to the family church at Plantsville, a place intimately associated with his religious life and activity, where the foundation of his religious convictions was laid, where he had been baptized, where his father had preached for many years, and later where he himself had so often conducted services and given religious instruction.
He was told to stand upon the pulpit, the Bible was opened before him, and he was told to read the first passage in Genesis. Then he was asked to preach a short sermon, the subject of which was very remote from the actual meaning of the passage. We wanted to test the keenness of his intellect, his analytical powers in discriminating ideas and bringing out points.
He was asked to point out how the text, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth,” shows that man should be good. He had not read the passage since the accident and was unfamiliar with it. When he mounted the pulpit his naïveté and childishness were shown by the remark, “Papa stands very proud here.” His entire deportment in the church indicated that he did not realize the solemnity of the place. He had not yet learned of this. His deportment before the accident was one in every way in keeping with the dignity of his holy office. His manner of entering the church was one indicating curiosity, although that was not his first visit since the accident. He remarked that he could hardly believe he had ever stood in the pulpit as a preacher “like papa.”
Mr. Hanna gazed helplessly into the ponderous volume of the Holy Scripture, but could not believe he had ever been familiar with it. He slowly began to read the text, “In the beginning God,” and stopped; he could not read the word “created.” The word was pronounced to him, and its meaning made clear. He finished the verse and then repeated it from memory, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” He was now asked to close his eyes and deliver his extemporaneous sermon. He began as follows:
“Created means make, as you said. If God made heaven and earth, He must be very much more great than you and I could be. This, I think, is a good reason for being good. If God made these things in the beginning, then He must have been long before we have been, and if He has been so long, as He has been able to make heaven and earth, it is wise for us to be like Him, and He is good. I think that is a good reason for being good. Is that what you mean?”
In these experiments, we reproduce verbatim the words of Mr. Hanna. The reader must bear in mind Mr. Hanna’s extremely limited vocabulary at this time.
“If God made heaven and earth both, if they are both made by the same one, they ought to be both alike, and we know that heaven is good [he probably heard this from his father], and so people on earth ought to be like heaven. That is another reason why they must be good. Because one person made them both, and they ought to be alike.” (Here he paused for some time, then continued.) “If God made the earth, He must have had a reason for making the earth; He must have wanted the earth for something, and if God is only good, He must have wanted the earth for some good thing, and then if we are not good and do not make the earth good, we have opposed what God wanted to make the earth for. So I think that is another reason not to oppose why God made the earth.” (He evidently wanted to say we should not oppose the will of God, but neither the concept nor the word indicating it was present in his upper consciousness.) Long pause. “I think those are all the reasons I can find.”
About a week later he was asked to repeat his sermon. He gave the substance of it, though not the exact words. He logically classified it under four heads, as follows: 1, Justice; 2, Wisdom; 3, Carrying out the design; 4, Harmony between heaven and earth. (Mr. Hanna expressed his ideas in long sentences and explanations, but we give them in an abbreviated form.) “Just try to form a prayer,” he was told. He replied, “My papa at home kneels down; shall I kneel down?” He was told to do so. He knelt with bowed head. “I cannot get any words,” he said. “Take time, the words will come to you.” Here followed a pause and he began slowly, as follows: “I wish that my memory would be all right, but I cannot make myself right; and my memory—I must wait until God can in some way get it back. I do not know how it will come, but I have tried every way I can think, and the doctors have tried everything they know, and all the people have been doing everything kind that they can, and even now I must wait. It cannot come now. But I am ready to do anything for it to come back, or else I am content to wait until it is right for it to come back. Sometimes it is very hard to wait. Sometimes I am content with what I have got. I wish more for other people than for myself that it would come back, because they feel much more than I feel, to lose so much; but they have no more power than I have, so we must all wait, and try to do the best we have known.” (Long applause.)
Mr. Hanna then arose and said: “Father never kneels down to pray when in the pulpit. He only kneels down at home.” This commonplace and to him in his former state perhaps profane remark, after offering a prayer, exquisitely illustrates his innocence and simplicity of mind. He did not realize in this psychic state the solemnity of the prayer and the sanctity of the occasion.
Q. Did you find anything coming into your mind while you were praying? A. No, I cannot do anything with my memory.
Q. But did you get memories coming to you? A. Never when I try; it makes me very tired to try.
Q. Have you no recollection, have you no feeling of familiarity, that you have been in this place preaching and praying? A. I do not know how I used to do. Father stands away from the book like this (imitating his father); I do not know.
Q. Have you not any feeling of familiarity; a feeling of which you cannot give yourself an account, that once you were in this very place, in this very pulpit, and that you were preaching to people, and that you prayed in this very place; that you were baptized here; simply a feeling just as if you see something, but not clearly? A. No, except that my father was here. (Since the accident.) That makes it somewhat familiar to me. What did you mean by “baptize”?
Q. Don’t you know what “baptize” means? A. No.
Q. What do you think the word may mean? A. I do not know; but they have shown me people that I have baptized, but I did not ask what it meant. (Mr. Hanna found it embarrassing in the company of strangers to repeatedly ask the meaning of words which he felt were so familiar to others.) It has something to do with their coming to church.
All these experiments together with the hypnoidal states clearly indicate that Mr. Hanna’s subconscious was in a sound condition.
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