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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.

© 1904




THE process of mental resurrection or of reverse procession of psychic states, from the periphery of inattentive consciousness to the focus of consciousness, can, in fact, be fully substantiated by observations in spontaneous somnambulism as well as by experiments in the hypnotic state. The following brief account of spontaneous somnambulism may serve as an illustration:

            “I am a medical student in the University of Pennsylvania and take some interest in hypnotism, suggestion, and other psychical phenomena. A few days ago I became the fortunate possessor of your book, ‘Psychology of Suggestion,” and after reading a few scattered pages, the happy idea came to me of consulting you on a subject which has troubled me for some time. I shall be as brief as possible. I am twenty-two years old; I am a somnambulist. They say that when I was a child I used to talk a little during my sleep, but that is about all. In 1893 I lived with a friend in New York, who had some electric batteries. He wanted me to take a shock, but I was somewhat timid and refused. One day he told me that if I did not take the shock he would give me one during my sleep. That night, I had been sleeping about two or three hours, I felt the wires in my feet and hands, and began to scream and kick all around, and finally I was awakened by my friend; all had been a dream. From that night on I very often had dreams, but always disagreeable ones, that they were killing me, or somebody was falling out of a window, etc. About eight months after that I went to New Orleans. It was winter and my room was very cold. I bought a stove, and the first night I had it, after I went to bed, I noticed that it lighted the whole room, and the idea of a fire came to me; and after I had been sleeping about two hours, I began to dream that my whole room was on fire. I tried to get out through a window; I broke one of the shutters with my fist, but did not open it. Then I went for the door and went out into the hall, where I was met by several scared people. As soon as I saw them I said, ‘Excuse me,’ and ran back to my bed. Next day, before I had seen anybody, I knew all that happened. From that day up to the present time I dream almost every night and, I could almost say, all the dreams are on fires, deaths, etc. Soon after that I went to room with a brother. Once he had to stay away overnight, and the lady of the house said: ‘To-night you must not have a nightmare, because your brother is not here to take care of you.’ That night as usual, I had dreams, and was just going to open a door when what the lady had told me came to my mind, and I said to myself, ‘She told me not to do it,’ and very quietly went back to bed. Next day they told me what they had heard me doing, which proved to me that what I remembered of my dream was right. As a rule, I always remember what I do and say, though I don't always wake up after the dreams.”

            All the phenomena reviewed by us, the phenomena of psychopathic anesthesia and those of sensory and motor automatisms, such as crystal gazing, shell hearing, automatic writing and automatic speaking, can be reproduced artificially by hypnosis in our laboratories, provided the subject falls into a deep trance and takes post-hypnotic suggestions of motor and sensory character. It is highly probable, and experiments seem strongly to confirm the same view, that the different form of spontaneous automatic manifestations are of the same nature as hypnotic states. The subject first lapses into a subconscious state, from which he emerges manifesting sensory or motor automatism. The patient may fall into the subconscious state and pass through the whole of the experience while in that condition, and then on passing out of the state may remember everything that has taken place, but not suspect having lapsed into the subconscious state.

            One of my cases, an active somnambulist, had similar experiences. “This morning,” to quote from my notes, “I have been looking for a lost parcel. Suddenly I heard a voice telling me, ‘You will find it on the shelf in there.’ I was standing by a closet door, my eyes were open. I looked through the door and could see the thing clearly. I opened the door and took it. I was in a peculiar state before the voice spoke to me. My mind was a blank. I was as if unconscious of walking, as if doing things automatically.” She had recently similar experiences. Thus, an instrument was displaced; a voice suddenly told her, “It is in the dark room,” and there it was found.

            The patient may fall into the subconscious state only momentarily, and take the suggestion of manifesting the automatic phenomena on emerging from the subconscious condition into the normal waking state. It appears, then, that the general law for the reverse procession of psychic content from the deeper state of the subconscious is the one condition of the merging, momentarily, of the central consciousness into the subconscious and then the emergence of the subconscious into the focus of the upper consciousness.


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