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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.

© 1898. New York, D. Appleton and Company.




        THUS far we have dealt with such uncanny abnormal states as hysteria, hypnosis, automatism. We saw in them the manifestation of the split-off secondary self, and we also hinted at the relation the latter bears to the waking self.

        Is there any direct evidence of the presence of the subwaking self in the normal state of perfectly healthy individuals? Yes, there is, and very strong evidence, too. Once more I turn to hypnosis, but this time not as showing the cleavage that occurs in that state, but rather as pointing out the plane of cleavage, the presence of a subwaking self when the individual is in his normal state.

        The subwaking hypnotic self surpasses the waking self in its sensitiveness; its range of sensibility extends farther than that of the upper personality. The senses of touch, pressure, and temperature are much more delicate in the hypnotic condition. The æsthesiometer showed in Mr. J. F., one of my subjects, when in normal state, the sensibility of the skin on the forehead to be eighteen millimetres, while the same in hypnosis (slight degree) was but fourteen millimetres. The sensibility of Mr. A. F. in normal state was fourteen millimetres, while in hypnosis (falls into the deepest state) it was eight millimetres. Mr. D. W. showed a sensibility in the normal state fourteen millimetres, but when in hypnosis (falls into the deepest state) it was eight millimetres.

        "It is quite certain," writes Braid,1 "that some patients can tell the shape of what is held an inch and a half from the skin on the back of the neck, crown of the head, arm, or hand, or other parts of the body, the extremely exalted sensibility of the skin enabling them to discern the shape of the object so presented from its tendency to emit or absorb caloric. . . . A patient could feel and obey the motion of a glass funnel passed through the air at a distance of fifteen feet."

        The entranced subject is able to walk freely about the room with bandaged eyes or in absolute darkness without striking against anything, because, as Moll, Braid, Poirault, and Drjevetzky point out, he recognises objects by the resistance of the air and by the alteration of temperature.

        We find in the hypnotic subject hyperæsthesia, of vision, of hearing, and of smell.

        One can not help being struck by the great acuteness of the sense of healing in hypnotic trance. To give an example. While Mr. W. was in a state of hypnosis Mr. G. whispered in my ear, "Six o'clock." I scarcely could hear the whisper. I then turned to Mr. W. and asked him whether he heard what Mr. G. said. "Yes," he answered, "Mr. G. said ‘Six o'clock.'"

        To prove visual hyperæsthesia in my subject, A. F., I gave him a book to read while he was in hypnotic trance and his eyes were closed. "Read!" I commanded. "I can not," he answered. " Yes, you can; you must read. Try!" He began to read. So miraculous seemed this experiment that one of the gentlemen present exclaimed, "Now I believe in hypnotism." The fact, however, really was that Mr. A. F. raised his eyelids, but so slightly, so imperceptibly, that no one of the people present could notice it, and even I myself am not quite sure I saw it clearly; I only suspected it was so. However the case might have been, it was altogether impossible for anyone in his normal state to read under similar conditions of closure of the eyelids.

        An extraordinary example of visual hyperæsthesia is brought by Bergson, whose subject could read the image of a page reflected in the experimenter's cornea. The same subject could discriminate with the naked eye details in a microscopic preparation. "The ordinary test of visual hyperacuteness2 in hypnotism," writes Prof. W. James, "is the favourite trick of giving a subject the hallucination of a picture on a blank sheet of cardboard and then mixing the latter with a lot of similar sheets. The subject will always find the picture on the original sheet again and recognise infallibly if it has been turned over or upside down, although the bystanders have to resort to artifice to identify it again. The subject notes peculiarities on the card too small for waking observation to detect." The experiment may be made in a far simpler manner: A blank sheet of cardboard is given to the subject, and instead of giving him a hallucination, a thing not very easy to do with many subjects, as they often do not realize the suggested hallucination, the subject is simply asked to take good notice of the card. The card is then mixed with other similar sheets. The subject in variably picks out the sheet shown to him. I have repeatedly made these experiments on my subjects.

        The same holds true in the case of smell. There is an exaltation of this sense in hypnosis. Braid's subject restored articles to the rightful owners, finding the latter out by mere smell. "They [the subjects]," writes Braid,3 "began sniffing, and traced out the parties robbed and restored it [the article] to them. On being asked, 'How do you know the person?' the answer was, 'I smell them [or him].' Every time the experiment was tried the result was the same and the answer the same."

        Carpenter, in his Mental Physiology, tells of a youth who in hypnosis could find out by the sense of smell the owner of a glove which was placed in his hand from among a party of more than sixty persons, scenting at each of them, one after the other, until he came to the right individual. In another case the owner of a ring was unhesitatingly found from among a company of twelve, the ring having been withdrawn before the somnambule was introduced."

        In short, the range of sensibility of the hypnotic subwaking consciousness is wider than that of the waking self.

        Now, if this subpersonal, subwaking hypnotic self is present in the normal state, we ought to find that sensory impressions, which on account of their faintness or indistinctness did not reach the waking self, were still perceived by the subwaking self. With this view in hand I made the following experiment:

        I placed Mr. L. and Mr. P. at such a distance that they could not hear my whisper. Although Mr. L. is an intimate friend of mine, on whose honesty I can fully rely, still, for the sake of having the experiment carried out in a rigorous fashion, I placed near him Mr. P., whose ear was far more acute than that of Mr. L., in order to testify that nothing could be heard at such a distance. I then whispered in the ear of Mr. G. the following words: "The Subliminal Consciousness, by Mr. Myers." I repeated this phrase five times in succession in the same whisper, asking each time of Mr. L. and Mr. P. whether they had heard anything. The reply was "No; nothing." They strained their ears, but could not perceive any words except an indistinct whisper. I then hypnotized Mr. L., who fell into a slight hypnosis (Mr. P. could not be hypnotized; it was the first seance in which he took part), and asked him to tell what he bad heard. "I did not hear anything." "Try hard, and you will be able to tell," I commanded him. " I heard only a certain rhythm in your whisper, and that was all." "Well, then, guess! "I can not." "But you must!" "I think you said, My——" "What more? Go on!" I urged him. "I think you said ‘consciousness.'” "Go on!" "I think you said 'sub.'"

        "Several friends," writes Max Dessoir, "were in my room, one of whom, Mr. W., was reading to himself, while the rest of us were talking with one another. Some one happening to mention the name of Mr. X., in whom Mr. W. is much interested, Mr. W. raised his head and asked, 'What was that about Mr. X.?' He knew nothing he told us about our previous conversation; he had only heard the familiar name, as often happens. I then hypnotized him, with his consent, and when he was pretty deeply entranced I asked him again as to the conversation. To our great astonishment, he now repeated to us the substance of our whole conversation during the time that he was reading to himself."

        Similar experiments I performed on A. Fingold. The subject, when in the state of hypnosis, gave me details of a conversation which he could not have possibly overheard consciously, and of which be knew nothing at all in his previous waking state.

        The sub waking self, not being occupied with the work that engaged the attention of the upper consciousness, was on the alert, and listened to the conversation, which escaped the fixed and distracted attention of the waking personality.

        It is clear, then, that the subwaking hypnotic self is present in the normal state and call hear and guess that of which the waking self has no inkling.


1.  Braid, Neurypnology.
2.  James, Psychology, vol. ii.
3.  Braid, Neurypnology.


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