Parapsychology/Sources/Higher Mesmeric Phenomena
Higher Mesmeric Phenomena, etc.
Crabtree (1988). Animal Magnetism, Early Hypnotism, and Psychical Research, 1766 – 1925: An Annotated Bibliography (some of the main claims of mesmerism would later find support with the work of Reichenbach and Reich to be discussed later on in this list, as I have seen it cited, Crabtree's From Mesmer to Freud deals with psychological healing associated with mesmeric and subsequent related experiments, and investigations of "higher mesmeric phenomena" (alleged telepathy and clairvoyance associated with hypnotism) preceded parapsychology - they constitute the proto-parapsychology, and around them we find the origins of the modern controversy on the subject. Dean Radin provided an enthusiastic overview of the history of this in Debating Psychic Experience, p. 16, as follows: "While George Washington was battling the British, Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer was advancing the concept of "animal magnetism." At the time, electricity and magnetism were evoking great interest as newly discovered, still-mysterious forces of nature. Mesmer proposed that animal magnetism was a biological force analogous to those physical forces (Alvarado, 2006). Mesmer’s ideas are reflected today in the origins of hypnosis, psychoanalysis, and psychosomatic medicine. The French aristocrat Armand Marie Jacques de Chastenet, known as the Marquis de Puysegur, was one of Mesmer’s early students. Puysegur accidentally discovered the first method claimed to reliably evoke psi phenomena. He called his discovery "magnetic somnambulism," a type of "sleep-walking" trance we now call deep trance hypnosis. He found that some somnambulists showed the full range of purported psychic skills, including telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. The explosion of popular interest in Mesmer and Puysegur’s methods outraged the physicians of the day, and in 1784 their indignation triggered an investigation by the French Academy of Sciences. The Academy was charged with evaluating the scientific status of mesmerism. A month later, a second commission was formed under the auspices of the French Royal Society of Medicine. It was asked to determine whether mesmerism was useful in treating illness, regardless of whether there was any scientific explanation for it. After numerous tests, both commissions concluded that there was no evidence for the "magnetic fluid" proposed by Mesmer, and that all of the observed effects could be attributed to imagination (what we now call the placebo effect). But the Royal Society’s conclusion wasn’t unanimous. A minority report declared that some healing effects could not be attributed solely to imagination (Crabtree, 1993). A half-century later, mesmerism was still raging unchecked throughout Europe, so the French Royal Society of Medicine felt compelled to launch a new investigation. This time the report was uniformly favorable not only to mesmerism but also to the somnambulistic psi phenomena reported by Puysegur. The report ended with a recommendation that the Royal Society continue to investigate these phenomena. For the next five years those studies took place and the commissioners described many examples of psi phenomena that they had personally witnessed (Crabtree, 1993). This was one of the first major government sponsored scientific investigations of psi effects that had an entirely positive outcome. It wasn’t just the Royal Society that was impressed. Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, the most famous stage magician of his day (from whom Ehrich Weiss, better known as "Houdini," would later adopt his stage name), "confessed that he was completely baffled" about a somnambulist named Alexis, who displayed the clairvoyant ability to read playing cards while blindfolded (Beloff, 1993, pp. 30–31)." However, objectively evaluating the validity of the phenomena requires a more assiduous appraisal:
As for the first commission, its conclusions may have stemmed from an unreliable foundation, Gauld noted in his A History of Hypnotism, p. 30: "d'Eslon states that the commissioners of the Royal Society of Medicine saw at his clinic three patients, two of whom they had presented to him themselves, whose maladies improved during the period of observation. He quotes a certificate signed by two of the commissioners, concerning one of them, a girl of nine suffering from scrofula. Yet the commissioners deny they saw any improvement in any malady of known cause. D'Eslon also states that convulsions are nothing like so common among his patients as the commissioners make out, only 20 patients in more than 500 having suffered from them; as for the supposed dangers to which the convulsions give rise, he declares that only five of his patients have died during the last three years, and that all the world knows these were in a desperate state when they came to him. Furthermore, crises take many forms other than convulsions - some patients cough and spit, others sleep, and others are agitated and troubled - so how can the commissioners use "imitation" to explain the supposed prevalence of convulsions at his clinic? Nor can the convulsions be explained in terms of the irritation of abdominal nerve plexuses by strong pressure of the operator's hands; the touches employed are always soft and light, never powerful.
Several of these claims are confirmed by Bonnefoy as an eyewitness of Mesmer's procedures. At Mesmer's clinic he has seen only eight conclusive crises among more than two hundred patients, and he has observed crises of which the aftermath has been unmistakably beneficial. The commissioners, he adds, make the treatment rooms sound like places of darkness and horror which one should tremble to approach. Mesmer's clinic, and that at Lyon, are not like this at all. Windows and curtains are always open, weather permitting, and no-one observes silence. Tranquility, cheerfulness, laughter, and varied and amusing conversation, make the time pass quickly. The truth, I suspect, is that convulsions at first occurred not infrequently at Mesmer's baquets, but that he later on somewhat discouraged them because they aroused so much unfavorable comment."
The dissenter was Antoine Laurent de Jussieu, and Crabtree summarizes his "Rapport de l’un des commissaires chargés par le Roi, de l’examen du magnétisme animal", published in 1784, and listed as item 72 of the bibliography, as follows, "Jussieu strongly disagreed with the conclusions of the principal report which followed the investigation of animal magnetism by the Société Royale de Médecine in 1784. He stated his own views in this treatise. The commission had seen the demonstrations of animal magnetism given by D’Eslon and Lafisse (Mesmer having refused to take part in the investigation). He distinguished four different kinds of facts observed by the commissioners concerning animal magnetism: the first were those general positive effects about which it was not possible to come to any conclusions as to cause; the second were those which were negative, showing only the non-action of the alleged magnetic fluid; the third were effects, either positive or negative, which could be attributed to the work of the imagination; and the fourth were those positive effects that could only be explained through the action of some unknown agent. Jussieu concluded that although the existence of a magnetic fluid had not been proven, there were enough effects of the fourth kind to justify the continued use of animal magnetism and further investigations of the exact nature of those effects." There was also a secret report made by Jean Sylvain Bailly, "Rapport secret sur le mesmérisme.", only published later in 1800, and listed as item 213 in Crabtree's bibliography. In it Bailly discusses the sexual effects of the treatment, and the concern of the society over it - Crabtree summarizes it as follows, "The report also points out that often the female subject experiences an ecstasy of sorts when in the magnetic crisis, a buildup of emotions which is followed by a languor and a kind of sleep of the senses. The emphasis of the commission is on not only the danger of overt sexual acts performed by the magnetizer, but also the fact that the process may well awaken sexual passions latent in the female patient which she will then seek to fulfill in fornication or adultery." These descriptions are of course totally limited in light of what would subsequently be found about the nature and phenomena of these trances. Brian Inglis, in Natural and Supernatural, wrote of the stages of sonambulic trance proposed by Professor D. Veliansky, who summarized the observations of the mesmerists (pp. 139-140): "In the first, magnetic readiness, the patient was aware of what was going on. In the second, magnetic half-sleep, he retained some awareness, but not full control. In the third, magnetic sleep, he lost contact with external reality. In the fourth, somnambulism, he was entirely at the magnetiser's command. In the fifth, clairvoyance, he could 'see' into his own body and recommend a course of treatment. And in the sixth, he might achieve a state comparable to that which mystics had tried to describe: a feeling of community with nature, liberating him from the bonds of time and space, and giving him the ability to describe not merely what was happening behind his back, or when blindfolded, but also to 'see' what was going on at a distance.", but we are getting ahead of ourselves
As for the Second Commission and outstanding instances of higher mesmeric phenomena, more detailed appraisal is needed by consulting the detailed accounts written by skeptical and conservative scholars, so as to inform a baseline of opinion, and then contrast this with attempted detailed defenses of the subject. Eric Dingwall, when writing on this period, in "Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena I: Hypnotism in France: 1800-1900" (1967, J. & A. Churchill LTD.), argued that the accounts of this period either showed poor control or lack of proper reporting - including the experiments of the second commission (p. 295), he cautioned against both blind belief and a priori skepticism, stated (p. 297), his belief that future conclusive demonstrations of psi would retroactively increase the probability that psi was occurring with the magnetic somnambules, and stated (p. 297), "It would seem that an attitude of suspended judgement both as regards the past and the present is perhaps the most judicial, though many will find it impossible." (though compare his conservatism to his enthusiastic commentary concerning his experiment with Stephan Ossowiecki, details of which are provided below). Some of Dingwall's colleagues who wrote sections on other countries had a kinder tone. Dingwall's tone in this seems like a rhetorical device, or seems to be a consequences of his hyper-skepticism, because he and others provide some striking examples of evidence from tests with somnambules (I am thankful to Brian Inglis whose book made me aware of some of these examples, I have traced them to their original sources):
1) Julian Ochorowicz noted, in Mental Suggestion, pp. 263-265, "The comparison of the sensitive subject with the compass-needle is ever recurring in these old authors. It is justified by the undoubted analogy that subsists between the physical action of a hand and that of the magnet in general; but especially is it justified by the attractive action of the magnetizer on the magnetized. This is a very complex question, for it assumes many different forms: 1. Attraction by ideoplasty, fascination, imitation of movements. 2. Reflex physical attraction by the approximation of the hand. 3. Direct physical and mental attraction, i.e., attraction without intermediation of ordinary perception, from a distance. The magnetized subject is always drawn toward the operator, seeks him, tends to come nearer to him; hence, the mental suggestion experiment that succeeds most readily is one that makes the subject come to the operator. The subject will always incline toward the magnetizer, and Mr. Janet has observed that, after having endormed Mrs. B. from a distance, he found her head leaning in the direction of his action. But the most striking fact of this kind is recorded by Bruno : "The phenomenon that surprised me most," he says, "because it was the first that came under my notice, is the one I am about to relate. A young woman 18 or 19 years of age had been, for five or six months, dying of consumption. After three or four days of treatment she slept. Her sleep became very deep in a few days. When I magnetized her, her head leaned toward me; I was obliged to push her back gently in her chair, to prevent her falling on me. As that is a usual effect of sleep I paid no attention to it; after magnetizing her I left her sleeping quietly and went to another patient. But now new trouble: the girl leaned to one side, sometimes fell on her next neighbor, and some one had to be continually holding her up. I had a large armchair provided for her in which she might sleep comfortably. Vain precaution! Her head leaned quite slowly, but by jerks, and all that portion of her body which was not held back by the armchair followed this movement. At last a thought struck me: that her head always leaned toward the side on which I was. I changed my position gradually, and what was my astonishment to find that her head, like a veritable compass-needle, followed the curve I slowly made around her at the distance of five or six feet.
It stopped when I stopped, always leaning toward me. ... In vain I went to a greater distance, the effect was the same. I left the room, went down into the courtyard, placed myself in different directions. I went and placed myself at a very great distance in the angle of a second courtyard of my house, which faces on two intersecting streets; my 'compass' always showed, with the utmost exactitude, the point of the horizon at which I stood. She had to be supported or she would have fallen out of the chair." This experiment was very successful when I made it in presence of a physician, to whom I felt the choice of the places. After having had me placed at different points outside of the chamber, while he remained in it himself, in order to observe the directions in which the young woman would turn, he proposed to me to go into the street. He himself led me to a corner of the court-yard very far from the house. I had ordered that no one should touch the girl, so that her direction might be seen on our return. As soon as I was in place, the physician went back promptly, and hurried upstairs with all speed. He found the girl had fallen on the floor. I had seated her on a very low chair, telling the attendants to see that her fall should be very gentle, and to assist her in falling by helping her with their arms to the floor. The direction of her body was not exactly toward my place, the back of the chair having hindered that, but she had fallen to that side. Her sleep was not disturbed by the occurrence. The next day the same physician had some doubts as to the direction of the fall, which did not seem to him to be exactly toward where I had stood, and he was not willing to accept the explanation I had given. So he asked me to repeat the experiment. When I had gone down into the street he desired that I should go around the neighboring house, situated to the west of mine. He went upstairs immediately to observe what might take place. It was agreed between us that the attendants should prevent the girl's falling. He returned in time to witness the prodigy, and it produced conviction in him. I walked very slowly, always thinking of the girl, and that without knowing the full importance of that operation. The head of the patient indicated to him perfectly the direction in which I went; he also perceived the action I exerted (l'action que je fis) from the position of her body, which was in danger of falling soon. A young woman who was in the custom of assisting her when in this state kept her from falling But soon that was no longer necessary. The girl straightened herself up, and the new direction of her head, which described a curve from east to west, announced my return."*
This observation possesses interest for us, for it shows how a physical phenomenon of bodily attraction produced by the mere presence of the magnetizer may be accentuated by the concurrence of mental action. But it is of very rare occurrence, and generally the attraction is purely reflex (sensation of warmth and of air-currents); or, if it be direct, it is exerted only at a very small distance. It is also to be remarked that Bruno's somnambule tolerated the attouchment of a third person, that is to say, there was no hyperaesthesia, properly called. This point is one that we shall not fail to consider from the view-point of theory. Strong attraction is always accompanied by rigidity of the members. It ceases sometimes at the moment of a general contracture, but there is always a tendency to contracture wherever attraction manifests itself. After Bruno, and "often without knowing of his researches, several magnetizers have noted the same phenomenon."
2) The following experiment is one Dingwall criticizes for lack of full reporting such as to thoroughly appraise it, but it is an interesting result (pp. 54-55) - "the Samson experiments began by those taking part in them assembling the room where they were to take place, the patient of course being excluded. Husson then asked Du Potet whether he would quickly put the patient to sleep without touching her, as he wished him to try to magnetize Mille Samson without her seeing him or even knowing that he was coming to the hospital. To this proposal Du Potet replied that he would certainly try, but could not guarantee the success of the experiment, since action at a distance depended on the sensitivity of the subject affected. Husson then arranged that the audible signal which he was to hear and then commence magnetization was to be the throwing of a pair of scissors on to the table. It was arranged that Du Potet should enter a small closet which was separated by a thick partition from the experimental room and the door of this closet should be securely locked, an arrangement to which he agreed without hesitation. When Mlle Samson was brought in, she was placed with her back turned towards the closet where Du Potet was concealed and which was about three or four feet away. Those present, not knowing that he had already arrived, wondered why he had not come and decided that he was not coming, so that their part of the little drama was carried out very successfully. When he heard the scissors drop, he began magnetizing, although he had no idea in what position the subject had been placed and did his best to avoid any movement that might warn her of his presence in the closet. Three minutes later after he had commenced action the patient began to show signs of drowsiness and at last fell into her ordinary magnetic condition. This experiment was repeated a week later in the presence of Professor J.C.A. Recamier, who took all the precautions he wanted, but the result was the same. For this experiment Du Potet arrived at 9.15 and was told by Husson that Recamier wished to see him out the patient to sleep through the partition. A signal was agreed to: Du Potet entered the closet and the door was locked. Then the subject was brought in and Recamier placed her more than six feet from the closet, with her back turned towards it. Recamier talked to her and she was told that Du Potet was not coming that day, at which news she wanted to leave the room. Recamier then asked her whether she digested meat which was the signal agreed upon for the commencement of magnetization. It was then 9.32 and three minutes later she fell asleep." (emphasis in original)
3) Charles Richet, while referring to a slightly later period in the following discussion in Thirty Years of Psychical Research nevertheless brings up some items of relevance. He states (p. 121): "Dr. Ferroul, the mayor of Narbonne and deputy for the Aube, made some noteworthy experiments on the lucidity of Anna B., a young woman whom he put into the somnambulic state. An amusing incident is related by him. Being editor of the RePublique Sociale, a socialist paper of Narbonne, and having a crow to pluck with the prefect of the Aude, he obtained through Anna some confidential details which he published in his paper. The prefect, supposing the revelations to have been made by two agents of the secret police, dismissed them. They were proved innocent. It was solely by the lucidity of Anna that the knowledge of the facts had come to Dr. Ferroul. Some further interesting experiments were made with Anna, which at first seemed to establish the fact of her vision through opaque paper. A line was written, "Your party is certainly killing itself by subservience." This was folded, put into an outer green envelope, enclosing another envelope, and the whole wrapped in two pieces of squared paper. The writing was read by Anna. Grasset, the eminent professor of the Medical Faculty of Montpellier, subsequently gave Dr. Ferroul another opaque envelope containing two verses that were immediately read by Anna (A.S.P., 1896, vi, 145). This experiment, which appeared decisive to Grasset, was followed by a failure. A commission was named, and no result secured. It is well known that for various reasons scientific commissions rarely reach a definite conclusion, but nevertheless there is reason to doubt the experiments of Dr. Ferroul with Anna."
He also states (pp. 124-125), "I have reported a remarkable instance of lucidity in my own experience that occurred long ago and impressed me very strongly at the time. While a young student at the Hotel-Dieu Hospital, I was in the habit of magnetizing a convalescent girl who was still an inmate. One day I took with me an American fellow student who had never before been to the hospital, and I said to T., in her sleep, "Do you know my friend's name?" She began to laugh. Then I said, "Look, what is the first letter of his name?" She said, "There are five letters; the first is H, then E, I do not see the third, the fourth is R, and the fifth is N." My friend's name was Hearn (Phant. of the Living, 1886; ii, 665). I made experiments in sending some hypnotized subjects "travelling" as the old magnetizers did, and had some astonishing successes, especially with Alice. She went to visit the house of a Mr. C. at Mans, a house not known to me, but very well known to Mr. P. Renouard, then present. She saw a walled garden and a swing (correct, but unknown to Mr. Renouard, for the swing had been placed there since he was last at Mans). She saw a clock with pillars which she described closely enough for me to make the rough sketch annexed, which may be compared with Fig. 3 of the actual clock in Mr. C.'s drawing-room. On another day Alice described the house of Dr. P. Rondeau, then present. "Draperies over the mantelpiece, a clock, and, leaning on the wood, someone looking at the clock whose shoulder is visible. A large painting of a landscape; between the town and the sea something pointed, a tower, or the roof of a church. ..." In fact, in M. Rondeau's country house which Alice could never have seen, there is a statue of Penelope whose shoulder is prominent, looking at the clock towards which her head is turned. The picture is a copy of one by Canaletti and represents Venice, the canal in the foreground, and behind it the church of San Giorgio Maggiore."
I will save descriptions of his work with Léonie B. for later. [note, extract from Dingwall on Léonie]
4) Casare Lombroso discussed an experiment involving transposition of the senses in After Death - What?, pp. 2-5: https://archive.org/stream/afterdeathwhats00lombgoog#page/n24/mode/2up
5) Dingwall takes the paradoxical role of writing on the "credulity of medical men" of the period, and he tars Dr. L. Rostan, who began as an open minded skeptic (p. 45), with this brush (p. 46), while at the same time refuting (p. 45), the critic of his experiments, Dupau. Rostan was important, because he, upon his experiences, was to write the article on animal magnetism in the Dictionaire de Medecine. Dingwall notes (pp. 40-41), that "In the course of his discussion, Rostan described clairvoyant phenomena which excited enormous interest. He had obtained the services of a clairvoyant who apparently possessed the faculty of eyeless-vision and he, with his assistant Ferrus, tried some experiments in order to test this power. He took his watch and placed it at two or three inches from the back of the somnambule's head. He then asked her if she saw anything, to which she replied that she saw something shining which made her feel ill. Ferrus, breaking the silence then said to Rostan that if she saw something shining she could doubtless say what it was and that was easy to ask her. What was the bright object that she saw? To this she replied that she did not know and could not say and was then asked to try hard to do so. After saying that she was tired and that they must wait a moment, she then announced that it was a watch. Ferrus then said that if she saw a watch she could doubtless say what time it was, to which she replied that this was too difficult. Thereupon she was asked again to try hard and again she asked them to wait and then said that she might give the hour but never the minutes. Finally, after trying for some time she said that it was ten minutes to eight, which was exactly correct. Ferrus then wished to try the experiment himself and he repeated it with the same success. Later he made Rostan turn the hands of his watch several times and, having presented it to her without having looked at it themselves, they found that she was not deceived. These watch experiments are extremely interesting and perhaps a digression may be allowed here to say something more about them. Those conducted by Rostan and Ferrus seem to have been among the first described in detail, but later they became more popular and further instances are to be found in the literature. Thus Alfred Fillassier in his book on animal magnetism, published in 1832, not only described (pp. 49-59) some interesting material on travelling clairvoyance, but also some experiments with watches. Fillassier was a French physician from Martinique and his book constituted a thesis for the Paris faculty of Medicine. It had a remarkable success and the first edition was sold out in a few weeks. Fillassier first became interested in these experiments after reading Rostan's article and decided, as he put it, to conquer his repugnance to the subject by beginning to investigate it himself. Meeting a young physician at a party where Rostans work was discussed, Fillassier was persuaded by him to try to magnetize him, which he did, and very soon he young man fell into the magnetic state. But his physical symptoms, such as a weak, irregular pulse and cold sweat, so terrified Fillassier that in spite of another trial, he concluded that these manifestations could not be due to the imagination and that their existence demonstrated the truth of the power that one human being had over another (pp. 13-15) Fillassier was of the opinion that the best subjects in animal magnetism were the large, stolid peasant types. He was lucky in discovering that his housekeeper was a remarkable subject for demonstrating the higher phenomena of clairvoyance. It was with her that he tried to duplicate Rostan's experiment with watches and in this he was remarkably successful. The subject was able to tell the time after the hands of the watch had been turned round and the watch itself placed on her forehead, her belly, or the back of her head (pp. 25-26)."
6) Dingwall writes (pp. 56-57) of the experiments of "E.J. Georget, whose book on the physiology of the nervous system appeared in two volumes in 1821. According to Chardel, in his book on physiological psychology, published in 1844, Georget was a materialist until he conducted these experiments on animal magnetism. Some of his tests seem to have been well devised, such as that of detecting magnetized water in which five glasses of water were presented to the patient and the one containing the treated liquid was described by the subject as tasting of iron."
7) Inglis summarizes examples that are highlighted in other volumes of Dingwall's Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena anthology (in volumes II and III) in essays by other authors dealing with other countries, writing, in Natural and Supernatural, pp. 137-138, "In 1814 Dutch lawyer, Pieter van Ghert, described how he had found a boy who, when magnetised, could 'read' with his fingertips [Vol. III, p. 68]; and a girl who, when asked about people or places he knew, appeared to be able to 'visit' them in her trance and tell him about them, not always correctly, but sometimes with complete accuracy. [Vol. III, p. 65 - an interesting case of "travelling clairvoyance" in a subject of Ghert is described on Vol. III, p. 55] Four years later Dietrich Kieser, a Professor and Privy Councillor at Jena, published an account of experiments he had made with an epileptic boy who could detect colours by touch, even with the soles of his stockinged feet, and describe correctly things which were being done in another room.[Vol. III, p. 125] In Baden Dr. Franz Durr magnetised Wilhemina Koch, daughter of the Court Artist, and asked her to describe the contents of an opaque sealed envelope. He did not know what they were himself; but she correctly pronounced that the message was, 'Trust in God. He will help thee.' [Vol. III, p. 149] And in Langenberg Adolf Kottgen, a silk manufacturer, did a series of tests of this kind with a girl, Maria, who suffered from fits (epileptics were often taken to magnetisers, as it had to be believed that treatment could succeed where orthodox methods were useless). Kottgen enlisted friends to act as referees, to prevent any deception. Words written by one of them were carefully wrapped up, sealed, and given to a friend who, not knowing what they were, brought them to Kottgen. Maria, magnetised, painfully spelled out Kunst-und-Muskikalienhandlung.' When the missive was brought back, still sealed, to the writer, he said that Maria had been very nearly right; what he had actually written was Buch-und Muskikalienhandlung. So he had; but when the seal was broken, and the paper opened up, it was found that some of the melted sealing wax had seeped through on to the paper, obscuring the first letter 'B'. [Vol. III, pp. 140-141]
Similar accounts came from other countries. In Sweden Pehr Cederschjold, later Professor of Obstertics at the Stockholm Medical School, watched a magnetist at work while he was on a visit to Denmark, and later began to experiment for himself. His first patient, 'Miss N' displayed eyeless vision; blindfold, she could describe people, tell him what he was doingm even read from a book. Far from being impressed, Cederschjold (who wanted to use magnetism in treatment) did a series of tests designed to provide a natural explanation; but when 'Miss N' was able to 'read' a book placed on her stomach while her head, swathed in a cloth, was turned in another direction, he was 'forced to throw rationalism overboard, and cease doubting what I saw with my own eyes.'" [Vol. III, p. 208]
8) Brian Inglis, in Natural and Supernatural, p. 174, wrote of some notable experiments: "Scoresby and Townshend had both carried out experiments of their own; Townshend with, among others, 'Anna M.' He could have give instructions to Anna, Townshend claimed, while she was mesmerized, which she would faithfully carry out later even when it was an inconvenience; as on an occasion when he had told her to come round to his house later in the day - she felt compelled to leave a dinner party, though she could give no explanation for her action except that she just could not help herself. He could also mesmerize Anna from his house when she was in her house, a quarter mile away. Another of his subjects, 'E.A.' could 'see' in any direction when mesmerized, ' as if his head was one organ of visual perception'. These results, Townsend admitted, were not consistent; and he had tried to find why there was sporadic interference with perception. The weather, he thought, was one factor ('E.A.' did well when it was fine, but poorly when there were storms around). But the chief problem was psychological. The more I wish,' 'E.A.' complained, ' the less I can do'; the will, in other words, was a hindrance rather than a help." this can be verified by consulting The London Lancet, Vol. I (1845), p. 503.
9) Inglis (ibid, p. 175) also discussed the experiments of the magnetiser Scoresby, that "[H]is most striking experiment was with 'Miss H.' He found that he had only to breathe on an object, and it would affect her. If she touched it, she would go into a trance and then carry out whatever mental command he had given through the object. By this means, he could magnetise the sofa in which she was going to sit, and she would be unable to get up; or he could draw an imaginary circle on the floor and when she was in it, she would be unable to leave, however anxious she might be to do so." - this can be verified by consulting Scoresby's Zoistic magnestism: being the substance of two lectures, descriptive of original views and investigations respecting this mysterious agency, searching throughout for the relevant terms.
10) As regards the Second French Commission, we should begin with Frank Podmore's skeptical criticism, and see if we can salvage it from this dismissal. Podmore is as usual cynical and tendentious - he mentions data showing that blindfolds do not fully secure against sensory leakage, however he leaves out the full details of the findings. His defects are corrected by Charles Richet in his summary of the findings. (Thirty Years of Psychical Research, pp. 22-23): "A notable report was presented by Husson to the Paris Academy of Medicine, and appeared in 1833. Among the conclusions adopted, I give the following, which will seem bold, even today: "An effort of will or a fixed gaze has sufficed to produce magnetic phenomena, even when the subject was unaware. "A somnambulic state may give rise to new faculties, designated as clairvoyance, intuition, or interior prevision. "By an effort of will it is possible not only to act on the patient, but even to induce complete somnambulism and to dispel it, unknown to and out of sight of the patient, through closed doors. "We have seen two somnambulists with closed eyes distinguish objects placed before them; they have named the color and value of cards, have read words of script or some lines in books selected at random, and this when the eyelids were held down with our fingers." In spite of these declarations the scepticism of official science prevailed. Husson's report was disputed and then forgotten, and the metapsychic phenomena were taken up by novelists, and denied or disdained by men of science." (emphasis added) Richet's statements while giving a greater scope of what was surveyed than Podmore still leave out, possibly because it was less well known in psychic lore, or for whatever other reason, an important point - an 1837 follow-up commission was not successful. Eric Dingwall, in Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena I, pp. 83-90, appraises this work, and the controversy it caused. A skeptic Dr. Burdin after this commission put aside some money for a prize for a successful demonstration of higher mesmeric phenomena (op cit., p. 91). Regarding the ensuing results, Alfred Russel Wallace stated, "In 1837, however, in consequence of many accounts of clairvoyance then occurring in various parts of France, the Académie de Médecine offered a prize of three thousand francs to anyone who should prove his ability to read without use of the eyes. The daughter of a physician at Montpelier--Dr. Pigeaire--possessed this power, as testified by many persons of repute; and, in consequence of this offer, he brought her to Paris. Many persons saw her in private, and several physicians--MM. Orfila, Ribes, Reveillé-Parisé and others--certified the fact of her clairvoyant powers. But the members appointed by the Academy--less experienced than those of the Commission of 1831--began by making stipulations as to the complete enclosure of the clairvoyante's head, to which her father would not consent, and thus the opportunity of officially testing this lady was lost.1 Others presented themselves, but none p. 201 succeeded. The result was therefore purely negative; but as there were in some cases suspicions of imposture or attempts at imposture, the report was, of course, against the existence of clairvoyance. This was only what might have been anticipated by all who had really investigated the subject. Professor William Gregory, of the University of Edinburgh, after twenty years' study of animal magnetism and an extensive personal experience, wrote as follows: "In regard to clairvoyance, I have never seen it satisfactorily exhibited except quite in private; and in this point my experience has simply confirmed the statements made by the best observers. I feel confident that everyone who chooses to devote some time and labor to the investigation may meet with it, either in his own cases or those of his friends." In his "Letters on Animal Magnetism" Professor Gregory gives several indisputable cases tested by himself. Dr. Haddock, Major Buckley, Sir Walter Trevelyan, Miss Martineau, Dr. Esdaile, Dr. Lee, and Dr. Elliotson, have all obtained evidence of the most convincing kind, much of which has been published; while many eminent physicians and men of science on the Continent obtained equally convincing results--all confirming the positive evidence of the French Commission of 1831, and proving that the negative results of the Commission of 1837 were due to the inexperience and prejudices of the members. Yet, notwithstanding this cumulative proof, modern writers against the higher phenomena produced by hypnotism appear to be either totally ignorant of the existence of the five years' inquiry and elaborate report of the first commission of the p. 202 Académie de Médecine, or confound it with the second commission, which gave a purely negative report on one limited phase of the phenomena!"
Dingwall, moreover, provides some information that Podmore omits, that in one of the tests in the commission that obtained positive findings (quoting from an account of the tests, Vol. I, op cit., p. 82), "M. Du Potet being desirous that not the slightest shadow of doubt should remain with regard to the nature of the physical influence exerted at will upon the somnambulist, proposed to place upon M. Petit as many bandages as we might think proper, and to operate upon him while in this state. In fact, we covered his face down to the nostrils with several neckcloths; we stopped up with gloves the cavity formed by the prominence of the nose, and we covered the whole with a black handkerchief, which descended, in the form of a veil, as far as the neck. The attempts to excite the magnetic susceptibility, by operating at a distance in every way, were then renewed; and, invariably, the same motions were perceived in the parts towards which the hand or the foot were directed."
Still, the results of these commissions would be rather uninteresting were it not for the astonishing feats of some remarkable sonambulists like the Didier brothers and Léonie B, which Dingwall considers to be in a class above the other cases.
11) Dingwall himself took the cases of the Didier brothers and Léonie B. to be "very striking" (op cit., p. 295), and Alan Gauld stated of Alexis Didier, in A History of Hypnotism (Cambridge University Press, 1992) pp. 239-240, "I cannot help suspecting that he, and certain other magnetic somnambules, did sometimes acquire and transmit information which they could not have come by in any of the ordinarily recognized ways." ... delving into this requires some detail ... Dingwall notes that those who criticized fraudulent somnambules like A.S. Morin considered Didier to be genuine (Dingwall, Vol. 1, op cit. p. 195). Podmore, in his discussion of the Trance phenomena of Mrs. Piper, argued that Didier was fraudulent (pp. 53-58), followed by a dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace - Wallace's opening commentary, Podmore's reply (the debate continues, but then covers other issues). Podmore reiterated his skepticism in Modern Spiritualism (1902), vol. I, ch. X. Then, in Mesmerism and Christian Science (1909), we find some change in view, as he is admitting (whether he is fully aware of it or not) to the reality of "travelling clairvoyance", - chapter IX begins with the following prefatory overview: "Community of sensation and clairvoyance partly explicable by thought-transference — Clairvoyance at close quarters largely fraudulent— But probably in some cases due to hyperaesthesia of vision — The case of Alexis Didier — His card-playing and reading in closed books — Houdin's testimony — Alexis probably an automatist — His description of sealed packets and of distant scenes possibly indicative of supernormal power — Other examples of probably telepathic clairvoyance given by Lee, Haddock, Gregory — Many Mesmerists see in these demonstrations proof of the action of the soul apart from the body" [Insofar as Podmore's Mesmerism and Christian Science deals with the mental healer Phineas Quimby, who was Eddy's influence and therefore the influence on Christian science, an updated overview is given by Alan Angoff in Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena IV, pp. 42-60]
Podmore then wrote of Didier in The Newer Spiritualism (1910), pp. 153-154, as follows: "Yet another illustration of an apparent mixture of genuine supernormal faculty with what might be interpreted as trickery will perhaps throw further light upon the problem. In the case to be quoted the nature of the "trickery" proves it to have been automatic. Alexis Didier was a well-known professional clairvoyant of the middle decades of last century. His feats were attested by Elliotson, Townshend, Newnham, and many other mesmerists and magnetists of this country and in France. The most remarkable things told of him are the reading of words or descriptions of articles in closed packets and the descriptions of distant scenes. Many of these feats are so precisely recorded and so well authenticated that it is difficult to doubt their genuineness. They stand on the same evidential level as many of the similar incidents recorded in the Proceedings of the S.P.R.
There can be little doubt that Alexis was gifted with genuine telepathic powers of a remarkable kind. But his performances also included feats such as playing cards face downwards and reading with eyes bandaged, which resembled closely the ordinary trick performances of pseudo-clairvoyants. For a long time I found these questionable performances an insuperable bar to accepting the testimony, otherwise difficult to set aside, for his exercise of telepathy. But recently I have come across an interesting proof that Alexis was really in an abnormal state of consciousness during these dubious performances, and that, though his success was no doubt due to the exercise of his normal senses, he was probably not himself conscious of any deception in the matter." (Podmore then proceeds, while afterwards arguing against conscious fraud on the part of Alexis, to provide his theory of hyper visual acuity as explaining some of the feats of Alexis with Houdin, arguing that in the "clairvoyance at close quarters sessions" Alexis was given a book which he rapidly turned the pages of, and could have percieved the words in pages in advance of where he stopped in the process of turning them. Here he sloppily, or perhaps cunningly and deceptively, conflates cases. This describes some incidents with Alexis which did not involve Houdin's control conditions (such as those with Lord Adare (Dingwall, op. cit., Vol. I., p. 166), and Sir John Forbes (ibid, p. 169)), but the original source regarding the Houdin case does not state this at all, and instead states that Houdin merely opened a book, not giving it to Alexis, and that Alexis read the words on a page 8 pages in advance of where Houdin opened it).
Wallace argued against this position of Podmore's when it first appeared, writing, in prefatory remarks to the first English translation of the detailed report of Houdin's experiments with Didier as recorded in the work Marquis de Mirville (printed in Supplement 5 to Part XXXV of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, in 1899), "Mr. Podmore admits that "Houdin's testimony is, no doubt, very striking"; but he urges that it is not conclusive as against the theory that subjects in trance may possess "preternormal acuteness of vision." To this I would reply that any such preternatural acuteness of vision as is here required has never been proved to exist, but has been suggested as the only means of explaining phenomena deemed too incredible for acceptance on any testimony; and, further, that if trance patients can see through cards, and tables, and eight pages of a printed book, to admit such "acuteness of vision" is only to admit "clairvoyance" under another name.
I would here earnestly call the attention of our members to a very important elementary principle of sound reasoning too often neglected in discussions of these questions--that, as tersely stated by J. S. Mill, "an argument is not answered till it is answered at its best," and that no amount of negative or indirect evidence is of any weight as against good, positive, and direct evidence on the other side. I ask them to compare carefully this evidence of De Mirville and Houdin with that adduced by Mr. Podmore, and they will find that while the former consists of the very best direct evidence of facts, the latter is wholly negative, consisting of doubts, suspicions, and possibilities, every one of which is excluded in the direct evidence here given.
This fundamental defect applies, in my opinion, to all Mr. Podmore's writings on this subject."
The translation then is provided on pages 374-381.
Eric Dingwall, expert in conjuring, while not taking too kindly to Wallace in Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena IV on account of his support of some disputed physical phenomena of spiritualism - slate writing and materialization phenomena, including Florence Cook's "Katie King", who Dingwall hotly contested the genuineness of. However, Podmore himself, who Dingwall had some admiration for, was initially convinced by Henry Slade, as were other magicians, so, if he was merely a conjuror (an explanation I contest the veracity of below), then he was superior to his contemporaries.
(as for Wallace, read his reply to the SPR over the S.J. Davey experiments, below, to see that he was less credulous than his critics made him out to be)
...nevertheless also chastised James Hyslop for making "reckless statements" stemming from Podmore's early commentaries instead of the original sources (op cit., Vol. I, p. 195), and expressed his disagreement with some of Podmore's views on this matter. Prior to getting into this, I will note that it is true that there were some sittings that were inconclusive where natural causes could not be ruled out (Dingwall, op cit., pp. 168-171). Alfred Russell Wallace, describing then disputing the use of this case by William Benjamin Carpenter, the Ray Hyman of his day, noted, "One more example as to the mode of treatment of evidence for the reality of clairvoyance. Dr. Carpenter describes some of his own visits to Alexis and Adolphe Didier, accompanied by Dr. Forbes; and because they saw nothing which was to them absolutely conclusive, he leads the reader to think that nothing really conclusive had ever been obtained. But Dr. Lee, a physician of repute, and therefore presumably as good a witness as Dr. Carpenter or Dr. Forbes, in his well-known work on Animal Magnetism, devotes twenty-two pages to an account of his own personal experiments with Alexis at Brighton in 1849, including such a number and variety of striking tests as to entirely outweigh any number of negative results like those of Dr. Carpenter. And in addition to these, other special tests of the most stringent character have been published, two of which may be here given. Sergeant Cox, in his "What Am I?" (vol. ii. p. 176) describes a test by a party of experts, of whom he was one. A word was written by a friend in a distant town, and enclosed in an envelope, without any one of the party knowing what the word was. This envelope was enclosed successively in six others of thick brown paper, each sealed. This packet was handed to Alexis, who placed it on his forehead, and in three minutes and a half wrote the contents correctly, imitating the very handwriting. Let anyone compare Dr. Carpenter's explanation of how he supposed such readings were done, and he will see how completely inadequate it is as applying to tests such as that of Sergeant Cox and scores of other inquirers." Dingwall also contrasts the Forbes tests with the Cox test, says that (op cit., vol. I., p. 172) that "Superficially it seems watertight.", but, in my view, superficially attacks it on account of the word not being specified.
Dingwall was impressed with tests with Alexis where he described the interior contents of closed boxes. He overviewed one that occured in The Zoist, Vol. II, pp. 510-511, and criticized Podmore's debunking style of this kind of case as inadequate, noting, in a rejection of Podmore's account of the case (op cit., vol. I, p. 174), "This kind of criticism does not appear to me to be very helpful. It would appear that if Colonel Llewellyn had brought the case as a test, he would hardly have told Marcillet the details given by Alexis and the same objection would arise in the case of the few persons present who were acquainted with him. The possibility exists, however, and it is one that Podmore had not thought of, that the Colonel had presented the same box to another somnambule working in London at the same time and that this person had told Alexis, who therefore was prepared for the same test. The objection to this possibility is that there is no evidence whatever, as far as I know it, to support it." For other counters to skepticism, it appears that the account of Bertrand Meheust will have to be relied upon (see below).
Dingwall, (op cit., Vol. I, pp. 176-193), positively described travelling clairvoyance tests of Alexis, afterwards, he turned to Alexis' brother Adolphe. He then stated, on p. 205, in discussing the case of the Didier brothers, "The evidence for the paranormal acquisition of information seems to me to be very strong: the travelling clairvoyance also and the discovery of lost objects can be linked with it; and the evidence for thought-transmission cannot just be put on one side. It is true that a good deal of the sealed letter reading and ecarte playing is very suspicious, as ample evidence exists that, in the majority of cases at the time, successes in these directions were almost certainly due to faulty blindfolding and other sources of error. But many of the phenomena with both Alexis and Adolphe seem to me to be of a different order from those reported with other somnambules; and even if we go so far as to assume that the sitters were merely getting back what they told the subject without knowing what they were doing, it would not account for correct facts being given which had to be verified later."
Charles Richet, in Thirty Years of Psychical Research, p. 118, stated, "Alexis gave President Seguier a proof of lucidity (not telepathy) of a very curious kind. Alexis, mentally travelling to the President's room, saw a handbell on the table. "No," said M. Seguier, "there is no handbell." But on returning home that afternoon he found that a handbell had been placed on his table. The President had not given his name (Delaage, Les mysteres du magnetizms)."
Richet wrote (op cit., p. 119), "Alphonse Karr and Victor Hugo obtained decisive proofs of cryptesthesia with Alexis, hypnotized by Marillat. The testimony of Alphonse Karr and Victor Hugo would be insufficient if it referred only to a game at cards played with Alexis, for clever prestidigitation can do anything of the kind, but there is much more; Alexis told Alphonse Karr that he (Karr) had placed a branch of white azalea in an empty bottle before leaving his house; which was the fact. Victor Hugo had prepared a packet tied up with string in which he had written the word "politique"; this was read by Alexis. Alexandre Dumas also tells of a memorable seance, but his testimony is less precise. Alexis, when M. Vivant came to consult him, said that he had come concerning some lost object-four banknotes of one thousand francs-which was correct, and he added, "Do not complain to the police, no one has stolen them, they have fallen behind a drawer in your desk." M. Vivant, on returning home, found them there."
Ian Stevenson, in A World in a Grain of Sand: The Clairvoyance of Stefan Ossowiecki, stated of Didier, in a chapter comparing Ossowiecki, who could be regarded as Didier's successor, to Didier, when considering the phenomena (pp.151-152): "He sometimes described objects, such as a bone, that experimenters had concealed. Of such objects he could sometimes give the history (Elliotson, 1845). He could state the previous activities of someone not personally known to him. For example, one report credits him with accurately recounting unusual events occurring two days earlier in the life of an Englishman resident in Paris (Elliotson, 1849). On another occasion he described in detail an obscure episode that occured in 1812 during the Peninsular War in Spain; this happened some 30 years before Didier's correct and later fully verified description of the episode (Elliotson, 1845, 1846). Didier also demonstrated a kind of "travelling clairvoyance" during which he would describe the location and the contents of distant houses he could never have seen. His statements about the interior of the houses he visited in this way included details of paintings hung on the walls (Elliotson, 1845; Lee, 1866)."
In retrospect it could be said that the best of the experiments of this period were good for the time they took place in, and provided a foundation upon which rested the more stringent modern work (in some ways they were more interesting, perhaps parapsychologists will want to consider replicating them under modern conditions of control). It would appear that subsequent scholarship has argued more in the favor of these experiments, though I am precluded from it so long as I remain illiterate in French. In Authors of the Impossible, p. 237, Jeffrey Kripal overviews Bertrand Meheust's study of Didier, Un voyant prodigieux : Alexis Didier, 1826-1866 (Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond (February 27, 2003)), stating, "Any attempted summary of the history of psychical research and modern paranormal phenomena-including the one I have sketched here and there throughout the present set of chapters-is all too prone to impressions of secondhand rumor and suspicions of sloppy thinking, as if the authors of the last two centuries were somehow not as smart or careful as those of this one. The truth is that Meheust's study of Alexis Didier reaches to nearly five hundred pages and explores virtually every imaginable criticism and reading, and that in this it resembles and extends the work of such earlier researchers as Frederic Myers, William James, Richard Hodgson, and Hereward Carrington, all of whom we have met before. Such invocations, however brief, are worth making here, since there is much nonsense written about the history of psychical research, with the greatest nonsense of all being the ignorant claim that it was never carefully done." The text given below in the section on telepathy, Didier in the Zoist, begins with a review of Meheust's study of Didier, and then features primary sources establishing Didier's phenomena. A subsequent overview by Alan Gauld of experiments with Leonie B is given in that section, with some additional commentary added).
Gregory (1851). Letters to a candid inquirer, on animal magnetism.
Townshend (1854). Mesmerism proved true, and the Quarterly reviewer reviewed.
Haddock et al. (1865). Library of mesmerism and psychology
Lee (1866). Animal magnetism and magnetic lucid somnambulism: With observations and illustrative instances (Alfred Russel Wallace in making his arguments against Podmore, and eventually, Frank Podmore in making his concessions in The Newer Spiritualism, are in agreement that this is one of the best texts on the higher mesmeric phenomena)
Ochorowicz (1891). Mental Suggestion (discussion of telepathic rapport in mesmeric experiments. In Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena II, p. 120, in an overview of Polish work in the subject , we find the following summary of this book: "Ochorowicz's major work(12) Mental Suggestion deserves closer attention, not only because it is the most important of the Polish contributions to tile subject but also because it is one of the most notable contributions to research on magnetism. Professor Charles Richet, the celebrated French physiologist and enquirer into parapsychological phenomena, wrote a preface to the French edition of the work and expressed his high opinion of it in the following terms: "A multitude of facts are set forth herein ... and nowhere else can you find brought together so many data. But it is not enough to accumulate facts-the facts must be rightly observed. In this respect Mr. Ochorowicz's criticism of the facts he has witnessed, or that he cites from the accounts given by other scientific men, is as rigorous as is called for by a subject so difficult. The most notable thing in his work is the resolute, unflagging determination to weigh all objections, to put away all causes of bad faith, whether conscious or unconscious ... and not to be content till every possible cause of illusion has been removed. ... One feels that he has a passionate love of truth.")
Schopenhauer (1851/1974). Essay on Spirit Seeing and Everything Connected Therewith (a very positive overview from the famous philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, published in Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays, Volume 1)
Wallace (1898). The Opposition to Hypnotism and Psychical Research. (discusses disputes over higher mesmeric phenomena, accuses opponents of obfuscation)
Alvarado (2009). Modern Animal Magnetism.
Harrington (1995). Review of A History of Hypnotism by Alan Gauld
Du Prel (1889). The philosophy of mysticism.
Nahm (2012).The Sorcerer of Cobenzl and His Legacy: The Life of Baron Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach, His Work and Its Aftermath (as Harrington's above review notes, Gauld in "A History of Hypnotism", after discussing the rituals revolving around esoteric energy of the !Kung bushmen as follows (p. 617): "The purpose of the dance is to activate a healing energy, n/um, a distant cousin of the mesmeric fluid, which resides in the stomach and becomes heated during the dance. When it boils, the vapours rise to the brain, and the dancer passes into a trance state, !kia, in which he achieves power of clairvoyant diagnosis, spirit seeing, or travel out of the body. [...] The first hand accounts of those who have become healers in this way leave no doubt that the boiling of n/um and the transition to !kia occasion real and vivid sensations of heat, pain, dissociation, etc., as well as certain sorts of hallucinations."
endorsed the position against the objectivity of these "subtle energies" associated with Mesmeric practices and folklore, stating that "N/um, the boiling energy of the !Kung bushmen, does not exist. It is imaginary, or at best metaphorical. It works, produces felt effects and genuine benefits, not because it is really there, but because those educated into Cushman culture believe that it is or might be.", though he later notes, "the immediate point, however, is that through the concept of hypnosis, like the concept of n/um, may be an artefact, corresponding to no reality that it has not itself engendered, the elements of the concept are not at all factitious, are not all derived from folk superstitions, socially inculcated practices, etc. Some are genuine in the sense that the phenomena in question occur independently of whether or not the persons to whom they occur antecedently know anything about them.", and Irreducible Mind, a text that he coauthored, contained a more favorable view regarding treatments relevant to the subject.
Amongst the Mesmerists, the refined argument for subtle energies related to Mesmeric practices related to the alleged "Odic Force" of Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach - we can see this argument in the works of Gregory and Mayo (author of Letters on the Truths in Popular Superstitions) - Gregory even translated Reichenbach's Physikalish-physiologische Untersuchungen über die Dynamide des Magnetismus, der Electrizität, der Wärme, des Lichtes, der Krystallisation, des Chemismus in ihren Beziehungen zur Lebenskraft (item #583 in Crabtree's annotated bibliography), into English as Researches on magnetism, electricity, heat, light, crystallization, and chemical attraction, in their relations to the vital force. A defense of Reichenbach is provided by Wallace in a chapter of Miracles and Modern Spiritualism entitled Od-Force, Animal Magnetism, and Clairvoyance. Wallace himself noted, in his rebuttal to Carpenter, "Baron Reichenbach's researches are next discussed, and are coolly dismissed with the remark that "it at once became apparent to experienced physicians, that the whole phenomena were subjective, and that 'sensitives' like Von Reichenbach's can p. 395 feel, see, or smell anything they were led to believe they would feel, see, or smell." His evidence for this is, that Mr. Braid could make his subjects do so, and that Dr. Carpenter had seen him do it. One of them, for instance,--an intellectual and able Manchester gentleman,--"could be brought to see flames issuing from the poles of a magnet of any form or colour that Mr. Braid chose to name." All this belongs to the mere rudiments of mesmerism and is known to every operator. Two things, however, are essential--the patient or sensitive must be, or have been, mesmerised, or electro-biologised as it is commonly called, and the suggestion must be actually made. Given these two conditions and no doubt twenty persons may be made to declare that they see green flames issuing from the operator's mouth; but no single case has been adduced of persons in ordinary health, not subject to any operation of mesmerism, &c., being all caused to see this or any other thing in agreement, by being merely brought into a dark room and asked to describe accurately what they saw. Yet this is what Von Reichenbach did, and much more. For, in order to confirm the evidence of the "sensitives" first experimented on, he invited a large number of his friends and other persons in Vienna to come to his dark room, and the result was that about sixty persons of various ages and conditions saw and described exactly the same phenomena. Among these were a number of literary, official, and scientific men and their families, persons of a status fully equal to that of Dr. Carpenter and the Fellows of the Royal Society--such as Dr. Neid, a physician; Professor Endlicher, director of the Imperial Botanic Garden; Chevalier Hubert von Rainer, barrister; Mr. Karl Schuh, physicist; Dr. Ragsky, Professor of Chemistry; Mr. Franz Kollar and Dr. Diesing, Curators in the Imperial Natural History Museum, and many others. There was also an artist, Mr. Gustav Anschütz, who could see the flames, and drew them in their various forms and combinations. Does Dr. Carpenter really ask his readers to believe that his explanation applies to these gentlemen? That they all quietly submitted to be told what they were to see, submissively said they saw it, and allowed the fact to be published at the time, without a word of protest on their part from that day to this? But a little examination of the reports of their evidence shows that they did not follow each other like a flock of sheep, but that each had an individuality of perceptive power, some seeing one kind of flame better than another; while the variety of combinations of magnets submitted to them, rendered anything like suggestion as to what they were to see quite impossible, unless it were a deliberate and wilful imposture on the part of Baron von Reichenbach.
But again, Dr. Carpenter objects to the want of tests, and especially his pet test of using an electro-magnet, and not letting the patients know whether the electric circuit which "makes" and "unmakes" the magnet was complete or broken. How p. 396 far this test, had it been applied, would have satisfied the objector, may be imagined from his entirely ignoring all the tests, many of them at least as good, which were actually applied. The following are a few of these:--Test 1. Von Reichenbach arranged with a friend to stand in another room with a stone wall between him and the patient's bed, holding a powerful magnet, the armature of which was to be closed or opened at a given signal. The patient detected, on every occasion, whether the magnet was opened or closed. Test 2. M. Baumgartner, a professor of physics, after seeing the effects of magnets on patients, took from his pocket what he said was one of his most powerful magnets, to try its effects. The patient, to Von Reichenbach's astonishment, declared she found this magnet on the contrary very weak, and its action on her hardly more perceptible than a piece of iron. M. Baumgartner then explained that this magnet, though originally very powerful, had been as completely as possible deprived of its magnetism, and that he had brought it as a test. Here was suggestion and expectation in full force, yet it did not in the least affect the patient. (For these two tests see "Ashburner's Translation of Reichenbach," pp. 39, 40.) Test 3. A large crystal (placed in a new position before each patient was brought into the dark room) was always at once detected by means of its light, yellower and redder than that from magnets (loc. cit., p. 86). Test 4. A patient confined in a darkened passage held a wire which communicated with a room in which experiments were made on plates connected with this wire. As these plates were exposed to sunlight or shade, the patient described corresponding changes in the luminous appearances of the end of the wire (loc. cit. p. 147). Test 5. The light from magnets, &c., was thrown on a screen by a lens, so that the image could be instantly and noiselessly changed in size and position at pleasure. Twelve patients, eight of them healthy and new to the enquiry, saw the image, and described its alterations of size and position as the lens or screen was shifted in the dark (loc. cit., p. 585). Dr. Carpenter's only reply to all this is, that "Baron Reichenbach's researches upon 'Odyle' were discredited a quarter of a century ago, alike by the united voice of scientific opinion in his own country, and by that of the medical profession here." Even if this were the fact, it would have nothing to do with the matter, which is one of experiment and evidence, not of the belief or disbelief of certain prejudiced persons, since to discredit is not to disprove. The painless operations in mesmeric sleep were "discredited" by the highest medical authorities in this country, and yet they were true. But Dr. Elliotson, Dr. Ashburner, and others, accepted Reichenbach's discoveries; and some of the Vienna physicians even, after seeing the experiments with persons "whose honour, truthfulness, and impartiality they could vouch for," also accepted them as proved.
The facts of the luminosity of magnets was also independently established by Dr. Charpignon, who, in his "Physiologie, Médicine, et Metaphysique du Magnetisme," published in 1845--the very same year in which the account of Von Reichenbach's observations first appeared--says: "Having placed before the sonnambulists four small bars of iron, one of which was magnetised by the loadstone, they could always distinguish this one from the others, from its two ends being enveloped in a brilliant vapour. The light was more brilliant at one end (the north pole) than at the other. I could never deceive them; they always recognised the nature of the poles, although when in their normal state they were in complete ignorance of the subject." Surely here is a wonderful confirmation. One observer in France and another in Germany make the same observation about the same time, and quite independently; and even the detail of the north pole being the more brilliant agrees with the statement of Reichenbach's sensitives (Ashburner's Trans., p. 20).
Our readers can now judge how far the historic and scientific method has been followed in Dr. Carpenter's treatment of the researches of Von Reichenbach, not one of the essential facts here stated (and there are hundreds like them) being so much as alluded to, while "suggestion," "expectation," and "imposture," are offered as fully explaining everything. We cannot devote much time to the less important branches of the subject, but it is necessary to show that in every case Dr. Carpenter misstates facts and sets negative above positive evidence. Thus, as to the magnenometer1 and odometer of Mr. Rutter and Dr. Mayo, all the effects are imputed to expectation and unconscious muscular action, and we have this positive statement: "It was found that the constancy of the vibrations depended entirely upon the operator's watching their direction, and, further, that when such a change was made without the operator's knowledge in the conditions of the experiment, as ought, theoretically, to alter the direction of the oscillations, no such alteration took place." Yet Mr. Rutter clearly states-- 1. That the instrument can be affected through the hand of a third person with exactly the same result (Rutter's "Human Electricity," App., p. 54). 2. That the instrument is affected by a crystal on a detached stand brought close to the instrument, but without contact (loc. cit., p. 151). 3. That many persons, however "expectant" and anxious to succeed, have no power to move the instrument. 4. That substances unknown to the operator, and even when held by a third party caused correct indications, and that an attempt to deceive by using a substance under a wrong name was detected by the movements of the instrument (loc. cit., Appendix, p. lvi.). Here then Mr. Rutter's p. 398 positive testimony is altogether ignored, while the negative results of another person are set forth as conclusive. Next we have the evidence for the divining-rod similarly treated. Dr. Mayo is quoted as supporting the view that the rod moved in accordance with the "expectations" of the operator, but on the preceding page of Dr. Mayo's work, other cases are given in which there was no expectation; and the fact that Dr. Mayo was well aware of the source of error, and was a physiologist and physician of high rank, entitles his opinion as to the reality of the action in other cases to great weight. Again, we have the testimony of Dr. Hutton, who saw the Hon. Lady Milbanke use the divining-rod on Woolwich Common, and who declares that it turned where he knew there was water, and that in other places where he knew there was none it did not turn: that the lady's hands were closely watched, and that no mention of the fingers or hands could be detected, yet the rod turned so strongly and persistently that it became broken. No other person present could voluntarily or involuntarily cause the rod to turn in a similar way (Hutton's "Mathematical Recreations," Ed. 1840, p. 711). The evidence on this subject is most voluminous, but we have adduced sufficient to show that Dr. Carpenter's supposed demonstration does not account for all the facts."
According to Crabtree in his bibliography, where he features that text as item #583, "it is difficult to distinguish Reichenbach’s odic force from Mesmer’s magnetic fluid. The similarity is reflected in general writings on human magnetism from 1850 on that often treat the two phenomena as identical." In the featured paper, Nahm reviews all attempted replications of Reichenbach's results, with which there was some heterogeneity in observed effects, and brings awareness to a particularly interesting result of Floris Jensen. Similar explorations were undertaken by Wilhelm Reich with his investigation into Orgone energy - as argued in a recent paper In Defense of Wilhelm Reich: An Open Response to Nature and the Scientific /Medical Community, coauthored by 24 scientists and physicians and 3 PhD candidates, the attack on him is illegitimate, and replication of all his major experiments has been achieved. Reich is an unfortunate example of the political consequences of pathological pseudoskepticism. An attempted synthesis of the bioenergetic work of Reich and the mystical-psychological ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff is provided in the text Reich and Gurdjieff: Sexuality and the Evolution of Consciousness
Also relevant is work on the aura. Hereward Carrington, in Laboratory Investigations into Psychic Phenomena, pp. 56-57: "Reichenbach was, as we have seen, among the first to study, scientifically, the subtle emanations issuing from the human body, and since his day much has been written upon this subject in spiritualistic and particularly in Theosophical literature. In 1874, Francis Gerry Fairfield published his Ten Years with Spiritual Mediums, in which he recorded his experiments upon the aura, which he designated the 'nerve-atmosphere.' These observations of his tally in a remarkable manner with those of Dr. Kilner, who issued his book, The Human Atmosphere, in 1908. Kilner employed dicyanin screens, or slides, by means of which (he asserted) the human aura could be seen by practically any person with normal eyesight. Kilner's work is so well known that any summary of it here would be out of place. It has been contended that much of Kilner's work is subjective and illusory; on the other hand, numerous independent investigations tend to prove the reality of an atmosphere or aura surrounding the body, and a number of eminent scientific men assert that they have seen it-Dr. C. Martin, Mr. Havelock Ellis, and Dr. Barker Smith being among them. In this connection I might refer the reader to an article by Dr. Gerda Walther in the Journal, A.S.P.R., Sept., 1932, entitled 'Some Experiences Concerning the Human Aura,' which in my estimation contains some useful material. See also the article by F.E. Leaning in Price's Journal, No. 1, p. 27, and one by Dr. W.G. Richards in Psychic Science, Jan., 1934.")
Hansen (1982). Dowsing: A Review of Experimental Research (Uri Geller apparently dowsed successfully. According to Guy Playfair, "It was on one of these tours, to Mexico in 1976, that Geller embarked on two new careers. The first was as a dowser, in which he had been encouraged by Sir Val Duncan, chairman of the Rio Tinto-Zinc Corporation, and which he was able to put into practice when asked by the president of Mexico to dowse for oil, which he apparently did successfully. The director-general of the state oil company Pemex told him his dowsing had been ‘very precise’, as it is said to have been on several subsequent commissions from other companies. These were normally carried out on a ‘total non-disclosure’ basis, though one his employers, Peter Sterling, former chairman of the Australian mining company Zanex, has stated on the record (Financial Times, 18 January 1986) that he was ‘well pleased’ with Uri’s services.")