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the domain of the exact sciences. Liébault was followed by a host of others, so that within the last twenty years, or less, hypnotism has come to be acknowledged as a science of the most transcendant interest and importance, not alone in its aspects as a therapeutic agent, but as the handmaiden, par excellence, of experimental psychology.
It is to Liébault, however, that the world is indebted for the greatest discovery ever made in the science of hypnotism; namely, the law of "suggestion." This law, reduced to its simplest terms, is that "persons in an hypnotic condition are constantly amenable to control by suggestion." I am aware that the credit of this discovery has been claimed for Braid; but, nevertheless, Liébault first formulated the law, and it is to the one who has the capacity to grasp the universality of a law, and definitely to formulate it, that credit is due for the discovery. Many others had noted the effect of suggestion in particular cases, and had thus counted it as a possible factor in hypnotism. Paracelsus, in the sixteenth century, noted it as an important factor in psychotherapeutics; but he was no more entitled to the credit of its discovery than were the predecessors of Newton, who talked learnedly of gravitation but died before its fundamental law was formulated, entitled to the credit due to the author of the "Principia." It is true that Liebault confined his formula to the phenomena of experimental hypnotism, and it was left for later investigators to discover that the law was the universal and dominating factor in all the multiform phases of psychic phenomena. But until Liébault's discovery was definitely formulated, hypnotism was not, nor could it be, entitled to admission into the circle of the exact sciences. That discovery, therefore, constituted the first great step in the evolution of the science of the soul; for it is by hypnotism and cognate phenomena alone that the fact that man has a soul can be scientifically demonstrated.
In the mean time, before the discoveries of Braid and of Liébault, mesmerism had fallen largely into the hands of ignorant charlatans, who travelled throughout every civilized country, lecturing and giving exhibitions of the phenomena to gaping crowds, who were neither more nor less capable than were the exhibitors themselves of appreciating the real significance of the exhibitions. By this means mesmeric subjects were indefinitely multiplied until every little hamlet in Christendom could boast of its "seers" and its "prophets." "Clairvoyance" became a word of portentous import, and was soon employed as a generic term for every manifestation of perception not directly traceable to sensorial experience. Many notable phenomena were produced, and books describing them multiplied. All were, of course, derided by the "scientists; "the lecturers themselves were branded as "mountebanks," and the "subjects," who were taken largely from the ranks of the school children, were denounced as "frauds," "humbugs," and "swindlers." Among the books which appeared, many were written in a purely scientific tone and spirit, and described the experiments with great minuteness and exactness, and detailed the tests applied and the safeguards employed with true scientific caution and transparent honesty of purpose. It is a curious and an intensely interesting study to go over those old "volumes of forgotten lore," rescued from the top shelves of secondhand bookstores, and to compare the experiments therein detailed with those of the scientists of to-day. Such a study reveals many thoroughly authenticated facts of great scientific value in the study of experimental psychology, the only defect being that the law of suggestion had not yet been formulated. Nevertheless, in very many cases, that factor was as intelligently eliminated as it has ever been by later scientists who are in full possession of a thorough knowledge of its potency and universality. In point of fact, there are few phenomena of importance produced by the
later scientists which have not their counterpart in the old records of pre-spiritistic mesmerism.
In this connection it may be well to pause for the purpose of remarking that up to a certain date no one ever dreamed of ascribing to supermundane agency any of the phenomena of mesmerism. Many phenomena were produced which have since found a ready solution in the hypothesis of spirit intercourse; but at the time of their production it was not found necessary to presuppose any other agency than that of some inherent, though newly discovered, power of the living subject. In other words, it was not regarded as necessary for a man to be dead before he could develop the powers evoked by mesmerism. Such an hypothesis had not yet been "suggested."
This state of affairs, however, was destined to a somewhat sudden termination. The Rochester knockings had commenced. At first ascribed to trickery, investigation proved that they could not be traced to any known physical agency. The sounds were startling, mysterious, uncanny, and to none more so than to those to whose unconscious agency they were afterwards traced. To the minds of the local savants the most obvious solution was the supernatural. This idea once suggested, a test was easy. A code of signals was improvised, and the raps were questioned. An intelligence was found to be behind the mysterious sounds. On crossexamination, that intelligence freely admitted itself to be none other than that of a disembodied spirit; and the raps first made upon the walls of the humble residence of the Fox sisters were heard around the world.
A new era in psychic phenomena had been inaugurated. In an incredibly short space of time "mediums" of communication with the inhabitants of another sphere were found all over the civilized world. Mesmerism was forgotten. But it is a significant fact that it had unwittingly provided an abundant supply of the raw material for
"mediums;" for every successful mesmeric subject was found to be already developed for successful mediumship. The phenomena of "clairvoyance" no longer possessed their former significance. What was, under mesmerism, the development of an inherent power of the mind of the subject, under spiritism was a message from some denizen of another world. If any doubt existed upon that point, it was speedily set at rest by the simple process of questioning the intelligence itself. When asked if it was a spirit, the answer was, "Yes." When asked if it was the spirit of John Smith, the answer was "Yes ;" and the same answer would be returned if the identity of the spirit of Socrates was sought. In other words, it was just as easy successfully to invoke the shade of Socrates as it was to call up John Smith, notwithstanding the disparity in numbers.
The law of suggestion had not been discovered; and the fact of duality of consciousness existed in the popular mind only as a Platonic reminiscence.
But this is not the proper place to discuss the errors of spiritism. It is sufficient for present purposes to note that the appearance of spiritism, coming as it did upon the world of human thought and experience simultaneously with mesmerism, seems not only opportune, but almost providential. Together they constitute the great body of the psychic phenomena of the nineteenth century, and neither would have been complete without the other. In spiritism we have a vast series of phenomena, and in mesmerism and hypnotism we have a means of scientifically studying it and thus profiting by the lessons which it teaches. If this is done in a calm and dispassionate spirit, we may rest assured that what we shall learn will be for the highest good of the human race. We shall at least find that when we look upon it as a necessary part of the grand system of evolution of the human mind, it is a factor of inestimable value and significance. Viewed as a factor in the evolution of the
spiritual man, it has been of transcendent value to mankind. It matters not that its phenomena have been grossly misinterpreted. It was impossible to avoid a misunderstanding of it in the absence of the knowledge which modern scientific investigation has revealed within the last decade. It would have been a miracle if it had not been accepted for all that it purported to be, in the absence of any other rational explanation than that afforded by a wholesale denial of its phenomena. Its adherents had daily ocular demonstration of the genuineness of its phenomena, which could not be offset by a priori denials from those who refused to investigate. Moreover, the intelligence behind the manifestations claimed to be that of loved ones who had gone before; and in the then state of human knowledge there was no means of successfully disproving the statement. Besides, it was a statement that millions of stricken hearts dreaded to have disproved. To many it constituted the last ray of hope of a life beyond the grave, and of a reunion with the loved and lost.
It does not always follow that the mistakes of humanity are productive of unmitigated evil. We have already seen how, in times past, the most grossly misinterpreted psychic phenomena led, by the slow but sure steps of evolution, to a knowledge of the true God; and how the propagation of the true religion was promoted by the same means. Spiritism has also served a noble purpose in that it has stayed the wave of materialism which swept like a cyclone over the civilized world upon the announcement of the doctrine of organic evolution. Millions of the human family who could not appreciate the fact that the doctrine of evolution does not touch the question of true religion and leaves the problem of immortality just where it found it, have derived consolation from what they regard as demonstrative evidence of a life beyond the grave.
In making the foregoing remarks, I have not taken into