The views of medical men in regard to hypnotism or self-mesmerization have been greatly strengthened of late. This is evident from the report by Dr. Grishhorn, of St. Petersburg, at the latest meeting of the Society of the St. Petersburg Physicians, on November 18th (Dec. 1st), a report which is full of interest. Until recently, the phenomena of hypnotism have been ony accepted under a quasi protest, while mesmerism and clairvoyance were regarded and denounced by the best authorities in science as pure charlatanism. The greatest physicians remained sceptical as to the reality of the phenomena, until one after the other came to learn better; and these were those, of course, who had the patience to devote some time and labour to personal experiment in this direction. Still many have thus acquired the profound conviction that there exists in man a faculty – mysterious and yet unexplained – which causes him under a certain degree of self-concentration to become as rigid as a statue and lose more or less his consciousness. That once in such a nervous state, at times his spiritual and mental faculties will seem paralyzed, and the mechanical action of the body alone remain; while at others it will be quite the contrary; his physical senses becoming benumbed, his mental and spiritual faculties will acquire a most wonderful degree of acuteness.
Last summer Dr. Grishhorn made, with Professor Berger, a series of hypnotic experiments and observations in the Breslau Hospital for Nervous Diseases. One of the first patients experimented upon was a young girl of about twenty, who suffered acutely from rheumatic pain. Professor Berger, applying to the tip of her nose a small hammer used for auscultations, directed her to concentrate all her attention upon the spot touched. Hardly a few minutes had elapsed, when, to his utmost astonishment, the girl became quite rigid. A bronze statue could not be more motionless and stiff. Then Dr. Grishhorn tried every kind of experiment in order to ascertain that the girl did not play a part. A lighted candle was closely approached to her eyes, and it was found that the pupil did not contract; the eyes remaining opened and glassy, as if the person had been dead. He then passed a long needle through her lip and moved it in every direction; but the two doctors remarked neither the slightest sign of pain, nor, what was most strange, was there a single drop of blood. He called her by her name; there came no answer. But when, taking her by the hand, he began to converse with her, the young girl answered all his questions, though feebly at first and as if compelled by an irresistible power.
The second experiment proved more wonderful yet. It was made with a young soldier, who had just been brought into the hospital, and who proved "what the Spiritualists call a medium" – says the official report. This last experiment finally convinced Drs. Grishhorn and Berger of the reality of the doubted phenomena. The soldier, a German, ignorant of a single word of Russian, spoke in his trance with the doctor in that language, pronouncing the most difficult words most perfectly, without the slightest foreign accent. Suffering from a paralysis of both legs, during his hypnotic sleep he used them freely, walking with entire ease, and repeating every movement and gesture made by Dr. Grishhorn with absolute precision. The Russian sentences he pronounced very rapidly, while his own tongue he spoke very slowly. He even went so far as to write, at the doctor’s dictation, a few words in that language, quite unknown to him, and in the Russian characters.
The debates upon this most important report by a well-known physician were announced to take place at the next meeting of the Society of the St. Petersburg Medical Practitioners. As soon as the official report of the proceedings is published, we will give it to our readers. It is really interesting to witness how the men of science are gradually being led to acknowledge facts which they have hitherto so bitterly denounced.
Hypnotism, we may add, is nought but the Trâtaka of the Yogî, the act of concentrating his mind on the tip of the nose, or on the spot between the eyebrows. It was known and practised by the ascetics in order to produce the final Samâdhi, or temporary deliverance of the soul from the body; a complete disenthralment of the spiritual man from the slavery of the physical with its gross senses. It is being practised unto the present day.
The Theosophist, February, 1881.
H. P. Blavatsky