The Somnambulistic Stage
This is the stage or phase of hypnotism nearest the waking, and is the
only one that can be produced in some subjects. Patients in the
cataleptic state can be brought into the somnambulistic by rubbing the
top of the head. To all appearances, the patient is fully awake, his
eyes are open, and he answers when spoken to, but his voice does not
have the same sound as when awake. Yet, in this state the patient is
susceptible of all the hallucinations of insanity which may be induced
at the verbal command of the operator.
One of the most curious features of this stage of hypnotism is the
effect on the memory. Says Monsieur Richet: I send V---- to sleep. I
recite some verses to her, and then I awake her. She remembers nothing.
I again send her to sleep, and she remembers perfectly the verses I
recited. I awake her, and she has again forgotten everything.
It appears, however, that if commanded to remember on awaking, a patient
The active sense, and the memory as well, appears to be in an exalted
state of activity during this phase of hypnotism. Says M. Richet:
M----, who will sing the air of the second act of the Africaine in her
sleep, is incapable of remembering a single note of it when awake.
Another patient, while under this hypnotic influence, could remember all
he had eaten for several days past, but when awake could remember very
little. Binet and Fere caused one of their subjects to remember the
whole of his repasts for eight days past, though when awake he could
remember nothing beyond two or three days. A patient of Dr. Charcot, who
when she was two years old had seen Dr. Parrot in the children's
hospital, but had not seen him since, and when awake could not remember
him, named him at once when he entered during her hypnotic sleep. M.
Delboeuf tells of an experiment he tried, in which the patient did
remember what had taken place during the hypnotic condition, when he
suddenly awakened her in the midst of the hallucination; as, for
instance, he told her the ashes from the cigar he was smoking had fallen
on her handkerchief and had set it on fire, whereupon she at once rose
and threw the handkerchief into the water. Then, suddenly awakened, she
remembered the whole performance.
In the somnambulistic stage the patient is no longer an automaton
merely, but a real personality, an individual with his own character,
his likes and dislikes. The tone of the voice of the operator seems to
have quite as much effect as his words. If he speaks in a grave and
solemn tone, for instance, even if what he utters is nonsense, the
effect is that of a deeply tragic story.
The will of another is not so easily implanted as has been claimed.
While a patient will follow almost any suggestion that may be offered,
he readily obeys only commands which are in keeping with his character.
If he is commanded to do something he dislikes or which in the waking
state would be very repugnant to him, he hesitates, does it very
reluctantly, and in extreme cases refuses altogether, often going into
hysterics. It was found at the Charity hospital that one patient
absolutely refused to accept a cassock and become a priest. One of
Monsieur Richet's patients screamed with pain the moment an amputation
was suggested, but almost immediately recognized that it was only a
suggestion, and laughed in the midst of her tears. Probably, however,
this patient was not completely hypnotized.
Dr. Dumontpallier was able to produce a very curious phenomenon. He
suggested to a female patient that with the right eye she could see a
picture on a blank card. On awakening she could, indeed, see the picture
with the right eye, but the left eye told her the card was blank. While
she was in the somnambulistic state he told her in her right ear that
the weather was very fine, and at the same time another person whispered
in her left ear that it was raining. On the right side of her face she
had a smile, while the left angle of her lip dropped as if she were
depressed by the thought of the rain. Again, he describes a dance and
gay party in one ear, and another person mimics the barking of a dog in
the other. One side of her face in that case wears an amused expression,
while the other shows signs of alarm.
Dr. Charcot thus describes a curious experiment: A portrait is
suggested to a subject as existing on a blank card, which is then mixed
with a dozen others; to all appearance they are similar cards. The
subject, being awakened, is requested to look over the packet, and does
so without knowing the reason of the request, but when he perceives the
card on which the portrait was suggested, he at once recognizes the
imaginary portrait. It is probable that some insignificant mark has,
owing to his visual hyperacuity, fixed the image in the subject's