Catalepsy





The next higher stage of hypnotism is that of catalepsy. Patients may be

thrown into it directly, or patients in the lethargic state may be

brought into it by lifting the eyelids. It seems that the light

penetrating the eyes, and affecting the brain, awakens new powers, for

the cataleptic state has phenomena quite peculiar to itself.



Nearly all the means for producing hypnotism will, if carried to just

the right degree, produce catalepsy. For instance, besides the fixing

of the eye on a bright object, catalepsy may be produced by a sudden

sound, as of a Chinese gong, a tom-tom or a whistle, the vibration of a

tuning-fork, or thunder. If a solar spectrum is suddenly brought into a

dark room it may produce catalepsy, which is also produced by looking at

the sun, or a lime light, or an electric light.



In this state the patient has become perfectly rigidly fixed in the

position in which he happens to be when the effect is produced, whether

sitting, standing, kneeling, or the like; and this face has an

expression of fear. The arms or legs may be raised, but if left to

themselves will not drop, as in lethargy. The eyes are wide open, but

the look is fixed and impassive. The fixed position lasts only a few

minutes, however, when the subject returns to a position of relaxation,

or drops back into the lethargic state.



If the muscles, nerves or tendons are rubbed or pressed, paralysis may

be produced, which, however, is quickly removed by the use of

electricity, when the patient awakes. By manipulating the muscles the

most rigid contraction may be produced, until the entire body is in such

a state of corpse-like rigidity that a most startling experiment is

possible. The subject may be placed with his head upon the back of one

chair and his heels on the back of another, and a heavy man may sit upon

him without seemingly producing any effect, or even heavy rock may be

broken on the subject's body.



Messieurs Binet and Fere, pupils of the Salpetriere school, describe the

action of magnets on cataleptic subjects, as follows:



The patient is seated near a table, on which a magnet has been placed,

the left elbow rests on the arm of the chair, the forearm and hand

vertically upraised with thumb and index finger extended, while the

other fingers remain half bent. On the right side the forearm and hand

are stretched on the table, and the magnet is placed under a linen cloth

at a distance of about two inches. After a couple of minutes the right

index begins to tremble and rise up; on the left side the extended

fingers bend down, and the hand remains limp for an instant. The right

hand and forearm rise up and assume the primitive position of the left

hand, which is now stretched out on the arm of the chair, with the waxen

pliability that pertains to the cataleptic state.



An interesting experiment may be tried by throwing a patient into

lethargy on one side and catalepsy on the other. To induce what is

called hemi-lethargy and hemi-catalepsy is not difficult. First, the

lethargic stage is induced, then one eyelid is raised, and that side

alone becomes cataleptic, and may be operated on in various interesting

ways. The arm on that side, for instance, will remain raised when

lifted, while the arm on the other side will fall heavily.



Still more interesting is the intellectual condition of the subject.

Some great man has remarked that if he wished to know what a person was

thinking of, he assumed the exact position and expression of that

person, and soon he would begin to feel and think just as the other was

thinking and feeling. Look a part and you will soon begin to feel it.



In the cataleptic subject there is a close relation between the attitude

the subject assumes and the intellectual manifestation. In the

somnambulistic stage patients are manipulated by speaking to them; in

the cataleptic stage they are equally under the will of the operator;

but now he controls them by gesture. Says Dr. Courmelles, from his own

observation: The emotions in this stage are made at command, in the

true acceptation of the word, for they are produced, not by orders

verbally expressed, but by expressive movements. If the hands are opened

and drawn close to the mouth, as when a kiss is wafted, the mouth

smiles. If the arms are extended and half bent at the elbows, the

countenance assumes an expression of astonishment. The slightest

variation of movement is reflected in the emotions. If the fists are

closed, the brow contracts and the face expresses anger. If a lively or

sad tune is played, if amusing or depressing pictures are shown, the

subject, like a faithful mirror, at once reflects these impressions. If

a smile is produced it can be seen to diminish and disappear at the same

time as the hand is moved away, and again to reappear and increase when

it is once more brought near. Better still, a double expression can be

imparted to the physiognomy, by approaching the left hand to the left

side of the mouth, the left side of the physiognomy will smile, while at

the same time, by closing the right hand, the right eyebrow will frown.

The subject can be made to send kisses, or to turn his hands round each

other indefinitely. If the hand is brought near the nose it will blow;

if the arms are stretched out they will remain extended, while the head

will be bowed with a marked expression of pain.



Heidenhain was able to take possession of the subject's gaze and control

him by sight, through producing mimicry. He looks fixedly at the patient

till the patient is unable to take his eyes away. Then the patient will

copy every movement he makes. If he rises and goes backward the patient

will follow, and with his right hand he will imitate the movements of

the operator's left, as if he were a mirror. The attitudes of prayer,

melancholy, pain, disdain, anger or fear, may be produced in this

manner.



The experiments of Donato, a stage hypnotizer, are thus described:

After throwing the subjects into catalepsy he causes soft music to be

played, which produces a rapturous expression. If the sound is

heightened or increased, the subjects seem to receive a shock and a

feeling of disappointment. The artistic sense developed by hypnotism is

disturbed; the faces express astonishment, stupefaction and pain. If the

same soft melody be again resumed, the same expression of rapturous

bliss reappears in the countenance. The faces become seraphic and

celestial when the subjects are by nature handsome, and when the

subjects are ordinary looking, even ugly, they are idealized as by a

special kind of beauty.



The strange part of all this is, that on awaking, the patient has no

recollection of what has taken place, and careful tests have shown that

what appear to be violent emotions, such as in an ordinary state would

produce a quickened pulse and heavy breathing, create no disturbance

whatever in the cataleptic subject; only the outer mask is in motion.



Sometimes the subjects lean backward with all the grace of a perfect

equilibrist, freeing themselves from the ordinary mechanical laws. The

curvature will, indeed, at times be so complete that the head will touch

the floor and the body describe a regular arc.



When a female subject assumes an attitude of devotion, clasps her

hands, turns her eyes upward and lisps out a prayer, she presents an

admirably artistic picture, and her features and expression seem worthy

of being reproduced on canvas.



We thus see what a perfect automaton the human body may become. There

appears, however, to be a sort of unconscious memory, for a familiar

object will seem to suggest spontaneously its ordinary use. Thus, if a

piece of soap is put into a cataleptic patient's hands; he will move it

around as though he thought he were washing them, and if there is any

water near he will actually wash them. The sight of an umbrella makes

him shiver as if he were in a storm. Handing such a person a pen will

not make him write, but if a letter is dictated to him out loud he will

write in an irregular hand. The subject may also be made to sing, scream

or speak different languages with which he is entirely unfamiliar. This

is, however, a verging toward the somnambulistic stage, for in deep

catalepsy the patient does not speak or hear. The state is produced by

placing the hands on the head, the forehead, or nape of the neck.





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