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How The Subject Feels Under Hypnotization

The sensations produced during a state of hypnosis are very interesting.

As may be supposed, they differ greatly in different persons. One of the

most interesting accounts ever given is that of Dr. James R. Cocke, a

hypnotist himself, who submitted to being operated upon by a

professional magnetizer. He was at that time a firm believer in the

theory of personal magnetism (a delusion from which he afterward


On the occasion which he describes, the operator commanded him to close

his eyes and told him he could not open them, but he did open them at

once. Again he told him to close the eyes, and at the same time he

gently stroked his head and face and eyelids with his hand. Dr. Cocke

fancied he felt a tingling sensation in his forehead and eyes, which he

supposed came from the hand of the operator. (Afterward he came to

believe that this sensation was purely imaginary on his part.)

Then he says: A sensation akin to fear came over me. The operator said:

'You are going to sleep, you are getting sleepy. You cannot open your

eyes.' I was conscious that my heart was beating rapidly, and I felt a

sensation of terror. He continued to tell me I was going to sleep, and

could not open my eves. He then made passes over my head, down over my

hands and body, but did not touch me. He then said to me, 'You cannot

open your eyes.' The motor apparatus of my lids would not seemingly

respond to my will, yet I was conscious that while one part of my mind

wanted to open my eyes, another part did not want to, so I was in a

paradoxical state. I believed that I could open my eyes, and yet could

not. The feeling of not wishing to open my eyes was not based upon any

desire to please the operator. I had no personal interest in him in any

way, but, be it understood, I firmly believed in his power to control

me. He continued to suggest to me that I was going to sleep, and the

suggestion of terror previously mentioned continued to increase.

The next step was to put the doctor's hand over his head, and tell him

he could not put it down. Then he stroked the arm and said it was

growing numb. He said: You have no feeling in it, have you? Dr. Cocke

goes on: I said 'No,' and I knew that I said 'No,' yet I knew that I

had a feeling in it. The operator went on, pricking the arm with a pin,

and though Dr. Cocke felt the pain he said he did not feel it, and at

the same time the sensation of terror increased. I was not conscious of

my body at all, he says further on, but I was painfully conscious of

the two contradictory elements within me. I knew that my body existed,

but could not prove it to myself. I knew that the statements made by the

operator were in a measure untrue. I obeyed them voluntarily and

involuntarily. This is the last remembrance that I have of that hypnotic


After this, however, the operator caused the doctor to do a number of

things which he learned of from his friends after the performance was

over. It seemed to me that the hypnotist commanded me to awake as soon

as I dropped my arm, and yet ten minutes of unconsciousness had passed.

On a subsequent occasion Dr. Cocke, who was blind, was put into a deep

hypnotic sleep by fixing his mind on the number 26 and holding up his

hand. This time he experienced a still greater degree of terror, and

incidentally learned that he could hypnotize himself. The matter of

self-hypnotism we shall consider in another chapter.

In this connection we find great interest in an article in the Medical

News, July 28, 1894, by Dr. Alfred Warthin, of Ann Arbor, Mich., in

which he describes the effects of music upon hypnotic subjects. While in

Vienna he took occasion to observe closely the enthusiastic musical

devotees as they sat in the audience at the performance of one of

Wagner's operas. He believed they were in a condition of self-induced

hypnotism, in which their subjective faculties were so exalted as to

supersede their objective perceptions. Music was no longer to them a

succession of pleasing sounds, but the embodiment of a drama in which

they became so wrapped up that they forgot all about the mechanical and

external features of the music and lived completely in a fairy world of


This observation suggested to him an interesting series of experiments.

His first subject was easily hypnotized, and of an emotional nature.

Wagner's Ride of Walkure was played from the piano score. The pulse of

the subject became more rapid and at first of higher tension, increasing

from a normal rate of 60 beats a minute to 120. Then, as the music

progressed, the tension diminished. The respiration increased from 18 to

30 per minute. Great excitement in the subject was evident. His whole

body was thrown into motion, his legs were drawn up, his arms tossed

into the air, and a profuse sweat appeared. When the subject had been

awakened, he said that he did not remember the music as music, but had

an impression of intense, excitement, brought on by riding furiously

through the air. The state of mind brought up before him in the most

realistic and vivid manner possible the picture of the ride of Tam

O'Shanter, which he had seen years before. The picture soon became real

to him, and he found himself taking part in a wild chase, not as witch,

devil, or Tam even; but in some way his consciousness was spread through

every part of the scene, being of it, and yet playing the part of

spectator, as is often the case in dreams.

Dr. Warthin tried the same experiment again, this time on a young man

who was not so emotional, and was hypnotized with much more difficulty.

This subject did not pass into such a deep state of hypnotism, but the

result was practically the same. The pulse rate rose from 70 to 120. The

sensation remembered was that of riding furiously through the air.

The experiment was repeated on other subjects, in all cases with the

same result. Only one knew that the music was the Ride of Walkure. To

him it always expressed the pictured wild ride of the daughters of

Wotan, the subject taking part in the ride. It was noticeable in each

case that the same music played to them in the waking state produced no

special impression. Here is incontestable evidence that in the hypnotic

state the perception of the special senses is enormously heightened.

A slow movement was tried (the Valhalla motif). At first it seemed to

produce the opposite effect, for the pulse was lowered. Later it rose to

a rate double the normal, and the tension was diminished. The impression

described by the subject afterward was a feeling of lofty grandeur and

calmness. A mountain climbing experience of years before was recalled,

and the subject seemed to contemplate a landscape of lofty grandeur. A

different sort of music was played (the intense and ghastly scene in

which Brunhilde appears to summon Sigmund to Valhalla). Immediately a

marked change took place in the pulse. It became slow and irregular, and

very small. The respiration decreased almost to gasping, the face grew

pale, and a cold perspiration broke out.

Readers who are especially interested in this subject will find

descriptions of many other interesting experiments in the same article.

Dr. Cocke describes a peculiar trick he played upon the sight of a

subject. Says he: I once hypnotized a man and made him read all of his

a's as w's, his u's as v's, and his b's as x's. I added suggestion after

suggestion so rapidly that it would have been impossible for him to have

remembered simply what I said and call the letters as I directed.

Stimulation was, in this case impossible, as I made him read fifteen or

twenty pages, he calling the letters as suggested each time they


The extraordinary heightening of the sense perceptions has an important

bearing on the question of spiritualism and clairvoyance. If the powers

of the mind are so enormously increased, all that is required of a very

sensitive and easily hypnotized person is to hypnotize him or herself,

when he will be able to read thoughts and remember or perceive facts

hidden to the ordinary perception. In this connection the reader is

referred to the confession of Mrs. Piper, the famous medium of the

American branch of the Psychical Research Society. The confession will

be found printed in full at the close of this book.