site logo


This is a state of absolute inert sleep. If the method of Braid is used,

and a bright object is held quite near the eyes, and the eyes are fixed

upon it, the subject squints, the eyes become moist and bright, the look

fixed, and the pupils dilated. This is the cataleptic stage. If the

object is left before the eyes, lethargy is produced. There are also

many other ways of producing lethargy, as we have seen in the chapter

> How to Hypnotize.

One of the marked characteristics of this stage of hypnotism is the

tendency of the muscles to contract, under the influence of the

slightest touch, friction, pressure or massage, or even that of a magnet

placed at a distance. The contraction disappears only by the repetition

of that identical means that called it into action. Dr. Courmelles gives

the following illustration:

If the forearm is rubbed a little above the palm of the hand, this

latter yields and bends at an acute angle. The subject may be suspended

by the hand, and the body will be held up without relaxation, that is,

without returning to the normal condition. To return to the normal

state, it suffices to rub the antagonistic muscles, or, in ordinary

terms, the part diametrically opposed to that which produced the

phenomenon; in this case, the forearm a little above the hands. It is

the same for any other part of the body.

The subject appears to be in a deep sleep, the eyes are either closed or

half closed, and the face is without expression. The body appears to be

in a state of complete collapse, the head is thrown back, and the arms

and legs hang loose, dropping heavily down. In this stage insensibility

is so complete that needles can be run into any part of the body without

producing pain, and surgical operations may be performed without the

slightest unpleasant effect.

This stage lasts usually but a short time, and the patient, under

ordinary conditions, will pass upward into the stage of catalepsy, in

which he opens his eyes. If the hypnotism is spontaneous, that is, if it

is due to a condition of the nervous organism which has produced it

without any outside aid, we have the condition of prolonged trance, of

which many cases have been reported. Until the discovery of hypnotism

these strange trances were little understood, and people were even

buried alive in them. A few instances reported by medical men will be

interesting. There is one reported in 1889 by a noted French physician.

Said he:

There is at this moment in the hospital at Mulhouse a most interesting

case. A young girl twenty-two years of age has been asleep here for the

last twelve days. Her complexion is fresh and rosy, her breathing quite

normal, and her features unaltered.

No organ seems attacked; all the vital functions are performed as in

the waking state. She is fed with milk, broth and wine, which is given

her in a spoon. Her mouth even sometimes opens of itself at the contact

of the spoon, and she swallows without the slightest difficulty. At

other times the gullet remains inert.

The whole body is insensible. The forehead alone presents, under the

action of touch or of pricks, some reflex phenomena. However, by a

peculiarity, which is extremely interesting, she seems, by the intense

horror she shows for ether, to retain a certain amount of consciousness

and sensibility. If a drop of ether is put into her mouth her face

contracts and assumes an expression of disgust. At the same moment her

arms and legs are violently agitated, with the kind of impatient motion

that a child displays when made to swallow some hated dose of medicine.

In the intellectual relations the brain is not absolutely obscure, for

on her mother's coming to see her the subject's face became highly

colored, and tears appeared on the tips of her eyelashes, without,

however, in any other way disturbing her lethargy.

Nothing has yet been able to rouse her from this torpor, which will, no

doubt, naturally disappear at a given moment. She will then return to

conscious life as she quitted it. It is probable that she will not

retain any recollection of her present condition, that all notion of

time will fail her, and that she will fancy it is only the day following

her usual nightly slumber, a slumber which, in this case, has been

transformed into a lethargic sleep, without any rigidity of limbs or


Physically, the sleeper is of a middle size, slender, strong and

pretty, without distinctive characteristic. Mentally, she is lively,

industrious, sometimes whimsical, and subject to slight nervous


There is a pretty well-authenticated report of a young girl who, on May

30, 1883, after an intense fright, fell into a lethargic condition which

lasted for four years. Her parents were poor and ignorant, but, as the

fame of the case spread abroad, some physicians went to investigate it

in March, 1887. Her sleep had never been interrupted. On raising the

eyelids, the doctors found the eyes turned convulsively upward, but,

blowing upon them, produced no reflex movement of the lids. Her jaws

were closed tightly, and the attempt to open her mouth had broken off

some of the teeth level with the gums. The muscles contracted at the

least breath or touch, and the arms remained in position when uplifted.

The contraction of the muscles is a sign of the lethargic state, but the

arm, remaining in position, indicates the cataleptic state. The girl was

kept alive by liquid nourishment poured into her mouth.

There are on record a large number of cases of persons who have slept

for several months.