This is the name given to an art, or the exhibition of a power to act upon others and the facility to be acted upon, which long antedate the days of Anton Mesmer. Another name for some of its phenomena is Hypnotism, and still another is Magnetism. The last title was given because sometimes the person operated on was seen to follow the hand of the operator, as if drawn like iron filings to a magnet. These are all used today by various operators, but by many different appellations it has been known; fascination is one, and psychologizing is another, but the number of them is so great it is useless to go over the list.
Anton Mesmer, who gave greater publicity in the Western world to the subject than any other person, and whose name is still attached to it, was born in 1734, and some few years before 1783, or about 1775, obtained great prominence in Europe in connection with his experiments and cures; but, as H. P. Blavatsky says in her Theosophical Glossary, he was only a rediscoverer. The whole subject had been explored long before his time - indeed many centuries anterior to the rise of civilization in Europe - and all the great fraternities of the East were always in full possession of secrets concerning its practice which remain still unknown. Mesmer came out with his discoveries as agent, in fact - though, perhaps, without disclosing those behind him - of certain brotherhoods to which he belonged. His promulgations were in the last quarter of the century, just as those of the Theosophical Society were begun in 1875, and what he did was all that could be done at that time.
But in 1639, one hundred years before Mesmer, a book was published in Europe upon the use of mesmerism in the cure of wounds, and bore the title, The Sympathetical Powder of Edricius Mohynus of Eburo. These cures, it was said, could be effected at a distance from the wound by reason of the virtue or directive faculty between that and the wound. This is exactly one of the phases of both hypnotism and mesmerism. And along the same line were the writings of a monk named Uldericus Balk, who said diseases could be similarly cured, in a book concerning the lamp of life in 1611. In these works, of course, there is much superstition, but they treat of mesmerism underneath all the folly.
After the French Academy committee, including Benjamin Franklin, passed sentence on the subject, condemning it in substance, mesmerism fell into disrepute, but was revived in America by many persons who adopted different names for their work and wrote books on it. One of them named Dods obtained a good deal of celebrity, and was invited during the life of Daniel Webster to lecture on it before a number of United States senators. He called his system "psychology," but it was mesmerism exactly, even to details regarding nerves and the like. And in England also a good deal of attention was given to it by numbers of people who were not of scientific repute. They gave it no better reputation than it had before, and the press and public generally looked on them as charlatans and upon mesmerism as a delusion. Such was the state of things until the researches into what is now known as hypnotism brought that phase of the subject once more forward, and subsequently to 1875 the popular mind gave more and more attention to the possibilites in the fields of clairvoyance, clairaudience, trance, apparitions, and the like. Even physicians and others, who previously scouted all such investigations, began to take them up for consideration, and are still engaged thereon. And it seems quite certain that, by whatever name designated, mesmerism is sure to have more and more attention paid to it. For it is impossible to proceed very far with hypnotic experiments without meeting mesmeric phenomena, and being compelled, as it were, to proceed with an enquiry into those as well.
The hypnotists unjustifiably claim the merit of discoveries, for even the uneducated so-called charlatans of the above-mentioned periods cited the very fact appropriated by hypnotists, that many persons were normally - for them - in a hypnotized state, or, as they called it, in a psychologized condition, or negative one, and so forth, according to the particular system employed.
In France Baron Du Potet astonished every one with his feats in mesmerism, bringing about as great changes in subjects as the hypnotizers do now. After a time and after reading old books, he adopted a number of queer symbols that he said had the most extraordinary effect on the subject, and refused to give these out to any except pledged persons. This rule was violated, and his instructions and figures were printed not many years ago for sale with a pretense of secrecy consisting in a lock to the book. I have read these and find they are of no moment at all, having their force simply from the will of the person who uses them. The Baron was a man of very strong natural mesmeric force, and made his subjects do things that few others could bring about. He died without causing the scientific world to pay much attention to the matter.
The great question mooted is whether there is or is not any actual fluid thrown off by the mesmerizer. Many deny it, and nearly all hypnotizers refuse to admit it. H. P. Blavatsky declares there is such a fluid, and those who can see into the plane to which it belongs assert its existence as a subtle form of matter. This is, I think, true, and is not at all inconsistent with the experiments in hypnotism, for the fluid can have its own existence at the same time that people may be self-hypnotized by merely inverting their eyes while looking at some bright object. This fluid is composed in part of the astral substance around every one, and in part of the physical atoms in a finely divided state. By some this astral substance is called the aura. But that word is indefinite, as there are many sorts of aura and many degrees of its expression. These will not be known, even to Theosophists of the most willing mind, until the race as a whole has developed up to that point. So the word will remain in use for the present.
This aura, then, is thrown off by the mesmerizer upon his subject, and is received by the latter in a department of his inner constitution, never described by any Western experimenters, because they know nothing of it. It wakes up certain inner and non-physical divisions of the person operated on, causing a change of relation between the various and numerous sheaths surrounding the inner man, and making possible different degrees of intelligence and of clairvoyance and the like. It has no influence whatsoever on the Higher Self, (1) which it is impossible to reach by such means. Many persons are deluded into supposing that the Higher Self is the responder, or that some spirit or what not is present, but it is only one of the many inner persons, so to say, who is talking or rather causing the organs of speech to do their office. And it is just here that the Theosophist and the non-Theosophist are at fault, since the words spoken are sometimes far above the ordinary intelligence or power of the subject in waking state. I therefore propose to give in the rough the theory of what actually does take place, as has been known for ages to those who see with the inner eye, and as will one day be discovered and admitted by science.
When the hypnotic or mesmerized state is complete - and often when it is partial - there is an immediate paralyzing of the power of the body to throw its impressions, and thus modify the conceptions of the inner being. In ordinary waking life every one, without being able to disentangle himself, is subject to the impressions from the whole organism; that is to say, every cell in the body, to the most minute, has its own series of impressions and recollections, all of which continue to impinge on the great register, the brain, until the impression remaining in the cell is fully exhausted. And that exhaustion takes a long time. Further, as we are adding continually to them, the period of disappearance of impression is indefinitely postponed. Thus the inner person is not able to make itself felt. But, in the right subject, those bodily impressions are by mesmerism neutralized for the time, and at once another effect follows, which is equivalent to cutting the general off from his army and compelling him to seek other means of expression.
The brain - in cases where the subject talks - is left free sufficiently to permit it to obey the commands of the mesmerizer and compel the organs of speech to respond. So much in general.
We have now come to another part of the nature of man which is a land unknown to the Western world and its scientists. By mesmerism other organs are set to work disconnected from the body, but which in normal state function with and through the latter. These are not admitted by the world, but they exist, and are as real as the body is - in fact some who know say they are more real and less subject to decay, for they remain almost unchanged from birth to death. These organs have their own currents, circulation if you will, and methods of receiving and storing impressions. They are those which in a second of time seize and keep the faintest trace of any object or word coming before the waking man. They not only keep them but very often give them out, and when the person is mesmerized their exit is untrammelled by the body.
They are divided into many classes and grades, and each one of them has a whole series of ideas and facts peculiar to itself, as well as centres in the ethereal body to which they relate. Instead now of the brain's dealing with the sensations of the body, it deals with something quite different, and reports what these inner organs see in any part of space to which they are directed. And in place of your having waked up the Higher Self, you have merely uncovered one of the many sets of impressions and experiences of which the inner man is composed, and who is himself a long distance from the Higher Self. These varied pictures, thus seized from every quarter, are normally overborne by the great roar of the physical life, which is the sum total of possible expression of a normal being on the physical plane whereon we move. They show themselves usually only by glimpses when we have sudden ideas or recollections, or in dreams when our sleeping may be crowded with fancies for which we cannot find a basis in daily life. Yet the basis exists, and is always some one or other of the million small impressions of the day passed unnoticed by the physical brain, but caught unerringly by means of other sensoriums belonging to our astral double. For this astral body, or double, permeates the physical one as colour does the bowl of water. And although to the materialistic conceptions of the present day such a misty shadow is not admitted to have parts, powers, and organs, it nevertheless has all of these with a surprising power and grasp. Although perhaps a mist, it can exert under proper conditions a force equal to the viewless wind when it levels to earth the proud constructions of puny man.
In the astral body, then, is the place to look for the explanation of mesmerism and hypnotism. The Higher Self will explain the flights we seldom make into the realm of spirit, and is the God - the Father - within who guides His children up the long steep road to perfection. Let not the idea of it be degraded by chaining it to the low floor of mesmeric phenomena, which any healthy man or woman can bring about if they will only try. The grosser the operator the better, for thus there is more of the mesmeric force, and if it be the Higher Self that is affected, then the meaning of it would be that gross matter can with ease affect and deflect the high spirit - and this is against the testimony of the ages.
A Paramahansa of the Himalayas has put in print the following words: "Theosophy is that branch of Masonry which shows the Universe in the form of an egg." Putting on one side the germinal spot in the egg, we have left five other main divisions: The fluid, the yolk, the skin of the yolk, the inner skin of the shell, and the hard shell. The shell and the inner skin may be taken as one. That leaves us four, corresponding to the old divisions of fire, air, earth, and water. Man, roughly speaking, is divided in the same manner, and from these main divisions spring all his manifold experiences on the outer and the introspective planes. The human structure has its skin, its blood, its earthy matter - called bones for the moment, its flesh, and lastly the great germ which is insulated somewhere in the brain by means of a complete coat of fatty matter.
The skin includes the mucous, all membranes in the body, the arterial coats, and so on. The flesh takes in the nerves, the animal cells so-called, and the muscles. The bones stand alone. The blood has its cells, the corpuscles, and the fluid they float in. The organs, such as the liver, the spleen, the lungs, include skin, blood, and mucous. Each of these divisions and all of their subdivisions have their own peculiar impressions and recollections, and all, together with the coardinator the brain, make up the man as he is on the visible plane.
These all have to do with the phenomena of mesmerism, although there are those who may think it not possible that mucous membrane or skin can give us any knowledge. But it is nevertheless the fact, for the sensations of every part of the body affect each cognition, and when the experiences of the skin cells, or any other, are most prominent before the brain of the subject, all his reports to the operator will be drawn from that, unknown to both, and put into language for the brain's use so long as the next condition is not reached. This is the Esoteric Doctrine, and will at last be found true. For man is made up of millions of lives, and from these, unable of themselves to act rationally or independently, he gains ideas, and as the master of all puts those ideas, together with others from higher planes, into thought, word, and act. Hence at the very first step in mesmerism this factor has to be remembered, but nowadays people do not know it and cannot recognize its presence, but are carried away by the strangeness of the phenomena.
The very best of subjects are mixed in their reports, because the things they do see are varied and distorted by the several experiences of the parts of their nature I have mentioned, all of which are constantly clamouring for a hearing. And every operator is sure to be misled by them unless he is himself a trained seer.
The next step takes us into the region of the inner man, not the spiritual being, but the astral one who is the model on which the outer visible form is built. The inner person is the mediator between mind and matter. Hearing the commands of mind, he causes the physical nerves to act and thus the whole body. All the senses have their seat in this person, and every one of them is a thousand-fold more extensive in range than their outer representatives, for those outer eyes and ears, and sense of touch, taste, and smell, are only gross organs which the inner ones use, but which of themselves can do nothing.
This can be seen when we cut off the nerve connection, say from the eye, for then the inner eye cannot connect with physical nature and is unable to see an object placed before the retina, although feeling or hearing may in their way apprehend the object if those are not also cut off.
These inner senses can perceive under certain conditions to any distance regardless of position or obstacle. But they cannot see everything, nor are they always able to properly understand the nature of everything they do see. For sometimes that appears to them with which they are not familiar. And further, they will often report having seen what they are desired by the operator to see, when in fact they are giving unreliable information. For, as the astral senses of any person are the direct inheritance of his own prior incarnations, and are not the product of family heredity, they cannot transcend their own experience, and hence their cognitions are limited by it, no matter how wonderful their action appears to him who is using only the physical sense-organs. In the ordinary healthy person these astral senses are inextricably linked with the body and limited by the apparatus which it furnishes during the waking state. And only when one falls asleep, or into a mesmerized state, or trance, or under the most severe training, can they act in a somewhat independent manner. This they do in sleep, when they live another life than that compelled by the force and the necessities of the waking organism. And when there is a paralyzation of the body by the mesmeric fluid they can act, because the impressions from the physical cells are inhibited.
The mesmeric fluid brings this paralyzing about by flowing from the operator and creeping steadily over the whole body of the subject, changing the polarity of the cells in every part and thus disconnecting the outer from the inner man. As the whole system of physical nerves is sympathetic in all its ramifications, when certain major sets of nerves are affected others by sympathy follow into the same condition. So it often happens with mesmerized subjects that the arms or legs are suddenly paralyzed without being directly operated on, or, as frequently, the sensation due to the fluid is felt first in the fore-arm, although the head was the only place touched.
There are many secrets about this part of the process, but they will not be given out, as it is easy enough for all proper purposes to mesmerize a subject by following what is already publicly known. By means of certain nerve points located near the skin the whole system of nerves may be altered in an instant, even by a slight breath from the mouth at a distance of eight feet from the subject. But modern books do not point this out.
When the paralyzing and change of polarity of the cells are complete the astral man is almost disconnected from the body. has he any structure? What mesmerizer knows? How many probably will deny that he has any structure at all? Is he only a mist, an idea? And yet, again, how many subjects are trained so as to be able to analyze their own astral anatomy?
But the structure of the inner astral man is definite and coherent. it cannot be fully dealt with in a magazine article, but may be roughly set forth, leaving readers to fill in the details.
Just as the outer body has a spine which is the column whereon the being sustains itself with the brain at the top, so the astral body has its spine and brain. It is material, for it is made of matter, however finely divided, and is not of the nature of the spirit.
After the maturity of the child before birth this form is fixed, coherent, and lasting, undergoing but small alteration from that day until death. And so also as to its brain; that remains unchanged until the body is given up, and does not, like the outer brain, give up cells to be replaced by others from hour to hour. These inner parts are thus more permanent than the outer correspondents to them. Our material organs, bones, and tissues are undergoing change each instant. They are suffering always what the ancients called "the constant momentary dissolution of minor units of matter," and hence within each month there is a perceptible change by way of diminution or accretion. This is not the case with the inner form. It alters only from life to life, being constructed at the time of reincarnation to last for a whole period of existence. For it is the model fixed by the present evolutionary proportions for the outer body. It is the collector, as it were, of the visible atoms which make us as we outwardly appear. So at birth it is potentially of a certain size, and when that limit is reached it stops the further extension of the body, making possible what are known today as average weights and average sizes. At the same time the outer body is kept in shape by the inner one until the period of decay. And this decay, followed by death, is not due to bodily disintegration per se, but to the fact that the term of the astral body is reached, when it is no longer able to hold the outer frame intact. Its power to resist the impact and war of the material molecules being exhausted, the sleep of death supervenes.
Now, as in our physical form the brain and spine are the centres for nerves, so in the other there are the nerves which ramify from the inner brain and spine all over the structure. All of these are related to every organ in the outer visible body. They are more in the nature of currents than nerves, as we understand the word, and may be called astro-nerves. They move in relation to such great centres in the body outside, as the heart, the pit of the throat, umbilical centre, spleen, and sacral plexus. And here, in passing, it may be asked of the Western mesmerizers what do they know of the use and power, if any, of the umbilical centre? They will probably say it has no use in particular after the accomplishment of birth. But the true science of mesmerism says there is much yet to be learned even on that one point; and there is no scarcity, in the proper quarters, of records as to experiments on, and use of, this centre.
The astro-spinal column has three great nerves of the same sort of matter. They may be called ways or channels, up and down which the forces play, that enable man inside and outside to stand erect, to move, to feel, and to act. In description they answer exactly to the magnetic fluids, that is, they are respectively positive, negative, and neutral, their regular balance being essential to sanity. When the astral spine reaches the inner brain the nerves alter and become more complex, having a final great outlet in the skull. Then, with these two great parts of the inner person are the other manifold sets of nerves of similar nature related to the various planes of sensation in the visible and invisible worlds. These all then constitute the personal actor within, and in these is the place to seek for the solution of the problems presented by mesmerism and hypnotism.
Disjoin this being from the outer body with which he is linked, and the divorce deprives him of freedom temporarily, making him the slave of the operator. But mesmerizers know very well that the subject can and does often escape from control, puzzling them often, and often giving them fright. This is testified to by all the best writers in the Western schools.
Now this inner man is not by any means omniscient. he has an understanding that is limited by his own experience, as said before. Therefore, error creeps in if we rely on what he says in the mesmeric trance as to anything that requires philosophical knowledge, except with rare cases that are so infrequent as not to need consideration now. For neither the limit of the subject's power to know, nor the effect of the operator on the inner sensoriums described above, is known to operators in general, and especially not by those who do not accept the ancient division of the inner nature of man. The effect of the operator is almost always to colour the reports made by the subject.
Take an instance: A. was a mesmerizer of C., a very sensitive woman, who had never made philosophy a study. A. had his mind made up to a certain course of procedure concerning other persons and requiring argument. But before action he consulted the sensitive, having in his possession a letter from X., who is a very definite thinker and very positive; while A., on the other hand, was not definite in idea although a good physical mesmerizer. The result was that the sensitive, after falling into the trance and being asked on the question debated, gave the views of X., whom she had not known, and so strongly that A. changed his plan although not his conviction, not knowing that it was the influence of the ideas of X. then in his mind, that had deflected the understanding of the sensitive. The thoughts of X., being very sharply cut, were enough to entirely change any previous views the subject had. What reliance, then, can be placed on untrained seers? And all the mesmeric subjects we have are wholly untrained, in the sense that the word bears with with the school of ancient mesmerism of which I have been speaking.
The processes used in mesmeric experiment need not be gone into here. There are many books declaring them, but after studying the matter for the past twenty-two years, I do not find that they do other than copy one another, and that the entire set of directions can, for all practical purposes, be written on a single sheet of paper. But there are many other methods of still greater efficiency anciently taught, that may be left for another occasion.
William Q. Judge
(1) tm, in its vehicle Buddhi. [Ed.]