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Observations placeholder

Azam, Dr Etienne Eugène - Hypnotism, Double Consciousness and alterations of personality – The case of Marie X



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

HYPNOTISM, DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS and alterations of personality by Etienne Eugène Azam

Miss Marie X..., 22 years old, Arnaud-Miqueu Street, Bordeaux, a worker of  jewellery, is tall and well constituted, with a nervous temperament, but has never had a nervous breakdown; her health has always been good; she bears on her face the bare traces of a former facial paralysis.

Sitting in an ordinary chair, I ask her to look at a key, a lancet, some shiny object, placed 15 or 20 centimetres above her eyes.

After a time that varies from one and a half to three minutes, never more, her pupils oscillate, her pulse lowers, her eyes close, her face expresses rest; immediately afterwards, her limbs stay in a  predetermined position, and this with extreme ease, for a time that I made last up to twenty minutes, without the slightest tiring. She kept her arms forward several times, her feet raised above the ground, sitting only on the edge of a chair, and I only stopped the experiment when I was compelled by the extreme increase in the pulse. In her case, the anaesthesia lasted from four to five minutes; I rarely saw such a short period in the other subjects.

Here are the means used to ensure insensitivity: sharp pinches, ammonia under the nose, feather in the nostrils, tickling of the soles of the feet, piercing a fold of the skin with a needle, sudden sting in the shoulders, etc.

During the period of anaesthesia, the period of hyperesthesia occurs; I notice its appearance by this: Miss Marie X... throws her head back, her face expresses pain.

 When questioned, she replied that the smell of the tobacco I carry on me was unbearable. The sound of my voice or that of the attendants, that of the street, and the slightest sound, seems to affect cruelly the sensitivity of the hearing; an ordinary contact brings a certain pain, then two fingers placed, one on the head, the other on the hand bring a strong and very painful concussion; my watch is heard at a distance of 8 to 9 meters, as well as a conversation in a very low voice.

Sometimes speech is impossible; a simple scratching on the larynx immediately brings it back, and Miss X... speaks, but only when she is questioned, and in a weaker voice than in the natural state and as if veiled. A naked hand is placed 40 centimetres behind her back, Miss X.... leans forward and complains about the heat she feels; the same for a cold object at the same distance, and all this without me ever telling her about these phenomena described by Braid.

A puff of air, a friction, stops the catalepsy on a limb, on a finger; this state returns by gently replacing the limb in its place. If, on resolution, I invite her to shake my hand, and if at the same time I massage the muscles of the forearm, they contract, harden, and the force developed is at least one-third stronger than in the ordinary state.

Miss X... quickly threads a very thin needle, and writes very correctly, a large book being placed between her closed eyes and the object. She walks in her room without hitting anything; this is what has already been said about the famous seminarian from Bordeaux. In a word, the muscle activity sense is hyperesthetized.

If, during the period of catalepsy, I place Miss X...'s arms in the position of prayer and keep them there for a while, she answers that she only thinks of praying, that she believes she is in a religious ceremony; her head bent forward, her arms bowed, she feels her mind invaded by a whole series of ideas of humility, of contrition; her head upright, these ideas are of pride; in short, I witness the main phenomena of suggestion told by Braid and witnessed by the prominent physiologist Carpenter ([1]).

These experiments, repeated many times and on other people, usually produce the same result.

I tried very little, it is true, but without success, Braid's experiments on what he calls phreno-hypnotism; I did not see that it was possible, by pressing certain parts of Miss Mary X....'s skull, to suggest to her the ideas corresponding to the phrenological protuberances. Not believing in phrenology, I was not inclined towards this experimentation.

These are the main phenomena I have observed in this hypnotic person, it is the person who has offered me the most complete package; that is why I have chosen her as my type.

[1] Todd’s, Cyclopedia of Anatomy.

The source of the experience

Azam, Dr Eugene

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps