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Observations placeholder

Felida X - Hypnotism, Double Consciousness and alterations of personality – 02 First Observations



Type of Spiritual Experience



A description of the experience

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

I. First observations.

Here is what I noticed in October 1858.

Felida X... is brown, of medium height, quite robust and of ordinary stoutness; she is subject to frequent hemoptysis probably of a supplementary nature; very intelligent and sufficiently educated for her social condition, she is sad, even morose, she speaks little, her conversation is serious, her will is very strong and her hard work is very intense. Her emotional feelings seem to be undeveloped. She is constantly thinking about her sick state which inspires her serious concerns and suffers from severe pain in several parts of the body, especially in the head, the symptom called hysterical nail is very developed in her.

We are particularly struck by her dark face and the lack of desire she has to talk; she answers questions, but that's all...

When examined carefully from an intellectual point of view, I find her actions, ideas and conversation perfectly reasonable.

Almost every day, without a known cause or under the influence of an emotion, she is taken by what she calls her crisis; in fact she enters her second state; having witnessed this phenomenon hundreds of times, I can describe it accurately; I am currently describing it from what I have seen.

Felida is sitting with a piece of sewing in her hand; all of a sudden, without anything to predict it and after a more violent headache than usual, her head falls on her chest, her hands remain inactive and fall inert along her body, she sleeps or seems to sleep, but with a special sleep, because no noise, excitation, pinching or stings can wake her; moreover, this sort of sleep is absolutely sudden. It lasts two to three minutes; in the past it was much longer.

After that time, Felida wakes up, but she is no longer in the intellectual state she was in when she fell asleep. Everything seems different. She lifts her head and, opening her eyes, greets the people around her with a smile, as if they had just arrived; her face, sad and silent before, lights up and breathes cheerfulness; her speech is brief and she continues, humming, the needlework that she had begun in the previous state; she gets up, her walking is agile and she barely complains about the thousand pains that a few minutes before made her suffer; she goes to the ordinary care of the household, goes out, walks around the city, makes visits, undertakes any work, and her looks and cheerfulness are those of a young girl her healthy age; no one can find something extraordinary in her way of being. Only her character has completely changed; from sad she has become cheerful and her liveliness touches the turbulence, her imagination is more exalted; for the slightest reason she is moved with sadness or joy; from indifference to all that she was, she has become overly sensitive.

In this state, she remembers perfectly everything that happened during the other similar states that preceded and also during her normal life. I would add that she has always claimed that the state, whatever it is, in which she is at the moment is the normal state she calls her reason, as opposed to the other she calls her crisis.

In this life as in the other, her intellectual and moral faculties, although different, are unquestionably complete, no delusions, no false appreciation, no hallucinations. Felida is different, that's all; I would even say that in this second state, in this second condition, all her faculties seem more developed and more complete.

This second life, where the physical pain is not felt, is much greater than the other; it is much greater because of the considerable fact that we have already indicated, that during its duration, Felida remembers not only what happened during previous seizures, but also her entire normal life, while, as I will say again later, during her normal life she has no memory of what happened during her seizures.

After a time that, in 1858, lasted three or four hours, almost every day, suddenly Felida's cheerfulness disappears, her head bends on her chest and she falls back into the state of torpor we have described, - three to four minutes pass and she opens her eyes to enter her ordinary existence. - We hardly notice it, because she continues her work with fervour, almost with relentlessness; most often it is a sewing job undertaken in the preceding period, she does not know about it, and she needs an effort of mind to understand it. Nevertheless, she continues it as she can, moaning about her unfortunate situation; her family, who is used to this state, helps her to be informed.

A few minutes before she was singing some kind of romance, she was asked again, she absolutely did not know what we meant; we told her about a visit she had just received, she hadn't seen anyone.

I think I need to clarify the borders of this amnesia. - Forgetting only relates to what happened during the second condition, no general idea acquired previously is reached, she knows perfectly how to read, write, count, cut, sew, etc., and a thousand other things she knew before she became ill or that she learned in her previous periods of normal state.

As early as 1858, I noticed this and I have checked it recently, at the invitation of Mr Liard, now Director of Higher Education at the Ministry of Public Education, and Mr Marion. These psychologists, who kindly enlightened me with their advice, made me understand the importance of this character, because in some famous facts of the doubling of life, forgetting was about all past life, including general ideas. - This was the case of the American lady of MacNish ([1]), who at one moment, following spontaneous sleep, forgot all her previous existence, even what she had learned during that existence, reading, writing, music, and who was forced to restart her education, until she returned to her normal state, and these notions were restored to her.

Physically Felida is a very characteristic hysterical, she has the epigastric ball; her tactile sensitivity is altered; her taste, in the normal state, is destroyed, because I was able to make her chew pills of a disgusting taste without finding any taste; her smell is decreased and many parts of her body are anesthetized; she has a bad taste; finally, for the slightest emotion, she has convulsions without complete loss of knowledge; I do not insist on this well-known picture, it will be enough for me to say that in Felida hysteria is certain, and that the unusual accidents she presents must be under the influence of this general illness.

At that time, there was a third state that is only an epiphenomenon of attack. I have seen this state only two or three times, and for sixteen years her husband has observed it only about thirty times: being in her second condition, she falls asleep in the way already described, and instead of waking up in the normal state as usual, she finds herself in a special state characterized by unspeakable terror; her first words are: "I am afraid..., I am afraid..."; she recognizes no one except the young man who has become her husband. - This almost delusional state lasts a short time, it is the only time when I was able to grasp in her false conceptions.

I could have mistaken some of the hyperesthetic states of these senses for hallucinations of hearing and smell, but careful study has shown me that the exaltation of his senses alone allows her to hear conversations or noises and to sniff smells that nobody around her could perceive; - the story of hysteria is full of similar facts; I do not insist.

If I could have had doubts about the complete separation of these two existences, they would have been removed by what I am about to tell.

A young man from eighteen to twenty years old knew Felida X... from his childhood and came to the house; these young persons, having a great affection for each other, had promised each other a marriage.

During her second condition, she gives herself over to him and becomes pregnant.

In her normal life period she ignores him.

One day Felida, sadder than usual, told me, tears in her eyes that "her illness is getting worse, her stomach is getting bigger and she wants to vomit every morning;"  - in a word, she gives me the most complete picture of an incipient pregnancy; she consults me on the physiological disorders of her pregnancy, which she takes for diseases.

With the worried faces of those around her, I have suspicions that were soon to be lifted. Indeed, in the attack that follows shortly after, Félida told me in front of these same people:

"I remember exactly what I just told you, you must have understood me easily; I admit it straight away..., I think I'm pregnant."

In this second life, her pregnancy did not worry her, and she took her part quite happily.

She became pregnant during her second condition, so she ignored it during her normal state and only knew it during her other similar states.

But this ignorance could not last; a neighbour, in front of whom she had explained herself very clearly and who, more skeptical than appropriate, believed that Felida was pretending, brutally reminded her of her confidence after the attack. This discovery made such a strong impression on the girl that she had very violent hysterical convulsions, and I had to give her care for two or three hours.

The child, conceived during the attack, is 16 years old today; we will talk about this later.

At that time (1859), I told this fact to various colleagues, and I began research that I published ([2]) and which occupied the learned world. This research, reported by Velpeau to the Institute, was confirmed by Broca, Follin, Lasègue, MM. Verneuil, Alfred Mamy, Baillarger, etc., and fell into a kind of oblivion only because of their unfortunate analogy with the rightly described practices of animal magnetism.

It was on Felida X... and particularly on one of her friends, Marie X... ([3]), that I carried out the experiments that were the basis of this study, which, after Braid and many older authors, established the action of strabismus convergent on brain functions, both in humans and in animals.

To stay on topic, I will only describe what I observed on Felida X... as far as hypnotism is concerned.

Felida being in one of her two states and sitting in front of me, I invite her to look carefully at any object placed 15 or 20 centimetres above her eyes; after eight to ten seconds, she flashes and her eyes close. For a few moments she does not answer any questions, the sleep in which she seems to separate her completely from the outside world - moreover she is an anaesthetic - after this very short time, she answers the questions asked and presents this particular fact, that in this provoked somnambulism and whatever her state when she was asleep, she is still in the normal state.

Then she presents the ordinary phenomena of this sleepwalking, catalepsy, anaesthesia, hyperesthesia of the skin, exaggerated development of smell and touch, exaltation of the muscular sense, all very easy to produce by the process indicated even in animals (chickens, cats) and on which I do not have to insist here.

Waking up is done, with the same ease, by known means, friction or insufflation on the eyelids.

If after reading the book of Braid ([4]), where many cures are reported, ..... I caused my patient to fall asleep by the means he recommends, it was, I must say, in the hope of curing her. This hope was disappointed, because I did not bring any changes to it.

The existence of a spontaneous phenomenon in our patient, the transition from one state to another, had naturally made me think of hypnotism which, like sleepwalking, which everyone knows, can be spontaneous.

Examples are not uncommon; we know many of them, I will mention only a few:

At the beginning of 1876, M. Bouchut ([5]) observed in his service a young girl who fell asleep with catalepsy whenever she worked on buttonholes, a difficult work that required a certain attention and a great stare.

She was a hysterical woman who hypnotized herself.

I could name a prominent pastor of the Reformed Church who falls asleep at will for half an hour, closing his eyes and convulsing his eyeballs up and in. - Here the phenomenon is completely at the person's discretion.

I will not draw any conclusions from these facts. They once seemed wonderful. All of them today have entered into science.

I have just described the state of Felida in 1858 and 1859. At the end of this last year, the phenomena seemed to be improving, I am told, at least; she gave birth happily, fed her child.

[1] Mac-Nish, Philosophy of Sleep. 1830, p. 215.
[2] General Archives of Medicine, Jan. 1860. This work is reproduced on page 9 of this volume.
[3] Voyez p. 17.
[4] Braid, Neurypnology.
[5] Bouchut, Treatise on Newborn Diseases, 8th ed., Paris, 1885, p. 273.

The source of the experience

Azam, Dr Eugene

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