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Observations placeholder

Vasiliev, Professor L L - Experiments in mental suggestion – On early experiments by French doctors in hypnotising and awakening at a distance – case study on Leonie B; witness Dr. Ochorovicz



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Described in Experiments in mental suggestion – Professor L L Vasiliev

Ochorovicz writes about Leonie B. as follows:-

"This subject is a simple peasant woman from Brittanny, about 50 years old, very healthy, honest, modest, not stupid although she has received no education, (she could not even write, though she could recognize some letters); she is strongly built; she had suffered from hysteria in her youth but had been cured; she has a husband and children, all of whom enjoy perfect health; she is very easily hypnotised: it is sufficient to hold up her hand and press it lightly with the suggestion of putting her to sleep.

Within 2 to 5 minutes her vision becomes blurred, her eyelids begin to flutter rapidly until finally the eyeball is concealed underneath the lid; her chest begins to heave, she behaves as if she were falling ill; she sighs and falls backwards into a deep sleep" .

 [There follows a description of one of the experiments -L. L. V.]

"I found Drs. Gibert and Janet, who were already definitely convinced of the undoubted effects at a distance, ready to accept all the conditions which I suggested to them, and they allowed me to verify the phenomena in any way I wished. Mr. F. Myers, Marillie of the Psychological Society another physician (A. T. Myers) and I formed a committee, so to speak, and all details of the experiments were jointly established by us. The following are the safeguards which we took in our experiments:-

1. The hour for the action at a distance was determined by casting lots.

2. Gibert was told the time only a few minutes beforehand, and the members of the committee immediately went to the cottage where the subject lived.

3. Neither she nor any of the other inhabitants of the cottage, which was a kilometre distant from our house, knew either the time of the experiment or of what it would consist.

In order to avoid unintentional suggestion the members of the committee only entered the cottage for the purpose of establishing whether sleep had occurred.

We decided to repeat Hericourt's experiment to put the subject to sleep [by mental suggestion-L. L.V.] and to make her go through the whole town.

It was 8:30 p.m.; Gibert agreed to our conditions. The hour was determined by casting lots. Mental activity was to start at 8:55 and to continue until 9:10. At the time there was no one at the cottage but Leonie B. and a cook who was not expecting any activity on our part. Nobody entered the cottage.

We approached the cottage at 9 p.m. All was silent. The street was deserted.

Without making any noise whatever we separated into two groups in order to observe the house from a distance.

At 9:25 I saw a shadow appearing at the garden gate: it was she. I hid behind the corner in order to be able to hear without being seen.

But there was nothing to hear: the somnambulist, after stopping for a while at the gate, went back into the garden. (At that exact moment Gibert stopped exerting his influence on her: as a result of the strain of thinking he fainted-or rather dozed off until 9:35.)

At 9:30 the somnambulist again appeared at the gate; this time she hurried out into the street without hesitating and with the speed of a person who is late and who must without fail attend to important business. The other members of the committee had no time to warn us-myself and Dr. Myers.

But, having heard hurried footsteps, we followed the somnambulist who did not notice her surroundings, at any rate she did not recognise us.

When she reached Bar Street she began to sway, stopped and almost fell, then she suddenly resumed walking. It was 9:35 (at that moment Gibert had suddenly come to and begun to work on her again). The somnambulist walked quickly and paid no attention to anything.

In ten minutes' time we reached Gibert's house while he, thinking that the experiment had failed and being astonished that we had still not returned, came to meet us-and collided with the somnambulist who had her eyes closed as before.

She did not recognize him. Absorbed in her hypnotic monomania she hurried towards the stairs. We all followed her. Gibert wanted to enter his study but I took him by the arm and led him into another room.

The somnambulist, who was very agitated, looked for him everywhere, bumping into us. She feels nothing. She then enters the study and repeats in a sorrowful voice: Where is he? Where is Dr. Gibert?'

Meanwhile the hypnotist is sitting motionless, bending down. She enters the room, almost touching him in passing, but her agitated condition prevents her from recognising him. Then it occurs to Dr. Gibert to summon her towards himself, whether as a result of his effort of will or by sheer coincidence she returns and takes him by the arm.

She is seized with great joy. She clasps her hands as a child would do and exclaims: 'Here you are! At last! I am so pleased!'

I am convinced at last (adds Dr. Ochorovicz] of the wonderful phenomenon of psychical activity at a distance, which creates a revolution in our present day accepted opinions and ideas."

The source of the experience

Janet, Pierre

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Science Items

Activities and commonsteps