Exteriorization of Sensitivity

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Exteriorization of Sensitivity

Term used to denote sensory power of the medium operating outside the periphery of the body. The term was used by Eugene Rochas as the title of his book on the subject in 1896, but it was Paul Joire who called broad attention to the phenomenon in his treatise on hypnology, Précis Théorique and pratique de neuro-hypnologie (1892).

The phenomenon was on the confines of hypnotic and psychical phenomena. Approaching his hypnotic subject with a pointed instrument, Joire found him sensitive a short distance from the skin. The distance at which the sensation was perceived and the range of the sensitive surface varied with the nervous sensibility of the subject on an average from one to ten centimeters. The sensibility of the skin itself disappeared. In deep hypnosis a series of sensitive layers appeared to be formed around the body, and the sensibility could also be transferred into various objects, such as a glass of water, glass plates covered with velvet, wood, or a ball of putty. Joire gave the putty the vague contour of the subject, and as he pricked parts of the putty that represented the parts of the subject's body, the subject experienced a corresponding sensation.

Some of the subject's hair was cut off while he was asleep and stuck into the putty. When they were later pulled, the patient strongly protested, saying his hair was being pulled out. When a glass of water, charged with sensibility, was held by the subject, the reaction to the pricking of the water was instantaneous. If it was held by an assistant, removed from the subject in a chain, there was an increasing slowness in the sensation. The delay between the pricking and the sensation was two seconds when five persons formed a chain.

Joire claimed that he could also transfer the sensibility to a living man or to the subject's shadow on the wall. Care was taken to prevent the working of suggestion. The exteriorization of sensation to this degree, however, was a very rare phenomenon.

Joire also found that the excitation produced at a distance in a subject whose sensibility had been externalized left a persistent painful trace, like a contusion or a mosquito sting. A few moments after the first movement the subject began to stroke the sensitive spot as though he still felt the sensation; and although he remembered nothing in the waking state, in the night he often dreamed that he was being pricked or pinched.

Rochas obtained similar results to those of Joire and described during the magnetizing process the formation of a series of equidistant layers separated by an interval of six or seven centimeters around the body of his subject. They extended sometimes as far as two or three meters, and their sensibility diminished in proportion to their distance from the body. He noticed that when a glass of water was placed across a zone of sensibility the layers beyond the glass were interrupted, whereas the water in the glass became rapidly luminous throughout its mass and later a sort of luminous mist was liberated from it. Taken to some distance, the glass of water retained its sensibility.

Experimenting further on these lines, Rochas found that sensibility appeared to be stored in those substances that store odors: liquids; viscous substances, especially those derived from animals, like gelatin and wax; wadding; and stuffs of loose or plushy texture, such as velvet.

As the emanations seemed to spread themselves in a manner analogous to light, he tried to focus them on a plate of gelatino-bromide film. The subject of these experiments was a Mrs. Lux. She was photographed awake, then asleep but not exteriorized, and afterward asleep and exteriorized. In the latter case the plate was briefly left for sensitivity inside her belt in contact with her body.

According to Rochas, "I observed that when I pricked the first plate with a pin Mme. Lux felt nothing, when I pricked the second she felt it slightly, and when I pricked the third she felt it sharply, and this was a few minutes after the operation." Three days later, "wishing to discover to what extent this plate was sensitive, I gave two sharp blows with the pin on the hand depicted in the picture in such a manner as to tear the film of gelatino-bromide. Lux, who was two metres distant from me, and could not see what part I had pricked, fell back at once with cries of pain. I had some difficulty in restoring her to her normal state; her hand hurt her, and a few seconds afterwards I saw appear on her right handthe one I pricked in the photo-graphsome little red marks whose position corresponded to the pricks. Dr. P., who was present during the experiment, observed that the epidermis was not broken and the redness was in the skin." These experiments were verified by Jules Bernard Luys (1828-1897), a famous brain specialist.

According to Rochas, exteriorization of sensibility may be gradually pushed to the formation of two luminous phantoms on the left and right of the subject, and finally to their union. This is the exteriorization of the astral body. While the astral body of his subject was thus exteriorized, Rochas unintentionally struck the astral hand with his hand. In a few seconds the corporeal hand became very red. It is possible that the special hypnotic conditions may have been responsible for this result.

Among those refuting Rochas and Joire, Sylvan Muldoon, in his remarkable book The Projection of the Astral Body (cowritten with Hereward Carrington, 1929), describes his experiences in self-projection and declares that he never experienced sensitivity as described by the French experimenters. There is some point in his question: wouldn't an astral entity have to be constantly on the watch, dodging pointed material objects? If not, these pointed objects would make contact with the entity's sensibility. Muldoon felt certain that if repercussion of sensibility took place it did so while the phantom was within cord-activity range.

Elizabeth d'Esperance wrote of her phantom "Yolande":

"When she touches some object I feel my muscles contract as if it were my hands that touched it. When she put her hands into melted paraffin I felt my hands burn and when a thorn penetrated her finger I experienced great pain. When I touch the hands of Yolande I believe I am feeling my own, but perceive my error afterwards when I see four hands."

The psychical researcher Emile Boirac believed that there was no reason for supposing that exteriorization of sensibility is a rare, accidental, abnormal phenomenon that requires a particular hypnotic condition for its production. It might be a normal phenomenon but not in evidence because a special developer is necessary to note it.

In his book Psychic Science (1918) Boivac mentions some experiments with a glass of water that the experimenter held for a short time in his hand, then handed to the somnambulist subject in the first experiment and placed it on a table in the second. If the somnambulist plunged his fingers into the water and the experimenter was pinched, the somnambulist felt it in his own hand. If the experimenter held the somnambulist's hand and the glass of water was pricked by one of the spectators, the subject again declared the corresponding sensation. Everything happened as though the experimenter, and not the subject, had externalized his sensibility into a material object and remained in communication with this object by some kind of force so that every impression made on his nervous system was immediately experienced by the object and reciprocally every impression made on the object was immediately experienced in his nervous system.

Historically the beginning of the concept of exteriorized sensitivity may be traceable to the idea of sympathetic medicine in magic. In 1658 Sir Kenelm Digby published A Late Discourse Touching The Cure of Wonders by The Powder of Sympathy, and even earlier, Sir Francis Bacon had discussed the subject in his book Sylva Slyvarum (1627). In Sir Walter Scott's Last Minstrel (1805) the Ladye of Branksome takes the broken lance from Deloraine's wound and treats the lance with a salve, instead of the wound, whereupon "William of Deloraine, in trance, whenever she turned it round and round, twisted as though she'd galled his wound."


Joire, Paul. Précis Théorique and pratique de neuro-hypnologie. Paris, 1892.