AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming article in History of Science, now available online, on the intersection of Buddhism and psychology in Japan.
“Techniques for nothingness: Debate over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen in early-twentieth-century Japan,” by Yu-chuan Wu. Abstract:
This paper explores a debate that took place in Japan in the early twentieth century over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen. The debate was among the first exchanges between psychology and Buddhism in Japan, and it cast doubt on previous assumptions that a clear boundary existed between the two fields. In the debate, we find that contemporaries readily incorporated ideas from psychology and Buddhism to reconstruct the experiences and concepts of hypnosis and Buddhist nothingness. The resulting new theories and techniques of nothingness were fruits of a fairly fluid boundary between the two fields. The debate, moreover, reveals that psychology tried to address the challenges and possibilities posed by religious introspective meditation and intuitive experiences in a positive way. In the end, however, psychology no longer regarded them as viable experimental or psychotherapeutic tools but merely as particular subjective experiences to be investigated and explained.
A new issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are articles on Albert Moll (right) and hypnosis, therapeutic fascism, lycanthropy, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The powers of suggestion: Albert Moll and the debate on hypnosis,” by Andreas-Holger Maehle. The abstract reads,
The Berlin physician Albert Moll (1862–1939) was an advocate of hypnotic suggestion therapy and a prolific contributor to the medical, legal and public discussions on hypnotism from the 1880s to the 1920s. While his work in other areas, such as sexology, medical ethics and parapsychology, has recently attracted scholarly attention, this paper for the first time comprehensively examines Moll’s numerous publications on hypnotism and places them in their contemporary context. It covers controversies over the therapeutic application of hypnosis, the reception of Moll’s monograph Der Hypnotismus (1889), his research on the rapport between hypnotizer and subject, his role as an expert on ‘hypnotic crime’, and his views on the historical influence of hypnotism on the development of psychotherapy. My findings suggest that Moll rose to prominence due to the strong late-nineteenth-century public and medical interest in the phenomena of hypnosis, but that his work was soon overshadowed by new, non-hypnotic psychotherapeutic approaches, particularly Freud’s psychoanalysis.
This is part of a special series of posts on the digital history of psychology from members of the PsyBorgs Lab at York University, in Toronto, Canada. The full series of posts can be found here.
Digital history seems hard to a lot of people. All those fancy computer programs to count and filter and graph data seem complicated and difficult to learn. But it need not be that way. You can get started on basic digital history of psychology right now with nothing more complicated than the web browser you are using to read this message.
Let me show you how: First, go to the Google Ngrams web page (in another browser tab, so that you can continue to read this post as well). Ngrams is a program that scans the vast holdings of Google Books for words that you select, and then plots them on a line graph. When you have the Ngrams page up, delete the default words “Albert Einstein,Sherlock Holmes,Frankenstein” from the search box and replace them with the words “phrenology, mesmerism, hypnosis” (no quotation marks, but be sure to include the commas). Set the date range to between 1800 and 1900. Make sure the corpus is set to “English,” and leave the “smoothing” at the default value of 3. Click on the “Search lots of books” button.
You should get a graph that looks something like this (click on the graph to enlarge it):
You can see that immediately see that phrenology had its peak popularity (in English-language published books) in the late 1830s, and then began to fall off rapidly. It is important to note, on the y-axis, that this peak was only about 2/10,000ths of a percent of all words that appeared, but that was its peak none the less. It also had a secondary peak in the late 1840s, at just about the same time as mesmerism began its own rise. Indeed, some people of the time (including Ada Lovelace of computing history fame) wrote of “phreno-mesmerism”; the two practices began to merge in the public mind. They both fell off in the 1850s to a kind of “background” level of about 4/100,000ths of a percent for the rest of the century. In about 1885, however, a new discipline called “hypnosis” began to rise, surpassing both of the older practices in the late 1880s, and reaching its (19th-century) peak in the mid-1890s.
There is problem with doing the graph this way, however. Many authors discussed these three ideas using alternate forms of the words: phrenologist instead of phrenology, mesmeric instead of mesmerism, hypnotize instead of hypnotism, etc. So we need to include those forms in our search as well. Go back to the Ngrams search box and insert this instead: phrenology+phrenological+phrenologist, mesmerism+mesmeric+mesmerist+mesmerize+mesmerized, hypnotism+hypnotize+hypnotized+hypnotizer+hypnotist. That covers most of the variants. Be sure to click the “Search lots of books” button. Now your graph should look like this:
This graph is not that different from the first one, except that the main peak for mesmerism and its variants (let’s call this mesmerism+) now exceeds the secondary peak for phrenology+ around 1850 (because, as it turns out, “mesmeric” was actually used more frequently than the base term “mesmerism”). Note also that there is a bit more of a secondary peak for mesmerism+ around 1890.
Now we are going to vary the corpus of books we use. Go back to the Ngrams page and change the corpus “English” to the corpus “American English.” This includes only books that were published in the US. Remember to click the “Search lots of books” button. Continue reading Are we Living in a Golden Age of Mesmerism?→
In the late nineteenth century, scientists, psychiatrists, and medical practitioners began employing a new experimental technique for the study of neuroses: hypnotism. Though the efforts of the famous French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot to transform hypnosis into a laboratory science failed, his Viennese translator and disciple Sigmund Freud took up the challenge and invented psychoanalysis. Previous scholarship has viewed hypnosis and psychoanalysis in sharp opposition or claimed that both were ultimately grounded in the phenomenon of suggestion and thus equally flawed. In this groundbreaking study, Andreas Mayer reexamines the relationship between hypnosis and psychoanalysis, revealing that the emergence of the familiar Freudian psychoanalytic setting cannot be understood without a detailed analysis of the sites, material and social practices, and controversies within the checkered scientific and medical landscape of hypnotism.
Sites of the Unconscious analyzes the major controversies between competing French schools of hypnotism that emerged at this time, stressing their different views on the production of viable evidence and their different ways of deploying hypnosis. Mayer then reconstructs in detail the reception of French hypnotism in German-speaking countries, arguing that the distinctive features of Freud’s psychoanalytic setting of the couch emerged out of the clinical laboratories and private consulting rooms of the practitioners of hypnosis.
YouTube’s CreativeCommonsTV has posted a clip of University of Oregon psychologist Lester F. Beck’s Photographic Studies in Hypnosis. The footage from 1938 is described as,
This silent film shows a woman being hypnotized and includes both pre and post hypnosis scenes. The hypnotist demonstrates how a patient’s mind can be manipulated as he pinpricks and burns his patient with controlled and suggestive reactions. This unrehearsed session of hypnosis features two students whom are given false memories. The pair are then tested about their memories and are given some basic psychological tests to see the effects of the hypnosis.