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Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

Boston: R. Badger, 1914




THE long series of experiments carried out on frogs, rabbits, guinea-pigs, kittens, dogs, infants and adults clearly prove that the hypnoidal state is by no means confined to man, but is also present in animals. This is very important as it shows indubitably how widely spread the hypnoidal state is throughout the domain of animal life. Moreover, the experiments clearly prove that the further down we descend in the scale of animal organization, the more prominent, the more essential, does the hypnoidal state become.

      The conclusion is forced upon me that the hypnoidal state is the primitive rest-state out of which sleep has arisen in the later stages o f evolution. We may say that sleep and hypnosis take their origin in the hypnoidal state. Sleep and hypnosis are highly differentiated states; they have evolved out of the primitive, undifferentiated, hypnoidal state which is essentially a subwaking rest-state characteristic of early and lowly-organized animal life. The hypnoidal state is the primordial sleep-state.

      The development of the hypnoidal state into sleep has proven itself useful in the struggle for existence of the higher animals; it has, therefore, become fixed as the rest-state characteristic of the higher representatives of animal life. Hypnosis, as well as other trance-states, variations of the primitive, hypnoidal rest-state, have become eliminated as useless and possibly harmful to the normal life adjustments of the higher animals and can only be induced under artificial conditions in but a fraction of the human race. The hypnoidal state is the normal rest-state of the lower vertebrates and invertebrates. The rest- or sleep-state of the lower animals is a sort of a passive waking state,—a subwaking state which has survived in man as the hypnoidal state. Of course, the state has been largely modified in man by the course of evolution, but it can still be clearly detected, just as the tail of the simian can be discerned in the human coccyx, or as the structure of the prehensible hand of the quadrumana can be still clearly traced in the foot of man. Waking, hypnoidal and sleep-states may be termed normal states, while hypnosis and various other trance-states may be termed subnormal states.

      The hypnoidal state-is normal, it is present in all the representatives of animal life. Sleep, hypnosis, and trance-states are variations of the fundamental hypnoidal state. The sleep-state has proven useful and has become normal in the higher animals, while hypnosis and the various forms of trance-states, likewise variations of the fundamental hypnoidal states and characteristic of man, have not proven of vital value and have fallen below the normal stream of consciousness with its concomitant adaptive reactions.

      The hypnoidal state is necessarily brief, variable and unstable. They who have observed the rest-states of the lower metazoa can form a clear idea of the nature as well as of the biological significance of the hypnoidal state in the life of the lower animals. The animal is at rest for a brief period of time as long as it remains undisturbed by external conditions of its environment, or by internal conditions, such as hunger, sexual impulses or other internal disturbances. Soon the animal begins to move, sluggishly at first, and then more quickly, and, if there are no disturbing stimulations, comes to rest, to be again disturbed from its rest-equilibrium by the varying conditions of its environment. The resting state is brief, irregular, in fits so to say, and differs from the waking state in but a slight relaxation and in comparatively slow reactions to stimulations and in a passive condition of the muscular system. Respiration becomes a little more regular and diminished in rate, the heart beat is slightly decreased and general katabolic activity is somewhat reduced.

      The relation of the hypnoidal state to waking, sleep, hypnosis and other subconscious states may be represented by the following diagram:


      The animal, however, is quite alive to what is going on all around. The animal rests watching for danger. The resting and active states alternate periodically, if possible, but usually quite irregularly. The resting state is but a passive condition in which the animal may be considered to hover between waking and what we describe in the case of the higher animals as sleep. Sleep in its proper sense does not exist among the lower representatives of animal life.

      This state of hovering between waking and sleeping, the characteristic of the hypnoidal state, is no doubt of paramount importance in the life-existence of the lower animals, considering the numerous dangers to which they are continually exposed. The animal must always be on the watch, either for food or for foe. It can only rest or "sleep" with its eyes wide open. The hypnoidal "sleep" can be best characterized as a subwaking rest-state.

      I demonstrated in my experiments that the animal while in the hypnoidal, subwaking rest-state is apt to fall into a cataleptic state, especially when the movements are suddenly and forcibly inhibited. This cataleptic state, which reminds one of the hypnotic state, may be observed in the lower animals, such as the frog, the snake, the lobster, the bird and, to a slighter degree, even in the higher animals, such as the guinea pig, the cat, the dog; especially in the young ones, such as the kitten; the puppy and the infant.

      There is little doubt that the cataleptic state into which animals fall during the hypnoidal rest-state is of some protective value in their life. The animal "freezes," "feigns death" and is thus either enabled to remain undetected by the animal on which it feeds or, what is still more important, is enabled to remain unnoticed by its enemy and thus escape certain death. The subwaking, hypnoidal state may be regarded as the fundamental rest-state of lower animals and is characterized by a mixed symptomatology of waking, sleep, and hypnosis.

      The hypnoidal state is found in man but in a rudimentary condition; it is a vestige of man's primitive, animal ancestors. The hypnoidal state is brief, variable, and forms the entrance and exit of repose, the portals of sleep. The primordial rest-state has shrunk to a transitory, momentary stage in the alternation of waking and sleep. The subwaking, hypnoidal rest-state shrinks with the increase of security of life.

      From a therapeutic standpoint the hypnoidal state has proven to be an efficacious agency in effecting cures in psychopathic cases often of a severe character. The great value of the hypnoidal state consists in the fact of its being a most powerful instrument in tracing the past history of the case, in learning the evolution of the symptoms of the disease and in the discovery of the early germs of the fully developed symptom complex under observation and treatment.1 The study of the evolution of the malady, tracing its roots down to early child life, thus getting a full knowledge of the patient or the subject is termed by me Psychognosis.



1. Dr. Leo Hirschlaff, of Berlin, in a recent communication tells us of the great psychotherapeutic value of the rest-state (a form of hypnoidal state). He has even invented a couple of instruments for the induction of that state,—the hesychiscope and the respiration metronome.


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