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Other discussions of telepathic phenomena during the 1889 International Congress took place during sessions devoted to hypnotism. Discussing terminology, Brissaud and Richet (1890) defined mental suggestion as a suggestion in which the person attempting to send the thought did not give the receiving person any indication affecting the “senses [or their] … normal faculties of knowledge” (p. 27).

Following on other discussions of conventional explanations of mental suggestion prevalent during the late nineteeenth century (e.g., Ochorowicz, 1887/1891), Marillier (1890) talked about the need to control sources of error in the experimental study of this phenomenon. It was essential, he said, to control for the possibility that the experimenter did not “involuntarily give to the subject any sign that the subject may interpret, consciously or unconsciously (p. 17).

It is interesting to see that Frederic W. H. Myers was active during the Congress bringing in the psychical research perspective. While he did not deliver a formal paper, he presented summaries of the work conducted by the Society for Psychical Research. This was true of a session on hypnotic sensibility, in which Myers reminded Congress members of Edmund Gurney’s experiments suggesting the existence of a physical mesmeric influence on the hands of human subjects. However, both Gilbert Ballet and Joseph Delboeuf expressed skepticism, mentioning the possibility that the subjects could perceive the hand of the mesmerist via heat emanations (De la Sensibilité Hypnotique, 1890).

In another session after a paper by Joseph J. F. F. Babinski, Myers presented a brief summary of the thought transference work conducted by the SPR. As stated in the summary: “These experiences were made with persons in a normal state and with the hypnotized, … there is no doubt that such transmission of ideas … are a real fact” (Discussion of Babinski’s Paper about Hypnosis, 1890, p. 138). (The photograph below is of Babinski.)

J. J. F. F. Babinski


Brissaud, P., & Richet, C. (1890). Hypnotisme: 7: Essai d’une terminologie dans les questions d’hypnotisme[ Hypnotism: 7: Esay on terminology about matters of hypnotism]. Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique (pp. 24-27). Paris: Bureau of Revues.

De la sensibilité hypnotique. (1890). Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique (pp. 59-63). Paris: Bureau de Revues.

[Discussion of Babinski’s Paper about Hypnosis]. (1890). Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique (pp. 136-139). Paris: Bureau de Revues.

Marillier, L. (1890). Hypnotisme: 1: Des causes d’erreur dans l’observation des phénomènes de suggestion hypnotique. Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique (p. 17). Paris: Bureau de Revues.

Ochorowicz, J. (1891). Mental suggestion (J. Fitzgerald, trans.). New York: Humbolt. (Original work published 1887)



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