You can easily look at what Wikipedia and others say about the rainbow body. It is not ‘rainbow’ coloured but rainbows seem to make an appearance. If you do look you will notice that very few of the Tibetan lamas are thought to have developed one but among the handful alleged to have done so is a woman who lived over 110 years, 50 in a self imposed dark cell and that she instructed a very great lama still living. She died in the 1950’s. Another is said to have disappeared. And when these ones die it is thought that they vanish leaving only their hair and nails. One might then wonder about the patriarch Enoch who the bible claims vanished und 3000BC to go and live with God.
(Ayu Khandro (Long Life Dakini), also known as Dorje Paldrön, lived from 1839 to 1953. She was a practitioner, yogini, and terton of Tibetan Buddhism in Eastern Tibet. An accomplished Dzogchen meditator, she is renowned for her extensive pilgrimages throughout Tibet, long periods of dark retreat practice, the gongter of the practice of the yidam Senge Dongma (the Lion-Faced Dakini), various forms of Chöd, and her lifelong dedication to spiritual practice.
The information we have about Ayu Khandro comes from the oral commentary that she personally gave to Chogyal Namkhai Norbu in Dzongsa, 1951. He wrote her namthar, or spiritual biography, which was later published in Women of Wisdom by Tsultrim Allione.
Ayu Khandro met, and was taught by, many great masters of her day ; Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul the First, Chokgyur Lingpa, Nyala Pema Dündul, Adzom Drukpa, Togden Rangrig and the ninth Tai Situpa, Pema Nyingche Wangpo.
Yet in 1865, at 77, Togden Rangrig died. The sign of an accomplished meditator his body remained in final meditation posture, tukdam, for seven days. After this period his body was the size of an eight year old. This dissolution of the body into the elements at the time of death is called the rainbow body and is the highest attainment of Dzogchen meditation. At the time of cremation signs of the meditative realization of the practitioner can appear. and at Ayu Khandro was present for this, and she recalled: ” As we were making the funeral pyre and preparing the body to be burned everyone heard a loud noise like a thunderclap. A strange half-snow half-rain fell.”
At the end of the cremation they found that Dronkyi, her aunt and spiritual companion since she was 7 had left her body at the age of 62. Dronkyi remained in seated meditation position for 3 days after her death, a sign of high spiritual attainment. She to was cremated on the same spot as Togden Rangrig. Sounds from the cremation pyre were reported by many people. The close time of death of Togden Rangrig and Dronkyi could indicate that they were a spiritual couple, practicing the highest levels of buddhist meditation known as karmamudra. In Tibetan Buddhism realized beings are often shown in union or yabyum representing the union of wisdom and compassion.
In response to these events Ayu Khandro entered a strict 3 year retreat in Dronkyi’s cave……” Wikipedia
“”Near the twenty-fifth, without any sign of illness, we found that she had left her body at the time she would normally be finishing her meditation session. She remained in meditation posture for two weeks and when she had finished her tugdam, her body had become very small. We put some ornaments on it and many many people came to witness it.
“In the second month on the tenth day, we cremated her. There were many interesting signs at the time of her death. There was a sudden thaw and everything burst into bloom. It was the middle of winter. There were many ringsel and, as she had instructed, all this and her clothes were put into the stupa that she had prepared at the Sakya monastery.”
I, Namkhai Norbu, was given the little statue of Jamyang Khentse Wongpo and a volume of the Simhamukha Gongter and her writings and advice and spiritual songs. Among her disciples there were few rich and important people; her disciples were yogis and yoginis and practitioners from all over Tibet. There are many tales told about her, but I have written only what she herself told me. This is just a little biography of A-Yu Khadro written for her disciples and those who are interested.”
“Namkhai Norbu is a recognized tulku (also trulku), a reincarnate master. At birth two of Namkhai Norbu’s uncles, the Dzogchen masters Palyul Karma Yangsid and Shechen Rabjam believed him to be the reincarnation of their master, Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche (1841–1934). When Namkhai Norbu was two years old, this was confirmed by a senior tulku of the Nyingma school.
Then when he was five years old, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and the Situ Rinpoche together recognized Namkhai Norbu as the mind emanation of the mindstream of another well known teacher, who was in turn the emanation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the 17th Century Tibetan-born founder of Bhutan.
At a very young age, these recognitions conferred upon Namkhai Norbu a great deal of attention and prestige, as he himself remarks: “As I grew up, I was thus given quite a few names and titles, many of which are very long and grand sounding. But I have never used them, because I have always preferred the name my parents gave me at birth.” Wikipedia
What can we make of that?
Well people say these things but we might also wonder about the many saints in the Christian Church thought to have had incorruptible bodies. Some were paraded around parishes for months after their death or lay in state. They were not embalmed but for some reason did not decompose and indeed a few retained their features for many years and looked as though they were sleeping or had only just died. A bit unlikely you may think or a bit odd. Again it is the subject of an interesting and now very accessible Wikipedia article if you do not have the theological books in which it was long ago mentioned. Note that these ‘saints’ still suffered in life, still died but for one reason or another did not putrify when they did.
The rainbow body is how it is seen by others and refers to a natural phenomenon accompanying the time that a master or mistress acquires full knowledge. The actual Tibetan words that are used are only very roughly translated by this in my opinion as it is knowledge that is free from delusion or indeed illusion and that in my view equates with enlightenment. Whether it equates with a Buddha nature is debateable and it is all rather philosophical without access and direct knowledge of those involved. The information we have is passed to us by their disciples and may in fact be the very illusion we wish to pierce.
I am not saying that my body will not decompose as I have no idea if that will be the case. I doubt it will get the chance as I will be cremated. I know the Ancient Egyptians went to great lengths to prevent decomposition happening to the ones they mummified. They removed the organs and put them in aromatic oils to pickle. They immersed the bodies in a natron salt solution for a month, then dried it and applied many oils and ointments and of course the bandages and bitumen. Modern embalming removes body fluids and replaces them with preservatives. But this horror of decomposition is I believe based in this rainbow body phenomenon and wish to emulate it.
Anyway the rainbow body has some relationship with what are called by some ‘mental bodies’, even ‘astral bodies’. I would suggest they are closer to our dream selves or some of the ‘bodies’ we have that the Egyptians noted as the ‘ka’, the ’ren’ and the ‘ba’ etc. It may seem meaningless to talk about souls and spirits but there is a difference and it is noticeable in the afterlife. I regularly visit it and I am sure you do too but possibly without realising that. Once it was thought to be very dangerous to do this and the tale of Orpheus is evidence for that. On the other hand the afterlife is thought to be able to visit us especially on certain times of the year like the summer solstice and at certain places like for example Glastonbury Tor. But I will mention something about such dreams. In them the people that I see might be described as souls, people who have died and it would seem died fairly recently (last 20 years?) in most cases. I may see my mother or someone else I knew who died. This is what is left of them in a spiritual sense. I see thousands of such souls if that is what we should call them. They may appear much younger than when they died. Quite what they see when they see me or you is impossible for me to say. I do not see any mirrors there. But I can make reference to various occult theories about developing certain spiritual bodies in one’s life that survive physical death.
Ancestor worship through the ages and certainly exemplified by the Ancient Egyptian practice of leaving food and saying constant prayers for the dead was designed to feed one of these other ‘bodies’. Statues in the funeral sites were for the dead to occupy. ‘Ghosts’ obviously are some kind of post death body if they exist. If you spend a lifetime developing muscles you will have them. But some people spend a lifetime, or even lifetimes, developing what might really be called a knowledge body ( a body of knowledge). I speak to myself at the end of my life and very different he is to me as a young man or boy. If it is true that I appeared to the ancients in their camp fires, what appeared? What did they see? How could it communicate with them? If you recognise that the human can develop these spiritual bodies such a thing is less difficult to grasp. But still one needs some personal experience. The proof is in the pudding.
What is ‘Alexander’s mirror’ and how does that fit in?
There are a series of exercises that help us. Probably many exercises do not. The Tibetan woman who shut herself up in a dark cell for 50 years was doing one. We do not need to do that but could try a few hours in our lifetime to see what it is like (at first). She may have done 300,000 hours of meditation. I also used a darkened room and in my case a bath. It helped me concentrate and removed distractions.
I will explain one very valuable exercise as far as creating another body, or recognising it. If you have played some computer games you will know that at first you cannot get up the ladder, but then you can and even make it down the plank but it takes a while to leap through that window. With determination you get better and soon can do it almost effortlessly. In this case if you lose concentration do not worry, just try again until you overcome that.
Like many things I have done I thought I had invented the exercise by following my guidance. However some time later I was with the Pathan Ali who let me use his West End shop for readings. He had a little magic book from his childhood and showed me it. Then we came to this. He was translating the book for me and I told him I knew it so he asked me what happened to me and it was the same as happened to the author. It is called Alexander’s Mirror in his book. By the way I googled Alexander’s Mirror and found
“On this folio from Walters manuscript W.623, Alexander the Great (Iskandar) invents a mirror that, when mounted on a tower, shows everything within a radius of 60 farsangs and thus enables Alexander’s men to attack marauding pirates”
This is certainly not about that. I also found a man in Australia who uses a mirror and seems to have taken the name Alexander, it is not really about that. In a book ‘Poetry of the East’ it is claimed that Alexander the Great used some fabulous mirror for some mystical purpose. That is probably the origin of this name for an ancient meditation, or ‘reflection’.
I have done this standing but suggest sitting comfortable with medium to low light at first. I will describe later here what happened to me so will not put that into your head before you try. Place the mirror so that you can see your head, if possible sit back. You may like to have something that means something to you by it, a crystal perhaps or memento. I can think of no reason for that but in my case had a bowl of salted water. In those days I bathed in salty water. I would not suggest bathing in the dark by the way as you can slip and fall when you get out. We had a windowless bathroom so it was pitch black without a light. We are seldom ever in pitch darkness. Turning off the light stopped the wretched fan noise. That Tibetan woman would not have had any idea of the time of day, even that can be a ‘distraction’. Nor could she see herself.
So now you are looking at yourself, or a reflection that is not what anyone else sees as the mirror changes left to right. No matter. Have a good look at your eyes as you may see what we are looking for, our inner self. But then start looking at that middle point in your forehead where they say the third eye is based, not for that reason but because it is a good blank spot to concentrate. You may lose focus and that is good. Let whatever happens with your vision happen. As soon as you react it will, probably stop so this is an exercise in allowing your eyes to do what they wish. If you think of the computer game it is just taking that leap into the next dimension without any idea of what is there.
These exercises do not need to go on very long and do not need to be endlessly repeated. When you look in the mirror after this it may remind you of it.
I cannot say that someone in the 21st century can open their eyes better or faster that those loving 2000 years ago. Even if life was simpler then they were still living in a difficult world for this. What we do have on our side now is a certain detachment from the religious thinking that has so long clouded our judgement. One part of that has been to stop people even attempting to do this, another part to insist it is done in a certain way. But against us are the many charlatans who claim to have done it, written the book and opened the ashram. And of course some who really have achieved this state and wish to profit by it or feel that they need a host of followers to achieve their personal aims.
Finally I will return to a subject that I already raised here which now requires a look at a famous man:
“James Braid (19 June 1795 – 25 March 1860) was a Scottish surgeon and “gentleman scientist”. He was a significant innovator in the treatment of club-foot and an important and influential pioneer of hypnotism and hypnotherapy. He is regarded by many as the first genuine “hypnotherapist” and the “Father of Modern Hypnotism”.
“Although Braid believed that hypnotic suggestion was a valuable remedy in functional nervous disorders, he did not regard it as a rival to other forms of treatment, nor wish in any way to separate its practice from that of medicine in general. He held that whoever talked of a “universal remedy” was either a fool or a knave: similar diseases often arose from opposite pathological conditions, and the treatment ought to be varied accordingly.” — John Milne Bramwell (1910)……
Braid was apprenticed to the Leith surgeons Thomas and Charles Anderson (i.e., both father and son). As part of that apprenticeship, Braid also attended the University of Edinburgh from 1812–1814, where he was also influenced by Thomas Brown, M.D. (1778—1820), who held the chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh from 1808 to 1820.
Braid obtained the diploma of the Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of the City of Edinburgh, the Lic.R.C.S. (Edin), in 1815, which entitled him to refer to himself as a member of the college (rather than a fellow).
Braid was appointed surgeon to Lord Hopetoun’s mines at Leadhills, Lanarkshire, in 1816; and in 1825 he set up in private practice at Dumfries. One of his Dumfries’ patients, Alexander Petty (1778–1864), a Scot, employed as a traveller for Scarr, Petty and Swain, a firm of Manchester tailors, invited Braid to move his practice to Manchester, England. Braid moved to Manchester in 1828, continuing to practise from there until his death in 1860.
Braid was a member of both the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, a Corresponding Member Member of both the Wernerian Natural History Society of Edinburgh (in 1824), and the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh (in 1854), a Member of the Manchester Athenæum, and the Honorary Curator of the museum of the Manchester Natural History Society.
Braid was a highly skilled and very successful surgeon, educated at Edinburgh University, and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (M.R.C.S.).
“[and] though he was best known in the medical world for his theory and practice of hypnotism, he had also obtained wonderfully successful results by operation in cases of club foot and other deformities, which brought him patients from every part of the kingdom. Up to 1841 he had operated on 262 cases of talipes, 700 cases of strabismus, and 23 cases of spinal curvature.”
Braid first observed the operation of animal magnetism, when he attended a public performance by the travelling Swiss magnetic demonstrator Charles Lafontaine (1803–1892),] at the Manchester Athenæum, on Saturday, 13 November 1841.
Braid was amongst the medical men who were invited onto the platform by Lafontaine. Braid examined the physical condition of Lafontaine’s magnetised subjects (especially their eyes and their eyelids) and concluded that they were, indeed, in quite a different physical state.
James Braid, gentleman scientist.
The first who investigated the matter [of mesmerism] in a scientific way,
and who deserves more honour than he has yet received, was … James Braid, a
Manchester surgeon. At first a sceptic, holding that the whole of the so-called
magnetic phenomena were the results of illusion, delusion, or excited imagination,
he found in 1841 that one, at least, of the characteristic symptoms could not be
accounted for in this manner: viz., the fact that many of the mesmerized individuals
are quite unable to open their eyes.
Braid was much puzzled by this discovery, until he found that the “magnetic
trance” could be induced, with many of its marvellous symptoms of catalepsy,
aphasia, exaltation and depression of the sensory functions, by merely concentrating
the patient’s attention on one object or one idea, and preventing all interruption or
But in the state thus produced, none of the so-called higher phenomena of the
mesmerists, such as the reading of sealed and hidden letters, the contents of which
were unknown to the mesmerised person, could ever be brought about.
To the well defined assemblage of symptoms which Braid observed in patients
who had steadily gazed for eight or twelve minutes with attention concentrated
upon a small bright object, and which were different from those of the so-called
magnetic trance, Braid gave the name of Hypnotism …
W. T. Preyer (1880: address to British Medical Association’s Annual Meeting).
Braid attended two more of Lafontaine’s demonstrations; and, by the third demonstration (on Saturday 20 November 1841), Braid was convinced of the veracity of some of Lafontaine’s effects and phenomena.
In particular, whilst he was convinced that a transformation from, so to speak, condition1 to condition2, and back to condition1 had really taken place, he was convinced that no magnetic agency of any sort (as Lafontaine claimed) was responsible for these veridical events. He also rejected outright the assertion that the transformation in question had “proceeded from, or [had been] excited into action by another [person]” (Neurypnology, p. 32).
Braid then performed his experimentum crucis. Operating on the principle of Occam’s Razor (that ‘entities ought not to be multiplied beyond necessity’), and recognising that he could diminish, rather than multiply entities, he made an extraordinary decision to perform a role-reversal and treat the operator-subject interaction as subject-internal, operator-guided procedure; rather than, as Lafontaine supposed, an operator-centred, subject-external procedure. Braid emphatically proved his point by his self-experimentation with his “upwards and inwards squint”.
The exceptional success of Braid’s use of ‘self-‘ or ‘auto-hypnotism’ (rather than ‘hetero-hypnotism’), entirely by himself, on himself, and within his own home, clearly demonstrated that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘gaze’, ‘charisma’, or ‘magnetism’ of the operator; all it needed was a subject’s ‘fixity of vision’ on an ‘object of concentration’ at such a height and such a distance from the bridge of their nose that the desired ‘upwards and inwards squint’ was achieved. And, at the same time, by using himself as a subject, Braid also conclusively proved that none of Lafontaine’s phenomena were due to magnetic agency.
Braid conducted a number of experiments with self-hypnotization upon himself, and, by now convinced that he had discovered the natural psycho-physiological mechanism underlying these quite genuine effects, he performed his first act of hetero-hypnotization at his own residence, before several witnesses, including Captain Thomas Brown (1785–1862) on Monday 22 November 1841 – his first hypnotic subject was Mr. J. A. Walker. (see Neurypnology, pp.16–20.)
The following Saturday, (27 November 1841) Braid delivered his first public lecture at the Manchester Athenæum, in which, amongst other things, he was able to demonstrate that he could replicate the effects produced by Lafontaine, without the need for any sort of physical contact between the operator and the subject.
Modern Hypnotism owes it name and its appearance in the realm
of science to the investigations made by Braid.
He is its true creator; he made it what it is; and above all, he gave
emphasis to the experimental truth by means of which he proved that,
when hypnotic phenomena are called into play, they are wholly
independent of any supposed influence of the hypnotist upon the
hypnotised, and that the hypnotised person simply reacts upon
himself by reason of latent capacities in him which are artificially
Braid demonstrated that … hypnotism, acting upon a human
subject as upon a fallow field, merely set in motion a string of silent
faculties which only needed its assistance to reach their development.
Jules Bernard Luys (1828–1897).
Hugh M’Neile’s “Satanic Agency and Mesmerism” sermon
On the evening of Sunday, 10 April 1842, at St Jude’s Church, Liverpool, the controversial cleric Hugh M’Neile preached a sermon against Mesmerism for more than ninety minutes to a capacity congregation; and, according to most critics, it was a poorly argued and unimpressive performance.
M’Neile’s core argument was that scripture asserts the existence of “satanic agency”; and, in the process of delivering his sermon, he provided examples of the various instantiations that “satanic agency” might manifest (observing times, divination, necromancy, etc.), and claimed that these were all forms of “witchcraft”; and, further, he asserted that, because scripture asserts that, as “latter times” approach, more and more evidence of “satanic agency” will appear, it was, ipso facto, transparently obvious that the exhibitions of Lafontaine and Braid, in Liverpool, at that very moment, were concrete examples of those particular instantiations. He then, moved into a confusing admixture of philippic (against Braid and Lafontaine), and polemic (against animal magnetism), wherein he concluded that all mesmeric phenomena were due to “satanic agency”.
In particular, he attacked Braid as a man, a scientist, a philosopher, and a medical professional. He claimed that Braid and Lafontaine were one and the same kind. He also threatened Braid’s professional and social position by associating him with Satan; and, in the most ill informed way, condemned Braid’s important therapeutic work as having no clinical efficacy whatsoever.
The sermon was reported on at some length in the Liverpool Standard, two days later.] Once Braid became fully aware of the newspaper reports of the conglomeration of matters that were reportedly raised in M’Neile’s sermon, and the misrepresentations and outright errors of fact that it allegedly contained, as well as the vicious nature of the insults, and the implicit and explicit threats which were levelled against Braid’s own personal, spiritual, and professional well-being by M’Neile, he sent a detailed private letter to M’Neile accompanied by a newspaper account of a lecture he had delivered on the preceding Wednesday evening (13 April) at Macclesfield, and a cordial invitation (plus a free admission ticket) for M‘Neile to attend Braid’s Liverpool lecture, on Thursday, 21 April.
James Braid (26 March 1851)
I shall conclude this [lecture] by a very simple mode of illustration,
as respects the different points of view in which the mesmerists, the
electro-biologists, and myself, stand toward each other in theory,
by referring to the two theories of light contended for at the present time.
Some believe in a positive emission from the sun of a subtile material, or
imponderable influence, as the cause of light; whilst others deny this
emission theory, and contend that light is produced by simple vibration
excitedby the sun, without any positive emission from that luminary. I
may, therefore, be said to have adopted the vibratory theory, whilst the
mesmerists and electro-biologists contend for the emission theory. But
my experiments have proved that the ordinary phenomena of mesmer-
ism may be realised through the subjective or personal mental and
physical acts of the patient alone; whereas the proximity, acts, or in-
fluence of a second party, would be indispensably requisite for their
production, if the theory of the mesmerists were true. Moreover, my
experiments have proved that audible, visible, or tangible suggestions
of another person, whom the subject believes to possess such power
over him, is requisite for the production of the waking phenomena;
whereas no audible, visible, or tangible suggestion from a second
party ought to be required to produce these phenomena, if the theory
of the electro-biologists were true.
There is, therefore, both positive and negative proof in favour of
my mental and suggestive theory, and in opposition to the magnetic,
occult, or electric theories of the mesmerists and electro-biologists.
My theory, moreover, has this additional recommendation, that it is
level to our comprehension, and adequate to account for all which
is demonstrably true, without offering any violence to reason and
common sense, or being at variance with generally admitted
physiological and psychological principles. Under these circum-
stances, therefore, I trust that you will consider me entitled to your
verdict in favour of my MENTAL THEORY.
Yet, despite Braid’s courtesy, in raising his deeply felt concerns directly to M‘Neile, in private correspondence, M‘Neile did not acknowledge Braid’s letter nor did he attend Braid’s lecture. Further, in the face of all the evidence Braid had presented, and seemingly, without the slightest correction of its original contents, M‘Neile allowed the entire text of his original sermon, as it had been transcribed by a stenographer (more than 7,500 words), to be published on Wednesday, 4 May 1842. It was this ‘most ungentlemanly’ act of M‘Neile towards Braid, that forced Braid to publish his own response as a pamphlet; which he did on Saturday, 4 June 1842; a pamphlet which, in Crabtree’s opinion is “a work of the greatest significance in the history of hypnotism, and of utmost rarity” (1988, p. 121).
British Association for the Advancement of Science
Soon after, he also wrote a report entitled “Practical Essay on the Curative Agency of Neuro-Hypnotism”, which he applied to have read before the British Association for the Advancement of Science in June 1842. Despite being initially accepted for presentation, the paper was controversially rejected at the last moment; but Braid arranged for a series of Conversaziones at which he presented its contents. Braid summarised and contrasted his own view with the other views prevailing at that time:
“The various theories at present entertained regarding the phenomena of mesmerism may be arranged thus:— First, those who believe them to be owing entirely to a system of collusion and delusion; and a great majority of society may be ranked under this head. Second, those who believe them to be real phenomena, but produced solely by imagination, sympathy, and imitation. Third, the animal magnetists, or those who believe in some magnetic medium set in motion as the exciting cause of the mesmeric phenomena. Fourth, those who have adopted my views, that the phenomena are solely attributable to a peculiar physiological state of the brain and the spinal cord.”…..
Although Braid was the first to use the terms hypnotism, hypnotise and hypnotist in English, the cognate terms hypnotique, hypnotisme, hypnotiste had been intentionally used by the French magnetist Baron Etienne Félix d’Henin de Cuvillers (1755–1841) at least as early as 1820. Braid, moreover, was the first person to use “hypnotism” in its modern sense, referring to a “psycho-physiological” theory rather than the “occult” theories of the magnetists.
In a letter written to the editor of The Lancet in 1845, Braid emphatically states that:
“I adopted the term “hypnotism” to prevent my being confounded with those who entertain those extreme notions [sc. that a mesmeriser’s will has an “irresistible power… over his subjects” and that clairvoyance and other “higher phenomena” are routinely manifested by those in the mesmeric state], as well as to get rid of the erroneous theory about a magnetic fluid, or exoteric influence of any description being the cause of the sleep. I distinctly avowed that hypnotism laid no claim to produce any phenomena which were not “quite reconcilable with well-established physiological and psychological principles”; pointed out the various sources of fallacy which might have misled the mesmerists; [and] was the first to give a public explanation of the trick [by which a fraudulent subject had been able to deceive his mesmeriser]…[Further, I have never been] a supporter of the imagination theory — i.e., that the induction of [hypnosis] in the first instance is merely the result of imagination. My belief is quite the contrary. I attribute it to the induction of a habit of intense abstraction, or concentration of attention, and maintain that it is most readily induced by causing the patient to fix his thoughts and sight on an object, and suppress his respiration.”
In his first publication, he had also stressed the importance of the subject concentrating both vision and thought, referring to “the continued fixation of the mental and visual eye” as a means of engaging a natural physiological mechanism that was already hard-wired into each human being:
“I shall merely add, that my experiments go to prove that it is a law in the animal economy that, by the continued fixation of the mental and visual eye on any object in itself not of an exciting nature, with absolute repose of body and general quietude, they become wearied; and, provided the patients rather favour than resist the feeling of stupor which they feel creeping over them during such experiment, a state of somnolency is induced, and that peculiar state of brain, and mobility of the nervous system, which render the patient liable to be directed so as to manifest the mesmeric phenomena. I consider it not so much the optic, as the motor and sympathetic nerves, and the mind, through which the impression is made. Such is the position I assume; and I feel so thoroughly convinced that it is a law of the animal economy, that such effects should follow such condition of mind and body, that I fear not to state, as my deliberate opinion, that this is a fact which cannot be controverted.”
In 1843 he published Neurypnology; or the Rationale of Nervous Sleep Considered in Relation with Animal Magnetism…, his first and only book-length exposition of his views. According to Bramwell (1896, p. 91) the work was popular from the outset, selling 800 copies within a few months of its publication.
Braid thought of hypnotism as producing a “nervous sleep” which differed from ordinary sleep. The most efficient way to produce it was through visual fixation on a small bright object held eighteen inches above and in front of the eyes. Braid regarded the physiological condition underlying hypnotism to be the over-exercising of the eye muscles through the straining of attention.
He completely rejected Franz Mesmer’s idea that a magnetic fluid caused hypnotic phenomena, because anyone could produce them in “himself by attending strictly to the simple rules” that he had laid down. The (derogative) suggestion that Braidism be adopted as a synonym for “hypnotism” was rejected by Braid; and it was rarely used at the time of the suggestion, and is never used today.
Braid’s “Sources of Fallacy”
Braid successfully demonstrated that many of the alleged phenomena
of mesmerism owed their origin to defective methods of observation. He
drew out a list of the more important sources of error which, he said, ought
always to be kept in mind by the operator. These … should be placed in a
prominent position in every hypnotic laboratory:—
(1) The hyperæsthesia of the organs of special sense, which enabled im-
pressions to be perceived through the ordinary media that would have
passed unrecognised in the waking condition.
(2) The docility and sympathy of the subjects, which tended to make them
imitate the actions of others.
(3) The extraordinary revival of memory by which they could recall things
long forgotten in the waking state.
(4) The remarkable effect of contact in arousing memory, i.e. by acting as
the signal for the production of a fresh [state of hypnotism].
(5) The condition of double consciousness or double personality.
(6) The vivid state of the imagination in hypnosis, which instantly invest-
ed every suggested idea, or remembrance of past impressions, with the
attributes of present realities.
(7) Deductions rapidly drawn by the subject from unintentional suggestions
given by the operator.
(8) The tendency of the human mind, in those with a great love of the mar-
vellous, erroneously to interpret the subject’s replies in accordance with
their own desires.
(Bramwell, 1903, p.144.)
Nearly a year after the publication of Neurypnology, the secretary of the Royal Manchester Institution invited Braid to conduct a conversazione in the Institution’s lecture theatre on Monday, 22 April 1844.
Braid spoke at considerable length to a very large audience on hypnotism; and also gave details of the important differences he had identified between his “hypnotism” and mesmerism/animal magnetism. According to the extensive press reports, “the interest felt by the members of the institution in the subject was manifested by the attendance of one of the largest audiences we ever recollect to have seen present”.
In his presentation Braid stressed that, because he had clearly demonstrated that the effects of hypnotism were “quite reconcilable with well-established physiological and psychological principles” (viz., they were well connected to the prevailing canonical knowledge), it was highly significant that none of the extraordinary effects that the mesmerists and animal magnetists routinely claimed for their operations — such as clairvoyance, direct mental suggestion, and mesmeric intuition — could be produced with hypnotism. So, he argued, it was clear that their claims were entirely without foundation.
However, he also stressed to his audience that, whilst it was, indeed, entirely true that these effects could not be produced with hypnotism — and whilst the claims of the mesmerists and animal magnetists were, ipso facto, entirely false — one must not make the mistake of concluding that this was unequivocal evidence of deception, dishonesty, or outright fraud on the part of those making these erroneous claims.
In Braid’s view (given that many of the proponents of such views were decent men, and that their experiences had been honestly recounted), the only possible explanation was that their observations were seriously flawed.
To Braid, these faults in their investigatory processes were “the chief source of error”. He urged the audience — before any of the claims of the mesmerists and animal magnetists could be examined in any way, or any of their findings investigated, or any confidence be placed in any of the recorded results of any of their experiments — that the entire process of the research that they had conducted, the investigative procedures that they had employed, and the experimental design that had underpinned their enterprise must be closely examined for the presence of what he termed “sources of fallacy”.
In the process of delivering his lecture, Braid spoke in some detail of six “sources of fallacy” that could contaminate findings. In 1903, Bramwell published a list of eight “sources of fallacy” attributed to Braid; the final two having been directly paraphrased, by Bramwell, from other aspects of Braid’s later works (see text at right).
In 1853, Braid investigated the phenomenon of “table-turning” and clearly confirmed Michael Faraday’s conclusion that the phenomenon was entirely due to the ideo-motor influences of the participants, rather than to the agency of “mesmeric forces” — as was being widely asserted by, for example, John Elliotson and his followers.
The mono-ideo-dynamic principle
On 12 March 1852, convinced (as both a scientist and physiologist) of the genuineness of Braid’s hypnotism, Braid’s friend and colleague William Benjamin Carpenter presented a significant paper, “On the influence of Suggestion in Modifying and directing Muscular Movement, independently of Volition”, to the Royal Institution of Great Britain (it was published later that year). Carpenter explained that the “class of phenomena” associated with Braid’s hypnotism were consequent upon a subject’s concentration on a single, “dominant idea”: namely, “the occupation of the mind by the ideas which have been suggested to it, and in the influence which these ideas exert upon the actions of the body”. Moreover, Carpenter said, “it is not really the will of the operator which controls the sensations of the subject; but the suggestion of the operator which excites a corresponding idea”: the suggested idea “not only [producing non-volitional] muscular movements [through this psychosomatic mechanism], but other bodily changes [as well]” (1852, p. 148).
In order to reconcile the observed hypnotic phenomena “with the known laws of nervous action” (p. 153), and without elaborating on mechanism, Carpenter identified a new psycho-physiological reflex activity — in addition to the already identified excito-motor (which was responsible for breathing, swallowing, etc.), and the sensori-motor (which was responsible for startle responses, etc.) — that of “the ideo-motor principle of action”. At the conclusion of his paper, Carpenter briefly noted that his proposed ideo-motor principle of action, specifically created to explain Braid’s hypnotism, could also explain other activities involving objectively psychosomatic responses, such as the movements of divining rods:
Thus the ideo-motor principle of action finds its appropriate place in the physiological scale, which would, indeed, be incomplete without it.
And, when it is once recognized, it may be applied to the explanation of numerous phenomena which have been a source of perplexity to many who have been convinced of their genuineness, and who could not see any mode of reconciling them with the known laws of nervous action.
The phenomena in question are those which have been recently set down to the action of an “Od-force”, such, for example, as the movements of the “divining-rod”, and the vibration of bodies suspended from the finger; both which have been clearly proved to depend on the state of expectant attention on the part of the performer, his Will being temporarily withdrawn from control over his muscles by the state of abstraction to which his mind is given up, and the anticipation of a given result being the stimulus which directly and involuntarily prompts the muscular movements that produce it. — Carpenter, 1852, p.153.
Braid immediately adopted Carpenter’s ideo-motor terminology; and, in order to stress the importance (within Braid’s own representation) of the single, “dominant” idea concept, Braid spoke of a “mono-ideo-motor principle of action”. However, by 1855, based on suggestions that had been made to Carpenter by Daniel Noble, their friend in common — that Carpenter’s innovation would be more accurately understood, and more accurately applied (viz., not just limited to divining rods and pendulums), if it were designated the “ideo-dynamic principle” — Braid was referring to a “mono-ideo-dynamic principle of action”:
[The explanation for] the power that serpents have to fascinate birds … is simply this — that when the attention of man or animal is deeply engrossed or absorbed by a given idea associated with movement, a current of nervous force is sent into the muscles which produces a corresponding motion, not only without any conscious effort of volition, but even in opposition to volition, in many instances; and hence they seem to be irresistibly drawn, or spell-bound, according to the purport of the dominant idea or impression in the mind of each at the time.
The volition is prostrate; the individual is so completely monoideised, or under the influence of the dominant idea, as to be incapable of exerting an efficient restraining or opposing power to the dominant idea; and in the case of the bird and serpent, it is first wonder which arrests the creature’s attention, and then fear causes that mono-ideo-dynamic action of the muscles which involuntarily issues in the advance and capture of the unhappy bird …
It is this very principle of involuntary muscular action from a dominant idea which has got possession of the mind, and the suggestions conveyed to the mind by the muscular action which flows from it, which led so many to be deceived during their experiments in “table-turning,” and induced them to believe that the table was drawing them, whilst all the while they were unconsciously drawing or pushing it by their own muscular force. — Braid, Physiology of Fascination, etc., (1855), pp.3-5.
In order that I may do full justice to two esteemed friends, I beg to state, in connection with this term monoideo-dynamics, that, several years ago, Dr. W. B. Carpenter introduced the term ideo-motor to characterise the reflex or automatic muscular motions which arise merely from ideas associated with motion existing in the mind, without any conscious effort of volition.
In 1853, in referring to this term, Dr. Noble said, “Ideo-dynamic would probably constitute a phraseology more appropriate, as applicable to a wider range of phenomena.”
In this opinion I quite concurred, because I was well aware that an idea could arrest as well as excite motion automatically, not only in the muscles of voluntary motion, but also as regards the condition of every other function of the body.
I have, therefore, adopted the term monoideo-dynamics, as still more comprehensive and characteristic as regards the true mental relations which subsist during all dynamic changes which take place, in every other function of the body, as well as in the muscles of voluntary motion. — Braid, (1855), footnote at p.10.
Braid maintained an active interest in hypnotism until his death.
“I consider the hypnotic mode of treating certain disorders is a most important ascertained fact, and a real solid addition to practical therapeutics, for there is a variety of cases in which it is really most successful, and to which it is most particularly adapted; and those are the very cases in which ordinary medical means are least successful, or altogether unavailing. Still, I repudiate the notion of holding up hypnotism as a panacaea or universal remedy. As formerly remarked, I use hypnotism ALONE only in a certain class of cases, to which I consider it peculiarly adapted – and I use it in conjunction with medical treatment, in some other cases; but, in the great majority of cases, I do not use hypnotism at all, but depend entirely upon the efficacy of medical, moral, dietetic, and hygienic treatment, prescribing active medicines in such doses as are calculated to produce obvious effects” — James Braid
Just three days before his death he sent a (now lost) manuscript, that was written in English – usually referred to as On hypnotism — to the French surgeon Étienne Eugène Azam.
Braid died on 25 March 1860, in Manchester, after just a few hours of illness. According to some contemporary accounts he died from “apoplexy”, and according to others he died from “heart disease”. He was survived by his wife, his son James (a general practitioner, rather than a surgeon), and his daughter.
“In the course of his investigations Braid reached the conclusion that hypnotism was wholly a matter of suggestion, which constituted the first attempt at a scientific and psychological explanation. He made a detailed study of the technique of hypnosis and the various phenomena obtained in trances. He was a prolific writer and left extensive treatises which are surprisingly modern in their conceptions. — Milton H. Erickson”
Braid’s work had a strong influence on a number of important French medical figures, especially Étienne Eugène Azam (1822–1899) of Bordeaux (Braid’s principal French “disciple”), the anatomist Pierre Paul Broca (1824–1880), the physiologist Joseph Pierre Durand de Gros (1826–1901), and the eminent hypnotherapist and co-founder of the Nancy School Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault (1823–1904).
Braid hypnotised the English Swedenborgian writer J.J.G. Wilkinson, who observed him hypnotising others several times, and began using hypnotism himself. Wilkinson soon became a passionate advocate of Braid’s work and his published remarks on hypnotism were quoted enthusiastically by Braid several times in his later writings. However, Braid’s legacy was maintained in Great Britain largely by John Milne Bramwell who collected all of his available works and published a biography and account of Braid’s theory and practice as well as several books on hypnotism of his own.
James Braid Society
In 1997 Braid’s part in developing hypnosis for therapeutic purposes was recognised and commemorated by the creation of the James Braid Society, a discussion group for those “involved or concerned in the ethical uses of hypnosis”. The society meets once a month in central London, usually for a presentation on some aspect of hypnotherapy……Wikipedia
Well if you climbed through that you may appreciate that self hypnotism is entirely possible. If you concentrate on removing pain you can, and warts and what else? We do not know. Both practitioners I have mentioned this year here were physicians first and foremost. Now what if you concentrate for 50 years on achieving a rainbow body? Some millionaires have revealed that they had written on pieces of paper that they would make a million and looked at these papers every day, or before sleep. It is a classic exercise in self programming.