Cartoon met Merkel

Hypnosis and the larks mirror

During the elections the German Bundeskansler Angela Merkel was under fire. She was supposed to be a dull, self repeating candidate who only wanted to put her electorate asleep.
On 17th September 2013 there was this cartoon in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. What we see here is indeed a dull looking woman who uses her hands to make the familiar diamond shape and who speaks comforting suggestions. In the background there is a life sized spiral that must convince that Merkel is hypnotizing her electorates. Why does the Zeiting has the idea that this spiral has anything to do with hypnosis?

Through the ages magnetisers and hypnotists have tried to ease their work. According to the manuals magnetisers needed to be powerful of mind and body. Especially the first magnetisers needed to work hard to get their patients in the desired state of somnambulism. For hours long they made the same gestures or were staring the patient in the eyes.
The baquets of Mesmer were very famous for letting the magnetic fluids flow on a larger scale with less labor. Because of the large influx of patients, also his pupil marquis de Puységur looked for a tool. He magnetised a large tree and let himself and his patients become charged with the desired fluids through cords.
Since that time there was a continuous quests for tools that could ease the work of the therapist. Later hypnotists also tried with great ingenuity to automize the monotone inductions. Starting with the tendon hammer and the swinging watch of Braid a steady stream of different tools were used. Technical developments were followed closely. The baquet was a variation on the Leyden jar, meant to store electricity. As soon as verbal suggestions became more important, the use of records, tapes, CDs and MP3s were readily accepted.
Before that time optical illusions needed to perform that job. The neurologist J.M. Charcot brought his patients into hypnosis by frightening his patients through burning strong calcium light (Drummond’s limelight) that was used by photographers. Giving a hard beat on a gong was also very popular. Some methods of the followers of the ‘ Nancy’ school used harsh methods. For some patients who were difficult to hypnotise, Edgar Bérillon used an electrical vibrating headband in order to close one of the eyes. The French neurologist Jules Bernard Luys (1825-1897) initially used shrill whistles. He had a extensive collection, and each sample represented its own specific suggestion. Inducing hypnosis using of one of the many turning or mirroring devices that are also used in Salpêtrière looks a lot more patient friendly. Luys was a zealous inventor in this field and about 1888 he got under the spell of the lark mirror.
The larks mirror was already known from the third century before Christ as a tool for hunting birds and was especially in use between the 16th and 20th century in England, Italy and France. There is a great diversity in shapes, however most of them are made of wood and have a shaft that can be put into the ground and on top there is a cross-bar for in the shape of a pair of bird wings of about 30 cm in length and 6 cm with. Attached to the wings there is a reflecting material such as nails of copper, glass or mirror. The wings can be turned by using a rope or a clockwork. Luys saw how this tool for hunters attracted the attention of flying larks and lured them to the ground. Luys stated: ‘ looking at this special effect of the rotating mirror on the eyes of larks flying by, I wondered if this fascination, that has such a special influence on the nerve system of birds, would have the same effect on humans. ‘ It turned out that this device was helpful in hypnotising patients. Luys had them stare to this turning larks mirror during 5 until 30 minutes and discovered that 10 to 12 of the 30 to 35 people got into trance. According to the neurologist women are more receptive to this than man, because they are more receptive to hysteria.

Luys thought that the results were caused by the reflection of the rays of light. Luys: “ in principle an ordinary larks mirror can be used’. Usually he put a double mirror at eye level on a table. The purpose of this method is to send the intermittent rays of lights into the eyes of the patient or just above. ‘I can now say that rotating shining surfaces, in the case of predispositioned persons, cause a certain state of the retina and the central nervous system. This state is accompanied by an insensitivity and immobility of the muscles together with suggestibility. ‘ It causes the will of the patient to become less important. Luys is of the opinion that by making variations in blinding of the patient, a different number of problems can be treated. He says that he is able to realise good results with this fascination and also claims to be able to realise different hypnotic states with ease and being albe to influence hysterical problems, epilepsy and chorea.

‘ Gradually the eye muscles become tired and the upper eyelids hangs. Next the eyes close. This is not yet full sleep, the slightest sound can wake up the test person, however with some training, with each treatment of the patients who at first only closed their eyes passively, from the fifth or sixth session the sleep increases. I point out that the test persons were well prepared. Many times I saw the fascination increase from the first session. A full sleep with a complete loss of consciousness is not necessary in order to achieve considerable therapeutic effects.’

Luys: ‘The first test person that I cured from a paralysis, a facts that was diagnosed correctly by a number of my colleagues in hospitals, only underwent the treatment of the rotating mirrors. During 15 to 20 sessions he only got the treatment with light reflections and was never unconscious. Only 15 to 20 sessions with light rays. How is that possible? How does this light irradiation works? How do they change the central nervous system? Luys honestly states that he doesn’t know: ‘we do not yet have a scientific answer to this, it is pure emperism that we put into practice.’

With or without explanation, the larks mirror was used gratefully after Luys and many different types appear. From sophisticated devices up to simple images on carton paper were used to bring the patient into trance.

The Dutch doctor P.J. Holleman writes in the magazine for medicine: ‘after my stay in Paris I immediately had such a clockwork with that rotating mirror made. I put a gas lamp inside a cylinder of carton in which a few holes were cut. In this way the light fell on to the mirror whereas the room stayed dark. Hollman continued to experiment. He tried out attaching different colours on the holes of the carton.

Olland added to the device a base with felt, so that the turning of the devise gave only a little noise. This noise was so balanced and somnolent, that according to the doctor it contributed to hasten the state of ‘ narcosis’. Olland: ‘ and really it was confirmed by a test. A 14 your old girl could not see the mirrors, however she showed all signs that are usually induced by the mirrors.’ Olland: ‘ how great is the interests for those who are so unhappy to lose their eyesight? ‘

Nevertheless optical suggestions remained the main ingredient when using fascination, although no longer the rays of light were the determining factor, instead the turning of the point of fascination. This turning causes, just like the mirrors attached to the lark mirror, a spiral. This is the spiral that became know to the world as thé symbol for hypnosis.