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limbs, he rose. He felt himself stronger than before the trance.
II. Trance-coma.—The appearance of a person in trance-coma is that of one in profound sleep. The breathing is regular, but extremely gentle; the action of the heart the same; the frame lies completely relaxed and flexible, and, when raised, falls in any posture, like the body of one just dead, as its weight determines. The bodily temperature is natural. The condition is distinguishable from common sleep by the total insensibility of the entranced person to all ordinary stimulants : besides, the pupil of the eye, instead of being contracted to a minute aperture, as it is in common sleep, is usually dilated; at all events it is not contracted, and it is fixed.
Perhaps the commonest cause of trance-coma is hysteria; or by hysteria is meant a highly irritable state of the nervous system, most commonly met with in young unmarried women. There seems to be present, as its proximate cause, an excessive nervous vitality; and that excess, in its simplest manifestation, breaks out in fits of sobbing and crying, alternating often with laughter—a physical excitement of the system which yet fatigues and distresses the patient's mind, who cannot resist the unaccountable impulses. It is at the close of such a paroxysm of hysteria that trance-coma of a few hours' duration not unfrequently supervenes. It is almost a natural repose after the preceding stage of excitement. Hysteria, besides giving origin to a peculiar class of local ailments, is further the fruitful mother of most varieties of trance.
Trance-coma sometimes supervenes on fever, and the patient lies for hours or days on the seeming verge of death. I have known it ensue after mesmeric practice carried to an imprudent excess. Religious mental excitement will bring it on. In the following instance, which
I quote from the Rev. George Sandby's sensible and useful work on Mesmerism, the state of trance so supervening was probably trance-coma : “George Fox, the celebrated father of Quakerism, at one period lay in a trance for fourteen days, and people came to stare and wonder at him. He had the appearance of a dead man; but his sleep was full of divine visions of beauty and glory.”
Here is another instance, wherein the prevailing state must have been trance-coma. I quote it from the letter of an intelligent friend. It will help the reader to realise the general conception I wish to raise in his mind :
" I heard,” says my correspondent, “through the newspapers, of a case of trance ten miles from this place, and immediately rode to the village to verify it, and gain information about it. With some difficulty I persuaded the mother to allow me to see the entranced girl. Her name is Ann Cromer; she is daughter of a mason at Faringdon Gournay, ten miles from Bristol. She was lying in a state of general but not total suspension of the symptoms of life. Her breathing was perceptible by the heaving of the chest, and at times she had uttered low groans. Her jaws are locked, and she is incapable of the slightest movement, so as to create no other wrinkle in her bed-clothes but such as a dead weight would produce. When I saw her, she had not been moved for a week. Upon one occasion, when asked to show, by the pressure of the hand, if she felt any pain, a slight squeeze was perceptible. A very small portion of fluid is administered as food from time to time, but I neglected to discover how. Her hands are warm, and her mother thinks that she is conscious. Three days before I saw her, she spoke (incoherently) for the first time since her trance commenced. She repeated the Lord's Prayer, and asked for an aunt; but she rapidly relapsed, and her locked-jaw returned. Her mother considered this revival a sign of approaching death. The most remarkable feature in the case is the length of time that the girl has remained entranced. She was twelve years old when the fit supervened, and the locked-jaw followed in sixteen weeks afterwards. She is now twenty-five years of age, and will thus, in a month, if alive, have been in this condition for thirteen years. In the mean while she has grown from a child to a woman, though her countenance retains all the appearance of her former age. She is little else than skin and bone, except her cheeks. which are puffy. She is as pale as a corpse, and her eyes are sunk deep in the sockets.”
III. Simple or Initiatory Trance. In the lightest form of trance-sleep, the patient, though perfectly insensible to ordinary impressions, is not necessarily recumbent. If he is sitting when taken, he continues sitting; if previously lying, he will sometimes raise himself up when entranced. His joints are neither relaxed nor rigid: if you raise his arm, or bend the elbow, you experience a little resistance; and immediately after, probably, the limb is restored to its former posture. Such is the ordinary degree of muscular tone present; but either cataleptic immobility, or catochus, may accidentally coexist with initiatory trance. The patient may even remain standing rapt in his trance. I quote the following classic instance from the Edinburgh Review:—“There is a wonderful story told of Socrates. Being in military service in the expedition to Potidea, he is reported to have stood for twenty-four hours before the camp, rooted to the same spot and absorbed in deep thought, his arms folded and his eyes fixed upon one object, as if his soul were absent from his body.”
It is not my intention to dwell more on this form of trance at present. Various cases, exemplifying its varieties, will
be found in the letter on Religious Delusions. It is the commonest product of fanatical excitement. I have called this form initiatory trance, because, in day-somnambulism, it always precedes the half-waking which constitutes that state; and because it is the state into which mesmeric manipulators ordinarily first plunge the patient. Out of this initiatory state I have seen the patient thrown into trance-coma; but the ordinary progress of the experiment is to conduct him in the other direction—that is, towards trance-waking.
HALF-WAKING TRANCE, OR SOMNAMBULISM.—The same thing with ordi
nary sleep-walking — Its characteristic feature, the acting of a dream-Cases, and disquisition.
A CURIOUS fate somnambulism has had. While other forms of trance have been either rejected as fictions, or converted to the use of superstition, somnambulism with all its wonders, being at once undeniable and familiar, has been simply taken for granted. While her sisters have been exalted into mystical phenomena, and play parts in history, somnambulism has had no temple raised to her, has had no fear-worship, at the highest has been promoted to figure in an opera. Of a quiet and homely nature, she has moved about the house, not like a visiting demon, but as a maid of all work. To the public the phenomenon has presented no more interest than a soap-bubble, or the fall of an apple.
Somnambulism, as the term is used in England, exactly comprehends all the phenomena of half-waking trance.* The seizure mostly comes on during common sleep. But it may supervene in the daytime; in which case the patient first falls into the lightest form of trance
* Many writers employ the term somnambulism to denote indiscriminately several forms of trance, or trance in general. I prefer restricting it to the peculiar class of cases commonly known as sleep-walking.