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During the late nineteenth century, Spanish physicians had few chances to observe how hypnosis worked within a clinical context. However, they had abundant opportunities to watch lay hypnotizers in action during private demonstrations or on stage.
Drawing on the exemplary cases of the magnetizers Alberto Santini Sgaluppi a. Alberto Das and Onofroff, in this paper I discuss the positive influence of stage magnetizers on medical hypnosis in Spain. I conclude that Spain might be no exception in this regard, and that further research should be undertaken into practices in other countries.
According to them, lay hypnosis was extremely dangerous from the point of view of public health. In his opinion, because of their lack of training, physicians were responsible for more danger to the public from hypnosis than the stage magnetizers were. Hippolyte Bernheim and other representatives called for a gradual appropriation of lay hypnosis in order to extend their medical authority over the field. To promote the scientific status of hypnosis, a common strategy adopted by physicians was to demarcate the clinical use of hypnotism from its recreational use as part of stage magnetism shows.
At the congress, some French attendees alleged that this inclusion in the teaching programme was already a reality in France, while physicians from other countries made it clear that, unfortunately, France was an exception in this respect. In Spain, physicians using hypnosis declared themselves to be self-taught. The primary sources leave no doubt that physicians and other scientists regularly and eagerly attended stage hypnosis shows, having been unable, it seems, to satisfy their curiosity in any other way.
In this paper I discuss the positive influence that stage magnetizers had on the spread of hypnosis within the medical community in Spain. Hence, though most physicians claimed to be scandalized by the demonstrations, they had good reason to attend them and learn hypnotic techniques through observation. In other words, their attendance at such events cannot be reduced to their alleged desire to condemn lay hypnosis and their reported outrage on leaving performances.
Just as one can learn artificial resuscitation techniques by observing someone perform them on a mannequin, so physicians could learn how to hypnotize by watching stage magnetizers in action, fraud or no fraud. To exemplify these arguments, I start by giving a brief overview of medical hypnosis in Spain before examining the cases of two lay hypnotists who had a major impact on the country. First, I present Alberto Santini Sgaluppi a.
Alberto Das , an alleged charlatan who contributed to the medical interest in hypnosis. Then, I deal with Onofroff, a stage magnetizer committed to popularizing hypnosis, despite having the medical establishment against him. In general, the approach of the Nancy School was more attractive to Spanish psychiatrists than was Charcot's experimental hypnotism.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Spanish psychiatry had become focused on therapeutics and some physicians were willing to embrace suggestion as a clinical practice.
Hence, hypnotism became a synonym of psychotherapy. Scepticism was fuelled by different circumstances. On the one hand, the Catholic Church warned the population of the loss of free will during hypnotic sleep and the possibility of being involved in crime without knowing it. On the other hand, the use of hypnosis in theatres and spiritist seances, 15 combined with its absence from the medical curriculum in universities, generated uncertainties about its scientific status and its therapeutic applications.
To remedy this situation, between and Melcior ran a small charitable clinic in Barcelona where he offered free hypnotic treatments with great success, despite the initial mistrust of the patients. He had little to no experience in hypnotherapy before opening the clinic. By the end of the nineteenth century, medical books on hypnosis existed alongside works frequently authored by alleged doctors and professors with vaguely Oriental-sounding pseudonyms that aimed to popularize hypnosis.
According to the military physician Lorenzo Aycart d. What did they have to offer that could not be found in the books? From A. Pastor, Valladolid, ; first published , p.
No matter how didactic popular or medical works on hypnotism may have been, it is clear that witnessing how a subject was hypnotized, instead of merely reading about it, provided a far better understanding of the techniques involved. In practice, Spanish medical hypnotists shared a common point of departure: they started as amateurs with few chances, if any, of seeing how hypnosis was used in Spanish clinics, but with plenty of opportunities to witness it on stage.
However, unlike their colleagues in Austria, Italy and Belgium, where physicians backed laws to ban stage hypnosis — passed in , and respectively 23 — Spanish medical hypnotists thought that there was no need to bring in new legislation to control magnetizers; rather, they could be judged using existing charges, such as fraud and illicit medical practice.
Physicians attending stage hypnosis shows usually said they left scandalized. In the works of most Spanish medical hypnotists we can find accurate descriptions of the procedures used in these spectacles. These practitioners have also been shown to have had a good knowledge of the methods employed by foreigners, such as Hansen and Donato, the most celebrated stage magnetizers in Europe. For instance, the popular stage magnetizer Onofroff adopted less spectacular procedures, such as Braidian visual fixation.
In his words:. Physicians were not the ones who invented hypnotism, nor were physicians the first magnetizers. Such an affirmation represented a fresh view within the Spanish medical setting. Physicians using hypnosis recognized the influence of animal magnetism — a prior non-scientific phase of hypnosis, they said — but they were not keen to recognize the knowledge transfer from magnetizers and lay hypnotists to medical experts. As Fred Nadis has shown, by the turn of the twentieth century, some stage magnetizers were no longer interested in displaying the marvels of hypnosis by simply praising its mysterious wonders.
On the contrary, many tried to mimic science. In such cases they often adopted academic titles such as professor or doctor, and their demonstrations usually started with a short lecture on hypnotism and its therapeutic benefits. That was then followed by a practical lesson using alleged patients or a person from the audience. The lack of an authoritative voice on the subject made it easier for itinerant magnetizers — usually foreigners — to convince the audience of their supposed expertise in medical hypnosis.
In their demonstrations, they presented hypnotherapy as a cutting-edge treatment in order to establish their clinics and make a handsome living. Such was the case of Alberto Santini Sgaluppi d.
He used several different surnames, usually Das or Sarak, and fraudulent medical and noble titles. Little is known of him, but his own version of events was that he was an American citizen and a member of the Washington Academy of Medicine, born in India.
Every time he was accused of charlatanism, he argued that he was being mistaken for an Italian who had stolen his name and diplomas.
Alberto Santini Sgaluppi in his aristocratic gown. Unlike most magnetizers, who usually performed in large theatres, Das's predilection was for entertaining the aristocracy in private sessions, with renowned physicians also present.
He founded a weekly journal entitled La Hipnoterapia Hypnotherapy , of which, unfortunately, no copies seem to have survived. The programme for such events was rather eclectic. Clinical discussions of the use of hypnosis as an anaesthetic were mixed with wondrous demonstrations of hallucinations induced by hypnotic suggestion.
During demonstrations, he expressed his opposition to stage hypnosis and his will to fight for the triumph of hypnotherapy. Das's fame was such that he even demonstrated hypnosis to the monarchy. Such demonstrations took the form of both clinical and amusing exhibitions, in which science and spectacle blended together as in the didactic eighteenth-century experiments with electricity by the clergyman and physicist Jean Nollet — In early , Das received the prestigious Order of Queen Isabel the Catholic: a civil order granted by the royal court in recognition of services of benefit to the country.
By then, Pulido was trying to establish himself as a reference for medical hypnotism in Spain. During a demonstration of hypnosis at the Sociedad de Higiene Hygiene Society , Pulido and his supporters accused Das of being a charlatan. As I have shown elsewhere, the reason for this failure was that their demonstration mimicked a stage hypnosis show. Although the opening and closing lectures were aimed at condemning the recreational use of hypnosis, during the practical demonstration they induced hypnotic phenomena similar to those exhibited by stage magnetizers — for instance, they made a woman act as different animals or witness an apparition of the Virgin.
Consequently, they ended up entertaining the audience instead of offering a statement of the dangers of hypnotism in the hands of alleged charlatans such as Das. This suggests that Spanish medical hypnotists did not know how to provide a clinical display of hypnosis in order to demarcate it from stage shows.
As Jacqueline Carroy argues, for most stage magnetizers Charcot's lectures did not differ essentially from their own demonstrations. As Asti Hustvedt shows, hysteric subjects were often exchanged between stage and medical hypnotists. Pulido's attack had no effect on Das's reputation. The best proof of this is that, around , Das founded the first Spanish clinic devoted exclusively to hypnotic treatments: the Spanish Hypnotherapeutic Institute.
Besides attending to patients, Das taught hypnotherapy courses on two afternoons a week, thereby helping popularize the view that hypnosis was not dangerous, but therapeutically beneficial. After all, it is clear that many men of science were fascinated by Das and regarded him as an expert in hypnosis before he was discovered to be a fraud.
Not long ago, in the major cities of our country, we experienced the disappointment, and even the professional embarrassment, of witnessing the spectacle offered by some men of science …, welcoming, flattering and becoming devotees of a self-styled doctor [Alberto Das] whose academic diploma I do not know if anyone saw in hypnosis performances that did not offer any scientific novelty, nor the explanations of the hypnotist ….
I do not know if this flamboyant hypnotist, who turned out to be something worse than a simple charlatan, I do not know if he went back to his land grateful for the kindness our physicians showed him, or pleased and satisfied for having initiated us in a science [hypnosis] that he must have thought was completely unknown, or almost so, in this corner of Europe. It is important to note that Spanish medical hypnotists were reluctant to cite Das's name, while they had no problem in naming other magnetizers who were not causing trouble in their own country, such as Donato.
The quotation above is an example of this deliberate desire to erase Das from the history of hypnotism in Spain, an end that was most certainly achieved. At the end of , Das was sent to prison because he had transformed the Spanish Hypnotherapeutic Institute into a luxurious asylum and could not afford to maintain its debts.
Unable to present his medical diploma or demonstrate his noble title to the police, he started to be called a charlatan in the press. With his reputation ruined, Das left Spain for Belgium, where he played the same role, and also seduced the Belgian monarchy with his demonstrations of hypnosis before being expelled from the country for fraud in The case of Alberto Das shows that, on his arrival in Spain, there was no clear reference point as to what a medical expert in hypnosis should be like, and what he would be capable of achieving therapeutically through suggestion.
Once again, this is an indirect accusation aimed at Das without mentioning his name, in order to avoid giving him more publicity.
To summarize, despite the disdain of medical hypnotists, it is clear that before his arrest in , Das's public acknowledgement helped the scientific and popular interest in hypnosis, contributing to the illumination of a subject that had been scorned. At the same time, hypnosis became a worthy topic for medical journals to consider and some physicians claimed to be experts in the field, asking for a clear demarcation between lay and medical hypnotism. While propounding their expertise, they tried to erase any trace of Das's influence in Spain.
Alberto Das was not the only lay hypnotist who fascinated physicians and perhaps lectured to them on hypnosis at that time. Some Spanish doctors openly showed an interest in one of the most acclaimed stage magnetizers in both Europe and America: Onofroff Figure 3. The real identity of this character is still unclear. He was said to be Russian, Belgian, Polish or even Catalan. Onofroff assured those who enquired that he was Italian but had been raised in Toulouse, where he allegedly started a degree in medicine.
Unlike other stage magnetizers, Onofroff had a long professional career and retired to Barcelona in , where he founded a school to teach hypnosis by correspondence. A cartoon depicting Onofroff. From F. Onofroff first arrived in Madrid in , when the scandal over Das had subsided. Unlike Das, he performed in big theatres and did not try to open a hypnosis clinic, though he did call himself a doctor.
His first stay in Spain lasted less than three years. In the spring of the Hygiene Society — the same organization that tried to expose Das in — communicated their concerns regarding Onofroff to the governor of the province.
Hypnosis lessons by stage magnetizers: Medical and lay hypnotists in Spain
During the late nineteenth century, Spanish physicians had few chances to observe how hypnosis worked within a clinical context. However, they had abundant opportunities to watch lay hypnotizers in action during private demonstrations or on stage. Drawing on the exemplary cases of the magnetizers Alberto Santini Sgaluppi a. Alberto Das and Onofroff, in this paper I discuss the positive influence of stage magnetizers on medical hypnosis in Spain. I conclude that Spain might be no exception in this regard, and that further research should be undertaken into practices in other countries. According to them, lay hypnosis was extremely dangerous from the point of view of public health.
Hypnosis lessons by stage magnetizers: Medical and lay hypnotists in Spain.