A condition involving the sudden suspension of sensation
and volition and the partial suspension of vital functions. The
body assumes a rigid appearance, sometimes mistaken for
death, and the victim remains unconscious throughout the attack.
On occasion, the cataleptic state may be marked by symptoms
of intense mental excitement and by apparently volitional
speech and action. Sometimes the symptoms are hardly distinguishable
from those of hysteria.
The period covered by the attack may vary from a few minutes
to several days, although the latter occurs only in exceptional
cases. An attack may recur, however, on only trifling
provocation in the absence of strong resistance by the victim.
Catalepsy is said to be caused by a pathological condition of
the nervous system, generally produced by severe or prolonged
mental emotion, and should not be confused with hypnotic
Castel-A-Mare Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
trance. The belief that the condition may occur in a perfectly
healthy person is probably fallacious. There is speculation that
catalepsy, like ecstasy and mediumistic faculties, may at times
prove contagious.
Catalepsy is associated with schizophrenia and hysteria, and
there is reason to believe that it can be self-induced in certain
cases. Eastern fakirs have been known to cast themselves into a
cataleptic sleep lasting for months, and cases have even been
reported where they permitted themselves to be buried, being
exhumed when the grass had grown over their graves.
Some forms of trance induced by hypnotism appear similar
to the cataleptic state.
Dendy, W. C. Philosophy of Mystery. London, 1841.