Stomach, Seeing with the
A phenomenon occasionally observed by the followers of
Franz Anton Mesmer in their somnambules (hypnotic subjects).
In a cataleptic state closely resembling death, the subject
would sometimes show no signs of intelligence when questions
were directed to the ears, but if the questions were addressed
to the pit of the stomach, or sometimes to the fingertips or toes,
an answer would be given immediately. Several such cases were
recorded by one Dr. Pététin, of Lyons, France, who in 1808
published Electricité Animale, and by other mesmerists. Not only
hearing, but seeing, tasting, and smelling were apparently performed
by the stomach, independent of the sensory organs.
Pététin attributed the phenomenon to ‘‘animal electricity’’
and stated that objects placed on the patient’s stomach were
not seen when they were wrapped in wax or silk, that is, nonconductors.
It was believed that the best way to communicate
with a subject in the cataleptic state was for the operator to
place his hand on the subject’s stomach and address questions
to the fingertips of his own free hand.
This trance phenomenon, as well as others similar to it,
might now be considered to be the result of suggestion or hyperesthesia.
(See also Eyeless Sight; Transposition of the
Senses