Hypermesmerism

15 Sep

It began in 1925 when a young Berlin film scenarist finished reading a book and then had a dream in which he saw and heard a man long dead.

The volume was a study of hypnotism and the person in his vision was Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, the founder of the movement named for him. Hans Igel heard a command from a this figure in a formal black suit.

“Learn my hypnotic method and write a movie story based upon it!” ordered the voice from the past. “You shall be the one to create a film based on the new science that I founded. It will bring the truth to millions. You shall become famous.”

All the following day, the unemployed cinema writer thought over the many implications of what he had seen and heard. Could he formulate a film plot based on hypnotism? How was he to start? Could he present such arcane material to the general public? Would it be accepted by anyone?

Hans had worked as an assistant to the film director Robert Wiene in 1920, in the group that had produced “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”. This spectacular horror film had been a breakthrough for the new UFA studios that were coming to dominate German cinema. As the film industry in the capital expanded, with hundreds of new productions each year in Berlin, jobs opened for this writer from Bavaria. In 1922, Hans worked for Friedrich Murnau when he directed “Nosferatu, the Vampire”, the pioneering film in the monster genre. This frontier area of pictures drew young writers and set designers active in the burgeoning Expressionist movement in painting and all the arts. The unreal and unnatural were now open for exploration by creative pioneers in the cinematic medium. From the inner reaches of the artistic mind, new realities surfaced. Things not seen before became subjects of the cinematic imagination.

Igel envisioned himself as eventually becoming a writer-director at the studios.

The previous year, 1924, he had assisted his mentor, Robert Wiene, in the shooting of “The Hands of Orlac”. Methods used in staging eerie movie dramas were now known to him. His need was to write an innovative script that could attract interest and financing. Igel was certain he had mastered the silent film of his day. How was he to open the right doors? How was he going to express what he now thought he knew?

Looking at the book that had inspired his dream on Mesmerism, Hans stared at the name on the title page: Dr. Ernst Zunft. A physician, if living in Berlin, should be in the telephone book. Yes, in seconds he found the address of the author. It was on Kantstrasse. The man was in the capital practicing in the medical profession.

Although it was late afternoon, Hans went out with a round straw hat on. Chaotic noises of car horns rose in the congested, clogged streets. Choking exhaust gases were merciless, sparing no one. He caught a crowded trolley car on the strassenbahn that took him to the neighborhood of the mesmerist who could educate him further in the area that had taken hold of him.

The doctor’s office, on the ground floor of a gigantic stone building, was still open and in full operation.

Out of breath and with heart pounding, Hans informed the nurse-receptionist that he wished to see her employer on a very private matter.

“Do you want to have a physical examination, sir?” asked the woman in white.

“No, I am not ill. My visit has to do with something entirely different. My name is Hans Igel and I need to talk with the doctor on a purely scientific subject.”

She gave him a piercing look. “He will be free in a minute or so. Please be seated, sir.”

In a short while, an elderly woman came out of the inner chamber and the nurse went in. When she returned, she informed Hans that he could go in and see the doctor. The writer did just that.

Ernst Zunft was a surprisingly short man with thick white hair. He sat behind a large mahogany desk and invited the stranger to sit down across fom him.

“What is it I can do for you, Mr. Igel?”

The latter gave a forced smile.

“After having read your book on hypnotism, Doctor, I had to establish a personal relationship, which I am now about to accomplish. Let me explain.

“My ambition is to dig deeper and advance further. The more that I learn, the greater my appetite for more. Never in my life has such curiosity seized me.”

“What is your profession, may I inquire?” Zunft looked at his visitor with sharp, clear blue eyes.

“I work in the film industry, at UFA studios when I am on a project, sir.”

“I can recomment further reading for you. In fact, I can lend you some books from my home library. Are you busy this evening?”

“No,” answered Hans with emotion.

“If you wish, you may accompany me to my flat. I am not married and entirely free tonight. It could interest you to converse with me there.”

“Yes,” said the scenarist, astonished at the degree of his success.

Zunft lived on the top tenth storey of a modern Friedrichstrasse cement structure. Though the doctor asked Hans if he wished something to eat or drink, the young man said no.

The pair sat down in a front room with modern Scandinavian furniture.

“I keep my medical practice separate from my mesmeric activities,” began the physician.”Only when a patient asks on his or her own do I apply that method.”

“My aim is to explore the furthest areas of hypnotism,” said Hans. “There is nothing I dare overlook in my quest for knowledge. My curiosity has no bounds to it.”

The doctor thought a short time, then made a surprising revelation.

“I am involved with a circle dedicated to the original thoughts and teachings of Mesmer. We meet in order to help each other in our mental development and growth. The group is a source of enlightment for all its members. If I gave you a recommendation, would you be willing to participate?”

Hans felt his heart jump. “Yes, of course I would.”

“We assemble here at my place in two nights,” announced Zunft. “You are very welcome to join us. In the meantime, I shall give you several books you can look into with interest.”

“I am overwhelmed by your generosity,” confessed the visitor with inner joy.

Of all the topics given him to study, the one that enchanted Hans the most was that on self-hypnotism. Its author was Ernst Zunft and it opened  several new doors for the film writer.

The enthused novice found the doctor with three men and one woman at the first evening session. Zunft made introductions. The tall, frail blond female was named Sara Geistig.

A circle formed on folding chairs round the doctor. The latter started to speak with all eyes centered on him.

“Our new friend has told me of his fascination with self-hypnosis and I am happy to inform him that the subject is the central area our group deals with. So, this evening each of us will individually perform auto-mesmerization. I myself  shall instruct and supervise Hans as he joins us in self-induced trance.” He turned his eyes on the new member. “Are we all ready? If so, let us begin the eye passes that will bring focused attention to each of us.”

One by one, the participants became inert and glassy-eyed.

The last to be transformed into a trance was the new man, Hans.

Without being at all conscious of it, he fell into an abstracted state of mind in which his self-consciousness disappeared.

All six individuals entered a self-induced state of trance.

Awakening came to Hans and the others when the doctor snapped his fingers .

All the members seemed eager to leave for home. Hans was the last to depart. He said hardly anything beyond what politeness required.

Hans sensed himself in a condition never experienced by him before.

The following morning, the scenarist took a street trolley out to the UFA studios in the suburb of Neubabelsberg to hunt for work on any new production project. As expected, there were no new openings for him to apply for. As he left the company office, though, he caught sight of a familiar face approaching him. What was Sara Geistig doing here? he wondered as he recognized and approached her.

The pair stopped, exchanging searching looks.

“Mr. Igel!” exclaimed the young woman. “What a surprise to see you at the studios. I am employed in the art department of the production division. My current assignment is one of set design for the Fritz Lang film soon to be shot.”

“Is that the film called “Metropolis”?” inquired Hans.

“That’s right,” she smiled. “Our unit is building a scenery set for the year 2000. It is a difficult task because no one has ever tried anything like it before.”

“I suppose that you will have guidance from the director, Mr. Lang.” A sudden idea struck him. “Are you on he job at the moment? If not, we could have some coffee at the corner shop, Miss Geistig.”

It happened she was free, so that the pair were soon sitting, drinking, and conversing at a small table.

Hans decided to reveal his plans and ambitions.

“I am gathering material for a film script centered on hypnotism as its theme. So far, though, the story line eludes me. But as I learn more in our group, I believe the scenario will begin to take definite form. It will solidify for me.

“My success in auto-hypnosis is a great step forward for me. I have to find application for this new skill that I owe to Dr. Zunft.”

Looking directly into the pearl eyes of Sara, he noticed a shadowy, misty movement there.

“That is most interesting,” she told him. “I believe that your work will turn out to be of value. But you are only at the beginning so far. There are aspects of what we do that are still unfamiliar to you. Are there not?”

“Indeed, there are,” he affirmed, grinning and nodding his head.

She smiled back. “You will be surprised at what lies ahead,” she playfully murmured, revealing no more to him.

At the next group session in his apartment, Dr. Zunft divided the members into two subgroups of three. “My own trio will stay here in the parlor,” he explained. “The rest of you can go into the kitchen and take seats at the table there.”

Hans was pleased that he and Sara were both in the unit assigned to leave the parlor. The third person who went into the kitchen with them was a fat, rotund Berlin merchant.

Ernst Zunft appeared at the entrance to the back room and gave instructions to the trio there.

“Very early in his career, Franz Mesmer developed auto-hypnotic powers so deep and strong that the result was telesthetic contact with many patients. But the medical profession of his time forced him into silence. The entire subject of the psychic was suppressed. Until our own day, this area within auto-hypnotism has been forgotten and prohibited. It was considered too dangerous to experiment with by several generations of mesmerists.

“But tonight our group will explore this subject long kept in the shadows by the followers of Dr. Mesmer.

“Each of you must now enter a self-created trance. We in the parlor shall do exactly the same. In five minutes, we shall concentrate our mesmerized minds upon a specific psychic message to those of you in the kitchen.

“Later we shall examine the results and learn whether anyone received the concentrated message transmitted out of the front parlor.”

With that, the leader of the experiment disappeared.

“We are going to find out tonight if auto-mesmerism is truly the door to telesthesia,” whispered Sara. “My hope is that we break across the boundary of the single mind and are able to bridge the divisions between individuals.”

Like his companions, Hans entered into deep trance.

A long wait for successful communication began between the two groups.

When the sextette assembled in the parlor, Dr. Zunft asked the trio that had been in the kitchen to write down on a small pad of paper any message picked up in their minds during the hypnotic session. When their pads were collected, he found that only one of them had anything written on it, the one given to him by Hans Igel.

“Please describe for us what you received,” asked the doctor. All eyes turned on the newest member. Everyone waited to hear him speak.

“Ethereal vibrations from the mind can reach anywhere in the universe,” slowly said Hans with care and precision.

“Congratulations,” smiled Zunft. “You are absolutely correct. Psychic contact between minds has been achieved here tonight.”

The entire circle rose to its feet and each member stepped over to shake hands with the successful beginner.

Sara, the last to do so, whispered in his ear. “You are phenomenal!”

Little by little, the following sessions experienced messages from the other room. Ideas came to flow in both directions. A strange traffic began to exist.

One evening Hans took Sara to dinner at a Bavarian restaurant , then escorted her home to her apartment on Kurfurstendammstrasse.

The pair came to see more and more of each other outside their circle.

She learned, one evening at her flat, that he had started to write his scenario script on Dr. Mesmer.

“Sara, our group has advanced far beyond anything imagined in the past. We are about to enter a new universe of the mind. Society will never be the same once our discoveries become public. We are pioneers.

“That is what my scenario and the film based upon it will do: open eyes and minds to a new understanding.”

“I do not fully comprehend,” she confessed. “May I read what you have written, Hans?”

“Certainly,” he grinned at her. “You can peruse it tomorrow evening, Sara.”

She waited with nervous anticipation the next day to read what he had promised to bring her. He presented a short synopsis prepared for UFA. She went through it with rising emotion.

“By the year 2025, Berlin is a city run by a clique of psychic mesmerists. All positions of power, both governmental and private, are occupied by hypnotized persons who receive telesthetic commands and messages from a central bureau of mind control.These subjects of hypnosis then have power over the rest of the population. They dominate everyone with ruthless dictatorial force.

“A psychiatrist named Funken, perceiving the destructive effects of this system upon his patients, organizes his medical colleagues against the psychic tyranny. A rebellion of the hypnotized against their psychic masters is planned and prepared by the conspirators. But the central control bureau learns of it from a disloyal doctor working in the hospital run by Funken. The arrest and imprisonment of the latter occurs. He undergoes torture and continuous interrogation by the secret service of the psychic-hypnotic rulers. His rescue is arranged by the European medical profession beyond Berlin and Germany. A united Europe of psychologists and mental healers helps Funken overthrow the Berlin dictatorship of hypermesmerism.”

Sara was speechless for a considerable while.

“Where did you get your ideas, Hans?” she finally asked the writer.

“I cannot say for sure. What happened in our circle was important. It is all speculative fantasy, of course. Mesmeric centralized tyranny will never come to fruition, I think. It is impossible.”

“Yes, of course,” agreed Sara.

There was nothing unusual at the start of the next meeting of the circle.

“We shall all sit here in the parlor,” announced Dr. Zunft. “I have something very special prepared for us tonight. It is going to be a surprise.”

The six members formed a circle of seats, their leader at the center.

“Let us all close our eyes and concentrate on inner tranquility and silence,” the doctor directed them. All present did as told, including Hans Igel. The latter sensed an undefined inner joy. He was calm and confident. Hopes for his scenario script had never been so high for him.

What will I learn about the mind this evening? Hans wondered.

All of a sudden, he felt someone grip his arm tightly.

Ernst Zunft spoke to him in a low, commanding tone.

“It has become necessary for our group to correct an error that has occurred. We are not ready to publicize our achievements or share the methods discovered here. There has been a terrible act of treason done to our principle of secrecy. The person responsible for this infraction must receive full punishment for it and be stopped. You are the one guilty of a perfidious revelation in the film script you composed.”

Hans realized that it was Sara who had betrayed him to the circle and its leader.

“Let us concentrate all our minds on that of the culprit,” proposed Zunft.

Hans fell to the floor, unconscious in a single moment.

His memory was wiped clean by the force of six hypnotists focusing upon it.

Many in the Berlin film community wondered what had happened to the young scenarist named Hans Igel.

One rumor held that after a nervous collapse he returned to his native Bavaria, where he ended up in a mental sanitarium in the Alps. He puzzled several analysts and psychotherapists with strange tales about his life in Berlin. No one was able to understand the unfortunate young man.

He suffered an obsessive mania about something he called hypermesmerism.

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