Please Do Try This At Home!

April 19th, 2012

To carry out this simple but fascinating experiment you need the following apparatus:

i. A short stick or rod about seven or eight inches long – a pencil will do nicely.
ii. A thread – cotton, thin string, or something similar – about eight inches long.
iii. A small weight – a key, a ring, or some other small object which can easily be attached to the end of the thread.

Tie the thread to the end of the small stick or pencil. Attach the small weight to the other end of the thread. Now you have something which looks like some sort of miniature fishing rod. But it has a rather impressive name. What you’re holding now is Chevreul’s Pendulum.

Now – take a sheet of paper. Draw a bold, clear line on it, about six inches in length. Now you’re all set and ready to go!

1. Sit comfortably at a desk or a table with the sheet of paper in front of you. Make sure that your elbows are unsupported and not leaning on the table or on any chair arms. Hold the end of the stick or pencil – the opposite end to which the thread is attached – between your finger and thumb. Hold the pendulum so that the small weight is suspended about an inch above the line you have drawn on the paper. Gaze at the line. Concentrate on the line. Allow your attention to travel along the line, backwards and forwards. After a short while, without any voluntary effort on your part, the pendulum will start to move backwards and forwards along the length of the line.

2. While the pendulum is still swaying, rotate the paper a few degrees so that the line is at a different angle. Again, gaze at the line. Concentrate on the line. Allow your attention to travel along the line, backwards and forwards. After a short while, without any voluntary effort on your part, the pendulum will start to move backwards and forwards along the length of the line.

3. Draw a second line on the paper, at right angles to the first, to form a clear, bold cross on the paper. Suspend the weight over the centre point of the cross, where the two lines intersect. Concentrate on one line or the other. The pendulum will travel along whichever line you gaze and focus your attention on.

4. Draw a circle on the paper. Suspend the weight over roughly the centre of the circle. Gaze at the circle. Concentrate on the circle. Allow your concentration to travel along the circumference of the circle. The pendulum will soon start to move in a circular motion, clockwise or anticlockwise, depending on the direction of your attention.

Who devised this experiment, and what was it for? What does it prove?

The inventor of Chevreul’s Pendulum was the eminent French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul. His birth and death dates are pretty impressive: 1786 – 1889. Chevreul’s research into the properties of fatty acids lead to developments in the production of soap. But the invention of the Pendulum had nothing to do with his main scientific researches and everything to do with his intense antipathy to spiritualism and what he regarded as psychic charlatanism.

Spiritualism – a craze for séance, necromancy and other means of communication with the dead – became wildly popular in the 19th century and spread like wildfire throughout Europe. Pendulums, such as the one described above, were sometimes used by spiritualists and necromancers to “communicate” with dead spirits by swaying towards certain letters on a table or by tapping out “messages” on upturned wineglasses.

All Chevreul did was to take the pendulum out of the spiritualist context and demonstrate that pendulum movement happens anyway, without any help from poor, deceased Uncle Bartholomew! Chevreul’s work also shows that those 19th century spiritualists and séance leaders were acting in perfectly good faith precisely because the pendulum movement is non-voluntary.

Let us be absolutely clear about this – the pendulum moves because we move it. There are no mysterious forces at play here. But the movement is non-voluntary and therefore the pendulum seems to be moving on its own accord.

What does it all mean? To put it quite simply: Chevreul’s Pendulum is a test of suggestibility.

Suggestibility is a powerful and profound concept. Further research is desperately required. Suggestibility is the very essence of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. People often think that hypnosis is all about trances, but “trance”, however we define it, is induced by suggestion. And it is induced by hypnotherapists for the purpose of imparting suggestions.

We are all suggestible – every single one of us. It is our innate suggestibility which leads us to prefer the sight of a bluebell-covered forest to an inner-city multi-storey car park. It is the reason why we can be driven wild with excitement or moved to tears by music rather than simply registering it as vibrations in the air perceived through the ears. Non-voluntary body movements happen constantly. We are usually completely unaware of the expressions on our faces and what that says about us and our states of mind. Knee-jerk and reflex actions are familiar to all of us. “Body language” is simply the interpretation of non-voluntary bodily movements and posture.

But Chevreul’s Pendulum doesn’t work for everyone. Why not?

Chevreul’s Pendulum works for most people, and most people know full well that there is no “force” moving the pendulum other than the force coming from their own bodies. By letting imagination have free rein and by forgetting the body the pendulum seems to move as if by magic. I think that the people for whom Chevreul’s Pendulum doesn’t work have a problem with the whole idea of non-voluntary movement. Non-voluntary movement occurs independently of the human will and therefore outside of its direct control. For some, such a lack of control is indicative of weakness and should therefore be resisted. The resistance may be unconscious, but it is there nevertheless.

Or maybe those for whom Chevreul’s Pendulum won’t move are worried in case an illusion should take the place of reality. The pendulum seems to be moving on its own accord. This cannot be the case, therefore it is an illusion, something unreal. To believe in something unreal cannot be good – can it?

Yet the experience itself is as real as 2 + 2 = 4. Suggestibility is not weakness or gullibility. It is the ability to look beyond the “real” towards the ideal. Suggestion is the key to surpassing one’s perceived limitations, drawing upon unperceived and unmeasured potentiality and turning the seemingly impossible into a new reality.

And the good news is that suggestibility is something which can be developed. So – if at first you don’t succeed…

The key is within your grasp.

Horsham Hypnotherapy: serving clients from Horsham, Crawley, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Guildford, Redhill and all parts of West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey. Contact us today.

2 Responses to “Please Do Try This At Home!”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    I’m not arguing that hysnpois does not have a feeling associated with it but that hat would be useful in these tight economic times. So here goesI think its possible that for an individual, a heightened state of suggestibility *could* have a subjective feeling associated with it.I remember having depth tests done on me in class and passing for light levels, internally I was reminded of being at the dentist or possibly doctors office at a young age. there was no abreaction to speak of, just a vague sense of being young and in a clinical setting and following instructions.I have no idea whether or not I went to a dentist at a very young age who was versed in hypnodontics. What I’m suggesting is that a state of suggestibility could feel’ like what it felt like on a different occasion while in the presence of an individual who wielded greater than normal suggestive power, due to credentials or status. As in the case of an MD, where the expectation of being around an expert in something can make one more open to their suggestions.Also I think its possible (in theory) for someone to be so in tune with their bodies that they could get a feeling associated with some of the physiological changes that occur in hysnpois such as the changeover to smooth muscle groups that produce catalepsy and increased blood flow to capillaries.

  2. Neil Hall Says:

    Elizabeth – thanks for the comment and apologies for not responding sooner. I’m not sure that the subjective experience of the trance state has much bearing upon the effectiveness of therapeutic suggestions. Some clients are somewhat inhibited by their own preconceptions of what hypnosis will be like. Personally, I don’t think that the state of hypnosis (if it is a “state”) necessarily has any hard and fast defining characteristices – it can alter from one session to the next. Re. your last sentence: does being “in tune with their bodies” imply an alteration in the quality of consciousness?

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