Central to the understanding of the Life of the Crowd is the belief, the suspicion that the skilled operator can hypnotise those who submit themselves to him or her. If the route to Logic is blocked, say the suspicious, the crowd will be at the mercy of suggestibility and at its worst this is brought on by a hypnotic force, where individuality and intelligence can be set aside.


The Crowd is then suggestible, says Le Bon. Those who knew Adolf Hitler (such as Albert Speer and Unity Mitford) give testament to his hypnotic powers, that his eyes and bodily movements made his listeners succumb.

This has become an idee fixe, in the same way as Picasso is said to have an hypnotic gaze. But at least the latter was physically attactive, whereas Hitler was physically sallow with a ridiculous moustache. There is work yet to be done on Hitler's techniques of oratory and their relationship to what he knew about Hypnotism, his quasi-sexual delivery of speeches, his timing, gestures and expressions, which are communicated so well in contemporary film, and so feebly in posed studio photographs.

A crucial source of ideas in the period before the development of Lewis' painting was William Macdougall's article on HYPNOTISM in the 10th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910)


four pages of scanned text

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