Chapter 5

Hypnosis



Hypnosis



Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. It happens when a state of mind is achieved in which suggestions alter someone's awareness, memory, or thinking in a way that the hypnotized person responds to the alteration as if it were reality.”


In all magickal practices we see hypnotic techniques being used, sometimes effectively but generally not so. Part of the problem is that most people have a poor idea as to what is and is not possible with hypnosis, the nature of the hypnotic state and how it can be induced. This chapter outlines basic theory and techniques and provides enough detail and references for both application and further in-depth study.
We cut to a scene inside Baker Street Underground station in London, at the bank of public telephones. One of them is ringing and after a short while a passer-by, a woman, decides to answer it. She listens for a minute or so and then slumps to the ground unconscious. What could possibly cause such behavior?
The entire sequence of events was being recorded by the production team of a man called Derren Brown1 for later transmission on his TV show. He is what used to be termed a “mentalist”, that is, someone who specializes in psychological magic and hypnosis. The above was a spectacular example of remote hypnosis, in this case across a phone line. Although he does not explain some of his feats, this one he did. At the time of writing it is on his website along with the video. First, and most important, it was no trick. The woman was unknown to anyone involved and was only there because she decided to answer the telephone. This, it turns out, was crucial for more than the obvious reason. It meant she was self-selected as someone who was suggestible. When she answered the phone she found herself on the receiving end of a barrage of complex questions and instructions which were impossible to follow. After listening to this for some time she was given one final instruction which, gratefully, her mind could grasp and act upon – “Go to sleep!” – which she promptly did. The specific technique used is referred to as “Confusion Induction” and will be examined later, along with remote hypnosis.
Hypnotic techniques are of great interest and utility when it comes to accessing different facets of the mind. Common to all is the setting aside of the critical faculty, leaving open other aspects of the mind to directly interact without many of the long established censorship rules and barriers that would normally keep them under control. It has been said that the critical faculty of the mind is the part that passes judgment, and that hypnosis is the establishment of a mode of highly selective thinking that bypasses it. Central to this is either the distraction of the critical faculty, or inducing it to sleep while the rest of the mind remains awake.
As we will see later, hypnotic technology has a key role in explaining, clarifying and massively enhancing magickal practices.

Early History


Hypnotic techniques have been used throughout history, and it is known that the ancient Egyptians used a form of it in their dream temples, which were extremely popular and subsequently spread through Greece and Asia Minor and eventually to Rome. Among the Romans the famed physician Aesculapius often cast his patients into a deep sleep and alleviated pain by stroking with his hand.
Perhaps the best source of reference to hypnosis in early Egypt comes from the famous Third Century CE Demotic Magical Papyrus2 which was discovered in the 19th Century in Thebes. The technique describes using a young boy who was in training for the priesthood to gaze steadily into a lamp while a priest recited the following words until a “great light” appeared to the boy.

O Osiris, O lamp that giveth vision of the things above, and of the things below the earth. O lamp, O lamp, Amon is moored in thee. O lamp, O lamp, I invoke thee, go thou up to the shore of the great sea of Syria, the sea of Osiris. Go and find Osiris on his papyrus boat, Isis at his head, Nephthys at his feet, and the gods and goddesses about him. Speak O Isis, and let Osiris be told the things I ask, let him cause the god to come here in whose hand is the command of the day, and give me full answer to all I request here today...” and so on. Then the light is invoked saying “Hail O light, come forth, come forth, O light, rise, rise, O light, grow, grow, O light! O that which is outside your vision come in!”

The Priest says this nine times until the light increases and the god appears. The procedure ends when the god answers the operators questions through the boy.

The advent of Christianity forced a decline in the use of hypnosis for all purposes including trance healing as it was considered to be witchcraft. It was only in the aftermath of the Renaissance that it began to surface openly in a variety of forms.
Skipping forward some fifteen hundred years or so we come to Franz Anton Mesmer3 who was the New Age medical practitioner of the 18th Century par excellence and is credited with being a pioneer of modern hypnotic techniques in healing. A student of Maximilian Hell (and you can't get a better name than that...), his teachings were varied but largely focused around the then mysterious phenomenon of magnetism. He taught of animal magnetism, universal fluids and their proper distribution in healthy bodies, of the magnetization of inanimate (and non-magnetic) objects such as wood and water, the effects of the planets, the importance of passing the hands across the patients body and so forth. In particular he believed in the efficacy of various “magnetized” metals in curing specific ailments, a technique called metallo-therapy, and that “animal magnetism” flows accounted for his cures.
However, amid all the baseless theorizing he did achieve seemingly miraculous cures. Such cures occurred as a result of what he called “crises” that his technique of hypnotic induction created. When he had created the proper attitude on the part of the patient he triggered a crisis with its attendant convulsive spasms and trance. After this had passed the patient would go limp and in many cases the illness had dissipated. It was only later that Mesmer chanced upon the passive sleep-like state that we recognize today as a feature of modern hypnotism.
Since his skills were in great demand, of necessity he was also a pioneer of group therapy or at least a pioneer in mass treatments. For example, he constructed a magnetizing tub with up to thirty handles that could direct the magnetic energy to the patients en masse. He added to the gravitas of the proceedings with music and by walking amongst the patients dressed in impressive silk robes, occasionally touching the patients to increase the magnetism and help precipitate the healing crisis.
His downfall came with the report of an investigation committee set up by the French government which included the chemist Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and Dr. Guillotin. They came to the conclusion that although he appeared to cure people his methods were dubious, especially the “magnetism” aspects. They saw that cures occurred even when patients accidentally touched the wrong metals or materials that had not been magnetized when they believed them to be. In short, he suffered the fate of many modern alternative medical practices from “Crystal Healing” to Reiki where the undoubted beneficial effects have nothing to do with the alleged theoretical reasons given for the efficacy of the treatment. It was the belief itself that was curative and the explanation and circus surrounding the event was merely window dressing that created and bolstered that necessary belief.
Because of its demonstrated practical benefits Mesmerism, as it came to be called, continued to be of interest to a physicians through the 19th Century. In 1843CE the English physician James Braid created the term hypnosis from the Greek hypnos, to sleep, although the hypnotic trance is very different from the normal sleeping state.
There were numerous demonstrations of practical applications of hypnosis preceding the discovery of anesthetics during this period with regard to serious pain management. For example James Esdaile, an English surgeon working in India from 1845CE to 1851CE, used hypnosis extensively to control pain and bleeding in both minor and major surgery, including normally traumatic operations such as the removal of large tumors.
The history of hypnosis from this point until the modern era is beyond the scope of this book although obviously some of the debates that have raged over it continue into the present. Nevertheless, the major fruits of those decades are largely condensed into this chapter and it's rather ironic that the technology of mind that flowered in ancient Egypt, one of the most magickal societies ever to exist, is once again being applied to magickal ends in the most technologically advanced society in history – the West.

Theories of Hypnosis

Underlying many theories of hypnosis is the concept of trance logic – a state where language processing is altered, words are taken more literally and there is a decrease in critical judgment coupled with an increase in tolerance of incongruity. Here reality and hallucination coexist as equals. If asked to say which object is real, the hypnotized person can usually tell the difference, but the difference does not matter to them. In the trance state they will deal with the real and the unreal in the same way.
From this, a number of theories
1 about trance arose varying from the notion of it being a form of psychological age regression to the Cortical Inhibition Theory that focuses on the apparent decrease in the activity of the left hemisphere of the brain. The latter fact has been used as an explanation for the decrease in critical thinking and enhanced suggestibility associated with the hypnotic state but does not appear to be the primary mechanism. However, most modern theories tend to fall into one of two categories, the Altered State and the Social Role theories.
The Social Role theories, also known as social-psychological and social-cognitive theories, question whether the notions of trance and trance logic, which are rooted in subjective reports, actually exists as any kind of defining characteristic. Furthermore they posit that hyper-suggestibility is simply an extreme of a continuous range of normal thinking and behavior. In this view, subjects in a hypnosis situation enter into a special social role, that of hypnotic subject, and play that role to the best of their ability using various cognitive and behavioral strategies. Good hypnotic subjects try to convince both the hypnotist and themselves that they are good hypnotic subjects, according to their understanding of the subjective and behavioral characteristics of good hypnotic subjects. The hyper-suggestibility is viewed as an end-point to which hypnosis is only one route. Despite this, there seems to be a “
trance reflex” in humans and also in primates. Experimentation with Rhesus monkeys2 has induced a hypnosis-like response in these non-human subjects. Of the 45 monkeys in one study, 6 went quickly into a motionless state when sat in front of a gently oscillating shining ball, 12 others who initially tried to turn away or push away the ball also became motionless after being secured to their chair. Restraint is probably the major factor in other forms of “animal hypnotism”, especially at the low end of the intelligence scale such as in chickens. Whether this is a true hypnotic state rather than a survival reflex, and whether there is actually a difference, is debatable. No doubt such reflexes remain in all animals, including Humans, but the more complex the nervous system the more such reflexes can be overridden voluntarily. Nevertheless, such well-known descriptions as “being paralyzed with fear” suggest that not everyone can overcome such instincts, and almost nobody can do it instantaneously without training. In fact, this is used in one of the induction techniques known as shock induction. In the end, all of the monkey subjects ended up displaying hypnotized behavior in response to the ball and EEG monitoring showed some changes in the hemispheric dominance of the monkeys. Other factors influencing animal hypnosis include emotional stress, the novelty of the hypnotic condition, and physical restraint. Some of these can be generalized to human subjects as well. One model of hypnosis advises operators to take advantage of the first hypnotic experience of the subject as this is when they are likely to go very deep, and animal experiments seem to support this conclusion.
The more traditional view of hypnosis is that it is an altered state of consciousness. The difference between the theories is that this model posits an actual change in the state of the brain while the Social Role theory claims that the subject is acting the way he or she thinks is expected. There are also differences of emphasis on the hypnotic induction process, for example whether any special preparation must be performed to create a hypnotic state, and the condition of hyper suggestibility which apparently results. It seems likely that there are elements of truth in both theories and which one is more applicable depends on the phase and type of induction used, as well as the depth of resulting state and its accompanying phenomena. Some people may start by consciously acting out the role of hypnotic subject and then move to the point where a genuine altered state of consciousness is achieved. Indeed, one type of induction actually encourages the subject to “pretend” that they are hypnotized. However, for the purposes of this book it is convenient to assume that deep hypnosis is actually an altered state of consciousness on a par with those induced by other methods such as hallucinogenic drugs. Overall though, whatever theory turns out to be correct is less important than the utility of hypnotic techniques in magickal operations.
Having said all this there is one specific type of Altered State theory
that illuminates a number of magickal paradigms. Hilgard's3 Neodissociation Theory explains hypnosis in terms of dissociation or disconnection between the brain's control system, conscious monitoring, and cognitive subsystems. It is well worth bearing this particular model in mind when we are dealing with group gestalts and archetypes as previously described. Of particular interest with respect to the focus of this book we have Hilgard's discovery of the hidden observer that has exact parallels with the notion of the True Self of magickal theory.


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1Derren Brown, Trick of the Mind, Objective Productions Limited for Channel 4 Television

2London and Leiten, manuscript numbers 10070 and I.383

3Franz Anton Mesmer, 1734CE to 1817CE

4 Lynn, Stephen, and Judith Rhue (eds.) 1991, "Theories of Hypnosis: Current Models and Perspectives" N.Y. Guilford Press. ISBN: 089862343X

5 Petrova E.V., Shlyk G.G., Kuznetsova G.D., Shirvinska M.A., Pirozhenko A.V., Hypnosis in Macaca Rhesus is Characterised by Different Phases and Inter-hemispheric EEG Asymmetry

6 Hilgard, Ernest R., 1977, “Divided Consciousness: Multiple Controls in Human Thought and Action” John Wiley & Sons.