This will the first of two postings on one of my favorite subjects and what I utilize quite extensively in my practice – the clinical applications of hypnosis.
Since the dawn of recorded time, over 20,000 years ago, indigenous tribes and emerging cultures utilized drumming and trance dancing to create ecstatic interludes and transpersonal experiences in order to explore higher and deeper octaves of consciousness. The Druids, Vikings, Hindu priests, holy men of all religions wrote about and described various techniques such as monotonous incantations, magnetic passes over the body and even the inhalation of ethylene which seeped up through cracks in the rocks so the Delphic oracles could foresee or intuit future events. Accounts of what we call hypnosis appear in the Bible, the Talmud, the Hindu Vedas and in the writings of Wing Tai, the father of Chinese medicine.
Franz Anton Mesmer, a Viennese physician would induce profound healing trances by passing a long magnetized iron wand over people’s bodies. He proposed that there was a “subtle energy” or a “magnetic fluid” that he called “animal magnetism” that created a magnetic cure. Mesmer achieved considerable success and people came from all over Europe to experience this new and powerful healing technique.
Later, in the 19th century, London surgeons were performing major operations by making long mesmeric passes over the body to induce full body analgesia. The modern analogue to full body mesmeric passes would be Therapeutic Touch and certain applications of Reiki.
An English surgeon, James Esdaile in his book Mesmerism In India described over 3000 painless surgeries he conducted including the amputation of arms and breasts, Caesarian sections, cardiac surgery, vaginal hysterectomy, the ligation and stripping of veins, etc…In all surgeries, he reported there was no pain, no infections and the reduction of deaths from 50% (pre-mesmeric passes) to 5%. There was no touching of the patient, no talking; simply making long body passes with his hands to induce a full body ‘trance’.
Of course, other surgeons were shouting “sham” and “fraud” and they were the forerunners of today’s self-anointed “quack busters” who deny that anything exists outside of reason, logic and our tidy four-dimensional reality. However, I replicated Esdaile’s full body trances with a group of volunteers and published my research in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. The point being that anyone can induce a full Mesmeric trance and I have taught this simple technique to mothers with colicky babies and to selected patients with pain issues.
In the late 1800’s, neurologist Jean Martin Charcot, psychiatrist Pierre Janet and Dr. Hippolyte Bernheim between them treated over 30,000 patients with hypnosis and were responsible for moving hypnosis from a “borderline” phenomenon to acceptance by psychologist’s and physicians as a valid treatment modality.
While the early pioneers of hypnosis were utilizing hypnosis for clinical, surgical and healing outcomes, another group of researchers began extending the use of hypnosis into more paranormal and metaphysical domains.
Charles Richet, who won the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of allergy developed a method of hypnotizing subjects so they could identify playing cards in sealed opaque envelopes – which they were able to do successfully and consistently.
L.L. Vasiliev, Chairman of the physiology department at the University of Leningrad during the 1920’s and 1930’s, in a series of 53 experiments using 4 subjects was able to hypnotically induce sleep from a distance of several miles. This not only reinforced the theory of the non-locality of mind but began to open the door for conducting telepathy experiments in hypnotized subjects who were separated by great distances.
In another fascinating experiment, Dr. Pierre Janet from a laboratory in Le Havre, France, hypnotized a young woman, Leunie B. and asked her to “travel” to Paris to “visit” his friend Dr. Richet. She announced, “It is burning…Monsieur Janet, I assure you it is burning”. That morning, Richet’s laboratory has been gutted by fire and Dr. Janet heard the news the next morning.
Anthropologist Winkelman in a study of 47 traditional societies or cultures identified shamans, mediums, priests and priestesses who utilized hypnotic techniques to do distant diagnoses and healing while in an altered trance state. A number of different procedures however were utilized to induce ‘trance’. These included fasting, thirsting, incessant dancing, chanting, drumming, sweat lodges, plunging into ice-cold pools, sleeplessness and different kinds of rhythmic activity. Once the shaman or practitioner had ‘escaped’ from the clutches of the logical, rational, worm’s eye view of the left brain, they could soar into the open skies of consciousness and expand the repertoire of human capacities. In other words, we have to de-hypnotize ourselves to reclaim and explore the many corridors of consciousness that are ignored by most of our modern day shamans – scientists and psychopharmacologists.
My point being here is that of the thousands of controlled research studies conducted by parapsychologists in laboratories all over the world, one finding is consistent: subjects in remote viewing, telepathic, distant healing or psychokinetic experiments who were in an altered or hypnotic state of consciousness achieved statistically significant better results compared to control subjects in ordinary, awake or alert states.
I will close with my favorite metaphor for describing hypnosis:
Imagine driving along a highway just before sunset. The closest city is 20 miles or so away and as you attempt to tune your radio dial to find a good music station, all you can pick up is a few bars of a song that is constantly interrupted by irritating static.
However, as the interfering cosmic rays of the sun disappear below the horizon, suddenly you can pick up WGN in Chicago, KGO in San Francisco and possibly a great jazz station in New Orleans.
In other words, as we slip from the static and non-stop “monkey chatter” of our left brain or solar consciousness into the lunar consciousness of our right brain, we expand our bandwidth of information and can access the whole spectrum of our non-ordinary abilities and the range of our capabilities.
In the next post, I will describe the several different kinds of hypnosis, the variety of issues that hypnosis can be utilized for and a brief, easy-to-learn, self hypnosis technique.