THEOSOPHY, Vol. 32, No. 1, November, 1943
(Pages 22-26; Size: 15K)
(Number 8 of a 10-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 10 articles have the same name.]



THE real character of hypnotism and hypnotic phenomena is difficult for the average man to recognize, not only because of the admitted ignorance of scientific investigators in this field, but also, because of the unknown areas of human nature which are involved. All present practice of hypnotism traces directly or indirectly to Anton Mesmer, the great healer and occultist of the eighteenth century. Unfortunately for modern medicine, however, Mesmer's doctrines were not accepted in professional circles, and the development of hypnotism fell into the charge of men who were either ignorant of occult law, or irresponsible in the use of the mesmeric force. Today the medical historians of hypnotism rejoice that hypnotism has been divorced from Mesmer's theories, as though the separation were a great step of progress, little realizing that Mesmer had knowledge of the psychological constitution of man that enabled him to use his power in a way not open to ordinary men.

Recent years have witnessed a rapid increase in the practice of hypnotism. In the name of "science," students in scores of colleges and universities are being used as subjects in hypnotic experiments, while physicians are more and more turning to this method of controlling the minds of their patients. Amateurs, often lacking the skill of more experienced practitioners, are introducing hypnotism as parlor entertainment. Meanwhile, "experts" are claiming that hypnotism is "harmless" for normal persons. One such writer, Dr. Paul Campbell Young, had the temerity to maintain, in the Psychological Bulletin for September, 1926, that "books that point out the dangers of hypnotism are far more dangerous than hypnotism itself." Echoing such allegedly "scientific" pronouncements, popular writers for the mass magazines are carrying to the uninformed and defenceless public the news that hypnotism is capable of miraculous "cures" in many cases of mental and physical ills. In the Reader's Digest for October, 1943, an article named "Hypnotism Comes of Age" makes the unqualified statement: "You will suffer no harmful mental or physical after-effects. It's quite possible that hypnosis will fail to produce the desired results in your case, but you'll be no worse off for the trial." The pernicious falsity of this statement would be difficult to equal. It suppresses facts that are well known and is merely propaganda for hypnotism.

The dangers of hypnotism were better understood fifty years ago than they are today. Jean Marie Charcot, the famous French investigator of hypnotic states, wrote in the Forum for April, 1890:

For several years the principal towns of Europe have been overrun by persons ... bearing high-sounding titles, who invite the people to hypnotizing performances given in the local theatres.... We can track a showman magnetizer of this sort by his victims everywhere. When he has gone, it is noticed that subjects ... with whom he succeeded best become nervous and irritable. Some of them fall of their own accord into a deep sleep, out of which it is not easy to awaken them; thereafter they are unfitted for the performance of the duties of every-day life. Others, and they the majority, are seized with convulsions resembling the crises of confirmed hysteria.
Charcot maintained that the practice of hypnotism should be limited to trained physicians. William Q. Judge, co-founder, with Madame Blavatsky, of the Theosophical Movement, in commenting on Charcot's view, added his own opinion that hypnotism should be prohibited by law. "No one," he urged, "but some few high-minded and learned physicians should be allowed to practice it. I would as quickly prohibit the general mass of physicians from using it as the general mass of the public, for I regard it as a dangerous and injurious power. In the present age I would vote for its total seclusion from use for the present."

The following analysis of hypnotism, taken from Mr. Judge's writings, gives the Theosophical reasons for condemning the practice.

* * *

One theory for use in explaining and prosecuting hypnotic research is about as follows. Man is a soul who lives on thoughts and perceives only thoughts. Every object or subject comes to him as a thought, no matter what the channel or instrument, whether organ of sense or mental center, by which it comes before him. These thoughts may be words, ideas, or pictures. The soul-man has to have an intermediary or connecting link with Nature through and by which he may cognize and experience. This link is an ethereal double or counterpart of his physical body, dwelling in the latter; and the physical body is Nature so far as the soul-man is concerned. In this ethereal double (called astral body) are the sense-organs and centers of perception, the physical outer organs being only the external channels or means for concentrating the physical vibrations so as to transmit them to the astral organs and centers where the soul perceives them as ideas or thoughts. This inner ethereal man is made of the ether which science is now admitting as a necessary part of Nature, but while it is etheric it is none the less substantial.

Speaking physically, all outer stimulus from nature is sent from without to within. But in the same way stimuli may be sent from the within to the without, and in the latter mode is it that our thoughts and desires propel us to act. Stimuli are sent from the astral man within to the periphery, the physical body, and may dominate the body so as to alter it or bring on a lesion partial or total. Cases of the hair turning grey in a night are thus possible. And in this way a suggestion of a blister may make a physical swelling, secretion, inflammation, and sore on a subject who has submitted himself to the influence of the hypnotizer. The picture or idea of a blister is impressed on the astral body, and that controls all the physical nerves, sensations, currents, and secretions. It is done through the sympathetic nervous plexus and ganglia. It was thus that ecstatic fanatical women and men by brooding on the pictured idea of the wounds of Jesus produced on their own bodies, by internal impression and stimulus projected to the surface, all of the marks of crown of thorns and wounded side. It was self-hypnotization, possible only in fanatical hysterical ecstasy. The constant brooding imprinted the picture deeply on the astral body; then the physical molecules, ever changing, became impressed from within and the stigmata were the result. In hypnotizing done by another the only difference is one of time, as in the latter instances the operator has simply to make the image and impress it on the subject after the hypnotic process has been submitted to, whereas in self-hypnotization a long-continued ecstasy is necessary to make the impression complete.

When the hypnotic process -- or subjugation, as I call it -- is submitted to, a disjunction is made between the soul-man and the astral body, which then is for the time deprived of will, and is the sport of any suggestion coming in unopposed, and those may and do sometimes arise outside of the mind and intention of the operator. From this arises the sensitiveness to suggestion. The idea, or thought, or picture of an act is impressed by suggesting it on the astral body, and then the patient is waked. At the appointed time given by the suggestor a secondary sleep or hypnotic state arises automatically, and then, the disjunction between soul and astral body coming about of itself, the suggested act is performed unless -- as happens rarely -- the soul-man resists sufficiently to prevent it. Hence we point to an element of danger in the fact that at the suggested moment the hypnotic state comes on secondarily by association. I do not know that hypnotizers have perceived this. It indicates that although the subject be dehypnotized, the influence of the operator, once thrown on the subject, will remain until the day of the operator's death.

But how is it that the subject can see on a blank card the picture of a object which you have merely willed to be on it? This is because every thought of any one makes a picture; and a thought of a definite image makes a definite form in the astral light in which the astral body exists and functions, interpenetrating also every part of the physical body. Having thus imaged the picture on the card, it remains in the astral light or sphere surrounding the card, and is there objective to the astral sense of the hypnotized subject.

The great question mooted is whether there is or is not any actual fluid thrown off by the mesmerizer. Many deny it, and nearly all hypnotizers refuse to admit it. H. P. Blavatsky declares there is such a fluid, and those who can see into the plane to which it belongs assert its existence as a subtle form of matter. This is not at all inconsistent with the experiments in hypnotism, for the fluid can have its own existence at the same time that people may be self-hypnotized by merely inverting their eyes while looking at some bright object. This fluid is composed in part of the astral substance around everyone, and in part of the physical atoms in a finely divided state. By some, this astral substance is called the aura. But that word is indefinite, as there are many sorts of aura and many degrees of its expression. These will not be known, even to Theosophists of the most willing mind, until the race as a whole has developed up to that point. So the word will remain in use for the present.

This aura, then, is thrown off by the mesmerizer upon his subject, and is received by the latter in a department of his inner constitution, never described by any Western experimenters, because they know nothing of it. It wakes up certain inner and non-physical divisions of the person operated on, causing a change of relation between the various and numerous sheaths surrounding the inner man, and making possible different degrees of intelligence and of clairvoyance and the like. It has no influence whatsoever on the Higher Self, which it is impossible to reach by such means. Many persons are deluded into supposing that the Higher Self is the responder, or that some spirit or what not is present, but it is only one of the many inner persons, so to say, who is talking or rather causing the organs of speech to do their office. And it is just here that the Theosophist and the non-Theosophist are at fault, since the words spoken are sometimes far above the ordinary intelligence or power of the subject in waking state. I therefore propose to give in the rough the theory of what actually does take place, as has been known for ages to those who see with the inner eye, and as will one day be discovered and admitted by science.

When the hypnotic or mesmerized state is complete -- and often when it is partial -- there is an immediate paralyzing of the power of the body to throw its impressions, and thus modify the conceptions of the inner being. In ordinary waking life everyone, without being able to disentangle himself, is subject to the impressions from the whole organism; that is to say, every cell in the body, to the most minute, has its own series of impressions and recollections, all of which continue to impinge on the great register, the brain, until the impression remaining in the cell is fully exhausted. And that exhaustion takes a long time. Further, as we are adding continually to them, the period of disappearance of impression is indefinitely postponed. Thus the inner person is not able to make itself felt. But, in the right subject, those bodily impressions are by mesmerism neutralized for the time, and at once another effect follows, which is equivalent to cutting the general off from his army and compelling him to seek other means of expression.

The brain -- in cases where the subject talks -- is left free sufficiently to permit it to obey the commands of the mesmerizer and compel the organs of speech to respond. So much in general.

[Continued in the next article.]

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


The only faith that men recognize is a creed. But the true creed which we unconsciously live by, and which rather adopts us than we it, is quite different from the written or preached one. Men anxiously hold fast to their creed, as to a straw, thinking this does them good service because their sheet anchor does not drag.

I do not prefer one religion or philosophy to another. I have no sympathy with the bigotry and ignorance which make transient and partial and puerile distinctions between one man's faith or form of faith and another's, -- as Christian and heathen. I pray to be delivered from narrowness, partiality, exaggeration, bigotry. To the philosopher all sects, all nations, are alike. I like Brahma, Hari, Buddha, the Great Spirit, as well as God. 


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