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One, Two, Three and Awake: The Esoterica of Hypnotism

Your eyelids may be getting heavy, or you may simply feel a calming sensation. Either way, as you begin to feel more and more relaxed, I want you to focus on the ticking of the clock above you… allow each second’s tiny timbre to calm you further, as the ticking echoes through your mind. Yes, you are now very, very relaxed, and you will continue to feel this relaxed until I count to three and tell you it’s alright to wake up again.

Hopefully, my illustrative example of the hypnotist’s art given here hasn’t rendered too many of my readers into a trance. After all, only by being awake and aware will you be able to continue reading the piece here present, where we’ll seek to examine some of the mysteries of that most famous art of hypnotism. Especially since, perhaps now more than ever before, hypnotism is a subject of curiosity… as well as ridicule, with doubt and question cast on its more dubious–and perhaps even potentially dangerous–aspects.

One area of interest involving the downfalls of hypnotism has to do with a number of recent exposés involving alien abduction research, and whether using hypnotism to recall events that allegedly occurred aboard an alien vehicle might not amount to, as described by UFO researcher Budd Hopkins’ former wife Carol Rainey, the “co-creation of the alien abduction phenomenon.” When we look at a number of the early reports of alien abduction in conjunction with UFO research–namely those like the alleged abduction of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961–even the hypnotist participating in their regression, the Boston based Dr. Benjamin Simon, described the couple’s episode as some sort of psychological “aberration” shared between the two. This sort of skepticism (arguably a healthy thing, in terms of maintaining objectivity with one’s patients), has been seen less often throughout the last couple of decades, where on at least a few occasions close associates or even the hypnotists themselves are the ones researching the UFO-related elements. This, of course, creates a potential for influencing those being hypnotized; whether or not this has indeed occurred in UFO abduction research, the potential alone warrants cause for consideration.

But alien abduction is far from being the only area where hypnotism comes into question. This is made obvious in part due to the similarity between some of the more dubious abduction claims and the so-called “Satanic ritual abuse scares” of the 1980s. Such cases illustrate how many people–young women in particular–were led to believe horrible things about friends and family members being involved in murderous cult activities. At least a few of these situations eventually led to lawsuits, where those responsible for the suggestions made under hypnosis were sued for damages incurred.

Still, perhaps the greatest mysteries of this curious art exists not in how it is applied to various other areas, but in the mysteries surrounding the process itself, and how it works. Though influence and suggestion can result, hence blemishing the results of hypnotism, this doesn’t remove the fact that hypnosis does seem to be a valid phenomenon in itself. How is it, exactly, that the human psyche can be made so susceptible to external influences from another? Much like donning ping-pong ball halves placed over the eyes (called the Ganzfeld Technique), or even engaging in the act of meditation to steady one’s mind and senses, hypnotism seems to be one more way humans can alter the function of their minds; or as the unique relationship between hypnotist and the hypnotized illustrates, temporarily alter the function of another person’s mind.

So what occurs when the hypnotist becomes susceptible to unfavorable circumstances while in the presence of those being hypnotized? One unique circumstance that occurred recently may shed light on this line of thought, though the events that transpired remain somewhat questionable. BBC News recently reported that a demonstration by hypnotist David Days at Portland’s Royal Manor Theatre left three people “hypnotised on stage when a hypnotist allegedly knocked himself out during a show.” Days’ manager Tara Nix, commenting on the curious set of circumstances, assured the press that what had happened was no publicity stunt, and that Days’ team “always have a back-up tape and a back-up hypnotist to step in if needed.” According to Nix, this may be the first time such a thing has happened, although a treasurer at the theatre went on record saying he had doubts about the validity of the incident, since there were students present filming the events as they transpired.

Nonetheless, what we are supposed to understand about all this is that the three individuals who were hypnotized remained in this state until Days was recovered. Even if the entire thing were found to be a stunt, it raises some interesting questions: what, for instance, about the psychic suggestion of the hypnotist is reserved for him alone (in a mental way, at least) by those being hypnotized? In other words, how come someone else couldn’t have leaped on stage and said, “now wake up, dammit!” What does all this have to do with consciousness? Altogether, it seems that no mysteries in all the known world, however great or small, can rival those curiosities that still exist within our own minds.

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Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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