The Theosophical Forum – August 1948

HYPNOTISM — Herbert Coryn

We, members of the Theosophical Society and old students have read and thought much on hypnotism, so much that we have almost put it from our minds, feeling that for our own purposes it has been sufficiently attended to and is done with.

We are mistaken. As our Teacher has said, the dangers of it have not yet been half understood even by those who have given it most attention. Its subtler forms we have not traced out. As possible subjects of it we are consequently few of us fully on guard; some of us not even on guard lest we fall into the greater peril of employing it. Peril is the right word, because of the karmic retribution, loss of the path, even loss of humanity, which the continued practice of any sort of hypnotism assuredly leads to.

The more psychology — in the proper meaning of that word — we can get to know, the better we may understand what hypnotism really is. This much of it, at any rate, is clear:

The mind throws up a lot of thoughts about everything; the judgment looks at them and decides which of them is reasonable. If it is a question of conduct, the mind makes pictures of possible courses of conduct; judgment decides which of these courses will lead to the end in view. If you could split a crack between a man's mind and judgment, he could not distinguish, amongst his thoughts about anything, which thought was reasonable; nor what was a reasonable end to have in view; nor what was a reasonable way of reaching an end which he did have in view.

Hypnotism does actually split such a crack. Will stands side by side with judgment, both the allies of the self. Hypnotism makes a crack, then, between mind, the picture-maker, and this triad, self-judgment-will. The mind is consequently manifested as insane, one idea about anything being as readily accepted as another and then held for truth. And action passes under the direction of external suggestion, instead of that of the man's own judgment and will. The triad, which is in its real nature potentially divine, is, so far as any effect upon the man goes, paralysed, made to stand back. Any kind of feeling that may happen to be thrilling in the nervous system, even the most animal or brutal feeling, may, under external suggestion, come straight out into conduct. There is no judgment to pass upon it and no will to control it.

We can make a sort of picture of the situation in this way: Consider the mind as an essence filling the nervous system, the nervous system of feeling, and the nervous system of picture-making, thought-making. On its lower side this essence touches the nervous matter; on the other, upper, side it is linked to the guiding and willing triad (of self, judgment, and will). Hypnotism somehow breaks that link, temporarily and, if very often repeated, permanently.

But then follows something else. The now unguided essence is also unprotected, for the healthily-acting self protects its mind, to more or less degree, from influences from without.

But it is influence from without that is now the special situation. For there is an operator, the hypnotist. His mind-essence can now get in and blend with that of the subject, both now residing in the latter's nervous system. And the operator's mind-essence has the operator's will and judgment in it and directing it. But his triad, self-judgment-will, may never have been raised into the light; its actuating center may be ambition, love of power, or any sort of sensuality. Unless it has actually become the light — in which case he would never be a hypnotist — it has more or less of those things in it. And he is now, in part or wholly, "running" his subject. The subject sees objects and possible lines of action, just as he is wanted to see them. He thinks as he is wanted to think. He acts as he is wanted to act. Sometimes the crack is not complete; then he thinks and acts as his operator desires while knowing that he is doing so unwillingly, or that his thoughts and acts are wrong.

There is a mode of treating disease, especially mental disease, which consists in keeping the patient in a room lit by light of one color only, red, blue, yellow, or green, the furniture and walls being of the same hue. The mental state of the patient gradually alters according to the color used. He is stimulated, quieted, or otherwise affected. But the atmosphere of color is nothing but color. The brain and therefore the mind, is reached through the eyes only.

Suppose, however, that the atmosphere were not of color but of mind, of ideas. How much more potent would be the influence upon the subject's mind!

When two people are talking together, each of them is to some extent in an atmosphere of mind made by the other. That is all right; there is so far no question of hypnotism.

If, in the color-mode of treatment, the light were concentrated by lenses all over the patient's body and into his eyes, the effect would be much greater, perhaps dangerous.

Hypnotism is the corresponding process. When, in the conversation of two people, one of them uses his will in a special way, that is hypnotism. What way?

Normally, when one man wants to convince another, he uses his will within himself, to think his ideas more clearly, to get more of them and better ones, and to express them better. But if he is trying to hypnotise?

Then, certainly, he will make his ideas as plausible as possible, as acceptable, so as to diminish any possible resistance from his victim's mind and conscience. But he does not let them stand on their own merits, make their own way. He uses his will directly on his victim to force them in. Whilst his lips are speaking, his objective of conscious concentration is inside his victim's brain. He is playing on the other's brain-cells through the eyes just as the color does; but he is focusing in, not a mere flow of therapeutic color, but of ideas. If he is successful his victim presently finds these injected ideas in his mind. To some extent the keynote of his mind is altered. His mind is no longer set in the same key as his judgment. They are out of tune. Which is only a way of saying that that crack or chink of which we have spoken, has been made. He is in the hypnotic state. Judgment being thrust back, the ideas in his mind seem to him to be valid ones and he will act and think accordingly. Moreover he may never altogether recover. Brain-cells that have once been occupied by someone not their owner, may never again be wholly their owner's. They may never recover from a foreign drenching.

On the other hand the operator has now some very heavy karma to pay. He must pay for any evil there may have been in his ideas. He must pay for all the evil that his victim may do and think while under their sway, and for all the evil he may do thereafter merely because of having once been divorced from his judgment and his brain-control. And he must pay, as well, for the act itself, an affront through his victim's soul to the soul of nature, the conscious principle of evolution. Who wants to run up such a bill as that? Certainly no one who knew of the amount of it.

Anyone who, wanting something for his personality, begins to think of some other as his agent or catspaw, has taken the first step towards hypnotism. For into that thought, energizing will at once begins to enter. The next step is to make that entry of will conscious. The intended subject is held in thought, pictured, as acting in the desired way, or as having the desired thoughts or motives. The karmic bill has begun to be entered on the books. And the moment the intended victim begins to yield, begins to think of acting as he is wished to act, at that moment the operator, whether conscious in his outer mind of that yielding or not, feels and is gratified by an extension of his personality, his sense of power. He is harder, farther from his soul and from the path of right conduct. Now he will go to his victim and say plausible things, give him reasons corresponding to his temperament for the course of action he finds himself contemplating or ready to contemplate because of the poison-current already working upon him.

It is a question which of the two should be called "victim." For if the one of them is the subject of the other, that other is himself the subject of his own ambition, love of his own way, and discontent; and, very soon, the subject of karmic penalty. And on the other side, the subject has prepared his own undoing by permitting or culturing some weaknesses of his own nature, sometimes the same weaknesses — the ambition and so on — as those of the operator, sometimes mere negativity of mind and will. Let us remember that such negativity, besides involving that the subject is swept about by his own lower nature, besides involving danger in respect of some ambitious person, involves also danger in respect of those disintegrating thought-waves that do always and will more and more break upon his mind from enemies without. We and our weaknesses are perhaps watched and known from centers in human life we cannot picture; and those who are hypnotists may have been themselves invisibly energized in their evil by conscious malign forces of whose working they were quite unsuspicious.

None of us need be open to any kind of hypnotism. That is to say, none of us need be negative. Negativity of mind comes from failure to stand habitually up to duty and at each moment to the next duty; from failure in vigilance over thought; from failure to use the will in maintaining steady good feeling toward all, and from failure to find and live in the power of inner silence. We have been taught and re-taught that it is from the development of this power by constant practice, that the sister powers of discrimination and will arise.

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