The Theosophical Forum – May 1941


Question — After having unconditionally condemned some 90% of all hypnotic phenomena and practices, is there any justification whatever in at least some of it, primarily in therapeutics? Such things as local anesthesia by hypnotism, prevention of birth-pains by the same means, seeming cure of small psychological defects and bad habits. This is at present done on a rather large scale, and it seems to be divided in two main categories: (a) under hypnosis and (b) without hypnotic sleep and solely by mental suggestion. My question does not refer to magnetization which, of course, can be of great help when done by clean-minded unselfish people.

— The above is one of many similar questions on this subject that have been sent to me. My answer follows hereunder:

Hypnotic practice is almost always bad, even though, somewhat like blood-transfusion, there are rare successes occasionally. It is just like playing with some dangerous explosive. It is fundamentally and generally bad because it weakens the will of the subject instead of evoking the will from within outwards into action thus building up a structure of inner life and power. Every repetition of hypnosis renders the subject still more flabby, still more negative, still weaker, and subjects the subject more and more to leaning on the outer instead of evoking inner powers.

Now of course like everything else, it is conceivable as a theory that an Adept, a Mahatman for instance, knowing nature's laws and all the tricks and oddities and peculiarities of human psychology and the astral body, could as an abstract theory use hypnosis in certain minor cases beneficially. But this is merely a theory, and I can assure you that no Mahatman or Adept ever would do such a thing, because the fundamental idea is wrong. They want to bring out or develop the will-power and inner vital strength of men, and hypnosis sends these last fine things to sleep, weakens them, emasculates the inner powers of reserve. Still as a mere academic theory, by an Adept hypnotism could be used safely.

Now of course in some local things, like stroking with the hand on an affected part of the body to relieve pain such as a headache, this is really not so much hypnotic sleep in minor degree as a kind of mesmerism or animal magnetization, soothing the nerves but not weakening the will, the healthy body quieting, soothing the tangled and angry nerves of the invalid. And this is not bad if no attempt is made, as just said, to affect the will of the subject or his body as a whole, if it is purely local; because in the first place it is not hypnotism purely speaking, as this word is popularly understood, and in the second place it is purely local and the benefits are derived from the clean, strong magnetism of the operator. It is in fact animal magnetism in these last cases; and if the animal magnetism is healthy and clean, probably no harm is done and the patient can receive temporary relief, although it is not permanent because the cause is not eliminated.

I will say in this connexion that even auto-hypnosis or self-hypnosis, where the subject hypnotizes himself or herself by various means known for ages past, such as staring at a spot or a bright light or a piece of crystal or glass, or even looking at the tip of the nose concentratedly, or at the navel: all those things which are so well known are emphatically not good because they mean using the will by the subject himself to send his higher will upwards and out of the picture, and induce in the lower part of the constitution a false tranquillity or quiet by what is almost mechanical means. In other words the nerves, instead of being roused into clean wholesome healthy activity upon which the inner will can work, are put to sleep, hypnotized, (which means sending to sleep), and the brain and nervous system as stated sink below the threshold of ordinary consciousness into the vibrational rates of the glass, etc. Quiet is induced, but it is the quiet of death, of the Mineral kingdom, etc.

Therefore while self-hypnosis is not as bad as hypnosis by others, it again is emphatically not good and is not used by the true Adepts, only by magicians and Shamans and medicine men of barbarous tribes. It is this power exactly which gives the steady unwinking eye of the snake its hypnotic power over a bird or a rabbit or a mouse, popularly called fascination; but it is the process I have just tried to explain. The glittering eye of the human hypnotizer starts hypnotism off with the same process. It is all unfortunate and if not exactly bad in its better side, is certainly not good.

Therefore all these things should be avoided. They are unwholesome. They lower the vibrational level down into the lower kingdom instead of raising the vibrational rate of consciousness upwards into the higher psychical, intellectual and spiritual realms.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition