The Essence of Hypnotic Trance Induction

Norman D. Livergood

     Our purpose is to use hypnotic trance to enter into and learn about Higher Consciousness. This essay is intended only for serious students of spiritual development, not mere curiosity seekers or psychological dilettantes. This is said not from elitist motives, but because the material in this essay can be dangerous for anyone who has not prepared himself in the proper manner.

     Anyone who is serious about investigating the essence of hypnotic trance induction--as outlined in this essay--should study the author's recently published book: Portals to Higher Consciousness, in particular the chapters entitled:
  • Evoking Higher Spiritual Powers

  • Hypnotic Trance in Spiritual Development

  • The Higher Trance State

  • Expanding Human Consciousness

"As you get into the profounder part of man's being, you get nearer to the source of his human vitality. You get thus into a region of essentially greater responsiveness to spiritual appeal than is offered by the superficial stratum which has been shaped and hardened by external needs into a definite adaptation to the earthly environment. Even thus the caterpillar's outside integument is fashioned stiffly to suit larval requirements; while, deeper in the animal, unseen processes of rapid change are going on, in obedience to an impulse not derived from larval life."

Frederic W. H. Myers, Human Personality
and Its Survival of Bodily Death
, 1903

Getting to the Essence

     From the welter of contradictory theories about hypnotic trance induction, it's necessary to decoct the essence.

     We must first disabuse ourselves of the myth that hypnotic trance induction is a matter of a "hypnotist" doing something to a "patient." We can at most act as a facilitator in helping the other person achieve a trance state.
"The hypnotic state is an experience that belongs to the subject, derives from the subject's own accumulated learnings and memories, not necessarily consciously recognized but possible of manifestation in a special state of non-waking awareness. Hence the hypnotic trance belongs only to the subject--the operator can do no more than learn how to proffer stimuli and suggestions that evoke responsive behavior based upon the subject's own experiential past.

Mesmer "It is not a matter of the operator doing something to subjects or compelling them to do things or even telling them what to do and how to do it. When trances are so elicited, they are still a result of ideas, associations, mental processes and understandings already existing and merely aroused with the subjects themselves. . . . What they say or do serves only as a means to stimulate and arouse in the subjects past learnings, understandings, and experiential acquisitions, some consciously, some unconsciously acquired."

"Hypnotic induction techniques may be best understood as approaches that provide subjects with opportunities for the intense self-absorption and inner experiences called trance. The wise operator then develops skill in relating creatively to this inner experience of his subjects." 1

Word Magic

     A second delusion we must discard is the notion that mere words or concepts, such as "suggestion" or "hypersuggestibility" are effective explanations of hypnotic trance induction.

"We cannot possibly regard the word suggestion as any real answer to the important question how the hypnotic responsiveness is induced, on what conditions it depends.  . . .

"Suggestion no more explains the phenomena of hypnotism than the crack of a pistol explains a boat race. Both are simply signals, mere points of departure, and nothing more. In Bernheim's hands the word 'suggestion' has acquired an entirely new signification, and differs only in name from the odyllic force of the mesmerists. It has become mysterious and all-powerful, and is supposed to be capable, not only of evoking and explaining all the phenomena of hypnotism, but also of originating, nay even of being, the condition itself. According to his view, suggestion not only starts the race, but also creates the rowers and builds the boat!"

Frederic W. H. Myers, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, 1903

The Conditioned Reflex Aspect of Trance State Induction

     An early, well-known experiment reminds us that "hypnosis is the production of reactions in the human organism through the use of verbal or other associative reflexes." 2  The experiment was conducted by C. V. Hudgins in 1933, who followed Pavlov's method in conditioning the human pupillary reflex. 3

     In this experiment, the subject was taught to use his own hand-grip to turn on the lighting of an electric bulb at which he gazed and the subsequent ringing of a bell. When the subject was told by the experimenter to "relax," his hand grip would relax and the bulb would go out and the bell would stop ringing.

      When the bulb was lit, the pupil of the eye contracted automatically. After only several hours of conditioning, Hudgins found that he could omit the light bulb, the bell, and the hand-grip. The sound of the word "contract" spoken by the experimenter had acquired the power to force an involuntary and visible constriction of the pupil. The conditioning of the pupillary response lasted from fifteen to ninety days.

     This was an astounding experimental result at the time, because up to this point it had been assumed that such reflexes as the pupillary response were "autonomic" 4 --not able to be consciously controlled by the person.

     The importance of this and similar experiments 5  is that it shows us that words or thoughts act as mechanisms which trigger automatic responses in our bodies. Salter drives home this point with an anecdote:
"Let us say that I had similarly conditioned one of the pupils of the reader's eye. Every time I said 'contract,' whether you wished it or not, your pupil would obey. I would then bring you to an ophthalmologist. 'Doctor,' I would declare, 'here is a splendid hypnotic subject. I control this person so thoroughly that at my command his pupil will contract, and perceptibly.'

"'Come,' he would say, 'you know very well that pupillary contraction is involuntary. You need a light for that.'

"Nevertheless, when I said 'contract,' your pupil would obey every time, and the doctor would be perplexed. 'How do you like hypnotism?' I would ask.

"'It's amazing,' he would answer, but his interest would diminish after I explained how, paralleling Pavlov and Hudgins, your pupil had been conditioned. 'Well,' he would say, 'come back the next time you have some real hypnotism.'

"Our doctor is wrong. There, in the conditioned reflex, he had seen the essence of hypnosis."
     Two additional features of Hudgin's research study are important for us to note. Some of his subjects were trained to speak the word "contract" aloud and could produce the pupil constriction effect. And, even more amazing, some of them were trained merely to think of the word "contract" and could produce the same automatic effect of pupillary constriction.

Word and Thought Power

     Throughout our lives, specific words or thoughts are conditioned into us which cause automatic mental and bodily responses, called "associate reflexes." Word are bells which trigger these unconscious automatic responses. Hypnosis is the production of reactions in the human organism through the use of verbal stimuli which trigger associative reflexes. Hypnosis takes advantage of certain conditionings we already possess--for example, our automatic response of getting sleepy when we hear the word "sleep." And it also implants new conditionings by repeatedly speaking certain words and reinforcing responses to those words, such as "your outstretched arm is rigid!"

     Skinner has shown that reinforcing specifically chosen responses is an even more powerful conditioning technique than classical Pavlovian conditioning. In operant conditioning, we select a specific behavior and by rewarding that behavior we cause it to recur. Thus, as a hypnotic subject responds to a suggestion of arm levitation, or whatever, we verbally reinforce that behavior, enhancing its recurrence.

"Speech, on account of the whole preceding life of the adult, is connected up with all the internal and external stimuli which can reach the cortex, signalling all of them and replacing all of them, and therefore it can call forth all those reactions of the organism which are normally determined by the actual stimuli themselves. We can, therefore, regard 'suggestion' as the most simple form of a typical conditioned reflex in man. The command of the hypnotist, in correspondence with the general law, concentrates the excitation in the cortex of the subject (which is in a condition of partial inhibition) in some definite narrow region, at the same time intensifying (by negative induction) the inhibition in the rest of the cortex and so abolishing all competing effects of contemporary stimuli and of traces left by previously received ones. This accounts for the large and practically insurmountable influence of suggestion as a stimulus during hypnosis as well as shortly after it. "

Ivan P. Pavlov, Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of
the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex
, 1927

This is something of a visual hallucination, in that there 'is' no diamond shape in the actual figure.      One of the advanced phenomena of the trance state is visual or auditory hallucination: actually 6  seeing or hearing something that is not physically present. We can understand this effect by considering an early experiment by D. G. Ellson. 7  In this experiment, the subject was seated in a comfortable Morris chair that had a small light bulb on the left arm of the chair. Immediately after the light went on, a thousand cycle tone sounded from an undisclosed location. The tone was about two octaves above middle C and had a gradual onset and decline.

     After pairing the light and the tone for some period of time, the subjects hallucinated the tone when just the light appeared (without the tone sounding). Two of Ellson's results are of particular note:
"Four psychologists were run through the procedure. . . In spite of their knowledge of the purpose of the experiment, and the general procedure to be used," two of the four were conditioned into hearing auditory hallucinations. "Appropriate control groups demonstrated that the effect was not entirely due to suggestion in the instructions or test trial conditions."
     In Ellson's experiment, eighty percent of the subjects could not tell the difference between a bona fide sound and their own hallucinations.

Hallucination propagandist       Our recent cultural experience in America reveals that if people are conditioned through propaganda to believe that a glib con-man is for the common man, they'll believe it and ignore his fascist actions (such as appointing a rightest administration and giving tax breaks to fat cats). For members of the cabal that manipulates American minds, "reality" is whatever they say it is. 8 

     Back to Sanity: One of the reasons we explore a hypnotic client's mental and emotional preferences, including preferred imagery, is to discover what words and thoughts are part of their past conditioning. If a subject is best able to relax while imagining lying on a beach, we use that prior conditioning in our trance induction.

The Relationship Between the Conscious and Subconscious Minds

     The other factor we need to keep in mind when studying higher trance is the differences between the conscious and subconscious minds and how they inter-relate in inducing and maintaining trance states.
"The predominant school of thought on hypnosis is that it is a way to access a person's subconscious mind directly. Normally, you are only aware of the thought processes in your conscious mind. You consciously think over the problems that are right in front of you, consciously choose words as you speak, consciously try to remember where you left your keys.

"But in doing all these things, your conscious mind is working hand-in-hand with your subconscious mind, the unconscious part of your mind that does your 'behind the scenes' thinking. Your subconscious mind accesses the vast reservoir of information that lets you solve problems, construct sentences or locate your keys. It puts together plans and ideas and runs them by your conscious mind. When a new idea comes to you out of the blue, it's because you already thought through the process unconsciously.

"Your subconscious also takes care of all the stuff you do automatically. You don't actively work through the steps of breathing minute to minute -- your subconscious mind does that. You don't think through every little thing you do while driving a car -- a lot of the small stuff is thought out in your subconscious mind. Your subconscious also processes the physical information your body receives.

"In short, your subconscious mind is the real brains behind the operation -- it does most of your thinking, and it decides a lot of what you do. When you're awake, your conscious mind works to evaluate a lot of these thoughts, make decisions and put certain ideas into action. It also processes new information and relays it to the subconscious mind. But when you're asleep, the conscious mind gets out of the way, and your subconscious has free rein.

"Psychiatrists theorize that the deep relaxation and focusing exercises of hypnotism work to calm and subdue the conscious mind so that it takes a less active role in your thinking process. In this state, you're still aware of what's going on, but your conscious mind takes a back seat to your subconscious mind. Effectively, this allows you and the hypnotist to work directly with the subconscious. It's as if the hypnotism process pops open a control panel inside your brain." 9

Inducing Trance: Experimentation and Learning

     We approach the induction of trance as an investigation into a realm largely unknown to us. We explore the trance state, confident that we will find many elements that we don't yet know about yet. Trance helps us to depotentiate our old programs and gives us an opportunity to learn something new.

Mesmer      Our exploration of the trance state can be enhanced by an attitude of expectation and respect for the potentials of the unconscious. Our goal is to understand the modes of functioning of the subliminal mind. As we explore, our conscious mind can never be certain of what we're going to experience, but we can learn to interact constructively with whatever altered mode of functioning the unconscious makes available. Our exploration is a means of extending or broadening the range of human experience. We are exploring and maximizing our human potential.

     As we begin our experimentation in this realm of the trance state, both the facilitator and the subject must be aware of the real nature of hypnosis and the induction of the trance state. Of all the persons who examined the trance state, Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980) was most able to understand its essence.

"Hypnosis (Hypnotism) is the term applied to a unique, complex form of unusual but normal behavior which can probably be induced in all normal persons under suitable conditions and also in many persons suffering from various types of abnormality. It is primarily a special psychological state with certain physiological attributes, resembling sleep only superficially and marked by a functioning of the individual at a level of awareness other than the ordinary conscious state; for convenience in conceptualization, this is called unconscious or subconscious awareness. Functioning at this special level of awareness is characterized by a state of receptiveness and responsiveness in which inner experiential learning and understanding can be accorded values comparable with or even the same as those ordinarily given only to external reality stimuli.


Note the manner in which Erickson focused on every aspect of the subject's behavior.

Erickson often placed himself in a trance state while inducing and working with hypnosis in a subject.
"When hypnotized, or in the hypnotic trance, the subject can think, act and behave in relationship to either ideas or reality objects as adequately as, and usually better than, he can in the ordinary state of awareness. In all probability this ability derives from intensity and restriction of attention to the task in hand, and the consequent freedom from the ordinary conscious tendency to orient constantly to distracting, even irrelevant, reality considerations.

"The subject is not, as is commonly and wrongly believed, without will power, or under the power of the hypnotist. Instead, the relationship between the subject and the hypnotist is one of interpersonal cooperation based upon mutually acceptable and reasonable considerations. Hence, the subject cannot be forced as a function of hypnosis itself, to do things against his will, as is sometimes claimed. He can be aided in achieving possible desired goals, but frequent failures in hypnotherapy attest the limitations of hypnosis in accomplishing even wanted purposes, and extensive and reliably controlled studies discredit the possibilities of antisocial use of hypnosis. . . .

"Actually, the important consideration in inducing hypnosis is that the subject be willing, cooperative and interested in learning a new experience. To such a subject a trusted operator can progressively, persuasively and repetitiously suggest tiredness, relaxation, eye closure, loss of interest in externalities and an increasingly absorbing interest in inner experiential processes, until the subject can function with increasing adequacy at the level of unconscious awareness. . . .

"Hypnotic phenomena differ from one subject to another and from one trance to another, depending upon the purposes to be served and the depth of the trance. Hypnosis is a phenomenon of degrees, ranging from light to profound trance states but with no fixed constancy. There are, however, certain basic manifestations, the extent and clarity of which vary. Foremost among these is rapport, which signifies the limitation of the subject's awareness to that which is included in the hypnotic situation. Usually the subject responds only to stimuli from the hypnotist, who may limit or direct the subject's awareness or responsiveness as is desired or needful. However, in accord with personality needs or the demands of the situation, the subject may remain in or actively establish contact with part or all of the circumstances surrounding the trance.

Milton H. Erickson observing a hypnotic subject

"If I have any doubts about my capacity to see the important things I go into a trance. When there is a crucial issue with a patient and I don't want to miss any of the clues I go into trance. . . . I start keeping close track of every movement, sign, or behavioral manifestation that could be important."

       "Suggestibility, a state of greatly
enhanced receptiveness and responsiveness to suggestions and stimuli, constitutes the central phenomenon of hypnosis. It is characterized by the remarkable
facility with which the subject can respond to either external stimuli or those deriving from inner experiential acquisition.

"However, suggestions must be acceptable to the subject, and rejection of them can be based upon whim as easily as upon sound reasons. By acceptance of and response to suggestions, the subject can become psychologically deaf, blind, hallucinated, amnesic, anesthetic or dissociated, or he can develop various special types of behavior regarded by him as reasonable or desirable in the given situation.

                "The psychological processes involved are essentially those of vivification of memories, ideas, understanding, emotions--indeed, any type of experiential acquisition--so that they are experienced subjectively as deriving from external events rather than from internal processes. This is the feature of hypnosis most often abused by the charlatan, and it is also the feature that permits the greatest accomplishments in psychology, dentistry and medicine.

"The need to appreciate the subject as a person possessing individuality which must be respected cannot be overemphasized. Such appreciation and respect constitute a foundation for recognizing and differentiating conscious and unconscious behavior. Only an awareness of what constitutes behavior deriving from the unconscious mind of the subjects enables the hypnotist to induce and to maintain deep trances."

"Deep hypnosis is the level of hypnosis that permits subjects to function adequately and directly at an unconscious level of awareness without interference by the conscious mind." 10

Features of Hypnotic Trance Induction
  • The hypnotic trance is achieved through a cooperative effort between the facilitator and the subject

  • The subject's feelings, ideas, goals, and past experiences must be explored in full through facilitator-subject dialogue; these elements are then used to assist the subject to ACHIEVE the trance state

  • In the trance state, the subject functions at the subconscious or subliminal level of awareness

  • The subliminal level of consciousness is characterized by a state of receptiveness and responsiveness in which inner experiential learning and understanding can be accorded the same status as conscious sensory experience

  • For subjects, the trance state is a learning process, a procedure of reeducation. Subjects learn that they can perform functions impossible in their ordinary state of consciousness

  • In assisting the subject to achieve a trance state, the facilitator-hypnotist speaks directly to the subconscious mind, not the conscious mind

  • The subject learns that she can deactivate her conscious mind and allow the subconscious mind to become dominant

  • As the subconscious mind becomes dominant, suggestions from the facilitator-hypnotist are acted upon without the restrictions of conscious analysis or thought

      Pay particular attention to how Erickson in this video first teaches the subject to attain a trance state by seeing how her subliminal mind moves her hand. Then he teaches her how to converse in the trance state, both verbally and in shaking her head yes or no. He is able to use suggestion to have her deny her name, that she is sitting down, etc.

The Subliminal Mind Takes Control

    As a subject enters a trance state, her unconscious mind guides her conscious mind so that she experiences the hypnotic state in a way that is satisfying and informative to her total personality. With the subliminal mind in control, the hypnotic situation becomes her reality. Previously agreed-upon conceptions, memories, and actions suggested by the facilitator constitute her world while she is in deep trance. The external world no longer constitutes her personal reality. She lives in a world limited to the focus of the facilitator's suggestions.

"Your conscious mind is very intelligent . . . but your unconscious is a lot smarter . . . and so I'm not asking you to learn any new skills . . . I'm only asking you to be willing to utilize the skills you already have, but do not yet fully know about."

Milton H. Erickson

     Our ordinary life experience occurs primarily in the waking state in which our conscious mind is in control. We must learn how to function with the subconscious mind being dominant. For example, we must learn that in a deep trance where our subconscious mind is in control, we are able to talk without awakening from the trance. A person in deep trance able to read a book while blindfolded We've had a lifetime of experience in which talking is done only on a conscious level; we have no realization that talking is possible at a purely unconscious level of awareness. In the trance state, we often need to be taught to realize our capabilities to function in supra-normal ways, with both our conscious and unconscious minds playing their effective part.

     We should look at trance as an opportunity to get to know ourselves at a different level of experience and awareness. We need to learn that the unconscious is intelligent and can operate autonomously. The unconscious is our ally.

"In making suggestions, moreover, the hypnotiser finds that he has to consider and meet the patient's own subjective feelings, describing the intended relief as the patient wishes it to be described, and not attempting technical language which the patient could not follow. In a word, it is plain that in this class, as in other classes, we are addressing ourselves to a mind, an intelligence, which can of itself select and combine, and not merely to a tissue or a gland responsive in a merely automatic way."

Frederic W. H. Myers, Human Personality
and Its Survival of Bodily Death
, 1903

     Recognizing that we are engaged in a collaborative effort in which the facilitator assists the subject to achieve a trance state, we must explore the ideas, feelings, and goals of the subject before beginning the experimentation. We can use a specifically-designed input form to begin to get an idea of the subject's preferences and experiences. Along with information which the subject inputs into a form, the facilitator and subject need to spend a good deal of time becoming completely familiar with the subject's mind-set and feelings.

     We should look at the process of trance induction as an exploration, an adventure to be enjoyed, rather than a job to be done. Both the facilitator and the subject must be aware that their conscious minds can never be sure of the results; it is a learning experience for both of them. In trance induction, the conscious mind is really the dependent partner. The process is one in which the subject's subconscious mind develops specific skills in relating to the conscious mind. The purpose is for the subject to gain proficiency in using subconscious capabilities in ways she chooses.

Mesmer      Braid's method of helping to induce a trance through having subjects stare at an object (see the image to the left) just above their line of vision is still a useful technique. Is is also sometimes effective for subjects to fix their vision on a moving image while listening to a repetitive suggestion.

     Most of the induction process should be, to begin with, centered around the Ericksonian techniques outlined above. The facilitator should have a comprehensive understanding of the subject's mind as she begins the induction process. The subject is encouraged to focus his conscious mind on breathing, remaining constantly aware of inhalation and exhalation.

The Induction Process

Allow yourself to sit in a comfortable position, with both feet on the floor. Begin to focus with your conscious mind on your breathing, concentrating on your inhaling and exhaling. Each time you exhale, say within yourself: "relax." Listen to yourself speaking the word "relax" internally with each exhalation. Let your breathing relax you more and more, as you inhale and exhale, relax more and more. Let your conscious mind focus on breathing and relaxing and saying to yourself "relax" each time you exhale.

From this point on, listen only with your subconscious mind to what I am saying, ignoring any other sound, feeling, or thought. As we begin, realize that only the subconscious mind experiences and understands trance induction. You are entering your subconscious mind, moving into your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind responds automatically, cooperatively with the suggestions I am making. Your conscious mind is occupied by focusing on your breathing and relaxing, so it doesn't interfere with your subconscious mind automatically, cooperatively following the suggestions I'm making.

As soon as you become aware of a response, go ahead to enhance it. Your aim is to obtain a complete response, and not just a sign of it. Feel the expected effect as much as possible. Imagine what is to happen as vividly as you can. Feel it happening. Recall the feelings associated with similar experiences in your past and re-experience them in your subconscious mind. Use whatever images, feelings, and ideas help you to let your conscious mind go deeper and deeper into sleep.

I am speaking only to your subconscious mind which is active and can hear me. Let your conscious mind focus on your breathing and relaxing. I am speaking only to your unconscious mind, and it is listening to me because it is within hearing distance. Your conscious mind is getting bored and distracted by your focusing on breathing, and this is leading to your conscious mind becoming uninterested, distracted, and going to sleep. 11 As you continue to focus your conscious mind on your breathing, you'll relax more and more and go deeper and deeper to sleep.

If your eyes get tired, it will be all right to close them but be sure to keep an alert mental or visual image actively in your mind. Just be comfortable while I am talking to your unconscious mind, since I don't care if your conscious mind is or isn't listening to me.

Rest your hands palm down on your thighs, and listen very carefully to a question that I'm going to ask. This question can be answered only by your subconscious mind, not by your conscious mind. Your conscious mind might have an idea of a possible reply to this question, but it can't be certain precisely how your subconscious mind will answer the question. If there's such a conscious guess, it's not an actual reply to the question; only your subconscious mind can answer this question.

Now for the question I am asking only of your subconscious mind, which only your subconscious mind can answer: "Is your subconscious mind going to raise your right hand or your left hand automatically?

Your conscious mind cannot know how your unconscious mind will answer this question. But your unconscious mind can tell my conscious mind what it thinks or understands by simply causing either your right or your left hand to rise in the air automatically. Your subconscious mind can show me visibly what it knows. Now be aware of your hands and see what the answer is. Neither you nor I know what your unconscious mind thinks, but as you feel one or the other of your hands lifting, you do know. Feel the slight movement in one of your hands, feel it beginning to move upward, and enjoy the sensation of its lifting. Be pleased to learn how your unconscious mind is responding to this question.

As your hand is beginning to rise in the air, it feels as though it's something separate from you, you're not controlling it, it's acting on its own. As your arm rises in the air, it is your subconscious mind answering the question in its own way.

Good! Now, notice that your hand is continuing to rise toward your face. When it touches your face, you will be able to go into an even deeper trance state of sleep and relaxation. Good! Sleep! Now let your hand relax and return to your lap.

It is very pleasing to discover that your unconscious can communicate with my conscious mind in this way, and there are many other things that your unconscious can learn to do. Now that it has learned that it can attain a trance state and do it remarkably well, it can learn various trance phenomena. Hereafter, you can go into a trance just as easily and quickly as your unconscious answered that question.

Now you can return to a fully consciousness wakefulness.

Higher Consciousness

     Since our purpose is to use hypnotic trance to enter into and learn about Higher Consciousness, we must realize that the induction of a hypnotic trance is only the first step in this process. Entering into Higher Consciousness is a capability possessed only by those who have prepared themselves intellectually, morally, and spiritually.

     The higher trance state was precisely that state of consciousness induced by the Mystery Traditions of Egypt and Greece and incorporated into Esoteric Christianity.
"Although this process of initiation [into the Higher Mysteries] bore all the outward semblance of expert hypnotism, it was something that went far beyond the entrancement methods of our modern experimenters, who tap the subconscious mind of man but who cannot make their subjects conscious of still profounder planes of existence."

"Moreover, to confuse such a sublime experience with the mental handiwork of the modem hypnotist would be a grave error. The latter plunges his subject into a strange condition which neither fully understands, whereas the hierophant of the Mysteries was in the possession of a secret traditional knowledge which enabled him to exercise his power as one fully armed with complete understanding. The hypnotist taps the subconscious mentality of his entranced subject down to a certain level, without himself sharing the change of condition, whereas the hierophant watched and controlled every such change by his own percipient powers. Above all, the hypnotist is only able to elucidate from his subject such matters as concern our material world and life, or to perform abnormal feats with the material body. The hierophant went deeper, and could lead the mind of the candidate step by step through an experience involving the spiritual worlds--a feat beyond the power of any modern hypnotist to achieve."

"There existed an exalted and final degree of initiation where the souls of men were not merely freed temporarily from their bodies in a condition of simulated death, in order to prove the truth of survival, after the great change, but where they were actually carried up to the loftiest spheres of being, to the realm of the Creator Himself. In this marvellous experience the finite mind of man was drawn into contact with the infinite mind of his superior divinity. He was able for a brief while to enter into silent, spell-bound communion with the Father of All, and this fleeting contact of incomparable ecstasy was enough to change his entire attitude towards life. He had partaken of the holiest food that exists in life. He had discovered the ineffable ray of Deity which was his true innermost self, and of which the soul-body which survives death was merely the intangible vesture. He was, in verity and fact, born again in the highest sense. He who had thus been initiated became a perfect Adept, and the hieroglyphic texts speak of him as one who could expect the favour of the gods during life and the state of paradise after death.

"Such an experience came with an entrancement which, although outwardly similar, was inwardly completely different from the hypnotic entrancements of the earlier degrees of initiation. No hypnotic power could ever confer it, no magical ceremony could ever evoke it. Only the supreme hierophants, themselves at one with their divinities, their wills bent with his, could by their astonishing divine force arouse the candidate to consciousness of his superior nature. This was the noblest and most impressive revelation then possible to Egyptian man, and still possible, albeit through other ways, to modern man."
Paul Brunton, A Search in Secret Egypt, 1936

     With conventional hypnotic induction, the subject can learn to enter what Frederic W. H. Myers called the "hypnotic stratum." From that state of consciousness, ordinary persons can go to the subconscious-subliminal state.

     Only those who have been initiated into Higher Knowledge are able to move from the hypnotic stratum to Higher Consciousness. The first step in this pathway to Higher Awareness is through learning to understand and use the trance state. The trance state is like a ship that first transports us from the small island of the conscious mind to the vast new continents of the subconscious mind. How much we decide to explore of these new, unknown terrains is up to us.

     But if we are to travel from the trance state beyond the terrestrial world of ordinary human experience to the celestial realm of Higher Consciousness, we must become initiates and then adepts within the Perennial Tradition.


1 Milton H. Erickson -- the quotations from Erickson come from:

2 Salter, Andrew, What is Hypnosis? Studies in Conditioning, 1941

3 Hudgins, C. V. "Conditioning and the Voluntary Control of the Pupillary Light Reflex," Journal of General Psychology, 1933, 8: 3-51.

4 The "autonomic nervous system" is said to be that part of the vertebrate nervous system that governs involuntary actions such as secretion and peristalsis.

5 Menzies, R., "Further Studies in Conditioned Vasomotor Responses in Human Subjects," Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1941, 29: 456-482. Menzies showed that the temperature of the hand--again, a physiological effect thought to be autonomic--could be lowered through conditioned response training.

6 The word "actually" is an interesting one in this context. It means that the person experiencing a hallucination genuinely feels that she is seeing or hearing the phenomenon, when "actually" they are not seeing or hearing it--because it isn't there (in physical "reality").

7 Ellson, D. G., "Hallucinations Produced by Sensory Conditioning," Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1941, 28: 1-20

8 Ron Suskind, "Without a Doubt," New York Times Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004:  "In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about [George] Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush... The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

9 Tom Harris, "How Hypnosis Works," Holistic Life Center

10 The recently published book, The Perennial Tradition, discusses this and other essential concepts and practices within this ancient heritage of esoteric teachings.

11 From the discussion between subject and facilitator, it should be determined if the subject prefers the word "sleep," "trance," or some other term.

This essay is based on a study of these sources; also see the bibliography in the chapter Hypnotic Trance in Spiritual Development in the recently published book: Portals to Higher Consciousness


    Barber,T.X., (1969). Hypnosis: A scientific approach. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

    Braid, James, (1843), Neurypnology

    Braid, James, (1852), Magic, Witchcraft, Animal Magnetism

    Brunton, Paul, (1936), A Search in Secret Egypt

    Crabtree, Adam, Models of the Mind

    Deikman, Arthur J., "Deautomatization and the Mystic Experience"
    Deikman, Arthur J., "Implications of Experimentally Induced
       Contemplative Meditation"
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    Erickson, Milton, H., Seymour Hersham, Irvng I. Secter, The Practical Application Of Medical and Dental Hypnosis, 2005

    Erickson, Milton H., (1980), The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis, Vol. I, pp. 42, 43

    Ericksonian Hypnosis: Application, Preparation and Research, Ericksonian Monographs, Number 5

    Erickson, Milton H., "Autohypnotic Experiences of Milton H. Erickson," From: The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson, Volume I; Irvington Publishers, 1980)

    Freud, S. (1966). Hypnosis. In J. Strachery (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete Psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 1, pp. 103-114).

    Gilligan, Stephen G., (1987), Therapeutic Trances: The Cooperation Principle in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy

    Hilgard, E.R., (1965). Hypnotic Susceptibility. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.

    Hilgard, E. R., (1973). A neodissociation interpretation of pain reduction in hypnosis. Psychological Review, 80, 396-411.

    Hilgard, E. R., (1975). Hypnosis in the Relief of Pain. Los Altos, California: William Kaufman, Inc.

    Hilgard, E.R., (1986). Divided consciousness: Multiple controls in human thought and action. (expanded ed.). New York: Wiley.

    Hudson, Thomson Jay, (1892), The Law of Psychic Phenomena

    Kallio, Kallio and Antti Revonsuo, "Hypnotic Phenomena and Altered States of Consciousness: A Multilevel Framework of Description and Explanation," Contemporary Hypnosis (2003) Vol. 20, No. 3, 2003, pp. 111-164

    Nash, Michael R, "The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis," Scientific American, July 2001

    Rossi, E. L. (Editor) (1980). The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson, 4 volumes.

    Sabourin, M., (1982). Hypnosis and brain function: EEG correlates of state-trait differences. Research Communications in Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavior, 7 (2), 149-168.

    Shor, R. & Orne, E. C., (1962). The Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A: Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, California.

    Soskis, D.A., (1986). Teaching self-hypnosis: An introductory guide for clinicians. New York: W. W. Norton & company.

    Weitzenhoffer, A.M., (1953). Hypnotism: An objective study in suggestibility. New York: Wiley.

    Weitzenhoffer, A. M. & Hilgard, E. R., (1959). Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, Forms A and B: Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, California.

    Weitzenhoffer, A. M. & Hilgard, E. R., (1962). Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, Form C.: Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, California