Dr. James Braid using the gaze induction method

Hypnotic Trance
in Spiritual Development

Contacting the Higher Self
through empowering the subconscious

Hypnosis As A Trance State
     Trance, a state of profound abstraction or absorption, 1 is a state we experience spontaneously and voluntarily quite frequently--when we're absorbed in:
  • A book, a piece of music, or an art object--during which time our attention is entirely focused on the object of concentration

  • Driving long distances or driving along the same route every day

  • Watching a TV program or a movie and the message (overt or subliminal), story and characters become our reality

  • Contemplation

  • Meditation

  • Creative visualization

     Contrasted with such voluntary occurrences of the trance state, a somnolent or somnambulistic state is deliberately induced in us by an external agency through:

  • Hypnosis

  • Television

          • Advertising

        • Propaganda: communications having to do with religion, politics, econimics, personality, recreation, REALITY, etc.

Historical Investigation of the Trance State

     From prehistoric cave paintings showing priests apparently in a state of trance, we learn that the study of hypnosis or altered states of consciousness is more than 6,000 years old.

     Sages among the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians, Chinese, Persians and Sumerians investigated and used hypnosis, altered states of consciousness, and parapsychology.

     In her brief online 2 history of hypnosis, Francoise Lotery indicates that "the development and introduction of Hypnosis to the modern world is attributable to Islamic scientists of the Middle Ages."

     As explained in my recently published book The Perennial Tradition, scientific and philosophic knowledge was reintroduced to the West during the Middle Ages by Perennialist sages conversant with earlier Middle Eastern and Classical knowledge.

     In the West, the study of trance phenomena was reintroduced by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). In 1760, Mesmer became a medical student in Vienna, receiving his MD and PhD in 1767. His doctoral thesis explored the influence of gravitation on human physiology. Mesmer believed that gravitation is the result of a subtle 3  universal force-field which pervades the whole cosmos, including living organisms. He maintained that gravitation sets up "tides" in the human bloodstream and nerves.

      As Mesmer worked with a variety of medical patients, he began to formulate a remarkable theory he called "animal magnetism." He believed that along with other "fields" which science had discovered--gravitational, electromagnetic, uniform force field--there existed another field which he called the "animate field," known through its action on living things of all kinds. Mesmer saw this as a kind of life force.

     To treat medical symptoms, Mesmer first used magnets made in different shapes relative to the part of the body being treated. He became convinced that physical ailments can be cured by controlling the ebb and flow of the universal gravitational field.

     Mesmer continued to use magnets for some time, but also discovered that he himself was an "animal magnet" and could control the universal force-field through his own manual manipulations.

     Mesmer died at the age of 81 in 1815. His associate, Armand de Puysegur, carried on Mesmer's work, discovering that the spoken word and direct commands induced trance faster than "mesmeric passes." He also demonstrated that a person could be operated upon without pain when in trance.

     One of the most important researchers in hypnosis was the Scottish optometrist Dr James Braid (1795 - 1860). He discovered that a person who fixated on an object could easily reach a trance state without the help of "mesmeric passes." He discovered that having a patient fixate on a bright object about 8 to 15 inches above his eyes was one of the most important components of putting him into a trance. He began developing his theory of hypnosis from this and other "experiments."

     Braid published his findings in 1841, Neurypnology or the Rationale of Nervous Sleep considered in relation with Animal Magnetism, inaccurately naming the phenomenon "hypnotism" based on the Greek word "hypnos" meaning "sleep." Later investigations revealed that hypnosis differs markedly from sleep. But the name remained and mesmerism became hypnotism.

The Many Definitions of Hypnosis

     Since Braid's time, various schools of thought regarding hypnosis have sprung up relative to specific research and conceptual definitions:
  • James Esdaile (1808 - 59) in England: hypnosis as modified sleep

  • Jean-Martin Charcot (1825 - 1893) in Paris: hypnosis as related to pathology

  • Bernhiem and Liebault (1823 - 1904) in Nancy: hypnosis as heightened suggestibility

  • In 1891, the British Medical Association drafted a resolution in favor of the use of hypnosis in medicine but it was not approved until 1955, 64 years later

  • Emile Coue (1857 - 1926): hypnosis as self-suggestion
  • Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939): hypnosis as an adjunct to psychoanalysis

  • Milton H. Erickson (1901 - 1980): hypnosis as conscious participation in the trance state

     The American Psychological Association Division of Psychological Hypnosis provided the following definition in 1993:

"Hypnosis is a procedure during which a health professional or researcher suggests that a client, patient, or subject experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior. The hypnotic context is generally established by an induction procedure." (Executive Committee of the American Psychological Association Division of Psychological Hypnosis [1993,Fall]. Psychological Hypnosis: A Bulletin of Division 30, 2, p. 7.)
     The field of hypnosis now has two competing schools of thought: the mind state group and the social-learning group. The first sees hypnosis as a definite altered mental-psychic state of consciousness while the social-learning school views hypnosis as a pattern of social behavior.

     The social-psychological or social-learning position sees hypnotic behaviors as complex social behaviors that are the result of such factors as ability, attitude, belief, expectancy, attribution, and interpretation of the situation (Kirsch & Lynn, 1995). The influence of such variables as learning, history, and environmental influences are described by Barber (1969). There are even some, such as Kubie (Kubie, 1972), who believe that researchers can never know with certainty whether subjects are under hypnosis or are merely simulating a hypnotic state.

Practical Hypnosis

     It appears possible to induce a light state of hypnosis using a variety of techniques. But to develop a more profound and effective state of somnambulistic hypnosis, 4 we must investigate the more practical approach to hypnosis taken by such researchers as James Braid and Milton H. Erickson.

     Braid's technique was to encourage in the subject a continued fixed stare, which he believed paralyzed the nervous centers in the subject's eyes and their muscles. Braid believed that the straining of any organ or function moved it into a state of exhaustion, destroying the equilibrium of the nervous system.

     Holding any object from about eight to fifteen inches above the eyes, at a position above the forehead to produce the greatest possible strain upon the eyes and eyelids, the subject is told to maintain a steady fixed stare at the object.

     The subject is told to keep the eyes steadily fixed on the object, and the subconscious mind riveted on the idea of that one object. The pupils are at first contracted, then they begin to dilate. The eyeballs must be kept fixed, in the same position, and the subconscious mind riveted to the one idea of the object held above the eyes.

     The eyelids close with a vibratory motion, then become spasmodically closed. After ten or fifteen seconds have elapsed, it is found that the subject has a disposition to retain his arms in whatever position they are placed.

     The subject is told to retain the limbs in the extended position. The pulse quickly becomes greatly accelerated, and the limbs become quite rigid and involuntarily fixed.

     Braid first used the term "Neuro-Hypnotism," by which he meant "nervous system sleep,"a peculiar state of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature.

     Braid later revised his view of hypnosis as a specific neurological state, conceiving of it as "monoideation," the fixation of consciousness on a single idea or object.

"The real origin and essence of the hypnotic condition is the induction of a habit of abstraction or mental concentration, in which, as in reverie or spontaneous abstraction, the powers of the mind are so much engrossed with a single idea or train of thought, as, for the nonce, to render the individual unconscious of, or indifferently conscious to, all other ideas, impressions, or trains of thought." (Braid, 1852: 53-54)

What is Human Consciousness?

     To understand human consciousness, we'll use the analogy of a television set. This marvel of technology allows us to tune in to a particular channel, to receive the program playing on that channel: news, drama, sports, shopping, ... whatever. Using the TV set, you're able to tune in to different channels playing radically different programs. All channel signals are simultaneously available through the TV's cable or antennae input. You control your TV set to selectively filter the input signal to experience only the content you wish to view.

     We are all somewhat like TV sets. We select what information we want to receive from reality and only let in the "programs" we're "tuned" to receive. Our "tuning" is determined by our personality: our traits, thoughts, feelings, and belief system. In the same room, ten different people can experience ten diverse realities because of our "tuning." We live in different worlds or realities. Each of us lives in a virtual reality that is a subset of actual reality, just as a TV set is tuned to only a segment of the available programs. Fortunately, it's possible to "re-tune" our TV sets by examining, then changing, our personality factors. This, in turn, will change our individual reality and our life.

"Our main sense organs are like narrow slits which admit only a very narrow frequency range of electro-magnetic and sound waves. But even the amount that does get in through these narrow slits is too much. Life would be impossible if we were to pay attention to the millions of stimuli bombarding our senses - what William James called 'the blooming, buzzing multitude of sensations.' Thus the nervous system, and above all the brain, functions as a hierarchy of filtering and classifying devices which eliminate a large proportion of the sensory input as irrelevant 'noise,' and process the relevant information into manageable shape before it is presented to consciousness. An oft-quoted example of this filtering process is the 'cocktail party phenomenon' which enables us to isolate a single voice in the general buzz.

"By analogy, a similar filtering mechanism might be assumed to protect us from the blooming, buzzing multitude of images, messages, impressions and confluential happenings in the 'psycho-magnetic field' surrounding us. This is a point of great importance in trying to understand why paranormal phenomena present themselves in such inexplicable and arbitrary guises. . ."

Arthur Koestler, (1972), The Roots of Coincidence

The Conscious and Subconscious Minds in Hypnosis

"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 reign.

"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."

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

Communicating Directly With the Subconscious Mind

     What we do in hypnosis, then, is to communicate directly with the subconscious mind, temporarily de-activating the conscious mind. It is the nature of the subconscious mind that it accepts all it hears, influencing our actions based upon our individualized past programming--our "tuning."

     Each of us has countless meta-programs in place now that limit us, remnants from a time when they served a purpose. For example, we may have been conditioned to be afraid of a certain type of person--because that fear was functional at an earlier time in our life.

     But if we are to effect permanent improvements in our personality and in our behavior--including contacting our Higher Consciousness--we must make contact with our subconscious mind, which controls our conscious mind and body. Our subconscious mind is where our automatic patterns and habits reside, so it's within the subconscious mind that we can create long-lasting changes and establish contact with our Higher Self.

     The subconscious mind is receptive to both positive and negative suggestions. It simply accepts as fact whatever is presented to it. It does not discriminate or reason. It takes experience at face value and operates with very little analytical judgment.

     We can actively re-structure our personalities--our thoughts, feelings, traits, and beliefs--by transmitting positive suggestions to our subconscious, restructuring it with beneficial meta-programs. The subconscious mind is formed from all our previous experiences, storing everything that happens to us. The subconscious can limit us by reacting to situations based on erroneous or outdated information. But if properly constituted, the subconscious can help us make remarkable changes and attain unusual capabilities.

Hemispheres of the Brain



• Left side: words and logic • Right side: art, music, intuition • Right and left connected by nerve fibers: corpus callosum • Crossover: right half connects to left side of body and vice versa

     The cerebral cortex has two halves, called hemispheres. They are separate, but connected. The left side of your brain connects to the right side of your body, while the right brain connects to the left side. In most people, the left brain handles words and logic, and the right brain is better at art, music, and intuition.

     From recent research on the two hemispheres of the brain, we've discovered that most of the functions of the conscious mind are located in the left hemisphere of the brain, the more rational, linear, logical functions. The functions of our subconscious mind are located in the right hemisphere, involving feelings, emotions, and more wholistic functions.

     Hypnosis of a practical nature deals with the subconscious, left-brain functions, de-activating the conscious mind in order to bring about significant change in our lives. However, the small amount of research carried out in relating hypnosis and brain states indicates that susceptibility to hypnosis does not correlate with theta brain wave activity.

The Anarchy of Diverse Theories

     In examining the history of hypnosis, we find that a series of diverse theories and methods have been championed, each in turn seeming to disprove and disqualify the others. Mesmer's method of "animal magnetism"--or personal mental force field--proved effective in inducing a trance state and even of healing certain bodily ailments.

     Because of personal attacks against Mesmer, the French Royal Academy of Medicine was forced to examine Mesmer's claims. The physician-dominated Academy issued a scathing report which condemned Mesmer as a charlatan. Mesmer was driven into exile, with the execrations of a majority of the medical profession ringing in his ear.

Marquis de Puysegur      Mesmer, however, left many disciples, among whom were a few able scientists, such as the Marquis de Puysegur (1751-1825), who pursued genuine investigations into the phenomena of hypnosis. These researchers revolutionized the art of inducing the mesmeric state, making many valuable and unusual discoveries. De Puysegur's primary technique of hypnotic induction was to gaze into the subject's eyes, make gentle passes over his head, face, and body, inducing a deep sleep. In this state the patients were frequently cured of disease, anaesthesia was produced, and surgical operations were performed without pain. The therapeutic value of the hypnotic power was thus definitely established.

     De Puysegur and his colleagues also discovered that their hypnotic subjects were able to see without the use of their eyes. While blindfolded, they were able to read and they carried out mental--unspoken--orders . So many men of learning and sound reputation attested to these psychic phenomena that the French Royal Academy of Medicine felt compelled to order a new investigation.

      A committee was appointed, composed of some of the ablest and most cautious scientists of the day. For nearly six years that committee pursued its investigation with the utmost care and circumspection. Its report admitted the therapeutic value of the process and declared that the power of thought-transference and clairvoyance had been demonstrated by indubitable tests.

      This new report was so revolutionary that opponents of hypnotism were able to see that the report was not printed and a new investigation ordered. Another committee was appointed, headed by a bigot who had openly sworn eternal hostility to the the entire field of hypnosis. The result was inevitable. They examined only two subjects and then made their report, announcing the committee's failure to witness the occult phenomena, and impugning the intelligence of the former committee. Predictably, this report was accepted by the average scientist of the day as containing the entire truth about hypnosis.

James Braid      The panorama of hypnosis continued, however. Throughougt the centuries, mystics and magicians have produced altered states of consciousness through measured hypnotic conjurations (rituals) or meditations, and practitioners of witchcraft or occultism have produced trance states through emotionally stimulating circle-dances, breathing exercises, or other physical movements.

     Hypnosis has been re-defined with each new theory or gimmick psychologists come up with. At present, the field is somewhat dominated by such supposed "objective" instruments as the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale (SHSS) and the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility (HGSHS), an adaptation of the SHSS. The Stanford scale was devised in the late 1950s by Stanford University psychologists André M. Weitzenhoffer and Ernest R. Hilgard and is still used today to determine the extent to which a subject responds to hypnosis.

      One version of the Stanford scale consists of a series of 12 activities--such as holding one's arm outstretched or sniffing the contents of a bottle--that are said to test the depth of the hypnotic state. In the first instance, individuals are told that they are holding a very heavy ball, and they are scored as "passing" that suggestion if their arm sags under the imagined weight. In the second case, subjects are told that they have no sense of smell, and then a vial of ammonia is waved under their nose. If they have no reaction, they are deemed very responsive to hypnosis; if they grimace and recoil, they are not.

   Professor Ernest Hilgard (1904-2001) of Stanford University made a tremendous effort over the years to bring greater respect to the study of hypnosis. He believed that through the hypnotic trance a separate part of the mind is contacted, which he called the "hidden observer." Through hypnosis we are able to cut ourselves off from normal waking consciousness and contact this hidden observer or involuntary part of the mind, the subconscious.

     Hilgard's neodissociation model (Hilgard, 1986) suggests that hypnosis involves the activation of hierarchically arranged subsystems of cognitive control. This dissociation of consciousness is clearly manifested in the realm of hypnotically induced analgesia. Hilgard's conception of a "hidden observer" 5  as a dissociated part of consciousness, a part that is always aware of nonexperienced pain and can be communicative with the therapist, is exemplified in his description of a hypnotically analgesic individual whose hand and arm were immersed in circulating ice water:

"All the while that she was insisting verbally that she felt no pain in hypnotic analgesia, the dissociated part of herself was reporting through automatic writing that she felt the pain just as in the normal nonhypnotic state." (p. 398)
     Hilgard conceived of the "hidden observer" as that part of the mind which communicates with the hypnotist but is not available to consciousness. Relative to this theory, pain control under hypnosis would involve the inhibition of specific areas of the brain in connection with the dissociative effect of hypnosis.

The Original Practice of Magical Hypnosis

     Unknown to Hilgard, this "hidden observer" element which he thought he had discovered was in fact the "inner self" of the Perennial Tradition. 6 According to this tradition, there is, in every person, a hidden self or Philosopher's Stone which, when activated, brings us into contact with a higher level of being.
"Now this initial process towards discovering the '[Philosopher's] stone' . . . was accomplished in a condition of magnetic trance mesmerically induced upon the aspirant by some wise and skilled operator. . . .

"The separation was that of the aspirant's sense-nature and objective mind from his subjective [subconscious] nature. The former needed to be reduced to quiescence that his consciousness might function in the latter alone and in a necessarily quickened, vivid manner. The aspirant therefore would be placed in the condition of a person at the moment of death or in anaesthesia; but with this difference, that, whilst thus reduced to subjectivity, he would be at the mercy of the compelling will and direction of the operator into whose power he had committed himself. His consciousness, withdrawn from externals, would be restricted to and focused upon the mind's internal content, and these inania regna he would be directed to explore and to consider."

Walter Leslie Wilmhurst, Introduction to
M. A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy

"That there resides in mankind a psychic power over the functions and sensations of the body, and that that power can be invoked at will under certain conditions and applied to the alleviation of human suffering, no longer admits of a rational doubt. The history of all nations presents an unbroken line of testimony in support of the truth of this proposition."

T. J. Hudson, Law of Psychic Phenomena

     Hilgard's concept of "hidden observer" was similar to but not identical to FWH Myers' (1843-1901) concept of the "subliminal self." Myers' theory of subliminal processes or contents that cross a threshold or limen to enter conscious awareness is similar to those constructs suggested earlier by Leibnitz, Herbart, Hartmann, and Fechner, and that also were being advanced by Carl DuPrel and Pierre Janet.

     Myers' conception of Man was vastly more comprehensive than Freud's (1856-1939), and it is indeed unfortunate that Freud's reductionist view became the orthodox psychological dogma. Myers saw the human soul--the higher self--as capable of existing independently of the body in a super-terrestrial realm. He considered our ordinary mental life as a very limited expression of the capacities of the higher self, merely that portion that manifests itself through the human brain.

     Myers viewed the brain as being at a comparatively early stage in its evolution as an instrument through which the higher self operates in the material world. He conceived of the subliminal self as that part of the higher self (soul) which remains unexpressed in our conscious and organic life. The subliminal self surpasses the supraliminal (above the threshold of consciousness) or ordinary conscious self in its range of psychical powers. Myers conceived of the subliminal self as being in touch with a realm of psychical forces from which it is able to draw energy to infuse into the human mind, ordinarily in limited quantities, but, in altered states, in great floods, which elevate the mental operations and powers to exceptionally high levels.

     In his review of Myers' masterpiece Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903), William James compared Myers's "genius" to that of Charles Darwin in his scientific ability to classify and systematize a vast amount of seemingly disparate material.

     Myers viewed the creations of artistic genius as uprushes of the subliminal self, temporarily acquiring a more complete control of the the human mind and achieving a more comprehensive expression of its powers. Myers saw these rare displays of subliminal creativity as foreshadowing the future course of human mental evolution, providing a glimpse of the higher plane on which the mind of man will habitually and normally live. But Myers saw the necessity for humankind to develop its entire mind to make of it an effective medium for the exercise of spiritual faculties and for contacting psychical energies which at present are latent or confined to the subliminal self.

"It goes without saying that, in order to occupy oneself with the supranormal, it is necessary to admit theoretically the possibility thereof, or, what comes to the same thing, to be sceptical of the infallibility and the perfection of science as it now exists."

Theodore Flournoy, quoted by William McDougall
in An Outline of Abnormal Psychology

Somnambulistic Trance Hypnosis

     Our purpose in studying hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness is to develop the ability to make contact with our Higher Consciousness, our Higher Self. To accomplish that goal, it's necessary to experience hypnosis at the greatest possible depth, preferably in the somnambulistic state.

     In evoking a somnambulistic trance state, these factors are involved:

  • The hypnotist entrancing the senses of the subject

    • the hypnotist giving suggestions of passivity to the subject and neutralizing his consciousness, the reasoning faculty placed in abeyance

    • the subject gazing at a specified object to entrance the eye and the conscious mind

  • The hypnotist speaking directly to the subject's subconscious mind to influence and control his behavior

  • The hypnotist and the subject conversing with the powers within, e.g. the "hidden observer"
    the death of Socrates
  • The hypnotist setting the mental framework as the experience of the moment of death followed by rebirth

  • The hypnotist manipulating the subject's Force Field

    • to activate the psychic force field within which the subject resides

    • to bring all facets of this life force into harmonious interplay and homeostasis

  • The hypnotist's psyche leading the subject's psyche through suggesting actions, feelings, and thoughts

Deep Reflection and Hypnosis

     One of the most interesting sets of experiments on trance and hypnotic induction were carried out by Milton H. Erickson and Aldous Huxley. Erickson maintained a continuing interest in hypnotic trance, 7 collaborating with Margaret Mead on studies of the Japanese national character and the effectiveness of Nazi propaganda (trance induction) during World War II. In 1940, Erickson had assisted Mead in her study of the spontaneous trance induced by dancers in Bali.

     In an early paper, "Hypnotic Psychotherapy," Erickson explained his vew of hypnotic trance states.

"The induction and maintenance of a trance serve to provide a special psychological state in which patients can re-associate and reorganize their inner psychological complexities and utilize their own capacities in a manner in accord with their own experiential life. Hypnosis does not change people nor does it alter their past experiential life. It serves to permit them to learn more about themselves and to express themselves more adequately.

"Direct suggestion is based primarily, if unwittingly, upon the assumption that whatever develops in hypnosis derives from the suggestions given. It implies that the therapist has the miraculous power of effecting therapeutic changes in the patient, and disregards the fact that therapy results from an inner re-synthesis of the patient's behavior achieved by the patient himself. It is true that direct suggestion can effect an alteration in the patient's behavior and result in a symptomatic cure, at least temporarily. However, such a 'cure' is simply a response to the suggestion and does not entail that re-association and reorganization of ideas, understandings, and memories so essential for an actual cure. It is this experience of re-associating and reorganizing his own experiential life that eventuates in a cure, not the manifestation of responsive behavior, which can, at best, satisfy only the observer.  . . .

"In other words, hypnotic hypnotherapy is a learning process for the patient, a procedure of reeducation. Effective results in hypnotic psychotherapy, or hypnotherapy, derive only from the patient's activities. The therapist merely stimulates the patient into activity, often not knowing what that activity may be, and then guides the patient and exercises clinical judgment in determining the amount of work to be done to achieve the desired results. How to guide and judge constitute the therapist's problem, while the patient's task is that of learning through his own efforts to understand his experiential life in a new way. Such reeducation is, of course, necessarily in terms of the patient's life experiences, his understandings, memories, attitudes, and ideas; it cannot be in terms of the therapist's ideas and opinions."

     Huxley had the capability of entering into a deep, somnambulistic hypnotic trance, but he preferrred his own self-induced altered state of consciousness, which he called "Deep Reflection." Erickson describes the difference between the two from Huxley's perspective.
"He felt that as a purely personal experience he [Huxley] derived certain unidentifiable subjective values from Deep Reflection not actually obtainable from hypnosis, which offered only a wealth of new points of view. Deep Reflection, he declared, gave him certain inner enduring feelings that seemed to play some significant part in his pattern of living. . .

"He explained that the hypnotic exploration did not give him an inner feeling--that is, a continuing subjective feeling--of just being in the midst of his psychedelic experience, that there was an ordered intellectual content paralleling the 'feeling content,' while Deep Reflection established a profound emotional background of a stable character upon which he could 'consciously and effortlessly lay an intellectual display of ideas' to which the reader would make full response."

     In a somnambulistic hypnotic state, Huxley was able to enter into a most extraordinary experience in which he observed a small infant who proceeded to mature before his very eyes. The infant was soon a 27-year old young man and Huxley realized that the young man was he, Huxley, at that age. He was looking out through the eyes of a 27-year old incarnation of himself viewing a 72-year old embodiment of himself.

     The shared experiences of Huxley and Erickson show how it is possible for a person to make contact with one's higher self and adventure in and learn from this higher realm of being. It appears Huxley was able to teach himself how to enter into a very deep meditative state, though it may be that some of his experiences with hypnotic induction assisted in the development of such deep trance states. Not all persons will be able to enter into deep trance states through their own efforts. With many persons interested in the search for spiritual understanding it is helpful--often necessary--for a knowledgeable person to assist in inducing a deep trance state.

"That which, in the language of religion, is called 'this world' is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language. The various 'other worlds,' with which human beings erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large. Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language. Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others temporary by-passes may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate 'spiritual exercises,' or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs. Through these permanent or temporary by-passes there flows, not indeed the perception 'of everything that is happening everywhere in the universe' (for the by-pass does not abolish the reducing valve, which still excludes the total content of Mind at Large), but something more than, and above all something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality."
Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception

The Higher Self

     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

       What we're seeking in the trance state is identification with our Higher Self.
"We must rid our minds of two great delusions--the delusion of the intrinsic reality of the material world and the delusion of the intrinsic reality of the individual self. These two delusions are, as it happens, the fundamental assumptions which underlie the philosophy of popular thought.

"The [Perennial] philosophy, like the philosophy of popular thought, takes the reality of the self for granted and places it at the centre of the Universe. But it is a different self. It is a self which transcends our experience of self; a self whose depths and heights, whose mysteries and secrets are unknown, a self with limitless possibilities; a self in whose all-embracing being there is room for Nature, for Man, and for God."

Edmond Holmes, Self-Realization

"What that subtle being is, of which the whole universe is composed, that is the real, that is the soul, that art thou."

Chandogya Upanishad


1 Trance: (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1974)

1) a state of partly suspended animation or inability to function
2) a somnolent state (as of deep hypnosis)
3) a state of profound abstraction (absence of mind or
    preoccupation) or absorption (entire occupation of the mind)

2 Brief online history

3 Subtle: Operating in a hidden way; elusive; difficult to understand or distinguish

4 Somnambulism: A deep state of hypnotic trance often characterized by amnesia (loss of memory), positive and negative hallucinations (seeing objects which aren't present and not seeing object that are present), anesthesia (lack of sensation), and the ability to open the eyes and remain in full trance.

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

6 See the author's recently published work, The Perennial Tradition

7 Erickson's first paper on hypnosis rejected the then current attitude that hypnosis was a form of cortical inhibition--the cortex went into more or less deep sleep during trance. Erickson argued, on the contrary, that the cortical state in trance was one of intense focusing and concentration, and vastly heightened, but narrowed concentration.



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