Hypnotic Trance

The following is a record of a lecture on hypnosis given by Gurdjieff in Tiflis

“In Europe, hypnotism is much spoken about and much used in medical treatment. However the knowledge of it is very superficial which explains the frequently unsuccessful outcome of the treatment. it can be said that the curing of a sick man takes place entirely by chance if the hypnotist happens accidentally to do what the given patient needs.

Generally speaking there are three methods of hypnotizing of which the third method, transference of thought, is entirely unknown in Europe.

The first method should really be called self-hypnosis, for it requires no power of any kind on the part of the hypnotist. He only has to know how to break the connection between the emotional and the thinking centers.

The complexities of the methods of hypnotism are determined by the number of possible combinations.

There are connections between all centers. In man’s waking state, either the thinking or the emotional center is always active, while the other, as it were, observes, and criticizes it so as not to allow it to commit “stupidities.” If there is no connection which means there is none of this criticism–the man will do anything the center active at the moment happens to wish, which means he will commit many “stupidities” on sight.

The task of the hypnotist consists in breaking artificially, for a time, this connection, and then in giving commands to one of the centers which will then carry out everything literally, since there will be no criticism on the part of the other center.

For an explanation of the connection between centers, it is useful to repeat the comparison, already given, of the human machine with a team consisting of carriage, horse, and driver. The connection between centers may be compared with the reins and the shafts.

But for an ignorant hypnotist, there is another difficulty. In breaking the connection between centers he can, in ignorance, break the wrong one in which case his hypnosis will prove unsuccessful.

If, for example, in the case of a given patient, he must isolate the thinking center and he accidentally breaks precisely the connection which isolates the thinking center, his hypnosis will succeed; but if he breaks equally accidentally, some other connection and isolates the emotional center which does not understand words but understands, let us say, only images, then no matter what he may command in words, nothing will happen. This is the simple reason why patients are often not cured and say that hypnotism does not work.

When the hypnotist breaks the connection, he tells the patient to do this and that; and since criticism of the other center is absent, the patient believes him and does as he is told. Even if the other center sees that something is not as it should be, it can do nothing and can change nothing, for owing to the broken connection it can send no commands to that center.

If something is commanded to a man when centers are disconnected, then every time he is in that state, the man, that is, the given center, will repeat it. Even some definite action, say a touch, may induce this same state in a man.

In this kind of hypnosis, the moving center is awake. The whole of a man’s life is self-hypnosis or one man hypnotizing another. We are puppets in the hands of people stronger than ourselves. We shall become stronger by making two centers, the thinking and the emotional, keep awake together for as long a time as possible.

The second method of hypnotism is possible only if the hypnotist possesses a certain definite power. In order to explain this, it is first of all necessary to say that every man has his own atmosphere, similar to the atmosphere surrounding the earth. A man is enveloped by an even layer of this atmosphere of a certain definite thickness.

When a man is very interested in something, his atmosphere, that is, the rays of a certain kind of energy emanating from him, go, as it were, in the direction of his desire and the circumference of his atmosphere becomes drawn out on that side to the detriment of the other side. If the pull towards something is very strong, the whole atmosphere may be drawn out on one side to such an extent that it may be torn away from the man and not return to him again.

Generally, in the presence of a strong desire, the atmosphere is drawn out and becomes elongated in the direction of his desire.

With the hypnotist, this emanation or pouring out of his energy is voluntary, which means that he must have a reserve of energy and must know how to collect it.

In putting to sleep by this second method, the hypnotist saturates the patient with his own energy, and the healthier a man is, the quicker does he become saturated or, as it were, weighed down by this energy and goes to sleep. The more sick a man is, the less of this energy he has, the more difficult it is to put him to sleep by this method.

When two people meet, this energy passes from the one who has less to the one who has more (this explains vampirism). Ordinarily this energy passes from one man to another involuntarily.

The third method is completely unknown in Europe. This is transference of thought, that is, transference of a certain definite matter. What is called transference of thought here, is either charlatanism, or hypnosis of the first kind of which we have spoken earlier.”