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Hypnosis and the Delusiveness of Normal Perception and Logic

Henry Flynt

(c) 1992 Henry A. Flynt, Jr.


Explaining what I mean by "being hypnotized" is the same thing as explaining my reasons for studying hypnosis.[1] Hypnosis has a mystique which asserts that hypnosis brings the subject into a unique somnambulistic state, the trance, such that the subject becomes the operator's slave, while gaining a miraculous expansion of memory, strength, etc. The mystique emphasizes the taking over of the subject's will by the hypnotist, the "operator." When I was hypnotized as an epistemological experiment, attempts to take over my will were ineffective and of little interest to me.

What was interesting to me was that authoritarian formal hypnosis (or a partial version of it) could, with my cooperation, drastically change the content of my "perceptions." Merely talking to a subject ("droning on") under conditions of relaxation, etc., can produce drastic changes in "perception" (along with implicit changes in the subject's norms of cogency of perception) from the subject's standpoint. While I was hypnotized, I was made to see myself approach from a distance to be seated in a chair opposite where I was already seated--so that while I continued to have some sense of my body located at the vertex of my visual perspective (more or less), I also saw my body entirely from without and at a distance, as if I were another person. I saw this with open eyes, as an addition to "external perception"; it was not a visualization.[2] At another point, I was brought by suggestion to the experience that the entire room was whirling on a back-to-front axis.

An effect of interest reported in the academic literature is that hypnosis can suppress the subject's use of one of the whole numbers (digits) as an enumeration token, much as if the subject were tying to count with incompletely learned letters of the Greek alphabet. It is claimed that the subject can tell that his result is not cogent, and that his ability to enumerate has therefore been impaired.

Such effects as these have an importance for "epistemology" which has been overlooked (because of the absence of a cultural framework which stimulates the most destabilizing questions about the available phenomena).

In the Seventies, Christer Hennix made some sort of connection between the psychedelic experience and concept-formation in advanced mathematics; and propounded a sort of mathematical phenomenology [or algorithm] for altered consciousness. Hennix's scheme, which was uncommon and exceptionally demanding because it operated directly on rational cognition, was one among various "demanding" methods for "altering consciousness" which were tried in those decades: synthetic drugs, isolation tanks, etc. Given Hennix's enterprise as comparison, the circumstance that a hypnotist can produce major changes in "external perception" by mere talk is extraordinary. One might wonder whether it is possible at all to make an awake, unimpaired subject see a pink elephant in objectively empty external space with open eyes. With hypnosis, it is easy.

Attempts to make a magic wand out of hypnosis quickly fizzle out, however. On the one hand, there are the intrinsic limitations of the phenomenon. Hypnosis of itself has no intellectual, no analytical value: it produces qualitative changes of perception simply by suggesting them, rather like a storyteller would.[3] And so the effects are quickly dispelled when the mood is dispelled and the subject's cooperation is withdrawn. In short, hypnosis seems to be subjective in the sense of "trivial." (Postponing for the moment the discussion of the extravagant claims that have been made for hypnosis.)

Then, modern hypnosis began as a hoax[4] in an age of medical biology and, subsequently, an age of laboratory psychology. Its proponents surrounded it with fantastic claims which could have come from a comic book. The research energy went into debating these claims, and into debating whether hypnosis was a unique physiological state like sleep--a naturally determined state. The framework necessary to see the genuinely destabilizing ramifications of hypnosis was not available.


I wish to approach hypnosis in accord with the perspective of the present book, Depth Psychology as a Post-Scientific Modality, as that perspective is presented in Chapter I (with Chapter II). In my perspective, authoritarian formal hypnosis is treated as a guide to phenomena collateral to it--which go unremarked because they are commonplace. Roughly, I am talking about deformations of subjectivity which are widely shared. Such shared deformations of subjectivity act like an objectivity, since they mediate most attempts to discover and validate objectivities. Moreover, there is no reason why these deformations may not be deeply entrenched and persistent.


It is convenient to take authoritarian formal hypnosis as the norm of the range of phenomena to be considered here. (From now on I will shorten the term to AF hypnosis.) That is because AF hypnosis is focused for the purpose of manipulating a subject ad lib, as guided by the operator. But I will devote some preliminary space to criticizing the mystique surrounding hypnosis. I must make this case in my own terms, because although I agree with certain isolated points made by scientists and debunkers, I proceed from the framework in Chapter I (and II) and not from the academic frameworks. It has been claimed that the distinctiveness and unicity of AF hypnosis comes from a unique physiological condition called a hypnotic trance. In contrast, I emphasize that AF hypnosis is a mélange of various modalities and techniques which have no necessary connection with one another. Moreover, any of these several modes and techniques can appear separately in some other phenomenon. My formulation, in short, is that AF hypnosis is a mélange--of elements which separately have collateral analogues. Monotony is one thing, fascination is another thing, relaxation is another thing, daydreaming is another thing, a charismatic personal presence is another thing.

I propose that deceitful psychological manipulation is collateral to AF hypnosis. With this technique, a "mark" can be rendered blind to an object in plain sight. (Negative visual hallucination--one of the tests of a deep trance.) So far from lulling the mark to sleep, the operator places the mark in emotional turmoil--using methods ranging from non-verbal signaling, to unsettling conversation, to the telling of distressing lies, to appeals to the mark's superstitions. The aim is to point the mark's attention sharply, or to break the mark's alertness. Then the object to be concealed vanishes from the mark's awareness-field, even though it remains objectively nearby. Psychological manipulation grossly infringes the target's freedom; it's like a cruel practical joke.

If you are touched by somebody you are enraged at, their touch burns. What is that?

Suppose that you are certain that when you turn a corner, you will see a certain scene. If you turn the corner and see a scene somewhat different from the one you expected, there may be a moment in which your perceptual process denies the discrepancies--and quasi-hallucinates the scene you expected. It may take seconds for the discrepancies to sink in, and for you to re-crystallize the visual gestalt. What was the momentary external perception which was not supported by the actual visual "evidence"?

AF hypnosis is usually aimed toward achieving influence over the subject's will--and turns on a challenge test of whether a trance has been achieved. To this end, the induction technique usually begins with an outright deceit, a trick, perpetrated by the operator upon the subject. The subject is told to look upward as if at a spot on his forehead, and is then told that his eyelids are getting heavy and that he wants to close them. The deception is that rolling the eyes upward and holding the gaze is a strain which would tire one's eyelids in any case; but the operator seeks to instill in the subject the suggestion that his eyelids have become heavy because of the operator's irresistible influence. The deception wants the subject to give the credit, to the operator's influence, for somatic fatigue which results from holding strained positions.

Another induction technique seeks to induce a standing subject to fall backward into the operator's arms. The operator ends the suggestions by waving a hand behind the subject's ear, rustling the air to make the subject think he is already falling. Such deceitful and opportunistic personalization of "material" effects and evidences should be recognized as the stock in trade of a witch doctor.

The AF hypnotist may continue with suggestions having to do with warmth or coldness or heaviness or lightness of the bodily appendages (internal sensations); and then proceed to a daydream of lying on a beach which is strongly visual and aural; and then perhaps proceed to a challenge test. My point is that gazing upward, or thinking that you are falling because you hear a hand waved behind your ear, has no necessary connection with a daydream that you are lying on a beach; and the daydream has no necessary connection with whether your arm seems to rise of its own accord--or with whether you become unable to lower your arm. We are dealing with a mélange.

Academic debunkers have made a subtle point about challenge tests. The challenge suggestion is not a straightforward challenge, but rather a compromised challenge. The operator makes it clear from the outset that he needs the subject's full cooperation. Then comes the test, which "opposes" the subject--whose role is that of the operator's subordinate. The subordinate's inability to move when invited to "defy" the operator may be unanalyzed loyalty to the situation's overall regime. Nevertheless, if there is a play-acted conflict of wills within an overall state of submission, this focused interpersonal situation of conflicted intentionality could be quite instructive.

So, to repeat, AF hypnosis is a focused mélange. Diverse versions of spoken suggestion can be concocted: directed to relaxation only, or to fantasy only, or to motivation only--or, for what it is worth, to anesthesia, or to the compulsion of behavior. Appendix A, "Nonstandard Hypnotic Induction to Alter Color Perception," is a parole which alters perception without the slightest involvement of monotony, relaxation, stupor, or internal sensations. As for the spoken suggestions, they can come from a present operator, or from an audio recording. It is possible to ask for an overt response from the subject without making that request a challenge test.

I agree with the researchers who note that there are many banal gimmicks having to do with daze and suggestion which are collateral to AF hypnosis. A few examples are drowsiness induced by monotony; relaxation; narrow fascination with a perception or an idea; use of distraction to conceal something; daydreaming; storytelling; the placebo effect; gullibility; flattery; salesmanship; personal domination; motivational oratory; and crowd psychology.


I go farther and speculate that the event called suggestion is not physiologically specific. suggestion is a catch-word for a combination of intimidation and coaxing of a consenting addressee: a manipulative address to the personalistic subjectivity of a consenting subject (which elicits altered perception).

In this connection, I insist on intimidation as an element in the mélange. For one or another apparition, there is a social agreement as to what objective structure produces the apparition and is evinced by it. There is then overwhelming social pressure to see the apparition as revelatory of the mandated structure. (Even to the extent of being required to have an external perception which supports the mandated theory but is false to the details of the actual sensory evidence.) If you don't perceive in this way, you are told that you are stupid and esthetically deficient.

Intimidation can be brought to bear ad hoc. In "Concept Art" (6/19/61), I ask that you use a ruler to discredit what you see in an optical illusion. And intimidation can be deceitful. The operator convinces the subject that a blue is blue-green--by telling the subject that an artist would mix in green to achieve that blue. (The artist is fictively invoked as an expert.)

This unpacking of suggestion does not, on the other hand, explain the evident constancy of each person's degree of suggestibility.


As I have said, modern hypnosis originated as a hoax. Its proponents surrounded it with magic claims which could have come from a comic book. Concurrently, given the era and the prevailing culture, hypnosis was demanded to be placed in a medical and a physiological context--and subsequently to be a subject for laboratory psychology. The result is that hypnosis research has been preoccupied with an agenda which gives the mystique of hypnosis too much attention. In particular, hypnosis research has been occupied by the battle between the mystifiers and the debunkers. In the time of the original charlatans, the question of whether hypnosis existed at all was stipulated to be inseparable from the question of whether hypnosis was induced by the metal nickel. Subsequent research has embodied this mind-set--in ever-changing guises. (Of course, that is the mind-set our culture would have to produce, trapped as it is between mechanistic reductionism and comic-book occultism.)

The academic debate makes a weighty issue of whether hypnotic trance can be externally or physiologically proved. In turn, it makes this issue inseparable from whether the behavioral proofs of hypnosis can be performed without hypnosis as the preparation. It makes this issue inseparable from whether total recall of one's past sensory impressions is achievable through hypnosis. It makes this issue inseparable from whether the Freudian unconscious can be interrogated via hypnosis. It makes this issue inseparable from whether recall of past incarnations is achievable through hypnosis. It makes this issue inseparable from whether you can learn a foreign language by playing recorded lessons while you sleep. And it makes these issues inseparable from whether an operator can absolutely take control of a subject's will. I suggest that there is no necessity to make the subject-matter into this sort of package.


As I expounded in Chapter I of Depth Psychology as a Post-Scientific Modality, bio-medical science is for me a myth to be placed in question. This brings me to an unexpected and iconoclastic epistemological remark. We can hardly validate bio-medical science if our direct perceptions (and logical judgments) involve deformations or distortions which are not understood. Now my thesis is that direct experience is mediated by correlatives of AF hypnosis. This places bio-medical science in a cloud. As a matter of fact, I am so iconoclastic that I don't even believe that the hemispheric split of the brain is what installs the science/poetry dichotomy found in our culture. And that is iconoclastic indeed, since orthodoxy believes this configuration to have been proved in the medical laboratory.

Then, as I expounded in Chapter I, I require the introspective standpoint as a "dimension" of every psychological observation. Thus, whether a procedure (which because it involves spoken suggestions, relaxation, etc., is called hypnosis) achieves a remarkable effect is decided first of all from the standpoint of the subject.

From having been hypnotized, I know that effects are achievable which--for what they are--are extraordinary. Reflecting on this, I find it helpful to make the battle of wills a separate feature of hypnosis. Let us consider a version of hypnosis which presupposes the subject's full cooperation. One can, in varying degrees, reach a realm of consciousness in which one has the power to alter one's "externally" perceived world by fantasizing. Sensitization and habituation can intensify this state. If the aim of hypnosis is to simulate the waterfall illusion, or to simulate LSD trails, the chances of success are much better if the subject has prior experience of the effect, and can treat the effect as a psychic locale to which hypnosis will help him or her return.

To underline an earlier point, AF hypnosis is a directed mélange of elements from a spectrum of banal gimmicks. Why does AF hypnosis have to be more distinctive, or less real, than fascination, concentration, distraction, monotony, drowsiness, or daydreaming? Why does hypnosis have to be more distinctive, or less real, than flattery, the placebo effect, or deception? The real contribution of the debunkers, so far as I am concerned, is to observe that hypnotic induction begins not so much with somnification as with a deception of control. The proponents of hypnosis are not eager to acknowledge this rather deflating aspect of their craft.

On the other hand, if the operator abruptly ends the hypnotic parole, and begins normal conversation, the subject is brought to an alertness which is dazed--and may remain dazed for an hour or more. This suggests that hypnosis does discover a distinct state of consciousness. But it is possible for soothing conversation, which does not intend hypnosis, to place the addressee temporarily in a state of dazed dependency. And there is morning amnesia.[5] Does each of these collateral states of wakefulness have to have a distinct physiology?

As for the matter of gaining control of the subject's behavior, as a preliminary comment, I don't need to take a dogmatic position on whether hypnotic control works (any more than I need to take a dogmatic position on the placebo effect). Presumably it works in some cases and not in others. When I was hypnotized, the challenge suggestions failed. Perhaps that was because inadequate prior motivation was given me to become pliant in that way. Some people are not able to be hypnotized at all: which means that they will not accept a sort of droning guidance in fantasizing.

As for the claims surrounding age regression--claims to elicit previous incarnations, etc.--I again say that the debunkers who wrestle with these claims give too much credit to the mystique. If the researcher wants to avoid being the butt of a hoax, then surely these depositions by hypnotic subjects should be presumed to be fabrications.[6]

The claim that hypnosis makes it possible to interrogate the Freudian unconscious threatens to steer our inquiry into a long digression. Proponents of this notion fail to say what the unconscious is, or to substantiate it away from hypnosis. As is well known, Freud abandoned hypnosis as a tunnel to the unconscious on the grounds that the unconscious is coded, and does not depose anything literally. From one point of view, the notion of an unconscious consciousness is trivially oxymoronic, and should not have been welcomed as it was by the trendies. In Chapter II of this work, SSA and SSB, I take yet another approach, examining the plausibility of the hypothesis of a submerged psychic life which surfaces in dreams, etc.--without Freud's claims to divide this mentation up into rooms and floors, to compute its hydraulics, to connect it to bestial human nature, to decode it with a key vouchsafed only to Freud himself. Relative to my tentative phenomenological characterization of the unconscious, there is no reason for hypnosis--a lulling or imaginative shaping of the alert waking state--to be connected to mentation, hidden we know not where, occupied with interior bestialism, atavistic memories, traumas, and guilts.

* * *


Let me illustrate what some of the standard questions about the powers of hypnosis would look like if they were transposed to the level of analysis called for in Chapter I. Consider the areas of

1. i) autonomy vs. submission in interpersonal interaction;

ii) subliminal or unconscious perception;

iii) variations in the comprehensiveness and retrievability of memory;

iv) interaction of (i)-(iii).

AF hypnosis would be important in these connections only if it could provide focused cases of effects more remarkable than those found in informal, undistinguished life. But what is the experimental design relative to which an effect is established? This question, important for any researcher, takes on a singular and overwhelming role in defining my approach. Areas (i)-(iv) arise in informal, undistinguished life, not just in AF hypnosis. My treatment of these areas in "ordinary" life is unconventional and demanding. See "Studies in the Person-World," SSC; as well as the chapter entitled "Apperceptive Cogency" in this work.

1.a. The legacy of the mystique of hypnosis is a series of claims which are inherently flawed, from this point of view. The mystique of hypnosis makes claims of objective consequentiality for a realm of phenomena such that things are counted as real if they are imagined to be real. (Confusion of supposition and objectivity.) How do you discount play-acting and lying; and the supposition that one's opposite number in the hypnotic session is play-acting or lying?

Let me say a little more about areas (i)-(iv) at the level of person-world analysis. Can the hypnotist get control of the subject's will? Consider the following. You can make yourself your own robot. Suppose there is something you have to do, but which you delay doing, such as arising in the morning. You can stipulate to yourself that you will arise at the count of ten. You then count deliberately to ten. At the count of ten, you will probably arise without any struggle, like an automaton. Who has taken over whose will, and who has reduced whom to an automaton?

One has the ability, which can be increased by cultivation, to throw oneself into a role, so that successive actions flow without reflection from one's conception of the role. One also has the ability to surrender responsibility to a commander, and propel oneself in response to external commands, without reflection, "like a robot." (Presumably that the the way troops function in battle.)


If these observations are related to the question of whether the hypnotist can control the subject's memory, the following refections ensue regarding the operator's ability to produce amnesia. In my perspective, the negative of not remembering (as distinguished from reporting that you don't remember) is only ascertainable from the subject's standpoint. So what do the proponents of hypnosis claim about the subject's experience of memory? (Noting all the questions I elaborated in "Studies in the Person-World," SSC.)

Is the subject claimed to experience a drop-out or jump-cut, as may happen with general anesthesia or sleep (with appropriate definitions so the occurrence can be judged from the subject's vantage-point)? Another angle on the issue refers back to 1.a above. Is there such a thing, relative to memory, as play-acting to oneself? My ideas about analytically retrievable repression in "Studies in the Person-World," SSC--and in Chapter I of this work, Principle B--suggest that there is play-acted forgetting in informal, undistinguished life. And where does a mental block for a name or word fit into the picture? In my approach, it is the subject who has to discriminate if forgetting is imagined or play-acted or real--at one or another level: whatever meaning can be given to these distinctions. And here another problem surfaces: is the ordinary subject lucid enough to discriminate his or her levels of play-acted forgetting; etc.?



Given my framework, the claims of objective consequentiality which were inherited from the mystique of hypnosis are found not to be the most reliable and productive aspects of hypnosis to study. Rather, the most reliable and productive aspects to study are:

The collateral analogues of hypnosis which yield culturally mandated deformations and distortions in direct perception (and logical judgment).

So let me recapitulate and extend.

1. i) autonomy vs. submission in interpersonal interaction;

ii) subliminal or unconscious perception;

iii) variations in the comprehensiveness and retrievability of memory;

2. The shaping of ordinary perception and logical judgment by the guiding of attention, and surrender of autonomy, combined with the instilling of contents. (Conversion of fantasy into "external" perception.)

(2) concerns, that is, cognitive junctures which can be conceived as hypnotically instilled. These junctures are "hypnosis"--or they parallel hypnosis--because the effects are produced by elements of the hypnotic mélange. AF hypnosis can replicate the effects at will. Conversely, the elements whose mélange comprises AF hypnosis have equivalents in everyday life. "The hypnotist" for these distortions is the personal influence of a strong mentor. Or: heavy indoctrination by one's elders and peers (the community); or autosuggestion which is prompted by proselytization of the subject (Hindu meditation).

The topic (1) is refractory; and it interacts with (2) and cannot be sensibly investigated without taking (2) into account. Thus, I will proceed to (2); and I postpone any attempt to make headway with (1) to the end of this inquiry.


I do not wish to invoke "hypnosis" as an explanation indiscriminately. In a conversation in 1985 with poet Charles Stein, I lumped faith healing, occult (Tantric) physiology, etc. together as phenomena of hypnosis or autosuggestion. Stein rejoined that I was merely dismissing evidence unpalatable to my rationalism by giving it an empty label. Stein asked me, if these phenomena are hypnotic, who is the hypnotist? I reply, whoever is the source of the suggestion. Now I wish to give detailed content to my proposal.

2.a. The most sweeping claim would be that ordinary apprehension of the world involves habituated combinations of illusions and warped judgments. Normal alert perception is a mirage involving illusory displacements which are socially mandated. The enculturation of the child by elders and peers involves perceptual and logical deformations which are instilled via techniques analogous to formal hypnosis. Broadly defined, the techniques include combinations of intimidation and coaxing of a consenting addressee; that is, manipulative instructions to a consenting subject, playing on morale and conformity. (This last means that personalistic subjectivity is targeted.) Actual inculcation of these deformations occurs in early childhood and is forgotten. The deformations become habits toward which the subject has no critical distance.

And yet (2.a) goes beyond a phenomenal analysis. Involvement of factors of suggestion is not introspectively retrievable unless one elaborately isolates a juncture where the tampering becomes exposed. (2.a) concerns latent features of perception which may not be retrievable introspectively. And it concerns causation in an objective past (of e.g. present acts of recognition)--when causation in an objective past is itself debatable in this investigation.

I am proposing to explain certain culturally normative "cognitions" via hypnosis--such as culturally distorted standards of cogency. But one could also propose to explain these "cognitions" as consenting shams. Let me expand on this. In II.A above, I proposed that outward play-acting, or charades, may be involved in exhibiting the effects claimed by the mystique of hypnosis (such as past-life regression). I went even further to speculate that there could be such a thing as play-acting amnesia to oneself. Now play-acting must be mentioned in conjunction with (2).

In "Personhood II," I made an issue of knowing self-deception, that is, of self-deception which is introspectively recoverable or discernable. The case I focused on was internal play-acting (mental play-acting). When internal play-acting concerns a personally motivated representation of your identity, then we have fantasies as in the story of Walter Mitty. But I proposed also that a group of people can engage in internal play-acting with respect to impersonal doctrine. I gave this the name shared pretense or consenting sham. I proposed that many doctrines urged by the culture are consenting shams. (The Christian doctrine of the Trinity? The Soviet doctrine of the arrival of pure communism by 1980?)

Actually, if one re-examines the story of Walter Mitty, he carryed his mental play-acting on as an intense daydream verging on hallucination of his identity and his surroundings. Here there can be no sharp separation of internal play-acting and autohypnosis. Nevertheless, let me attempt to construct a difference, if only for analytical convenience. Shared pretense, as I conceive it, concerns fully crystallized doctrines which elders and peers commend you to take to heart even though you know they're false (although it may not be articulated in that bald way). You are never unaware of the doctrine's dubiousness, or of fact that you are being asked to humor the group.

In contrast, I invoke hypnosis as an explanation for adaptations which modify external objects as you perceive them, or which affect individual judgments of cogency; and which become habits you are not inwardly wary of. (A) and (B) below are meant to illustrate this thoroughly.


Let me proceed to a series of cases.

O.1 Here is an illusion which I do not attribute to hypnosis. Given this illustration:


If you close your left eye, and look with your right eye at the cross, then move your face closer to the paper, the circle seems to vanish. But you still see white paper where the circle was.

O.2 Thinking of a phobic object can cause one to sweat. I do not necessarily consider this a case of suggestion which has become unconscious habituation. (But could it be?)

The following cases (A) and (B) concern adaptations which, I propose, are instilled via manipulation of personalistic subjectivity, and become unconscious habituation. The adaptations modify external objects as you perceive them; or they affect particular judgments of cogency.

A.1. There are well-recognized examples that normal external perception has a heroically illusory character. Tap the floor with a stick and feel the contact at the end of the stick. Touch a dowel to crossed fingers and feel two dowels (which illustrates that it is an illusion to feel only one dowel when holding it normally between fingers: since two points of contact are felt). Stratton's adaptation to spectacles which inverted visual images.

One of the features of hypnosis, the projection of fantasy into the external material world ("object-zone"), occurs in normal perception as a culturally mandated habit.

A.2. Let me propose additional cases which are not well-recognized as those in A.1 were.

i) My sense that my consciousness is located in objective space "in here," at my observer's vertex.

ii) The Western musical listener learns to accept tempered intervals as concordant. Subsequently he may un-learn this, learning instead to hear them as sour or out of tune.

iii) Perception of people's race. This example suggests the extreme claim that all perceptual recognition involves categories distorted by suggestion.

iv) A case analyzed in detail in "Studies in the Person-World," C.2. You are presented with an apparition, such as distant moving colored shapes. You discern the underlying objective configuration, e.g. that the shapes are colored shadows. To do this, you have to have been indoctrinated with the theory of the objective configuration, and you have to spot minute cues which signal that the theory is applicable. (E.g. the position of a shadow relative to its background doesn't change when you move.)

A.3 Following up on A.2.iv, we have the role of intimidation in shaping perception.

i) Once the objective structure of the apparition has been agreed, there is overwhelming social pressure to see the apparition as revelatory of the mandated structure. (Even to the extent of being required to have an external perception which supports the mandated theory but is false to the details of the actual sensory evidence.) If you don't perceive in this way, you are told that you are stupid and esthetically deficient.

ii) Referring to the horizontal-vertical illusion, you can intimidate yourself so that you see the segments as equal. By kinesthetically measuring the segments (it is not enough for ruler-grids to be printed alongside the segments), you convince yourself that your spontaneous seeing of them as unequal is in error. You try to see the ratio as agreeing with the measurement.

B.1. I have occasionally had dreams in which I subsisted in two mutually exclusive world-states at the same time--without being disturbed at this violation of logical norms. I have also carried out preposterous acts in dreams without being disturbed at their absurdity: such as trying to tape halves of $1 bills to halves of $10 bills to make $11 into $20, so to speak. AF hypnosis can produce such effects first-hand in the waking state. This suggests that norms of cogency are plastic and are able to be molded by suggestion.

B.2. Elementary enumeration. Explicit counting must be carried out temporally, using tokens which appear and disappear in time. That is, you count a manifestation of simultaneously present, persistent "things" by pairing them with a succession of thought-events which appear and disappear in time. By the time you think the enumerative token "two," "one" is gone.

You can apprehend temporality under the aspect of world-endurance, and also of world-flux. Endurance and flux are both totalized world-conditions. When you count simultaneously present, persistent things by an exclusively mental procedure, you apprehend different "sides" of "the world" under mutually exclusive temporal world-aspects. The procedure is incoherent, yet one does not experience it as such.

B.3. The seemingly straightforward situation of sitting in a cafe and counting how many people pass by outside. You pair people who appear and disappear with numbers which you think (which then disappear into the past). From this you conclude a cumulating aggregate of people, as fixed simultaneous entities. You warp the flow of experience into a template which is an abstracted from instances of simultaneously present and enduring multiplicity. This procedure is a heavily imaginative, delusive, and logically warped imposition on your sensuous-concrete experience. Of course the procedure does not seem to you to be invented on the spot; it is habitual.

B.4. Learning Euclidian geometry. One has to accept that geometric figures are absolutely rigid, like stones, yet are made of infinitely thin lines, and must pass through each other like vapors. (The test of equality is rigid superposition, so that figures must be movable, while retaining their identity.) In case anyone thinks this observation is frivolous, let me point out that these dubious properties of geometric figures were very much in debate while geometry was being codified in classical antiquity. Protagoras pointed out that a straight line touches a circle along an arc, never at a point. Sextus Empiricus devotes pages to geometry's reliance on the unextended and the infinitely thin.

C. In looking into Eastern mysticism, religious meditation, "astral projection," etc., I surmised that not only can beliefs be induced by manipulation of attention and suggestion; manipulation of attention and suggestion can also alter total present apprehension. So we have to consider whether mystical experiences of becoming God, or of feeling a third eye in the center of the forehead, or of feeling the snake in the base of the spine, are not the same effect as produced in me by being hypnotized: only differing in being carried to the level of a habit--by repetition in a context of cultural endorsement.

D. Hypnotic suggestion can sensitize a limb as warm, heavy, etc. How about this as an analogue of erotic sensitization of the body? Memory and the subsequent reactivation of the sensitivity. Moreover: one can mentally push erotic sensation from one place in the body to another. (Here I suspend the question of whether this phenomenon has a neurophysiological substrate.)

E. Hypochondria as autosuggestion. The experience of being fevered or in pain may disappear quickly upon being told by a doctor that there is no pathology.


I can propose even more recondite cases of molding of norms of cogency by suggestion.

X. I made a historical analysis of logical norms in 1983-4. I showed that what one generation regards as a contradiction in metaphysics or mathematics is regarded by a later generation as a legitimate new fact. I concluded: A system of logical norms is a delusive psychic deformation implanted by suggestion.

Y. Philologists assert that Aristotle adapted his three laws of logic--Identity, Non-Contradiction, and Excluded Middle--from Parmenides' theses on Being in "The Way of Truth."

1. "Being is" becomes the Law of Identity.

2. "Non-Being is not" becomes the Law of Non-Contradiction.

3. "Something is or is not" becomes the Law of Excluded Middle.

The conclusions Parmenides drew from his formulations depended on taking Being as a singular term and on construing the logical particles in a rigid way which was not the practice of the natural-language community to which Parmenides belonged. The natural language tolerated vague predicates, etc., without convicting itself of error. Parmenides seems mesmerized by linguistic form, and is prepared to rest the most weighty conclusions on syntax. (As if one concluded from Spanish that "I don't see nothing" propels us into a different logical universe from "I see nothing.")

Parmenides was denying, or fighting, the natural language's suppleness (in regard to vague predicates etc.), seizing upon the logical operators and rigidifying them in order to do so. Parmenides addressed a flexibility which was not necessarily wrong and pulled it up short--opposing it with absolutely disjunctive determinations.

The subsequent mainstream philosophy was produced by converting these clauses from a mystical brainstorm into norms for cognitive discourse generally--especially mundane discourse, representing the way of opinion which Parmenides had rejected. Now these norms were supposed to be so plausible to mundane consciousness as to be self-evident and indubitable. But in order to reach this status, Parmenides' theses had to be radically flattened; they had to be brought into the very domain which Parmenides had posited them to discredit.

Z. Archimedes' treatise on the lever. An infinitely thin, weightless plane must rest on a fulcrum without bending, and bear weights at each end without bending. Arms of the lever can have lengths with an irrational ratio; in that case, the lever can bear weights of an irrational ratio. Here we arrive at the doctrine of irrationals and of the infinitely small: which I propose is a consenting sham. It is not pure hypnosis because it is too intellectually tortured and self-suspect: that is why repeated attempts have been made to substantiate it for thousands of years, without a decisive result.

Appendix A. omitted

Appendix B. Professional literature -- selected examples

T.X. Barber, Hypnosis: A Scientific Approach (1969)

T.X. Barber, LSD, Marihuana, Yoga, and Hypnosis (1970)

T.X. Barber et al., eds., Hypnosis, Imagination, and Human Potentialities (1974)

L. Chertok, Hypnosis (1966)

William Edmonston, Jr., The Induction of Hypnosis (1986)

Milton Erickson, Hypnotic Realities

Advanced Techniques of Hypnosis and Therapy: Selected Papers of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., ed. Jay Haley

G. H. Estabrooks, Hypnotism (1943)

Erika Fromm & Ronald Shor, eds., Hypnosis: Research Developments and Perspectives (1972)

Erika Fromm & Ronald Shor, eds., Hypnosis: Developments in Research and New Perspectives (1979)

M.M. Gill & M. Brenman, Hypnosis and Related States (1959)

A. Goldstein & E.R. Hilgard, "Lack of Influence of the Morphine Antagonist Naloxone on Hypnotic Analgesia," Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 72: 2041-3

J. Gordon, ed., Handbook of Hypnosis

M.A. Gravitz & Forbes, "Hypnosis and the Conceptualization of a Continuum of Consciousness," British Journal of Medical Hypnotism 15: 21-25

J. Haley, "Interactional Explanation of Hypnosis," American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1: 41-57

E.R. Hilgard, Hypnotic Susceptibility (1965)

Ernest Hilgard, "Divided Consciousness in Hypnosis: The Implications of the Hidden Observer," in Fromm & Shor (1979)

C.L. Hull, Hypnotism and Suggestibility: An Experimental Approach (1933)

W.S. Kroger, Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (1977)

Peter Naish, ed., What Is Hypnosis? (1986)

M.T. Orne, "The Nature of Hypnosis," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58: 277-99

M.T. Orne, in Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (1970)

Morton Prince

J. Ruch, "Self-Hypnosis," International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (1975)

Andrew Salter, What Is Hypnosis? (1955)

R.E. Shor & M.T. Orne, eds., The Nature of Hypnosis (1965)

J.P. Sutcliffe

Myron Teitelbaum, Hypnotic Induction Techniques (1965)

Graham Wagstaff, Hypnosis, Compliance, and Belief (1981)

A.M. Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard, Revised Stanford Profile Scales of Hypnotic Susceptibility (1967)

A.M. Weitzenhoffer, The Practice of Hypnotism

L.R. Wolberg, Medical Hypnosis


[1] My earliest writings pertinent to this inquiry were "Concept Art Version of Mathematics System 3/26/61" (6/19/61), and "Audart: A Way of Enjoying a Non-Controlled Acoustical Environment" (July 1961); both pieces employed autosuggestion. In a 1981 manuscript on conceptions of spirituality (in historical religions), I speculated that some hyperbolic perceptions produced by Hindu meditation might be autosuggestive effects. The first formal hypnotic parole which I composed to illustrate my approach is dated January 16, 1983. A short list of references from the medico-psychological literature on hypnosis is included as Appendix B.

[2] In later years, when conversing privately with another person, I would sometimes have a semi-hallucinatory experience of seeing my self from without, as from my conversational partner's vantage-point. I can't say whether the hypnosis experiment had induced me to do this.

[3] Cf. M.T. Orne's assessment of hypnosis.

[4] Mesmer's "animal magnetism," c. 1775. A follower of Mesmer, the nobleman Chastenet de Puységur, hypnotized a tree in 1779.

[5] I define this term in "Critical Notes on Personhood," Part III (first draft 1982).

[6] I may note also that hypnosis lends itself to use by the hypnotic subject of deceptive techniques commonplace to mentalists, mediums, etc.: to gratify the operator.