Hypnosis as a gateway to the unconscious

In the 1950s, amateur hypnotism was a popular fad. The first item listed in the 1977 bibliography of L. Ron Hubbard's "Have You Lived Before This Life?" (1958) concerned "The Search for Bridey Murphy," a story of a hypnotized woman who related tales told to her by a childhood neighbor as if they were her own past life. As a matter of fact, chapter one of "Have You Lived Before This Life?" contains a footnote explaining Bridey Murphy as follows.

Bridey Murphy -- A broadly published account of a woman who was regressed back to the 1800's through the use of hypnosis during which a full and detailed life in Ireland was contacted. Her name in that life was Bridey Murphy. Dianetic discoveries inspired and were the impetus behind this 1952 episode. [emphasis added]

Some excerpts from the 1956 edition of "The Search for Bridey Murphy" by Morey Bernstein are provided to see what other sort of inspiration and impetus hypnosis may have had. First, there was Morey Bernstein's proof that hypnosis really exists. This consisted in part of having a young woman remove articles of clothing.

... we were soon at the house of my friend. I observed that this boy Thomas was a real charmer. ...

I'll never forget the burst of laughter when it came to Thomas' turn to speak up. His hobby he asserted, was hypnotism. We assumed, of course, that he was kidding.

He was not kidding. Indeed, he patently resented the laughter and rebounded with a challenge: "If you don't believe me, I ask only that one of you be my subject, and I will prove it!"

While I was trying to decide whether he could possibly be serious, a tall, attractive blond girl spoke up and offered to be his subject. She had always wondered about hypnosis, she admitted, since the time one of her teachers had discussed the matter many years ago.

This, then, was to be my first close-up of hypnosis. I had heard about it, read about it, seen it on the stage. But I did not believe in it. ...

The volunteer was told by Thomas to stretch out on the couch and make herself comfortable. He then removed a ring from his finger and asked her to stare at it. He explained that she must focus her attention upon the ring and continue to stare at it until it became hazy and obscure. He merely held the ring above her eyes and waited. ...

Then suddenly he was talking softly to his subject. Her eyes were closed and she seemed to be going to sleep. He continued talking, but I was not close enough to hear the words. ...

He urged all of us to sit down at the large kitchen table and go to work on the food. He assured us that his subject was sleeping comfortably, but that he would soon awaken her. After she awakened, he promised, she would be perfectly natural. Natural, that is, with one exception.

"After she has taken two bites of her food," Thomas said, "she will suddenly reach down and remove her left shoe and stocking."

This I wanted to see.

I had not long to wait, for Thomas went back to the girl, and after more soft words he finally awakened her. Immediately upon getting up she went into the kitchen and took the place that had been left to her. As she started to eat she told us how much she had enjoyed her little nap. "Wonderful relaxation," she testified. "I'm ready for that any time."

After her second mouthful of food she abruptly dropped her fork and removed her left shoe and her left stocking. There wasn't a sound in the room; everybody was staring at her.

As a result of the staring and the sudden silence she soon grew self-conscious and looked around, asking what was wrong. There she was with her shoe and her stocking, just removed, clutched in her hand, and she wanted to know why everyone was so quiet and staring at her. What had she done?

L. Ron Hubbard embellished the story of a misplaced shoe at the dinner table in the Introduction to "Mission Earth".

" Comedy actually relies on the audience seeing a misplaced or unjustified emotion. The laughter produced in comedy is actually a rejection, a relief of emotion at recognizing the incongruous attitude. For example, imagine a scene where a person is eating at an elegant table. Everything is perfect -- the setting is the finest china, silver and crystal, a magnificent center display, candles. There is only one thing wrong. What he is eating, what is on his plate, is an old shoe ..."

Finally her escort spoke up. "What about your shoe and stocking? You're sitting at the table eating. Why did you take off your she and stocking?"

For the first time she looked down at her leg and then at the shoe and nylon hose in her hand. I shall always remember her blank, incredulous expression because I have seen it on others, perhaps a thousand times, since then. She was completely bewildered. For a minute she said nothing, then she looked up and slowly shook her head. She just didn't know; she couldn't explain why her shoe and stocking were in her hand. She didn't even try to explain.

Morey Bernstein the narrator of this story demanded another test. His friend Thomas hypnotized the woman again, during which time she was subjected to a procedure Scientologists will recognize as a form of "bullbaiting," meaning she had to keep her eyes open and not flinch when she was teased.

So our hypnotist instructed his attractive subject that she would not laugh under any circumstances, that she would maintain a poker face, that she would show no emotion whatsoever. Furthermore, he had her open her eyes while he kept her in the trance state.

Then the boy went to work. He commenced by kissing her, in a rather silly fashion intended to evoke laughter. But when she did not so much as blink an eye, he launched into a series of wild antics.

But the girl might as well have been far away.

Of course touching of any sort is not permissible in Scientology "bullbaiting" as practiced in its standard communication course.

Bernstein's reassurances about the harmlessness of hypnosis includes the following:

"There is virtually no danger, I learned, of remaining indefinitely in the trance." (meaning the person will eventually come out of the trance)

Hubbard's organizations usually require a person's attendance at least several times a week.

"I found out that anybody can learn to hypnotize... Anyone can learn to induce the trance ..."

One method that helps to induce a trance is to look at someone as though he or she were three feet in back of the head, a technique Hubbard occasionally encouraged, at least indirectly

"The hypnotist, then, is a guide. And while some guides are far more accomplished than others, the fact remains that no weird Svengali-like attributes are involved. Everybody can hypnotize someone."

Terms in Hubbard's organizations for a guide include "coach" and "auditor."

"In general, I find it impossible to put anyone into a trance against his will.

Hubbard's organizations teach people, usually with the aid of a guide, to put themselves into a trance.

"The higher the intelligence and the steadier the concentration, the better a subject is likely to be."

One of Bernstein's problems with hypnotism it that it did not work on everybody, including, to his great regret, himself. He wanted to use self-hypnosis to "sharpen his concentration, wondrously accelerate his mental activities, transcend his normal mental capacity, anesthetize any portion of his body, control pain, relax completely" and, in short, to "become master of his mind." Was this not, Bernstein asked rhetorically, a goal worth seeking?

In his quest to hypnotize himself, Bernstein underwent various types of treatment to make his mind more receptive to hypnosis. For instance, he heard that shock treatment might help, so he went to a psychiatrist. In his argument to receive shock treatment, Bernstein pointed out that if "shock treatment could convert a psychoneurotic to normality the same treatment given to a supposedly normal person might eliminate some of his nervous habit patterns -- might, in other words, calm him down, make him more easygoing." Eventually the psychiatrist gave in, and Bernstein reported that the only thing he liked about the shock treatment he received was the results it had obtained. Within three or four hours, he reported, his memory was back to normal, and "that the shock treatment was not painful in any manner whatsoever."

Actually I really did feel calm, relaxed, somewhat more at ease than usual. And remember that the whole purpose of this experience was to achieve a relaxed state in order to determine whether in such a condition I was readily hypnotizable. But I am afraid that the effort was wasted; my hypnotist friend, Bill Moery, could not work on me -- I learned at the last minute -- that night. Days later, when Bill ultimately got to me, I was back in the old groove at my office; those post-shock moments of tranquillity were all gone.

Before Bernstein hypnotized the woman who recounted the Bridey Murphy case so vividly for him, he was already convinced of reincarnation. He was not as journalistically sophisticated as L. Ron Hubbard was in "Have You Lived Before This Life?", but he did cite a book by James M. Pryse, entitled "Reincarnation in the New Testament" (1900) Bernstein did not, however, find it necessary to include any passages from either the book or the Bible to prove its thesis. Rather than do that he ridiculed the idea that reincarnation did not exist by citing Schopenhauer from "Parerga and Paralipomena": "It [Europe] is that part of the world which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of nothing, and that his present birth is his first entrance into life."

Bernstein only decided to try having people go to previous lifetimes after he read a chapter from a book by an English psychiatrist. Bernstein identifies the psychiatrist as Dr. Sir Alexander Cannon, author of "Power Within" (1953), but does not identify the name of the book in question. (If the Power Within was published in 1953, and the accounts of Bridey Murphy started in 1952, that was not the book Bernstein read to convince him of past lives.) Bernstein wrote of the book:

I observed that the doctor had for many years been conducting age-regression experiments with hundreds of subjects. But instead of stopping when the subject's memory reached back to infancy or birth, the doctor had kept right on going, [emphasis in the original] probing still farther back, investigating the mystery of memories before birth. ...

There and then I decided to find out about this pre-birth aspect of the memory for myself.

Bernstein recorded the beginning of his first past life experiment at 10:35 p.m. on November 29, 1952 and provided a transcript of the tape he made. There is no doubt that the woman Bernstein hypnotized was following Bernstein's guiding instructions, which included:

See yourself when you were one year old. See some scene. Watch yourself. Be looking at yourself when you were one year old.

(One method that helps to induce a trance is to tell a person to look within; this is an attempt to internalize attention.) Bernstein continued:

Now go on even farther back. Oddly enough, you can go even farther back.

I want you to keep on going back and back and back in your mind. And surprising as it may seem, strange as it may seem, you will find that there are other scenes in your memory. There are other scenes from faraway lands and distant places in your memory. I will talk to you again. I will talk to you again in a little while. I will talk to you again in a little while. Meanwhile your mind will be going back, back, back, and back until it picks up a scene, until, oddly enough, you find yourself in some other scene, in some other place, in some other time, and when I talk to you again you will tell me about it. You will be able to talk about it an answer my questions. And now just rest and relax while these scenes come into your mind. . . ."

As you can see, Morey Bernstein had to take some time and trouble to put this woman into a dream state and then get her to go back to an earlier point in time. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard discovered a way of doing this as easily as pushing a button. Hubbard described a "button" as certain circumstances that make people uncomfortable. People may be taught that their own special "buttons" instantaneously transport them through space and time into a dream world. This world could be partially composed of reality or not. The important thing to Hubbard was that his adherents view this world as indistinguishable from reality. To make it easier for people to find their "own" past dreams, Hubbard described places people could fantasize about as though they were real.

"Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" provides fictional realities involving supposed pre-natal experience. Dianetics also explains the workings of "engram," associated with a "button." The engram is a painful or embarrassing moment of a person's own subconscious. To get people used to the idea of dreaming engrams and to overcome their own personal defenses, they are subjected to "bullbaiting" as described above, in which they are taught to remain completely unemotional and unmovable in the face of merciless verbal harassment by a Scientology "coach." This is done in turns, so that the one being harassed can take some comfort in the knowledge that the coach's turn will soon come.

Once Scientologists cross the threshold of privately confessing to their own alleged prenatal experiences, they can read sample engram dreams of real people in "Have You Lived Before This Life?."

Another big step in furthering loyalty to Hubbard and/or his teachings occurs with "The History of Man" (formerly published under the title "WHAT TO AUDIT", first edition listed as 1952). In this odd book Hubbard steps in more forcefully than in the previous two and literally starts living other people's past dream-lives for them. The first sentence of this advance Scientology book is:

"This is a cold-blooded and factual account of your last sixty trillion years.

Dianetic Hypnosis

Although there is basically no difference between Dianetic hypnosis and non-Dianetic hypnosis in imagining imagine past lives as reality, L. Ron Hubbard took an opposing standpoint to his own action. Hubbard dictated that he was not the one hypnotizing people, it was the demon-engram that did it. Taking this contrary standpoint allowed Hubbard deniability for his own action. Specifically, he could claim that he was fighting hypnosis and/or brainwashing and that he was making people more aware.

The mechanics, according to Hubbard, are as follows. The engram allegedly hypnotized people through pain or embarrassment. While in a state of pain or embarrassment, according to Hubbard, a person was ready to be programmed according to whatever nonsense happened to be occurring in the immediate environment. For instance, if a man with dark glasses and a beard beat a woman while telling her she never listened, from then on the woman would have a hard time hearing men with beards and dark glasses, according to Hubbard's theory. The pain was supposed to induce hypnosis, and random verbal content allegedly served as a post-hypnotic suggestion.

Hubbard coined words to make this sound scientific. Moments of pain and unconsciousness he called engrams. The moment of unconsciousness during which an engram occurred he called anaten (analyzer attenuated). The post-hypnotic suggestion later caused by the engram was an aberration. The energy used to keep the post-hypnotic suggestion in place he called emotional or spiritual charge. The person in a dreamstate narrating engrams after the fact is the preclear. The person listening to the preclear's dreams is the auditor. According to Hubbard, engrams cannot be properly contacted without the Scientology auditor, and lo and behold, the Scientology auditor is busy writing down every detail of the preclear's pain and embarrassment, including time, place and possibly other people present.

In reality, the subject is hypnotized by repetitively being asked for earlier moments of pain. For instance, "Locate an incident of another causing you pain in the left side." The first incident will be relatively coherent, relevant and realistic, such as being hit in the side during a football game. As more incidents are located though, the wilder and more detached the person in the dreamstate may get. If the person imagines having fallen from a horse, but that person has never ridden a horse, this inconsistency is justified just by saying that it happened in a previous lifetime. The important thing is that in order for any relief to be felt, the subject has to receive sensory validation. Sensory validation is the same thing a hypnotized person experiences when following a post-hypnotic suggestion.

In hypnotizing the woman to take off her shoe in the previous section, taking two bites of food was the sensory validation the woman was programmed with to perform the command. A person undergoing auditing will experience relief when the imaginary incident is finally sensorily validated, i.e., it seems as real as life. This crossing of the threshold to the ridiculous is usually accompanied by smiles, laughter and a flash of drunken insight, such as "You know, when I was a kid I was deathly afraid of striped barber poles!" (This is an actual example, according to "Have You Lived Before This Life?.") Hubbard taught that this laughter is a rejection of the engram's pain. In any case the person has just shrugged off a portion of present-time reality and is experiencing a kind of escapist glee. A system of this sort could conceivably produce good results temporarily, but this does not mean it proves the existence of past lives. Proof of past lives would include people remembering, from their past lives, their own and their family's personal vital statistics, as well as an ability to speak, write and understand past languages.

According to the foreword signed by L. Ron Hubbard, dated 1951, of "Scientology: A History of Man," "Gravestones, ancient vital statistics, old diplomas and medals will verify in every detail the validity of "many lifetimes." With a statement like that in the introduction, a person would expect to find some of the proof Hubbard promised. Fifty-five years later this has yet to happen.

Scientology: A History of Man

A List and Description of the Principal Incidents to be found in a Human Being

Drying and itching

Drying and itching may occur to people who imagine that they are living in a past life as "bulbous seaweed." This sort of seaweed had a difficult time when it was uprooted. One of the dangers of this was the possibility of being cast ashore by a storm. According to Hubbard, this "gave Man some of his early experiences with sunlight in the absence of water." A person re-living this incident, which presumably happened quite some time ago, would experience dry and itchy skin. This dry and itchy skin, according to Hubbard, is due not to the power of suggestion, but to the "drying outer skin of the dying seaweed."

Jaw ache and tooth ache

To reinforce his fictional assertion that everyone had had experience as clams in past lives, Hubbard suggested to his disciples that they describe a dying clam to an uninitiated person. If in response they received any sympathy with the dying clam, this was supposed to prove that Hubbard’s fiction was reality. In his example, Hubbard was much more specific. He claimed that there was a correspondence between the human body and a clam.

"The hinge epicentres later become the hinges of the human jaw. Should you desire to confirm this, describe to some uninitiated person the death of a clam without saying what you are describing. "Can you imagine a clam sitting on the beach, opening and closing its shell very rapidly?" (Make a motion with your thumb and forefinger of a rapid opening and closing.) The victim may grip his jaws with his hand and feel quite upset. He may even have to have a few teeth pulled. At the very least he will argue as to whether or not the shell stays open at the end or closed. And he will, with no hint of the death aspect of it, talk about the "poor clam" and he will feel quite sad emotionally."

Another set of dreams connected with clams are those involving volcanoes. Hubbard suggested that the clams lying out on the beach enjoying the sun could have had some pretty painful experiences when they encountered hot lava. See Operation Clambake for more details.

Even if the clams had not been baked, they were still tasty morsels for sea gulls. Gulls eat clams by grabbing them, flying high up and then dropping them on rocks. All the gull needs to do then is get down to the shelled clam before all its fellow gulls who were circling around.

After a number of these suggested genetic incidents, Hubbard suggested his disciples process other incidents, but more on a thought level than a physical level. In order to do this, Hubbard suggested people dream these incidents between bodies, when they were discarnate spirits.

To put this in perspective, psychoanalysis has people go through real incidents in this life, dianetics has people in a dream state in this and former lives, some of which have been suggested by Hubbard. Finally, Scientology has people live through imaginary incidents that do not even involve bodies and which were written by Hubbard. People are also allowed to make up their own imaginary incidents so along as they pay Scientology for it. Hubbard called this gradual chain of indoctrination "applied religious philosophy," but it is considered "religion" in the United States for tax purposes.

In preparation for having his disciples relive bodiless dream incidents, Hubbard warned them that the religions which originated in India, in contrast to his technique, are guaranteed to do exactly the opposite of what they promise. Specifically, Hubbard said Indian techniques will not only fail to work, but will attach the spirit "TO A BODY AS THOUGH RIVITED [sic] AND TIED WITH IRON BANDS." With that as an introduction, Hubbard proceeded to write down what people should experience in the reality of their spirit if they want to separate their spirit from their body and the rest of the real world. He called the first one the "jack-in-the box." In this episode the Scientologist is supposed to make a picture of pictures of pictures. The Scientology jargon is edited out.

The [real world] beings use [spirit] traps. One of these is to give [spirits] pretty little boxes. These boxes contain a stack of pictures. As [spirits] are disposed to gather facsimiles, these pictures are very acceptable. The [spirit] looks over the pictures. He finds they are quite similar one to another. They show, each one, a picture of a box of pictures. When he replaces the lid, the box explodes violently. He instinctively tries to dampen the explosion. He gets his aura of beingness full of pictures which are extremely confusing, being pictures of boxes of pictures.

People go into a trance, firmly believing that these pictures have had them hypnotized for thousands of years. When they wake up, Hubbard's instructions are that they should awake feeling fresh, alert and wide awake. The more often they do this, the less effort it takes to automatically slip back into the dream world. People can handle this different ways, one of which includes a shortening of temper.

The Source of Sexual and Religious Compulsion

Hubbard wrote that the source of sexual and religious compulsion was an electronic device called the "Halver." This was a ray gun that shot a ray half white and half black. Whoever it hit would think they were two different people. Imagine reliving this as though it were a real, horrible experience, being hit by a half-and-half ray gun. What sort of drunken realization might result? For people who have difficulty answering this question, Hubbard threw in a bit of spice.

The halver was rigged up with religious symbols and it truly lays in religion. There is a devil on one side, a symbol carried in the light, angels on the other side. Sometimes it was very fancy and was complicated with dolls in the shape of nudes, angels, devils, strung on wires to slide and dance.. It did terrible things to the victim: it gave him a conflict, one side with the other, one being good, the other being bad. It gave him sexual compulsion all mixed up with religious compulsion ... It was a control factor used to keep the community fighting itself."

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