For the purpose of this paper, mystical states are defined and operationally described as states of ecstasy, rapture, and trance. The experiencing subject finds himself perceptually, emotionally, and cognitively immersed in oceanic, universal feelings; i.e., in direct intuitive or supernatural communion with the universe or with a superior being. Visual (lights, colors, shapes), auditory (music), olfactory, and other sensations are often part of the experience, but the mystical states bypass ordinary sensory perceptions and logical understanding. Therefore, they cannot easily be described in terms of everyday reality. They are, by definition, ineffable—beyond verbal expression. In spite of these "inborn" difficulties of communication, patients usually attempt and partially succeed in giving some ideas of perceptual, emotional, and cognitive experiences which can only be described as mystical.
As this is a clinical paper, no useful purpose would be served by attempting to catalogue hypnotically elicited, mystical experiences along Fischer's (1971) continuum in his interesting "A cartography of the ecstatic and meditative states: The experimental and experiential feature of a perception-hallucination continuum are considered." (Incidentally, this cartography does not include hypnotic states!) Nor would the methods which I am about to describe or my patients' experiences be clarified if I were to spell them out in terms of Zen
Buddhist or other religious or philosophical terminology.
I find it of some use, however, to accept Aaronson's (1971) distinctions between an "introvertive mystical experience" and an "extrovertive mystical experience." The former culminates in the subjective experience of "nothingness"—the absolute void. The latter tends to expand the person's awareness to unlimited, universal experiences. To facilitate introvertive mystical experiences, Aaronson (1971) developed a progression of deepening verbalizations aimed at guiding trained Ss into abandoning identification of the senses, relinquishing ego-identification, and dispensing with usual logical categories of distinction. To achieve extrovertive mystical states, he used techniques aimed at expanding the ego across barriers of space and time.
The techniques which I have evolved and will describe were inspired by the original observations and experiments conducted by Fogel and Hoffer (1962), and by the more recent experiments of Aaronson (1968). In Fogel and Hoffer's experiment, a talented and well trained S was led into deep hypnosis and made to listen to an oscillator with the belief that its speed was constant. When, unknown to her, the speed was progressively increased, S became progressively more manic. When the speed was gradually decreased, depression set in, until, at speeds near zero, she retreated into a catatonic state. This experiment suggested that a person's behavior, mood, emotion, and cognition can be altered very radically through basic manipulations of the dimensions of time.
Aaronson (1968) gave to his trained, deep hypnotic Ss various posthypnotic suggestions. For instance, posthypnotic suggestions of a "restricted present" generally produced evidence of depression; suggestions of total absence of the present elicited a schizophrenic-like catatonic state. On the other hand, posthypnotic suggestions of "expanded" time —especially expanded present and expanded future — led his Ss to experiences of supreme serenity, during which the strictures and anxieties connected with passage of time disappeared. Similar suggestions involving "restriction" or "elim ination" or "expansion" of space elicited comparable alterations of perception, emotion, mood, and cognition. These changes were dramatically illustrated by one S through drawings and paintings of the same scene, seen under different posthypnotically suggested time conditions or space conditions.
I have found it feasible to apply the above observations to the clinical area. The patient's conscious and subconscious needs, as well as our own understanding of such needs and our ability to follow and to guide him, determine the results: a schizophrenic-like experience, or a "conversion" occurrence, or a mystical state. For instance, an excellent S and superb student became belligerently paranoiac when she emerged from hypnosis; the opening of her eyes was the cue for the posthypnotic suggestion that, "upon coming out of hypnosis, distances would seem very short, people and objects would be close, clear, and distinct." Upon opening her eyes to this radically changed space, she had felt terribly closed-in and threatened. The same student was given the posthypnotic suggestion that, upon opening her eyes, she would find herself in a gently expanding space, with people and objects shining in marvelous luminosity. Upon emerging from hypnosis, she seemed to radiate ethereal serenity. She later described her experience as soothingly unreal, ineffable, without end or beginning, a wonderful universe without problems.
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Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.