Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The importance of hypnosis is not to be found in its use, be that in therapy or in experiments. For those of us on the esoteric path hypnosis can be seen rather as a danger because it involves a strong power whose use can get in the way of our true intentions. Yet close observations of hypnosis phenomena allow us some insight if we understand them as analogies.
Hypnosis produces nothing fundamentally new, but merely exaggerates existing facts. It gives us a caricature of reality. In spite or because of their exaggeration caricatures have the advantage of showing up essentials faster and more clearly than other forms of illustration. Thus hypnosis demonstrates the relative nature of sensory perception. Man's perception is not so much dependent on the environment as on his own programs.
You can give a man the post-hypnotic suggestion that he will see everyone without hair. In the waking state that man has the same perception of the environment as everybody else with the difference that he sees all people as bald. This perception is for him incontestably real. If he is in the company of ten other people he will clash with them over his opinion about their baldness because they are convinced that everyone present has hair on their heads. In this example the ten people are in the better position because they are the overwhelming majority. It seems obvious that that one person is not quite normal.
Now we suggest this program post-hypnotically to ten people and bring them together with only two others. Here ten people perceive the baldness of those present whereas two maintain they can see hair on everyone's head. Who is right now? As we are used to taking the opinion of the majority as the criterion for truth, the two “normal” people are suspected of not being quite normal.
I recommend pondering on this example. In doing so we realize how carefully we ought to approach the questions of objectivity and reality and how little bearing the opinion of the majority has on the truth. The first thing we have to learn is not to concede to our perception of the phenomenal world too high a level of reality.
That is why the Indians call this world “Maya”, the world of illusion. The ancient Egyptians spoke of “the veil of Isis”. Plato, through his cave metaphor, tried to illustrate how we human beings do not see reality but only shadows. As long as we take these shadows for reality we shall remain victims of illusion. Not until we leave the cave can we discover reality. But initially the reality is so blinding that we cannot endure it. If, however, we persist in our confrontation with reality we shall learn to see. But if we cannot stand the light we fall prey to illusion which is not the same as the old illusion because we have briefly glimpsed the true light.
This illusion, which follows the confrontation with truth, we call today “neurosis”. Neurotics have experienced more than those who have not yet ventured forth from the shadowy cave, but they cannot endure the truth.
Furthermore our experiments with hypnosis teach us that man is a product of his programs. The fact that all our perceptions, opinions, attitudes and even critical faculties can be replaced at will, shows that all of these are merely programs. Not only is man a product of programs, but there is also a special program which ensures that he says of all workings of the program “I am doing that only because I want to.”
When I described the example of the imaginary Father Christmas in such great detail my intention was to show that even critical considerations, doubts and reservations are themselves effects of programming, but the rationalizing tendencies built into the program inhibit us from realizing this. We believe that we act when, in fact, we are acted upon. Or, as Pascal put it: “If a stone hurled through the air were to have consciousness it would say 'I fly because I wish to.'”
The only reason we are particularly struck by the programs of hypnotized people is because they are unusual.
The person who has not been hypnotized also obeys programs but these are less noticeable because we are so used to them. We are all in fact hypnotized and “asleep”. But as long as we are asleep it is impossible for us to tell that we are asleep, and furthermore it is impossible to tell that everyone around us is asleep. If we are asleep we cannot recognize those who are awake. First we must wake up – and only then will we suddenly realize that we have been asleep, that nearly everyone else is asleep and that there are only a few who are awake.
“AWAKE!” is therefore the order of the day. Release yourselves from your comfortable hypnotic sleep in which you follow suggestions like machines. To be a human being is an undertaking that can only be brought to fulfillment by each individual. It is therefore necessary to leave the shadowy platonic cave and dare to look directly at the glare of reality. It may be strange and unfamiliar and yet it is the truth for which all people secretly yearn. Hypnotized man is a slave, a puppet dangling from invisible threads; he shows us the poverty of our own reality; he is a mirror-image of the as yet unconscious man. In this mirror function lies the only true significance of hypnosis.
The esoteric path leads out of the twilight of our collective sleep into the full consciousness of true humanity. Esotericism stirs into wakefulness those who are already somewhat less deeply asleep and are ready to open their eyes. How, therefore, can esotericism make any use of hypnosis? How can we take it upon ourselves to put man into an even deeper sleep? The man or woman who wishes to walk the path of esotericism does not need to believe anything, nor to look for anything – they need only to wake up and to learn to see, for reality is everywhere.