Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

30 Days of Hypnosis: Day 12

What’s your favorite pop culture reference about hypnosis?

Whew! So many possibilities.

The first one that comes to mind is “The Hypnotic Eye”. A movie about a sinister stage hypnotist who entrances his lovely subjects certainly plays to many of the public misconceptions regarding hypnosis, plus the producers had a professional stage hypnotist instruct the actor how to perform on camera as well as hypnotizing the actresses to go in to a trance on cue. Regrettably, it suffers from low public knowledge so it barely registers as a pop culture icon.

Another one that comes to mind is the classic spiral motif that so represents hypnosis in popular culture. That and the spooky, swirly music that seems to always accompany it in any advertisement or television episode scene transition. The same also goes for dangling crystals and staring eyes.

But I guess my favorite has to be “Trilby”. No other work so influenced the pop culture regarding hypnosis throughout its history. It is one of the few culture icons that directly influenced the English language, with the addition of “Svengali” as a term for a manipulative mentor.

Incognito: the Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman

The brain is just several ounces of neural tissue, not particularly durable and pretty vulnerable if it were not for the bone shell it resides in. Still, it is the seat of all control operations of any living creature that possesses even the most rudimentary brain and is capable of doing a number of amazing things, several things all at the same time. Yet is also one of the most mysterious organs known, its many and varied functions only sketchily understood, in part because of its complexity and complex internal structure, hidden from view and direct manipulation deep within the skull, accessible for the most part only indirectly and therefore very difficult to investigate directly.

Incognito: the Secret Lives of the Brain” is a book by a neuroscientist, David Eagleman. which attempts to shed some light on the subject. It is a book primarily destined for the lay person and is designed to show just how the brain is so complex and mysterious, yet understandable if only by a process of observation and deduction.

Commentary: This book mirrors much of what I’ve been thinking regarding the internal processes of the brain, although I was coming to the subject through the “brain as a computer” paradigm. The brain may be just one organ but it comprises many, many separate sections and functions, some of which are complimentary and some of which are even combative. It is a wonder that it even functions at all, and, of course, anyone can come up with examples from personal observation or experience when it doesn’t in one way or another, small or large.

My one biggest annoyance was that it was just a little too superficial for my tastes. It talked a lot about the what of the brain and its functions but not so much on the how and why of it. Granted, this book was intended for the general audience but I would have liked to see a little more meat to the descriptions and more space devoted to contemplation of the causes of how the brain does what it does. There are some flashes of that, as for example the description of how baseball players track fly balls in the outfield, where they do not automatically calculate the trajectory to figure out where to run to to catch the ball: instead, they watch the track of the ball and if it appears to deviate from a straight line, meaning they or the ball are moving away from the path, they change direction to return it to a straight line. But mostly the brain is treated as a black box of many internal devices, left unexplored.

My other annoyance was that it doesn’t mention hypnosis at all in the text, and only once in a footnote, remarking how it can affect the results of a particular type of test results.

Recommendation: For the average reader who wants to understand more about the operation of the brain, this would be a good start. However, it is rather shallow for someone who wants a more in-depth explanation of the various brain functions, and almost worthless for any one who wants to understand the particular subject of hypnosis functions.

A Holiday Treat — The (Physical) Hypnosis in Media Collection

As a special Holiday present, I present the (physical) Hypnosis in Media collection in its semi-entirety.

The bookshelf unit here holds the main part of the Collection. As you can see, it is divided in half, with the left half holding figures and artwork behind the glass doors, larger books and folders below, and the doors below holding the media elements that don’t fit anywhere else. The right half holds most of the fiction and nonfiction books. As you can see, the bookcase is by no means large enough to hold everything, as there are parts of the collection on the floor before it.

This is the upper part of the left half, which has the figures and artwork. On the upper shelf you can see the two figures from the Silent Screams figure line, from the movie “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari” on the top, along with the Princess Ariel figure, and smaller toys with hypnotic themes in the middle. At the back of the lower shelf as a animation cel of Hypnotia from the “Iron Man” animated series, several dozen HeroClix figures in the lower left and my latest acquisition, the Ringmaster mini-bust, in the center. The boxes on the right contain a number of stereotypical hypnotic foci, including several crystals and even a couple of hypno-disks. The HeroClix figures are a large but not complete of all of the characters with hypnotic or mind control abilities, including Professor X, Saturn Girl, Super-Gorilla Grodd, the Puppet Master, the Mad Hatter, etc.

The folders and notebooks on the shelves below the  glass doors consists of the results of research projects carried out in the past, including the material behind the search for ‘Secrets of the Sleep Merchants’ detailed elsewhere, a set of publicity photographs of Pat Collins and details of her life, comic strip and book collections and reference materials, smaller magazines and pamphlets that might get damaged if put elsewhere, the two records released by Pat Collins, as well as anything that doesn’t fit in anywhere else.

The fiction part comprises roughly 200 pieces, including several collections, double-stacked on the first two shelves and in front of the non-fiction stacks on the third shelf.  The non-fiction section also contains roughly about 200 books, not including the various pamphlets and booklets that are in another bookshelf. These books are strictly hypnosis related: there is a separate section for media references, such as indices and reference books on various TV series, movies, etc.

This is by no means the complete collection: there is a storage case with several dozen video tapes elsewhere that I am slowing digitizing and converting to DVD format, along with the comics collection stored in the garage, as well as the regular fiction collection that takes up most of another bedroom / library. All in all, I estimate I have somewhere in the range of 500 — 600 books, over 250 comics and dozens of magazines and papers in the collection proper and maybe another couple hundred books and I can’t even guess how many comics elsewhere.

Ersatz Patriotism’ — Sensation, March, 1942

Its not an idle figure of speech when the Nazi race is described as a hypnotized people! With the German hordes being decimated by the avenging Russian army, the fantastic truth has at last seeped beyond the walls of Hitlerism.

For the fantastic truth is that a country once revered for its high level of education has resorted, in desperation, to hypnotism in order to keep its flesh and blood robots in line.

Thus begins a two-page photo article in Sensation magazine, from the early war years, being published in March, 1942. As might be expected from the lead, the whole article is about the ways Nazi Germany is hypnotizing its citizens into becoming not just “good little Germans” but robotic slaves to the sinister demands of Nazism. The rather heavy-handed gung-ho jingo-ism and propaganda is quite evident throughout the several paragraphs that make up the text of the article. In fact, it seems purely propaganda, at least based on the nine photographs included with the article.

Out of the 9 photographs, three are outdoor shots of some unknown event while the other six look more like pictures from the average stage hypnosis show.

One of the first lessons in the course for youth who would be a part of the “master race” is (1) to cause one’s self pain and to learn to stand it.

This photograph shows a young man, his fingertips in his mouth. It doesn’t appear that he is causing himself pain, instead it looks like he’s trying to eat something.

A German learns to “give himself up” to the Nazi cause (2) by falling backwards without thinking of his safety.

This appears to  be the classic “magnetic falling backwards” suggestibility test or induction, as the person behind the subject is positioned in the same way as the same test would be used today. It is interesting that the subject’s arms are outstretched. This is one of the outdoor photographs.

Mass hypnosis (4) is practiced outdoors for middle-aged recruits.

This is a picture of several men (older men, approximately in their 40’s — 50’s) laying on the ground as another stands over them, apparently speaking to them.

One of the exercises (5) induces a trance that makes the subject so stiff that he may be placed like a board, end to end on two chairs. All this, mind you, in the name of will power!

This is a picture of the classic catalepsy test.

But love, hastened by hypnosis, has the Nazi green light (7) as two girls embrace each other under hypnotic command. Hundreds of German women have recently been ordered to marry soldiers they have never before seen, and will never see again after they leave.

A Nazi superman in the making learns to obey orders (8) by submitting to a preparatory trance which is expected to stand him in good stead in the field of combat. Initiative and thoughts of personal safety are weeded out as a Nazi youth, his mind directed by the hypnotist at the left (9) lifts a chair.

All of the outdoor photographs appear to be of the same event, as do the indoor photographs, but there is nothing to suggest they are any way connected. Also, all of these pictures have nothing whatsoever not only to link them to the claims of the text, but not even anything to suggest that the people involved are even German: there are no uniforms (even of the hypnotists as would be expected) and everyone appears to wear average clothing. Moreover, just about everyone pictured has dark hair, hardly the image of the blonde Aryan figures so normally associated with Germany and the Nazis.

Commentary: Aside from reinforcing the stereotypes regarding hypnosis, the article is also reinforcing the sense and demonization of the “other” that occurs during war. Note that at the time of publication, the US was only starting to get involved in World War II. yet already the public was being indoctrinated (and hypnotized) into despising (or perhaps pitying) the average German and hating the Nazis.

In Nazi ideology, all this comes under the heading of will power! But in Russia, where these subjects have been taken captive, and in the United States, where a spade is called a spade, hypnosis by any other means is still the same.

Note that this is also after the German attack on Russia, so Russia is now an ally instead of the enemy and ally of Germany as would have seen several months previously.

History: This article was a pleasant surprise, because it wasn’t the reason for acquiring it for the Collection. This magazine also contains a very long article about Franz Polgar, one of the prominent and most widely known hypnotists of the early 20th Century.

Svengali of Sex!” — Detective World Magazine

Expose of Carnival Hypnotism Racket
September, 1948

When I awoke I found myself in bed in a trailer, and someone had taken my clothes. The door opened and Reinhardt entered. 

Thus begins a lurid tale of the exploits of a carnival sideshow hypnotist as told by the woman he swept away from her life, among the many other women he similarly seduced and stole away and pressed into service at the carnival, manning the booths, with no way or no desire to return. 

⇒ Continue reading “Svengali of Sex!” — Detective World Magazine”

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