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Hypnosis Practices of Scientology (Anderson Report)



The Board heard expert evidence in relation to hypnosis and hypnotic techniques. There are, broadly speaking, two types of hypnosis: passive hypnosis, and command or authoritative hypnosis. Hypnosis, properly administered by skilled practitioners, has its proper place in psychiatric practice, and, in suitable cases, produces beneficial results. In the practice of medicine the type of hypnosis generally used is passive ; the patient is allowed to, and helped to, go into hypnosis entirely voluntarily, and the hypnotist plays a completely passive role. This technique is quite the reverse of authoritative or command hypnosis, where the hypnotist assumes positive authoritative control over the patient who, though he may or may not be aware of what techniques the practitioner is practising on him, is nevertheless under the domination of the hypnotist pursuant to positive commands.

Because of the serious risk of harm to the patient, it is only in rare and exceptional circumstances that authoritative hypnosis is resorted to in medical practice. The distinction between the two types of hypnosis, the one beneficial and the other potentially harmful, is to be borne in mind when considering the hypnotic qualities of scientology techniques. Hubbard is very familiar with hypnosis, called by him, " hypnotism ", a term which, even at the time of his early writings, was being superseded in professional use. Hubbard earlier practised hypnosis as shown abundantly by his writings. In Scientology, issue 15-G he writes, " I was schooled in hypnotism and mysticism". Elsewhere he writes that he tried hypnotism, but gave it away because of a number of undesirable features which he said it possessed. In Dianetics: MSMH, Science of Survival, and other writings, Hubbard is highly critical of hypnosis, but what he is criticising and denouncing is authoritative or command hypnosis and to the extent that his criticisms relate to, and are limited to, authoritative hypnosis, they have considerable validity . Such criticisms, however, do not apply to passive hypnosis as practiced by skilled and experienced psychiatrists with benefit to their patients in selected cases.

In the skilled practice of hypnosis the practitioner is well aware of the dangers which may arise from the tendency to develop in the patient a degree of dependency upon the practitioner, who is concerned to ensure that this and other dangers inherent in hypnosis do not develop. It is the firm conclusion of this Board that most scientology and dianetic techniques are those of authoritative hypnosis and as such are dangerous. Hubbard and his adherents strongly protest that his techniques are neither hypnotic nor dangerous. However, the scientific evidence which the Board heard from several expert witnesses of the highest repute and possessed of the highest qualifications in their professions of medicine, psychology, and other sciences - and which was virtually unchallenged - leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is only in name that there is any difference between authoritative hypnosis and most of the techniques of scientology. Many scientology techniques are in fact hypnotic techniques, and Hubbard has not changed their nature by changing their names. Hubbard seems quite capable of thinking that if he postulates that scientology techniques are different from hypnotic techniques then they are different. Whether or not Hubbard realises that the only differences are in name, his followers loyally and uncritically accept his word and believe that scientology techniques are distinctively Hubbardian and that hypnosis is something quite different and evil and to be avoided. A number of scientology witnesses, when asked what they believed hypnosis to be, answered vaguely that it was some sort of stage technique for mesmerising people by the waving of hands in front of them, or some such thing. It may, of course, be that, but it is many other things also and of its real nature Hubbard's followers seem generally to be unaware. The common practice of Hubbard is to change the names of hypnotic phenomena to names of his own invention, purporting thereby to change the nature and significance of such phenomena. Thus, a form of unconsciousness experienced in hypnosis he has renamed variously " anzten ", " boil-off", and " dope-off " ; hypnotic hallucinations he has called " mental image pictures" ; and " dissociation " he has called " exteriorization "

Though in hypnosis there is no E-meter as there is in scientology, at almost every stage there is a parallel between scientology auditing and hypnosis, and it is even to be observed in the initial stages when the auditing session is about to commence. It is well recognised amongst psychiatrists that persons who desire to be hypnotized, or are expecting to be hypnotized, more readily succumb to hypnotic processes. It is not necessary that the subject should be expecting to be hypnotized ; he may not be aware of the meaning of hypnosis or of what is involved in it. It is sufficient that he expects to receive treatment and he makes himself ready and available to the practitioner for the treatment which is to be applied and is ready to accept direction from the practitioner and the consequences or the results of such treatment. In authoritative hypnosis, where the subject is a willing subject and is more or less consciously under the domination of the practitioner, it is found that the subject will readily go into hypnosis, even though he may be unaware of the technical name of the treatment he is receiving or the fact that he is, or is about to be, in hypnosis. Scientology techniques begin with a preclear who is well aware that he is to be "processed ", and the circumstance that he does not know that the process, which is called by a non-hypnotic name, is in reality a hypnotic process is quite immaterial. The name has no significance to the preclear, but the process remains hypnotic by whatever name it is called. The preclear then, expecting to be "processed" finds that his processing commences, as Hubbard directs it shall commence, with solemn and strict ritual. After some standard preliminary questions such as, Is it alright if I audit you in this room? " and " Is it alright if we start the session now? " an auditing session in scientology processing starts with an unvarying routine. When the assent of the preclear has been received to these preliminary questions, the auditor then commences the session with a loudly uttered, " Start of session." In the demonstration auditing sessions which the Board witnessed, the statement, " Start of session ", was spoken in a loud sharp tone, quite at variance with the rest of the speech of the auditor and was evidently designed to impress upon the preclear that now he and the auditor had embarked on the really serous part of the business.

Such a dramatic and startling procedure conditions the already expectant preclear for the exercises or events which follow and is incontrovertibly that of authoritative hypnosis. The preclear is expecting to be " taken in hand ", to use a neutral expression, and that is just what the auditor does, and that is what a hypnotist practising authoritative hypnosis would likewise do. The Board heard expert psychiatric evidence to the effect that a person who is so expectant is a very ready subject for hypnosis ; it was said that a hypnotic condition could be induced in some patients merely by telling them to lie on the couch on which they had lain on a previous occasion when under hypnosis, and that even the entry into a room in which previously they had been under hypnosis may be sufficient to return some people to hypnosis. In scientology, where processing goes on day after day, the return to the same auditor and to the same place and to the same ritual would readily predispose the expectant preclear to submission to scientologys hypnotic techniques and to a return to the hypnotic state which these circumstances commemorate. In hypnosis, there is a condition of rapport between the subject and the hypnotist, loosely and variously described as a bond of sympathy, confidence, confidingness, trust. Hypnosis is a state of mind in the subject which is frequently induced by interaction with the hypnotist with whom the subject is said to be in rapport. In scientology processing there is established between the preclear and the auditor such a bond or understanding, and scientology techniques are developed and designed to maintain this bond during the whole of the session ; it is considered bad auditing if this bond is broken and techniques are prescribed for remedying the break.

In hypnosis, a degree of dependency develops and the expert, practitioner is on guard against, and realises the potential danger of, this condition. In authoritative hypnosis this dependency is allowed to develop, often with harmful results. In scientology there is this same dependence which is allowed to develop without restraint. It persists after the auditing has finished and has significance in the desire of the preclear to return again and again to the HASI for further auditing. In the case of some witnesses a quality of almost desperate dependency on the HASI was observable.

A significant characteristic of hypnosis is what is referred to as the atavistic regression of the subject, " regression " signifying the going back to some previous event or circumstance, and " atavistic " connoting and pertaining to ancestry and referring to the losing or dulling of more recently acquired biological activities, so that the subject becomes less alert, less critical, and may become almost childlike, with heightened respect for the hypnotist, the development or intensification of rapport and a desire on the part of the subject to identify himself more closely with the hypnotist. Hypnosis may be induced by a great number of different procures which initiate some degree of regression in the subject. Very many scientology procedures are designed to initiate this regression.

If command hypnosis is unskilfully practised, hallucinations which have been created during hypnosis persist later as reality. In scientology, "mental image pictures" experienced during an auditing session persist thereafter as reality and the preclear comes to believe that the past experiences and activities conjured up during these hallucinatory periods really took place, and so there is engendered a readiness to subscribe to the various scientology theories about past lives, the thetan and similar beliefs.

Frequently a preclear who in auditing has experienced hallucinations concerning murder, rape, homosexuality and other criminal and disgraceful behaviour comes to believe that such behaviour actually occurred during his present lifetime. This results in feelings of anxiety, guilt and self-loathing and a desire for confession and self-abasement, all of which increase dependency on and domination of the HASl. This position is to be contrasted with what obtains where passive hypnosis is used by skilled practitioners ; in such cases, though the patient under hypnosis may be uninhibited and may experience distressing hallucinations, they are handled by the practitioner in such a way that, if recollected at all, they do not persist as realities, and beneficial results are obtained from competently administered hypnotic techniques. Furthermore, whereas in the professional use of hypnosis the objective is to bring to a conclusion a course of such treatment as speedily as possible, scientology practice is to prescribe more processing to deal with the hallucinations already experienced and bring to light fresh ones. One characteristic feature of hypnosis is the increased suggestibility of the subject, of which advantage can be taken by the hypnotist. In the state of regression found in hypnosis fantasies may be experienced which may be spontaneous or as the result of suggestion. To the subject these fantasies are apparently real and true experiences, and if authoritative hypnosis is used, these fantasies persist as reality. Preclears are highly suggestible and readily conjure up past life experiences of a kind and along lines suggested by the auditor and by what Hubbard has written. Hubbard finds much of the material for his "research " in these hallucinations which are quite fanciful and often contain details of " past lives ". A striking illustration of the increased suggestibility of persons undergoing scientology processing is the helatrobus implant on which Hubbard worked in 1963 and which was the cause of great excitement amongst scientologists. Hubbard wanted preclears to be run on the helatrobus implanting of the goal "to forget " between 38 and 43 trillion years ago, and many preclears in auditing sessions readily imagined weird things happening to them in the period stipulated, some of them giving to the second how many trillions of years ago they had had past life experiences. This. however, was after Hubbard himself had issued a bulletin stating that he had had such experiences. Afterwards some of the preclears were quite satisfied that they had been recalling true experiences in past lives.

It is recognised in hypnosis that repetitive commands and the exercise of other hypnotic techniques are likely to induce regression in which the psychological mechanism of repression is less effective ; when this relaxing or lessening of repression occurs, matters in the unconscious mind are allowed into consciousness, and the subject may be very ready to discuss quite freely many intimate and shameful matters in respect of which the subject would be greatly or entirely inhibited if not under hypnosis. In scientology auditing, all these features are present. In scientology are many processes, including those which involve repetitive commands, which produce a lowering of barriers of restraint, a lessening of reticence, a readiness to talk unreservedly about the most intimate and secret things and past shameful experiences, and there are even scientology techniques designed to overcome, in an almost sadistic way any reluctance on the part of the preclear to " withhold " anything. In scientology processing there is the same relaxing of repression and the same regression that is found in hypnosis.

One of the features of hypnosis is that various psychological mechanisms operate in a more florid form ; thus, while in ordinary life a person may show little manifestation of hysteric behaviour, under hypnosis he is far more likely to show hysteric behaviour in a gross form. In scientology processing it is almost standard practice for the preclear to manifest some heightened hysterical features ; a great many of the HASI files indicate that preclears have highly developed bouts of hysterical manifestation.

Post hypnotic suggestion, which is an important feature of hypnosis, is the name given to the implanting during hypnosis of a command, belief or idea which is subsequently given effect to. Post hypnotic suggestions may be made in relation to ideas, beliefs, attitudes of mind and the like which the patient is to assume after coming out of hypnosis. In scientology auditing, the auditor, in following the prescribed strict procedure for closing the session, inquires of the preclear whether the preclear has achieved his goals set for the session and any other gains and whether he is satisfied with the session. The auditor is still very much in control of the situation, for the preclear, being in a state of hypnotic rapport with the auditor whose wishes are in effect his, is more likely to answer that the goals or some of them have been obtained and that the session has been a success. This is a form of post-hypnotic suggestion, and after the session the suggestion that the session was a success may persist. This feature of auditing may well account for the statistic which Williams produced as the percentage of preclears which it was claimed had received benefit from scientology processing (see Chapter 20 )

Dangerous consequences may follow some post-hypnotic suggestions. If a post-hypnotic suggestion be given in hypnosis that the subject would not experience a particular symptom, e.g., a headache, after a session had ended. The subject might not experience a headache which normally he would have experienced, and thereby not be alerted to a possible medical condition, such as a brain tumour of which the headache would have been a warning sign.

In hypnosis, a condition which is described by psychiatrists as ," dissociation " may be experienced by the subject: This is a feeling or sensation or belief on the part of the subject that for the time being he is outside his body. This is a complete delusion though it seems real enough to the subject who is experiencing it." If the processing is authoritative hypnosis, then the hallucination of having been outside one's body may persist after the session has concluded, and this may be dangerous to the mental health of the subject. In scientology auditing, a state which the scientologists call " exteriorisation is sometimes deliberately sought ; in fact, exercises and procedures for exteriorisation are the subject of a large part of Hubbard's instructional writings. This exteriorization, according to scientologists, is the actual departure of the thetan from the physical body to some position remote from the body. " Dissociation " and " exteriorization are the same thing, produced by essentially the same means. Whereas in hypnosis, dissociation or exteriorization is recognised for what it is, namely, a feeling or sensation or belief on the part of the subject that he is outside his body, in scientology the preclear is specifically told that the hallucination which he experienced did in fact occur as a reality and that the thetan has been exteriorized. In such circumstances the harmful effects of scientology processing persist by inculcating in the mind of the preclear an entirely fallacious belief. A preoccupation with such beliefs, involving a refusal to face up to reality, may be dangerous to the mental health of the subject. A command to " mock up " some object is a standard technique for the induction of hypnosis. Hubbard's writings, both in books and pamphlets, abound with descriptions of procedures which involve mocking up objects. A very great part of The Creation of Human Ability, a book of nearly 300 pages, and recommended reading, is devoted to the explanation of procedures which involve mocking up objects and /or exteriorization. Bulletins, policy letters, and other literature from Hubbard repeatedly deal with these two topics.

In hypnosis, it is not uncommon for the subject to experience disturbing hallucinations that relate to repressed things in his mind, such as hallucinatory homosexual experiences which a subject in his normal existence may never have experienced or entertained. Because of loss of repression these thoughts become known to him in a hallucinatory form, and he is likely to experience extremely severe anxiety even to the extent of panic and self-loathing. A subject who, in passive hypnosis, has experienced these or similar thoughts and may have had feelings of revulsion while under hypnosis, may safely be brought out of hypnosis and no ill effects will follow ; on the contrary, benefit may result and feelings of shame will not persist. However, if similar hallucinatory and shameful thoughts are conjured up in authoritative hypnosis there may be dangerous consequences. In scientology, preclears have frequently complained of morbid feelings of guilt and depression persisting after auditing.

A further similarity between hypnotic processing and scientology auditing is the attention which both pay to the terminating of a processing or auditing session. A skilled hypnotist exercises great care in terminating a hypnotic session ; he has to be satisfied that the subject is ready to be returned to a normal state from the hypnotised state. Too rapid a transition from one state to the other may have harmful effects. In scientology, there is as much strictness applied to terminating an auditing session as there is to the starting of such a session. The auditor brings the preclear up to " present time, usually running a " havingness " process for this purpose ; he then enquires whether the session can be ended, and, when he has the preclear's assent, he loudly proclaims " End of session " in much the same ritualistic way as he commenced the session.

The foregoing illustrations are sufficient to show that at almost every point there is a similarity, amounting almost to identity, between features of authoritative hypnosis and parallel features of scientology techniques. The dangers of the wholesale practice of these pernicious techniques cannot be over-emphasised. Not only does it constitute a very grave threat to the mental health of those already in scientology and in need of psychiatric help but it menaces persons who by ordinary standards are quite normal but may find their way into the scientology centre merely out of ambition, curiosity or adventure. Being unaware of what is in store for them, they may easily succumb to the lure of being made more able, and shortly find themselves mentally crippled by the dangerous practices of ignorant operatives. This has already been the tragic fate of many.