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Observations placeholder

Azam, Dr Etienne Eugène - Hypnotism, Double Consciousness and alterations of personality – The side effects of hypnotism



Type of Spiritual Experience



catalepsy - a medical condition characterized by a trance or seizure with a loss of sensation and consciousness accompanied by rigidity of the body.

strabismus -  one or both eyes turn inward toward the nose. Synonyms: cross-eye, crossed eye, esotropia Type of: squint, strabismus. abnormal alignment of one or both eyes

A description of the experience

HYPNOTISM, DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS and alterations of personality by Etienne Eugène Azam


The phenomena I have observed most often in the many subjects on whom I have experimented are, in order of frequency, catalepsy, anaesthesia, hyperesthesia, exaltation of the muscular sense, and finally psychic phenomena.

I am perfectly convinced that by repeating these experiments repeatedly on people who offer, initially, only the simplest of these manifestations, we can succeed, in a certain time, in producing all of them.

In most subjects, I observed a strange fact: by blowing on one eye while the limbs are in catalepsy, the limbs on the same side immediately fall into a state of resolution.

On two subjects, two women, I observed a singular state that followed the period of catalepsy: it is a complete, absolute muscular resolution, with complete preservation of intelligence; I saw these people slip out of their chairs, and their muscles relaxed and without force recall the state of the body. This state never lasted more than four or five minutes, and ended spontaneously as it had come.

I showed these experiments to a fairly large number of doctors; some saw only a mystification of which I was a victim, others refused to see them. Some of them, more attentive, understood its importance and were convinced, among others Professor Élie Gintrac, A. Bazin, Parchappe, who was deeply impressed by it; Ernest Godard, of Paris; Albert Lemoine, Professor of Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts; M. Oré, Professor of Physiology in Bordeaux, who immediately repeated them on several people in his family and on a Dominican monk with the same success.

Six months later, Bazin spoke to the Society of Medicine about hypnotism, and quoted my experiments, but they were not repeated by anyone.

However, I continued my research on other people, and I often succeeded.

I was compelled, by the very nature of the subject, to act in the shadows like a fugitive, and in a restricted circle; there was still something about it, and if my character, fortunately well known, had not put me above suspicion, the word charlatanism would have been spoken. However, in the asylum for alienated women, I had experimented with varying degrees of success, noting, among other things, that one of the first conditions is the attention of the subject, which is difficult to determine among the alienated. I had also noticed that, in epileptics and hysterical convulsions, the attack was immediately provoked by converging strabismus; this fact happened quite often to me, and I had to give up these experiments, which are useless at least for patients.

I will make a brief digression on this subject: I am convinced that there is a particular relationship between the cerebral phenomena of the epilepsy or hysteria attack, on the one hand, and perhaps other purely physiological states, and on the other hand the higher converging strabismus, a particular relationship that is still unknown.

Here is what I rely on: in the seizure of epilepsy, if the eyelids of the patients are opened by force, the eyes are convulsed up and inside; similarly in the attack of hysteria and convulsions in the children, just as finally in physiological sleep.

However, as we have seen, by artificially making the eyes convulsing up and down, we cause an attack of epilepsy, an attack of hysteria; we also produce a non-physiological sleep, it is true, but finally a sleep.

What a curious subject to study! In a meeting of the Medical-Psychological Society that I attended in 1859, Mr. Baillarger, after I had explained what I knew about hypnotism, told us the following two facts:

A child had epileptic vertigo, and his father was happy to reproduce it by having him stare at something very closely. This fact happened in front of the scientist-psychiatrist.

He also cared for a young man of distinguished upbringing, who could not fix a close object for long, such as the characters of a book, without the epilepsy attacks to which he was subjected recurring.

Finally, we had in the Bordeaux asylum a very interesting young epileptic girl, Henriette R..., who came to us from the Salpêtrière. When she had a series of attacks, she became squinting; after fifteen days or a month of rest, her eyes returned to their normal position; just by seeing her from a distance, we knew she had her seizures.

I am convinced that the reading of these facts will awaken the memories of many of these doctors who have observed similar phenomena, and who only lacked a link to bring them together in a cluster.

Piorry made similar remarks, and adopted a theory of epilepsy seizure based on retinal lesions.

The source of the experience

Azam, Dr Eugene

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