Dr Stephen Black - Hypnosis and stigmata
Type of Spiritual Experience
What is interesting about this observation is that in susceptible people stigmata can be produced. Given that numerous, probably highly susceptible religious people have over the ages produced stigmata, which have subsequently been described by the Catholic Church as a ‘miracle’, we can now put these in context.
In some senses the power of the mind over the body remains a subject of fascination, but the ability to produce stigmata lies with anyone who is a hypnosis ready subject.
Dr Black was a doctor and a trained psychologist practising at the Westminster Hospital and West London Hospital
A description of the experience
Dr Stephen Black – Mind and Body
Patti (1941) reviews the significant literature on examples of the phenomenon of 'hypnotic stigmata'.
The general experimental design is to touch the subject's arm with a piece of metal at room temperature while DSUH [Direct Suggestion under Hypnosis] is given that the metal is red hot. Hadfield (1917) produced by this means a blister surrounded by inflammation at 36 hours, but most significantly from my point of view, both Jendrassik (1888) and Smirnoff (1912) found that blisters formed in other parts of the body.
Other variations of this type of experiment are recorded by many authors, including Kraft-Ebing 1889.
In my view the experimental design required to create the illusion presumably essential to the production of such phenomena - and especially under controlled and repeatable experimental conditions - is both practically difficult and ethically questionable. The deep-trance subject places complete trust in the hypnotist and rapport even under hypnosis rapidly deteriorates at the slightest suspicion that this is being betrayed.
To obtain maximum effects from DSUH, maximum rapport is necessary. The suggestion "I am now going to touch your arm with a red hot iron", if believed, is likely to challenge even the strongest transference. A negative result of such an experiment will not therefore prove anything about the phenomena of hypnotic stigmata.
Moreover, both negative and positive results could seriously damage the subject. In my work I have therefore relied exclusively on the negative effects already discussed.