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Observations placeholder

Dr William Sargant – Healed via over breathing and controlled drowning!



Type of Spiritual Experience


Dr William Sargant was born in Highgate, London, in 1907 and educated at Leys School and St John's College, Cambridge.  Up to 1972 he was Physician in Charge of the Department of Psychological Medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, London. He was Associate Secretary of the World Psychiatric Association and on the staff of the Maudsley Hospital, London for many years, He was also Registrar of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, Rockefeller Fellow at Harvard University and Visiting Professor at Duke University. He was also the author of Battle for the Mind, and The Unquiet Mind.

A description of the experience

The Mind Possessed  - Dr William Sargant

A bench was placed near the altar. There were several large tanks of water nearby, and a modern bath spray. Holy oil was poured into them, so that they now contained holy water. Then, one by one or in groups of twos and threes, those desiring special healing sat down on the wooden bench. Men and women alike were stripped to the waist and water was sprayed on to their faces and bodies. When they opened their mouths to breathe, they were forced to gulp down water, which gave them a feeling of suffocation and drowning, and their breathing was necessarily rapid and shallow.

Later on, I had this done to myself, and a very unpleasant experience it was, although after watching it in others I had learnt how to avoid some of the most unpleasant effects. Through rapid shallow breathing, the patient went into a state of trance and ‘possession' while being sprayed.

The spirit possessing him would begin to speak and there was again a verbal battle between the priest and the spirit. But with the holy water being sprayed deliberately into the patient's mouth when the Satan was talking, the effects were far more dramatic. Unless you kept your head down and prevented the water from spraying straight into your mouth, you began to feel suffocated. The patients not realizing this, often put their heads back, only to receive a further mouthful of water, which must have increased the frightening feeling of suffocation. This further increased the over-breathing and the tendency to fall into trance.

After a tremendous battle between priest and spirits, and the continued spraying of water on the patient's face and body, the patients finally dropped to the floor in a state of temporary inertia and collapse. It was expected that they would come round healed.

It was noticeable that the priest paid more attention to some patients than to others. He had talked to some of them before the healing ceremony started. A spastic boy received only a cursory spraying; another patient, who seemed to me to be a typical schizophrenic, also received only a token spraying. On the other hand, a handsome, full-breasted girl, who may well have had a reactive depression or an anxiety hysteria, received much attention and repeated spraying until she went into trance and was finally reduced to total collapse.

Case after case was treated, some thoroughly, some cursorily. And I had no doubt that the priest himself had a very clear idea of the type of patient he could help, those suffering from neuroses and milder depressions, and of those he could not help, who seemed to me to be the cases of organic diseases and schizophrenia. . And the number of cripples and mentally ill sitting outside the entrance church must have convinced the priest that his method must have selective, even if widespread, uses.

The source of the experience

Other religious person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps