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Observations placeholder

Professor Alexander Erskine - A Hypnotist’s Case Book – Curing a terrible case of Rheumatoid Arthritis



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

A Hypnotist’s Case Book – Professor Alexander Erskine

It was not long before I was to have a test of a very different calibre. Looking back on it now, even after all these years of practice, I still consider it one of my most outstanding cases. At that time I felt, I remember, that my whole career was ended even before it was well begun, for I knew that if I could not achieve a certain cure, my theories would be held to have failed at the first big test.

This also was a case which had been given up by doctors; but it differed from that of Alfred Thomas, in that I went to him in a private capacity, whereas in this case I was to face a properly staged test in a hospital, prepared for me by the doctors who had been treating the man in question.

The case was brought to my notice by a doctor - today a well-known physician practising in London – who was among the most sceptical medical men so far as my claims for hypnosis were concerned. The case was in Glasgow infirmary, and the man had been diagnosed as suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. He had, I believe, been in the hospital some weeks, and his ailment had not yielded in the slightest to treatment. He was the despair of the staff, and was considered hopeless and incurable.

I had had many rheumatic cures in a small way, but nothing to compare with this. However, it was win or die, so to Glasgow I went.

I had imagined something out of the ordinary. I found it. The man was in a shocking state. He was far worse than even I had anticipated. Great adhesions had formed on his joints. They were highly inflamed, swollen and hard. The pain was intense. He could hardly move a joint of his body.

He was brought from the ward to the operating theatre and placed on the table. With the doctors and theatre nurses standing round, I examined the man minutely.

As I did so, my confidence, which had melted away when first I saw him, returned. I contrived to whisper to him as I bent over him, asking if he would like me to try to cure him, for I was quite prepared to throw up the case then and there if he had not been willing. In fact, I think that I was secretly hoping that he would refuse to go on with the job.

"I think I can manage it," I told him, and he smiled his consent to my making the trial.

"Yes," I said, turning to the others, "I will take the case on, but I cannot do it unless I am left alone in here with the man."

The unusual request created something of a stir, and there were remarks on my attitude. But I was firm. I was now fully confident. I felt sure of myself. The more I examined the man, the more confident I became. If they did not leave me alone with the man, I told them, I should refuse to proceed. I do not say I should adopt that attitude to-day. I should not. But remember that in those days I was fighting for my hypnotic life, as it were, and I felt that these people were definitely hostile - unfairly hostile - to me. I was not going to have them disturbing me with questions in the most critical parts of my treatment. And in the end they withdrew.

Then I talked to the man, telling him that all I wanted him to do was to go to sleep at my suggestion, and that when he woke up he would be cured. At first he thought I was going to give him an anaesthetic, and when he found that I intended nothing of the sort, he could scarcely believe me. In fact, the simplicity of the process was the greatest enemy I had to fight that day.

As he said, after all he had gone through, it was almost unbelievable that I could cure him by such childish means.

Once he had convinced himself that I meant what I said, he was soon asleep. But for once I did not let it rest there. I put him into the trance state - the deepest sleep I know. This was not just a case of restoring the subconscious mind to its right sphere in the man's life.

The adhesions, to my mind, were not functional. They were organic, and I did not claim to be able to cure organic disease. I do not make that claim now, except in so far as it is caused by functional disorder. And to my mind this was just such a case. Thus, to effect a cure, I had to break down the adhesions, for, however fully I restored the subconscious to its proper sphere, the man would remain a cripple as long as the adhesions remained; and as long as they remained the man could not be said to be cured.

I left the man in the trance state for some minutes before proceeding further. Then, taking off my coat, I set to work. It was a tremendous job. One by one the adhesions had to be broken by sheer physical force.

I worked for hours, it seemed to me. What he could do to help me in his trance, he did. I used every ounce of force of which I was capable where his own power was insufficient. I worked, with rests to recover my strength -and I was a strong man in those days - till I was exhausted. When at length I had broken down the last adhesion, I was soaked in perspiration, and trembling so much that, with the effort over, I could not stand up.

I called the doctors and others back into the theatre.

They moved the man's legs and arms. They tried his other joints - those joints that no one had been able to move for so long-and were amazed, Then I spoke to the man, still in his trance.

"You will not," I said, "feel any pain when you wake up. You will be able to move your joints as an ordinary man. You will recover your strength, and on awaking you will suffer no ill-effects of the treatment which I have just given you."

I then made the man move his limbs, move them vigorously, and wave his arms and feet about. He did it perfectly. Then I let him rest. It was a long time before I woke him up, and before doing so I again suggested to him the things I had suggested to him before about his state after waking.

He was in bed when I awakened him, and when at length a doctor asked him what he could do in the way of physical jerks, he replied by moving his limbs as freely as if he had never been ill.

What I most feared was the aftermath - the spread of the inflammation which had been such a handicap to me in the operating theatre. But this also responded to suggestion, for I stressed that it would subside quickly on his recovering consciousness, and it gradually died away.

He told us that he felt no pain and no ill effects, and, in fact, rest was all that it was found necessary to prescribe for him. Indeed, they gave him no medicine, though as a mental sop they gave him coloured water to drink.

For five weeks they kept him in bed, and then discharged him as cured. He obtained a job soon afterwards, I was told, in a garage, as a mechanic, and when I heard of him some time later he was still following his occupation, and had had no recurrence of the trouble.

The source of the experience

Erskine, Professor Alexander

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Psychosomatic medicine

Activities and commonsteps



Rheumatoid arthritis