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Observations placeholder

Professor Alexander Erskine - A Hypnotist’s Case Book – The case of Arnold Bennett



Type of Spiritual Experience



Enoch Arnold Bennett (27 May 1867 – 27 March 1931) was an English writer. He is best known as a novelist, but he also worked in other fields such as the theatre, journalism, propaganda and films.

A description of the experience

A Hypnotist’s Case Book – Professor Alexander Erskine

Some of the most technically interesting experiences I have had are the least spectacular, and the case of Arnold Bennett falls into that class.

It was about seven years before his death that Mr. Bennett came to see me. He had three distinct contracts running at once, and was finding it impossible to continue to work at the pressure necessary it he was to fulfil them.

"Jaded, irritable, cantankerous, damn' bad-tempered and unlivable with," was how, in his queer, high-pitched voice, he described himself.

"The trouble is," he said, "that when I feel fit to work my brain won't work ; and when my brain wants to work I don't feel like it. My brain won't do as it's told; it's my master."

The case presented no particular difficulties. I could have put him to sleep, suggested that his brain would work at his dictation, have abolished his insomnia, and generally have co-ordinated mind and body so that he might have worked twenty hours a day for a time, had he so desired.

But Bennett was a peculiar man. He refused to be put to sleep. It wasn't that he was afraid, as so many people are afraid. He was just mulish about it.

He asked more questions to the minute, I think, than any other patient I have ever had, and we talked for an hour.

"Then," he said, "if you can achieve things in the waking state, there is no use in your putting me to sleep.  I have a mind; I am no fool. Co-ordinate my mind and body as I am. I simply need to rest my nerves."

He sat in the chair and I counted. I had reached twenty before I had achieved any result at all. Why, I don't know. Perhaps he had not given his mind entirely up to me ; perhaps he was determined that I should not put him to sleep.

At any rate, I realized that he would go off no more deeply than he had already gone.

The state of coma into which he had gone was peculiar.

He was not fully, vitally awake; he was certainly not asleep. His state was a sort of "suspended animation".  His heart was normal, as it always is in the ordinary sleep state ; his breathing was a little deeper than usual; the pupils of his eyes were not turned up, as they are in the hypnotic sleep state, but had only moved slightly. He had slumped back into the chair. To a superficial observer he might have seemed asleep, but I knew otherwise.

Not without a considerable argument, he had obtained my word before he sat down in the chair that I would not attempt to make any "suggestion" to him. It was a peculiar request, and I objected as strongly as I was able, because I knew that if he would only give his mind to me I could cure him then and there.

But for reasons best known to himself he was adamant.

"If you speak to me," he said, "I will get up and go away. And you may take my word for it, I shall not go to sleep. But you can arouse me in an hour."

With that I had to be content.

But it did not prevent me from doing what I could for him despite himself.

Without speaking, I concentrated my thoughts on him, and tried by, sheer force of will to communicate with his subconscious mind, trying to convey to it the command to control his nerves and give him rest.

But I did not speak. At the end of an hour I tapped him on the knee, and told him to awake. He stared owlishly for a moment-as a man will when awakened from an afternoon nap-then jumped from the chair and said :

"I feel a new man; as though I'd had all the rest in the world."

Then, after a moment: "You kept your word. You didn't speak. But I know just what you tried to will me to believe as soon as you thought I had gone off, for I could read every thought in your mind. It was good advice, and I've taken it."

It was a week before I saw him again, and then he came with the request that I would do just what I had done before : no more, no less.

Thirty times he came to me in all and always there was the same routine. I was never allowed to speak once he had "gone off", as he called it ; he always resolutely refused to be put to sleep and he always stayed just one hour.

Nor could I get him to tell me his full reason for coming.

I thought at one time that he meant to write a book in which hypnotism would play a part. Once only, after the first day, did he allude to what he hoped to attain.

"In an hour with you," he said, "even in this state, I get more peace and rest than I do from the best night's sleep. My head feels entirely different when I awake, and I can go ahead with my work with ease. That is all I ask.

I can get from you what no doctor and no medicine can give."

Now I do not hold up this case of Arnold Bennett as a cure. It was not. There was nothing to cure. But it serves to illustrate three fundamental points of hypnosis:

·         A man cannot be put to sleep against his will

·         suggestion can be accepted in the waking state if the patient is pre-pared to accept it and

·         the physiological effects of hypnotic sleep are in no way different from ordinary sleep.

There is no doubt about the accuracy with which Bennett was able to read my mind. Had he told me the general trend of my thoughts about him while he was in the chair, there would have been nothing noteworthy in it. But his thought-reading went far deeper than that. He repeated to me what my thoughts had been, using in several instances my own little pet phrases which he could not have known, and generally repeating so accurately the suggestions I had "thought at him" that there was no room for doubt that he had really read my mind.

Bennett alone, of course, could say whether or not he obtained the help from me which he wanted. All I know is that I could have given him far more help if he had been willing to let me do so.

The source of the experience

Erskine, Professor Alexander

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