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     MindNet Journal - Vol. 1, No. 99
     V E R I C O M M sm                 "Quid veritas est?"

The views and opinions expressed below are not necessarily the
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The following is reproduced here with the express permission of
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Editor's Note:

The following is an excerpt from a work in progress.

The author, Martin Cannon, a writer and artist, lives in
the Los Angeles area.



By Martin Cannon

January 1997


The concept of mind control strikes most people as either
futuristic or fabulous. In fact, human beings have employed
effective thought-processing techniques ever since the first
oligarches sought to exploit their underlings, ever since the
first mystics sought communion with their deities, ever since
man first sought to understand his inner self. Mind control,
broadly defined, has been with us in one form or another since
the beginning of civilization.

The Mushroom Warriors

Arguably, the Russians really were the first brainwashers, just
as the propagandists of the 1950s alleged.

4500 years ago, the Koyak and Wiros tribes of the central Russian
steppes conducted what may be the first experiments in
stimulating violence through the use of drugs. They derived from
the Amanita muscaria mushroom a drug which reduced the warrior's
anxiety and fear while increasing his strength, stamina, mental
acuity, and ability to withstand pain. The shamans hit upon a
noteworthy method of increasing the drug's potency: The mushroom
was first fed to reindeer, and the soldiers would drink the
animals' urine on the eve of battle. Viking warriors also
depended on chemical stimulants derived from deer urine.
(Today's soldiers should ponder this history before complaining
about their MREs.) Combatants in India relied on similar drugs,
as did Native American tribes of the Southwest. Incan warriors
made use of the coca leaf. The tradition continues today: In
Vietnam, soldiers sought relief in a veritable
pharma-cornucopia, which offered everything from marijuana to
heroin. The warring tribes of Somalia, Rwanda and Liberia all
routinely partake of the locally-preferred narcotics.

In all ancient cultures, the shaman prepared for healing work by
retreating to a cave, or some other quiet, intensely dark
environment -- a sensory deprivation chamber, if you will. Magic
could occur only after prolonged sessions of drumming and
chanting: rhythmic sound stimulation. The shaman would visualize
descent into a lower world, just as a modern hypnotherapist
might use "falling" imagery during trance induction. As William
Sargant, a British psychiatrist, said of these ancient rituals:

"Some persons can produce a state of trance and dissociation in
themselves, or in others, with a decreasing need for strong and
repeated emotional stresses, until it may become so much a
conditioned pattern of brain activity that it occurs with only
minor stresses and difficulties; for example, in the primitive
religious context, at the renewed beat of a drum, or the
screaming roar of the rhombos... If the trance is accompanied by
a state of mental dissociation, the person experiencing it can
be profoundly influenced in his subsequent thinking and

Students of occult history maintain that the heirophants of the
ancient Egyptian mystery schools practiced a strikingly-advanced
form of hypnosis, in which initiates entered profound trances,
triggering what we would today call an out-of-body-experience.
Even modern-day, scientifically-oriented hypnotists recognize
their debt to the Aesculapian priests of ancient Greece, who
practiced a hypnosis-based form of medicine and behavior
modification they called "dream healing." The oracles of ancient
Greece, through the breathing of certain vapors and the imbibing
of certain liquids, dwelt within an altered state, as did, to
varying degrees, those who participated in the mysteries.
Sargant does not hesitate to use the term "brainwashing" to
describe the rites of the Oracle of Triphonius. During these
mysteries, the initiate experienced sensory deprivation, sudden
confusion techniques, selected auditory and visual stimuli,
drugs -- and possibly even the proverbial whack on the skull.
Unsurprisingly, vivid hallucinations often resulted. Western
civilization, we are told, was founded on the Greek model -- but
to what degree was Greek civilization itself founded on mind
control? Mystery cults expanded throughout the ancient world,
always centering (as Dr. Pierre Janet once noted) in the same
types of pastoral locales favored by modern centers of Marian
devotion. At Eleusis, as at Lourdes, the pilgrim entered
craftily-designed alternate world, set amid grottoes, streams,
caves and candlelight rites:

"Initiation ceremonies of secret cults of the mystery-type
invariably involve tests, sometimes most severe ones. The effect
of certain experiences was a carefully worked program of mind
training which is familiar in modern times as that employed by
certain totalitarian states to 'condition' or reshape the
thinking of the individual. This process produces a state in
which the mind is pliant enough to have certain ideas implanted:
ideas which resist a great deal of counter-influence."

The Truth About "Magic"

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, alchemists filled many an
obscure text with descriptions of techniques intended to focus
the will and alter awareness. These auto-induced trance states
probably account for many of the visionary experiences reported
in occult lore. In a sense, magic works -- in spite of, not
because of, the theory of the magician.

Example: Ritualists once set great store by a device called "The
Triangle of the Art." This was, essentially, a round glass
(roughly a foot in diameter) painted black on the reverse and
set into a triangular wooden frame, which was painted white and
bedecked with esoteric symbols. The magician was to sit in a
darkened room facing this glass, flanked on either side by lit
candles placed just outside his direct vision. By studying the
dark mirror, concentrating on the reflected light dancing on his
face, the magician would slip into the spirit realms and commune
with forces beyond. Undoubtedly, the device did its job, though
the triangular frame and eldritch calligraphy contributed little
aside from decoration. As the American military would
re-discover in the 20th Century, flickering light can profoundly
affect perception and awareness.

The literature of occultism, stripped of its supernatural
pretenses, records the long pre-history of Mesmerism. The demons
called forth by Prelati and Gilles de Rais, the Colosseum of
horrors witnessed by Buenvenuto Cellini, the spirits evoked by
Edward Kelly and John Dee, the devils who possessed the sisters
at Loudon: Mind manipulation may not explain all of these
phenomena, but it explains much. The MKULTRA scientists merely
mapped lands the alchemists had long ago discovered. As Richard
Cavendish points out in his history of The Black Arts:

"There is not much doubt that the procedures of ritual magic are
likely to cause hallucinations. The magician prepares himself by
abstinence and lack of sleep, or by drink, drugs and sex. He
breathes in fumes which may affect his brain and senses. He
performs mysterious rites which tug at the deepest, most
emotional and unreasoning levels of his mind, and he is further
intoxicated by the killing of an animal, the wounding of a human
being and in some cases the approach to and the achievement of
orgasm. Through all this he concentrates on a mental image of
the being he hopes to see. It does not seem at all unlikely that
at the high point of the ceremony he may actually see it."


Similar practices had similar results within the confines of
mainstream faith. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century mystic, may
be famous for her charming homily "God is to be found in the
pots and pans" -- yet she did not receive her visions
spontaneously, while going about her daily labors like other
women. To the contrary: In order to experience the divine, she
required of herself (and of her charges) penances, solitude,
strict discipline, chants, and ongoing mental prayer. This
continual hypnotic auto-induction resulted in the state of
ecstasy -- the state of trance -- depicted in Bernini's famous
statue. Her fellow Carmelites, having undergone the same
preparation, would experience the same visions, interviewing
celestial visitors alongside Teresa.

History's other great mystics -- inspired seers, such as St. John
of the Cross, Plotinus, and Meister Eckhart -- usually followed
similar recipes for ecstasy.

According to William Sargant, the methodologies of religious
conversion "often approximate so closely to modern political
techniques of brain-washing and thought control that each throws
light on the mechanics of the other." Sargant pays particular
attention to the great English revivalist of the mid-18th
century, John Wesley. His technique ("used," according to
Sargant, "not only in many other successful religions but in
modern political warfare") involved an all-out assault on the
emotions, primarily the emotion of fear. The preacher would hit
this note at the loudest possible volume for the longest
possible time, until many in the audience succumbed to
hysterical collapse. This approach differs hardly at all from
the ultra-emotional "conditioning" sessions conducted by such
modern-day evangelists as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.

Interestingly, Wesley even recommended a form of
electro-convulsive therapy involving Leyden jars. He considered
the intentional electrification of human beings both harmless
and beneficial, "a thousand medicines in one." John Wesley may
thus be the first "programmer" to take a serious interest in the
use of electricity to affect mind and body. All religious systems
have incorporated practices designed to modify consciousness:
the chanting of mantras, focusing of concentration, guided
imagery, breathing exercises, group ritual, intense prayer, etc.
Mind control, defined broadly, has affected history to the
extent that religion has affected history. The wars of faith
have rarely been more than the clashes of psychic autocracies.

The Assassins

Perhaps the most innovative thinker in the history of
psychological manipulation was the legendary Persian warlord
Hasan I Sabbah, otherwise known as "The Old Man of the
Mountains." Reportedly a boyhood friend of the poet Omar Khyam,
Hasan was the son of a governor. He was educated in the ways of
the Ismailis, a semi-gnostic sect based in Cairo, which used
subtle psychological techniques to instill initiates with a
fanatic loyalty to the Egyptian caliph.

When the ambitious and ruthless Hasan was exiled from Persia in
1078, he vowed revenge -- and soon achieved it, by perfecting
Ismaili mind-control methods. In the words of Marco Polo, Hasan
"caused draughts of a soporific nature to be administered to ten
or a dozen youths." He would then transport the drugged youths
to a beautiful, but inescapable, valley adjacent to his hillside
fortress near Kasvin. Every detail of this Persian garden
corresponded with the descriptions of paradise found in the Koran
-- including a connoisseur's collection of harem girls. "Upon
awakening from this state of lethargy their senses were struck
by all the delightful objects, and each perceiving himself
surrounded by lovely damsels, singing, playing, and attracting
his regards by the most fascinating caresses..." The recruits
believed that they had literally died and gone to heaven. After
a few weeks of beatific bliss, the young fighting men were (much
to their disappointment) expelled from paradise and returned to
the outside world. Hasan would them send them on missions of
what we would now call "unconventional warfare." The promised
reward for both success and martyrdom was a revisit to the
garden of delights. Thus, Hasan managed to overcome the most
serious obstacle to effective soldiering: the innate human will
for self-preservation. The troops welcomed death, and maintained
their ecstatic vision of the afterlife through the liberal use of
hashish -- hence the term hashishim, from which we derive the
word "assassin."

Another "recruiting" technique was more direct: Hasan would
purchase children from the poor, and raise them from infancy to
become absolutely obedient warriors. So great was Hasan's
control that he once impressed a visiting dignitary by ordering
one of his men to leap off a cliff, an order fulfilled without a
second's hesitation.

The hashishim advanced Hasan's interests, established a network
of strongholds, and either murdered or intimidated all rival
rulers. By 1094 these elite troops, wearing the white tunics and
red sashes characteristic of their sect, had made Hasan the most
powerful warlord in the area now called the Middle East.
Reportedly, King Richard the Lion-hearted once contracted Hasan
to have a mind-controlled assassin perform a "hit" against a
rival crusader.

Such, at least, is the story. Alas, figures like The Old Man of
the Mountains invite much myth, and never leave the sort of
paper trail modern-day researchers would prefer. We know,
however, that as the centuries progressed, the hashishim evolved
into an extremely widespread cult, which had made its presence
known in Russia, China, and even India -- where the ways of the
assassins may have inspired the notorious Thugees. Hasan's sect
survives to this day throughout the Middle East. In Gujurat
state, India, and in Pakistan, they are now known as the Khojas,
and owe their allegiance to the Aga Khan, leader of the
modern-day Ismailis.


All sciences of today owe something to the pseudosciences of
older times. As we have seen, hypnotism's debt is particularly
large. Many history books credit Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815)
as the founder of the science of hypnotism, yet we should
properly classify Mesmer as an occultist, not a scientist, for
he never represented the Age of Reason. He reflected older

Specifically, Mesmer adopted and expanded upon the ideas first
proposed by that impressive and irascible 16th Century
alchemist, Paracelsus. This fascinating healer, one-quarter
empiricist and three-quarters quack (at a time when most medical
men approached the 100% mark for charlatanism), made many
enemies in his day. His personality may be gauged by the fact
that his real name -- Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohoenheim --
gave rise to our word "bombast." Paracelsus held that life flows
through an invisible and intangible liquid he called "mumia."
Alchemists generally refer to this substance as a fluid,
although we perhaps ought to think of it as something akin to
the aura, or Wilhelm Reich's orgone energy. Supposedly, bodily
fluids (including blood, sweat and urine) maintain this life
essence for a brief period. Paracelsus favored applying these
substances to a diseased body, arguing that healthy mumia could
attract diseased mumia, much as a magnet attracts iron. This
practice apparently led Paracelsus to use actual magnets on his
patients. He cured hysterical disorders in women by placing the
positive pole of a magnet on the head and the negative pole of
another magnet below. Again, the magic worked, in spite of the
theory of the magician.

During the Age of Reason, a few lonely voices continued to
propound the notion of animal magnetism, particularly an English
doctor named Richard Mead and the Jesuit Professor Maximilian
Hehle, of Vienna. In 1774, Hehle used magnets to cure a woman's
stomach cramps. After the patient recovered, Hehle happened to
mention his success to a fellow Viennese -- the aforementioned
Franz Anton Mesmer.

Mesmer was hooked. He felt that Hehle's experiment confirmed his
own ideas of an "etheric fluid" which pervades all space and
controls human health -- a concept cribbed, obviously, from
Paracelsus' idea of the mumia. During the next year, Mesmer used
magnets, and eventually his hands, to manipulate this imagined
ether. Initial successes with hypochondriacs and hysterics
quickly established Mesmer's reputation. It became tarnished just
as rapidly, when he attempted to use animal magnetism to cure an
attractive young pianist of her blindness. She and a number of
pretty female "patients" came to live with Mesmer, creating
something of a scandal: The Viennese sensed that "magnetic"
treatment could allow the unscrupulous to take advantage of the
fairer sex. (This remains a concern in hypnotic practice.)

Mesmer found it expedient to remove himself to Paris. There, he
established a fantastically successful salon catering to the
aristocracy. Mesmer initiated a form of "group therapy":
Patients would enter a large tub filled with water, magnets, and
iron filings. They formed a circle, alternating male and female,
pressing thighs together (the healing sessions contained an
undeniable sexual element), and used their hands to manipulate
each other's "ether." Mesmer presided over these ceremonies in
flowing robes of light violet, waving a long magnet-wand over
his patients and any other object he cared to "magnetize."

Obviously, all this was buncombe. Yet many declared themselves
cured, or at least profoundly affected. Mesmer's treatment sent
his charges into violent convulsions -- a complete physical
collapse known as "the crisis." Some experienced hallucinations,
as when certain patients reported seeing flames shooting out of
Mesmer's magnets. These fascinating, yet disturbing, reports
prompted King Louis XVI to commission an independent study by a
respected team of scientists, which included that esteemed
visitor from America, Dr. Benjamin Franklin.

They examined Mesmer's claims, most of which did not stand up
under close scrutiny. The commissioners observed numerous
patients touch a "magnetized" tree to regain health; many
mistakenly touched the wrong tree, yet experienced the crisis
nonetheless. Franklin and his fellow experts determined that
"imagination without magnetism produces convulsions, and that
the magnetism without the imagination produces nothing." So much
for Mesmer's theory of the all-encompassing etheric fluid. The
report concluded "...that the existence of the fluid is
absolutely destitute of proof, and that the fluid, having no
existence, can consequently have no use."

Mesmer was proven a fraud -- but a fraud who, disconcertingly
enough, had obtained impressive results. For the discerning eye,
the spectacle of magnetic healing still provided much to marvel
at. If "imagination" alone could produce profound physical
effects, then the human mind possessed previously unguessed-at
capabilities. Moreover, Mesmer eventually discovered the
somnambulistic (as opposed to the convulsive) hypnotic state.
This is the form of hypnosis used therapeutically by later, more
scientific practitioners. His magic had worked despite his
theory; it was up to his followers to straighten out the theory.

That process, alas, took the better part of the next hundred
years. Arguably, the process continues today.


Mesmer's pupil, the Comte de Puysegur, used what he termed
magnetic somnabulism to cure a shepherd boy. The experiment's
results largely accorded with those achieved by modern hypnotic
practitioners; the subject even experienced amnesia covering the
trance episode. De Puysegur also used hypnosis (which had not
yet attained that label) to conduct experiments -- reportedly
successful -- in telepathy.

Two surgeons, Dr. John Elliotson of London and Dr. James Esdaile,
who worked in India, performed operations using "mesmeric
anaesthesia." The technique even allowed Esdaile to perform
painless amputations. Yet the British medical establishment was
incensed by Elliotson's dabblings in what they considered the
occult; his hospital banned the use of mesmerism in medical
practice. Perhaps no other episode better exemplifies the
limitations of what we might label the "CSICOP" mentality: The
arch-skeptics of Elliotson's day condemned thousands of patients
to agonies hypnosis could have averted. Yet scientific
skittishness was understandable: Many experimenters were
uncredentialed, and many used Mesmer's techniques to explore
ESP, always a dangerous topic.

Interestingly, a number of practitioners -- such as Alexandre
Bertrand, Dr. J.H.D. Petetin, and Dr. L. Rostan -- reported very
positive results in this field. "Magnetized" patients seemed to
develop telepathy and other paranormal abilities. An American
doctor, Lyman B. Larkin, used animal magnetism to cure a servant
girl. When entranced, the girl developed a secondary personality
in marked contrast to her natural character. She also reportedly
established paranormal powers, and communicated with a "fairy"
who appeared to her during magnetized sessions. This case -- with
its bizarre combination of hypnosis, multiple personality
disorder, ESP experimentation and visual hallucination -- could
almost be considered a dry run for MKULTRA.

Scottish physician James Braid invented the term "neuro-hypnosis"
in the mid-19th century. He proposed a purely physical
explanation of the process. This theory, though totally
erroneous, was carefully couched in medical terms and thus did
much to carry hypnosis into respectability. (If we compare
Elliotson and Braid, we might conclude that respect accrues not
to he who produces results, but to he who masters the jargon.)
Like his predecessors, Braid found that he could use hypnosis to
perform relatively painless surgeries. Many of the most
intriguing hypnotic phenomena -- catalepsy, amnesia, analgesia,
loss of sight or hearing, release of inhibition -- now received,
for the first time, attention from the scientific establishment.

Braid's theories attracted Professor Jean Martin Charcot, the
famed Parisian neurologist. He conducted experiments with
hypnotism at the Salpetriere Hospital, eventually aided by a
trio of soon-to-be-stellar associates: Sigmund Freud, Pierre
Janet, and Alfred Binet.

Alas, Charcot founded his work upon flawed assumptions. Like
Braid, he considered hypnosis a purely mechanical process; like
Mesmer, he felt magnets and metals could set the process into
motion. Because he operated primarily on women suffering from
hysteria, he concluded that hypnosis could only work on
hysterical females. To Charcot, the hypnotic state resulted from
a disease of the nervous system; if a patient "went under"
easily, that patient was obviously physically ill.

During this period -- which some call the Golden Age of hypnosis
-- rivalry developed between the specialists at the Saltpetriere
and a somewhat more advanced school of hypnosis at the Nancy
Medical Society, led by Drs. Ambrose Liebeault and Hippolyte
Bernheim. They saw hypnosis not as a symptom of physiological
disorder, but as a psychological process, helpful in healing
common neuroses. Bernheim and Liebeault asserted that suggestion
alone caused hypnosis. Normal people could be hypnotized,
although differing individuals had different levels of hypnotic

Even though Janet and Freud first established themselves at the
Saltpetriere, the work done at Nancy intrigued both men. Janet
conducted the first serious work into the subject of multiple
personality disorder. Secondary personalities, he felt, could be
artificially induced by the hypnotist -- an important point, long
the subject of dispute. Janet improved upon Charcot's theories
considerably when he investigated hypnosis as a process of
dissociation -- the separation of one segment of the mind from
another. Neurotic patients often had repressed memories of
traumatic events in their past; Janet discovered that once the
patient re-awakened the memories, the symptoms of neurotic
disorder often abated. Hypnotic age regression provided a key
that could unlock the past. In 1889, Freud became Bernheim's
pupil, after witnessing a demonstration which made a deep

"A man was placed in a condition of somnambulism, and then made
to go through all sorts of hallucinatory experiences. On being
wakened, he seemed at first to know nothing at all of what had
taken place during his hypnotic sleep. Bernheim then asked him
in so many words to tell him what had happened while he was
under hypnosis. The man declared that he could not remember
anything. Bernheim, however, insisted upon it, pressed him, and
assured him that he did know and that he must remember, and lo
and behold, the man wavered, began to reflect, and remembered in
a shadowy fashion first one of the occurrences that had been
suggested to him, then something else, his recollection growing
increasingly clear..."

Freud drew a lasting lesson from this experiment: The mind could
know something -- yet not KNOW what it knew. The unconscious
stored information at differing levels. Note, too, that
Bernheim's patient eventually recalled not what actually
occurred during the experiment, but the hallucinatory
pseudo-memories that Dr. Bernheim had suggested.

After making the intellectual segue between the Saltpetriere and
Nancy, Freud eventually became frustrated with hypnosis. The
results, he felt, were capricious and impermanent, and not
everyone who needed help proved susceptible to trance induction.
Freud turned to free association as "the royal road to the
unconscious." Thus was born psychoanalysis -- the long,
sometimes painful process which exposed the patient's resistances
and repressions. Freud saw resistance as a signpost directing
the analyst to the root of his patient's problems; hypnosis, by
contrast, concealed these resistances. "The hypnotic therapy
endeavors to cover up and as it were to whitewash something
going on in the mind, the analytic to lay bare and remove
something. The first works cosmetically, the second surgically."

Into the Twentieth Century

Freud's discoveries fascinated healers of the mind, and many
followed his lead in abandoning hypnotherapy for analysis. For
a while, hypnosis settled into the background of intellectual
thought -- until military psychologists brought the technique
back into action during World War I, along with that unsettling
new development, electroshock. Doctors in many armies used both
electricity and trance to treat "combat shock" and other
dissociative disorders arising from the strain of battle.
According to the respected historian John Toland, one such
patient may have been a German corporal named Adolf Hitler.

In 1918, Hitler lay in a Pasewalk military hospital, stricken
with a psychosomatic blindness. There, Toland tells us, the
future fuehrer was attended by Dr. Edmund Forster, an important
hypnosis researcher from Berlin University. Hysterical blindness
is precisely the sort of symptom that would have interested a
clinician like Forster. He may have opened the corporal's eyes
in more ways than one. During this stay at Pasewalk, Hitler
experienced a "vision" -- perhaps induced hypnotically -- in
which he heard voices entreating him to become the savior of
Germany (or so Hitler later claimed).

Toland obliquely suggests a truly remarkable scenario: Adolf
Hitler as the first Manchurian Candidate. An unsettling notion,
to be sure. Perhaps we should be grateful to Hitler
"psychohistorian" Robert G.L. Waite, who has argued persuasively
that Forster never treated Hitler.

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