|How can the physical world be reflected so perfectly in the mental world?|
In philosophy, this is traditionally known as the "mind-body problem." In the area of hypnosis, it usually takes the form of a debate as to whether hypnosis is a state, in the sense that fainting, coma, and shock are separate states of the organism, or whether it is best conceived of as a non-state, i.e., a set of "believed-in imaginings," as Sarbin has called it in a book by that title, or "the ability to think along with and vividly imagine the instructions and suggestions one is given," as Ted Barber has stated, or, as I have desctibed it, a shared delusional system.
If we first take a closer look at the mind-body problem which underlies it, I believe we will have a better idea how to approach the state vs. non-state controversy in hypnosis. Several answers to the mind-body problem have been proposed, which usually fall into one of four categories:
1. We could say that everything is physical, and consciousness is just an illusion, much like the reflection in the photo above, as the behaviorist, John Watson and his followers emphasized. This answer leaves many others unsatisfied. When someone who holds this opinion asks you what you mean by consciousness, many people are inclined to scornfully reply, "I mean what you feel when you ask me that question."
2. We could say that everything is mental, and what we call matter is just an illusion, as did the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who believed that everything exists as an idea in the mind of God. (This provides a neat explanation for the problem of miracles: "God changed His mind!)
3. We could say, as did Descartes, that mental and physical get translated from a "pineal eye" located in the center of the forehead. But others will object that if you are going to talk about a connection between them, you must first establish that they are two separate entitites, i.e., you must establish something which is not true in the first place.
4. Finally, we could say, "Why make the problem?" as did the British philosophers, Bradley and Bosanquet. If we don't state things in either-or categories, then we don't have to wiggle out of them. Hypnosis is a state of the organism, as is any constellation of thoughts -- but it is also a function of the imagination, which is a very real group of abilities located in the organ which we call the brain. And there is no need to separate them through the creation of any artificially-linked analogies.
Does this mean that the brain is merely a computer which stops when you die, as Steven Hawking claims? Not necessarily. If you accept Einstein's equation that matter and energy are two different forms of the same thing, this means that neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed -- just transformed.
|Matter and energy are both forms of the same thing!|
Einstein expressed with mathematical elegance that matter and energy are two forms of the same thing. Emerson carried this idea even further with the eloquence of poetry.
See also: The Evidence is In: "Free Will" is an Illusion!