What connection is there, if any, between hypnosis and psychic phenomena?
Hypnosis and psychic functioning are both strange and little understood phenomena, and there is a tendency to think of them together for that reason. They're both unusual! However, there are more substantial reasons to mention the two phenomena together. Historically, several phenomena which we today call psychic were observed to occur rather routinely in persons who had undergone hypnosis. One of these was the phenomenon then called "community of sensation," in which a hypnotized person reported perceiving sensations (for example, tastes) being directly experienced by another person at a distance. Today, we would consider this a form of telepathy. Another phenomenon was the induction and termination of hypnosis itself at a distance. Well known experiments along these lines were conducted in 1886 by the French psychiatrist Pierre Janet and were later repeated and elaborated in the 1930's by Leonid Vasiliev who might be called the father of parapsychology in Russia.
More recently, it's been found that hypnosis is a favorable condition to the occurrence of many forms of ESP. Hypnotized persons tend to perform better in laboratory tests of clairvoyance, telepathy, and precognition. Precisely why this is so remains unclear, but several hypotheses have been advanced: The hypnotic subject is very relaxed; he has induced in himself (with the help of the hypnotist) a state of isolation from sensory impressions that might normally divert his attention away from more subtle ESP impressions; he has fewer distracting thoughts and distracting physical sensations.
The hypnotized person's way of thinking changes so that he or she is less likely to think in ways that are incompatible with good ESP performance and more likely to think in ways favorable to the retrieval of ESP information. The hypnotized person is suggestible. Thus, it is possible to increase his confidence in his own psychic ability. Fears and apprehensions that normally interfere with ESP may be temporarily removed. Hypnosis is a well-specified ritual in which a person can place his trust and which can also remove some feeling of responsibility for good or poor ESP performance. Both of these factors could aid ESP performance in the laboratory. Physiological and psychological conditions which are believed to be favorable to ESP either occur automatically in the hypnotized subject as he relaxes or, if not, they might be suggested by the hypnotist.
Hypnosis and parapsychology are also similar in terms of their history of acceptance by the scientific community. At first frowned upon because they included phenomena that were unfamiliar and not easily explained by current scientific world views, they are gradually becoming less unfamiliar, more fully understood, and more acceptable in science and in medicine. Progress has been more rapid in the case of hypnosis. Consequently, hypnosis is now an acceptable object of scholarly and scientific interest and has several practical applications. Perhaps the same will be true for parapsychology in the years to come.
Can mutual hypnosis be used to help subjects to perform better in ESP experiments?
A California psychologist, Dr. Charles Tart, has reported experiments in "mutual hypnosis" in which each of two persons were hypnotized and were hypnotized by the other. Tart reported several interesting phenomena in such cases including possible instances of telepathy. The technique seems to be a very powerful one for creating empathy and closeness in two persons. If the participants are not properly prepared for such closeness, psychological problems could develop. Thus, the technique should be used carefully and only by persons who understand its possible dangers as well as its benefits.