Indian Rationalist Association

India's largest rationalist organisation. Founded in 1949. Fights for scientific temper, secularism, freedom of thought and expression. Defends reason and science. Exposes superstition, blind belief, obscurantism, paranormal claims caste-based social divisions and guru-politics nexus. Strives for a post-religious society. President: Sanal Edamaruku Contact: Phone: + 91-11-6569 9012, +91-11-64630651

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Superstition about Hypnotism

Sanal Edamaruku exposes “New Age Hypnotic Guru” Sivanand on Live TV

After the “Great Tantra Challenge”, it was the turn of a New Age guru. On the evening of 15th March 2008, India TV invited “New Age Hypnotic Guru” Sivanand for a show. As pre-planned, Sanal Edamaruku was posted initially in the audience.

After the viewers got warmed up with a video clip full of confusing images, pendulum swings and psychedelic music, with artificial smoke fumed up on the podium from both sides, Hypnotic Guru Sivanand started his show. Spotting Sanal in the front row, he tried to take advance bail and said that his hypnosis was no tantra or mantra but a New Age scientific way to ensure instant strength and stamina. It will make the person intelligent, clever and physically powerful, he claimed. His clients always got power and intelligence in seconds after he hypnotized, the Guru asserted.

Hypnotic Guru touched their foreheads and told them to relax and fall into deep sleep. He counted up to three, and they both were seen sleeping. They slept standing till he put them down on two chairs. From then onwards, he would switch continuously between talking to the anchor, the audience and his subjects. Very soon the lady became the sole focus of attention, while the role of the man was limited to a sleeping decoration piece throughout the program.

His customers, Hypnotic Guru explained, came to him to get strength and confidence, to loose tension and to develop their will power and mind control, and he had a success rate of 90 per cent. In between his sentences, he addressed the lady with commands like “you become stronger … and stronger… now… one, two, three”, “power… power” etc. After some time, he asked her to raise her arm, and she did. She seemed to understand clearly which out of all his sentences were meant for the anchor, which were meant for the audience and which were for her. The Hypnotic Guru even allowed the anchor to ask her to narrate her experience about sea and mountains, and alas, she did it!

The Hypnotic Guru then began his grand finale. The lady was put flat down on two chairs, the middle part of her body remaining straight without support. This was the Hypnotic Guru’s ultimate proof. “This is only possible under hypnosis!” he declared triumphantly, as hypnosis could unleash unimagined capacities of the human body. To crown his success, he called a boy from the audience and asked him to climb up and carefully stand on her thighs. She remained stable. After half a minute, the boy was taken down.

Sanal Edamaruku walked up to the podium at this moment and announced: “This has nothing to do with hypnosis.” He said: “It is a normal capacity of the human body and I can show you the same exercise without any hypnosis!” Upon his request, a middle aged man volunteered for the show. Sanal positioned him on three chairs, the first for his head, the second for his hip, and the third for his legs. “Be confident”, Sanal said to him and removed the middle chair that was under his hip. To everyone’s surprise, the man remained stable without falling down. “He is not hypnotized”, said Sanal. Human hips have this strength and only we need confidence to remain on two chairs without falling down.”

Sanal then asked the same boy to stand on the man’s thighs. Yes, it worked without hypnosis. The volunteer did not fall down. He explained that he was feeling fine. There was spontaneous great applause from the audience. More people wanted to try. And while the game went on, Sanal Edamaruku explained his proof that Hypnotic Guru was a charlatan.

Firstly, there was a long list of flaws and mistakes in his “hypnosis”, which contradicted medical knowledge and experience and proved his demonstration a drama. A psychiatrist in the audience supported this observation and added some points. And secondly, Sanal Edamaruku continued, the subject of his demonstration was not freely chosen, as pretended, but well known to him, prepared for the show and was acting. Sanal Edamaruku and some others had witnessed the over-enthused young lady telephoning some friends before the beginning of the program and proudly announcing “her show”. Moreover, from these phone conversations they understood that she was an amateur actress who had just passed the entrance test of the Delhi School of Drama!

The Hypnotic Guru Sivanand had no medical or psychiatric education and was practicing this quackery on several thousand people over the years.

Though the two and a half hour long program ended there, the audience did not want to go home, but thronged Sanal Edamaruku to congratulate him for the exposure and to bombard him with so many questions they had always wanted to ask but did not know whom to ask.


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