This paper makes the case that hypnotic phenomena are liminal in nature and that hypnotic practitioners (such as Milton Erickson) share many traits with traditional societies' "tricksters." The ambiguous nature of hypnosis has been apparent since the days of Mesmer's animal magnetism. Hypnotized people often report hallucinations that confound their ordinary distinctions between reality and illusion, external and internal processes, and many other binary oppositions, including time and space as well as mind and body. In addition, hypnosis can obscure the distinction between fact and fiction in one's memory, as is evident in the "recovered memory" controversy. The role played by imagination is central to both indigenous rituals and hypnosis, and hypnosis is a multifaceted phenomenon requiring explanation at multiple levels. Some investigators and practitioners have missed the importance of the social context in which hypnosis occurs, while others have come close to destroying the most interesting and useful hypnotic phenomena under the guise of objectivity.
Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, San Francisco, California 94111, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org