If This be Magic: The Forgotten Power of Hypnosis

By Guy Lyon Playfair

In 1951, a young hospital doctor treated a patient suffering from a rare and debilitating skin disease - thought to be incurable - with a single session of hypnosis, unaware that he was about to make medical history. The case caused a sensation. Doctors described it as ‘unprecedented and inexplicable’ and ‘a challenge to current concepts of the relation between mind and body’.

Like many, author Guy Lyon Playfair wondered how on earth the hypnotist did it, and unlike many he was determined to find out. In this lively, provocative and meticulously researched book he attempts to meet that challenge and explain the ‘miraculous’ cure that was fully documented in the British Medical Journal, with its unexpected aftermath, and to open up the whole subject of the role played by the mind in the healing process.

More than two centuries since Mesmer and his pupil the Marquis de Puységur introduced an ancient healing technique into Western medicine, the question of what happens to a person under hypnosis remains to be fully explained. Yet, seemingly unaware of it, the medical profession already has the key to a technique of incalculable potential benefit, the true nature of which it still seems reluctant to face.

Playfair maintains that the unspoken transfer of information between one living being and another, and the ability of the mind to move matter without the use of physical force are important but neglected aspects of the art of healing. Far from being occult superstitions or mere speculations, such natural abilities have been shown repeatedly – in life and laboratory – to be matters of fact. Their suppression in Western society can no longer be justified medically. Nor should the practice of hypnosis be confined, as it tends to be in medical practice, merely to the treatment of minor psychosomatic complaints.

Playfair draws on a wide range of source material, much of it hitherto buried in orthodox medical and specialist literature, to show that it is neglect, rather than lack of knowledge, that is preventing the widespread use of an inexpensive and natural healing process, the full potential of which has yet to be explored.

If This Be Magic is as topical today as it was when it was first published in 1985.


If This be Magic. July 2011. ISBN-13: 978-1907661846

Reviewed for the SPR by: