CIA logoAn article in Wired reports on some recently released 1950's CIA memos which show that the agency was interested in the use of hypnosis. In the first document two uses are detailed: the use of hypnosis to pass messages between agents, and to create double agents unaware of their affiliations. The second document summarises some potential 'covert' uses of hypnosis (the first example of the use of this ever-popular but probably meaningless term?).

Some of the claims seem rather speculative, and the author has obviously felt antagonised by contemporary researchers:

"I now distrust much of what is written by academic experts on hypnotism. Partly this is because many of them appear to have generalised from a very few cases; partly because much of their cautious pessimism is contradicted by Agency experimenters; but more particularly because I have witnessed behaviour responses which respected experts have said are impossible to obtain. In no other field have I been so conscious of the mental claustrophobia of book and lecture hall knowledge."

What is clear from the documents is an obvious enthusiasm for the topic, and an eagerness to 'weaponise' hypnosis. What is less apparent is an attitude of skeptical inquiry, and a willingness to search for alternative explanations for observed phenomenon: examples given seem to be taken at face value.

Link to the 1954 CIA hypnosis document

Link to the 1955 CIA hypnosis document

Link to a National Geographic CIA secret experiments episode

 

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