Thomas Edison, Hypnagogia, & Anesthesia
There are five different brain wave states (speeds) currently accepted by the scientific community. They are as follows:
Gamma - 27Hz and higher
Beta - 12Hz to 27Hz
Alpha - 8Hz to 12Hz
Theta - 4Hz to 8Hz
Delta - 0Hz to 4Hz
When we begin to sleep, our brain waves are generally in the higher range of Theta state… think 6Hz to 8Hz. As our sleep progresses we transition into the slower Theta waves (4Hz to 6Hz) and eventually into Delta waves. Interestingly enough when we enter the deepest aspect of sleep, REM sleep (when we dream most vividly), our brain transitions into shorts bursts of Gamma waves (the fastest brain waves). Throughout the night, the cycle of these brain wave patterns continues to drift back up into Theta and back down into REM until we wake up in the morning.
During our waking hours, we are predominantly in the Beta brain wave state. If you are engaged in talking, active thinking, or playing sports… you are very likely to be in Beta state.
Hypnagogia is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep. In terms of brain wave states this would mean the transition from Beta (waking consciousness), to Alpha (relaxation), to Theta (deep relaxation, light sleep phase). Some of the documented phenomena during this transitional state include lucid dreaming, “hallucinations”, and sleep paralysis.
Thomas Edison is known as one of the greatest inventors and scientists of the past 200 years. His impact on the modern world in terms of innovation and improvement of industrial technology is immeasurable.
One not-so-well-known facet of Edison’s creative arsenal was the fact that he regularly utilized a technique in order to induce Hypnagogia. He believed this technique played a key role in developing ideas that he had difficulty solving during his regular waking state.
His technique was as follows… Edison would sit down in a chair while holding heavy metallic balls. He would attempt to retain a relaxed focus on his topic of choice and as he would drift off to sleep, the balls would drop to the ground subsequently making a loud noise that would wake him up. It is during these moments that Edison claims he was able to tap into solutions that he was incapable of producing while wide awake.
This would have us believe that perhaps there are some useful, tangible aspects of Hypnagogia and more specifically slower brain waves. If one of the greatest inventors of modern times saw the benefit of doing so, it might be worth delving into the mechanics of it all.
An interesting aspect of hypnosis is in the ability of the hypnotherapist to put their patients in a sustained slower brain wave state while having them retain their ability to communicate verbally. From most accounts, it seems as though the majority of hypnotists generally keep their patients in Alpha waves. There are some that seem to specialize in Theta state hypnosis and the stories behind their experiences are very interesting and perplexing.
In 1877, a man named Edgar Cayce was born. While I won’t go into the details of his life, he eventually became known as “The Sleeping Prophet”. The reason for this is because he developed the ability to put himself in a “sleeping” trance (a form of self-hypnosis) in which he would be asked questions and answer them in a manner he was incapable of during his conscious state. Throughout his lifetime, Cayce would give a total of 14,306 transcribed readings with many of them dedicated to diagnosing illnesses.
Based on the information available, it seems as though Cayce was able to tap into the slower brain wave states of Alpha and possibly even Theta without falling asleep. Being that he could not remember any of what he said during his trance sessions, it would appear that he could be categorized as a somnambulist.
While there are many skeptics of Cayce and his reported abilities to reach extremely detailed conclusions and resolutions for the sick, it doesn’t seem overly outlandish when considering the very basic benefits of hypnagogia that Thomas Edison incorporated. Hypnagogia appears to be an extremely short-lived and crude version of an Edgar Cayce-type reading.
Here is an interesting excerpt from the book “Edgar Cayce, The American Prophet” - Sydney, Kirkpatrick, pages 123-124:
“By this point in Edgar Cayce’s career, reports of his amazing talents had begun to cross state borders. This was mostly the result of the work of Blackburn’s committee, but also of efforts made by a new friend and admirer- Professor Joe Dickey, who was soon to become the president of Bowling Green Business University. Like Blackburn, Dickey witnessed and conducted numerous trance readings between the years 1905 and 1907, and along with other Cayce supporters, sent a veritable deluge of letters to important people asking that they witness for themselves the Cayce phenomenon.
Among the people that Edgar Cayce saw during this time were the inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, who had been invited to Bowling Green Business School by Dickey as part of a university lecture series on modern scientific discoveries. Unfortunately, little is known about these meetings. No documentary evidence exists in the Edison or Tesla archives, and Cayce’s date book and other records pertaining to the meetings were later destroyed in two separate fires at Cayce’s Bowling Green photography studios. Additional correspondence known to have existed between Cayce, Edison, and Tesla was also later destroyed by a well-meaning but short-sighted volunteer at the Edgar Cayce archive in Virginia Beach.
However, while no diary or first-person correspondence now exists to describe the meetings, the original letters from Edison and Tesla would be reviewed by Cayce’s longtime secretary, Gladys Davis, as well as Roswell Field, a Chicago reporter who sough biographical information about Cayce for a Hearst newspaper story in 1911. This evidence, along with the text of a recently unearthed speech Cayce delivered in Washington, D.C., and a brief passage in one of Cayce’s memoirs, provides tantalizing clues as to what may have transpired.
The topic of interest o Edison–like Tesla– was the possible connections between electricity and psychic phenomena. Tesla’s interest in the subject was legendary, for he himself claimed to have received inspiration from his "higher self”, not unlike that received by Edgar Cayce. Through dreams and visions, Tesla received mental pictures of blueprints and other technical data, which included innovations he made on high-frequency electrical transmission and wireless communications. He viewed his role as an inventor as merely tapping into his own imagination and turning what he saw in visions into a physical reality. Tesla’s one-time partner, Edison, did not ascribe his inventions to any such help from “above”. And yet, the fact that Edison developed a keen interest in psychic phenomena and electricity is also well documented, as were his comments to associates concerning his intent to build a device to measure the electrical vibrations emanating from people engaged in psychic activity. Edison’s interest in building such a device may well have been the result of his meeting with Cayce.“
While it appears that there might not be any official documentation in terms of Edison’s interactions with Cayce, it doesn’t seem unfathomable that Edison would be interested in his insight. Since Edison was aware of the power of non-beta brain wave states, it would make sense that he would attempt to interact with a person that could intentionally tap into these slower waves for a sustained period of time.
While hypnosis as a whole has been generally discredited amongst the general public as nothing more than a carnival-type side show act, the science community has slowly begun to conduct research validating it’s positive effects in tangible applications such as anaesthesia & accelerated healing.
Here are a few of these studies in science based, peer-reviewed journals:
Hypnosis as sole anaesthesia for skin tumor removal
Hypnosis with conscious sedation instead of general anaesthesia? Applications in cervical endocrine surgery
Hypnosis and dental anesthesia in children: a prospective controlled study
Hypnosis instead of general anaesthesia in paediatric radiotherapy
Bilateral neck exploration under hypnosedation: a new standard of care in primary hyperparathyroidism?
Effect of hypnosis on induction of local anesthesia, pain perception, control of haemorrhage and anxiety during extraction of third molars This study of molar removal without anesthesia really caught my attention as the sensitivity of the mouth in particular is undeniable!
These studies are a few of many that outline the potential for hypnosis and more specifically, accessing slower brain wave states to induce inherent abilities within us. Maybe there is something to this "mind power” thing? The question then becomes… if we can show the physical benefits of hypnosis in a clinical, tangible setting, can we really automatically discount the “outlandish” stories generated by hypnotherapists when conducting prolonged, deep Theta wave sessions?
Are Melatonin levels elevated during these brain wave states? What are the breathing patterns associated with these states?
Is there any DMT involved?
When the scientific community consistently touts the “power and potential of the human brain”… perhaps these potentials lie in a particular brain wave outside our “normal” realm of Beta-state operation? Perhaps once we start to look at the historical luminaries of the world and their knowledge of utilizing altered brain wave states in order to tap into their creative abilities, we can start to see a statistical consistency amongst them?
Science is based on math and math is based on statistics.
In order to come up with a realistic hypothesis, we must take in the entire body of stats no matter how “outlandish” they may seem.
If altered brain wave states were good enough for Thomas Edison, they are likely to be good enough for you as well. The real question comes down to how much time are you spending in a waking, NON-Beta wave state to access that magic?
Think about it.
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(A hard copy version of the articles on this site have been compiled in a book titled “Questions for the Lion Tamer”. It’s for sale on Amazon for $19.99)
For a more extensive look at the potential effects of DMT synthesis within the body and how they correlate with externalized and internalized experiences read “Measuring DMT Formation in Humans”, 6-part Series on DMT & Gamma Waves as well as the “Wild Theories” series.
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