Cannon, Alexander (1896-1963)

views updated

Cannon, Alexander (1896-1963)

British psychiatrist, hypnotist, and author of books on occultism. He was born in Leeds, England, and educated at Leeds, London, Vienna, Hong Kong, and several other universities (eventually receiving both an M.D. and Ph.D.). Later he reinforced his medical qualifications with titles reflecting his training in various Eastern spiritual disciplines, such as "Kushog Yogi of Northern Thibet" and "Master-The-Fifth of the Great White Lodge of the Himalayas." He spent a number of years in Hong Kong, where he was vice president of Hong Kong Medical Society (1929 and 1934), medical officer in charge of prisons, head of the Department of Morbid Anatomy at the University of Hong Kong, and psychiatrist and medical jurist to the High Court of Justice. He also served as His Britannic Majesty's Consul and Port Medical Officer in Canton. He later returned to England, serving as psychiatrist and research scientist at Colney Hatch Mental Hospital. In 1939 he established the Isle of Man Clinic for Nervous Diseases.

During his years in the Orient, Cannon studied occultism and yoga and traveled in India and Tibet. His book The Invisible Influence (1933) created something of a sensation with its claim that during his travels he was levitated over a chasm in Tibet, together with his porters and luggage. Because of this claim, the London County Council dismissed him from his position as psychiatrist on the grounds that he was unfit to practice in charge of a mental hospital. However, Cannon was reinstated after bringing action for wrongful dismissal. He subsequently set up private practice in London, as a Harley Street consultant, and he used the services of psychic mediums in diagnosis.

Cannon was regarded as an eccentric in prewar Britain, when occultism was considered highly suspect, and the somewhat wild statements in Cannon's books did not help his reputation. In his book Sleeping Through Space (1938) he gives directions for bringing the dead back to life: "[administer] a severe kick with the knee between the shoulder blades" at the same time shouting in [the] left ear "Oye," "Oye," "Oye." He adds: "It is rarely necessary to repeat the operation before life is again resumed, but this can be repeated up to seven times in long-standing cases." Again, in an article, "Some Hypnotic Secrets," published in The British Journal of Medical Hypnotism (1949), he states, "If the patient wakes up at all before I have got my hypnotic sleep suggestions home to him, I place both of my thumbs on his carotid arteries vagus nerves and carotic body firmly until he is 'off' again." It would seem that the unfortunate patient stood a fair chance of being strangled, but doubtless he could be resuscitated by the redoubtable doctor's "Oye, Oye, Oye" technique.

Cannon wrote a number of books on both psychiatry and the occult. He was also an early experimenter in suggestion therapy by means of gramophone recordings. In later life he retired to the Isle of Man, where he died circa 1963.


Cannon, Alexander. Hypnotism, Suggestion & Faith-Healing. 1932.

. The Invisible Influence. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1934.

. The Power of Karma. N.p., 1936.

. Powers That Be. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1935. . The Science of Hypnotism. N.p., 1936.

. Sleeping Through Space. N.p., 1938.

. "Some Hypnotic Secrets." The British Journal of Medical Hypnotism 1, 1 (1949).

About this article

Cannon, Alexander (1896-1963)

Updated About content Print Article