Michael H. Cohen’s novel A Question of Time is about consciousness. Gabriel Goodman takes a vacation from his law firm for an ocean-side seminar in hypnosis. Gradually he is drawn into trance, where he must face his past and decide his identity. But first he must trust the White Shadows, ancestral spirits who guide his quest from the unreal to the real, from fragmentation to wholeness, from darkness into light.
“An enjoyable and well-written tale of hypnotic adventures that combines good story-telling, memorable characters, and clever clinical pearls. The book is ideal for the hypnotically-oriented clinician and the psychologically-minded layperson.” Eric D. Leskowitz, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
“An intriguing introduction to Ericksonian hypnosis, revealed through a rich and reflective narrative.” Kathi J. Kemper, MD, Caryl J. Guth Chair for Holistic and Integrative Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics, Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Review by Alexander M. Docker, DCH, PhD, President of The American Board of Hypnotherapy, and Dean of Academic Studies, American Pacific University:
This book is both literate and intelligent; indeed, it is so good that, if I have a criticism of it at all, it would be that the characters are very much smarter, and more immediately communicative, than one will generally find at a seminar of the kind that is the backdrop to this story. The author, in his characters, is writing himself: his own inner parts. He does this with a consummate skill. The characters and memorable, and they come to life in their own right, even though one can see that they are there to present ideas, rather than their actual individual being – or so it seems. But, this book has two very distinct levels, and it succeeds on both. The writing is exceptionally good, with skilful, realistic dialogue and a certain comfortable flow that is able to contain quite complex ideas without the reader having to stop and retrace any part. The book is not superficial at any level, and, though the language is not difficult by any means, it must be read carefully for a full appreciation of its purpose: reading, allied with thinking about what one has just read, will be richly rewarded.
What is the purpose of this story? It is to present a novel containing a story about a group of characters — strangers prior to this time — interacting while attending a week-long seminar on Ericksonian Hypnosis. It is also a novel way of presenting an introduction to the structure of hypnosis, so that the reader is learning at several levels, at the same time as being skillfully entertained. The book is a ‘good read’, by any measure, and can be taken for just that; though it would be a bad case of reductionism if it were to be read only for that.
One can sympathize with the main character, Gabriel, who’s inner Odyssey is the central theme of the story. His concerns are those of most of us: How is it that I am who I am, and why is this not enough? How can I lift myself out of this present and transform my future so that I become a more authentic self? What barriers must I cross? Who can help? Can anyone help?
What Gabriel discovers is that the royal road to self-transformation is through trance. What is trance? Is it some ‘spaced out’ zombie-like state in which one is vulnerable to outside manipulation against one’s will? No! It is not (though at one point the author does point out quite strongly that a hypnotist with a strong ego and a need to express it for his own aggrandizement can easily take a subject into places where she/he should not be, if the subject’s best interest is the prime concern). Trance is a state of heightened awareness; a condition of consciousness is which the critical factor of the mind is laid temporarily aside (yet present), and a greater, and usually wiser mind is allowed access into immediate experience. In trance we can become ‘active’ beings, rather than ‘reacting’ from conditioned programming. The seat of that programming is the unconscious mind, that mind made accessible directly in the trance state. And — here is the important truth — it is in the trance state that this ‘programming’ can be rewritten to create change and benefit. If one remains, chronically, in the reactive state of being, then the unconscious programs will run continuously without change, often to the detriment of life and the living of it. Trance is a wonder-full learning state in which beneficial change can be brought about when the person is willing and motivated for that change to happen.
Trance is a powerful growth state; it is not a state of vulnerability. The author of this book knows this very well, and expresses this truth very clearly. He presents it as experience, vividly, and yet with careful subtlety. And, I must say, with more color, intelligence, and skill than one will find in quite a few books on hypnosis extant at this time: books which deal with the subject almost as if it were a ‘bag of tricks’ to be learned by rote.
There is imagination in this book of Michael Cohen’s, and imagination is the very foundation of trance and transformation. Imagination resides in the unconscious function of the Mind; it is not a conscious act at all. It is brought to consciousness only through the unconscious function. Albert Einstein constantly expressed this as his own view, and stated that he depended upon his imagination much more than anything else in his physics.
Trance presents experience, and experience is the root of all learning. Trance is opportunity! Trance, or Hypnosis (the two can be used as one) is CREATIVE! Trance allows one to become one’s own ‘work of Art’.
A Question of Time is a book that I recommend to all therapists, and to all who are interested in what the human mind is, and what it might become. For a writer who is not primarily a novelist, and who has taken up this task of writing in order to teach as well as to entertain, Michael Cohen has produced a truly marvelous piece of writing that succeeds because it is not professorially dry and pedantic (as well it might have been): it has color and humanity; and, at no time does it sacrifice the lesson for the purpose of telling a story – or vice versa. It is very well balanced in this regard. I admire this skill, for it is a relatively rare talent.
There is a refreshing, new trend that seems to be looming progressively larger among therapists: a willingness to experiment with what might have been seen previously as ‘too far out there’: too esoteric, or even ‘weird’. I see a healthy interest in the use of Hypnosis as a therapy tool. It should be stressed, too, that hypnosis in not therapy itself: It is a medium in which therapy can take place.
This book, I do believe, will serve capital purpose in introducing many who are not familiar with hypnosis, into its possibilities. It is certainly a new and imaginative way of presenting that introduction, and keeping the reader’s interest keenly focused; a thing that textbooks often fail to do. I enjoyed the book; I learned from it, and I recommend it to all.
Prelude to a Trance
Inside the Dream
Perchance to Wake
Illusion and Enigma
Afterward by Hilary A. Tindle, MD