Dr. Alexander Cannon (1896–1963) was a British psychiatrist, occultist, hypnotist and author. He became well known in the 1930s for his occult writings, and more recently for his alleged influence on King Edward VIII shortly before his abdication.
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 trained in various Eastern spiritual disciplines, acquiring or claiming such titles as
"Kushog Yogi of Northern Thibet"and
"Master-The-Fifth of the Great White Lodge of the Himalayas.”
In Hong Kong in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he became vice president of Hong Kong Medical Society, 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 British Consul and Port Medical Officer in Canton (Guangzhou). He studied occultism and yoga, and travelled in India, China and Tibet. In his book The Invisible Influence (1933), he claimed that during his travels he was levitated over a chasm in Tibet, together with his porters and luggage. The book was structured as a conversation between Cannon and a series of mystics, yogis, and other sages, and offers anecdotes of crystal gazing, levitation, hypnotism, distant-touching, and other supposed phenomena.
After his return to England, Cannon served as psychiatrist and research scientist at Colney Hatch Mental Hospital. After learning of his book, London County Council dismissed him on the grounds that he was unfit to practice in charge of a mental hospital, but he was reinstated after bringing action for wrongful dismissal. He then set up in private practice as a consultant in Harley Street, London, where he used hypnotherapy and psychic mediums in diagnosis. He became well known for prescribing exotic remedies such as electrotherapy and Tibetan hypnosis techniques as treatments for stress, alcoholism, sex and confidence problems.
King Edward VIII consulted Cannon, and received hypnotic treatment from him for a drink problem. This was drawn to the attention of Dr Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Two days before the King's abdication in December 1936, Lang wrote to another Harley Street doctor, William Brown, that he had been "informed by a credible person that a certain Dr Cannon... has been recently attending the King... Would you kindly tell me whether you think this Dr Cannon is a really trustworthy person? He seems from the accounts I have received to be one who encourages somewhat dangerous methods of treatment." Archived letters suggest that it was believed that Cannon — then known as "the Yorkshire Yogi" — was having an adverse influence on the King.
By the late 1930s, Cannon's London clinic, where he billed himself as "His Excellency Sir Dr Alexander Cannon", had become highly lucrative. He continued to work and publish. In 1938, in his book Sleeping Through Space, he gave 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 added: "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."
In 1939 Cannon left London and established the Isle of Man Clinic for Nervous Diseases. On the Isle of Man, he was a friend of Captain George Drummond, a Nazi sympathiser who had entertained Edward VIII before he became king and was interned in his mansion on his island during the war. Cannon was himself suspected of being a Nazi sympathiser and German spy, his telephone conversations with Drummond were recorded by MI5, and he was forced out of his home. However, MI5 concluded that he was a "quack and compulsive liar" rather than a spy.
When the war ended, Cannon began to produce live magic shows using two assistants, Joyce and Rhonda Deronda (born Joyce and Eleanor Robson), who helped with performances. One act involved putting Rhonda into a hypnotic trance to diagnose physical and psychological problems, as she glared at the patient. Some of his apparently magical techniques were exposed in 1952.
His books on the general subject of thought stirred up controversy here and abroad. He declared that while today a man cannot grow a new leg (as a crab can grow a new claw), he could if the mind of man hadn't rejected the possibility. The eminent scientist claimed that if the thought is changed in the innermost depths of the unconscious mind, then man will grow a new leg as easily as the crab grows a new claw. I know, such a statement may sound incredible, but how do we know that it will not be done some day?
Do hypnosis, occult and New Age mix well?