The term, hypnosis, was derived from Greek mythology. The god of sleep was called hypnos. Hypnosis is used in a variety of counseling, including Christian counseling. Those who are proponents of hypnosis say it’s nearly impossible to treat people effectively these days without using hypnosis. Therapists believe that too much of man’s problems at this point stem from the unconscious, or subconscious minds. Therapists are taught that the majority of bad habits and other things people seek counseling for are rooted in the subconscious and originated when we were very young; between the ages of two to three years old.
Besides being used in mental health therapy, the practice was also approved for use by the American Medical Association in 1958, and according to the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, there are at least 20,000 practitioners using hypnosis to treat a myriad of problems. Everything from high blood pressure and a fast heart rate, to irritable gastrointestinal problems, they say, can be regulated by using hypnotic trances derived though techniques such as biofeedback. Basically a practitioner would relax a patient, and through repetition would get the patient to focus solely on one aspect of their body. If the desired goal is to reduce the heart rate, focus would be placed solely on the heart with the practitioner helping the patient to visualize a reduction in their heart rate. That’s seen periodically when people with severe illnesses or conditions “will” themselves to health. And that is probably the better side of hypnosis and trances, because if you stress over an illness, the body expends an awful lot of physical energy in the form of high adrenaline and sugar consumption, which robs the body of using those same resources to treat the illness. There are times in medicine where “mind over matter” does actually work.
However, when it comes to the subconscious mind, the value of hypnosis is questionable because the actual thing it is supposed to treat, the subconscious, is suspect itself. To understand the inherent bad that is associated with hypnosis, I’ll give a brief explanation of how a subconscious problem could develop in early childhood and thus manifest itself as a bad habit, let’s say, when we become adults. Suppose you’re a therapist and your patient comes to you because they keep getting vague and non-specific illnesses, somewhat frequently. Through several therapy sessions you discover that the patient grew up in a home where love was not expressed, whether verbally or physically. However, when illness would come to any member of the family, love was expressed in the form of a devoted and doting parent. The more you delve into the patient’s more recent past, you discover that anytime she begins feeling lonely, unimportant, or unloved, she develops these vague and nondescript illnesses. Therapists would say that her subconscious understands the connection between being sick and getting the attention she craved, and continues it to this day…unaware to the patient.
Smoking, drinking, nail biting (my problem), impulse control problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, hypochondria, compulsive gambling, compulsive eating, and many other disorders are known to be highly responsive to hypnotherapy. But just because the outcome is good, and the patient may get cured, the road to recovery may not be justified. Therapists will use hypnosis to regress the patient back to their early childhood and discover the events that created the pattern that the subconscious is able to recognize and use later in life (i.e. sickness to gain needed attention). Once the patient is regressed back to the origin of the behaviors, the therapist can suggest ways to deal with the hurts, or whatever, after the patient comes out of their trance.
Herein lies one of the problems of hypnotherapy. During this trance, which is, for all intents and purposes an altered state of consciousness, the patient is in a high suggestibility state. Many dangers abound at this point in therapy because the suggestions made by the therapist may, or may not, coincide with reality. Author, lawyer, and psychiatrist Bernard Diamond said this in one of his books about hypnosis, “after hypnosis the subject cannot differentiate between a true recollection and a fantasy or a SUGGESTED detail” and that “No one, regardless of experience, can verify the accuracy of hypnotically enhanced memory.” There have been innocent people convicted of sexual abuse that never happened because of the suggestion of “regressed memories” drudged up under hypnosis.
Even if you want to undergo hypnosis for something simple like quitting smoking or overeating, the risks are the same. There are accounts of people who have sworn to have regressed to former lives, while one person, in a well documented case, developed 239 different personalities when under hypnosis. Also, hypnosis is an advanced practice for therapists and is obviously a dangerous tool if not used by someone who has, at the very least, been trained in the proper techniques.
Hypnosis and the use of trance have very auspicious origins in the occult. The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology admits “its history is inextricably interwoven with occultism, and even today much hypnotic phenomena is classed as spiritualistic.” In one fashion or another, hypnosis is found in almost every culture.
Here’s an interesting fact about hypnosis. One of the earlier practitioners in the modern-day was a gentleman by the name of Anton Mesmer who died in the 19th century. He believed there were channels in the body through which energy flows, and illness was caused by these channels being blocked. He used hypnosis to treat a patient who he believed had blockages. Because of his frequent use of hypnosis, the term “mesmerized” became almost synonymous with hypnotic trances.
Mesmer influenced other people, including the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. Also influenced by Mesmer was a hypnotist named Allan Kardec, another 19th century practitioner who wrote a book called “The Book of Spirits” under the instruction of his spirit guide. Many psychic mediums who channel with the dead, got their powers during a hypnosis treatment, according to Simeon Edmunds, who wrote Hypnotism and the Supernormal.
Despite hyponosis’s obvious association with occultist and demonic origins, Christian counselors continue to use it, while many more Christian clients seek this seemingly harmless technique to rid themselves of their undesirable compulsions and impulses. Their clients may be at the end of their ropes after having exhausted all other conceivable options. These Christian proponents of hypnosis will rely on several proof texts to say that hypnosis is given by God to help people, and, even used by God and God’s people in the Bible.
For example, they’ll say the first recorded use of hypnosis was Genesis 2:21-22 when God caused a DEEP SLEEP to fall upon Adam and then God subsequently performed surgery to remove a rib. They will point to Matthew 1:20-25 when Joseph was visited by a messenger IN A DREAM and awoke and DID as the angel SUGGESTED and took Mary for a wife. In Acts 22:17 the apostle Paul was IN A TRANCE after prayer. Peter, in Acts 10:10 prayed and became hungry and FELL INTO A TRANCE. Those who practice the techniques Mesmer practiced, regarding the blocked channels of energy leading to illness, look to Acts 28:8 when a man was sick in bed and was healed after Paul LAID HIS HANDS ON HIM. Much of chiropractic medicine is manipulating portions of the body that are out of alignment so that energy can flow more freely, leading to increased health. Those who believe a trance is characterized by a fixed and blank stare believe they are validated by Acts 14:9-10 when a lame man FIXED HIS GAZE UPON Paul, and at Paul’s command got up and walked.
Other fodder for the justification of hypnosis is Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Supposedly they believe this shows that the conscious mind, thinking thoughts derived from the unconscious mind, tend to become reality. The ilk that supports hypnosis point to many of the verses that teach people to meditate and think and focus. These people believe that through repetition, stimulation of the senses, and other techniques used today in the church, like closing our eyes while praying to focus solely on God are ways we put ourselves in trances during worship, as well as with the use of such items as decor, symbols, and crosses.
Hypnosis is more than just a simple charlatan parlor trick. It is dangerous. It has demonic and occultist origins. It is deceptive. It creates confusion in the minds of those who have experienced it. It is sold as a God-given ability and is becoming more and more accepted among the fundamental Christian church. Next week, in our final part of this two-part series, we’ll see how the Bible speaks against hypnosis and altered states of consciousness, as well as dispelling some of the “benefits” of hypnosis through the plain teachings of Scripture.