HYPNOSIS & RELIGIOUS FAITH
by Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D. Durbin before a lecture on “Hypnosis and Religion” A few years ago, I read an article in Family Weekly titled, “Boom Days For Devil Hypnosis” Hearing that title: what ideas, images, thoughts come to you? Thought the article had what I considered a very negative title, it was a very positive article on hypnosis in the health care field. The only reference to the devil was in the last paragraph, “Some conservative religious groups consider hypnosis to be the work of the devil.”Hypnosis is mistakenly viewed as mind control or demonic by many misinformed people. Recently I received a physician consult to work with a woman for pain management. As I explained the process of relaxation, imagery and hypnosis; I could see that she was very responsive. As I concluded my pre-talk, she said, “I am really looking forward to this experience, but I need to tell you that my daughter is a self-proclaimed born-again Christian and she may say something negative to you about this. If so, do not pay any attention to her, for I am the one who is hurting and I want this.”As I completed the induction, the phone rang. I told the patient, “Just allow the ringing of the phone and my answering it to add to your relaxation.” I answered the phone, “This is Mrs. Doe’s room. As she is in therapy, please call back in 30 minutes.” and hung up the phone.When the procedure was completed, I walked out of the room and there was her daughter standing in front of the door with arms folded over her chest. She said, “What have you been doing to my mother?” I explained that I had thought her mother relaxation, self-hypnosis and pain reduction. She responded, “I am a born-again Christian.” Before she could continue, I raised my hands and said, “Praise the Lord, so am I.” She was speechless, so I continued, “I will bring you some information on hypnosis, but regardless of how you feel about hypnosis, your mother has found it very helpful in the reduction of pain.”Some would say that there is no place in religion for hypnosis. I believe that hypnosis and religious faith can work hand in hand to bring about a better life. Jesus said in St. John 10:10, “I am come you may have life and have it more abundantly.” Though the title of this presentation is “Hypnosis and Religious Faith”, I will be dealing primarily with “Hypnosis and Judo-Christian faith.” Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you are religious or not, many of your clients come to you as religious people, most of whom will have a Judo-Christian background. The better you understand the client’s religious history, the better you can relate to that person and help that person.In our study of hypnosis and religious faith let us look at the history of hypnosis. Now I am not going to review the entire history of hypnosis, but would like to point out those incidents that relate to religion. What is the first written record of the use of hypnosis? The first written recorded use of hypnosis is found in the book of Genesis 2:21-22, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and while he slept, took one of his ribs and closed up in its place with flesh, and the rib which God took from man. He made woman and brought her to the man.” In this incident, God used hypnosis as an anesthesia so that Adam felt no pain during the removal of his rib.In addition to the reference in Genesis, mention of hypnotic techniques is found in other ancient sources concerning the Egyptian “Sleep Temples.” In the temples, Egyptian priest used hypnotic-like procedures to improve health. These temples were so popular that they spread to Grease and Asia Minor.Chaplain W. Leo Peacock gives a number of New Testament illustrations of hypnosis in his paper “Religious Hypnosis and Personal Control.” Chaplain Peacock makes a point with his interpretation of Matthew’s account of Joseph’s dream concerning taking Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20-25). When Joseph discovered that Mary was expecting a child, he decided to break his engagement for he knew that the child was not his. The story told of an “angel” or “messenger” coming to Joseph in a dream. In this dream, the angel told Joseph to marry Mary. Upon waking, Joseph did as the angel suggested. Peacock writes that this is a clear description of an individual being hypnotized and while under hypnosis being given a post-hypnotic suggestion which he immediately acts upon as soon as he came out of the hypnotic trance.
A woman was in the hospital because she had lost the use of her right arm. As she had gone trough many test and none had showed any reason for the cause of her problem, I was consulted. Through counseling, it was discovered that she had been physical abused, not sexually abused as a child. As a young child, as a teenager, as a young wife and mother, she vowed that she would “never ever” hit her child in anger. She had a five-year-old son and she had disciplined him when needed, but she had never hit him in anger. A few days before coming to the hospital, her little five-year-old song had been especially aggravating. He did one more thing and in anger, she hit him. As this was such a shock to her, her subconscious mind protected her against hitting her child any more by making her arm useless.As I felt that she needed to experience forgiveness, I used the following imagery. I suggested that she visualize herself walking down a country road. “On your back is a heavy backpack, but there is nothing in that backpack that you need for this journey. In fact, that heavy backpack contains the guilt you have been holding on to since you hit your son. God has forgiven you. He is telling you that you can now forgive yourself. You can be free of the heavy backpack. It is a decision for you to make. If you are ready to be free of that heavy load of guilt, one of your fingers will rise indicating that you have released the backpack and your guilt.The first finger of her right hand jerked upward and I said, “The backpack with all your guilt is gone. God has forgiven you and you have forgiven yourself. You are forgiven.” I added the following post-hypnotic suggestion, (Note: I seldom use negative words in suggestions but this time I used some of her own words.) “Since as a little girl, teenager, young wife and mother you vowed that you would ‘never ever’ hit your child in anger and because of the trauma you have experienced, you need ‘never ever’ hit your child in anger again, therefore you have no need to be paralyzed. She left the hospital two days later completely cured.Each one here comes with his/her own history: religiously, personally, and professionally. I come to you as a Christian Minister who looks upon hypnosis as a valuable tool of counseling. Coming from a religious profession and working in a church related hospital, I am often asked, “Why does one of religious faith need hypnosis?” or “How can you use hypnosis? Isn’t there a conflict between religious faith and hypnosis?” I believe that these questions can be responded to by referring to the statement of Jesus in John 10:10, “I am come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” Hypnosis is one of the gifts of God which help people experience the “more abundant life.”Hypnosis is neither anti-religious nor pro-religious. It can be used for good or bad depending on the hypnotist and the subject. Today, most religious groups accept the proper ethical use of hypnosis for helping people. Exceptions are Christian Science, Seventh-Day-Adventist and some individuals of various churches. In recent years, the Seventh-Day-Adventist have lessened their resistance by using relaxation therapy and suggestion therapy. A hypnotist by the name of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby greatly help Mary Baker Eddy overcome an illness and she used many of his teachings and techniques in developing the Christian Science Church. Though Quimby used hypnosis to help her, she denounced hypnosis while using its techniques. Though many in various churches opposed to hypnosis are using the principles of hypnosis (relaxation, concentration, suggestion, repetition) in their healing services, they denounce hypnosis. For those who oppose hypnosis on religious grounds, I remind them of the words of Baptist Van Helmont, “Hypnosis is a universal agent … and is a paradox only to those who are deposed to ridicule everything and who ascribe to Satan all phenomena which they cannot explain.”
Then Roman Catholic Church has issued statements approving the use of hypnosis. In 1847, a decree from the Sacred Congregation of The Holy Office stated, “Having removed all misconceptions, foretelling of the future, explicit or implicit invocation of the devil, the use hypnosis is indeed merely an act of making use of physical media that are otherwise licit and hence it is not morally forbidden provided it does not tend toward an illicit end or toward anything depraved.”The late Pope Pius give his approval of hypnosis. He stated that the use of hypnosis by health care professionals for diagnosis and treatment is permitted. In 1956, in an address from the Vatican on hypnosis in child birth the Pope gave these guidelines. (1) Hypnotism is a serious matter, and not something to be dabbled in. (2) In its scientific use the precautions dictated by both science and morality are to be used. (3) Under the aspect of anesthesia, It is governed by the same principles as other forms of anesthesia. This is to say that the rules of good medicine apply to the use of hypnosis.Except for exceptions noted, no other Protestant or Orthodox Churches have any laws against the proper-ethical use of hypnosis. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no opposition to the use of hypnosis in the Jewish faith when it is used for the benefit of mankind. Many of the Eastern Faiths: Buddhism, Yoga, Shintoism, Hinduism and others approve the use of hypnosis and they often use hypnosis in their worship. The Moslem religion has no opposition to hypnosis that I have been able to discover.In his book Angels of Light, Herbert E. Freeman includes hypnosis as one of the practices which are commended by God. He quotes Deuteronomy 18:9 following in which God warns, “Thou shalt not learn to do after the abomination of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone … that useth divination (fortuneteller), or an observer of times (Soothsayers), or an enchanter (magician), or a consorter with familiar spirits (medium, possessed with a spirit, or spirit guide), or a witch (sorcerer), or a charmer (hypnotist) or a wizard (clairvoyant or psychic), for all that do these thing are an abomination unto the Lord.” The words in parenthesis are Mr. Freeman’s inserts.I feel that Mr. Freeman has misinterpreted much in these verses and especially the interpretation of “charmer” as “hypnotist.” The Interpreter’s Bible states that “charmer” refers to those who conjure up magical spells. The Pulpit Commentary reads, “A charmer is a dealer in spells, one who by means of spells or charms pretends to achieve some desired results. The verb here used primarily means to bind, and the species of magic indicated is probably that practiced by binding certain knots, whereby it was supposed that the curse or blessing, as the case maybe, was a bond on its object. This was accomplished apparently by incantations … A species of incantations known to Romans consisted in tying knots with threads of different colors, there in number, which was supposed to become a bond to secure the object.”In their book, The Holy Spirit and You, Dennis and Rita Bennett have shown a profound dislike and misunderstanding of hypnosis by declaring, “Hypnosis is particularly dangerous because it is thought to be a valid form of therapy in psychology and psychiatry, or an alternative anesthesia in medicine and dentistry”. The Bennett add, “The fact is the hypnotist, by placing the soul in a passively receptive state even when the hypnotist has no such intention, opens the door to morbid spiritual influences that my bring oppression that lasts for years. Until the person is delivered by prayer and exorcism … Do not allow yourself the by hypnotized for any reason whatsoever.” By these statement, the Bennett’s show their prejudice and total misunderstanding of hypnosis. If their interpretation is correct, the Bennett’s should also be concerned about prayer, meditation, chemical anesthesia, and going to sleep (for that period just before you go to sleep is a natural state of hypnosis) for the individual is in a similar state to hypnosis in all those situations.Jesus indicated by his teachings that we should help people to live life to the fullest and to relieve pain whenever possible. Hypnosis is a means to help people live a better and more abundant life and is a means of reducing and/or eliminating pain. Would the Bennett’s suggest that we should not use chemical anesthesia for surgery because we might open our mind to evil spirits? Perhaps they agree with the doctor at Dr. Esdaile’s trail who stated the the use of hypnosis as an anesthesia was sacrilegious because God meant for people to feel pain?In their book, Hypnosis and Christianity, Martin and Deidra Bagdon show their lack of knowledge when they wrote, “Before hypnotism becomes the new panacea from the pulpit, followed by a plethora of books on the subject; its claims, methods and long-term results should be considered. Arthur Shapiro has said, ‘One man’s religion is another man’s superstition, and one man’s magic is another man’s science.’ Hypnosis has become science and medicine for some Christians with little proof of its validity, longevity of its results or understanding of its nature. Because so many unanswered questions about its usefulness and so many potential dangers about its usage, Christians would be wise to shun hypnosis.” I ask, “What unanswered questions about its usefulness and what are the potential dangers?”The Bagdon’s should be reminded that people have been harmed by the misuse of the Christian religion as well as all other religions. Should one not to be a Christian because some have misused it. Should one not go to a Christian healer because some Christian healers have misused the concept for their own gain? The Bagdon’s’s apparently have not studied hypnosis or have not studied it without bias, or the would not be afraid of its use. If studied and understood, they might even come to appreciate the value of hypnosis. Many of God’s gifts have been used incorrectly, but that should not distract from the gift when used for the benefit of mankind and to the glory of God. God blesses all our activities that are beneficial to people.Hypnosis should not be condemned as anti-religious just because some people misuse it. Some oppose hypnosis because the say it is used by the occult, but do they condemn prayer because prayer is used for occultic purposes? Hypnosis can be a very helpful tool in counseling. Without apology and when appropriate, hypnosis can be used for growth, health and the benefit of people.
In an address to the National Association of Clergy Hypnotherapist, Reverend Fred R. Krauss reported that religion has traditionally used hypnotic techniques in a variety of ways. The atmosphere of the religious service is geared to the induction of the trance state. The architecture, decor and religious symbols have a profound spiritual effect on believers. The alter, cross and flickering candles provide a fixation point for concentration and medication. In prayer, most Christians bow their head and close their eyes which can be a very similar experience to hypnosis.While preparing for this seminar and coming from a Methodist background. It was interesting to learn that the the use of eye closure in prayer probably began with the revivals of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodism. Because Wesley was not allow to preach in the pulpit of most of the established churches, he began to preach outside. Deprived of the usual eye fixation points provided by the religious symbols (candles, crosses, altars, etc.) and bothered by the discomforts and distractions of the open-air gatherings, the preacher had to rely on enthusiasm and other means to hold the audience’s attention. “Bow your heads and close your eyes” became a regular part of the services. The practice became standardized and s not used throughout most Christian churches.Reverend Krauss continues by stating that it has been said that prayer and medication were the nicest hypnotic inductions of all. Everything is there that should be, including a harmony of body, mind, and spirit that enhances our communication with God. By assuring the appropriate posture, closing eyes, bowing heads, listening and responding with, “Amen.” Praying in silence draws attention from the outer tot he inner world of reality. In the sermon, the pastor uses voice inflections, modulations and repetitive ideas with anecdotes, Bible stories, and other illustrations.Prayer and medication are traditional Christian disciplines that parallel what we call auto-suggestion. Of course, the auto-suggestions are not the only aspects of prayer for through prayer, we are able to open our minds to God. When we are open and responsive, prayer is basically communication with God. If I understand Reverend Krauss, he is pointing out that the use of hypnotic procedures in worship and Christian experience is blessed by God.During counseling and hypnotherapy, I often tell a story to bring home a point or allow the client hearing the story to come to his or her own meaning to the story. Roger Ring in a seminar conducted at a past College of Chaplains convention called these “Parables, Metaphors, and Healing Stories.” Jesus often spoke in parables or used stories which still bring to mind vivid word pictures which teaches something important about life.The writer of Proverbs 23:7 states that as a person thinketh in his/her heart so is he/she. St. Paul wrote, “Whatsoever man soweth that shall he reap.” (Gal 6:7) This says to me that what is shown by the conscious mind through thoughts and images into the subconscious mind tends to become a reality. Mental images give the subconscious mind a model to work towards: good or bad. Illustration: Think back to a time when you were angry; feel it, experience it and let it go. Think back to a time when you were really happy; feel it, experience and keep it. By thought, you make feelings present again. The use of positive imagery improves life and health.Until there is an image in the mind there can be no reality. All great inventions began with a thought in the mind. The inventor was able to visualize or image the invention before he could bring it to reality. The same is true of great music, great writing, great living. The author of Proverbs 28:18 also wrote that where there is no vision, the people parish.If you listen to the broadcast of al baseball, football or basketball game, you have surely heard the announcer say, “It’s a brand new ball game!” If you are a sports fan, you know the announcer means that the score is tied. It is like starting over again. The past is still there , but we can begin where we are. In a baseball game, if a team ties the score in the sixth inning, they do not go back to the first inning to start over again. For they keep playing from where they are. See we began where we are, but with the proper use of relaxation, imagery, hypnosis and hopeful expectation comes a “brand new ball game.”In the years ahead, may those who discount hypnosis, come to see its value. May those who oppose hypnosis on religious grounds come to view it as a gift of God to help us attain the more abundant life.Jesus said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to teach the gospel to the poor. He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:18) Following this guidance and with the proper use of hypnosis; we can heal the brokenhearted, bring deliverance to those in captivity to pain, fear, and phobias; give sight to the emotionally and spiritually blind, and set at liberty those who are bound by unwanted habits. As members of different denominations and religions, let us j