Christianity and Hypnosis
You're at home one afternoon, flipping through the channels on your television and you come across a show where members of the audience are volunteering to be hypnotized. What do you do? Do you quickly change the channel? Sit back and enjoy the program? Or do you linger undecided, not quite sure if you should watch of not? As a Christian this decision can be a difficult one. When it comes to hypnosis Christians have many diverse viewpoints. Some are completely against hypnosis, believing it is a satanic practice. Others believe hypnosis is a valuable tool that can be used in healing the mind and body. But there is a third group, the one that lingers over the remote, not sure if they should change channel or if it would be okay to watch. What view should a Christian take? Is hypnosis okay for a Christian to support and even participate in? Or is it one of the devil's evil schemes to draw us away from our Lord.
Before you can debate the different views on hypnosis you first must understand what hypnosis does to the mind. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness where by suggesting certain things to the hypnotized person you can cause them to act, think, or feet a certain way. When someone is hypnotized the door to their subconscious mind is open. Consciousness is what we are aware of whether itís going on inside of us our outside. The subconscious mind is what we are not aware of.† The part of the brain that controls our breathing is in the subconscious mind. Sigmund Freud viewed our minds as an iceberg.† Where only the tip is visible, or in this case conscious. Everything that is under the water is our subconscious. With the use of hypnosis we are able to tap into the subconscious. We are aware of things going on inside of our bodies. We can remember things that we heard but didn't consciously listen to. The hypnotist, by suggestion, can help people recall a memory they may have forgotten or construct new memories.
These features, you might call them, of hypnosis can be very beneficial. Say that some one is terrible afraid of going to the dentist. They were afraid that it might hurt. If they were to be hypnotized the hypnotist could suggest to the person that they wouldn't feet any pain at all and when ever the dentist put a toot into the person's mouth, the person would only become more and more relaxed.
Hypnosis can also be used to relieve other types of pain, by simple suggesting that it doesn't exist, or finding the source of the pain and getting rid of it. Hypnosis has aided women in pain free labors. Hypnosis has brought relief from headaches and even healing infections inside your own body.
Hypnosis can also be helpful in recovering memories. It can recover memories from earlier on in life that may help you understand why you act they way you do in certain situations. People who suffer from post-traumatic-stress syndrome can benefit from hypnosis. If the things they experienced, like fighting in a war, greatly affect they way they relate to others. Those memories can be reconstructed to help that person better deal with life.
But is hypnosis trustworthy? Are these memories that are being recalled accurate? In some cases yes, and in some cases no. Memory reconstruction has been helpful in criminal investigations. When hypnotized a person can remember more detail about a situation. But in many cases these recalled memories combine both fact and fiction, making the memories unreliable. Courts have forbidden witnesses who have been hypnotized from testifying in criminal cases because the hypnotized memories aren't very accurate.
People also try to recall "past livesĒ under hypnosis. The memories from those lives are also not very accurate. Many people recall being some one famous and many even being the same person. And when they are reliving the memories of their past lives they often don't know information they would know if they were that person. This evidence suggests that memory recovery in hypnosis can't be trusted at all. Are our subconscious playing tricks on us or are their other forces involved?
Other studies have shown that we can construct false memories. And that may account for the unreliability when it comes to memory recollection in hypnosis. But all of this tapping around in the subconscious mind, can it be harmful to human's. Now is where the Christian debate over hypnosis comes in.†
Hypnosis is a mechanism that our brains were created with. As we have seen we can use hypnosis to enter into an altered state of consciousness. For some Christians this thought can be Tightening. It seems to them that they are letting their guard down, which can allow outside forces and thoughts to enter into their mind.
Hypnotists plant in their mind an action or a thought called a post-hypnotic suggestion. You have seen examples of this on television, movies and books. The hypnotist suggests to the person to act like a chicken, so the person does. The hypnotist suggests that whenever they here the word tomato they all of a sudden are craving a glass of water. This all seems harmless right? But what if the hypnotist were to suggest that they would suddenly crave a can of beer every time they heard the word tomato.
For a Christian this is a great risk.† It is said that a person who is hypnotized cannot be forced to act against their will, but all humans, including Christians, have a sinful nature. Christians, especially those who are new to their faith, struggle daily with some sot of sin; it's apart of our life. What if a Christian, who before they were saved, struggled with alcoholism, was hypnotized, and the hypnotist gave them the suggestion of the tomato and the glass of beer.
Here is another example. In the past a person has been known to act out violently when they are irritated. This person is hypnotized and through suggestion the hypnotists tell the person to go with their first instinct when they are being irritated. Chances are that this person will began to act violently when someone irritates them. These are clearly harmful aspects of hypnosis.
But another fear that Christians have about allowing thoughts to be planted in their mind is the fact that hypnosis can be opening the door to supernatural influences, both good and bad. In my research I came across a book that gives examples of how a person can experiment with hypnosis on their own (Hypnotism: Hocus Pocus or Science? Vivian Kirby).† One of the suggestions was called the pendulum. in this experiment the person is instructed to make a pendulum by tying a weight of some sort on to a string. Then they are to make a diagram on a piece of paper that looks somewhat like a compass-rose you would see on a map. Then, after getting a feel for how the pendulum swings, they are instructed to hold the pendulum still and suggest to themselves that the pendulum began swinging back and forth.† While the pendulum is swinging they ask which direction will mean yes, no and so on. The pendulum will change directions until all of the arms on the diagram are assigned an answer. Then the person is to ask a question, like "do I have a cat?" Keep in mind the person is consciously swinging the pendulum; the pendulum appears to swing on its own. After asking the question the pendulum should start swinging toward the correct answer, "yes I own a cat, or no I do not."
As I read the description of the experiment I began to feel uneasy. It seemed to similar to the workings of an Ouija board. Some Christians view the Ouija board as satanic toy. Is hypnosis satanic as well? Maybe Ouija boards are controlled by our subconscious, as the pendulum appears to be. But maybe demonic influences are present in both the use of an Ouija board and hypnosis. For example psychics and others who claim they have contact with the dead sometimes use devices similar to an Ouija board. These types of people can seem to know things about the dead person that they were never told. They obviously aren't getting it from their own subconscious, since in most cases they have never met the deceased person, or anyone related to them before. Are these psychics and mediums able to read people's minds? I don't believe so. It seems more likely to me that demons are at work. Demons would know things about the deceased person and demons are able to plant that information into minds that have their guard down, like minds that are being hypnotized.
So what side of the debate should a Christian be on? The Christian who comes across the television program on hypnosis, should he change the channel or should he watch it9 The Bible tells us to take captive our thoughts, to guard our hearts and our minds. As Christians we are to strive to be like Christ and to no longer conform to the patterns of this world. But if hypnosis is a mechanism of our brain, which was created by God, why shouldn't a Christian be able to use it?
We have seen how hypnosis alters our-state of consciousness. How it can be used to help people over come fears, deal with pain, and recall forgotten memories. But even those memories can be distorted. We have discussed the harmful sides of hypnosis, how it compares to practices that some see are clearly satanic. So what should a Christian do? Should they embrace hypnosis with open arms? Or avoid it in the same way they would avoid psychics and sťances.
It is my belief that hypnosis, like all creation was created good. God had a purpose for giving us an ability to alter our state of consciousness. But because of the fall all creation is tainted with sin. The devil can now use hypnosis for his own purposes. He twisted it so it fits his needs. The same way he twisted honesty into lying, and love into hate. Therefore for anyone, especially a Christian to be involved in hypnosis can be dangerous. Hypnosis is a useful tool, but not a necessary one. As Christians we have a higher power we can go to, God Himself Though prayer we can ask God to help us deal with our fears, to comfort us when painful memories are remembered. To help, us cope with pain.
I'd like to close by saying this: God created our minds and every aspect of them for good. They are so complex that we cannot even begin to completely understand them. In this fallen world so many evil things have entered our minds. Drawing us away from our Creator. But God calls us to honor Him in everything we do, with every aspect of our lives, with our heart, soul, and mind.
O.T., M.D.† Confessions
of a Healer.†
Kirby, Vivian.† Hypnotism: Hocus Pocus or Science.†
Meyers, David, G.† Exploring Psychology.