A couple of questions I am most often asked
about hypnosis is “Is it safe for Christians to be hypnotized?” and “Aren’t you opening yourself to evil influences when you allow yourself to be hypnotized?” These are legitimate questions to be asked by devoted Christians, and I applaud you for seeking to understand. It is perfectly natural for people to fear what they don’t understand. The Bible says in Proverbs 15:14: “The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.” or in plain words, A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. There is a lot of ‘trash’ out there regarding hypnosis, and when you understand what hypnosis is, you’ll quickly find that hypnosis is completely safe for anyone, Christian or non-Christian, to use as a therapeutic tool or simply to improve themselves.
But wait Jason, I personally know someone who was hypnotized at a hypnosis show! He swears that he was hypnotized to do all kinds of crazy things when he was on stage. And what about all of those movies where someone is hypnotized to assassinate the president or some other public figure? Or my favorite example from the movie Office Space, when Peter becomes stuck in hypnosis after his hypnotherapist keels over in the middle of a session. So let’s debunk a couple of myths right off the bat…hypnosis is not mind control. You can’t be made to kill someone or for that matter do anything that goes against your moral compass (I’ll explain more on this in a bit). It’s impossible to get stuck in hypnosis, because you’ll see in a little while that hypnosis is a completely natural state that we all go through all of the time, and you would simply ‘wake up’ naturally.
So in order to understand hypnosis, let’s start off with a definition: Hypnosis is an artificially induced state of deep relaxation, focused concentration, and heightened imagination in which deeper parts of the mind become more receptive to suggestion.
In clinical EEG studies, they have found that when people enter a hypnotic state, their brainwave patterns hover primarily in the Alpha range of frequencies (9-14 cycles per second), with an occasional dip into the Theta range (5-13 cycles per second). These are natural states which we enter every day, several times a day. If you’ve ever found yourself completely engrossed in a movie, or a really good book, completely oblivious to everything going on around you, you were technically in a hypnotic state. If you’ve ever found yourself driving on the freeway, and all of the sudden you’ve realized you’ve driven several miles past your exit, you were in hypnosis (we call that ‘freeway trance’). If you’ve ever caught yourself sitting at your desk, daydreaming about that vacation spot you’ve been dying to visit, you were in a hypnotic trance. If you happened to be given a suggestion that sounded like a good thing while you were in this state, you would be much more likely to follow it. That’s it. That’s all that hypnosis is.
But wait a minute Jason…deep relaxation, focused concentration, and heightened imagination…those are all good things, aren’t they? That’s right! They are! Using hypnosis, you can do all kinds of things… from improving your memory, to eliminating bad habits, to getting over negative emotions, to ridding the body of disease, to full fledged surgery without anesthetic! You know that you have a powerful mind…much more powerful than your body. And when you enter the state of hypnosis, you allow your mind to do those things that are difficult for your body to do on it’s own. Things like controlling cravings, or overcoming procrastination, which we all know can be so difficult to control through sheer willpower, become easy when your mind is in charge. Because you are now aware that you’ve been in this state many many times before, you obviously realize that if someone were to tell you to do something you didn’t want to do, or went against your character, you would simply snap right out of that state, instantly. Likewise, you should now realize that it would be impossible to be stuck in a hypnotic state…eventually you come back to your senses! When was the last time you’ve seen someone stuck in a daydream? It just doesn’t happen!
So where did all this craziness about hypnosis being unbiblical, demonic, and occultist come from? To understand this part, it helps to know some of the history behind hypnosis. Hypnosis, in one form or another, has actually been around since the beginning of human civilization. Only they obviously didn’t call it hypnosis. Mystics, witch doctors, high priests and priestesses learned that when people entered this special state of mind, they could do what, at the time, seemed miraculous and magical – illnesses being healed, surgery without anesthetic, etc. Of course as primitive peoples, they attributed this to the gods, or magic, or witchcraft. Elaborate rituals were devised to help people enter this state of mind: monotonous drumming, chants, dancing…all things which will assist someone in achieving the hypnotic state, without understanding the brain mechanisms behind it.
Much like the science of medicine, as science progressed through the ages so did the explanations of the causes behind disease, and the subsequent remedies. At first, there was a lot of superstitious beliefs surrounding diseases, which were treated with rituals clearing the body of demons and evil spirits. Later, physicians believed that an imbalance of humours played a major part in illnesses, and resulted in the painful practice of cutting people and bleeding them to near death. Nowadays, with our current germ theory of disease and our understanding of microorganisms, we realize that disease is not caused by demons or a punishment from God, but can be linked to a specific cause. Hypnosis is much the same way. As science progressed, so did the beliefs surrounding this seemingly mystical state. A man by the name of Franz Anton Mesmer popularized the idea in the 1700s that magnets caused that special state of mind, and that people were somehow magnetized. Later, when Mesmer realized that he didn’t need magnets to heal, he believed that he was magnetic, and that magnetic fluid was somehow flowing through him.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that this state was linked to the mind and the term ‘Hypnosis’ was coined. Although there is still much to learn about hypnosis, science has fully recognized the potential of hypnosis, and was even approved by the American Medical Association in 1958 and several other medical and psychiatric boards over the coming years. In fact, medical studies have to take hypnosis into account in every new medication they develop. That’s right! Scientists recognize the power of the placebo effect and know that a certain percentage of people will heal regardless of whether they take medicine or not. Simply the suggestion that they are going to heal causes them to heal. That’s hypnosis folks!
So what does the Bible say about hypnosis? Well…nothing really. Its not mentioned in the Bible once. Remember, hypnosis in its current form didn’t exist until the 1800s. The Bible does however mention what we now recognize as the hypnotic state several times. In Genesis 2:21, God put Adam into a deep sleep to remove his rib to make Eve (this, in my opinion, was the first case of hypnotic anesthesia). The Bible specifically mentions ‘trance’ several times: In Acts 10:9-10, Peter went to the rooftop to pray, and “…he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance”. Note that the original Greek for trance here derives from ekstasis. The Greek lexicon defines this word as “a state of being brought about by God, in which consciousness is wholly or partially suspended. This definition practically reads out of a book on hypnosis! Abraham, Balaam, Ezekiel, Paul, Peter, and many others all entered states of trance. Of course, like everything else in the Bible, its words are open to interpretation. Some people choose to interpret the Bible to fit their own agenda.
One of the most oft quoted (and misinterpreted) verses, when it comes to bashing hypnosis, is Deuteronomy 18:9-14: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” Because many uninformed people didn’t bother to do their due diligence on the subject, they simply lumped hypnosis in with witchcraft, sorcery, and all that other crazy stuff. Now one could argue that I am interpreting the Bible to fit my own agenda, which is why I’m calling in the big guns: Dr. Fred Bush, the D. Wilson Moore Professor of Ancient New Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary is an expert on Eastern languages, and states that “to use these passages as a reference to hypnosis is exegetically indefensible” [Bush
in Court, 123]. Since you now understand what hypnosis is, and how it works, it is quite obvious that hypnosis doesn’t have anything to do with any of the above mentioned terms.
So can hypnosis be used for evil? Well, duh! Of course it can. Just like a knife can be used to go on a murderous rampage or used to cook a delicious meal…hypnosis is simply a tool. A tool in the wrong hands can be deadly, whereas a tool in an artist’s hand can create a majestic masterpiece. Remember what hypnosis is though, and that we are being hypnotized all the time: Whenever we watch television, whenever we read a book, or listen to a politician speak. We are constantly being given suggestions everywhere we go. This doesn’t mean we are going to follow those suggestions however. Remember that you can’t be made to do anything you don’t already want to do. There’s a saying among hypnotists: “All hypnosis is self hypnosis.” Remember that evil comes from within: Jesus said in Matthew 15:19-20, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” So even though you can’t be controlled, it is of course a good thing to be aware of and trust who is giving the suggestions, whether you are watching TV or choosing a hypnotherapist to work with. This is why you should always choose a reputable hypnotherapist to work with.
God gave us a wonderful gift when he created us…the ability to control our own mind. Much like the gift He gave us of a body that will naturally heal itself after injury, we can use our mind to heal ourselves of bodily ailments, negative emotions, and bad habits. Using hypnosis to make us a better person or heal ourselves is no more sorcery or witchcraft than taking an aspirin is to heal a headache. Hypnosis on its own is neither good nor evil. When used properly, it can help everyone, both Christians and non-Christians to improve themselves and heal their bodies.
Jason D. West, MNLP, CCHt is a board certified clinical hypnotherapist, master NLP practitioner, trainer, transformation coach, author of the book “Unstuck: The Owner’s Manual for Success”, and the creator of the POWERPERSUASION™ Boot Camp. In his clinical practice, he specializes in helping women unlock the power of their mind to let go of their emotional blocks, and achieve the life of their dreams.