#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?
Hey guys! This is the second instalment of the series #ChristianityExplains and today we’ll be tackling the question: Should A Christian Be Involved In Any Form Of Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy? Again, if there’s a topic or question you would like to see featured in this series, I would really appreciate it if you could kindly let us know via our twitter or facebook pages using the hashtag #ChristianityExplains.
We must approach this from an eternal perspective, it is not just about the benefits of hypnosis, but the spiritual implications in the long run (if any).
Hypnosis comes from the Greek word hypnos (sleep). According to Greek mythology, Hypnos was the god of sleep. Hypnosis therefore refers to a sleep-like state. Likewise, to hypnotize is to induce an altered state of consciousness characterized by deep relaxation and heightened suggestibility. Hypnosis is a modern word, so you won’t find it in the Bible. (It used to be called hypnotism, and a form of it was known even earlier as mesmerism, but the Bible was written long before even those words were invented.)
There are different types of hypnosis:
Traditional hypnosis is when a hypnotist puts a person into an alternate state that opens them to commands. This is most often seen in entertainment, but it can also be done by kids messing around.
Hypnotherapy is when the hypnotist puts a person into a trance and attempts to overcome some problem. It’s been used to conquer fears, lose weight, and quit smoking. This therapy is not successful unless the person fully commits to the hypnosis and co-operates with the hypnotist.
Self-hypnosis is similar to meditation. The person is trained by a hypnotist to put himself into an alternate state and reinforce certain thoughts to overcome a problem.
Covert hypnosis is using conversation to hypnotize someone without them knowing—e.g. as seen in the TV show The Mentalist. Covert hypnosis is sometimes used by therapists on people who are skeptical of hypnosis in general, but it is also touted as a way to control people, especially for men to pick up women by influencing the woman to drop her guard.
Before we go into any more detail, watch this video that explains in detail what happens during hypnosis. It also touches on the differences between the types of hypnosis.
It’s not scary or anything, just informative.
The Christian Response
The common Bible verse raised against hypnosis is Deuteronomy 18:10–11
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
The liberal stance on this verse is that none of the activities in this verse properly describe the events that take place during hypnosis so it does not apply. However, conservatives use this verse to support the notion that hypnotism in any form bluntly as occultic and demonic.
Christian supporters of hypnosis suggest that the trance-like state entered during self-hypnosis is said to parallel some of the trances and visionary states in the Bible (Numbers 24:4; Daniel 2:19; Acts 10:10, 11:5, 22:17; Revelation 1:10). It is also suggested that during strongly focused deep prayer and meditation, one may drift into a hypnotic trance (Acts 11:5; 10:10).
Liberals strongly argue that the purpose of hypnosis can be very beneficial to christians and non-christians alike and it should not be rejected by the church because of the face value belief that it has ties to the occultic. They suggest that on deeper approach, one will discover that hypnosis has more ties to science than witchcraft.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview of Christians who favor hypnosis:
Q: I heard a Christian say that hypnosis is wrong because among occult practices listed in Deuteronomy 18:10-11 is “one who casts spells”.
A: Hypnotists (hypnotherapists) do not “cast spells”. They help you relax as you drift into a mental state on the border of consciousness and sleep. This is the state of mind that allows change to happen. With repetition, which may take a few days or perhaps six weeks, positive suggestions can bring positive change. A common misconception is that hypnotized people don’t know what is happening around them. But they almost always do know, and that is one of the most common statements of surprise from people when they first come out of hypnosis. In self-hypnosis you have to remain conscious, otherwise you would fall asleep and be unable to give yourself suggestions. Obviously that would not benefit you. You are never under “a spell”.
Q: Doesn’t hypnosis shift a Christian’s faith from God and His Word to the hypnotist and his technique?
A: Of course not. Christians take aspirin to relieve headaches, blood pressure tablets to relieve hypertension, and antiseptics to fight infection from a wound. This doesn’t mean they give up their faith in God for faith in pharmaceutical companies.
Furthermore, the 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.”
A conservative response towards hypnotism can be summarized as follows:
“As far as being a Christian and becoming involved in this practice, it is to be avoided at all costs; your spiritual welfare may be at stake. If you traffic in the occult you may soon pay the consequences of overstepping the boundary God has clearly made. It has the potential to open an individual to spiritual experiences and spirit oppression”
There is a lot of talk amongst Christians that hypnosis may open the mind to demonic influence. We don’t know how this works, exactly, but it is possible. When a person’s critical-thinking and decision making skills are turned off and their internal imagination cranked up, they are more susceptible to lies and harmful influences and that would seem to be a ripe time for a demonic attack.
Also note how critical thinking and decision-making skills guard what comes into the mind in light of Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” When we put the guards to sleep, our hearts are left undefended, which directly influences our actions. Even if the hypnotist is working for our benefit, the risk of danger is phenomenal. The Bible validates this. Galatians 5:22-23 mentions that we need to control ourselves, not give control to someone else. Romans 6:12-13 says we need to submit ourselves to God, not someone else. Romans 6:16 warns us against submitting our decisions to another. Despite the success stories on hypnotism or how much we may trust the hypnotist, the Bible tells us to stay away from anyone trying to control our minds.
There are a variety of purposes for which hypnosis is employed as explained above. Sometimes, it is for entertainment (stage hypnosis). Other times, it is used to achieve behavioral ends, such as overcoming habits like smoking or over-eating, or as an attempt to relieve pain, phobias, or anxiety. Hypnosis is also used as a spiritual discipline for recovering memories, particularly those from supposed past lives in a “cycle of reincarnation”.
For Christians, this particular purpose of hypnosis would obviously be very inappropriate. We know that humans live once, are judged at death, and will one day be resurrected to live out the rewards or consequences of that judgment, any past-life memories are certainly fraudulent and to be rejected. Similarly, for a Christian to subject oneself to a stage hypnotist seems unwise. In many cases stage hypnotists use deception to make their acts appear genuine to audiences, which would make the Christian who participates with them complicit in deception or fraud.
Even though there are no Bible verses conclusively referring to hypnosis or necessarily naming participation in it a sin, several concerns still exist for the Christian considering hypnosis. First among these would be its connection to the meditation practices of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism and to cultic and New Age philosophies. Since the Bible forbids Christians from engaging in the worship of other religions, this would require thorough contemplation and research on the part of the Christian before they engage the practice. They must research both the practice and the person (hypnotist) that will be assisting them in the practice.
Most importantly, the orientation of Christianity is that we seek solutions to spiritual problems outside of ourselves (namely from Jesus) because we can do nothing on our own. As believers in Christ, our focus is to be on our Savior, not on ourselves or anything else (Hebrews 12:2). We know that the answers do not lie within us (Romans 7:18); any solution we need is found in Christ (Romans 8:2). For a christian, spiritual benefits are delivered through external means (namely the Bible, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper) but hypnosis suggests the opposite: that we can achieve spiritual benefits or overcome troubling behaviors by looking deeper into ourselves—a reversal of the Biblical direction.
Finally, hypnosis is also problematic for the following reasons:
1) The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Hypnosis involves the transfer of control away from ourselves to another person.
2) We are to yield ourselves—body, soul, and spirit—to God not to anybody else (Romans 6:12-13).
3) Hypnosis leads to an altered state of consciousness in which the mind is very susceptible to outside suggestion. That susceptibility is what the hypnotist needs in order to modify the behavior of his subject and this should concern us. Scripture says to be watchful and “self-controlled” and alert. Our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The hypnotist is not the only one who wants to modify our behavior; satan also wants to do some modifying, and we should be wary of giving him any opportunity to make any suggestions.
It is therefore up to us to consult the Holy Spirit before we make a decision on this matter. Personally, I strongly believe that seeking solutions to behavioural issues through hypnosis are against the principles of christian living. Any deliverance not bought with the name of Jesus is suspicious. Only our creator should be trusted with altering our behaviour.
You can find more links to liberal and conservative views below.