Hypnosis*

Christian or Occult?

-  In these days of supposed great stress and strain, hypnosis claims to offer relief for the masses. Hypnosis has become the therapeutic tool health professionals are pulling out of the bag to battle smoking and weight problems; manage anxiety, fears, and phobias; relieve pain; overcome depression; improve a person's sex life; cure maladies such as asthma and hayfever; undergo chemotherapy without nausea; prompt injuries to heal more quickly; and improve grades. Otherwise legitimate medical doctors use hypnosis as part of the healing process to reduce the side effects from drugs, to help speed patient recovery, and reduce post-operative discomfort. Dentists are using hypnotic techniques in conjunction with nitrous oxide to relax patients, minimize pain and bleeding, and control patient gas reflex during procedures.

The sad part of it all is that even some unsuspecting Christians are willing to "try it." A 1992 newspaper ad placed by a "Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist" (there is even an "American Society for Clinical Hypnosis") made some amazing statements that indicate just how unbiblical (i.e., New Age) the technique of hypnosis is:

"Hypnosis is the most effective method of changing the way you think, feel and act. When you align your subconscious mind -- your inner voice -- with your conscious mind, you erase conflicting beliefs that hold you back. You can then move forward, without sabotaging yourself. Clinical hypnotic techniques guide you to a relaxed, peaceful state of mind. You remain in total control while learning how to use the power of your full mind to create a strong desire to accomplish your goal. You can change your life."

-  Hypnosis is nothing new. It has been used for thousands of years by witchdoctors, spirit mediums, shamans, Hindus, Buddhists, and yogis. But the increasing popularity of hypnosis for healing in the secular world has influenced many in the professing church to accept hypnosis as a means of treatment. Both non-Christian and professing Christian medical doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, and psychologists are recommending and using hypnosis.

Although a hypnotist may encourage only a light or medium trance, he cannot prevent a hypnotized subject from spontaneously plunging into the danger zone, which may include a sense of separation from the body, seeming clairvoyance, hallucination, mystical states similar to those described by Eastern mystics, and even what hypnotism researcher Ernest Hilgard describes as "demonic possession." We would argue that hypnosis is occultic at any trance level, but at its deeper levels, hypnosis is unmistakably occult.

-  There is some controversy as to whether or not a hypnotist can cause a person to do something against his will. Many hypnotists say categorically that the will cannot be violated. However, the evidence is otherwise. Hypnosis heightens a person's suggestibility to the point that the subject will believe almost anything the hypnotist tells him -- even to the point of hallucinating at the hypnotist's suggestion. During hypnosis, a person's critical abilities are reduced in such a way as to create what has been called a "trance logic" that undiscerningly accepts what would normally seem irrational, illogical, and incompatible.

Because almost anything can be made to seem plausible to someone in the trance state, it is possible for a hypnotized person to act against his will -- to do what he would not do outside of the hypnotic state. Hypnosis bypasses the will by placing personal responsibility outside of objective, rational, critical choice. With normal evaluating abilities submerged, suggestibility heightened, and rational restraint reduced, the will is seriously hampered and is, at the very least, capable of being violated.

-  One popular use of hypnosis has been that of searching the memory by "going back into childhood." Some patients even describe experiencing what they believe to be their life in the womb and subsequent birth. (This is impossible, however, because of the neurological, scientific fact that the myelin sheathing is too underdeveloped in the prenatal, natal, and early postnatal brain to store such memories.) Still others describe some sort of disembodied state and then what they identify as past lives and former identities. How much of this is created by heightened suggestibility, unrestrained imagination, trance hallucination, or demonic intervention cannot be determined. Furthermore, the Bible clearly contradicts past lives and reincarnation -- "It is appointed unto man once to die" (Heb. 9:27).

Hypnosis is not even reliable with recent recall. What is "remembered" under hypnosis has often been created, reconstructed, or enhanced during the state of heightened suggestibility. Research indicates that after hypnosis, a person is unable to distinguish between a true recollection and what he imagined or created under the heightened suggestibility. Hypnosis is just as likely to bring forth false impressions as true accounts of past events. (Individuals can and do lie under hypnosis!) Hypnosis is thus more likely to contaminate the memory than to help a person remember what really happened.

Besides past life hypnotic therapy, some practitioners are doing future life hypnotic therapy. The hypnotized person supposedly sees future events, solves murders, reveals the future fates of well-known personalities, etc. One involved in this hypnotic time travel must ask himself, "Where is the line of demarcation between the demonic and the divine, between the realm of Satan and Science? At what point does the door of darkness open and the devil gain a foothold?"

In today's landscape of promises for self-fulfillment, self-mastery, personal well-being, and quick fixes for problems of living, one could easily find oneself in an environment conducive to hypnosis. One such environment would be the regression into childhood memories (see above). Another would be in Large Group Awareness Training. The Forum (formerly est), Life Spring, and Momentus are the names of some of the more well-known large-group training seminars that promise life-transforming results. Using many of the ideas and techniques of the encounter movement, such group sessions attempt to alter participants' present way of thinking (mind set, world view, personal faith, etc.) through intense personal and group experiences. Some have marathon meetings that last numerous hours and take advantage of fatigue working together with much repetition, group pressure, and various psychological techniques, some of which attack personal belief systems and cause mental confusion. The confusion technique, which is also a hypnotic device, may be used to disorient the subject to make him more responsive to cues. Michael Yapko says: "In the confusion technique, you give a person more information than they could possibly keep up with, you get them to question everything, you make them feel uncertain as a way of building up their motivation to attain certainty." While hypnosis may not be intended or admitted in such large group training sessions, the possibility is very strong for participants to experience hypnotic suggestion, dissociation, and impaired personal judgment. (Other activities and settings where hypnosis may occur also include: music, church services, prayer and meditation, medical offices, and self-help tapes.)

-  Since some doctors and many psychologists use hypnosis, most believe that hypnosis is medical and, therefore, scientific. The label "medical" before the word hypnosis makes hypnosis seem benevolent and safe. Even some well-known professing Christians (e.g., the late Walter Martin of CRI, and Josh McDowell & John Stewart in their book Understanding the Occult) allege that hypnosis can be helpful if practiced by medical doctors whose intent is good rather than evil. However, Donald Hebb says in "Psychology Today/The State of the Science" that "hypnosis has persistently lacked satisfactory explanation." At the present time, there is no agreed-upon scientific explanation of exactly what hypnosis is. Psychiatry professor Thomas Szasz describes hypnosis as the therapy of "a fake science." We cannot call hypnosis a science, but we can say that it has been an integral part of the occult for thousands of years. (Although hypnosis has been investigated by scientific means, and there are some measurable criteria concerning the trance itself, hypnosis is not a science.)

No one knows exactly how hypnosis "works," other than the obvious "placebo effect" -- the successful use of "false feedback" in the same manner that feedback is used in the occult techniques common to acupuncture, biofeedback, and psychotherapy. But compounding the word hypnosis with the word therapy does not lift the practice from the occult to the scientific. The white coat may be a more respectable garb than feathers and face paint, but the basics are the same. Hypnosis is hypnosis, whether it is called medical hypnosis, hypnotherapy, autosuggestion, or anything else. Hypnosis in the hands of a medical doctor is as scientific as a dowsing rod in the hands of a civil engineer.

Trances brought about through medical doctors are not significantly different from occultic hypnosis. In their text on hypnosis, which is used in medical schools, two well-known researchers state categorically: "The reader should not be confused by the supposed differences between hypnosis, Zen, Yoga, and other Eastern healing methodologies. Although the rituals for each differs, they are fundamentally the same." E. Fuller Torrey, a research psychiatrist, aligns hypnotic techniques with witchcraft. He also says, "Hypnosis is one aspect of the yoga techniques of therapeutic meditation." Medical doctor William Kroger states, "The fundamental principles of Yoga are, in many respects, similar to those of hypnosis." To protect the scientific label for hypnosis he declares, "Yoga is not considered a religion, but rather a 'science' to achieve mastery of the mind and cure physical and emotional sickness." Then he makes a strange confession, "There are many systems to Yoga, but the central aim -- union with God -- is common to all of them and is the method by which it achieves cure." Obviously then, just because hypnosis is used by medical doctors does not mean that it is free of its occult nature. More and more medical practitioners are being influenced by ancient, occult medical practices. The holistic healing movement has successfully wed Western medicine to Eastern mysticism.

We then raise the following questions about the use of hypnosis by a medical doctor: How can one tell the long-range spiritual effect of even a well-meaning medical doctor's use of hypnosis on a Christian patient? Would an M.D. with an anti-Christian or occult bias in any way affect a Christian through trance treatment? How about the use of a medical hypnotherapist who belongs to the Satanist church? What about an M.D. hypnotherapist who uses past or future lives therapy as a means of mental-emotional or physical relief? These and other questions need to be answered before subjecting oneself to such treatment, even, and especially,  in the hands of a medical doctor or psychologist.

-  Those who might feel a bit nervous about being hypnotized by another often tend to feel safe with self-hypnosis. (Although those in a self-induced hypnotic trance may gain a certain amount of control and exercise some degree of choice, they, nevertheless, do not retain their normal means of evaluation of reality and rational restraint.) Teachers of self-hypnosis will generally try to assure people that hypnosis is simply focused attention, increased concentration, relaxation, visualization, and imagination. Yet such activities are precisely the useful means of going into the trance. Furthermore, they continue on at a different level during the trance. By imagining one is leaving his body, one may move into the trance with the kind of hallucination and trance logic of really seeming to be out of the body.

A medical doctor, teaching a class in self-hypnosis, instructed his students to go into a hypnotic trance, leave their bodies, and then go back in to explore various parts of the body. All of this was for the purpose of self-diagnosis and self-healing. Occultist Edgar Cayce also used self-hypnosis to diagnose disease and prescribe treatment. Therefore, self-hypnosis can be as occult and demonic an activity as a trance directed by a hypnotist.

-  One researcher makes some interesting observations concerning why he would classify hypnosis as part of the occult (Peace, Prosperity, and the Coming Holocaust, pp. 119-120):

"One reason for calling hypnotherapy a religious ritual is the fact that it produces mysterious effects that leave any investigator who approaches it as science thoroughly puzzled: (1) under hypnosis administered by psychiatrists, persons who have never had any contact with UFOs can be stimulated to 'remember' UFO abductions that conform in detail to those described by supposed genuine abductees; (2) hypnosis also leads to spontaneous 'memories' of past and future lives, about one-fifth involving existence on other planets; (3) hypnotic trance also duplicates the experiences common under the stimulation of psychedelic drugs, TM, and other forms of Yoga and Eastern meditation; (4) hypnosis also creates spontaneous psychic powers, clairvoyance, out-of-body experiences, and the whole range of occult phenomena; and (5) the experience of so-called clinical death is also produced under hypnosis.

"Two conclusions that most investigators find very distasteful seem nevertheless to be inescapable: (1) there is a common source behind all occult phenomena, including UFOs, that seems to be intelligently and deliberately orchestrating a clever deception for its own purposes; and (2) hypnosis, or the power of suggestion, is at the very heart of this scheme"

The connection between hypnosis and Eastern mysticism is clear. At varying depths of the hypnotic trance, patients describe experiences that are identical to the cosmic consciousness and self-realization induced by yogic trance. They experience first of all a deep peace, then detachment from the body, then release from identity with one's own small self to merge with the universe, and the feeling that they are everything and have no limitation upon what they can experience or become: i.e., God-consciousness "in which time, space, and ego are supposedly transcended, leaving pure awareness of the primal nothingness from which all manifested creation comes."

-  Hypnosis began as part of the occult and false religion. The Bible speaks out strongly against all practices of false religion and the occult. God desires His people to turn to Him in need, not to those who practice sorcery, divination, or enchantment. He warns His people about following after mediums, wizards, enchanters, charmers, and those who have a familiar spirit (Deut. 18:9-14). Hypnosis, as it is practiced today, may very well be the same as what is identified as "enchantment" in the Bible (Lev. 19:26 KJV).

In hypnotism, faith is shifted from God and His Word to the hypnotist and his technique. God speaks to people through the conscious, rational mind. He commands individuals as creatures who make conscious, volitional choices. He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell Christians to enable them to trust and obey Him through love and conscious choice. Hypnosis, on the other hand, operates on the basis of imagination, illusion, hallucination, and deception. Jesus warned His followers about deception. After a person has opened his mind to deception through hypnosis, he may become even more vulnerable to other forms of spiritual deception.

Hypnosis can generate Satan's counterfeits of true religious exercise. If hypnosis generates any form of faith and worship not directed toward the God of the Bible, any person who subjects himself to hypnotism may be playing the harlot in the spiritual realm. (See Lev. 19:26,31; 20:6,27; Deut. 18:9-14; 2 Ki 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isa. 47:9-13; Jer. 27:9.)

-  Hypnotism is demonic at its worst and potentially dangerous at its best. At its worst, it opens an individual to psychic experiences and satanic possession. When mediums go into hypnotic trances and contact the "dead," when clairvoyants reveal information which they could not possibly know, when fortunetellers through self-hypnosis reveal the future, Satan is most certainly at work.

Are people in the church being enticed to enter the twilight zone of the occult because hypnosis is now called "science" and "medicine"? Let those who call the occult "science" tell us what the difference is between medical and occultic hypnosis. And let those Christians who call it "scientific" explain why they also recommend that it be performed only by a Christian. If hypnosis is science indeed, why the added requirement of Christianity for the practitioner? There is a scarcity of adequate long-term studies of those who have been hypnotized. And there have been none which have examined the effect on the individual's resulting faith or interest in the occult.

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 "scientific" and "medical" for some Christians with little proof of its validity, longevity of its results, or understanding of its nature. Because hypnosis has always been an integral part of the occult, because it is not a science, because of its known harmful effects, and because of its potential for spiritual deception, the wise Christian will completely avoid it, even for "medical" purposes. It is obvious that hypnosis is lethal if used for evil purposes. However, we contend that hypnosis is potentially lethal for whatever purpose it is used. The moment one surrenders himself to the doorway of the occult, even in the halls of "science" and "medicine," he is vulnerable to the powers of darkness.


* Unless otherwise indicated, the bulk of this report was originally adapted from Hypnosis and the Christian, Martin & Deidre Bobgan, Bethany House Publishers, 1984, 61 pages. The book was revised and reissued in 2001 as Hypnosis: Medical, Scientific, or Occultic?, and some of this report was also drawn from this source.


Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 8/01

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