Hypnosis and Religious Faith
Practical Uses of Hypnotherapy
Chapter 13: Hypnosis and Religious Faith
Chaplain Paul G. Durbin
Diretor of Pastoral Care. Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital. New Orleans, La.
A few years ago, I read an article titled "Boom Days For Devil Hypnosis." by Kathleen Dohney in Family Weekly: August 19, 1984. Hearing that title: what ideas, images, thoughts come to your mind? Think about that for a moment and read portions from that article.
The day before she underwent surgery for removal of a facial tumor, Iris Crall made what she thought was an unusual request. "I told my anesthesiologist I needed to be in the right frame of mind and asked if my psychologist could come for a hypnosis session," recalls the 40 year old woman. To Crall's surprise, her anesthesiologist not only agreed but offered to help. The night before the operation Crall was relaxed under hypnosis by her psychologist. The next day, the anesthesiologist used hypnosis to supplement mild general anesthesia.
Crall believes her relaxed positive state of mind, achieved through hypnosis speeded up her recovery. Increasing number of health-care professionals agree that hypnosis can be a great help. Hypnosis is a relaxed state in which the subconscious is more susceptible to suggestion. "Hypnosis can be a great help. Hypnosis is a relaxed state in which the subconscious is more susceptible to suggestion. Hypnosis is a name we give a perfectly normal process," explains Dr. Bernauer Newton. The AMA recognizes a place for hypnosis in medical treatment but the technique has its opponents. "Some conservative religious groups," says Hoffman, "consider hypnosis the work of the devil." When properly administered hypnosis is used in a supporting role in medical treatment, the vote of the health-care community is clear. Hypnosis can help.
Though the article has what I consider a very negative title, it was a very positive article on Hypnosis. The only reference to the devil was in the last paragraph, "Some conservative religious groups consider hypnosis the work of the devil."
Hypnosis is mistakenly viewed as mind control and 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. She said, "I am really looking forward to the 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 his. If so, do not pay any attention to her, for I am the one who is hurting and I want to do 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 relaxation and 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."
Though the title of this chapter is "Hypnosis and Religious Faith:", I will be dealing primarily with hypnosis and Judeo-Christian Faith. Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you are religious or not, many of your clients are religiously oriented people. The better you understand the client's religious history, the better you can relate to that person.
It could be said that the first written record of the use of hypnosis is found in the Old Testament 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 the ribs and closed up its place with flesh, and the rib which God took from man, He made woman and brought her to man." In this incident, God used hypnosis so that Adam felt no pain during the removal of his rib.
Chaplain W. Leo 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 the child was not his. The story told of an "angel" or a "messenger" coming to Joseph in a dream. In this dream, the angel told Joseph to take Mary for his wife. Upon waking, Joseph did as the angel suggested. Peacock writes that this a clear description of an individual being given a post-hypnotic suggestion on which he immediately acts on as soon as he comes out of the hypnotic trance.
Paul speaks of being in trance while he was praying in the temple (Acts 22:17). Peter "fell into a trance" and from that experience came to see that God loves all people who come to him (Acts 10:1-48). Though the book of Acts, there are a number of references to the apostles looking into the eyes or gazing into the eyes of a person which resulted in the person being healed (Acts 14:9-10). The practice of "laying on of hands" mentioned in the Bible, used some of the techniques of hypnosis.
Over the centuries, hypnosis has had its ups and downs, but in recent years has become more acceptable. In spite of the successes of hypnosis, we still have those who question its usefulness and others who see it a tool of the devil. One of our missions is to convince those who doubt and enlighten those who oppose, so that people may live better lives.
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 use of hypnosis. Exceptions among Christian groups 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 and suggestion therapy. Though many in various churches opposed to hypnosis use the principles of hypnosis (including Christian Science and Seven-Day Adventists) in their healing service, they denounce hypnosis.
The Roman Catholic Church has issued statements approving the use of hypnosis. In 1847, a decree from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy office states, "Having removed all misconception, foretelling of the future, explicit or implicit invocation of the devil, the use of animal magnetism (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 gave 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 gives 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 need. (3) Under the aspect of anaesthesia, it is governed by the same principles as other forms of anaesthesia. This is saying that the rules of good medicine apply to the use of hypnosis.
Except for exceptions noted, no other Protestant Churches have any laws against the use of hypnotherapy. 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 Far Eastern Faiths: Buddhism, Yoga, Shintoism, and others approve the use of hypnosis and they often use hypnosis techniques in their worship. The Christian Church also uses many hypnotic techniques in their worship. The use of eye fixation on the candles, cross, and pulpit; the bowing of the head in prayer; and the closing of eyes in prayer.
The Moslem religion has no opposition to hypnosis that I have been able to discover.
For those who oppose hypnosis on religious ground, I remind them of the words of Jon Baptist Van Helmont, "Hypnosis is a universal agent...and is a paradox only to those who are disposed to ridicule everything, who ascribe to the influence of Satan all phemanema which they cannot explain."
Some say that hypnosis places the soul in a passively receptive state and opens the door to morbid spiritual influences. If this is correct, then prayer, meditation, the process of going to sleep, and chemical anesthesia place the individual in a similar state to hypnosis. Jesus indicated by his teachings that we should help peoples live life to its fullest and relieve pain whenever possible.
Hypnosis should not be condemned as anti-religious just because a few people misuse it. Some oppose hypnosis because it is used by the occult, but do we condemn prayer because prayer is used by the occult? Hypnosis is a very helpful tool of counseling. Without apology and when appropriate, hypnosis should be used for growth, health, overcoming unwanted habits and the benefit of people.
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; gave 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 join hands in brotherhood to share the blessings of hypnosis with others.
(c)1997 Paul G. Durbin. All rights reserved.