By Paul G. Durbin
It can be used for good or bad depending on the hypnotist and the subject. Today, most religious groups accept the proper ethical use of hypnosis for helping people. Exceptions 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 therapy and suggestion therapy. A hypnotist by the name of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby greatly helped Mary Baker Eddy overcome an illness and she used many of his teachings and techniques in developing the Christian Science Church. Though Quimby used hypnosis to help her, she denounced hypnosis while using its techniques. Though many in various churches opposed to hypnosis are using the principles of hypnosis (relaxation, concentration, suggestion, repetition) in their healing services, they denounce hypnosis. For those who oppose hypnosis on religious grounds, I remind them of the words of Baptist Van Helmont, “Hypnosis is a universal agent … and is a paradox only to those who are deposed to ridicule everything and who ascribe to Satan all phenomena which they cannot explain.”
Then 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.”
The late Pope Pius give 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 gave 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 used. (3) Under the aspect of anesthesia, it is governed by the same principles as other forms of anesthesia. This is to say that the rules of good medicine apply to the use of hypnosis.
Except for exceptions noted, no other Protestant or Orthodox Churches have any laws against the proper-ethical use of hypnosis. 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 Eastern Faiths: Buddhism, Yoga, Shintoism, Hinduism and others approve the use of hypnosis and they often use hypnosis in their worship. The Moslem religion has no opposition to hypnosis that I have been able to discover.
In his book Angels of Light, Herbert E. Freeman includes hypnosis as one of the practices which are commended by God. He quotes Deuteronomy 18:9 following in which God warns, “Thou shalt not learn to do after the abomination of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone … that useth divination (fortuneteller), or an observer of times (Soothsayers), or an enchanter (magician), or a consorter with familiar spirits (medium, possessed with a spirit, or spirit guide), or a witch (sorcerer), or a charmer (hypnotist) or a wizard (clairvoyant or psychic), for all that do these thing are an abomination unto the Lord.” The words in parenthesis are Mr. Freeman’s inserts. I feel that Mr. Freeman has misinterpreted much in these verses and especially the interpretation of “charmer” as “hypnotist.” The Interpreter’s Bible states that “charmer” refers to those who conjure up magical spells. The Pulpit Commentary reads, “A charmer is a dealer in spells, one who by means of spells or charms pretends to achieve some desired results. The verb here used primarily means to bind, and the species of magic indicated is probably that practiced by binding certain knots, whereby it was supposed that the curse or blessing, as the case maybe, was a bond on its object. This was accomplished apparently by incantations… A species of incantations known to Romans consisted in tying knots with threads of different colors, there in number, which was supposed to become a bond to secure the object.”
In their book, The Holy Spirit and You, Dennis and Rita Bennett have shown a profound dislike and misunderstanding of hypnosis by declaring, “Hypnosis is particularly dangerous because it is thought to be a valid form of therapy in psychology and psychiatry, or an alternative anesthesia in medicine and dentistry”. The Bennett add, “The fact is the hypnotist, by placing the soul in a passively receptive state even when the hypnotist has no such intention, opens the door to morbid spiritual influences that my bring oppression that lasts for years. Until the person is delivered by prayer and exorcism … Do not allow yourself the by hypnotized for any reason whatsoever.” By these statement, the Bennett’s show their prejudice and total misunderstanding of hypnosis. If their interpretation is correct, the Bennett’s should also be concerned about prayer, meditation, chemical anesthesia, and going to sleep (for that period just before you go to sleep is a natural state of hypnosis) for the individual is in a similar state to hypnosis in all those situations. Jesus indicated by his teachings that we should help people to live life to the fullest and to relieve pain whenever possible. Hypnosis is a means to help people live a better and more abundant life and is a means of reducing and/or eliminating pain. Would the Bennett’s suggest that we should not use chemical anesthesia for surgery because we might open our mind to evil spirits? Perhaps they agree with the doctor at Dr. Esdaile’s trail who stated the use of hypnosis as an anesthesia was sacrilegious because God meant for people to feel pain?
In their book, Hypnosis and Christianity, Martin and Deidra Bagdon show their lack of knowledge when they wrote, “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 science and medicine for some Christians with little proof of its validity, longevity of its results or understanding of its nature. Because so many unanswered questions about its usefulness and so many potential dangers about its usage, Christians would be wise to shun hypnosis.” I ask, “What unanswered questions about its usefulness and what are the potential dangers?”
The Bagdon’s should be reminded that people have been harmed by the misuse of the Christian religion as well as all other religions. Should one not be a Christian because some have misused it? Should one not go to a Christian healer because some Christian healers have misused the concept for their own gain? The Bagdon’s apparently have not studied hypnosis or have not studied it without bias, or they would not be afraid of its use. If studied and understood, they might even come to appreciate the value of hypnosis. Many of God’s gifts have been used incorrectly, but that should not distract from the gift when used for the benefit of mankind and to the glory of God. God blesses all our activities that are beneficial to people.
Hypnosis should not be condemned as anti-religious just because some people misuse it. Some oppose hypnosis because the say it is used by the occult, but do they condemn prayer because prayer is used for occultic purposes? Hypnosis can be a very helpful tool in counseling. Without apology and when appropriate, hypnosis can be used for growth, health and the benefit of people. In an address to the National Association of Clergy Hypnotherapist, Reverend Fred R. Krauss reported that religion has traditionally used hypnotic techniques in a variety of ways. The atmosphere of the religious service is geared to the induction of the trance state. The architecture, decor and religious symbols have a profound spiritual effect on believers. The alter, cross and flickering candles provide a fixation point for concentration and medication. In prayer, most Christians bow their head and close their eyes which can be a very similar experience to hypnosis. While preparing for this seminar and coming from a Methodist background. It was interesting to learn that the use of eye closure in prayer probably began with the revivals of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodism. Because Wesley was not allowed to preach in the pulpit of most of the established churches, he began to preach outside. Deprived of the usual eye fixation points provided by the religious symbols (candles, crosses, altars, etc.) and bothered by the discomforts and distractions of the open-air gatherings, the preacher had to rely on enthusiasm and other means to hold the audience’s attention. “Bow your heads and close your eyes” became a regular part of the services. The practice became standardized and s not used throughout most Christian churches. Reverend Krauss continues by stating that it has been said that prayer and medication were the nicest hypnotic inductions of all. Everything is there that should be, including a harmony of body, mind, and spirit that enhances our communication with God. By assuring the appropriate posture, closing eyes, bowing heads, listening and responding with, “Amen.” Praying in silence draws attention from the outer to the inner world of reality. In the sermon, the pastor uses voice inflections, modulations and repetitive ideas with anecdotes, Bible stories, and other illustrations.
Prayer and medication are traditional Christian disciplines that parallel what we call auto-suggestion. Of course, the auto-suggestions are not the only aspects of prayer for through prayer, we are able to open our minds to God. When we are open and responsive, prayer is basically communication with God. If I understand Reverend Krauss, he is pointing out that the use of hypnotic procedures in worship and Christian experience is blessed by God. During counseling and hypnotherapy, I often tell a story to bring home a point or allow the client hearing the story to come to his or her own meaning to the story. Roger Ring in a seminar conducted at a past College of Chaplains convention called these “Parables, Metaphors, and Healing Stories.” Jesus often spoke in parables or used stories which still bring to mind vivid word pictures which teaches something important about life.
The writer of Proverbs 23:7 states that as a person thinketh in his/her heart so is he/she. St. Paul wrote, “Whatsoever man soweth that shall he reap.” (Gal 6:7) This says to me that what is shown by the conscious mind through thoughts and images into the subconscious mind tends to become a reality. Mental images give the subconscious mind a model to work towards: good or bad. Illustration: Think back to a time when you were angry; feel it, experience it and let it go. Think back to a time when you were really happy; feel it, experience and keep it. By thought, you make feelings present again. The use of positive imagery improves life and health. Until there is an image in the mind there can be no reality. All great inventions began with a thought in the mind. The inventor was able to visualize or image the invention before he could bring it to reality. The same is true of great music, great writing, great living. The author of Proverbs 28:18 also wrote that where there is no vision, the people perish.
Chaplain Paul G. Durbin is a United Methodist Minister.
Chaplin (Brigadier General) United States Army: Retired 1989
Director of Pastoral Care & Clinical Hypnotherapy: Methodist Hospital, New Orleans, LA: Retired 2001
Director of Pastoral Care & Clinical Hypnotherapy: MHSF, Affiliated with Methodist Hospital: Retired June 30, 2005
Chaplain Durbin has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Centenary College of Louisiana; a Master of Divinity from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; PhD from the American Institute of Hypnotherapy, Irvine, California, now American Pacific University in Hawaii, and has completed four quarters of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed A.M.C., Washington, D.C.
He has had over 100 articles published in religious and hypnotherapy journals and conducted seminars on such subjects as “Pastoral Care,” “Death, Dying and Greif,” “Stress Management,” “False Memory Syndrome,” “Ethical Consideration in Health Care,” “Hypnosis,” and “Hypnotherapy.”
He has written three books:Human Trinity Hypnotherapy in 1993 which is out of print. Kissing Frogs; Practical Uses of Hypnotherapy published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company in 1996, Kissing Frogs received the “Pen and Quill Award” from NBHA and “Outstanding Performance Award” from IMDHA. Hypnotherapy for Body, Mind and Spirit is available from Access Services www.tranceaccess.com. Chaplain Durbin can be found at www.durbinhypnosis.com.