Should Christians avoid hypnosis, or benefit from it? Christians, like non-Christians, can benefit from hypnosis. In itself, hypnosis is neither good nor bad. Neither right nor wrong.
You can use a knife to cut your food, or to kill someone. Similarly, you can use hypnosis to build self-confidence, lose weight, and have a tooth out without anaesthetic and without pain. Or you can use it in voodoo rituals to scare people and make them susceptible to occult practices.
But you also may be taking medication that you may not know is derived from plants that jungle shamans and medicine men have used for centuries in non-Christian spiritual healings. Many of the largest pharmaceutical companies have worked side by side with shamans to find ingredients that the shamans have used in healing. Do we refuse to take life-saving drugs because their roots are in sorcery? Of course not.
Informed Christians rarely take a stand against hypnosis these days because the benefits are so well documented. A Harvard study showed that hypnosis helped broken bones heal faster and also that women who had breast surgery recovered much more quickly after hypnosis.
Those who strongly oppose it have failed to document examples to prove their case. Some opponents even use bad logic by saying that because we can’t explain how hypnosis works then it must be bad. Can they explain how their thought processes work? How planes fly? How bees make honey? Perhaps they should ban thought, air travel, honey products, and everything else they don’t understand.
Myths and questions about being hypnotized
Q. Isn’t hypnosis hocus-pocus? I’ve heard that it doesn’t work.
A. You’ve heard wrongly. It is true that some people benefit from hypnosis more than others, and a few don’t benefit at all. But most people can go into a relaxed hypnotic state within a few sessions deep enough to cure them of bad habits or unwanted behavior.
Q. As a Christian, isn’t it wrong to let someone hypnotise me, because I would not be aware of what they are doing to me while I’m in hypnosis?
A. Christians who say this usually have no problem allowing a doctor, even a non-Christian doctor, to anaesthetize them if they have to undergo surgery. Yet they don’t know what the doctor is doing while they are unconscious. In hypnosis you are usually well aware of what is happening, so it would seem to be an advantage to have surgery under hypnosis rather than submitting to being made unconscious. This is especially so for those who are allergic to medication or needles. People can have surgery under hypnosis instead of having anaesthetic, and often recover faster. They can remain awake during the surgery without feeling pain. Millions have benefited from self-hypnosis, which doesn’t require a hypnotist to constantly give you suggestions. You can learn self-hypnosis from CDs and audiotapes, and can listen to them first to find out what the hypnotist is saying. If you don’t agree with some of it, you can make your own hypnotic recording with wording you completely agree with. So the argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Is Hypnosis Against Christianity?
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. Does hypnosis or self-hypnosis bring permanent change? If I use it to improve concentration while I study, will I keep this better concentration forever.
A. It will last as long as you use hypnosis for that purpose, and a little longer. We know Christians who have used self-hypnosis so they could get rid of their fear of public speaking and give speeches and sermons confidently, or to lose weight. When they have given the speeches, or lost weight, and stopped hypnosis, within a year they were almost back to their former state. A person who suffered from hereditary nosebleeds learned self-hypnosis successfully and was able to stop the nosebleeds quickly for more than 10 years. They rarely occurred after that. Hypnosis will work long-term if you keep practicing it occasionally. You can liken it to a sportsperson who trains to give peak performances in running, swimming, or tennis. While they train, they do well at their sport. But when they stop training they get out of condition.
Q. Are there any recent examples of hypnosis being used in surgery?
A. Plenty! A fascinating example was reported in Medical News Today on April 19, 2008. Hypnotist Alex Lenkei of Worthing, England, hypnotized himself for an operation on his hand that lasted more than an hour. He needed no anaesthetic at any time during the operation, and was fully conscious while doctors removed bone in his thumb. I know a hospital nurse that was in a severe accident and had to undergo seven significant facial surgeries. She use self hypnosis in each event. Of course, an anesthesiologist was there in case she sipped out of trance, but there were no problems in any case. Her healing from each surgery was remarkably swift and painless. Recently, there have been open heart surgeries with only hypnosis as anesthetic. And the list goes on…
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. Likewise with hypnosis. God has given us a mind that is able to cure many ailments without drugs, and praise Him for giving this to us. If we choose to ignore a power of the mind that our Creator has given us, that is a choice we are free to make. But it is not the only choice, and is not necessarily the right one.
Q. What is the difference between hypnosis and other types of trances, such as Transcendental Meditation, yoga, or Zen Buddhism?
A. The state is similar for all non-drug, trance-like states. The trance state is around the point where your consciousness borders on sleep. We all pass through this point every night as we relax and drift into sleep. But the reason for staying in this state a little longer differs in its purpose.
Transcendental Meditation may calm people down, but it requires them to repeat the name of a Hindu god while they are meditating, so it is unsuitable for Christians. In deep Christian meditation and intense prayer, your thoughts usually focus on some aspect of God or the Bible, and you allow God to refresh your mind or show you some insight into Him or His Word. The purpose of hypnosis is usually to improve you in some way — such as curing asthma, helping you stop gambling, improving your sport skills, or helping you overcome fears. But it has also been greatly helpful in other ways, such as in court cases to extract forgotten information from a witness. Dr. Nicolai Dahl used hypnosis successfully to cure the great Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff of writer’s block when Rachmaninoff suddenly lost his ability to compose music.
What Does The Bible Say About Hypnosis?
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.) The trance-like state you enter in self-hypnosis seems to parallel some of the trances and visionary states in the Bible (for example Numbers 24:4; Daniel 2:19; Acts 10:10, 11:5, 22:17; Revelation 1:10). In strongly focused deep prayer and meditation you may drift into a hypnotic trance. The Apostle Peter said he was praying and in a trance when he saw a vision (Acts 11:5; 10:10).
The common negative Bible verse opponents raise against hypnosis is Deuteronomy 18:10–11, but as we saw earlier, this doesn’t refer to hypnosis because the description is wrong.
Christians who say hypnosis may lead to demon possession, or may seduce Christians into the occult, are confusing practice with purpose. Voodoo priests in Africa have a different purpose for using hypnosis than do doctors in London and New York treating patients for allergies or stage fright.
It is unfortunate that some Christians who have had no experience with hypnosis bear false witness on the subject by ignoring the purpose and implying that all hypnosis is of the voodoo style. They instil fear in people who may greatly benefit from hypnosis. If they really believe hypnosis is always wrong because it has occult roots, they certainly should also protest against medications that have come from ancient jungle shaman knowledge. And where are the documented cases of demon possession in someone who has used hypnosis to cure something like nail biting or nervousness before exams? There is more evidence of priests and pastors leading people astray than professionally administered hypnosis doing harm.
In Genesis 3:21 we read that God “caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam” while He created Eve. Of course we can trust God to look after us if he puts us into a deep sleep. So we would also want to be able to trust any hypnotist who was going to lead us into hypnosis. But you can learn self-hypnosis from CDs and tapes, so you can hypnotize yourself each day or every few days to make the changes you want.
It may not be wise to have someone hypnotise you when there are no witnesses present if you have doubts about hypnosis or the hypnotist. And it is not wise to let amateurs hypnotize you, because they may not give you suggestions effectively.
There are dangers also in using hypnosis to evoke “repressed memories”. Hypnotized subjects can make up elaborate and convincing stories if they think that’s what the hypnotist wants. And this could shatter someone’s life if people think these stories are true.
But as far as helping you get rid of phobias, bad habits, and perhaps having pain-free surgery, a reputable hypnotherapist (particularly a mature Christian if you are concerned about the hypnotist’s religious beliefs) may be able to help you enormously.