Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
I’ve often heard that people being hypnotized are under the control of the hypnotist. My pastor teaches us that we should never relinquish control of our minds to anyone. An open mind might open the door to a satanic attack. I’m confused. Hypnotherapy seems to work very well in helping individuals gain healing and relief in numerous areas. What should Christians think of hypnosis? Specifically, is hypnotism okay for Christians?
The word hypnosis traces its origin from the third century B. C. The Greek word “hypnos” which means “dream.” Today, many are the thoughts and theories about the success as well as the danger of hypnosis. Those who believe in and practice hypnosis arrange a positive definition. Those who don’t believe in it have a different definition.
Here is a negative definition: “The induction of a state of consciousness in which a person loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction.”
Here is a positive definition: “Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.”
Here is my favorite definition: “A state which resembles sleep but is produced by a person who can then make suggestions to which the person in this state can respond.”
While most people think of hypnosis as a way to get somebody to bark like a dog, or hop like a rabbit, or take off their clothes when a certain word is spoken, hypnosis can be a valuable tool in helping people overcome fear, reduce stress and anxiety, conquer agoraphobia and stop smoking. For example, people who have been smoking for years, no longer smoke due to hypnotherapy and at a much higher rate than patches, gum or drugs.
We might say that hypnosis consists of three types. First, Stage hypnosis is a comical, entertaining show. Second, hypnotherapy can be quite beneficial in helping reduce unwanted behaviors and enhance wanted ones. Finally, self-hypnosis can be quite effective in helping people enter into the positive aspects of meditation.
In many ways hypnosis is simply deeply-focused meditation where good things can take place. The Bible is filled with injunctions for Christians to meditate upon the word of God. Twice Peter entered into meditative states and the Bible approved his “trances” both times. Isaiah, Daniel, Paul and Jeremiah all experienced times of hypnotic trance and heightened awareness inspired by God to give them deep insights into his person and character.
Is there any passage in the Bible that forbids hypnosis?
No. Opponents of hypnosis turn to Deuteronomy 18:9-13. As the Israelites are entering into the Promised Land God gives them a warning not to enter into the practices in the pagan lands ahead. God said: “let there be found no wanted sacrifices his child in the fire; stay away from those who practice divination and sorcery, engaging witchcraft; cast spells… Opponents focus on the Hebrew term “cast spells” as being the same as hypnosis. Their interpretation is really a stretch.
What Christian groups approve the use of hypnosis? Are there any Christians groups that expressly forbid it?
Roman Catholics, the Anglican Church and Lutherans actively support and utilize hypnosis in helping people. On the other hand, the Church of Christ, the Seventh-day Adventists, the evangelical church, fundamentalists and charismatics tend to preach and teach against it. Most churches and groups are in the middle where hypnosis is really not an issue.
What are the benefits of hypnosis?
As mentioned earlier, hypnotherapy can tap the resources within us to help heal our hurts, cure unwanted or unhealthy behaviors and enhance our well-being. Hypnotherapy gives a person the power to use what he or she already possesses, but has not been able to access or control. During hypnosis many people gain control over bad habits, fears, phobias, and anxiety— just to mention a few areas.
Since hypnosis is all about intense focus which removes peripheral distractions, we may use it as a tool for Christian meditation which is helpful in allowing us to experience the person and character of Christ. I suppose that this state is best produced through the process of self-hypnosis as opposed to the other kinds.
Let me recommend to you the book “Experiencing The Depths Of Jesus Christ,” by a 15th century, fourteen-year-old French girl named Madam Guyon. Catholic Leaders of her time demanded that she recant the teachings of the book because her basic premise was that anyone, at any time, could come into contact with the living God-- without having to go through a Catholic priest.
She teaches us how to quiet our minds and move into deep meditation focusing on a Bible story, event, person, verse or phrase.
What she’s really doing is teaching us how we can experience Christ through the art of deep meditation, or what might be described as self-hypnosis.
What are the risks involved in hypnotherapy?
First, it is important to get a proper diagnosis before beginning. A wrong diagnosis could be harmful.
Second, the therapist, or hypnotist, must be appropriately trained and someone who you trust implicitly. Ascertain that their character and values line up with yours. In this regard, I would certainly opt for a Christian therapist. Remember though, just because someone is a Christian does not mean that they are best to the exclusion of all others. In other words, a well-trained and experienced non-Christian therapist might be much more effective than a poor-quality-Christian therapist.
Third, invite a family member or close friend to sit in on the session. After all, the therapist is working with your brain and it’s important to have the safe back-up of a trusted companion to observe what’s going on and be certain that all is well.
Can hypnosis open the door of my mind to a satanic attack?
In spiritual warfare it’s important to remember that every area of our lives not under the direct care and influence of the Holy Spirit is open to control by a demonic spirit. Notice the difference between control and influence. God intends for us to be free to make our own decisions. He will never take control of our minds. However he influences us by the Spirit who lives within us.
On the other hand, Satan desires to take control of our minds. That’s why Paul warns us to take every thought captive: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Paul says that we must be careful to guard what goes into our minds lest we open up an unprotected area where Satan can gain control.
So the question is, “Can hypnosis open my mind in any way that might allow Satan to get control of my thinking?” Unexpectedly for many of us, the truth is that during hypnosis, we often have more control over our minds than ever before. Just because we may be more susceptible to suggestions in no way means that we lose control of our minds and do things that we never intended to do.
Let me close with a word of caution. Not all hypnosis is safe. So be careful.
For example, the occult world uses it as a staple. In the hands of the wrong people I believe that it can do much harm.
Well, Julie, I hope that I have cleared up some of your “confusion.” May God give you grace and peace.
Publication date: November 5, 2015