By Don Ruhl
One of the many dangers associated with hypnosis is that symptoms are treated rather than the real problems, such when a person has gone to a hypnotist because of guilt. The hypnotist will try to relieve the feelings of guilt, but in truth the guilt is still there because the sin is still there. Forgiveness comes only through Jesus Christ.
Another danger of hypnosis is that it gives a false of security, which can lead to avoiding the true solution. Take the example of guilt again. If a person finds relief from the feelings of guilt, but is still outside Christ, that person will not seek forgiveness from Jesus, thinking that there is no guilt to be removed. That person will then come into the Judgment bearing his guilt!
Another danger of hypnosis is that it brings a person under the control of another person. Hypnotism allows the patient to be put under the control of another person in ways that the Bible forbids. First Corinthians 7:23 says, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” This is one of the dangers of cults; another person is being allowed to control us, and hypnosis falls under the same category. One writer said, “The hypnotized individual does not consider consequences or alternatives to the focused idea and becomes extremely open to suggestion.” 1
Two paragraphs later the writer demonstrated how easy it is to be deceived while in hypnosis when subjects were told to imagine that one of their hands felt like a helium balloon. Some received the suggestion, thus being deluded into believing a lie. Others did not receive the suggestion, showing that hypnosis is not a reliable way to discover the truth. James Braid, who invented hypnosis, shows us just how much the hypnotized individual can be controlled by the hypnotist when he noticed that, “Ideas suggested to the patient by the hypnotist, if reasonable, were carried out. Ideas suggested by another person were apparently unheard, unless the hypnotist told the patient to hear and heed them.” 2
From A Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytical Terms, 3 “A person under hypnosis shows extreme responsiveness to any suggestion made by the hypnotist.” This susceptibility to suggestion can lead the patient to depend on the hypnotist for peace of mind rather than Jesus Christ. A supporter of hypnosis has himself said, “The greatest danger, in my view, is that if hypnotic treatments are carried on many times over long periods, hypnosis seems to induce an emotional dependence of the patient on the hypnotist” 4
John MacArthur calls hypnosis, “a form of shamanism made respectable by secular psychology…” 5
He also wrote that hypnosis offers the same promises as psychology in general, “Christian bookstores are full of books advising believers to ‘look deep within’; ‘get in touch with your inner self’; ‘explore the recesses of your past fears, hurts, and disappointments’; and ‘find the real answers to your problems within your own heart.’ Why? Because ‘the answers lie deep within.’” 6
Every student of the Bible knows that the Holy Spirit urges us to look to Jesus (Heb 12:1, 2).
Yet another danger of hypnosis is that the patient will be deceived into believing that the truth of a memory has been discovered. Leslie D. Weatherhead, who was a friend of hypnosis and used it, also tries to reassure us that any moral difficulties are not to be worried about because of the following reasons (but in saying these things he also shows the weaknesses of hypnosis),
The first is that it is inaccurate to suppose that a hypnotised patient will disclose a closely guarded secret and answer any question. 7
The second is that it is inaccurate to suppose that an indecent act could be perpetrated on a hypnotised subject if it offended his moral scruples, or that he could be induced to commit a crime. 8
The idea that by hypnotising a patient the psychologist can “get anything out of him that he wants to know” is fallacious. In the first place, only a proportion of patients are hypnotisable. The proportion of those who can be deeply hypnotised is, in my experience, very small. To attempt hypnosis and to fail to induce it sometimes gives the patient the impression either that he is difficult to cure or that the psychologist is incompetent. 9
In the second place, it is by no means true that a hypnotised patient will answer truthfully any question put to him. 10
The problem is that memory is not perfect, but can be influenced in many ways. There is a phenomenon known as False Memory Syndrome, and there is even an organization dealing with this, because many parents have been hurt by their children claiming sexual abuse and satanic ritual abuse, when these ideas were only planted in the mind of the child by a psychotherapist; sometimes suggested during hypnosis.
Charles Morris, who authored a textbook on psychology, wrote, “Hypnosis can also create hallucinations that are so realistic that subjects cannot easily determine whether they are real or the products of their own minds.” 11
He went on to say that the nature of hypnosis is unresolved for two reasons, the second of which is that the reactions of hypnotized people “are necessarily subjective and varying.” 12
Martin and Deidre Bobgan have written, “Research shows that hypnosis is just as likely to dredge up false information as true accounts of past events. In addition, studies have shown that individuals can and do lie under hypnosis.” 13
Again from the Bobgans, this time quoting Bernard Diamond, a professor of law and clinical professor of psychiatry, says that hypnotized persons “graft onto their memories fantasies or suggestions deliberately or unwittingly communicated by the hypnotist.” 14
One reason that people put faith in hypnosis is that they believe that somehow memories are kept hidden in the mind unadulterated. The truth is that our memories are influenced:
• By what we want to remember
• By other people
• By lies
Jeremiah 29:8 reveals that we can even create dreams and memories of things that never took place,
For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed.
Furthermore, people turn to hypnosis for the following reasons:
• Removal of guilt
• Relief of stress
• Treatment of sexual abuse
• Personality stabilization
• Prevention of self-destructive behavior
• Relief from anxiety
If hypnosis really takes care of these things, why did God not include it in the Scriptures? Has God kept us from something that is profitable and helpful for us to live life successfully? Not according to the Jesus Christ-appointed and Holy Spirit-inspired apostle Paul, who reminded the Ephesian elders that when he preached in their city he, “kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you” (Acts 20:20).
However, hypnosis is not found in any of his preaching in the Book of Acts, nor is it taught anywhere in Paul’s writings. We do have the assurance that by knowing God and Jesus Christ fully we have all the tools that we need for life and godliness (2Pe 1:2–4); and that by knowing the Scriptures we are equipped to perform any good work (2Ti 3:16, 17); and that God by His grace makes us sufficient for every good work (2Co 9:8); and that Jesus promised the apostles the Holy Spirit would reveal to them all the truth, and they in turn would reveal it to us (John 16:13). Notwithstanding there is not a commandment, or suggestion, that we use hypnosis! Hypnosis claims to deal with the same things that Scripture deals with (mentioned above), so it would seem that God would have included it, if it truly works.
Philippians 4:6, 7 would have been the opportune time to inject hypnotism, but the silence speaks volumes,
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Hypnosis is also faulty because it assumes that there is a subconscious; and that it controls our life; and that everything in our life is recorded perfectly in the so-called subconscious.
The following quote will demonstrate how our memories cannot be relied upon to give an accurate account or how they can add details:
…Americans were spellbound before their television sets, watching Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas clash over their recollections of events a decade past. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are still fresh in our minds, but how many of us remember exactly what the two adversaries said, what they wore, the expressions on their faces and the tone of their voices? And 10 years from now, when we think back, how faithful will our memories be? Will we remember Hill’s tears at one particularly painful disclosure of sexual harassment, and Thomas thumping the table as he decried the hearing as a high-tech lynching of an uppity black?
Those with sharp memories will have noticed two errors in the preceding paragraph: Hill’s voice may have sometimes wavered, but she never cried, and Thomas may have thundered with his voice but never with his fist. Even if memory fails to retain these details, how many Americans will accurately retain the essence of the events? Will our memories reflect the truth? 15
An interesting item was that Sigmund Freud abandoned hypnosis, in one sense. Thomas Szasz says concerning Sigmund Freud, “He switched to the ritualized repression called hypnosis, and then to the ceremonial conversation which he called ‘psychoanalysis,’ because he believed that electrotherapy and hypnosis were pretenses.” 16
Szasz also says that psychoanalysis is a reshaping of hypnosis by Sigmund Freud. 17
Szasz says that hypnosis is nothing more than “a conversation between patient and doctor, and that this simple fact was disguised by a scientific-sounding Greek term that legitimized them as therapeutic interventions.” 18
Szasz quotes Pierre Janet, who was defending hypnotism,
The relationship of a hypnotisable patient to a hypnotist does not differ in any essential way from the relationship of a lunatic to the superintendent of an asylum. By accepting this outlook, those who practice suggestion and hypnotism would escape a good many moral difficulties – difficulties which never trouble alienists. 19
Remember that only God can see the imagination and the thoughts as they really are. In a prayer to God King Solomon said, “…for You, only You, know the hearts of all the sons of men” (1Ki 8:39), which Solomon probably remembered his father David saying, “…the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (1Ch 28:9). These statements from David and Solomon cannot be said about any humans, including preachers, elders, parents, spouses, therapists, hypnotists, or any others.
Therefore, only God knows perfectly what happened in the past. E. Fuller Torrey says, “in an altered state of consciousness the patient may incorporate the analyst’s frame of causation as self-hypnosis – ‘I do want to sleep with my mother.’” 20
He also said concerning hypnosis, “It has also been described as a therapeutic technique used by Apache Indian shamans and Washo Indian shamans.” 21
“Hypnosis is one aspect of the yoga techniques of therapeutic meditation…” 22
With these facts from Scripture and from the writings of psychologists and hypnotists themselves, why would any Christian want to trust his life to hypnosis? The Lord has blessed us with the all-sufficient Scriptures, and with prayer and the other things that we have examined. Let us learn to trust Him for peace of mind and success in life.
1 B. Bower, “Post-traumatic stress disorder: Hypnosis and the divided self,” Science News, March 26, 1988, p. 197.
2 Leslie D. Weatherhead, Psychology, Religion and Healing, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1952, p. 109.
3 Horace B. English and Ava Champney English, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1958, p. 245.
4 Weatherhead, op. cit., p. 120.
5 Our Sufficiency in Christ, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991, p. 93.
6 Ibid., p. 94.
7 Op. cit., p. 118.
9 Ibid., p. 305.
11 Psychology, An Introduction, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1985, p. 128.
12 Ibid., p. 129.
13 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Hypnosis and the Christian, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1984, p. 25.
14 12 Steps to Destruction: Codependency Recovery Heresies, Santa Barbara, California: EastGate Publishers, 1991, p. 156.
15 Anastasia Toufexis, “When Can Memories Be Trusted?” Time, October 28, 1991, p. 86.
16 The Myth of Psychotherapy, Syracuse University Press, 1988, p. 97.
17 Ibid., p. 107.
19 Ibid., p. 185
20 The Mind Game: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists, New York, New York: Bantam Books, 1972, p. 80.