Should a Christian ever get involved with hypnosis/hypnotism?





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Many of the techniques used in hypnosis are shared by mystical, philosophical, and religious systems, including the occult. The “father of hypnotism,” Franz Anton Mesmer—from whose name we get the word mesmerize—was himself a practitioner of the occult.


Hypnosis is problematic for a Christian for several reasons:

1) The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). As we follow the Spirit’s lead, He will give us the power to better control our own selves. Hypnosis involves the transfer of control away from ourselves to another person.

2) We are to yield ourselves—body, soul, and spirit—to God. Romans 6:12-13 gives us the formula for overcoming sin: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” It’s about control—as Christians, we can let sin control us, or we can let God control us. (See also Romans 6:16-23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-12; and James 4:6-7.) The scriptural formula leaves no room for hypnosis (yielding ourselves to a fellow human being).

3) Hypnosis leads to an altered state of consciousness in which the mind is very susceptible to outside suggestion. That susceptibility is what the hypnotist needs in order to modify the behavior of his subject. However, the word susceptible should concern us. Scripture says to be watchful and “self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The hypnotist is not the only one who wants to modify our behavior; Satan also wants to do some modifying, and we should be wary of giving him any opportunity to make his suggestions.

4) Hypnotism is often promoted as a simple way of “refocusing” ourselves and finding the answer within us. As believers in Christ, our focus is to be on our Savior, not on ourselves or anything else (Hebrews 12:2). We know that the answers do not lie within us (Romans 7:18); the solution we need is found in Christ (Romans 8:2).

5) Many of the techniques used in hypnosis are shared by mystical, philosophical, and religious systems, including the occult. The “father of hypnotism,” Franz Anton Mesmer—from whose name we get the word mesmerize—was himself a practitioner of the occult. His method of inducing a trance was very similar to the way a medium conducts a séance. Hypnotism, along with yoga and Transcendental Meditation, has always been linked to spiritual darkness. The newfound respectability of these practices has not changed their underlying nature.

Dangers of and defenses against hypnosis

The first obvious danger is careless or dangerous hypnotic suggestions. Hypnosis is a form of brainwashing, and can be used to similar effect. Improperly or maliciously done, it can alter memories and beliefs in a damaging way.

Another danger is the limited training of hypno-“therapists.” Hypnotherapists may be trained in hypnosis, but not necessarily in counseling. They are not equipped to deal with the underlying issues that resulted in the problem, and may just cover up something that needs to be fully dealt with.

There are two groups of people who are somewhat protected from hypnosis. The first is those who don’t want to be hypnotized, who deliberately keep their decision-making and critical thinking sections “on”. These people cannot be hypnotized by conventional means, although they may still be susceptible to covert hypnosis. The second group, as discovered by Stanford’s School of Medicine, have a disconnect between the decision-making and critical thinking sections of their brain. It may be that while most people remove processing power from their decision-making and critical thinking sections evenly, others have a double gate-guard—hypnosis may get through one but not the other.

The Christian response

There has been talk among Christians that hypnosis may open the mind to demonic influence. We don’t know how this works, exactly, but it is possible. When a person’s critical-thinking and decision making skills are turned off and their internal imagination cranked up, they are more susceptible to lies and harmful influences. This would seem to be a ripe time for a demonic attack. In fact, 1 Peter 5:8 warns us that we need to be self-controlled (make our own decision) and alert (think critically) to be protected against the enemy. And hypnosis has long been associated with those in the occult who want to reach evil spirits. This may even explain startlingly detailed “memories” that people wouldn’t normally have (Acts 16:16-18).

It’s interesting to note how critical thinking and decision-making skills guard what comes into the mind in light of Proverbs 4:23 (NIV): “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” When we put the guards to sleep, our hearts are left undefended, which directly influences our actions. Even if the hypnotist is working for our benefit, the risk of danger is phenomenal.

The Bible validates this. Galatians 5:22-23 mentions that we need to control ourselves, not give control to someone else. Romans 6:12-13 says we need to submit ourselves to God, not someone else. Romans 6:16 warns us against submitting our decisions to another. Despite the success stories, despite how much we may trust the hypnotist, the Bible tells us to stay away from anyone trying to control our minds.