Over the years I have been asked a great deal about how I deal with those religious references of hypnosis and how the religious fraternity sometimes react to the field of hypnosis. .
When I first started running my self-hypnosis seminars around 15 years ago out of a comprehensive school in my humble beginnings, there was a church group who met up and used the school hall on Sunday mornings and after they had finished, they would look at me suspiciously when we had tea breaks and many would come and ask me about it and some even suggested I was opening people’s mind’s to the devil himself with my hypnosis.
Those that know me know that I was schooled at a Church of England School and come from a Church going family and though I am an atheist today, I am not ignorant to the workings of religion and the Christian faith.
That is a discussion for another forum and another day and not really relevant to my article here. My job has never been to attempt to persuade and convert every religious individual who is cynical or fearing of hypnosis. However, over the years, many people, books and presentations I have encountered have offered up snippets of references from the Bible that some have suggested could be references to hypnotic phenomena and hypnosis. I thought today, I’d share a collection of them with you.
I do write this with my tongue firmly in my cheek at times, and although prayer and certain forms of worship could be considered by some as historical precursors to a wide number of personal development tools of today, I am making no such claims here.
This week I had a paper pointed out to me by Glasner (1951) entitled A note on allusions to hypnosis in the Bible and Talmud. It made for some fascinating reading and I thought I’d share a couple of my findings from there here, especially those points I see getting discussed in forums and within other articles on the subjects of hypnosis and religion on the internet. It is a very enjoyable and intriguing read and I recommend it highly.
1. Firstly then, the quote I share with my students in class often when we are looking at using hypnosis for anaesthesia with the biblical reference to Adam’s sleep used to take his rib and use it to create Eve:
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam”
2. The power of words used in the Bible is often likened to the use of suggestion. Here it is suggested that words used by the self are used to accomplished pleasing ends:
“So shall my word be that that goeth forth out of mouth. It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please. . . .”
Book of Isaiah (55:11)
3. James Braid did not actually coin the term ‘hypnosis’ until the mid 1800s, yet his use of eye fixation could be interpreted in a reference in the Old testament. One particular biblical passage in the book of Genesis talks about the “holding of the eyes.”
The use of the eyes in hypnosis induction is so commonplace today that we even had BBC TV’s Little Britain character Kenny Craig famously suggesting that people “look into my eyes, not around the eyes” and so on. More early references to the powerful use of eyes are seen in Genesis (44:21) whereby “to set the eyes” on anyone means to perceive them in a favourable light.
4. There a number of references for the notion of “God’s Word” being delivered with some power, like direct suggestion almost:
“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
The notion also suggested that the power of God was inherent within his Word:
“The Word once spoken runs an independent course and it possesses an intrinsic force—a creative principle”
Comparing God’s words with the power of suggestion and authoritarian commands may seem like clutching, but heck, I have seen many people consider this and refer to it.
5. Being a major proponent and researcher and explorer of all things self-hypnosis, I have seen Jewish mysticism offer up notions of processes which could be likened to the self-hypnosis used by many today:
“Concentrate on the great name of God; to imagine its radiant letters between their eyes and to fix all their attention on it”
(Scholem, 1941, p. 143).
Then there is the New Testament which also contains a number of references about how words have the power to affect people. Heck, you only need to read the following passage to understand as much;
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”
6. Now we move on to references of ‘trance.’ I have issues with the suggestion that hypnosis and trance are the same – you can read my take on that here on this blog about referring to hypnosis as trance.
However, these are the types of references that get proliferated within the hypnosis field, and as I am being a tad tongue-in-cheek with this article, I’ll not get too bogged down with definitions of hypnosis and the use of ‘trance’ terminology.
Saint Paul himself said that he was in;
“a state of trance in which his mind and body were separated while praying in the temple at Jerusalem”
Again, scientific perspectives today and most respected academics tend to reject the notion of duality of mind such as those used by “conscious/subconscious” models of hypnosis which are still popular within the hypnosis field. Those proponents of that model are more likely to see the connection with that reference.
There is also a reference in the book of Corinthians (12:1-4) whereby a trance is considered to be a state of absorption and focus whereby the mind is prepared for receiving a vision or dream of some kind.
I have seen discussions on this topic whereby people have suggested that formalized prayer could be seen as a precursor to self-hypnosis as it is today. Prayer is seen as a way of appealing to God individually. Direct requests could be made using prayer, and though any changes resulting or benefits derived were attributed to God, I think you can see how such a process as prayer could pave the way for other forms of self-directed requests and use of internal dialogue.
There you have it for today then. Some biblical citations and attempts (albeit rather tenuous in places) at correlating some references from the Old and New Testaments to the field of modern hypnosis and self-hypnosis.
I’ll be back soon.
Glasner, S. (1951). A note on allusions to hypnosis in the Bible and Talmud. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 23 (3), 165-171.