Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Hypnosis and Religion

From historic times through to the modern hypnosis has been frowned upon by many religions. They have called it the devils work, intoxication, unnatural or ungodly for tampering with or controlling the mind in such an unethical way. This to me would seem a wholly uninformed opinion and I will explain why. If something is not understood by a group of people it is typically consigned to be ‘the work of the Devil’ no matter what it is and without even consideration of further investigation. The truth is religion and hypnosis are actually very closely connected in several different ways.

When I look at the world’s different religions and their customs a lot of what I see is actually hypnosis at work. Prayer for instance is sitting still in a comfortable position with the eyes closed and uttering out loud or in the mind repetitive suggestions of instruction or going through relaxing visualisations to bring about the feeling of peace and love; is that much different from self-hypnosis? When you enter a large cathedral you are hit by a wall of enchanting music, symbols and mottos all around you, candles to fixate your eyes upon while a priest delivers his sermon of pure suggestion. Is that not large scale group hypnosis using both verbal and visual tools for trance? Choir music and chanting are known successful hypnotic methods, as is the tone and pace of the voice of the priest giving the speech, which is possibly why so many fall asleep during service... It is all hypnosis, only with a clearly identifiable religious suggestion as a core theme.

Religions teach us to trust the holy word of their particular God, not to judge, criticise or analyse and merely to believe and accept what you are being told, then reaffirm those beliefs in daily prayer, and in some cases prayer several times per day. Hypnosis works much the same way; you are taught to shut off your conscious mind in order that your subconscious mind can fully absorb the instructions it is listening to, then you must have those instructions repeated daily until they are fully engrained. The less resistance and conscious thought the quicker the results. Religions ask you to give in and give yourself away to their orders often in ceremony, which if anything makes the effect more powerful as the belief becomes stronger.

Religions emphasise trust, positive feelings, faith, belief in some greater power and an all-conquering emotion of love. Religions teach self-improvement and ways to find peace and happiness not only in your own life but in the community as well. Religions attempt to aid people with their mental health, their physical health and their spiritual health. They aim to stop addictions, reduce stress and anxiety, make people happier and to find their path and purpose in life. All these things are the same aims of hypnotherapy!

In the religious setting you sit comfortably while a speech takes you on a hypnotic journey in the form of a story that often has strong visualisations and messages by way of metaphors, before the journey ends and returns you back to the beginning, in much the same way a hypnotherapy session would work, the metaphors and mental images a direct communication with the subconscious (read more here). The visualisation of a heaven or a nirvana draws parallels with the ‘perfect place’ visualisation in hypnosis, a therapeutic place the subject can be anchored to and where they can find peace and tranquillity whenever they need it, like a comfort zone where they are completely safe and free from anxiety.

Many famous religious stories focus on one of the characters having visions or receiving messages directly from a God, and many of these stories to me perfectly describe the experience of an altered state of consciousness, much akin to what hypnosis achieves in session (just think visions of angels as one example). In the hypnotic mind state we can visualise scenarios and interact with them in a most realistic manner. An altered mind state is naturally occurring and is referred to greatly in all the major religions, and has played a huge role in particularly their early beginnings.

The tales of Jesus and other miracle working profits also sounds much like hypnosis at work. Jesus would touch a sick man on the head and tell him he was healed ‘and he was healed’ as the Bible says. Religions heal certain disorders in this way even today using a similar method often in ceremony in front of a delirious crowd, using the method of hypnotic suggestion. The power of religious belief is critical to this miracle cure, if the sick person did not believe in the cure they would not be curable. Like in hypnosis you must let go of your doubts, don’t criticise or analyse, just accept the message as truth and go with the flow in total belief if the cure is to work as it is designed to. Maybe Jesus and the profits were not hypnotherapists, but by the sounds of it they were certainly masters of the altered state of consciousness!

I am not trying to argue that hypnosis use in religion is a bad thing at all. The core global religious ideology as far as I am aware generally concerns self-development, peace to mankind and care for the community. That’s a great message and if everyone followed it we wouldn’t have any wars or conflicts. But when you hear about atrocities being carried out under the flag of religion, the fanatics that carry out these bombings and genocides have literally been conditioned from a young age via the hypnotic religious method. They truly believe they are doing the right thing by their God in killing people to solve their group’s problems and that certain lands are sacredly theirs by some kind of divine right. Madness? Or hypnotic religious mind control? This isn’t a new phenomenon; every religious war in history has been fought using the same method to control soldiers as well as public opinion. How could the Crusades have gone ahead without such mind control? These facts don’t make religions bad and neither does it make hypnosis bad, it just depends on how the tool is being utilised. Religion in the hands of evil can be catastrophic, the same as hypnosis would be.

Hypnosis is merely the name given to a particular utilisation of the altered mind state. This altered mind state is naturally occurring and we experience it daily in day dreaming or in becoming engrossed in a piece of music or a conversation and becoming oblivious to all else around us.. Any person that watches TV is being drawn into trance and their subconscious is bombarded with suggestions to buy products, follow fashion, behave in certain ways, follow one political strain of thought or another etc. As much as anything hypnosis is a transfer of ideas that can become ingrained inside people’s heads. We as humans learn naturally in this way fully absorbing what goes on around us, and this can either be a negative or a positive influence.

Religions are institutions that use various hypnotic methods to teach very large groups of people what they believe are the correct ideals to follow in life; a way to live and be happy in a community. Religious groups should not be fearful of hypnosis because it shares many of the same ideals, especially in helping people improve themselves, and teaches them using very similar techniques. For this reason religion and hypnosis can even complement one another and move forward hand in hand without a conflict so long as respect and understanding are shown. The same could be said of the many different religions as the core underlying philosophies are identical; to help people improve themselves and form healthy communities for the benefit of all. 

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