Religion and the Hypnotic Trance

Religion and the Hypnotic Trance March 25, 2024

Religion and the Hypnotic Trance

Religion and the Hypnotic Trance

According to The Clevland Clinic, hypnotherapy is “a heightened state of concentration and focused attention. Guided by a trained, certified hypnotist or hypnotherapist, hypnosis allows you to be more open to suggestions to making healthful changes in your perceptions, sensations, emotions, memories, thoughts, or behaviors.” [1]

Hypnotherapy is moderately effective for me. I occasionally enlist my friend’s help, a trained therapist.

One of my revelations as a pastor was that most Christian services are at least mildly hypnotic. Michael Sherlock of expresses this in his blog titled “Church and Hypnotic Manipulation.”

He first explains the five stages of hypnosis:

  1. Introduction
  2. Induction
  3. Deepening
  4. Suggestion
  5. Awakening

Then he says, “It is the contention of this author that the same five stages can be found within most Christian church services. The hypnotic techniques employed during church sessions have served to further entrench Christian beliefs into the minds of Christian subjects and so demonstrates the mentally manipulative religious package offered by the Christian religion.” [2]

Hypnosis requires these four things for it to work as expected:

  • Belief
  • Imagination
  • Conviction
  • Expectation

From this, he explains, “These elements are generally found in abundance in the mind of the true believing, church-going Christian. Generally, those who attend church believe that their pastor or preacher is speaking the word of God, which has compelling psychological implications and satisfies the first criteria of the list above. Further, the church-goer’s imagination is engaged at almost all times throughout the service, during the singing, the sermon, the prayer, and it is probably the hardest working aspect of the four criteria set out above.” [2]

He concludes, “Professional hypnotists say that the subject must have conviction, and the stronger, the better! There is almost nothing in this world that inspires conviction, like one’s religious beliefs. The attendee is convinced that the church service is permeated by the spirit of their God, which leads to the expectation, that they will “feel the spirit.” In truth, the elation one gets from “feeling the spirit” may be little more than the pleasure and catharsis of entering a trance.” [2]

As a former pastor, I agree that Christian religious services work similarly to hypnotic trances. They are very effective but inauthentic in their admissions about the practices. They would never admit to hypnotizing their congregations, even though that is precisely what they do. These days, the cadence and key changes are almost scientific, and lighting, sound, and group energy all work together to affect change. It removes our filters and speaks directly to our subconscious.

Although I am opposed to using hypnosis in this way, I also know it is very effective. Each individual has to decide how to implement these types of therapies. Getting past the conscious mind for some healing is essential, but it’s also important which suggestions we make when we get there.

Be Where You Are, Be Who You Are,

Karl Forehand

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Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward,  Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community.  He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston.  His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply! You can read more about the author here.





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