What Is the Bible’s View?
Is Hypnotism for Christians?
FOR centuries hypnosis has been shrouded in mystery. Once a ready tool of pagan priests and charlatans, today it is gaining “respectability.” Psychiatrists, dentists, clergymen and many others employ hypnotism at times. It has been lauded as an aid in such endeavors as curing psychosomatic disorders, easing childbirth and breaking the habit of using hallucinogenic drugs. A cleric wrote: “As a clergyman, pastoral counselor and a practicing hypnotist of several years’ experience, I do not know of any person who has been harmed in any way through the use of hypnosis. . . . Among the various phenomena utilized by man for his good, hypnosis is certainly the safest.”
But others consider hypnotism dangerous. In fact, some of its practitioners have been driven insane. And Andrew Salter, a leading authority in this field, has said: “As a result of hypnotic suggestion subjects have stolen money, rushed to pick up rattlesnakes, and thrown sulphuric acid into a man’s face, which, unknown to the subject, was protected by invisible glass. . . . Put bluntly, through hypnosis it is possible to force persons to commit crimes.” Hence, there is good reason to ask: Is hypnotism for Christians?
The very possibility of danger merits serious consideration. Would it not be wrong for a Christian to imperil his mentality? Does he have the right to endanger his own life, or that of another, by carrying out what could prove to be dangerous commands, should the hypnotist be unscrupulous? No indeed! A dedicated Christian belongs to Jehovah and should use his mind and body in ways that please and honor God.—Rom. 12:1; 14:7, 8; 1 Cor. 10:31.
Even seemingly entertaining exhibitions of hypnosis on stage should give the Christian cause for reflection. Suppose a hypnotized person is told that he is a dog and then he senselessly tries to bark and jump about canine-fashion on his hands and knees. Is that not degrading? Surely it would not please or entertain a thoughtful Christian, who has deep regard for the Creator and knows that man was made “in God’s image.”—Gen. 1:26, 27.
While under hypnotic influence, persons have engaged in grossly immoral acts, such as committing adultery with the hypnotist. Obviously, to please Jehovah, Christians must avoid such wrongdoing. They should uphold the honorableness of marriage, “for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Heb. 13:4) Christians must shun circumstances that could jeopardize their standing with God and their prospects of eternal life.
No human knows exactly how hypnotism works. Yet, in this regard, its background should not be ignored. “Its history is inextricably interwoven with occultism, and even to-day much hypnotic phenomena is classed as ‘spiritualistic,’” states An Encyclopædia of Occultism. Some would associate hypnosis with what the Bible refers to as “wicked spirit forces.” (Eph. 6:12) Thus J. Garnier, in his book The Worship of the Dead, declared that such things as mesmerism (hypnosis) and powers of spiritistic mediums “are merely the reproduction of the phenomena of ancient magic, produced by exactly the same arts as those by which the Pagan magicians, sorcerers, wizards, necromancers, etc., sought the assistance of the demons who they regarded as their gods.”—Compare Acts 16:16-18.
Magic-practicing priests flourished in Egypt as early as the lifetime of Joseph, son of Jacob or Israel. (Gen. 41:8, 24) Later, Moses was opposed by such practicers of occult arts. (Ex. 7:11, 22; 8:7) Whether hypnotism was used by those priests or not, in later centuries sick and disabled Egyptians sought restoration of health by their deities during a state known as “temple sleep.” Actually, it was a hypnotic trance, induced either by certain actions of the magic-practicing priests or by fumes arising from the particular kind of incense they burned. Babylonian sorcerers and others of ancient times also endeavored to effect cures by hypnotism or related phenomena.
How have God’s servants of the past viewed practices associated with occultism? Faithful persons in ancient Israel would have nothing to do with such things, for Jehovah had declared through Moses: “There should not be found in you . . . anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Deut. 18:9-12.
Though Christians are not under the Mosaic law, they appreciate its lofty principles. (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:13-17) Realizing that God’s inspired Word condemns occultism and those employing it, true Christians view the occult and associated practices as disapproved by Jehovah. (Mal. 3:5; Rev. 21:8) Former practicers of magical arts who became Christians in ancient Ephesus not only abandoned occult pursuits, but destroyed their costly books on magic.—Acts 19:18, 19.
But even if hypnosis had no occult associations, true Christians would shun it. Why? Because hypnotism requires the complete surrender of one’s will to another human. Says The Encyclopedia Americana: “After a time, he [the subject] is beyond the power to recover independent decision and the hypnotist may then direct him to carry out any act within his capacities and he will respond unthinkingly. Then he is ‘hypnotized.’” In contrast, Jesus Christ recognized that it was his responsibility always to do the will of his heavenly Father, and he could not do that by giving himself over in an unreasoning submission to the will of another man. (John 6:38; Heb. 10:9, 10) Christ taught his disciples to pray for the accomplishment of God’s will. (Matt. 6:9, 10) Having made a dedication to God, a Christian must not surrender his will to some hypnotist, but needs to exercise it in harmony with the will of Jehovah.—Rom. 12:2.
Some clergymen resort to hypnotism when counseling their parishioners, but in doing this they are not imitating Jesus Christ. The Bible is the God-approved source of needed counsel on life’s problems. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) God’s holy spirit, not hypnotherapy, is the divine provision to help persons to replace moral uncleanness, idolatry and other ungodly traits with love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control. (Col. 3:5-11; Gal. 5:22, 23) Furthermore, Jehovah, not some hypnotist, provides the strength that Christians need to cope with hardships.—Phil. 4:6, 7, 13.
Whether a Christian will consult a doctor who at times uses hypnosis in treating others must be decided personally. (Gal. 6:5) But a true Christian would not permit it to be employed in his own case. Why? Because hypnotism is not for Christians.