The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Hypnotism for Christians?
“There should not be found in you anyone who . . . binds others with a spell.”—DEUTERONOMY 18:10, 11.
HYPNOTISM has been the subject of much debate and controversy.* Even experts in the field find it difficult to explain. It is generally understood that hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, or trance. Most people, however, are more interested in what hypnotism can do than in what it is.
In recent years it has become common for health practitioners in some lands to recommend hypnotism as a treatment. For instance, the magazine Psychology Today states: “Hypnotherapy can treat headaches, ease labor pains, help you quit smoking, replace anesthesia, and improve study habits—all without side effects.” On the other hand, many associate hypnotism with spiritism and the occult.
What is the Bible’s viewpoint? Of course, the Bible is not a health textbook, and it does not comment directly on the subject of hypnotism. But the principles found in God’s Word can help us determine God’s view.
Hypnotism and Occultism—Is There a Link?
Is the claim that hypnotism is linked to the occult just a figment of someone’s imagination? Fantasy tales in movies and novels may have nurtured the idea, but the connection between hypnotism and spiritism has a real basis. Regarding hypnotism, the Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology explains: “Its history is inextricably interwoven with occultism.” Religious trances, which have been a part of sorcery and magic throughout history, are commonly viewed as a form of hypnosis. Also, the priests in ancient Egypt and Greece induced a type of hypnotic state when trying to cure illnesses in the name of their false gods.
The above-quoted encyclopedia notes: “Even today much hypnotic phenomena is classed as ‘Spiritualist.’” While it is difficult to determine to what extent various forms of hypnotism may have to do with the occult, the fact is that God clearly condemns all forms of spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Revelation 21:8) Thus, Christians cannot ignore the clearly unscriptural aspects of hypnotism.
Effect on Behavior
What about the effect of hypnosis on a person’s mind and behavior? Are there any risks involved? One valid concern is that while hypnotized a person may have little control of his behavior. Stage hypnotists utilize this feature, impelling volunteers to do things they would not normally do, even to seem to be drunk.
The Encyclopedia Americana says of these public displays of hypnosis: “The hypnotized subject may be openly susceptible to even veiled suggestion, he may have ready access to his more usually heavily veiled unconscious drives, and he may while hypnotized feel that all social and personal curbs on his behavior have been removed.” Collier’s Encyclopedia states: “The hypnotized subject enjoys an undiverted concentration of his faculties, which makes him intensely attentive to the hypnotist’s suggestions and cooperative in carrying out suggestions.”
Does this sound harmless? Would it be advisable for a true Christian to let others influence his mind by means of hypnotic suggestions? This would be contrary to the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason. And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Romans 12:1, 2.
Could a Christian “hold a good conscience,” if he allowed himself to be put into a state where he could not fully control his thoughts or desires or even his actions? (1 Peter 3:16) The Bible admonishes: “Each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4) Clearly, hypnosis would hamper one’s ability to follow such counsel.
A Hope for Perfect Health
In view of the above-mentioned Bible principles, Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid techniques that involve hypnosis or self-hypnosis. They heed the command at Deuteronomy 18:10, 11: “There should not be found in you anyone who . . . binds others with a spell.” For those confronted with health problems, there are many other treatments that do not involve exposure to the dangers of occultism or allow for one’s mind to be manipulated by others.
By keeping clear of practices that are contrary to Bible principles, Christians can have the hope of living forever in God’s righteous new world. Then mankind will enjoy perfect health in body and mind without the use of hypnotism.—Revelation 21:3, 4.
Hypnosis is defined as “a sleeplike state usually induced by another person in which the subject may experience forgotten or suppressed memories, hallucinations, and heightened suggestibility.”—The American Heritage Dictionary.