Monday, August 21, 2006

Hypnosis among Christians

What seems to be an eternal debate is the question of whether a Christian is for or against hypnosis, as if there was an either/or choice. Catholic doctrine is different from LDS doctrine, Protestant doctrines are different according to which Protestant church you're speaking of. And every person is influenced by custom -- probably more than we're willing to admit.

So I've been asked about the LDS mindset on this. And I begin immediately with the doctrine of agency -- that is, the right and the moral imperitive to choose good over evil. And hypnosis is one of those things which can impair one's agency. Therefore, it's evil -- yes?

Well maybe - and maybe not. Used willy-nilly (and far too many entertainers use it without considering consequences) it can relax inhibitions. And inhibitions are not usually bad things. They're our fuses, our circuit breakers, that help keep us in control when we'd really like to crash (repeatedly) into the car which stole a parking space from us.

Now when someone who knows what they're doing is the hypnotist, when it's someone we trust, it's another (and a particularly powerful) method of relaxation, therapy, or anaesthesia. The only question is really whether the hypnotist is someone we trust.

Certainly, 19th century amusements were not particularly trustworthy. In the August 1981 issue of Tambuli, Brother William Berrett said "This led Brigham Young to say of the hypnotism he saw practiced in his day: 'Hypnotism is an inverted truth; it originated in holy, good, and righteous principles, which have been inverted by the power of the devil.' "

Lee Darrow, instructor for the first ever safety course for hypnotists, consistently campaigns for better training of hypnotists, whether for medical or entertainment purposes. A difficulty is that legislators (much less your average person) don't usually know what hypnotism is.

Richard Osterlind points out that people's feelings about hypnosis has more to do with their local or family customs than with their church's doctrine. In this, I definitely agree. (Besides, you'd be surprised how many people don't know the doctrines of their church.) There's a lot of misinformation which is given out about hypnosis, and local urban myths abound.

We're told that hypnotism can't make you do what you'd normally not do. We're told that hypnosis can cause you to lose your inhibitions and do things you'd normally not want to do. We're told that hypnosis, under a clever hypnotist, can make us do things we'd normally not dream of doing.

Get the facts. Lee's site is a good place to start (There's an extraordinary amount of false information on the internet, but Lee's an unusually straight player.) and he can lead you to further facts. You can probably contact him through his website at

As for us Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) we're very fond of our agency. We submit to surgeons, therapists, and doctors all the time -- so we're, as a people, not particularly superstitious about hypnosis. But we might be a little suspicious of an entertainer making us dance like a chicken.


Blogger Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...

Hi Chet,

Please forgive me for not responding to this post.

First of all I have been into hypnotism for over 25 years. I started as a self hypnotist and then went on to doing a stage show.

To start off hypnotism is not evil.

Hypnotism is a happening. It is a happening of nature or a happening that the subject is involved in.

The subject has full control and does not hand their mind over to the hypnotist to be controlled like in the old vampire movies.

If anything they gain control. That is that if a person is under hypnosis they gain control of their sub conscious mind. Under hypnosis the subject would not do anything that they would not already do when they are awake. The problem with hypnotism is that people do not know that much about it. They have a lot of hearsay information. And as you put it, there are a lot of local urban myths about it.

Here are a few thoughts.

People go in and out of hypnosis all day long. Daydreaming is a form of hypnosis. In fact people self hypnotize themselves every night in order to fall asleep. They could not fall asleep without first passing through the stages of hypnosis.

Most hypnotists that I have talked to have the theory that hypnosis started in religion. And could go back to the times of ancient camp fire rituals. I am not an expert in religion but I find these conversations interesting.

Another thought is all hypnotism is self hypnosis. Even when they listen to the suggestions of another like a stage hypnotist!

Blogger *jeep! --Chet said...

Goodness, Glenn - you have nothing to apologize for! As a VERY busy working professional who lives in one of the more storm-wracked places of the union right now (What IS it about the St Louis area which is attracting all these tornadoes and such?) your life must be awfully hectic at times.

I agree that hypnosis has received a bad rap, pretty much from Day One. I suppose the biggest reason is that there were so many (and remain quite a number) of performers who continue to portray it as "mind control." And Hollywood surely loves to portray it in a sinister fashion! I don't see the situation changing any time soon.

Blogger Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...

Here are a few more thoughts.

When you talk about hypnotism it is theory. As I said most hypnotism is called a happening. It is like lightning and electricity or fire that it is something that happens in nature.

From my point of view I think it is part of the way that humans learn and part of our genetic make up. Why? God made our brain's work this way when he made humans.

As far as hypnotist's like any profession. There are good hypnotic entertainers and there are bad hypnotic entertainers.

There are good religious leaders and bad religious leaders.

There are good plumbers and bad plumbers.

One of the interesting hybrids of hypnotism is NLP - Neuro Linguistic Programming
and a lot of sports training uses these techniques today.

Hypnotism works on suggestion and the suggestion is accepted or rejected by the subject.

NLP from my point of view is the art and science of giving your own mind positive suggestions. A hard thing to do in a world that is constantly bombarding people with negative suggestions on Television and in other media.

In fact it is my theory that Television and the movies have done more damage to the human race in the form of bad violent television than the combined bad shows of every bad hypnotist in history ever could.

I hope you are doing well.

Blogger *jeep! --Chet said...

And we hope you're doing well also! And, boy howdy, do I ever agree with you on your estimation of television. Not just the violence, but the hypnotic effect of raster graphics. The tube literally does hypnotise - and it's not feeding good suggestions 99.99% of the time.

Blogger Magical Meg said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I can't bring any experience in Hypnotism to the table, but my parents are Mormons, so I'm familiar with the attitudes involved. Generally, I have found that many of them (not all- there's a whole spectrum there) shy away from anything that could be construed as the 'dark arts'. This has included (in my experience anyways) everything from Psychics to Dungeons and Dragons.

But once you explain what something is, how it works, and how there's nothing to be afraid of, that attitude can change pretty quickly. It's empowering, because then they can make a choice based on something more concrete.

So I would say the best plan of action is indeed to educate as much as possible, and fight that tide of media stereotypes.

Blogger *jeep! --Chet said...

Meg, you might be surprised to find out how many active, faithful Latter-day Saints are gamers. And, surprise, how many are game designers! Sandy Peterson, designer of the spoooooooky Call of Cthulu rolegame, for instance, joined Chaosium not long after returning from his mission.

--Granpa Chet

Blogger Magical Meg said...

Oh, don't I know it! I'm a gamer geek myself, and even had some gamer friends in my parents' church.

I also managed to 'convert' some hesitant LDS teens in highschool to Role-Playing Games, and they enjoyed it immensely. ;)

Anonymous opie said...

Thank you for an informative and enlightening essay. The use of suggestion in Clinical environs is of great use in therapy. Unfortunately, most people think of it as "the things the guy did to make some of my friends act crazy on stage."

I have no problem with either form, because, as you said, we have Free Will to pick and choose what is right and evil, and I do exercise that right.

Thanks again......opie houston

Blogger Nicholas J. Johnson said...

I'm not sure I see the link between hypnotism and a moral code...

The Honest Con Man

Anonymous Los Angeles Magician said...

Hypnotism plays a big role in magic. Thanks for Great information you have provided.

Anonymous Los Angeles Magician said...

Hey Chet,

Just found your blog here- Matthew James. How have you been?

Blogger Chet Cox said...

Howdy, Matthew! Pretty much semi-crippled and in active use as Grandpa Babysitter. Have done a few kids showsnthenpast few years, but now I'm stuck with a walker & chair, so it's mostly sedentary now. And how are you and your course doing?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Free Website Counters
Halloween Stuff