Hypnosis, Religion, and Spirituality
by Henry Leo Bolduc C.H. and Marjorie V. Reynolds, B.A. Ed, M. Ed., C. Ht., M. Ht.
Is there a difference? In hypnosis, we usually tell the client that the trance part of the session will go best if he/she will accept and will report any information which comes to the mind and to leave the analysis until the debriefing segment. It is recommended that the client suspend the critical factor. That sounds a lot like religious indoctrination---accept, believe, don’t criticize; however, religion, for most people, never gets as far as the debriefing. In hypnosis, you believe what you say; in religion, you say what you have grown to believe or what an authority has told you to believe. In a visualization exercise, guided by another person, you are asked to believe what somebody says. You are asked to accept the affirmations as truth without proof. In your own visualization, you believe what you perceive. In the earlier days of hypnosis, a session was somewhat like a religious service:
head bowed, eyes closed, and listening. In spirituality, you believe what you say but you call it understanding and knowing from within. Again, without proof. Some people in both the religious and the spiritual groups refer to it as revealed knowledge. So, what is the difference? How are they alike while being different?
Are we like the story of the three blind men and the elephant?
Perhaps there is much more to life than that which we have marked for our comprehension. Our limited approach to life, our lack of interest in the perceptions of other people, can blind us to insights which could lead us through our own search for meaning and understanding of the divine pattern in the journey of consciousness. Perhaps, someday, we shall be able to see the whole view and shall become receptive to the possibility that we set our own boundaries of perception. Humanity always has been seeking Divinity and has done so in various ways throughout the world epochs. Humanity always has worshipped God in the way in which it perceived Divinity.
Apart from the hypnotic religious rituals and the hypnotic trance work to find one’s purpose in life, there are other areas of similarity and separation which can be discussed.
In recent years, a revolution in consciousness has been rising exponentially. Many people are seeking deeper meaning to life. Traditional answers to life’s problems are less than satisfactory. We are bombarded with information to such an extent that we are on overload. With current technology, we are able to organize information readily. We can produce sheets of data on demand. Our increased understanding and knowledge about our roots has led many people away from organized religion to seek a new system of thought, a new philosophy of religion. We seek closeness to God in a new way; a new way for a new age. Instead of the rites and rituals of religion performed in the sacred geometry of exquisitely-constructed Gothic churches, people are seeking spirituality, the essence of life. In some religious groups. understanding is beginning to replace belief; at present, hypnosis emphasizes a belief system.
There has been an increasing gap between religious people and others who regard themselves as spiritual rather than religious. Religious people are characterized by regular attendance at a place of worship, their faith, and their good deeds. Most people do not realize that the rituals are similar to the nature of the hypnotic trance. People who call themselves spiritual take pride in claiming to be involved in a search for meaning and truth and, often, attend group meetings which are organized for that purpose. Some of those groups study hypnosis and, in the sessions, are told to set aside the analytical part and to go with the feeling. Now, how is that different from organized religion? Both groups are seeking divinity, a closer walk with God.
In the Hero’s Journey, one looks for something deeper than the meaningless daily awareness. With the current revolution in consciousness, increasing number of heroes are seeking inner peace beyond the sophistic world. We are realizing the truth of William Wordsworth’s words in 1806:
“The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours;
People seem to want to move ahead by clinging to simpler times in dealing with Protean change:
“Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Earlier, in The Prelude (1800), Wordsworth traced his growth through the dark areas of intellectualism to a place where he was able to escape into feeling. The feeling of joy dominates most of his poetry.
The term feeling relates to both groups. In hypnosis, feeling is interpreted as a sense modality used to gain information from within the subconscious mind. Feeling and fervor are expressed by religious groups.
Both groups have a belief in the oneness of all things; however, the spiritual group would call it a knowing instead of a belief. A spiritual person expresses a belief in a Creator or a Source in which all humanity is equal. That statement seems to be true of the religious community. Hypnosis surely affinns the unity of all creation.
Religion accepts a set of beliefs about Divine order and humanity’s relationship to the Divine; however, such beliefs might vary slightly from group to group. The spiritual person also believes in a Creator or Source, views self as a part of God, and regards all people as equal. Hypnosis says that you have to believe in yourself in order to get the results you desire. Hands-on healing is acceptable to both groups.
In the concept of the birth cycle, perhaps, we have a demarcation. In general, spiritual hypnotists accept the notion of the re-cycling or re-birth of the soul. Most religious hypnotists, if they accept it, are not very vocal about it. We have had, however, some religious people---both Christian and non-Christian---take past-life regression courses. In some religions, including some Christian groups, the cycle of re-birth is taught.
What has led to religious intolerance? In some places, religion is tied to politics; it is connected with citizenship. Early in the development of the religion, the institution was made to be the official link to God. That status accorded power and influence. The patriarchal warrior God of 3700 years ago has persisted until the past few hundred years but, now, the image of God is one of kindness and compassion---an image shared by both religionists and spiritual people. Hypnosis tends to emphasize the Higher Self or the God within and, perhaps, has been instrumental in contributing to bringing the current change in consciousness regarding the concept of God.
How is hypnosis related to religion? In his book, Religious Aspects of Hypnosis, Dr. William J. Bryan, a Methodist minister and a hypnotist, wrote, “Prayer is a state of mind, an altered state of consciousness, a specific kind of hypnosis.” He added, “...the affirmative answer to one’s prayer. . .can only be accomplished when it is done on a level of deep emotion.. This sincere true belief is only felt by the employment of hypnosis.” Dr. Bryan goes on to indicate that the prophets employed self-hypnosis to produce their visions. He states that many of the components of hypnosis are obvious in religious worship: chanting, candles, the cross as a fixation point, and others in
different religions. *
Self-hypnosis recognizes the self-healing God-power in everybody. It could recommend an inner religion of peace, daily---not just one day a week. In fact, self-hypnosis is somewhat like St. Paul’s message to pray without ceasing. Some people experience peace as a result of using self-hypnosis; others by prayer. Perhaps the process is the same even though the trappings might be different. They have a common goal: self-betterment. They emphasize trust, positive thinking, love, forgiveness, faith, and belief in a Higher Power.
Most hypnotists are aware of the first recorded account of hypnosis in the western world. It took place when God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep for the purpose of allowing something to emerge from within. When the “rib” was brought into consciousness, Adam realized that it was his companion; it was a part of himself which became projected outside. Something in the subconscious mind, previously unknown throughout a restless search, can be appreciated and accepted only after there is contact and communication.
Religion has given vision to humanity. If spiritual people have a vision of fmding a pathway back to God, and if they believe that they have something better than what they have learned through religion, then, they could consider being grateful to religion for getting the groundwork done.
Civilization has evolved beyond the worshipping of the sun, the moon, sacred bulls, and rams. Progress is made by the building on the knowledge, goals. and ideals of others who have gone ahead of us. If we accept the philosophies of other groups as valid for them and if we help other travelers along their paths, then, we might find genuine similarities in the ideals and paths of both groups. With increased understanding of our origin in divinity, all people, religious or otherwise, will rise from their various dogmas to a vision of oneness for all humanity.