Hypnosis in Unexpected Places[1]

Hypnosis has been among the dark arts throughout ancient history until the present. In his book on the history of hypnosis, Maurice Tinterow says, “Probably the early soothsayers and oracles relied largely on the hypnotic state.”[2] The Bible does not treat occult practices as harmless superstitions. There are strong warnings against all that is associated with the occult. God desires His people to come to Him with their needs rather than turn to occult practitioners.

The Bible Forbids Occult Practices

The Bible strongly speaks out against having anything to do with those who involve themselves in the occult because of the demonic power, influence, and control. Occult activities were practiced by the nations surrounding Israel during the time of Moses. Therefore, God explicitly warned His people against them:

Ye shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times. . . . Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God (Lev. 19:26, 31).

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee (Deut. 18:10-12).

Because of the apparent occult nature of hypnosis (which is more obvious in the deeper stages) and because hypnosis is practiced by many who involve themselves in other areas of the occult, Christians would be wise to avoid hypnosis even for medical purposes.

The words from the Old Testament which are translated charmers and enchanters seem to indicate the same kinds of persons whom we now call hypnotherapists. Dave Hunt, author of The Cult Explosion[3] and Occult Invasion[4] and researcher in the area of the occult as well as the cults, says:

From the Biblical standpoint, I believe that in such places as Deuteronomy 18, when it speaks of “charmers” and “enchanters,” the practice involved anciently was exactly what has recently become acceptable in medicine and psychiatry as hypnosis. I believe this both from the ancient usage of this word and from occult traditions.[5]

A Watchman Fellowship “Profile” says the following:

It is difficult to know if “charming” is a direct reference to hypnosis as the evidence is somewhat circumstantial. The Bible, however, is replete with clear admonitions against involvement with the occult (Leviticus 19:26; 2 Kings 21:6; Isaiah 47:913; Acts 8:9-11). This would prohibit any Christian association in those aspects of hypnosis that directly relate to the occult (spiritualism, channeling, past-life regression, divination, etc.).

There is general agreement that hypnotized individuals are somewhat vulnerable to uncritically accepting as true any suggestion given by the hypnotist. This factor alone creates the potential for misuse and deception. Some Christian researchers go a step further warning that it is possible for hypnotized subjects to be influenced by voices other than that of the hypnotist. They believe that in a trance state one is more susceptible to demonic oppression or even possession— especially if the subject has a history of occult experimentation.

Hypnosis can be indirectly linked to biblical admonitions against “charming.” It is historically linked to pagan and occult practices. Even proponents warn of the potential for misuse or unethical application. These factors coupled with the absence of a provable neutral, non-religious theory of hypnosis make hypnosis a potentially dangerous practice not recommended for Christians.[6]

Just because hypnosis has surfaced in medicine does not mean that it is different from the ancient practices of charmers and enchanters or from those which have been used more recently by witchdoctors and occult hypnotists. John Weldon and Zola Levitt say that even “a strictly scientific approach toward occult phenomena is insufficient protection against demonism. The judgment of God does not distinguish between scientific and nonscientific involvement with powers alien to Him.”[7]

In various sections of Scripture, occult practices are listed side by side, because although one activity may differ from the next, the power source and the revealer of “hidden knowledge” is the same: Satan. Enchanters, sorcerers, wizards, charmers, consulters of familiar spirits, necromancers, soothsayers, and observers of times (astrologers) are grouped together as those to avoid. See Lev. 19:26, 31, and 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:9-14; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6; Isa. 47:9-13; Jer. 27:9. A singular word for those practicing the occult is used in the New Testament: sorcerer.

All forms of the occult turn a person away from God to self and to those spirits in opposition to God. That is why God compares using sorcery to “playing the harlot.”

And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people (Lev. 20:6).

Almighty God saw these practices as replacing relationship with himself. He saw them as false religions with false religious experiences.

As noted earlier, many who support hypnosis say that religion uses hypnosis and that Christian experiences involving prayer, meditation, confession, devotion, and worship are actually forms of self-hypnosis. Perhaps the reasons why hypnotists see these similarities is that hypnosis generates Satan’s counterfeits of true religious exercise. If indeed hypnosis involves any form of faith and worship not directed toward the God of the Bible, any person who subjects himself to hypnotism may be playing the harlot in the spiritual realm.

Demonic influence may not be clearly apparent in many instances of hypnosis, but the mind has been tampered with in discerning truth. There may indeed be an opening or influence into other areas of the occult and areas of deception. One of Jesus’ warnings about the last days was spiritual deception. Satan is the master deceiver and if a person has opened his mind to deception through hypnosis, he may be more vulnerable to spiritual deception.

Danger of Hypnosis in Regressive Therapy and Inner Healing

Therapists who attempt to help clients remember events and feelings from their childhood often use hypnotic techniques that actually move clients into a trance state. They may deny using hypnosis, but guided imagery and other techniques used in leading a person back into the past are hypnotic induction devices. Michael Yapko, author of Trancework, says: “Many times therapists aren’t even aware that they’re doing hypnosis. They’re doing what they call guided imagery or guided meditation, which are all very mainstream hypnotic techniques.”[8]

The suggestions, the emotions, and the focus on feelings in the past rarely produce true memories. In various forms of regressive therapy, the therapist attempts to convince the client that present problems are from past hurtful events and then proceeds to help the client remember and re-experience hurtful events in the past. However, rather than positive change, many false memories are produced.

Some writers, such as Campbell Perry, indicate that such techniques as the eliciting of memories, relaxation, and regression work are often disguised forms of hypnosis. In introducing his paper on controversies regarding the False Memory Syndrome (FMS), Perry describes some of the procedures that:

… appear to be strongly linked with the development of a subjectively convincing memory that a person (usually a woman) was sexually abused during childhood by (usually) her father, that the putative memory has been repressed, only to seemingly resurface during the course of “recovered memory” therapy. Special emphasis is placed upon the role of “disguised” hypnosis in eliciting such memories—that is, upon procedures that are characterized by such terms as guided imagery, “relaxation,” dream analysis, regression work and sodium amytal represented as “truth serum.” All of these appear to tap into the mechanisms thought to underly the experience of hypnosis.[9]

The leading questions, direct guidance, and voice intonation are enough to serve as an induction into the trance state for many individuals. Mark Pendergrast says:

The “guided imagery” exercises that trauma therapists employ to gain access to buried memories can be enormously convincing, whether we choose to call the process hypnosis or not. When someone is relaxed, willing to suspend critical judgment, engage in fantasy, and place ultimate faith in an authority figure using ritualistic methods, deceptive scenes from the past can easily be induced.[10]

Various forms of regressive psychotherapy and inner healing with the use of visualization, guided imagery, powerful suggestion, and intense concentration can very easily result in inducing a hypnotic state in which the person experiences so-called memories as if they are presently occurring. There are numerous problems with inner healing, some of which we discuss in our book TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy?[11] Many of the techniques used to rouse the imagination and intensify the feelings encourage the hypnotic state through intense suggestion. Regressive therapy and inner healing have the same possibilities and dangers as hypnosis.

Those who practice and promote regressive therapy and inner healing believe that the source of problems and therefore the necessary location of healing is within the unconscious or subconscious. Many inner healers, following the influence of Agnes Sanford, attempt to bring Jesus into the person’s unconscious for healing. In her book The Healing Gifts of the Spirit, Sanford says, “The Lord will walk back with you into the memories of the past so they will be healed.”[12]

Medical doctor Jane Gumprecht, in her book Abusing Memory: The Healing Theologyof Agnes Sanford, outlines the seven steps of Sanford’s method, which could easily lead a person into an altered state of consciousness through emptying the mind, following the voice of the inner healer, and visualizing according to suggestion:

  1. Jesus enters the collective unconscious to redeem memories. She explained that healing of memories is redemption for which Jesus entered into the “collective unconscious”; humans are bound by time so Jesus is our “Time Traveler”; “the Lord will walk back with you into the memories of the past so that they will be healed.”
  2. Know the patient’s childhood. She inquired about their childhood….
  3. Wait for them to get over fears and embarrassments. Knowing that they were “holding something back out of fear or embarrassment,” she waited for the rest to come forth.
  4. Clear the mind. She had the patient relax, meditate (empty the mind) as she did with her prayer of faith. She laid hands on them to “transfer the love of Christ into them.”
  5. See Jesus interacting with their inner child. She prayed and had the patient use their creative imagination to visualize Jesus taking them back through time to the scene during their childhood when they were hurt and felt unloved, relive the emotions involved.
  6. Pray for healing, even for times before birth. She prayed for the Lord to “go back through all the rooms of this memory-house . . . see if there be any dirty and broken things . . . take them completely away . . . go back even to the nursery in this memory house . . . back to the hour of birth . . . even before birth if the soul was shadowed by this human life and was darkened by the fears and sorrows of the human parents.”
  7. See yourself as God meant you to be. “Power of visioning; in the healing of memories one must firmly hold in the imagination the picture of this person as God meant him to be, seeing through the human aberrations and perversions . . . and turn in the imagination the dark and awful shadows of his nature into shining virtues and sources of power. This is redemption.”[13]

Gumprecht further reveals Sanford’s use of doublebind and suggestion:

Not only did [Sanford] ask leading questions of those who admit to an unhappy childhood; she planted the seed of suggestion and doubt in the mind of those who had a happy childhood. I have found that those who have written books on Healing of Memories (David Seamands) and Transformation of the Inner Man (John and Paula Sandford) do the same thing—working hard through suggestion until the patient finally dredged up some hurt from his past.[14]

While undergoing this practice called inner healing, some may possibly avoid moving into a hypnotic trance. Others, especially those who are most vulnerable to hypnotic suggestion, will easily drift into a trance.

Large Group Awareness Training

The Forum (formerly est), Life Spring, and Momentus are the names of some of the more wellknown large-group training seminars that promise life-transforming results. Using many of the ideas and techniques of the encounter movement, such group sessions attempt to alter participants’ present way of thinking (mind set, world view, personal faith, etc.) through intense personal and group experiences. Some have marathon meetings that last numerous hours and take advantage of fatigue working together with much repetition, group pressure and various psychological techniques, some of which attack personal belief systems and cause mental confusion.

The confusion technique, which is also a hypnotic device, may be used to disorient the subject to make him more responsive to cues. Michael Yapko says:

In the confusion technique, you give a person more information than they could possibly keep up with, you get them to question everything, you make them feel uncertain as a way of building up their motivation to attain certainty.[15]

While hypnosis may not be intended or admitted in such large group training sessions, the possibility is very strong for participants to experience hypnotic suggestion, dissociation, and impaired personal judgment.


Music, including Christian music, comes in a variety of forms and beats. In his book The Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner, who is a shaman, describes the Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC). He also delineates the shamanic journey of a shaman in a SSC. He explains how a companion can assist the shaman in his SSC journey by providing specific drumbeats. He says:

Now instruct your companion to start beating the drum in a strong, monotonous, unvarying, and rapid beat. There should be no contrast in intensity of the drumbeats or in the intervals between them. A drumming tempo of about 205 to 220 beats per minute is usually effective for this journey.[16]

We are not saying that such a shamanic beat will transport one into a SSC and prepare the individual for a shamanic journey, but it certainly can. Neither are we saying that Christian music will transport one into a trance, but it may with certain susceptible people.

Repetitive sounds and words can also induce an altered state of consciousness. Hindus, for instance, use the concept of OM in working spiritually with consciousness. In his book The Secret Power of Music, David Tame says:

In this spiritual endeavour the concept of OM, as the earthly sound which mirrors the Sound of the One Tone, is paramount. Intoning the OM, in combination with certain mental and spiritual disciplines, is of prime importance in raja yoga. In some meditation techniques the OM is not actually uttered at all, but simply imagined with the inner ear, consequently attuning the soul directly with the Soundless Sound.[17]

Tame further describes how music is used to assist in bringing the mind to a “point of concentration”:

Music even aids, it is believed, in the raising of the “vibration” or spiritual frequency of the body itself, beginning the process of the transformation of matter into spirit, and consequently returning matter to its original state. Thus, as all is OM, the OM as music calls to the OM as manifested in the soul of man, to draw it back to the Source of the OM itself.[18]

This certainly sounds familiar to descriptions of deep hypnosis.

Most music will not elicit an altered state of consciousness. However, one should be aware that rhythm and tone can indeed be used to induce a trance.

Church Services

In addition to the music, a pastor or church leader may inadvertently and naively use hypnotic inductive techniques as he sets the mood, prays, or speaks. Those who may be especially susceptible to these hypnotic devices may indeed go into a trance, especially in healing services in which people are led into a kind of mystical expectation, in which thinking is set aside and a mystical, waiting attitude is encouraged. A variety of factors work together to produce this possibility: type of music, a leader’s prestige or charisma, expectations for healing or miracles, peer pressure, suggestions made by the leader and the suggestibility of the audience. While each of these may work alone to lead persons into a trance state, collectively they almost guarantee an altered state of consciousness for some who are in attendance.

While some of the activity in the so-called revivals where people swoon to the floor, jerk around, and bark like dogs may be due to intentional participation, much may be due to hypnosis. However, we do NOT agree with the following accusation:

Hypnotic trance occurs regularly in all Christian congregations. Those who most condemn it as diabolical are the very ones who tend to induce hypnotic trance most often—unaware that they are doing so.[19]

However, we are concerned about Christian meetings that encourage mindless emotionality and spiritual activities that could result in hypnotic trance induced behavior.

We are also concerned when the evangelist or preacher becomes the focus of attention in the same way as the hypnotist. There’s a strong possibility of trance induction having taken place when people fall over backwards when touched by certain healers. Whenever repetition to the point of hypnotic actions or words or songs is used, a trance state may be induced. Techniques appealing to emotion, imagination, and visualization over the intellect and active volition are often hypnotic induction devices. Any use of hypnotic techniques in worship is potentially dangerous to the faith of those in attendance.

Prayer and Meditation

Certain forms of prayer and meditation in which the individual is passive in a similar way as in the above description can lead to a hypnotic trance. As mentioned earlier, yoga and similar forms of meditation are means of being hypnotized. Transcendental Meditation with its repetition of a single word or phrase can result in an altered state of consciousness, as in the repetition of OM.

One article reporting on brain electrical activity during prayer and during Transcendental Meditation states:

It would appear that the individual’s state of consciousness during prayer is quite different from that reported to occur during Transcendental Meditation.[20]

In contrast to meditation, the prayers recorded in Scripture are active. The mind is active as in conversation. Prayer is indeed conversation in which the person prays according to his knowledge of God, which he has learned through God’s part of the conversation: the Bible, the living Word of God. There is active dialog in biblical prayer in that as a person prays, the Holy Spirit may bring to mind truths and promises from God’s Word. However, when a person attempts to move into a mystical, passive mental state in prayer, he may indeed move into a hypnotic trance. The closer he stays to the Word of God in prayer and the less he aims for a feeling state, the more biblical the prayer and the less the possibility for moving into a hypnotic trance.

Medical Offices

While not all biofeedback activities will induce a trance state, many can. The following are common selftalk sentences used in one biofeedback activity:

My whole body feels relaxed and my mind is quiet.

I release my attention from the outside world.

I feel serene and still.

I can gently visualize, imagine and experience myself as relaxed and still.

I feel inward quietness. I am at peace.

This is similar to medical doctor Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response, which has been described as:

. . . the ability of the body to enter into a scientifically defined state characterized by an overall reduction of the speed of the body’s metabolism, lowered blood pressure, decreased rate of breathing, lowered heart rate, and more prominent, slower brain waves.[21]

Benson says:

There are several basic steps required to elicit the Relaxation Response.

Step 1: Pick a focus word or short phrase that’s firmly rooted in your personal belief system. For example, a Christian person might choose the opening words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd”; a Jewish person, “Shalom”; a nonreligious individual a neutral word like “one” or “peace.” Step 2: Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

Step 3: Close your eyes.

Step 4: Relax your muscles.

Step 5: Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, repeat your focus word or phrase as you exhale.

Step 6: Assume a passive attitude. . . .

Step 7: Continue for ten to twenty minutes.

Step 8: Practice the technique once or twice daily.[22]

Not everyone will go into a hypnotic state through Benson’s Relaxation Response, but some surely will.

Self-Help Tapes

Ads for self-help tapes abound. Some of them promise the listener that if he listens to these tapes he will be able to stop smoking, or lose weight, or gain self-mastery. Such tapes guide the listener through certain relaxation exercises and into a receptive state of mind to receive soothing suggestions. The idea is that these suggestions will bypass the conscious mind and reach a subconscious or unconscious mind. Here again the idea is that the real motivating power resides below the surface of consciousness. And here again is another opportunity to empty the mind and open it up to demonic influence.

Unidentified Unexpected Places

In today’s landscape of promises for self-fulfillment, self-mastery, personal well-being, and quick fixes for problems of living, one could easily find oneself in an environment conducive to hypnosis. You may recognize some of the inductive techniques being used innocently or purposefully and therefore be forewarned.


Hypnosis has been an integral part of the occult. Therefore, a Christian should not allow himself to be hypnotized for any reason. The promises of help through hypnosis are very similar to the promises of help through other occultic healers. The Christian has another spiritual means of help: the Lord God Himself!

Hypnosis is not simply a neutral, benign activity. Case reports have described individuals who have exhibited psychopathological symptoms following hypnosis and long-term negative effects. About ten percent of hypnotized individuals may suffer some difficulties related to their hypnotic experience. These occur in spite of the professional expertise or care that might be exercised. The risk is greater in group hypnosis. Furthermore, long-term research regarding the results of hypnosis is scarce. Therefore, negative effects could occur years later without anyone realizing the connection between negative effects and earlier hypnosis. Moreover, long-term spiritual effects of hypnosis on those who have submitted themselves to hypnotism have not been examined.

Hypnotism is potentially dangerous at its best and is demonic at its worst. At its worst hypnotism opens an individual to psychic experiences and satanic possession. When mediums go into hypnotic trances and contact the “dead,” when clairvoyants reveal information which they could not possibly know, when fortunetellers through self-hypnosis reveal the future, Satan is at work. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, and there is no difference between the altered state of consciousness and the shamanic state of consciousness.

Satan transforms himself into an angel of light whenever necessary to accomplish his schemes. If he can make an occult practice (hypnosis) look beneficial through a false facade (medicine or science), he will. It is obvious that hypnosis is lethal if used for evil purposes. However, we contend that hypnosis is potentially lethal for whatever purposes it is used. The moment one surrenders himself to the doorway of the occult, even in the halls of science and medicine, he is vulnerable to the powers of darkness.

[1] Excerpted from Martin & Deidre Bobgan. Hypnosis: Medical, Scientific, or Occultic? Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2001, Chapters 10-12, available as a free ebook to download at https://pamweb.org/free-ebooks/.

[2] Dr. Maurice M. Tinterow. Foundations of Hypnosis fromMesmer to Freud. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 1970, p. x.

[3] Dave Hunt. The Cult Explosion. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1980.

[4] Dave Hunt. Occult Invasion. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1998.

[5] Dave Hunt, personal letter to Walter Martin, January 13, 1982, p. 5.

[6] “Hypnosis.” Profiles. Arlington, TX: Watchman Fellowhip, 1998.

[7] John Weldon and Zola Levitt. Psychic Healing. Chicago: Moody Press, 1982, p. 10.

[8] Michael Ypako quoted in FMS Foundation Newsletter, August-September, 1993, p. 3.

[9] Campbell Perry. Hypnos, Vol. XXII, No. 4, p. 189.

[10] Mark Pendergrast. Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives. Hinesburg, VT: Upper Access, Inc., 1995, p. 129.

[11] Martin & Deidre Bobgan. TheoPhostic Counseling: Divine Revelation or PsychoHeresy? Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1999, available as a free ebook to download at https://pamweb.org/free-ebooks/.

[12] Agnes Sanford. The Healing Gifts of the Spirit. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincot, 1966, p. 125.

[13] Jane Gumprecht. Abusing Memory: The Healing Theology of Agnes Sanford. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1997, pp. 104-105.

[14]Ibid., p. 106.

[15] Michael Yapko quoted by Ave Opincar. “Speak, Memory.” San Diego Weekly Reader, August 19, 1993.

[16] Michael Harner. The Way of the Shaman. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1980m p. 31.

[17] David Tame. The Secret Power of Music. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1984, p. 170.

[18]Ibid., p. 176.

[19] “Hypnosis in the Life of the Church,” brochure for conference sponsored by Cedar Hill Institute for Graduate Studies, Twentynine Palms, CA, 1979, p. 1.

[20] Walter W. Surwillow and Douglas P. Hobson. “Brain Electrical Activity During Prayer.” Psychological Reports, Vol. 43, 1978, p. 140.

[21] Herbert Benson with William Proctor. “Your Maximum Mind,” New Age Journal, November/December 1987, p. 19.