Chaplain Paul G. Durbin

Augustin "Gus" Figuero

Rev. Walter A. Debboli">

Chaplain Paul G. Durbin

Augustin "Gus" Figuero

Rev. Walter A. Debboli, M.Div.





 by Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D.

Durbin before a lecture on "Hypnosis and Religion" 

A few years ago, I read an article in Family Weekly titled, "Boom Days For Devil Hypnosis" Hearing that title: what ideas, images, thoughts come to you? Thought the article had what I considered a very negative title, it was a very positive article on hypnosis in the health care field. The only reference to the devil was in the last paragraph, "Some conservative religious groups consider hypnosis to be the work of the devil."

Hypnosis is mistakenly viewed as mind control or demonic by many misinformed people. Recently I received a physician consult to work with a woman for pain management. As I explained the process of relaxation, imagery and hypnosis; I could see that she was very responsive. As I concluded my pre-talk, she said, "I am really looking forward to this experience, but I need to tell you that my daughter is a self-proclaimed born-again Christian and she may say something negative to you about this. If so, do not pay any attention to her, for I am the one who is hurting and I want this."

As I completed the induction, the phone rang. I told the patient, "Just allow the ringing of the phone and my answering it to add to your relaxation." I answered the phone, "This is Mrs. Doe's room. As she is in therapy, please call back in 30 minutes." and hung up the phone.

When the procedure was completed, I walked out of the room and there was her daughter standing in front of the door with arms folded over her chest. She said, "What have you been doing to my mother?" I explained that I had thought her mother relaxation, self-hypnosis and pain reduction. She responded, "I am a born-again Christian." Before she could continue, I raised my hands and said, "Praise the Lord, so am I." She was speechless, so I continued, "I will bring you some information on hypnosis, but regardless of how you feel about hypnosis, your mother has found it very helpful in the reduction of pain."

Some would say that there is no place in religion for hypnosis. I believe that hypnosis and religious faith can work hand in hand to bring about a better life. Jesus said in St. John 10:10, "I am come you may have life and have it more abundantly." Though the title of this presentation is "Hypnosis and Religious Faith", I will be dealing primarily with "Hypnosis and Judo-Christian faith." Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you are religious or not, many of your clients come to you as religious people, most of whom will have a Judo-Christian background. The better you understand the client's religious history, the better you can relate to that person and help that person.

In our study of hypnosis and religious faith let us look at the history of hypnosis. Now I am not going to review the entire history of hypnosis, but would like to point out those incidents that relate to religion. What is the first written record of the use of hypnosis? The first written recorded use of hypnosis is found in the book of Genesis 2:21-22, "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and while he slept, took one of his ribs and closed up in its place with flesh, and the rib which God took from man. He made woman and brought her to the man." In this incident, God used hypnosis as an anesthesia so that Adam felt no pain during the removal of his rib.

In addition to the reference in Genesis, mention of hypnotic techniques is found in other ancient sources concerning the Egyptian "Sleep Temples." In the temples, Egyptian priest used hypnotic-like procedures to improve health. These temples were so popular that they spread to Grease and Asia Minor.

Chaplain W. Leo Peacock gives a number of New Testament illustrations of hypnosis in his paper "Religious Hypnosis and Personal Control." Chaplain Peacock makes a point with his interpretation of Matthew's account of Joseph's dream concerning taking Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20-25). When Joseph discovered that Mary was expecting a child, he decided to break his engagement for he knew that the child was not his. The story told of an "angel" or "messenger" coming to Joseph in a dream. In this dream, the angel told Joseph to marry Mary. Upon waking, Joseph did as the angel suggested. Peacock writes that this is a clear description of an individual being hypnotized and while under hypnosis being given a post-hypnotic suggestion which he immediately acts upon as soon as he came out of the hypnotic trance.

Saint Paul IconPaul speaks of going into a trance while praying in the temple (Acts 22:17). Peter "fell into a trance" and from that experience came to see that God loved all people and accepts all people who come to him. Peter had been invited to the home of a centurion who was devout in his faith, but was not Jewish. At that time, it was religiously unlawful for Peter to visit the centurion's house. After the dream, Peter went to visit the centurion (Acts 10:1-48).


 Laying On of Hands

The practice of "laying on of hand," mentioned in the Bible, uses some of the techniques of hypnosis. In the book of Acts (28:8) we read, "And it came about that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him." Elsewhere in the book of Acts, there is a reference to an apostle looking into the eyes or gazing into the eyes of a person which resulted in the person being healed. "This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who when he had fixed his gaze upon him, and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, 'Stand upright on your feet.' And he leaped up and began to walk." (Acts 14:9-10)

Father Hell, in the Eighteenth Century, two Roman Catholic priest used hypnotic procedures and gained a reputation as healers. Due to their influence on Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, they played a significant role in the history of hypnosis. Father Gassner would have those desiring to be healed brought into a room where they were told to wait. As their expectations mounted, Father Gassner would then majestically enter the room, lower his cross on the head of a patient and command him to sleep. The patient would collapse and upon command would rise praising God for healing. Father Hell used hypnotic techniques and metal plates. He believed that illness occurred when the magnetism of the body was out of polarization. He would have his patients lie down and pass mental plates over them. His suggestions and the passes of the metal plates seemed to cure those who came to him for healing.

The modern history of hypnosis is considered to begin with Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (1735-1815) who was greatly influenced by Father Gassner and Father Hell. Mesmer came to the conclusion that it was the metal in Father Gassner's cross that caused the cures as well as the religious significance of the cross. If the metal in the cross could bring cures, perhaps any metal could be used for healing. With this information and experiments conducted by Father Hell in mind, Mesmer began to develop his theory of "Animal magnetism."

In the middle of the 1800's, three doctors: Elliotson, Esdaile and Braid, who coined the word "hypnosis," used hypnosis in their medical practice. Both Elliotson and Esdaile performed many surgeries with only hypnotic anesthesia. It has been reported that the mortality rate for major surgery was about 50%. Of several hundred people operated on by Esdaile (using hypnosis) mortality dropped to 5% and in none of the fatal cases was the death an immediate outcome of surgery.

Dr. James Esdaile (1808-1859) wrote that (1) hypnosis is a natural God-given method of healing. (2) The power produced by the unconscious mind of one under hypnosis is similar both in quality, character and degree with the power of the creator. (3) All men have within them special power given by God, the power of hypnosis -- to direct their movement and provide for themselves. Doctors Mesmer, Elliotson, and Esdaile were condemned by their fellow doctors for their use of hypnosis. At Dr. Esdaile's trail, one doctor said that the use of hypnosis was sacrilegious because God meant for people to feel pain. 

In recent years, hypnosis has become more acceptable, but we still have those who question its usefulness and others who mistakenly see it as a tool of the devil. One of our jobs is to enlighten those who doubt and convince those who oppose so that more people may benefit be the use of hypnosis for a better life.

The foundation of my work in hypnotherapy is based on what I refer to as the human trinity. Whether you are a Christian or not, you would probably know what I meant if I referred to the Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I also believe in the human trinity. Each one of us is a trinity within himself or herself. I'm a trinity, you're a trinity. What is the human trinity? We are made up of body, mind and spirit. We are physical, emotional and spiritual being. These three aspects of our being are so different and yet so integrated that one part of the human trinity can not be affected without having some effect on the other two. If you have a physical problem, it affects you spiritually and emotionally. If you have a spiritual problem, it affects you physically and emotionally. If you have an emotional problem, it affects you spiritually and physically.

With this understanding of the human trinity, hypnosis can be used as a bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind. Though you only have one mind, you have two parts to your mind: conscious and subconscious. The conscious mind is the logical, reasoning, analytical two plus two part of the mind. The conscious part of the mind makes up about 10% of your thinking power. The subconscious part of the mind makes up about 90% of your thinking power. It does not think logically and is concerned with bringing about your deepest wishes, desires and expectation even if they are contrary to logic and your own well-being. The subconscious mind does not care if your body hurts but rather that your deepest needs are met. If your greatest need is for affection and the only time you experience affection is when your are sick, you may get sick in order to receive the affection you need. This occurs even though you don't like being sick and the reason is unknown. It is interesting to note that the subconscious mind can not tell the difference between a wish and a fear. If a fear become dominate, the fear is received by the subconscious mind as wish.

A woman was in the hospital because she had lost the use of her right arm. As she had gone trough many test and none had showed any reason for the cause of her problem, I was consulted. Through counseling, it was discovered that she had been physical abused, not sexually abused as a child. As a young child, as a teenager, as a young wife and mother, she vowed that she would "never ever" hit her child in anger. She had a five-year-old son and she had disciplined him when needed, but she had never hit him in anger. A few days before coming to the hospital, her little five-year-old song had been especially aggravating. He did one more thing and in anger, she hit him. As this was such a shock to her, her subconscious mind protected her against hitting her child any more by making her arm useless.

As I felt that she needed to experience forgiveness, I used the following imagery. I suggested that she visualize herself walking down a country road. "On your back is a heavy backpack, but there is nothing in that backpack that you need for this journey. In fact, that heavy backpack contains the guilt you have been holding on to since you hit your son. God has forgiven you. He is telling you that you can now forgive yourself. You can be free of the heavy backpack. It is a decision for you to make. If you are ready to be free of that heavy load of guilt, one of your fingers will rise indicating that you have released the backpack and your guilt.

The first finger of her right hand jerked upward and I said, "The backpack with all your guilt is gone. God has forgiven you and you have forgiven yourself. You are forgiven." I added the following post-hypnotic suggestion, (Note: I seldom use negative words in suggestions but this time I used some of her own words.) "Since as a little girl, teenager, young wife and mother you vowed that you would 'never ever' hit your child in anger and because of the trauma you have experienced, you need 'never ever' hit your child in anger again, therefore you have no need to be paralyzed. She left the hospital two days later completely cured.

Each one here comes with his/her own history: religiously, personally, and professionally. I come to you as a Christian Minister who looks upon hypnosis as a valuable tool of counseling. Coming from a religious profession and working in a church related hospital, I am often asked, "Why does one of religious faith need hypnosis?" or "How can you use hypnosis? Isn't there a conflict between religious faith and hypnosis?" I believe that these questions can be responded to by referring to the statement of Jesus in John 10:10, "I am come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." Hypnosis is one of the gifts of God which help people experience the "more abundant life."

Hypnosis is neither anti-religious nor pro-religious. It can be used for good or bad depending on the hypnotist and the subject. Today, most religious groups accept the proper ethical use of hypnosis for helping people. Exceptions are Christian Science, Seventh-Day-Adventist and some individuals of various churches. In recent years, the Seventh-Day-Adventist have lessened their resistance by using relaxation therapy and suggestion therapy. A hypnotist by the name of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby greatly help Mary Baker Eddy overcome an illness and she used many of his teachings and techniques in developing the Christian Science Church. Though Quimby used hypnosis to help her, she denounced hypnosis while using its techniques. Though many in various churches opposed to hypnosis are using the principles of hypnosis (relaxation, concentration, suggestion, repetition) in their healing services, they denounce hypnosis. For those who oppose hypnosis on religious grounds, I remind them of the words of Baptist Van Helmont, "Hypnosis is a universal agent ... and is a paradox only to those who are deposed to ridicule everything and who ascribe to Satan all phenomena which they cannot explain." 

Then Roman Catholic Church has issued statements approving the use of hypnosis. In 1847, a decree from the Sacred Congregation of The Holy Office stated, "Having removed all misconceptions, foretelling of the future, explicit or implicit invocation of the devil, the use hypnosis is indeed merely an act of making use of physical media that are otherwise licit and hence it is not morally forbidden provided it does not tend toward an illicit end or toward anything depraved."

The late Pope Pius give his approval of hypnosis. He stated that the use of hypnosis by health care professionals for diagnosis and treatment is permitted. In 1956, in an address from the Vatican on hypnosis in child birth the Pope gave these guidelines. (1) Hypnotism is a serious matter, and not something to be dabbled in. (2) In its scientific use the precautions dictated by both science and morality are to be used. (3) Under the aspect of anesthesia, It is governed by the same principles as other forms of anesthesia. This is to say that the rules of good medicine apply to the use of hypnosis.

Except for exceptions noted, no other Protestant or Orthodox Churches have any laws against the proper-ethical use of hypnosis. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no opposition to the use of hypnosis in the Jewish faith when it is used for the benefit of mankind. Many of the Eastern Faiths: Buddhism, Yoga, Shintoism, Hinduism and others approve the use of hypnosis and they often use hypnosis in their worship. The Moslem religion has no opposition to hypnosis that I have been able to discover.

In his book Angels of Light, Herbert E. Freeman includes hypnosis as one of the practices which are commended by God. He quotes Deuteronomy 18:9 following in which God warns, "Thou shalt not learn to do after the abomination of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone ... that useth divination (fortuneteller), or an observer of times (Soothsayers), or an enchanter (magician), or a consorter with familiar spirits (medium, possessed with a spirit, or spirit guide), or a witch (sorcerer), or a charmer (hypnotist) or a wizard (clairvoyant or psychic), for all that do these thing are an abomination unto the Lord." The words in parenthesis are Mr. Freeman's inserts.

I feel that Mr. Freeman has misinterpreted much in these verses and especially the interpretation of "charmer" as "hypnotist." The Interpreter's Bible states that "charmer" refers to those who conjure up magical spells. The Pulpit Commentary reads, "A charmer is a dealer in spells, one who by means of spells or charms pretends to achieve some desired results. The verb here used primarily means to bind, and the species of magic indicated is probably that practiced by binding certain knots, whereby it was supposed that the curse or blessing, as the case maybe, was a bond on its object. This was accomplished apparently by incantations ... A species of incantations known to Romans consisted in tying knots with threads of different colors, there in number, which was supposed to become a bond to secure the object."

In their book, The Holy Spirit and You, Dennis and Rita Bennett have shown a profound dislike and misunderstanding of hypnosis by declaring, "Hypnosis is particularly dangerous because it is thought to be a valid form of therapy in psychology and psychiatry, or an alternative anesthesia in medicine and dentistry". The Bennett add, "The fact is the hypnotist, by placing the soul in a passively receptive state even when the hypnotist has no such intention, opens the door to morbid spiritual influences that my bring oppression that lasts for years. Until the person is delivered by prayer and exorcism ... Do not allow yourself the by hypnotized for any reason whatsoever." By these statement, the Bennett's show their prejudice and total misunderstanding of hypnosis. If their interpretation is correct, the Bennett's should also be concerned about prayer, meditation, chemical anesthesia, and going to sleep (for that period just before you go to sleep is a natural state of hypnosis) for the individual is in a similar state to hypnosis in all those situations.

Jesus indicated by his teachings that we should help people to live life to the fullest and to relieve pain whenever possible. Hypnosis is a means to help people live a better and more abundant life and is a means of reducing and/or eliminating pain. Would the Bennett's suggest that we should not use chemical anesthesia for surgery because we might open our mind to evil spirits? Perhaps they agree with the doctor at Dr. Esdaile's trail who stated the the use of hypnosis as an anesthesia was sacrilegious because God meant for people to feel pain?

In their book, Hypnosis and Christianity, Martin and Deidra Bagdon show their lack of knowledge when they wrote, "Before hypnotism becomes the new panacea from the pulpit, followed by a plethora of books on the subject; its claims, methods and long-term results should be considered. Arthur Shapiro has said, 'One man's religion is another man's superstition, and one man's magic is another man's science.' Hypnosis has become science and medicine for some Christians with little proof of its validity, longevity of its results or understanding of its nature. Because so many unanswered questions about its usefulness and so many potential dangers about its usage, Christians would be wise to shun hypnosis." I ask, "What unanswered questions about its usefulness and what are the potential dangers?"

The Bagdon's should be reminded that people have been harmed by the misuse of the Christian religion as well as all other religions. Should one not to be a Christian because some have misused it. Should one not go to a Christian healer because some Christian healers have misused the concept for their own gain? The Bagdon's's apparently have not studied hypnosis or have not studied it without bias, or the would not be afraid of its use. If studied and understood, they might even come to appreciate the value of hypnosis. Many of God's gifts have been used incorrectly, but that should not distract from the gift when used for the benefit of mankind and to the glory of God. God blesses all our activities that are beneficial to people.

Hypnosis should not be condemned as anti-religious just because some people misuse it. Some oppose hypnosis because the say it is used by the occult, but do they condemn prayer because prayer is used for occultic purposes? Hypnosis can be a very helpful tool in counseling. Without apology and when appropriate, hypnosis can be used for growth, health and the benefit of people.

In an address to the National Association of Clergy Hypnotherapist, Reverend Fred R. Krauss reported that religion has traditionally used hypnotic techniques in a variety of ways. The atmosphere of the religious service is geared to the induction of the trance state. The architecture, decor and religious symbols have a profound spiritual effect on believers. The alter, cross and flickering candles provide a fixation point for concentration and medication. In prayer, most Christians bow their head and close their eyes which can be a very similar experience to hypnosis.

While preparing for this seminar and coming from a Methodist background. It was interesting to learn that the the use of eye closure in prayer probably began with the revivals of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodism. Because Wesley was not allow to preach in the pulpit of most of the established churches, he began to preach outside. Deprived of the usual eye fixation points provided by the religious symbols (candles, crosses, altars, etc.) and bothered by the discomforts and distractions of the open-air gatherings, the preacher had to rely on enthusiasm and other means to hold the audience's attention. "Bow your heads and close your eyes" became a regular part of the services. The practice became standardized and s not used throughout most Christian churches.

Reverend Krauss continues by stating that it has been said that prayer and medication were the nicest hypnotic inductions of all. Everything is there that should be, including a harmony of body, mind, and spirit that enhances our communication with God. By assuring the appropriate posture, closing eyes, bowing heads, listening and responding with, "Amen." Praying in silence draws attention from the outer tot he inner world of reality. In the sermon, the pastor uses voice inflections, modulations and repetitive ideas with anecdotes, Bible stories, and other illustrations.

Prayer and medication are traditional Christian disciplines that parallel what we call auto-suggestion. Of course, the auto-suggestions are not the only aspects of prayer for through prayer, we are able to open our minds to God. When we are open and responsive, prayer is basically communication with God. If I understand Reverend Krauss, he is pointing out that the use of hypnotic procedures in worship and Christian experience is blessed by God.

During counseling and hypnotherapy, I often tell a story to bring home a point or allow the client hearing the story to come to his or her own meaning to the story. Roger Ring in a seminar conducted at a past College of Chaplains convention called these "Parables, Metaphors, and Healing Stories." Jesus often spoke in parables or used stories which still bring to mind vivid word pictures which teaches something important about life.

The writer of Proverbs 23:7 states that as a person thinketh in his/her heart so is he/she. St. Paul wrote, "Whatsoever man soweth that shall he reap." (Gal 6:7) This says to me that what is shown by the conscious mind through thoughts and images into the subconscious mind tends to become a reality. Mental images give the subconscious mind a model to work towards: good or bad. Illustration: Think back to a time when you were angry; feel it, experience it and let it go. Think back to a time when you were really happy; feel it, experience and keep it. By thought, you make feelings present again. The use of positive imagery improves life and health.

Until there is an image in the mind there can be no reality. All great inventions began with a thought in the mind. The inventor was able to visualize or image the invention before he could bring it to reality. The same is true of great music, great writing, great living. The author of Proverbs 28:18 also wrote that where there is no vision, the people parish.

If you listen to the broadcast of al baseball, football or basketball game, you have surely heard the announcer say, "It's a brand new ball game!" If you are a sports fan, you know the announcer means that the score is tied. It is like starting over again. The past is still there , but we can begin where we are. In a baseball game, if a team ties the score in the sixth inning, they do not go back to the first inning to start over again. For they keep playing from where they are. See we began where we are, but with the proper use of relaxation, imagery, hypnosis and hopeful expectation comes a "brand new ball game."

In the years ahead, may those who discount hypnosis, come to see its value. May those who oppose hypnosis on religious grounds come to view it as a gift of God to help us attain the more abundant life.

Jesus said, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to teach the gospel to the poor. He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." (Luke 4:18) Following this guidance and with the proper use of hypnosis; we can heal the brokenhearted, bring deliverance to those in captivity to pain, fear, and phobias; give sight to the emotionally and spiritually blind, and set at liberty those who are bound by unwanted habits. As members of different denominations and religions, let us join hands in brotherhood to share the blessings of hypnosis with others


by Rev. Augustin "Gus" Figuerioa

Rev. Agustin Figueroa is a friend and member of CSIG/NGH. "I don't want you to mess with my head." were the words of a lady with a weight problem who needed help but had mistaken ideas about hypnosis. Another one said, "I do not want you to have control over me." Some religious people say that hypnosis is non-Christian. They frown upon such a treatment and call it evil.

Some who use hypnosis or entertainment may only want public admiration, fame or wealth. Such practice usually gives hypnosis a negative image. By seeing what transpires on the stage, it is east to understand how people could arrive at the conclusion that the hypnotist had the hypnotized under his/her control. Surely, to the uninformed viewer, such control would appear to be real.

As they make hypnotists look like "lords and masters" of their hypnotized "victims," movies, radio and television programs have often presented hypnosis in a negative way. With this understanding, some religionists condemn hypnosis and publicly brand it "a work of the Devil".

In order to overcome this view some quote the Bible to show that hypnosis is in accordance with its teaching. Hypnosis is neither a belief nor a religion. It is not even a matter of conviction. Used in therapy, it is simply another tool, furthermore, hypnosis has no need to be defended. When properly used by a trained professional, it defends itself by the results obtained. The good it does speaks by itself on its behalf. It is far fetched to say or pretend that God used hypnosis when He "...caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam..." (Genesis 2: 21). (Durbin - This is an area of friendly disagreement between Gus and me. Was formal hypnosis used in Bible, "No!" Was hypnotic techniques used? I believe "Yes!" Paul speaks of being in a trance [Acts 22:17) and Peter "fell into trance" [Acts 10:1-48] Paul gazed into his eyes and he was healed [Acts 14:9-10) Quoting the Bible to pretend it proves that Jesus used hypnosis is not only ar fetched, but making Bible say what is not there. We might as well make Jesus a plain therapist, deprive Him of His divine power and credit it all to mere human skill and talent, regardless of how outstanding or extraordinary it might have been.

Something else is evident. Not for his own benefit, but rather for the sake of those He helped, Jesus very frequently used the power of suggestion in his ministry. In fact in all his parables He suggests some specific truth regarding his Kingdom. He said: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto..." We see what may be considered the classical example of Jesus using the power of suggestion in His great parable of The Good Samaritan. He ends the incident by telling the lawyer: "...go, do likewise." That lawyer nor any of those with him or anyone present was hypnotized by Jesus. Yet, they received the same suggestion. What they did need but had failed to recognize was the one thing Jesus suggested: "Show mercy to him who is in need!" Be his neighbor!".

In all his teaching, Jesus often used metaphors. His message of the passing of a camel through a needle's eye can readily be understood as teaching about values and priorities. How can anyone miss the message conveyed in Jesus' statement about faith enabling the individual to cause mountains to be removed! A powerful suggestion this is of self-confidence based not on self-sufficiency, but on divine help. Besides Jesus' divine power working, in many of his signs and wonders we can see the power of the suggestions.

Trained in Clinical Hypnosis by instructors who teach the Ericksonian Approach, I think it is reasonable for me to submit these views.

Helping people meet their needs, solve their problems or find a feasible way to cope with them is the goal of therapy. Hypnosis is merely one more means of helping the client reach his/her goals. I have the privilege of helping my subjects ascertained that hypnosis will help them work toward their good. People with whom I have worked have corrected previous misconceptions and have actually been complementary about hypnosis. Many have remarked that it helped them significantly and some have simply stated that "It is just plain wonderful"

Hypnosis is not a misconception! It is a great and wonderful tool and many more professionals should use it! Many practitioners in the various areas of health care have incorporated it in their practice. More and more, regardless of their specialties, medical doctors use hypnosis to better treat their patients. Many of them are now referring their patients to hypnotherapists. For a long time most scientists opposed the use of hypnosis in therapy. They considered it as of little or no value. Many discarded it as "hocus pocus". Nevertheless, thanks to the constant, indefatigable efforts of those who see its true value, Hypnotherapy is now recognized as a true science in the medical field. Surely this should help the general public to have a better view about it.

It is hoped that clergy will increase their use hypnosis in their ministry. They may or may not claim divine power to heal but a functional training in Clinical Hypnosis will enable them to render better service to their parishioners. Like the Lord Jesus, they could do the one without neglecting the other.


by Rev. Walter A Debboli, M.Div.

(Article is from the archives of the National Association of Clergy Hypnotherapist [NACH], now Clergy Special Interest Group/National Guild of Hypnotist [CSIG/NGH]. This article was original written in the 1980's. For information concerning CSIG/NGH, contact Rev. Carl Waidelich at cwwaidelich@aol.com)

Being an Episcopal Priest and a hypnotist is a difficult position to maintain without adverse criticism. Recently, I have come out of the closet and openly admitted that I employ hypnotherapy.

There has been and continues to be much misunderstanding of what hypnosis is all about. With stage and television theatrics, misconception is rampant in the minds of most people. The Church in general has always taken a dim view of hypnosis. It is sometimes viewed as "mind control and demonic" by many uninformed Christians.

Perhaps through patient education, the public will recognize its value. Hypnosis, 'an induced state which resembles sleep and in which the subject is responsive to suggestions of the inducer." is an effective tool in an extensive range of therapy.

Some years ago, I attended my first school of Pastoral Care and later became a member of the teaching team. There are one-week seminars for clergy, medical practitioners and related technicians. The teaching team is composed of a physician, a psychologist, and a clergyman. The theme of the seminars is "Spiritual Healing" which is defined as "the use of the best physician, appropriate medication and prayer."  Healing is approached from the three disciplines.

It is in this context that I became acquainted with two types of hypnotic procedures which are called "taking a trip" and "healing of the memories." The first is a type of progressive group relaxation during which the individuals are brought to meet God and then given freedom to spend time with Him. After the group is brought back, there is a free discussion of their experiences. Also, before a time of prayer and mediation, we demonstrate how to relax the body and mind in order to be more deeply sensitive to one's spirit.

The second type, "Healing the memories," deals with relaxation and pseudo-regression and imagery. The individual sees (in his mind's eye) the event of guilt, anxiety, fear, etc. and meets God's healing presence. This has been effective when done properly.

I have developed a type of hypnotherapy for use with Christians. My induction is a progressive relaxation and a talking prayer plus autogenic conditioning. This I have coined "Salting the Subconscious." It consists of progressively relaxing the subject and a continuous talking prayer filled with positive suggestions about God's love, healing, peace, etc. During this aspect, I introduce scriptural text which is pertinent to the needs of the person. Further, the hypnotic suggestions are: "Take three periods a day for this type of meditation; get comfortable, etc.; repeat the text slowly and meaningful until your eyes are heavy; close your eyes and sink into a deep meditational state and allow the text to float into your subconscious. You will remain in this state for two to five minutes and awaken feeling strong, fresh and relaxed.' Of course, the proceedings must be fitted for each individual. This type of therapy is fitted for the individual parishioners.

After college and over 130 credits at Yale, I realized that I needed continuing education in pastoral psychology. Just recently I have entered another program at Hartford University to sharpen my skills as a clinical pastoral counselor. I have a small practice beyond my parish ministry. I might also add that it was Harry Arons who introduced me to the formal applications of hypnosis, which I find extremely valuable when used in my counseling practice.

At this point I would like to comment on the term "therapeutic." This term (like many terms "doctor" has accrued medical "therapy" as remedial treatment of bodily, mental or social disorders." So often we tend to obliterate the face that a human being is an indivisible whole consisting of body, mind, and spirit.

One's health involves all three components. Therapy and therapeutics are as applicable to a person's spiritual health as to psychological and physical health.

Pastoral psychology is a most appropriate combination. Often it is difficult to separate the mental and spiritual. Therefore, as both pastoral counselor and a parish priest, I very specifically dealt with a person's health in terms of wholeness. The medical practitioner treats the body and this is his bailiwick, but healing and health - wholeness - must be cooperative venture.

I sometimes think we forget who does the healing and become inflated with a messianic syndrome. God is the healer. We, as therapists in our various disciplines, are only channels through which God chooses to work. Perhaps we will realize this eventually and treat our fellow human beings in their wholeness.


Rabbi William Blank: Unlimited Human, VOL 1, # 1

When I was the rabbi of a congregation, people used to ask me, "What kind of job is that for a nice Jewish boy?" Now I've left the active rabbinate and I am a hypnotherapist. Using hypnosis I help people to quit smoking, lose weight, diminish pain, heal ailments, reduce their stress level, remember things they've long ago forgotten, and sometimes even discover the meaning of life.

And sometimes people ask me, "What kind of job is that for a nice Jewish boy?" My past and present occupations have more in common than that particular question. In the first place, I am still a rabbi even though I am not employed as a rabbi. (Unlike Catholic priests, rabbis don't get defrocked, but sometimes they are unsuited.) Occasionally I do rabbinical guest gigs.

I believe that hypnosis and spirituality are inseparably part of the same piece of human experience. The work that I do is profoundly religious, and Jewish religious life would be enhanced profoundly by opening itself more to inner religious experience.

Modem hypnosis began around the time of the French Revolution with Count Antoin Mesmer. Sigmund Freud began his work with hypnosis but he eventually abandoned it. However, precursors of hypnosis have been part and parcel of the ancient healing techniques practiced by priests, shamans, medicine men/women, and yes, even rabbis since the dawn of time.

4,000 years ago, when Abraham first intuited the Oneness of God and began Jewish history, his experience was an experience of an altered state of consciousness. When Moses spent all those days and nights on Mt. Sinai learning Torah, his mental state was very different from mine when I drive my car down my neighborhood freeway. When Isaiah and Jeremiah and Esekiel had those amazing visions that have inspired us ever since, their minds and bodies were in a different mode. I would not reduce the magnitude of their experiences to simple hypnosis. However, I do believe that almost anyone could have a taste of their experience by turning inward.

To understand what an altered state of consciousness is, consider your dreams. We all awaken from time to time with the strong feeling of, "Whew! It was only a dream!" (or sometimes, "Oh damn! It was only a dream!") While in the dream everything seems very real, only discombobulated,

like you're driving you car down the freeway and suddenly the freeway turns to cranberry jelly. The dream state is a most radically altered state of consciousness. In hypnosis, the alterations of consciousness are less extreme but still significant.

Our tradition has had miracle workers throughout our ages who have done all sorts of things which seem to contradict the normal scientific flow of cause and effect that characterized most of our experience. From Elijah to Rabbi Me'ir to Ba'al Shem Tov, we've had objects materialize from nowhere, and individuals who could predict the future, who could heal the sick, and who were able to see into the truth of the matter with uncanny accuracy. And almost anyone who has ever experienced one of these swears that, far from being something ably part imagined, it was the most real event that ever happened to him/her. At least some of these experiences were felt in hypnotic states. To say that they were perceived in hypnosis does not diminish their intensity or their reality.

While in hypnosis, some people (a small but significant minority) will hallucinate sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches. Most anyone can have a tooth filled with no more than minimal pain. It is easy to resist going into hypnosis, but almost everyone who wants to be hypnotized can be led to significant changes in their sensory and emotional perceptions.

Lest anyone accuse hypnosis of lying outside the fence of what normative Judaism permits, let me invoke no less an authority than Jacob Ettlinger (1808-1871), the teacher of Sampson Raphael Hirsch. When asked he investigated hypnosis and defended hypnotism against a charge of witchcraft (Responsa Binyan Zion, No. 67). He derived his ruling from a discussion of healing powers in the authoritative code of Jewish law, Yosef Ram's Shulhan Arukh.

The experience of hypnosis is less strange than most might at first think. It doesn't require a swinging pocket watch. (I do it all by simple talk.) Anyone who has ever taken a natural childbirth class has gone into hypnosis with the controlled breathing teclrniques that eliminate the need for chemical anesthetics. Anyone who has ever seen a child so deeply immersed in a TV show that they had to yell his name 15 times before he responded has seen someone in hypnosis. Anyone who has ever sat spellbound to a fabulous speaker for an hour and a half and then described it by saying, "I don't know what she said but it was utterly fantastic!" has experienced some hypnotic trances.

The process of inducing a hypnotic states, as I do it, begins with physical relaxation. I usually direct the client to breath slowly and deeply and to keep her awareness focused on her breathing, while I lead her to relax different parts of her body. While the body is relaxing, the mind is helped to slow down as well.

Being in hypnosis feels like that last moment before one falls asleep, where you're kind of walking a tightrope between wakefulness and sleep. In therapeutic hypnosis, we prolong this period of just a few seconds to about 40 minutes.

Most people emerge from hypnosis and say something like"I've never been so relaxed in my life." It is a most pleasant experience. For many people, learning to relax is all they need. They come to me because they awaken at 3 a.m. can't fall back asleep. Once they learn a bit of simple self- hypnosis, falling back asleep becomes almost automatic.

There Is absolutely no danger at all in hypnosis. There has never been a documented case of anyone being harmed or doing anything harmful as a result of being under. And it is impossible not to come out of it: the worst thing that could happen would be you'd fall asleep and awaken a short later.

Contrary to popular misconception, hypnosis is not about controlling another person. To the contrary, hypnosis empowers an individual to make better use of his/her active powers of mind.

Why does hypnosis help people quit smoking? I believe it works, not because the hypnotic suggestion is somehow overpowering, but rather, the hypnotic suggestion is "empowering." In hypnosis you can become aware of your true inner power... Will power we sometimes call it. But "will power" suggests that this is some sort of a struggle. On the contrary, by tuning in to the power that works through you, you realize that you have the strength to change those habitual behaviors, like smoking or over eating, that are harming you. Changing that behavior then becomes almost as natural, as irresistible, as the flower's petals Opening when its season is at hand.

In hypnosis, one becomes aware that the connections between the mind and the body are less rigid than we usually assume. One finds it is possible to let go of what you me afraid of -- to release. One connects to a sort of an internal rheostat that regulates our perception of pain. We can direct our energies to any part and scientific studies confirm that this visualization helps the unconscious to remember all sort of information that might be useful. Even the illusive dreams that vanish from memory in the first seconds of awakening can be recalled to awareness.

There is no final aspect to hypnosis which is most important. Hypnosis is a most useful tool to guiding people to discover the meaning of their lives. What I have found is that most people at a particular point in their lives, set out on a course. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously

We all make choices about who we are going to be, what we want to be, and how we feel called by God to express our own unique individuality. And ten we forget. We get wound up in doing, and forget what it was we were doing in the first place. Remembering can be overwhelming.

The experience of being in hypnosis is similar to medication. Whereas prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening to God. Meditation quiets the mind by focusing it on one single thought of experience. As we results, one shifts into an alerted state of consciousness in which deep, spiritual truths can be perceived. There are some differences between hypnosis and meditation but their similarities are greater. Although it has largely retreated to the shadows for a century or two, meditation has always bee an essential part of Jewish spiritual life.

Moments of intense religious experiences entail a shift in the state of consciousness. Conversely, though a knowledge of state of consciousness, one can lead another into a profound experience of God. Several months ago, I am treated to participating in what is to a client a profound spiritual experience. Typically, these clients emerge from hypnosis saying something like, "Wow! All my life I’ve wanted to have an experience like that. Now I know what all that stuff I learned about. Too bad they never allowed us to experience it."

Only about 20-percent of my clients are Jewish. The realm of things they use hypnosis for does not seem much different from the general population to me. Few Jews smoke these days however. Most people’s intense inner experiences are expressed in symbols that they are very familiar to them. Quite a few Christian tell me they experience Jesus. Jews never do. Jews often find hypnosis connects them to ancestors whom they always carry within them. Jews often come out of the process expressing something like, "Why don’t we Jews ever talk about God?" I find that last comment very sad. But that realization motives me to continue what I’m doing.


By The Rev. Dr. Prentice Kinser III

Dr Kinser photo

"Hypnosis and Pastoral Hypnotherapy" is a portion of Dr. Prentice Kinser, III's doctoral thesis: "Prophecy, Trance and Transference; Hypnosis as a Pastoral Counseling Modality," presented in June, 1997 at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. After much research into what constitutes the hypnotic state, and why it happens, no single factor can explain all of the phenomenon one may encounter. Actually, "many psychological and physical factors, acting reciprocally through the image-producing faculties of the mind induce the perceptual response called hypnosis. Hypnosis is not a sharply delineated state, but rather a mental process along the broad, fluctuating continuum of what is loosely referred to as awareness, depending upon three degree of perceptivity." (1)

The capacity to enter into hypnosis is as natural a phenomenon as sleep, but It is distinctly different from sleep. Hypnosis has been described as "a state of consciousness involving an extension of concentration combined with a susceptibility to suggestion occurring during physiological relaxation. "(2) Another definition I find useful is: "Hypnosis is a process which produces relaxation, distraction of the conscious mind, heightened suggestibility and increased awareness, allowing access to the subconscious mind, through the imagination. It also produces the ability to experience thoughts and images as real."(3) My own approach to hypnosis, pastoral hypnotherapy, and treatment comes out of my training and experience in using the therapeutic insights and writings of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. (19011980). From that perspective, hypnosis can be seen as an altered psychological state "generally characterized by certain physiological attributes ( e.g., relaxed muscle tone, reduced blood pressure, slowed breath rate), by an enhanced receptivity to suggestion, and by an increased access to unconscious feelings, ideas, and memories (Erickson, 1989)."(4) Michael D. Yapko, Director of the Milton H. Erickson Institute of San Diego, defines clinical hypnosis as "a process of influential communication, "( 5) and as "a skill of using words and gestures in particular ways to achieve specific outcomes. "(6)

It is important to remember that hypnosis does not have to involve the stereo typic rituals of swinging pendulums, watches or crystal balls, or that it is a fixed internal state. It is useful to see clinical hypnosis as "an interchange or form of communication between two (or more) people that results in the accessing and subsequent utilization of latent or underdeveloped resources. These resources may consist of past experiences, affects, or forgotten skills, and their renewed experience or application can result in changes in one's memory, perception, sensation, and/or emotion so that new behaviors and attitudes manifest (Zeig, 1987)."(7) However, I would not limit my definition of hypnotic trance to the necessity that it take place between two ( or more) people. "Clinical" hypnosis and "pastoral" hypnotherapy, on the other hand, do imply a clinical or pastoral setting, with the focus more on the process of communication and therapeutic outcome, rather than on the hypnotic state involved.

Clearly, hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, i.e., it is different from normal waking consciousness. However, it is believed that all people go in and out of hypnotic trance on a regular basis. In a book on "Healing Approaches in Quantum Psychology," Stephen Wolinsky, Ph.D., states:

"Trances are often a necessary means of surviving and negotiating the physical universe. They are like tunnels you walk through in order to maneuver and focus in the world. Some trances are functional and pleasing; others are dysfunctional and pathological. Some trances will be in alignment with your goals, while others will impede you. "(8)

Many people have experienced a type of hypnotic trance state while driving a car and become unconscious of the fact that they are still driving. As they come out of the trance they suddenly realize they do not remember what has happened for the past several minutes. It is as though an unconscious part of the mind was able to drive the car, avoid danger, speed up and slow down as necessary, while the conscious mind went off on a brief vacation thinking about something else. A trance may be experienced in the movies or while watching TV when people become so involved that they actually cry about a picture that has been projected onto a screen. At one level of their minds they know the picture is fiction. On another level, their minds move voluntarily into a trance in which there is a suspension of reality testing and an acceptance of what is happening on the screen as real.

Likewise, when people experience hypnosis or hypnotic trance, they often simply allow their bodies to relax and their minds to focus attention on the words they hear, and the various images they may represent in their minds. As Erickson observed, this is not hypersuggestible mind control but a very natural process that allows clients to more easily reach goals or objectives they have chosen for themselves. As one moves into the hypnotic state, he or she may receive information that the mind processes through the CNS and relates to the neurophysiologic complex of controls built into the human system for self-regulation of homeostatic or adaptive mechanisms. Thus there is greater receptivity of sensory inputs with a minimal degree of interference. This enhances the mental processes so that, with proper motivation, the client moves naturally and easily into a comfortable hypnotic trance state.

It is also helpful to think of hypnotic trance as "an experience that allows for the creation of a new phenomenal world for the client. New behaviors and attitudes are able to evolve and manifest because old, limiting, rigid, or maladaptive ones are modified, dissipated, or shifted to more innocuous areas of emotional or social functioning."(9) This is normally a safe process in the hands of a trained hypnotherapist. However, as with all therapeutic interventions, there are contraindications for certain types of processes, which are discussed more fully in Chapter Two of the soon to be published text PASTORAL HYPNOTHERAPY.

In summary , hypnotic trance, when utilized by trained and competent practitioners, can be a natural, comfortable and helpful process of communication, during which clients and/or parishioners may experience increased attention to suggestions, profound concentration, heightened recall of memories and access to state-dependent memories, greater image-producing abilities, and increased ability to form new habit patterns. All of these positive benefits can be used to greatly enhance spiritual practices, deepen meditation and prayer, control stress, assist in physical, spiritual and emotional healing, and, in general, assist individuals to find greater wholeness and happiness in life.

When these processes are used by a trained pastoral counselor, that is pastoral hypnotherapy.


1. Milton H. Erickson, The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnotism. Volume I, The Nature of hypnosis and Suggestion (New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc., 1980), p. 32.

2. David Fox, "Mind/Body, Brain/Soul: Halakhic Explorations of Hypnotic Trance Phenomena," Journal of Psychology and Judaism, Vol. 16, No.2 (Summer 1992), p. 97.

3. A.M. Krasner, The Wizard Within (Santa Ana: American Board of Hypnotherapy Press, 1991), p.2.

4. John H. Edgette, Psy.D., and Janet Sasson Edgette, Psy. D., The Handbook of Hypnotic Phenomena in Psychotherapy (New York: Brunner/Mazel, Inc., 1995), pp. 3-4.

5. Michael D.Yapko, Ph.D., Essentials of Hypnosis (New York: Brunder/Mazel, 1995), p. 9.

6. Ibid., p. 3.

7. Edgette and Edgette, p. 4, quoting J.K. Zeig "Therapeutic patterns of Ericksonian influence on communication" in J. K. Zeig (Ed) The Evolution of Psychotherapy (New York: Brunner/Mazel, Inc, 1987) pp. 392-412).

8. Stephen Wolinsky, Trances People Live (Falls Village, CT: The Bramble Company, 1991), p. 19.

9. Edgette and Edgette, p. 4.

[The Rev. Dr. Prentice Kinser III, B.A., M.B.A., M.Div., D.Min., CPC, NBCCH, is Executive Director and Pastoral Counselor for the Blue Ridge Pastoral Counseling Centers, Inc. (BRPCC), is an ordained minister (Episcopal priest), has received a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling and psychotherapy, is certified as a Pastoral Counselor and Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, is an Adjunct Faculty member at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, and is a National Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, a Certified Trainer of Clinical Hypnotherapy, a husband, a father of three children, and a grandfather of three grandchildren.

In addition to conducting pastoral counseling, Dr. Kinser is now serving as Priest-in-Charge at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Oak Grove, Virginia, and St. James' Episcopal Church, Montross, Virginia. Dr. Kinser has also provided professional consultations with individuals, churches and industry for a wide rage of problems and needs. For example, Dr. Kinser leads Vestry retreats, spiritual growth classes, stop smoking, weight loss, and performance enhancement programs. Dr. Kinser is the author of the doctoral thesis "Prophecy, Trance and Transference: Hypnosis as a Pastoral Counseling Modality." and the soon to be published texts Therapeutic Imaging and Pastoral Hypnotherapy http://www.two-day.com/brpcc/index.html . email: Dr@Kinser.com ]


Can a Christian counselor use medical hypnosis or trance techniques and still remain Christian? Two Christian authors and counselors that I deeply respect and admire, John and Paula Sandford, categorically say no:

"Hypnotism in counseling involves not only occult error, it may release power to demonic and/or fleshly forces to discover what the Holy spirit would not yet or perhaps ever reveal... No Christian counselor should be involved with hypnotism."

Feelings run strong within the Christian community concerning the use of hypnosis. Not infrequently, one can even hear remarks like, "Hypnotism is of the devil!"

In this article I will answer the first question and then ask and answer another question which I believe gets to the true core of the matter. It involves a more appropriate question that we should raise. Namely, "Is it even possible to be involved in the healing process of hurting people without involving hypnosis?" I take the position in this article that one cannot take part in the process of helping deeply hurting people and not use hypnosis or trance.

As we begin to think through these issues, we must obviously define our terms and set forth our definitions. World renown author and psychiatrist, Milton Erickson, M.D., described the process of hypnosis in the following way:

"Deep hypnosis is that level... that permits the subject to function adequately and directly at an unconscious level of awareness without interference by the conscious mind."

Thus, anything that allows a person to function in an internal, unconscious, or subjective level involves "hypnosis" or trance. This means that a person in trance or hypnosis has accessed a receptive state to suggestions from the therapist. Indeed, hypnosis essentially describes a communication of ideas and understandings to the client in such a fashion that assists his or her receptivity.

The Function of Parts in the Unconscious Mind: To accurately understand my belief that hypnosis plays an essential role in healing, even Christian healing, a person needs a basic understanding of the concepts of "unconscious parts." We commonly talk about "parts" when we say that "a part" of me wants this or that, but in my mind or in my emotions, I want this. It refers to a facet of our total functioning--maybe an emotional part, perhaps a conceptual part (a belief, value, understanding, etc.), or a behavioral part. Unconscious "parts" refer to those areas of the mind outside-of-consciousness that stores our non-integrated memories.

By non-integrated we mean that little or no transmission of neural impulses occurs between this part and the rest of the nervous system. Transmission can take place, however, functionally, no transmission does take place. A "split," so to speak, occurs and the part does not communicate with the rest of the mind. The part functions as a minor "personality," so to speak. As such, the part takes on more and more a life of its own.

I am writing this article using the computer software Word Perfect. If you imagine that the computer represents the human nervous system, then the software Word Perfect represents a part or facet of that system. Whenever I want to run the Word Perfect part, I use "wp" to execute the Word Perfect program. Yet I have, in my computer, other programs. So each of these programs exists and operates as an example of what we mean by a "part." They lie dormant in the computer, as potential resources, until I execute them. And, each software program has its own command that calls it up (evokes it) so that as the operator, I can then use it. For example, Microsoft Works uses the command "works" to activate its programs.

We likewise have stored within our minds various parts or memories. And frequently they can run independently of each other. Where do our parts come from? In many ways: education, learning, modeling, etc. And one of the key ways unconscious parts get installed in our human "system" involves Significant Emotional Experiences, whether positive or negative--but especially emotional experiences of Pain (SEEP). In painful experiences we create parts that don't fit with the rest of the nervous system. If they did fit, they would congruently operate as a functional part of the whole nervous system. If congruent, these parts would communicate and cooperate with the rest of the mind. But as incongruent parts, as split off and disowned "personalities," they conflict with the rest of the nervous system.

Unconscious "Parts" In Action: Bob knew that his problem concerned his weight. He had good control of all areas of his life, except in the area of his weight. Yet he desperately desired to let Christ operate as Lord in all areas of his life. His conscious outcome for his life involved letting Christ become Lord over all his life.

When Bob communicated with his "eating part," he discovered that this eating part dated back to his early childhood. While yet a child, Bob's father deserted him and his family. And, due to her work, Bob experienced his mother as absent from home most of the time. So Bob sought comfort elsewhere. Through eating, he received a form of warmth and comfort that he found lacking in his parents. The warm food not only gave him physical nourishment, but he also experienced it as giving him emotional support. At the time when this part came into existence, this "eating part" functionally met his needs as a fairly workable substitute.

But now that Bob had become an adult, the "part" within him that sought to find warmth and comfort via food had become very incongruent with his outcome for himself. This unconscious part, now with a life of its own, didn't treat food as food--as nourishment, but as filling an emotion need and so Bob had lost control over his eating and body weight. Bob's felt this incongruity. The part of him that wanted to let Jesus exercise lordship over his eating and weight conflicted with the part of him that didn't want to give up feeling warmth and comfort.

Now as I worked with him, as Bob focused on this unconscious part, he went into trance. Likewise, as Bob focused on the Lord as his Healer, he also entered into a trance.

Conflicting Parts: Not only do these parts operate incongruently with the rest of the nervous system, they also have an incongruity within themselves. At the time of their creation, the each part has a positive intent. Our part want to accomplish something of value for us. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) expresses this as one of its key presuppositions. "Every behavior originally arises to accomplish something useful and adaptive in some context."

In Bob's case, the eating part provided the much needed warmth/comfort that he craved (and needed) as a child. This described the original positive intent of his part. However, over the years and out of that context, the behavior of the part led to Bob's obesity. And, as an adult his obesity and eating behavior caused him problems in his profession as a minister. Meanwhile Bob desperately prayed for Christ to exercise Lordship over this area of his life. How could he find success in this?

One day a minister friend asked him, "Bob, how can you preach against gluttony?" Ouch. This question burned into Bob's soul. "How can I?" Now instead of providing him warmth/comfort, his eating part only provided him the opposite. Bob now felt rejection, confusion, and inner conflict. Thus, the intent of the part had come to operate in a way incongruent with the behavior it produced.

Inner Conflict: Our parts explain why we make choices detrimental to our long term welfare. Ann also had a weight problem. Ann, in her mid thirties, served in a church staff position. As a single adult, Ann wanted to do something about her weight. So once Ann got in touch with her eating part, she soon discovered that she ate whenever she felt insecure, rejection, or guilt.

For her, the creation of this part arose in early childhood. She learned from her mother to eat whenever she felt rejection, guilt, or insecurity. Her mother modeled this behavior regularly and systematically for Ann--who learned it all too well. So, whenever Ann experienced any of these emotions, she would eat, and eat, and eat. Rejection, guilt, and insecurity functioned like the magical words that activated this part to run its over-eating program.

The letters "wp" in my computer activate the software program Word Perfect. Similarly, those emotions individually, or collectively, activated Ann's over eating part. Consciously, Ann knew that over-eating would harm her health, her work, and her relationships. She knew this in her intellect. Yet, Ann would over-eat whenever the circumstances called for rejection, guilt, or insecurity.

Ann's over-eating part with its minor personality easily over-rode her conscious mind in controlling her behavior. Created during the imprint period of her childhood, the over-eating part controlled her.

The creation of such parts may occur at any time. Significant emotional experiences occur throughout life. And parts created by grief may last a life time. NLP offers models of therapy that can remove symptoms of grief in one session. Most parts generate during the imprint period (from birth to age seven). They have years of practice in controlling behavior.

The Bible and Unconscious Parts: What does the Bible say concerning unconscious parts? The Psalmist exclaimed of God,

"Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6, KJV).

The Hebrew word here for inward parts means "that which is covered over with something else." A covering conceals it. Note also the plural tense of the word. This indicates the presence of more than one unconscious part.

The writer of Hebrews referred to these unconscious parts as "bitter roots."

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by it many be defiled" (Hebrews 12:15, NASB).

In this passage the writer speaks about how bitter unconscious parts can result in three harmful consequences. First, bitter roots hinder the grace of God working in the individual. Second, bitter roots can cause trouble to the individual and, thirdly, to others. Indeed, my experience in marriage counseling teaches me that most marital problems directly trace back to bitter roots from childhood.

Do you fear making yourself vulnerable in telling what you really think or fear?

Do you find yourself easily embarrassed?

Do you often believe yourself as inferior to others?

Do you say to yourself, "No matter what I do, it won't make a difference; I am and always will be worthless and unlovable?"

Do you get defensive if someone gives you negative feedback?

Do you blame others a lot?

Do you apologize a lot?

Do you often feel yourself as an outsider?

Do you consistently think that others judge you?

In your mind and talk do you judge others?

Do you think yourself as ugly or somehow imperfect?

Do you find yourself obsessed by clothes or makeup?

Do you have to do things perfectly?

Do you feel depressed a lot?

Do you find that you have deceived yourself about things?

Do you live your life as a people-pleaser?

Do you go into fits of rage?

Do you idolize money or status?

Do you work too much?

Do you eat too much?

Do you shop too much?

Do you gamble too much?

Do you use pornography?

Do you experience your identity as shamed based?

Do you feel guilty most of the time?

All of these expressions exist as bitter roots that, in most cases, we can trace to parental imprints. These bitter roots function as unconscious parts that drive behavior. For healing to take place, we must take these bitter roots to the Cross. Uncovering these parts so that we can take them to the Cross for God to heal describes our use of trance (or hypnosis). Indeed, trance plays an essential role in this process. The Sandfords acknowledge the development of such bitter roots.

"The Body of Christ, especially its counselors, need to have their eyes open to the terrible fact that very many of the practices in our old nature, with which we struggle so fiercely as Christians, were formed in our first two or three years on earth!"

When we fail to take our bitter roots to the Cross for healing we suffer harm in our personal, spiritual, and relational lives. Now just after the section wherein the Sandfords condemned hypnosis, they write:

"However psychological his training, however informed his mind, a Christian counselor remains as we have said earlier, a midwife, assisting the Holy Spirit and the other in the arena of birth."

Obviously I agree that Christian counselors/therapists function only as instruments in the hands of the Holy Spirit. However, when the Holy Spirit focuses the attention of a person to a bitter root, that person, by definition, enters into a trance or hypnotic state. I do not find myself in real disagreement with the Sandfords. For, they realize that most problems lie deep. They stress the that the Holy Spirit must bring about the focusing on the problem. To that I heartily agree. The Christian counselor/therapist, by definition, functions as a person of prayer and belief in the Scriptures. Why? So that by living "Spirit motivated," his or her work will operate in a "spirit motivated" way. My only qualm with the Sandfords and other counselors like them concerns their wholesale condemnation of trance and hypnosis.

Altered State/Trance: How does a Christian counselor/therapist bring about healing of unconscious parts? We do so via a trance or altered state. Why? Because trance enables a person to function more effectively and directly at the unconscious level. God made it this way having equipped us with both a central nervous system and an autonomic nervous system that runs our breathing, heart pulse, neuro-transmitters, glands, internal organs, internal bio-rhythms, etc.

We need this deep meditative and inward focus of the trance state in order to deal with the conscious mind which can become an absolute master at keeping our unconscious parts repressed. The beauty of trance lies, in part, in how it can occupy the conscious mind. Once occupied, the conscious mind stops intruding unhelpfully when our deeper unconscious mind provides important information. Given this analysis, anything that allows you to function internally at the unconscious level describes a process that causes trance.

Actually, we all go in and out of trance several times every day. God has built our mind-body nervous system with this ability in order to keep us from going insane. Without the ability for trance, we would hear and process every word that came our way. Trance, as intense focus on something, simply enables us to shut out other things.

Day dreaming offers an excellent example of everyday trance. Have you ever driven several miles and not remember passing certain landmarks? Or, have you ever started out intending to drive to a familiar place only to end up somewhere else? And, once you "came to yourself," did you then wondered how you got there? Of course you have! So welcome to the world of trance!

In contact sports, injured athletes sometimes become so focused and concentrated on the game that they lack any awareness of an injury. Not until after the game do they become aware that they have suffered an injury. So where were they or where was their consciousness when the injury occurred? In the trance state they had altered their normal consciousness to one of intense focus.

Soldiers, too, frequently report of suffering an injury in battle and not feeling pain until after the battle. Their conscious mind so concentrated on the battle that they lost awareness of any pain from even serious injury. Again, in trance they accessed God-given resources within their body--resources that the medical community has designated as hypnotic pain control.

Hypnosis and trance simply describe the same phenomenon. The first word, hypnosis, describes what the experience looks like from an outside observer--"sleep" or as we say, "zoned out." The second word, trance, describes the movement of consciousness from one state to another, it "transitions" from normal consciousness to an altered one.

Biofeedback also operates as trance. In biofeedback, we teach a patient to focus intently on body functions. With the use of monitoring instruments, the patient consciously monitors and thus controls facets of their body and nervous system. With such feedback, a patient can control such things as blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, etc. When a person concentrates so that he or she can control blood pressure, they have accessed a deep trance. Similarly, much of the stress relieving techniques on the market today base their effectiveness on trance.

A person may even plot "trance" on the EEG (electroencephalogram). The EEG divides the intensity of the energy manifestations in the brain among four different wave lengths: beta (12 - 25), alpha (9 - 12), theta (5-8) and delta (0 - 4). When the EEG prints out beta waves, this indicates the brain in a state of actively thinking. Alpha waves indicate a relaxation state. Theta waves means the person has entered into a trance state. An EEG printing out delta waves indicates a person asleep.

How does trance feel? People typically enjoy experiencing the trance state because it feels good. On the EEG, trance lies at a level below relaxation. This means that when we experience trance, we experience a deep state of relaxation. Contrast this with what Job said in anguish,

"I am seething within, and cannot relax;
Days of affliction confront me" (Job 30:27)

What did Job need? He needed to focus on God, and to relax in God's love, grace, security, and promises. After much struggle, Job did shift his focus (consciousness) and did focus on God.

"I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees Thee" (Job 42:5)

With his eyes turned away from his problems, Job turned his focus to God. With God's revelation from the Whirlwind and his searching probing questions to Job, this induced Job into an intense concentration on God and God's wonderful, but mysterious world, and so Job went into a trance. The long term result of his shift of consciousness? "Job died, an old man and full of days" (Job 42:17). Many believe, as I do, that when we enter into a deep concentrative trance as such, that our body reaches its healing peak.

Milton Erickson, M.D., used trance to communicate with people and to facilitate healing. He would put people in trance and in that state of trance, Erickson would ask them about their problem. When he asked them about their problem, they would go blank. Their appearance indicated that the problem had ceased functioning as a problem.

Erickson also discovered that, in trance, people experience an inner alertness. Though they look asleep from an outside perspective, inwardly they have blocked out everything, but the matter of their focusing. Trance (or hypnosis), therefore, enables a therapist to communicate ideas to the deeper mind of the client and in this communication, trance empowers the person to become most receptive to those ideas.

Recall that the unconscious mind tends to accepts suggestions uncritically when we gain rapport with a person. When you have rapport with a person, they focus entirely on you and so they have entered in trance with you. As such, trance moves the critical and argumentative conscious mind out of the way. Typically, our conscious mind thinks and behaves quite egotistically. It wants to have its way! When it does not get its way, it goes to war. It then tends to block out any communication both from others and from the unconscious mind.

By contrast, trance moves the conscious mind out of the way so that the unconscious mind can then speak. Through the process, once the conscious mind realizes that the unconscious mind only attempts to do its best, the conscious mind will communicate with it. Since the Holy Spirit does His best work at the unconscious level (within the "hidden parts"), trance offers a most helpful process to the Christian minister. Indeed, I continue to become more and more aware that hypnotic language patterns in the hands of the Christian therapist functions as the language of the Spirit.

Trance, the Bible and the Church: Both the Bible and the Church actually refers to and makes much use of trance. Remember how the apostle Peter entered Joppa and on the house-top where he had gone for a time of prayer, Peter fell into a trance.

"...he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance" (Acts 10:9-10).

The word trance here derives from ekstasis. As you look at that word you can recognize our English word ecstasy--"stasis" (to stand) and "ec" (ex, out), hence to "stand out of yourself." The Greek lexicon defines this word as "a state of being brought about by God, in which consciousness is wholly or partially suspended."

Actually this lexicon definition of trance sounds as if it came right out of a NLP manual. The critical addition in this definition differs only in that God brought about Peter's trance. (Imagine that, God a hypnotist! And given the vision he saw--what a hypnotist!) As Christian counselors, we know and want all of our work to operate in a Christ centered way--in a way filled with and by the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, Christian counselors will bathe his or her work in prayer. We do that so that the Holy Spirit will empower our work and enlighten our minds.

Consider the Hebrew verbs for meditation: hagah and siach. Both of these words translate "to muse, speak or talk." Thus the concept of meditation comes from the definition "to muse." Accordingly the Psalmist said,

"I will meditate (hagah) on all Thy work,
and muse (siach) on Thy deeds" (Psalm 77:12)

In meditating, or musing, on God's works, the Psalmist announces that he will reflect, ponder or consider at length the work of God. He will go "inside" his mind and there see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the various wondrous works of God--separating Abraham, calling Moses, freeing the Israelites, etc. Trance. When the Psalmist did this or when we do this today-- trance occurs.

Prayer too functions as trance. Why or how? Because true prayer involves intense concentration on God. In prayer, we focus our attention on God and do so to such an extent that all other external stimuli move aside.

Probably, nowhere else in the Bible do we find the use of trance more evident than in the parables of Jesus. A parable, after all, operates as a metaphor and so takes on the characteristics of a metaphor. Robert Dilts defines a metaphor as "a figure of speech in which something is spoken of as if it were another." The word "metaphor" means "to carry over." In a metaphor the message within the metaphor "carries over" into the other person's needs. The listener takes the framework or structure of the metaphor and interprets them in the framework of his or her own experience.

This describes the subtle and covert power of metaphors. Because the message lies in the frame of an unrelated story, the message typically will bypass the client's conscious mind and go right into the unconscious mind. We therefore use therapeutic metaphor and design to have a similar structure to the client's experience. Because of the similarity, their unconscious mind will interpret the metaphor in relation to their own needs. The client will take what he hears and represent it in terms of his or her own experience.

When we hear Jesus' parables, our conscious mind becomes occupied by the simple story of the parable. We think and wonder about the details of the story. But meantime our unconscious mind interprets the story behind the story, or the intended message for ourselves. By occupying our conscious mind with the unrelated story, our Lord puts us in trance in order to get to our unconscious mind with the message of the parable.

Do you think Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan really concerned two busy religious leaders who obey the Law by remaining clean? Or, do you think the parable speaks about his condemnation of a religious system that caused religious leaders to put legalism above helping someone in need? And, did our Lord kick them hard when he chose a hated and despised Samaritan as the one who gave a helping hand to the fallen stranger?

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus chose to present his teaching in a straight-forward way, as he did in the Sermon on the Mount. But with the resisting Pharisees, his teaching got Him into trouble and threatened Him with death before His time. So, he chose the parable as a method by which he could get to the unconscious minds of the religious community in a non-threatening way (Matthew 13). And via the parable, Jesus showed his expertness at placing people in trance. A metaphor comes to the mind in a far less threatening way than does direct advice. Why? Because the information has a veiled form in the metaphor.

If your age places you in the middle to older generation, you probably appreciate meditative organ music prior to worship. What does such do for you? The music relaxes you. It focuses your attention on worship. It puts you into a state of trance. If, however, you do not like the music, you will come out of trance and talk to the person on the pew with you, do you not?

Then in the sermon, if the preacher makes a statement that focuses your attention on a hurt, a need, or even an interest. Then while the preacher continues preaching, you go somewhere else. Do you not? He leaves you behind while your attention goes to something else. Inwardly you focus on your need or interest--your brain swishes to you another time and place. Trance! Actually, most pastors have already become masters at trance work, except they don't know it(!) nor would many admit it.

Today many people flock to the Pentecostal churches. Why? Their worship services powerfully and marvelously induce people into trances. Rhythmic motion produces trance in people. The raising of hands and the swaying also induces trance. The Africans have enjoyed this for centuries. The background of rock music induces trance, does it not with its beat? People not only listen to the words of the song, they feel the music's rhythm. Trance induction happens as they move from their auditory to their kinesthetic representation system. It seems to me that people love these worship trances because when they enter such trances, they focus more clearly and powerfully on God.

Conclusion: In your work as a Christian counselor/therapist, you will deal with unconscious behaviors. In bringing healing to these behaviors, you must establish communication with the part producing the unwanted behavior. And, at times, you must discover a part or parts that will produce alternative behaviors. These parts lie in our "mind" outside of consciousness, in our unconscious mind. Establishing communication with these unconscious parts will require trance on the part of your client. Your challenge as a therapist will therefore involve getting the person's conscious mind out of the way so you can lead them to fix the unconscious mind. Indeed, most of your clients experience emotional illness precisely because their conscious mind has gotten out of rapport with their unconscious mind. Trance places one's conscious mind in rapport with one's unconscious mind. And that offers yet another reason why we enjoy trance so much.

[BOBBY G. BODENHAMER, D.Min. (Picture at beginning of article) Bob@neurosemantics.com and  L. MICHAEL HALL, Ph.D. (Picture on left) Michael@neurosemantics.com are Co-Directors of Institute of Neuro-semantics http://www.neurosemantics.com/ ]