As a former Pentecostal evangelist; when I left the church one of the first things I had to try to explain was how I was able to do the things I did during a typical service, let me explain. When I would preach people claimed later to have been healed, set free from demonic possession or oppression, received gifts of the Spirit they previously did not have such as speaking in tongues (glossolalia), or being baptized in the Holy Spirit.
When I prayed for people they typically fell over without me even touching them, what was more amazing which at times even shocked me; was that I was able to do this with the same effects from clear across the room by simply pointing at someone! Sometimes I would stare at someone and they would pass out and later testify that they were overcome by the presence of the Holy Spirit! At the time I truly believed that I was a man who was filled with the Spirit and had what the Pentecostals like to call the anointing.
In the Old Testament when one was chosen King he was anointed by the priests in a ceremony which typically meant that he was chosen by God as the people’s ruler. Pentecostals on the other hand believed in a spiritual anointing that only came upon a chosen few in which God himself would pour out his Spirit upon them and grant them amazing powers for use in the ministry. These gifts are listed in the book of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 in all the number of the gifts of the Spirit are nine. During my ministry I can honestly say that at one time or another I have utilized each and every one of these gifts.
The first time that I began to doubt the origin of the “powers” was when I was watching a television documentary about an Indian ceremony that had to do with the dance of the serpent. Basically, there were some girls all dressed in white dresses and they were dancing around a ritualistic circle meant to conjure the spirit of some serpent deity. As the ritual wore on the girls began to mimic the movements of a snake as they supposedly succumbed to the possession of the spirit deity. They began to writhe sensually on the ground etc. I remember the first thought that crossed my mind upon seeing that ritual was “that’s not that different from what happens in my church!”
In a typical Pentecostal service it is not uncommon to see men and women alike passing out suddenly, or begin to “speak in tongues” loudly,crying, or to get caught in ecstasy as they raise their arms in the air and shout hallelujah, or even begin jumping up and down uncontrollably. All of these are interpreted as the working of the Spirit in them. But is it really? It is also important to note that a lot of these manifestations are all psycho-emotional but that is something we could talk about in another post.One of the first places I began to look for answers was in the field of hypnosis. I had seen many stage hypnotists on television specials make people do incredible things through the power of suggestion.
In hypnosis as in religion, the first thing you must do is surrender and trust the person you are surrendering to. Pentecostalism hammers into your psyche to let go and let God’s Spirit have his way with you. A minister may place his hands on your head or shoulders and shout in your ear “let go stop resisting the Spirit of the Lord is doing a work in you.” Meanwhile while all of this is going on you have the rest of the congregation yelling “touch him/her Lord let them feel your power baptize them with your Holy Spirit!”
There is loud music meant to help you let go of your inhibitions and relax to put you in the right state of mind. Before you know it you either pass out or start speaking in tongues which contrary to what many believe who have not had this experience you are actually very conscious and aware of your surroundings when this happens. Basically, you are in a hypnotic trance induced by the combination of previous indoctrination to your churches beliefs, the loud music, the prayers of a “holy man,” and the egging on of the rest of the congregation with supporting shouts and prayers. But this could also happen just by hearing the minister’s voice as he preaches and shouts his message of salvation at the top of his lungs.
Think of the minister as the hypnotist, his touch or stare, the yelling, the music, the egging on of your fellow believers, and you have the perfect formula for a hypnotic induction. As stated before the auto-suggestion is already taken care of with the daily indoctrinations you receive while you remain a member of that church and fraternize with the elders of the congregation. All of these things serve as tools to the hypnotist/evangelist.
I can attest that when I was an evangelist I was unaware of these techniques and utilized them unknowingly. I was basically following the standard rituals as taught to me by the church and as I participated in and observed several times a week. Not all ministers in these churches use these techniques to deceive, although there might be a few who know exactly what they are doing.
In closing, all of these phenomena are nothing more than events created in the mind. They are altered mental states that seemingly produce physical results such as faith healing or deliverance from demonic oppression or possession. A lot of the so called healings you hear about in these congregations are actually nothing more than the placebo effect in action. These so called maladies are nothing more than psycho-somatic disorders and the rituals of the church serve as the cure (placebo) of an imaginary problem.