Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Pentecostals and hypnosis


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.

10 comments:

  1. My husband was the recipient of 'healing hands' from his sister when she visited us and even though he was not aware at the time of her prayers being directed to his lower back he had a temporary reprieve from his pain. I can understand the placebo effect when you want relief from a mallady but it's nothing short of amazing when you get relief after someone just brushes their hand across your back at a time when you're not expecting it. He is not a believer and was not surprised when the pain came back after two days but the short-lived episode was an eye opener for him. I can't explain it and there certainly was no circus atmosphere involved. For me, faith healing is right up there with extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence...to have any merit amputees would have to regrow limbs and and paralyzed people would have to be able to move again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Facinating to hear first hand account from one who has been there and done that.

    I wonder to what degree the hypnotic effect is dependent on, or enhanced by, lower intelligence of the congregant, along with their necessary religious preparation. My educated guess is that the least intelligent would be most susseptible to the suggestions of the minister.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's not really about intelligence in my opinion because as you know there are bonafide scientists that are actually Christians. In fact, there are many intelligent people that are even fundamentalists as well. I think it's about the degree of indoctrination that they have received. There is also the theory that intelligent people tend to compartmentalize their rational mind from their faith beliefs.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What I am trying to say Hump is that once you are indoctrinated you tend to separate your rational mind from your faith. I did exactly that and it wasn't till I began to actually question my faith that I began to activate my rational mind and apply it to the scriptures and what I believed at the time. It wasn't an easy escape for me as I have made clear before. In the end breaking free from radical beliefs is rather difficult and usually something or some event has to trigger your desire to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Chat...
    fully understand compartmentalization. and yes, some sicentisists are beievers. But here's the thing, if 93% of the National academy of science are non-believers (97% of the Royal Academy in the UK), that leaves 7% believers.

    Of those 7%, how many would we find flopping on the floor, talking in tonngues, and otherwise participating in charasmatic hysteria? I'm going to proffer none.

    Could that be that the greatest scentific minds are the greatest scientific minds because they were [coincidently] not raised among extreme religiosity? That some significant proportion are Jews and other non-xtian religionists? Or is it because they rejected such extremist religiosity because of their intellectual advantage?

    I don't know the answer, perhaps a mix of the three is likely. Just thinking out loud.

    ReplyDelete
  6. PS: It also begs the question as to why the greatest scientific minds in the world reject religion in such a large proportion if intellect where not a major cause for non-belief?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hump, as far as the propensity of non-belief of the intellectual goes I wholeheartedly agree with you. The numbers don't lie on that issue. On the other hand I believe that your upbringing and the degree of your indoctrination has a lot to do with how far you take those beliefs. Not to mention how hard you are willing to fight to defend those beliefs.

    I do think that you might have a point regarding the charismatics such as the Pentecostals and their propensities to believe in the supernatural. I guess I took personal offense because I don't consider myself to be less intelligent than the next guy, and although I did not go to college ( I choose military service)I fell victim to the insanity of Pentecostalism.

    But I attribute my personal experience to my Hispanic culture. Hispanics in my view tend to be very superstitious and religious the same goes for the Afro-American community. Once I was able to break away from the fears that came with my cultural superstitions regarding God I was able to free my mind indefinitely from all forms of superstition.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I fully agree upbringing/early indoctrination plays an enormous part. It could well be that a person with a high IQ raised in a fundamentalist household is actually stunted or at least dissuaded from persuing a career in science and questioning since reason is the enemy of faith. Religion seems to waste perfectly good minds; and less intelligent people tend to gravitate toward religious belief... not exclusively less intelligent, just predominantly.

    And I did not mean to imply that on an individual basis all relgionists are less intelligent than atheists. That would be nuts. The 30+ studies from the 30's through the 80's which I mentioned in my first boook, and which are available through a google search, show stong correlation between degree of religiosity and a lower level of intelligence. But that's an aggregate result. Individually there must be tens of thousands of religionists smarter than me .. and certainly millions who spell better :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. The fact that people are using religion to fill their own interests, ecstasy or money or power or fame, doesn't mean that someone has to say No to God his Creator. All these movements are not biblical either. If we read the Bible seriously and not superficially we will by surprise find that Paul already Condemned this attitutde to Corinthian Church, and that the tongues of Pentecost were real tongues..and not mystical as many say. Today i never found any Church where someone is speaking my mother Language that is the ancient Greek. So i believe this manifestation of the Holy Spirit is useless today, with all the translators and books we have. My friend, if i can call you like this (by permission), if people doesnt understand the Bible and make so many errors, doesn't mean we have to forget the Love of Jesus on the Cross for everyone of us. Jesus still loves you and me, and Waits you to serve Him with your new state of Truth. Greeting from Milano (Italy) (i passed through same experiences, but thanks God i found the real peace in Jesus Himself and not superstitions) God bless everybody

    ReplyDelete
  10. The fact that people are using religion to fill their own interests, ecstasy or money or power or fame, doesn't mean that someone has to say No to God his Creator. All these movements are not biblical either. If we read the Bible seriously and not superficially we will by surprise find that Paul already Condemned this attitutde to Corinthian Church, and that the tongues of Pentecost were real tongues..and not mystical as many say. Today i never found any Church where someone is speaking my mother Language that is the ancient Greek. So i believe this manifestation of the Holy Spirit is useless today, with all the translators and books we have. My friend, if i can call you like this (by permission), if people doesnt understand the Bible and make so many errors, doesn't mean we have to forget the Love of Jesus on the Cross for everyone of us. Jesus still loves you and me, and Waits you to serve Him with your new state of Truth. Greeting from Milano (Italy) (i passed through so called churches with the same experiences, but thanks God i found the real peace in Jesus Himself and not superstitions) God bless everybody

    ReplyDelete