Hypnotism – or permanent healing?

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

The world longs for healing – for freedom from pain, sickness, addiction, and so many other troubles. In response, myriad different healing options have arisen, including hypnosis, which has ancient roots, possibly in Egypt. Today, besides its role in psychotherapy, you'll find hypnotism offered in some dentists' offices, as well as among other medical professionals and hospitals.

Some of the advertising associated with hypnosis can seem appealing – especially those methods that offer freedom from smoking or other troublesome behaviors, with minimal effort. The difficulty with these procedures is that they don't actually lead to healing. A change of thought, perhaps, but a change that stays on the same material plane as before. And, although one hypnosis website assures visitors that "all hypnosis is self-hypnosis and the power is in the mind of the person being hypnotized," a willing consent to suggestions – even from a seemingly neutral source – is still problematic.

One can't help wondering if hypnotism, which may have had a different name in the time of the early Christians, was one of the practices against which Paul was warning Jesus' followers when he wrote, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Cor. 11:3).

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Anyone reading the account of Eve's encounter with the serpent in the garden of Eden wouldn't have difficulty seeing how the beguiling or mesmerizing took place. First, there was the snake's enticing question about whether it was possible to eat fruits from all the trees in the garden. Then, its subtle progression of comments that undermined Eve's clarity of thought, until she took that first bite. The illustration of how mental manipulation works couldn't be clearer.

The warning that goes with its message is still relevant today. Although hypnotism websites are quick to assert that the patient can't be influenced against his or her will, the process of hypnosis doesn't remove the "reality" of the problem. It simply changes the parameters. For true freedom, Mary Baker Eddy explained in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "You must understand your way out of human theories relating to health, or you will never believe that you are quite free from some ailment" (p. 381).

Christian Science makes clear that one's human reality is permanently and irreversibly improved not through manipulation, but through an enlarged understanding of God's presence in one's life. Material circumstances become progressively less relevant as spiritualization of thought occurs. To move in this direction is to leave behind a mortal way of thinking – including even the desire for a material fix. Mortal thought continually suggests that disease, decline, and decay are the norms, whereas spiritualized thought recognizes existence as the reflection of Spirit, which has no material element.

Jesus' response to people who came to him for healing supports this fact. He didn't ask for a case history. His consciousness of God's presence and power was so complete that he could heal chronic disease as readily as troubles that might be considered less challenging. To him, and gradually to his disciples, healing came about not through a deeper acquaintance with the material, fleshly mind, but through a clearer understanding of God's love for His children. This healing influence, or Christ, lifted – and continues to lift – people out of sickness and sin, to a new and purer sense of life.

This outlook stands in sharp contrast to the growing focus on the brain and its ability to be retrained and manipulated. Looking more and more deeply into matter, which is nonintelligent and illusory, leads down a path to nowhere. Matter can never express the infinity of divine Mind, which always unfolds fresh ideas and expresses intelligence without limit.

Relying on divine Mind is the starting point for individual and social progress. Moreover, it's also the foundation of permanent spiritual healing.

Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.

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