Article: Hypnosis: The Secular Sacrament
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Summary: Where religious and social institutions do not always support individuals in having their own unmediated experience of the sacred or of their deeper selves, hypnosis can.
I often think of hypnosis as a secular sacrament. At first glance, “secular sacrament” appears to be an oxymoron. How can something sacred, and therefore traditionally a part of the religious community within a society, be the same thing as something secular, and therefore a part of the political and socioeconomic community of a society? This chapter will show how hypnosis functions as a secular sacrament, yet remains outside of the trappings of the larger cultural and social realities.
What is the process of hypnosis that allows it to function as a sacrament and, in so do doing, bring us to an experience of the sacred? Hypnosis functions as one of many possible catalysts to bring us to an experience of ourselves at a soul level by revealing our most deeply-held needs, motivations and desires. The hypnotic state is an altered state of consciousness described by all cultures, but it takes different forms in different cultures. Some of these forms of experience include the experience of the self through the use of mind-expanding drugs, meditation, chanting, singing, extreme physical exertion, and prayer. Hypnotism as used by Western practitioners today, was rediscovered and redefined in the last century by Mesmer, Jung, Erickson, Freud, and others.
The sacred allows us direct experience of the reality of our being beyond the filter of culture. People experience this core level of being in different ways. People who meditate may describe it as becoming part of phenomena rather than observing it. People who pray deeply may describe this experience as a sense of oneness with God. Those who take psychogenic drugs may describe the same experience as having their usual personal perspective superseded by a more expansive, all-inclusive understanding of reality.
Naturally, the culture where we are raised is bound to influence the way we describe this experience. But although culture and its structures may affect the path we take, they cannot ultimately influence or change us at a soul level. This always remains beyond the reach of acculturation.
Because the hypnotic state is common to almost all cultures even though it is understood in different ways, much can be learned about this altered state of consciousness by looking at how different cultures view it. In some cultures, the use of hypnosis to touch the realms of the sacred is revered. In others, such as our own, it is not widely valued. In cultures where the understanding of the self and an acquaintance with the reality of the soul are considered to be instrumental to the maintenance of the dominant culture, the hypnotic state is sought out. It is considered to be an important tool with which to understand the nature of the reality which lies beyond acculturation. In traditional cultures, shamans are the keepers of this knowledge. Non-shamans in such societies may or may not come to their own experience of the world of the sacred to which the hypnotic trance is just one door, but they respect and understand the shaman’s ability to enter it. Following are some brief illustrations of shamanic practice in different cultures which illuminate the ways in which the hypnotic trance is used to experience the sacred.
In Shaman’s Drum, Winter 1996, William S. Lyon, Ph.D. reports on the Lakota (Sioux) Yuwipi ceremony, which has been documented by other anthropologists as well. The Yuwipi is a ceremony designed to address physical and sometimes psychological dislocation or imbalance within the tribe. This ceremony is conducted by a medicine man of great personal skill and experience who is able to handle the intense powers associated with the ceremony. All of the members of the community recognize the value of the ceremony, which is often reflected in the return to balance of the patient. The patient is often in an altered state during the ceremony and the shaman is in a deeply altered state. This state is called a hypnotic trance in the West. Its functions is to renew a connection with the sacred nature of the experience of the self at a soul level. This may be done by retrieving parts of the self that have been disconnected from the larger self through trauma or illness. Yuwipi ceremonies are conducted as needed to heal various physical illnesses, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and asthma. At times, it is used to treat those who are experiencing what, in Western terms, would be considered psychotic episodes. The ceremony has a uniting effect in bringing the different parts of the patient together into present time. It has the same uniting effect of bringing the community together as the community witnesses the shaman assisting the person for whom the ceremony is conducted into better communication with his inner life. In this context, there is minimal conflict between an individual experiencing the sacred through the institutions of the culture.
In the same edition of Shaman’s Drum, Carol Cumes and Romulo Valencia report on the festival of Q’ollorit’i which is held by the Q’ero people of Andes mountains, discussed in the book, Pachamama’s Children: Mother Earth & Her Children of the Andes in Peru. They describe this annual festival as the most sacred festival of the Andean year. The point of the festival is to bring the individual into deep communication between their inner life and the mysterious energies of the cosmos. Rather than perceiving this inter-communication as a threat to the order of the society, it is viewed as an event which brings the community into harmony and order. Some of the ceremonies associated with the festival are conducted by priests, some of whom incorporate elements from the Catholic religion. Again, we have an example of a cultural institution which helps the individual reestablish his connection with the sacredness of their being on a soul level.
In the Fall 1995 issue of Shaman’s Drum, there is a description of Flora Jones’ initiation into the role of shaman. She is a member of the Wintu tribe of northern California. At the age of seventeen came the climactic event of her calling – her first trance. She was engrossed in a card game with friends when, without warning, her ears were filled with a ringing sound and a burning pain. “It was like a hot bullet going through my ear,” she recalled. “The pain went through me and I passed out for four days.” Years later, she viewed this traumatic experience as her first ecstatic encounter with a helping spirit. She awoke from her prolonged unconsciousness singing. With her were four older Wintu shamans, who had cared for her, administering medicine and taking her to sacred places to pray.
If an individual were to undergo such an event in the context of most Western cultures today, it is unlikely that her experience would be recognized as a voyage to the sacred calling within her. Even if religious authorities of almost any persuasion were called, it is unlikely that they would recognize the experience as anything other than one which would require some sort of curative measure. But within the Wintu tradition, there is a culturally-understood place for ecstatic encounters of this nature. These types of experiences are viewed as deepening both the community’s and the individual’s connection with the sacred. This culture does not see the individual’s direct connection to the divine as a threat to religious or cultural hegemony; it welcomes it as quite the opposite.
Within the mystical traditions of many organized religions, there are stories of spiritual awakening through the “dark night of the soul.” People undergo a severe psychological or emotional crisis which brings them to a wider understanding of themselves. Ideally, this understanding is allowed to remain one of intense, personal, and direct connection with the divine. It is within this context that organized religion could accommodate the individual encounter with the divine. Hopefully, these religious institutions can allow the person who has such an experience the freedom to explore his psyche. Hopefully, the structure of religion acts as a light-handed guidance through the experience. Ideally, the institution does not feel threatened by such individualistic understanding and does not seek to limit such experiences.
Because religions, by their nature, are group experiences, their authorities can sometimes feel threatened by an individual who experiences the divine without the mediation of religious authorities who seek to create group cohesion. It is simply a conflict of interest. The group seeks to perpetuate itself, and to do that it must have the cooperation of its members. People seek to know themselves, and they may choose to know themselves with or without the filter of the group. Traditional religions in many “civilized” cultures of both the East and the West have had a stake in mediating the religious experience of their members. To the extent that a priest or a guru can control or influence a follower’s experience of the divine, their control and authority is measured and exerted and the group is perpetuated. This may not be the goal of a person seeking self-understanding with as few filters as possible.
If one is to believe the accounts in many organized religions’ scriptures, people in the distant past did have intercourse with their deeper selves which were accepted by that religion. People did have experiences with the sacred, which have been described as encounters with God. Descriptions of these experiences form some of the most basic teachings of the Bible. In Genesis, we have the following description of one of Adam’s and Eve’s encounters with God:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
David has a similar encounter in Chronicles:
He raised his eyes, and saw the Angel of Yahwe hovering between the Earth and the heavens and his drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem.
Such mystical encounters do not often find a place within the confines of many religious practices today because they tend to break or stretch the tradition set out in ancient scripture. It is important for religious institutions to maintain tradition in order to keep the religious institution in place, so people who have such non-traditional, non-ordinary experiences often find it difficult to find meaning within the context of traditional liturgy.
But there are people who have had these sorts of experiences since the Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads, and other ancient holy books were written. Indeed, these encounters with the sacred are quite common in hypnotic states. I have experienced them personally and many people I work with have experienced them as well. Outside of the context of the secular sacrament of hypnosis, these events can be viewed with some consternation by the arbiters of some societal institutions.
But, because of the force of conviction borne in those who have such an experience, some religious authorities may recognize this phenomenon. Some organizations will even encourage this type of divine encounter, but they will stop short of leaving the individual to discern their own understandings from it. Rather, the authorities tend to make the encounter a reason for the experiencer to bring more people to the institution. This intention may be a good one in the eyes of the group, which needs to perpetuate itself in order to continue to exist, but it may interfere with personal self-understanding.
I had an encounter with a member of a Christian Pentecostal church. It is one of those institutions which encourages its members to have personal mystical encounters as a way of perpetuating itself. I found this melding of the personal encounter with the sacred within the context of the group a very intriguing blend of personal mysticism and group dynamics.
I met Mr. Young when he was attending the death bed of his father at the hospice where I work. I had been struck by his devotion to his father and his willingness, which I did not observe in his siblings, to be present in a very difficult and painful situation. I asked him if he was a member of his father’s Catholic church. He told me he had joined a Pentecostal congregation because there was no Catholic church in the town where he lived. He then told me the following story as I asked him questions.
“I was praying one day when suddenly I heard the most beautiful song.”
Q: What was the song?
A: Birds. It was a music I have never heard on earth. Heavenly music.
Q: What color were the birds?
A: I could not see them I could only hear them.
Q: Where were they in relation to you?
A: They were singing in my left ear.
Q: How many birds were there?
Q: How did you know there were three if you could not see them?
A: I just knew there were three. I could hear their wings.
Q: What did you think when you heard them?
A: I was very happy. I was never so happy in my whole life.
Q: What happened then?
A: I went and told my pastor and the congregation about the music. They all rejoiced and prayed for me. Then I began speaking in tongues.
Q: Did you recognize the language?
A: No. It was just sounds repeated over and over like, “Oo lai lai, oo lai lai,” like that.
Q: How did you feel when you heard yourself speaking in tongues?
A: I was very joyful. I told God all the bad things about me and he forgave me. Now I have forgiveness in my heart.
Q: How has this experience affected your life?
A: Well, I must tell everyone about this. Because anyone who has not experienced Jesus as his personal savior will go to Hell. Even if they are good people and do good things, they will go to Hell if they do not have this experience of Christ. And they will never get out of Hell. So I was very anxious to have my father accept Jesus as his personal savior before he died so he would go to heaven.
Q: Did he accept Jesus as his personal savior even though he is a devout Catholic?
A: Oh, yes. I am very happy. He will go to heaven now. I am very happy that I have helped him in this way.
Q: What other effects has this experience had in your life?
A: Before, I used to think about making money all the time, and material things, but now I just think about saving as many people as I can from Hell by bringing them into my church.
The experience of the birds was outside of Mr. Young’s dominant reality. He had never heard this music before. In terms of symbology, we have the three birds, messengers of the trinity, a symbol common to all religions. We also have divine music, another common feature of the encounter with the divine in many contexts. This is a wonderfully inspiring personal experience of the greater reality of the self at a soul level. This is the reality which underlies the dominant cultural conscious-mind based reality, which is the only reality most people think they live and die in.
Less inspiring is the church’s definition of this experience as a calling to save all non-believers from Hell by having them join the church. The church established itself as an arbiter of the divine in Mr. Young’s life. It had ready-made explanations for him which might have a tangential relationship to the experience of personal transformation which can result from such an encounter. This tangential relationship to what is the truth of Mr. Young’s personal encounter with God gives the church credibility in Mr. Young’s eyes. It allows him to surrender the experience to the church, but he must do it in such a way as to rally new members to the church in order for it to continue its hegemony. If he does not, he has no way to integrate this divine encounter into his dominant cultural model or his sense of self. The church has perpetuated itself by drawing Mr. Young’s experience of God and putting it toward the furthering of its own goals. Given the fact that again, the church is a group phenomenon, it needs to do this to maintain the group.
Naturally, Mr. Young has allowed this to happen. It is his choice to find this context for this completely mind-altering experience. To choose to do otherwise could possibly lead him down the path of madness – or set him on the equally-daunting course toward an ever-expanding journey of self-knowledge.
The dominant cultural reality in the West does not have a model for this type of experience outside a few narrowly-defined religious experiences. Therefore, some people are willing to give away responsibility for the power of their sometimes-accidental personal encounter with the sacred reality of themselves. This allows them to keep from losing their moorings in the culturally-accepted definitions of conscious-mind reality. The religious institutions that accept this responsibility find that they can survive by explaining and defining what seems to be undefinable and unexplainable.
This fear of losing an understanding of “what is going on,” and the fear of the loss of context into which we can plug that understanding, is exactly what makes us agree to hand over our power to any institution. Generally speaking, we tend to hand over that power to the institutions of the society in which we live. In return, we are granted the safety and security of being told that our encounter with the unknown can be managed for us. This is, in fact, the basis of all acculturation. It can also be the beginning of the obstruction of the path toward the self. This is particularly true if the culture in which this occurs does not have the preservation of the individual’s connection with the sacred as one of its primary goals.
When hypnosis is used to create a vehicle to bring us into connection with the sacred, it has the capacity to bring us to a different perspective of society and its institutions. It allows us the direct experience of our own inner life processes. It allows us a glimpse of the sacred that lies beyond the mediation of any institution in defining the nature of our relationship with ourselves. The need for a secular sacrament, devoid of the hidden agenda of any political, economic, or religious establishment becomes evident if the West is to maintain any pathway at all to that reality which many traditional cultures recognize as the domain of the sacred. This is also, of course, the domain of the soul.
Because of our need for safety from the chaos of the unexplainable, our need for a way to contact ourselves at a soul level can seem like a dangerous concept. This is because that journey can take us into parts of ourselves which are not easily known or explained. This is a perceived danger for the institutions of many modern cultures as well as for those of us who live in those cultures. The danger in knowing who we are beyond the confines of the roles we choose or are forced to play by the society in which we live is clear. It is dangerous to societal institutions because it is very likely that at least some of us will not choose to remain yoked to the dominant cultural reality. When we perceive that our experience of life need not be veiled by the intervention of society or its institutions, we may decide to withdraw our support from them. It is dangerous to us individually because the path to the experience of ourselves at a soul level can pass by the gates of what Jung calls the shadow: that part of ourselves which contains all of our fears of what awful thing we might be.
Carl Jung who provides many valuable insights into the topography of the unconscious, identifies the shadow as one of the more salient features of the mind. The shadow is the part of our mind where we relegate that which is unacceptable to the image of ourselves we wish to project into the world. For instance, if we wish to be seen as a generous person, we may relegate our tendencies toward greed and avarice to the shadow. In doing so, we lose conscious knowledge of our greed. This is convenient because we can then pretend that we are only generous, and never have to admit our greed to ourselves. Unfortunately, when we cut off communication between parts of ourselves which we perceive to be unacceptable from the larger self, they cannot be integrated into our sense of self. This is intolerable to the self which is functioning at a soul level because it longs to be whole. The self longs to embrace and understand even that which our idealized image of ourselves would reject. In my practice, I have noticed that whatever we have relegated to the shadow is actually “running the show” in creating our conscious-mind reality. This is because it wants to be seen and integrated into the larger self.
An example of how the shadow functions can be found in a young man named Fred. Fred was born into a family void of emotional warmth. He was sent off to boarding school at an early age, and the abandonment he felt being cast out of the family made him feel fearful and powerless. But, because he had to survive in a complex and daunting world with very little support, he could not function from a place of fear or powerlessness. Or, at least, he could not let himself know he was functioning from a place of powerlessness and fear. So he relegated powerlessness and fear to the shadow and created an idealized image of himself which was powerful and fearless. He became very aggressive and domineering. This demonstrated itself first at school: he became an A+ student and a star athlete. But he was moved to a new school where he could not compete at his former level. He then did all he could to re-establish himself in a powerful position in relationship to his family by agreeing to support them financially. But they never offered him the respect he craved in taking this obligation on; he was ultimately abandoned by them again because they only wanted his money. And finally, in relationships with women he established himself as a Don Juan which he felt gave him the upper hand. But, finally he was betrayed by a woman who would not play by the rules and left him rather than remain dependent on his sexual prowess. Each time, he was returned to a state of powerless and fear which was unacceptable, and each time he would redouble his efforts at creating an idealized image based on power and courage. By the time he came to me, he was exhausted and defeated by cycle after cycle of moving away from powerlessness and fear. Through our work together he learned to embrace the powerlessness and fear he had once rejected and he was able to create a life which was much more stable and which brought him much more satisfaction because it was not based on this movement away from what he had relegated to the shadow. As the contents of the shadow became integrated into his larger sense of self, he became much more powerful than he had ever been in trying to run from them.
But most of us do not use the opportunity provided by what we may perceive as “bad luck” or failure to integrate what we have relegated to the shadow. By disconnecting the contents of the shadow from our larger self, we feed the disconnection with ourselves at a soul level. The dominant conscious-mind reality wittingly or unwittingly encourages this because its main agenda is to perpetuate the idealized image. This idealized image is generally caught up in measuring itself against the standards and morals of the dominant-mind reality. We lose our ability to communicate with ourselves at a soul level by agreeing to perpetuate the idealized image of ourselves which participates in the structures of the dominant-mind reality. We lose contact with whatever does not fit into our idealized image when we relegate qualities which we perceive to be unacceptable to the shadow. Then, we begin to fear what we no longer know.
When we decide to undertake the journey to begin to rediscover what we have refused to see, we need maps that help us recognize where we are. Hypnotherapy, when applied correctly, provides this context as our connection with the soul level reality of ourselves is allowed to unfold. This happens through our encounter with all the dimensions of our being that the altered state of the hypnotic trance opens to us. The hypnotic trance also helps to gently remove the interference of the defenses to an experience of ourselves at this level. These are the defenses that have been generated and cultivated by our interaction with the dominant, conscious-mind cultural reality through our need to perpetuate an idealized self-image. The process of letting this idealized self-image dissolve into true self-knowing ultimately allows us to experience that sense of personal power the encounter with the soul outside the cultural context provides.
To be sure, the unethical or irresponsible use of hypnosis can lead to serious invasions of the individual’s psychic space. Later in the book, I give an example of the effect the unethical use of hypnosis can have within the psyche of an abuse survivor. In no way do I support the use of hypnosis in this way, yet it is interesting to note how different organs within the dominant culture have howled against such incursions when they themselves indulge in a type of appropriation of the individual’s internal psychic space.
One example of this kind of incursion is the way television is used by the institutions of dominant-mind reality. To be fair, all forms of culture participate in this kind of mind control to varying extents, but few other cultures have had such an ideal homogenizer of individual experience as television. Television meets so many requirements as the perfect tool for external control that it is used by almost all the organs of society, including the religious, political, and economic establishments, to help them mold the individual’s experience of reality.
Television provides a comfort zone of virtual experience for those for whom direct experience of the dominant reality, (let alone the experience of ourselves at a soul level) has become too dangerous. It certainly has the ability to “fix” us in time and space, and thus keep the demons of chaos and uncertainty at bay. Within the context of modern societies, there are few other methods which are so effective in numbing the chaos that the avoidance of the direct experience of ourselves creates.
Even our nagging sense of the presence of the shadow, that part of ourselves which encompasses all that we fear, is medicated by the television. It is precisely because we allow the dominant culture and its devices such as television to mediate our relationship with this part of ourselves that we find it so hard to open to the shadow honestly through the tools provided by hypnotherapy. Instead, we numb ourselves through the titillation of the viewing of violence and horror we fear may be lurking within ourselves on the screen of the television. This vicarious experience of horror is externalized and objectified in a virtual reality that does not require us to enter into any kind of meaningful dialogue with the shadow side of ourselves. Such a dialogue would break the television trance and allow us to enter into the direct experience of ourselves at a soul level. This is exactly what hypnotherapy does when it is used as an interactive meditation. It establishes contact with the shadow, which is part of what we are yearning to do by viewing violence on television and yearning to explore in our desire to establish contact with ourselves at a soul level.
Because we agree to support the requirements of the dominant-mind reality, in order to fix ourselves in time and space and reduce the sense of chaos we often find ourselves in when left to our own devices, we can lose sight of our needs and requirements. Without the ability to draw from our deepest knowing of our needs, we are only left with our interaction with the external reality. Because there are so few avenues to the honest encounter with the ways we have become separated from our deeper levels of experience within the dominant conscious-mind reality, hypnotherapy is invaluable. It provides a path to the sacred encounter with ourselves that few other tools can. It helps locate the source of imbalance and helps us discover within ourselves the tools required to return to balance.
Without the assistance of a hypnotherapist or counselor who is comfortable with the honest encounter with at least some of the realities of the soul, we may become disoriented. Uninformed contact with our shadow selves can lead to us into a state of disorientation. Again, this is why we often willingly agree to remain within the confines of such realities as those defined by televised acculturation. This avoidance of the unknown suits society’s institutions because when we are lulled into a false sense of comfort by something like television, we are unlikely to upset the status quo. And the continuation of the status quo perpetuates those establishments. If enough members of society decide to take that step outside of the dominant, conscious-mind cultural reality’s trance, this could create a threat to the structure of society’s establishments. Ergo, the dire warnings by religious authorities, political figures, legal arbitrators, and even psychotherapy professionals against the dangers of hypnosis.
Hypnotherapy does open the doors to the shadow where we have carefully sealed away all that is unacceptable in ourselves or our experience. The shadow has the potential to open the doors to the reality of the sacredness of our experience of ourselves at a soul level. It also has the ability to create chaos and destruction within the fabric of our experience of the dominant culture’s institutions. This reality does remain a factor which these institutions and those who live within them must consider. Hypnosis as a secular sacrament has demonstrated itself to be dangerous enough in the process of releasing (and when used properly, transforming) the shadow that the legal establishment in the U.S. has seen fit to refer the matter to the courts in the context of recovered memory cases. The arbiters of morality have even gone so far as to rule that our memory can never be the same once we have been hypnotized. For this reason, they assume testimony given in court by a person who has been hypnotized is less reliable than that of someone who has not been hypnotized.
It may be true that a person who has been hypnotized has a different sense of reality and memory than a person who has not been hypnotized, but why would a judge find the hypnotized person’s memory to be less reliable rather than more reliable? Why wouldn’t it be more reliable? Rather than recognizing that our access to past events through the honest encounter of ourselves at a soul level is enhanced once the veil of cultural conditioning is lifted, the court must find it less reliable because it has a stake in maintaining the integrity of that cultural conditioning. When we have had unimpeded contact with our own reality of ourselves at a soul level, unvarnished by the demands of the dominant conscious-mind cultural reality, we may be perceived as a threat to the maintenance of the status quo of that cultural reality. The legal system is charged with arbitrating dominant cultural reality and it, like other societal institutions, cannot afford to admit the possibility that there is another reality which could undermine its authority and influence.
One of the main arguments against the validity of the testimony of a hypnotized person is that the individual may have been hypnotized by someone who has their own agenda. This person may offer suggestions in accordance with that agenda which become part of the individual’s experience, but which may not have actually happened. This type of abuse can and does happen, but it is hardly integral to every hypnosis session. Indeed, it is quite the exception. It is possible to use hypnotic patter to alter a person’s actual experience. This can be helpful when the patter is used to help shift the individual’s relationship to events in a positive way, with the individual’s permission and knowledge. It can cause damage when it is used to shift the individual’s relationship to events in a way which is not in harmony with their desires or needs in understanding events. The damage that arises in these latter events is a function of the dissonance between what actually happened and what the hypnotic patter says happened. The dissonance remains because the subconscious cannot reconcile an inauthentic version of reality introduced by the hypnotic patter with the actual experience of reality. This is especially true when the patter is designed to interfere with the consonance which the self always seeks at all levels of its being.
When such situations within the psyche are approached in hypnosis much is revealed. In my clinical experience, the authentic experience of reality is almost always recognized as such. Hypnotic suggestions used to screen actual experience are almost always revealed to be what they are. This is particularly true when these experiences are approached in the same type of altered state they were first laid down in. Irene Hickman, in her book, Mind Probe Hypnosis, reports on numerous tests which show that individuals do not deeply accept anything into their unconscious mind which does not ring true at a very deep level.
My own personal experience with suggestion in hypnosis confirms this. Several reconstructed dialogues taken from age regression sessions demonstrate how the hypnotized subject will not simply go along with a line of questioning if it does not fit with his experience of reality.
Hypnotherapist: Where are you?
Client: I am in the back seat of a car.
Hypnotherapist: Is it daylight or night?
Client: It is daylight.
Hypnotherapist: What can you see?
Client: Hmmm……I don’t know.
Hypnotherapist: What can you see when you look past the back of the front seat and look through the windshield?
Client: I can’t see past the back of the front seat. I can only see out the side window.
If the client’s mind had been so open to suggestion that I could form his memories through my questions, he would not have contradicted my assumption that someone sitting in the back seat of a car could see out through the windshield. Or, with another:
Client: It is very cold.
Hypnotherapist: What are you wearing?
Client: I don’t know.
Hypnotherapist: Look at your feet. What kind of shoes are you wearing?
Client: I’m not wearing any shoes.
Again, the client did not go along with my assumption that she must have been wearing shoes if she was outside in cold weather.
Even a stage hypnotist who wants to hypnotize someone and make them quack like a duck on stage must carefully select a volunteer from the audience. This person must unconsciously or consciously desire the release from normal social constraints in order to get up on the stage and quack like a duck. All the display involved in the “hypnotizability” tests are really just forays into the person’s unconscious by the hypnotist to see what the person is willing to do. Their function is not necessarily to determine what the person is willing to let the hypnotist to do them. In some situations, the person may be actually willing to turn over their will to the hypnotist, but they have to be willing to do this. The hypnotist cannot simply snatch their will and make them do things they do not want to do. But any situation where there is an agreement for one person to take over the will of another is a serious transgression for both parties. This is true whether such an agreement is made between hypnotist and subject, husband and wife, or mother and child. The ethical hypnotherapist simply aligns their will with that of their clients to help effect deep and permanent change to bring clients into closer contact with themselves at a soul level.
Any process of opening to the sacred encounter with ourselves at a soul level involves aligning our energies with those of our deepest needs and desires. This involves quieting the conscious mind that is dominated by the surrounding culture. To open to the experience of the sacred, one must be as free as possible from the pervasive effect of any cultural system which would interfere with the direct encounter with the self and its natural longing for wholeness and integration. This includes freedom from any family or relationship structure which requires the individual to forgo their own needs for the satisfaction of the other’s needs on a permanent basis. This includes freedom from any religious culture which insists that its followers allow church authority to mediate an encounter with the self so it may exert its own hegemony. It also includes freedom from economic and political institutions which draw us away from a relationship with the sacred so that we may indulge in activities which maintain their status quo.
Unlike the Q’ero culture, which organizes itself around the mysteries of the sacred self, Western culture tends to separate its members from the experience of the self. In this environment, hypnosis, when used as a secular sacrament, is sorely needed, if the members of the Western cultures are to emerge from the abyss of a cultural mindset that insists that its members lose touch with the unadulterated experience of their inner lives. The hypnotherapist that works with transformation of the self as their goal offers the secular sacrament. In doing so, they help cast open the doors to that world beyond the reach of the dominant culture, to the realm of the sacred and the soul.