• Elaina Simpson, C.S.

Denouncing modern hypnotism

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

By Elaina Simpson

From the June 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal Audio: https://journal.christianscience.com/issues/2020/6/138-06/denouncing-modern-hypnotism


An object going back and forth, back and forth, in front of someone’s face—that’s how I imagined hypnotism as a child when it would come up in the Christian Science Bible Lesson. The Lesson titled “Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism, Denounced” sometimes mentioned Mesmer, a man who lived in the 1700s and early 1800s. But I wondered, I don’t see people on the street walking around trying to hypnotize me; how is this subject relevant and important right now?  I used to look forward to only the Bible Lessons with those one-word titles such as “Love.” They felt easier to grasp. But after praying over time with the Lessons on “Ancient and Modern Necromancy,” I have come to really cherish them, as well as the other more “serious-sounding” Lessons.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines necromancy as “the supposed practice of communicating with the dead.” So we know initially that this Lesson addresses the notion of talking with the dead, in the past and today. More generally, the meaning of the word also refers to enchantment, magic, and conjuration. The next part of the Bible Lesson title is “alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism.” Alias means “also known as,” indicating that something also goes by another specified name. So, it’s strongly implied here that the terms mesmerism and hypnotism go hand in hand.  In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines hypnotism as a term that pertains to mortal mind—the counterfeit of God, the divine Mind: “As named in Christian Science, animal magnetism or hypnotism is the specific term for error, or mortal mind” (p. 103). So we know just from the title alone, that any kind of necromancy is only hypnotism, an error or illusion of mortal mind.  The last part of the title is “Denounced.” This means that the beliefs of necromancy, hypnotism, and mesmerism are shown to be wrong in Christian Science. These beliefs are denounced by the fact that there is only one God—one Mind, one power, and one influence—and that we are His wholly spiritual ideas. Recognizing the need to handle hypnotism on this basis helped me once, when I had been suffering pain for a couple of weeks that seemed to point to something that the medical field might call serious. I did not get it diagnosed, because I wanted to handle it with only Christian Science treatment. I have witnessed and have had many healings in Christian Science. But this time, no matter how much I prayed, I could not mentally get a grip on this challenge. In fact, it was only getting worse. It had so much of my thought and attention that nothing could shake the fear.  I listened to articles on JSH-Online.com, where anyone can access articles and testimonies of healing published in the Christian Science periodicals. One that I listened to was a favorite, “Nothing to fear” by James Spencer (Journal, March 2006). When the writer referred to fear as “hypnotic,” that woke me up. I snapped out of it, as if someone had snapped their fingers in front of my face. I knew I was healed. The discomfort in my body began to lessen immediately and was gone within a couple of days. I saw that I could not even slightly accept one form of error while trying to reject another. The following week, the subject of the Bible Lesson was the one I’m writing about. I used this Lesson to learn more about my healing and what had happened. It served as a helpful guide to prayer, showing how we can be alert to any kind of hypnotic fear that would pull thought away from God.  After studying this important Lesson, I realized that during the time of the physical challenge, I had seen a popular TV show about mediums shared on my social media feed, and it had captured my attention. The medium could give details that were completely spot-on about a late family member’s major life events, looks, and personality. Although I grew up practicing Christian Science and never believed in ghosts, mediums, or psychics, the temptation to accept for a moment that someone could have a special gift and commune with those who had gone on captured my attention, and sparked curiosity. Mary Baker Eddy provides clarity on this subject in Science and Health: “In Christian Science there is never a retrograde step, never a return to positions outgrown. The so-called dead and living cannot commune together, for they are in separate states of existence, or consciousness” (p. 74). In praying with the Bible Lesson the week after my healing, I realized I had been tricked—first into believing that the medium could have somehow been communicating with a deceased person; and second into thinking that the illness I was experiencing was real and that I was getting worse, not better.  Recognizing that these were both forms of hypnotism, I saw that I could not even slightly accept one form of error while trying to reject another. Picking and choosing which error to accept isn’t actually an option, because one form of error could never be more real than another. Error—anything unlike God—is always nothing.  The mediums on the show suggested that they had a gift, and that connecting others to their late loved ones was not only a good thing, but a healing practice. But we learn in the study of Christian Science that “Jesus taught but one God, one Spirit, who makes man in the image and likeness of Himself,—of Spirit, not of matter” (Science and Health, p. 94). By believing in mediumship, not only do we make a secondary god out of the so-called spirits we believe the medium is talking to, but we also make a god out of the medium himself, superstitiously believing that this person has a human power (apart from God) that can transcend human limitations. With prayerful consideration during the time when I was working toward healing, I knew that the claims of mediumship couldn’t be a reality. I realized later that the moment I put my foot down to even the minute possibility of truth in this show, the complete physical healing occurred. This happened around the time I defended myself in prayer against hypnotism in general—a supposed influence apart from God. In taking a stand for God as the one Spirit, one Mind, I was freed from the influence of hypnotism in the form of disease as well as mediumship.  This lesson demonstrated the importance of the By-Law in the Manual of The Mother Church that reads in part, “The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously” (Mary Baker Eddy, “A Rule for Motives and Acts,” p. 40). The belief of mediumship seems to be quite popular right now. Perhaps people who have lost loved ones feel it’s an answer to their need to connect with the good they feel they have lost. This may cause them to buy into a medium’s claim to bring healing to them. But if it’s true that God, the one Spirit, heals through Christ, Truth, then the opposite, hypnotic error of many spirits cannot possibly heal. In her book No and Yes, Mrs. Eddy specifically denounces the belief of mediumship. She writes, “If a spiritualist medium understood the Science of Mind-healing, he would know that between those who have and those who have not passed the transition called death, there can be no interchange of consciousness, and that all sensible phenomena are merely subjective states of mortal mind” (p. 14). And in Science and Health she alerts us to what is actually happening in these cases: “That somebody, somewhere, must have known the deceased person, supposed to be the communicator, is evident, and it is as easy to read distant thoughts as near” (pp. 81–82). Christian Science teaches that there is a difference between mortal mind-reading and divine Mind-reading. Mortal mind-reading points to the belief that there are many personal minds to read, apart from the one Mind, God. Christ Jesus exemplified proper Mind-reading when he healed the sick and raised the dead. Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Jesus could injure no one by his Mind-reading. The effect of his Mind was always to heal and to save, and this is the only genuine Science of reading mortal mind” (Science and Health, pp. 94–95).  Reading, or discerning, thought through the divine Mind isn’t about reading a material personality; rather, it’s about leaning on God to be shown what specific error needs to be met in prayer. Our understanding of Christian Science “enables one to read the human mind, but not as a clairvoyant. It enables one to heal through Mind, but not as a mesmerist” (Science and Health, p. 87). This kind of Mind-reading—going straight to God—is the only way to find real healing.  Some may wonder if the story of Jesus’ transfiguration, when a few of his disciples saw him meet and speak with Moses and Elias, suggests we can commune with those who have gone before us. It does not. Christ Jesus’ elevated thought did not see the material personality of the prophets. Rather, seeing what God sees, he saw their oneness in immortal Life, God. He demonstrated that matter is not the medium of Mind, but that Mind is Spirit.  Perhaps one lesson we can take away from the transfiguration is that we are all one in divine Love, eternally. We don’t have to wait to feel love or go through someone else to get it. All of the love we need is right here, forever with us, because God is Love. The answer is never to yield ourselves to someone’s hypnotic control, but rather to wake up to the fact that we all live in Spirit, divine Love, eternally. When fear or any challenge knocks at our mental door, the mental suggestion may seem aggressive. A problem may mesmerically suggest that it’s too big, too complex, or too challenging for us. If suggestions weren’t persuasive, we’d never have any challenges whatsoever and everything would be roses and butterflies 24/7! But, we know that challenges come up that have to be met in thought. And the Bible, Science and Health, and the weekly Bible Lessons are tools that show us how to wake up to the true harmony of being. These tools are here to be not only loved on our shelves, but used; they give us spiritual truths to put into practice. And this study teaches us that as God’s children, we cannot in reality be hypnotized.  Each day as we learn about our oneness with divine Love, we see that we are filled up full with love. A gold ring cannot be attracted by a magnet because there are no magnetic elements in pure gold. So, as God’s children, full of love, we can include nothing ungodlike to make us susceptible to temptation or hypnotic attraction. Science and Health assures us: “Man is not a pendulum, swinging between evil and good, joy and sorrow, sickness and health, life and death.… The perfect and immortal are the eternal likeness of their Maker” (p. 246). To get future alerts, subscribe here. Check out the Resources for spiritual study for more info about this study. 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