Tonight, ABC will have a Nightline special - Beyond Belief: Battle with the Devil at 10 PM, EST. I am tempted to watch out of pure pschological interest. It is amazing (and scary at the same time) what the mind can do when it is manipulated emotionally to the point that hypnosis is induced. And that is what not only I find to be true, but former ministers like Rich Lyons, who claim to have performed exercisms, essentially say that is what it is - induced hypnosis. Let's first be clear on what hypnosis is. As Wikipedia states, "contemporary research suggests that hypnotic subjects are fully awake and are focusing attention, with a corresponding decrease in their peripheral awareness." It's not limited to this "you're getting sleepy...very sleepy" while watching a pendulum (usually a round pocket watch) swing by stuff that used to be portrayed in media.
I have had some experience with hypnosis. In my freshman year of college, a hypnotist put on a show on campus. I actually volunteered to go on stage to be hypnoti
1 I suspect, as this was done in front of the audience, this was done so as to not hypnotize the audience by keeping them from following along with the suggestions intended only for those on stage.
Now, how does hypnosis come into play in exercism? The first and most important key is getting people to believe in demon possession, as suggestions will be much less effective without such belief, much like I could not be easily hypnoti
Another important part should be to stir up an emotional response. For this, I'm not entirely sure how the emotions might be built up, which is a reason for me to watch the show. When it comes to the actual exorcism, I have heard that there can be a lot of screaming, some of which comes from the exorcist, and crying, coming from the audience. There is also another emotion that I had not before considered. As the reporter's notebook points out, "there is a triumph unfolding before our cameras -- a triumph over Satan." Need I explain how people tend to act when they are stirred up emotionally? Behavior is typically anything but rational. If I had not been thinking rationally during my hypnotic experience, I may have been more likely to buy into the suggestion that my arms were too heavy to lift.
Perhaps the last important part (unless I forgot anything) is the response from the hypnotic subject. This is where someone might not recognize exercism as hypnotism because the subject is not clearly being fed verbal suggestions. Well, like that key belief in demonic possession, the response is suggested prior to the hypnosis. People like Rich Lyons, who I mentioned earlier, who have performed exercisms believe the responses come from what they expect demon extraction to look like. If they expect it to involve seizuring, then they'll flop and shake on the floor. If they expect it to involve vomitting, then they'll vomit. These ideas can come from many sources, including literature, Hollywood, and other believers in demonic possession. The exercist does play a role, though. It is their job to trigger when these responses occur with non-verbal suggestions. Such an action may be placing their hand on the head of the subject, and then slowly pulling their hand away from the subject as though they had a hold of the demon, or even pretending to push the demon out. Just take Benny Hinn for an example. If Benny Hinn tries to heal you, what do you do???
...You fall to the floor. Why? Because that is what you are expected to do! Sometimes seizures are involved, as you can see.
Let's now dig deeper into the reporter's notebook. There are some other ideas that are important to the hypnotic suggestion:
- "People have to humble themselves..." - This is part of the induction technique in which people prepare themselves for further suggestion; it is similar to the very start of my experience where I was told to close my eyes.
- "...it looks foolish. But there's a verse in the Bible where Paul the apostle says that God uses the foolish things of the world, things that look foolish, to confound the wise." - This is another part of the induction technique to surrender rational thought. Let's change this quote up a bit and consider how it might have impacted my situation: "[The idea that you cannot lift your arms sounds] foolish. But there's a verse in the Bible where Paul the apostle says that God uses the foolish things of the world, things that [sound] foolish, to confound the wise." Of course, since I don't believe in the god of the Bible, this still would not have worked on me, but hopefully you get the idea.
- Believers like to quote the old line that the devil's greatest trick was convincing people that he does not exist. - This is a way to rationalize that primary key belief in demon possession. It is a defense mechanism against skeptics/doubters who threaten this induction step.
In closing, the important thing to realize is that most of the induction techniques have already been completed prior to the subject arriving at the location. For example, someone who has never heard of Benny Hinn before will not be taken up on stage, or, if that somehow did happen, that person will not fall down like they are supposed to. Likewise, a person who has heard of him, but is certain he is a fraud, will likewise not fall down. A doubter, however, may very well fall down. Why? Because they will get caught up by the emotional part of the induction, which is the component that completes the induction. They have accepted enough of the other parts of the induction technique that they will give in completely once their rationality is subdued. And, being familiar with Benny Hinn, they know what to do when he gives them the non-verbal suggestion. I expect something similar out of this show - the people who go to these exercists already know the routine!