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Dear Padre Angelo,

I’d like to know what the Church thinks about hypnosis and why.

Thank you so much and kind regards. 


Dear friend,

1. Hypnosis is the induction of sleep in a person through certain practices that affect the susceptibility of certain individuals. According to this definition, hypnotic sleep has a psychic cause which has a specific name: suggestion. Other suggestions may be provoked in hypnotized subjects, but the decisive one is the first one, the one that induced sleep.

2. Hypnotic phenomena were also known in the past, but started to be approached in a more scientific way only in the 19th century. One of the first initiators of these studies was J. Braid, a Scottish physician.

3. It appears that hypnotic sleep is characterized by at least four elements: preserved or even increased sensory activity, at least in relation to the hypnotist; great suggestibility; permanence of motor activity; insensitivity that can go as far as total suppression of pain.

4. It has not been well defined how many things are voluntary in hypnotic sleep and in the actions performed after waking under the influence of the suggestion received during sleep. Some authors maintain that consciousness is not entirely suppressed and that the will is not totally subservient to that of the hypnotist. If this is so, acts performed in full consciousness after waking under the influence of the previous suggestion would not entirely escape the control of the will. However, it is certain that freedom is greatly diminished.

5. If hypnotic sleep is frequently repeated, it will have fatal consequences from a psychic point of view, especially for those already suffering from some disorder.

6. Dealing with the moral aspect, the danger is greater because the hypnotist may suggest wrongdoing that the hypnotized person is unable to avoid altogether.

7. From a diagnostic and therapeutic point of view, hypnosis possesses a certain value and even some medical efficacy. It is accepted that hypnosis can be indicated for psychic disorders or disorders of psychic origin and, indirectly, also for certain organ injuries. This technique has been proposed in surgery and obstetrics to avoid pain.

8. When hypnosis is done for a therapeutic reason, it is not immoral. The temporary suspension of a good part of the exercise of the higher faculties is here indirectly voluntary. It’s just like what happens with any anesthesia; the aim is not to deprive the use of reason, but to avoid pain. The suspension of the use of reason is an intended, but not directly desired effect.

9. It becomes immoral when there is no proportionate motive and when it induces one to perform, barely awake, immoral acts under the determining influence of the hypnotist. It is always immoral when hypnosis is used by preternatural means. Wishing you to always have excellent health in order not to need these techniques, I remember you to the Lord and bless you.

Padre Angelo Bellon