Perhaps you didn’t see it this way

Two little boys are playing ‘Cowboys and Indians”

“Bang Bang you’re dead” says the one. The other falls down “dead” and waits for a few seconds. He pops his head up and the first boy exclaims. “You’re still dead.”  He waits another  few seconds and put his head up again. “ OK, You can come alive again,” says the first. 

The point of this little story is to demonstrate that “Death and Resurrection” is a play phenomenon.

Take your TV remote. Depending on what you do with it, it can become a pistol ,a rifle barrel, a rifle butt, a hammer, a grenade, a telephone. It can even be a TV remote. That is seven in one. To have a Trinity you only need three in one. The point of this description is to demonstrate that the The Trinity is a play phenomenon.

What about Faith, the hallmark of all religions. Faith means believing something without any evidence. Believing without any evidence is make-belief. Make-belief is Play. 

When children talk to an imaginary friend they are playing and they know that they are playing. When adults talk to an “imaginary friend” (God) they don’t know they are playing and that is why they are deluded.

Hypnotic and religious experience as play: the value of studying hypnosis

    The roots of my unbelief go back to a time when my father, who was a friend of the theologian William Barclay, came home one night and said, 

“ Barclay was saying tonight that Zeus was the chief Greek god. Zeus translates in Latin to Deus and Deus Pater is Jupiter, or God the Father. So when we worship God the Father, we are really worshipping Jupiter.”  

I remember as a ten or eleven year old saying to myself, if Barclay can say that, then he can’t really believe  in God. 

    A truism may be defined as a statement that is clearly true and well known. If I play you at chess it is obvious that we are playing. If I play you at tennis it is a truism that we are playing.  But what if it is not self evident as with hypnosis and religion? I hope that by the end of this essay, it will be a truism for you that hypnosis and religion are forms of play.

    Many years ago I met a girl who was a devout Catholic. I argued against her religion and she, in turn, used exactly the same arguments against mine. Fancying myself as a scientist, I figured that, since she was wrong, and since she was using exactly the same form and logic as I was, then I must be wrong too. She reasoned, I think, that since I was wrong then she must be right. It was during one of these conversations that I suddenly realised that there was no God. I underwent a conversion experience a few days later when I woke up one morning, feeling different, suffused with joy and relief. I asked myself what was different and the answer like an epiphany was, there is no God.

    So I asked myself the question what is going on here, with religion? About the same time I read about an Irish divine who said something to the effect that; “You can kill us. We’re used to that. You can persecute us. We’re used to that. The one thing we can’t stand is that you should try to explain us.”  Ever since that day, having failed with pure argument, I have sought to explain religion.

    Soon afterwards I read Leslie Weatherhead’s “Psychology Religion and Healing” (1951). In the chapter on hypnosis, he denied that there was any connection between hypnosis and religion. Figuring that when a man of religion says something is false then it must be true, I came across another volume “Religious Aspects of Hypnosis” by William Bryan (1962) which acknowledged the fact. 

About experience. 

Everyone has experiences and to each of us these are real. If I am kicked in the shins the experience is real as I have the pain and bruises to prove it. If I go to the cinema and watch a film I have an experience which is illusory (i.e. In Play).  To some this is also a “real” experience. However an experience cannot be real and illusory at the same time, otherwise words cease to have meaning. We must find a way to discriminate between the two. Perhaps “real experience” and “imaginary experience” will do the trick.

    It is the failure to distinguish between the two that results in much futile study. The research and statistics you do when you don’t know what you’re doing. Failure to distinguish between the two, also results in the ‘Hypnosis is real” and the “God is real” fallacies. Perhaps we should talk about play experiences or “ludic consciousness” as suggested by the theologian Harvey Cox in his book “ The Seduction of the Spirit.” (1973 ) pp184-189

I was fortunate in that, as a medical practitioner, I qualified to join the Australian Society of Hypnosis and to study with them. I will mention hypnosis as little as possible. It is simply that hypnotic experience is a delusion – a well researched delusion – and as such, it provides the perfect entrée to an understanding of play and religion (The God experience as Bishop Spong calls it). You will read books on religion which give barely a mention of play. You can read books on play and even these are unhelpful as regards it’s  understanding. It is simply that, when you compare the phenomena of hypnosis by which hypnosis is usually described, it becomes obvious that the same phenomena are found in play and religious experience.

    My researches into hypnosis indicated that a) role playing was involved and b) that it was culturally determined. Watch that word Culture because it will become increasingly relevant.

    Role playing means that a patient “becomes” hypnotised in the same way a child becomes Batman or Spiderman. Peter Field covers this aspect nicely in Humanistic Aspects of Hypnotic Communication (1973)pp481-493 which is still in print.  The fact that play is involved invites the question; is play a sufficient explanation for all the phenomena of hypnosis and religion?  I think it is.

    Culturally determined, means that our modern ideas of hypnosis stem from a time when Charcot , at the Salpètrière in Paris, hypnotised  actresses and hysterics, sometimes watched by Freud. How this arose is an accident of history and is beautifully explained by Graham Wagstaff in his book “Hypnosis, Compliance and Belief” (1981) pp 214 -220

    The next book that influenced me was by the cultural historian, Johan Huizinga.  “Homo Ludens” was subtitled “A Study of the Play Element Of Culture,” in the original German, but in it’s English translation it was called “A Study of the Play Element In Culture.” Huizinga objected to the change in title because he meant to imply that culture was composed in major part of play, not in minor part which he thought had been suggested by the change in title. 

    Think about it. You open a newspaper and what do you find? Sport and 

competition, law, theatre, celebrities , war and war games, film, TV, and stories – all containing play elements. Huinzinga pointed out that the words delusion, illusion, elusive and ludicrous derive from the Latin verb ludere meaning to play. One is deluded if one thinks that that which is in play, is real. It can be very difficult separating the two. What needs to be etched inside the skull of every person who is interested in religion and hypnosis, is the etymology of the word “delusion”, because therein lies the clue to what is really going on.

Another way of putting it is that if one is playing but doesn’t know it, then one is deluded. This is true if, for example one is deeply engrossed in playing soccer or reading a book. If one stopped and thought about it one could see that this was play, But one is so deeply involved that is seems that one is engaged in a real enterprise and hence one is, at that time, deluded.

    Many years ago during an episode of the Australian soap opera Number 96, a flat became vacant and a dozen people wrote to Channel 9 asking if they could have the vacant flat. Similarly during an episode of Coronation Street, a woman Deirdre Rashid, was wrongfully jailed by a magistrate. Hundreds of people phoned the Home Office to protest and the Prime Minister Tony Blair jokingly stated in the House that he would have the Home Secretary look into the matter. In both cases people had mistaken that which was in play, for reality. The film Sister Betty is a film about a film where a girl is similarly deluded.

Huizinga also contrasted the cheat with the spoilsport:

“All play has its rules. They determine what ‘holds’ in the temporary world circumscribed by play…. The player who trespasses against the rules, or ignores them, is a ‘spoilsport’. The spoilsport is not the same as the false player, the cheat; for the latter pretends to be playing the game and, on the face of it still acknowledges a magic circle. It is curious to note how much more lenient society is to the cheat than to the spoilsport. This is because the spoilsport shatters the play world itself. By withdrawing from the game he reveals the relativity and fragility of the play-world in which he had temporarily shut himself with others. 

He robs play of its illusion – a pregnant word which means literally ‘in play’ (from inlusio, illudere or inludere). Therefore he must be cast out, for he threatens the existence of the play community.”

I fear that Richard Dawkins, with his most recent book, falls into this category. The God Delusion means literally, “The God from Play”.

The phenomena of hypnosis. 

Those with formal training in hypnosis will recognise  music, laughter, confabulation, the use of dolls, metaphor, cuing, age regression, age progression, the favourite room, legitimacy and authority, and more, as phenomena of hypnosis. 

The hypnotherapist, confronted by a patient with unresolved grief from the death of her father, may choose to take the patient, in her imagination, in the present tense, down a long corridor which has many doors leading off it. Each door represents the passage of time backwards. Behind one door is a room where sits the deceased. The patient can spend time talking to her father and saying goodbye to him, in an attempt to resolve her grief. This technique is known as time regression. Going back further in time it is possible to talk to Jesus, who may or may not have existed, as though he were alive. Thus the “living Jesus” can be seen as an example of time regression.

Things need not be as complicated as this however. Simply talk to the deceased in the present tense as though he were alive, in the same way as a child talks to an imaginary friend. This is prayer and is the basis of the Resurrection myth.

The therapist faced with a patient who has phobias or obsessions, may choose to take the patient down that corridor, where each door represents some time in the future. the patient can experience an uncomfortable situation, and deal with it, as if it were real, in an attempt at cure. This is known as time progression and the reader will readily understand that it corresponds to prophesy and revelation in the religious sphere. You may also understand what Augustine of Hippo ( Confessions. Book XI [XX] 26 ) was talking about when he said, “ there be three times; a present of things past, a present of things present and a present of things future.”

    A therapist may take his patient through a door, down some stairs, deeper and deeper, into a room. The patient is encouraged to spend some time there. lingering and imagining the most beautiful room. The fittings, the paintings , the view. the furniture. This is The Favourite Room technique and you will readily see that this can be Heaven.

    The paradigm game which explains religious and hypnotic experience is Ouija, in which a board is used which is  inscribed with numbers and the letters of the alphabet. The players together, grasp a marker or upturned glass and in response to simple questions guide the marker around the board. The more deeply involved they become, the more the players experience it as though it was happening to them rather than that they are the instigators of all the events. Attribution is to other than self or, put another way, the locus of control is to some unseen force and not to themselves. The illusion is all the more easily achieved by the fact that, of say four players, one will be contributing only a quarter of the volitional effort. In a crowd one feels easily swept away by events.

There is no God. I know this because I have met Him. Another little play act is worth describing as it illustrates some further points. I have recently taken to inviting my audience to meet Him. Contrary to popular opinion he is not an old man with a beard, but a three-year-old boy named Travis whom I first met many years ago as the imaginary friend of a little boy I once knew. It is important to emphasise to your audience that you are playing, lest they think that you are deluded. Bring out Travis and sit him on an empty chair. Introduce him to the audience and try to start a conversation with him. The first thing you notice is that he cannot speak, so someone else in the group has to answer for Travis. Ask him if he would like a biscuit and someone else has to ‘interpret’. Yes he would like a biscuit and he is particularly partial to those wafery things and even to a glass of wine. You get the idea. 

    Keep this up and you are sure to dissolve in laughter, another play phenomenon found in some religious services.

The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that the interpreter himself is responsible for what comes out of Travis’ mouth. Misattribution is to Travis. 

The locus of control is perceived as being with Travis.

    The practical effect is, that we should recognise that when some one attributes his thoughts and actions to God, it is none other than the interpreter or theologian, who is to blame. Misattribution is to God. The locus of control is perceived as being with God. We must pin the blame on the theologians who spread their crazy sick ideas from their sick minds and attribute them to a god.

    The god I grew up with was a pretty decent, intellectual, sensible and helpful fellow. But that is because the theologian who dreamed him up ( William Barclay), was decent, intellectual, sensible and helpful.

    One of the problems we have is this religious mania that’s going around, and I’m very opposed to it. We’ve just had a United States president who was a religious enthusiast and I, along with some others I think, feel compelled to do something about it. It’s not much good just sitting back watching events unfold. It now seems to me demonstrably false that there is a god and one can use a role playing tactic to actually show this. It is not just that there is no god but it’s the lunatics and people who think there is a god and who talk to this god who get everything wrong and put their own spin and their own perversions into any such discussion. They are as a rule very unhealthy, debased, paranoid, judgmental, mentally unsound,misogynistic,sexually perverse, power hungry individuals who give their voice as a god, and people are confused between this play acting that they indulge in, and reality. People are quite sure that these vicious harmful people who describe their visions of their god are actually describing that a god is actually responsible for it . It has nothing to do with a god. It has everything to do with these mad, bad individuals.

    The impulse to religion is the impulse to play. It cannot therefore be eradicated, nor should it. People must understand that religious experience is just a game and that to think it is real is to be deluded. It is like being engrossed in a book and when the book is shut, one comes back to reality. Or when one watches a movie, then walks out into the street, it is back to reality.

    Having worked out that hypnosis was play and therefore a game, it was the Belgian psychologist Thierry Melchior who, for me at least, put the finishing touches to the solution when he wrote ;  “Hypnosis is a game…. I would state it a bit differently : it is a very peculiar game, because it is a game which actively denies itself as being a game. In other words, one of the rules of this game is ‘this is not a game’ “.

    Substituting religion for hypnosis one can then come up with a definition of religion.

“Religion is a game which is culturally determined in which one player, the religionist, attempts to delude others, the rest of us, using all the phenomena of 

play at our disposal. It is a peculiar game however, for it is a game which actively 

denies itself as being a game. In other words one of the rules of this game is  ‘this is not a game’. Those players who believe it to be real, are deluded.”

    Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion”  attempts to explain religion in 

evolutionary terms. He argues that since religion is present in all cultures, it must confer some selective advantage on our species or within our species. The shoe doesn’t fit because religion is man made and could not have evolved through natural selection. We have to consider that in the case of humans, we ourselves have influenced our development. Human selective processes, these last few millennia, have more in common with, selective breeding, sexual selection and domestication of wild animals, than they have with natural selection.

    At our level of intelligence we have to consider that culture has a direct effect on our reproductive rates and patterns. Our language, stories, myths, fashions, wars, material wants, have all had a direct effect on us, quite independent, I think, of natural selection, and these are active influences rather than the passive influences of natural selection.

Perhaps the question from Dawkins’s point of view could be restated as ” What is the evolutionary basis of Play?”  Is religion a byproduct of Play?

    Roy Baumeister, a Prof. of Social Psychology, in 2007, gave an address “Is There Anything Good About Men?” which is available on the Net. He argues that Culture is a biological strategy. He states:

    ” Culture is relatively new in evolution. It continues the 

line of evolution that made animals social. I understand culture as a kind of system that enables the human group to work together effectively, using information. Culture is a new, improved way of being social.

     Feminism has taught us to see culture as men against women. Instead, I think 

the evidence indicates that culture emerged mainly with men and women working together, but working against other groups of men and women. Often the most intense and productive competitions were groups of men against other groups of men, though both groups depended on support from women.

    Culture enables the group to be more than the sum of its parts (its members). 

Culture can be seen as a biological strategy. Twenty people who work together, in a cultural system, sharing information and dividing up tasks and so forth, will all live better

survive and reproduce better – than if those same twenty people lived in the same forest but did everything individually.” 

    Religion like hypnosis, is culturally determined and therefore playful. Play is often competitive and it seems to be competition between cultures, that explains the “survival of the fittest” element which Dawkins seeks. 

    Finally a word about the Trinity. Guess what? – another play phenomenon. In one of his TV series Desmond Morris shows footage of a kitten playing with a leaf. That cat was playing with the leaf as if it were a bird or a mouse. Leaf, mouse and bird were three in one (Trinity). We cannot interview the cat to find out what it thinks it is doing. How would it rationalize its behaviour? For cat substitute human being. For leaf substitute bread and/or wine. Then you can interview the human being and find out what his theories are. This is theology. Bear in mind that we are ‘interviewing the cat’ when we talk to religious people. For bread and/or wine, substitute another culturally determined idea, namely hypnosis, and again interview the person. The result is some of the theories of hypnosis.

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Harvey Cox. (1973). The Seduction Of The Spirit – The Use And Misuse Of People’s Religion. pp184-189. New York. Touchstone

Field P.B.(1973). Humanistic Aspects of Hypnotic Communication in “Hypnosis: Research Developments and Perspectives”. Ed. Fromm and Shor. London. Paul Elek. pp481-493

Graham Wagstaff. Hypnosis Compliance and Belief (1981) Brighton. Harvester Press. pp 214 -220

Johan Huizinga. (1949) Homo Ludens : A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Routledge and Kegan Paul

Dawkins R. (2006) The God Delusion. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company

Leslie D. Weatherhead. (1959) Psychology Religion and Healing. London. Hodder and Stoughton.

Saint Augustine.(1953) Confessions. London.  J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd

Obstacles to our understanding.

Before embarking upon a study of religious experience it is necessary to remove a few obstacles to our understanding of the problem. These are:

Experiences: Everyone has experiences and to each of us these are real. Their main characteristic is that they occur in the present tense. No child says ‘Mummy Mummy look at me I was Superman’ or ‘Mummy Mummy look at me I will be Spiderman.’ You cannot have an experience unless it is in the present tense.

The present tense of the verb “to be” has great

religious significance. You may have noticed that religious literature is full of ‘being’, ‘becoming’ and ‘belief’. It is the verb ‘to be’ that gives us metaphors, of which there are more than 180 for Jesus in the Bible , and more than 145 for the Church (Cruden’s 1984). Thomas a Kempis’ ‘Imitation of Christ’ encouraged people to become like Christ (as defined by Thomas a Kempis of course) with a lasting effect on Western civilisation. To speak of someone who has died (i.e. past tense) as though he were alive (present tense), is playful, and allows one to experience the deceased. It allows dramatisation of the past and even of the future with a powerful effect on the audience. It is no accident that the Bhagwan Rajneesh left a directive for his followers, after his death, always to refer to him in the present tense, nor that the founder of Scientology was a former Sci-Fi writer.

At Expo 88, I was wandering about near the New Zealand pavilion. From the Tanoy system I heard a loud voice. “I am that I am. Tell them that I am has sent you.” I enquired and found that these words were from the Old Testament

According to Crystal (1988 p9) “Yahweh is a scholarly attempt at reconstruction of the divine name represented by YHWH in the Hebrew Old Testament, interpreting its meaning as part of the verb ‘to be’, to give the title “the One who is.” In Islam the world was created by God’s word kun (“be”) out of nothing (EB Vol 9 p949). In Buddhism we have The Wheel of Becoming.

Clues to the importance of “becoming” can be found in the Bible itself. In Exodus 3.v 14 we read, “God answered, ‘I AM; that is who I am. Tell them that I AM has sent you to them.'” (N.E.B.). And it occurs again in John 8.v 57-58: “I tell you the truth ,” Jesus answered ,”before Abraham was born , I am! ” (N.I.V.) 

Augustine in his Confessions (Book 11 Ch 20), says there are three times: ‘ a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future’, the first being memory, the second sight, and the third expectation.

If I am kicked in the shins the experience is real as I have the pain and bruises to prove it. If I go to the cinema and watch a film I have an experience which is illusory (i.e. In Play).  To some an experience is an experience is an experience and so it is a “real” experience. However an experience cannot be real and illusory at the same time, otherwise words cease to have meaning. We must find a way to discriminate between the two. Perhaps “real experience” and “imaginary experience” will do the trick. Somehow “the suspension of disbelief” does not quite cut it. We go along to the theatre to be deluded. The real experience is that we are sitting in a dark room watching shadows on a wall, and listening to speakers.

    It is the failure to distinguish between the two that results in much futile study. The research and statistics you do when you don’t know what you’re doing.  Perhaps we should talk about play experiences or “ludic consciousness” as suggested by the theologian Harvey Cox in his book “ The Seduction of the Spirit.” (1973 ) pp184-189  

Reading a book.  Margaret Meek Spencer wrote “When I read a story, where am I ?  I am not in the novel, not in a space ship, nor in the town where the author has set the story. But I am not in the real world either, for all that I am sitting in a chair. We agree to the illusion of being somewhere else. Successful early readers discover that the story happens like play. They enjoy a story and feel quite safe even with giants and witches because they know that a story is a game with rules.”

Delusion:The word delusion derives from the Latin de meaning from and ludere meaning to play.   If you are playing and don’t know that you are playing, then that is delusion. If you are playing and think that it is real, then that is also delusion. If you are observing someone playing and think that it is real then you too are deluded. Teasing out what is going on is elusive.

The point is, that in science, words need to be precise in their meaning, so that others engaged in the same field can understand what we mean. To understand play and delusion it is necessary to be clear on a fundamental concept, namely that a delusion is a false belief based on play. In other words when some thing, done or said in play, is perceived as real, the recipient is deluded. This misperception is a major obstacle to our understanding of religious experience. It gives rise to the Hypnotic experience is real and the God experience is real fallacies.

According to the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (2009) the words delude and delusion date from around 1420 when they were used in the sense of To Play False. If I play you false then I seek through my words and acts to delude you into thinking that what I say and do are true and real. The word delude was used in the transitive sense of I delude you. I seek to pretend to you, to mislead, deceive, misinform, betray, and cause you to believe falsely, hence delusion. Delusion was first used in the sense of madness, in 1552. Delude is used in the KJV of the Bible and in Shakespeare and always in the sense of betray or misinform causing a false belief.

When you see the words elusive, ludicrous, illusion, delusion, allusion, you should always think first of Play

Psychiatry and delusion.
This was the case till more modern times when psychiatry tried to hijack the word delusion for it’s own ends. It is unclear when the modern technical use of the word delusion occurred. The word psychiatry first appeared in 1846 and schizophrenia in 1912.  Psychiatry defines delusion as a false personal belief that is not subject to reason or contradictory evidence and is not explained by a person’s usual cultural and religious concepts. It is those last two items that obscure the diagnosis. We think with words and if one defines a word in such a way it makes it nearly impossible to discuss the problem of delusion in a meaningful way.

That culture and religion are delusional because they are based on play, was demonstrated, in 1938, by Johan Huizinga, the Dutch cultural historian, in his classic ‘Homo Ludens’ (Playing Man) ‘A Study of the Play-Element In Culture’.
Culture and religion are both delusional systems, even though they are considered normative within any culture. Psychiatry seeks to exclude culture and religion from it’s definition of delusion even though both are delusional systems in the sense that they are based on playing falsely.

In this essay I want to tell of delusion, but always in the sense of Play and Play misunderstood.

Trying to explain a game puts you in the category of spoilsport and nobody likes a spoilsport.

Also worth noting is that child like play can be easily corrupted into competition which can become so intense as to lead to cheating and murder

Phenomenology A definition of Phenomenology is  “A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness.” 

I am no philosopher but I smell a rat here. Reality is based on reality and just because we can observe a phenomenon does not make it real. In play we are observing an illusion and that by definition means that it is not real.

My inquiry into religious experience led me into a study of hypnosis. As a medical practitioner I qualified to join the Australian Society of Hypnosis. I soon found out that hypnotic experience is described in terms of its phenomena and that these phenomena were mirrored almost exactly by religious experience.

Prominent among them are Laughter,Music,Misattribution, Imagination,Tolerance of incongruity.

Laughter -A key component of play. In evangelical services the congregation will sometime burst into spontaneous laughter.

Misattribution – This is considered a major component of the hypnotic experience. Attribution is always to other than self. The hypnotist does not say ‘lift your hand up in the air’. He says: “Your hand wants to lift in the air”. Similarly a person does not decide to become a priest or minister, he is ‘called’. Ministry is a vocation after all. “The Devil made me do it” is another example. Non nobis Domine sed nomine tuo da Gloriam – Not to us Lord the Glory but to Your name. A typical game demonstrating such mis-attribution is Ouija where people seated round a table push an object across the top of the table but experience it as if it was the object itself which was doing the moving. I remember my son Oliver when aged three, was playing with his toy car on the kitchen table. He looked at me then looked at the car. He looked at me again uncertainly and then slowly, deliberately, pushed his toy off the table and burst into tears. He obviously had experienced it as if the toy had fallen of its own accord. Why was it that I felt so dreadful, when I remonstrated with him saying ” Why are you crying? It was you who pushed the car off the table”? Because that’s how children experience things.

Music – I mention this only to observe that we play music and that music is used by some hypnotherapists to deepen trance. Its use in religion is well known. 

Imagination – As Huizinga says, a child in play is making an image of the thing he is playing. This is where the word imagination comes from. The use of images in religion is too well known to require description here. As regards hypnosis, imagination is an acknowledged part of the process. Not only that but we make an image of hypnosis itself. We objectify it , we reify it, we make of it a thing or image and this leads to much confusion. We try to measure this thing when it is not a unitary phenomenon.

Relief of pain and suffering can conveniently be considered along with Framing and Reframing. The whole of childhood can be seen as being spent more or less in play with constant framing and reframing of reality. As children, we often cry or become upset and are reassured and comforted by our parents. Theology can serve a similar purpose. One of the reasons Augustine was so popular was that he was able to make disaster and suffering more bearable by the way he framed and reframed reality, at a time when the Roman Empire was collapsing under invasion from the North. Much of counselling and hypnotherapy consists of doing the same thing.

Trance Logic or the tolerance of incongruity is well described in the hypnotic literature. It also appears in religion with such phrases as “I believe because it is impossible”, “The first shall be last” and “The meek shall inherit the earth”. Children often engage their parents in incongruous and ambiguous conversations.

Overreaction – Sometimes when one attempts an induction the subject overreacts to the situation and is clearly not in trance. This could compare with showing off in children. It could also compare with the behaviour of some egregious clergy and some actors.

Posthypnotic Suggestion – I consider this to be the most important concept. If you, the reader, can understand this then you have grasped the main concepts of this paper. What could be the possible connection between the stabbing of Monica Seles, religious murders and Post Hypnotic Suggestion (PHS)? The man who stabbed Monica Seles confused illusion (literally what was in play ), with reality. Many years ago in Australia there was a popular soap opera called Number 96. On one occasion during the plot an apartment at Number 96 became vacant. A number of viewers wrote to Channel 9 asking whether they could have the vacant flat. Here again members of the audience had mistaken illusion (what was in play) with reality. Words which had been written by a scriptwriter had been performed causing confusion between illusion and reality in members of the audience. The same is true in religion when the written word is performed in churches and perceived by the congregation to be real. When we read the words “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God. I will visit the sins of the father unto the third and fourth generation. I will smite the enemy”, etc, these words are understood by many in our culture as being uttered by a God. Here we have a major mis-attribution. These words were actually written by a man having a god-like experience and projecting himself in an unsavoury manner which is still prevalent in the Middle East. The religious believer may feel compelled to kill someone based on the instructions in a book or given by a guru. Experiments in the 40’s and 50’s suggested that the same thing could be accomplished using hypnosis. Subjects could be persuaded to lunge at someone with a knife under experimental conditions. However, once removed from the context where compliance is required, most subjects are not naive enough to persist. The wise hypnotist takes care to remove his illusory ‘suggestions’ so that the subject does not take them home or out into the street. The religionist does not and that is the difference.

Amnesia Considered by some to be a ‘Phenomenon’ of hypnosis. I once watched a video demonstration of this given by a guru in Ego State Therapy. Later that same afternoon he proceeded to give a paper on “The Treatment of Amnesia using Hypnosis”, without apparently noticing the contradiction. Ever played tennis when no one could remember the score? You couldn’t remember because you had never committed the score to memory in the first place and so the score could not be retrieved. Compare this with Isaiah Ch.65 v.17: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”

Positive Hallucination – Corresponds to visions in religion. Is an imaginary friend in childhood the equivalent?

Negative Hallucination – Corresponds possibly, to the Empty Tomb of Christian mythology, a ‘narrative truth’ for many. I remember one day my son Edward was deep in play and came rushing into the kitchen. I swear he looked clean through me. Does this pass for a negative hallucination?

Role in Role – Not only is hypnosis role playing in the sense that one ‘becomes’ hypnotised but another layer can be added as described in the text when a subject becomes another person when in hypnosis. The equivalent in children is when the altered state is play and they ‘become’ their favourite character. In fact Play is Possession. In religion misattribution results when a person who is possessed is perceived by the audience to have become inhabited by another person or spirit.

Compliance – implies that there is pressure on the subject due to the demands of the hypnotic context. The same could be said of attendance at Mass and the recent return of Rugby League players to the ARL.

Belief/Make believe– That hypnosis, religion and play involve belief and make belief needs no further comment here.

Metaphor – Therapeutic metaphors will be well known to the reader. There are more than 180 metaphors for Jesus in the Bible and more than 145 for the Church. Compare this with sporting heroes such as King Wally (Wally Lewis), a famous Australian football hero and the Don (Don Bradman), the famous cricketer.

Becoming – This is another important concept. A subject ‘becomes’ hypnotised. In Exodus 3:14 we read of “I AM”, which in Latin translates into “ego sum”. It is our great misfortune that concepts of hypnosis have concentrated on the ego, the I or self, and the Ego State, due to the influence of Freud, rather than the verb ‘sum’, the ‘am’ or ‘becoming’. This compares with childhood play where children become tigers or monsters or Superman.

Authority – It has been said that there are two kinds of hypnosis, the authoritarian and the permissive versions. Some therapists practice the former while the majority practice the permissive or pastoral variety. This compares with Popes Pius IX and John XXIII in religion and father and mother as regards childhood experience. One could also draw a parallel between recent events in the Australian Rugby League headed by Mr Ken Arthurson who fought with Mr Rupert Murdoch, head of News Ltd, for control of players. This game incidentally is one in which the players endure great pain with apparent equanimity.

Mystery – Everything to the child is mysterious. Hypnosis and religion surround themselves with mystery to encourage this childlike behaviour. Possibly why the Confusional Technique works

Transference – well known to students of hypnosis. Corresponds to childlike feelings of affection and attachment to father and mother, brother and sister, words which are commandeered by the Church.

Legitimacy – an unfortunate but little described aspect of hypnosis and its practice. Various societies of hypnosis seek to establish their legitimacy and to deny the legitimacy of others. The ‘denial of legitimacy’ is a good working definition of prejudice. Religious organisations also try to establish their legitimacy through the use of various concepts such as Apostolic Succession. In so doing they deny the legitimacy of others though this is often unstated. As regards play the recent ARL debacle in Australia described above, fits the picture.

Depth – Depth of hypnotic involvement could perhaps be compared with depth of belief in religion and depth of involvement of a child in play.

Cuing – A story told by Professor Sheehan illustrates this point. He was once waiting for a subject to arrive for an hypnotic experiment. Just on time, Professor Sheehan heard a knock on the door and went to open the door. When he did so the subject fell at his feet in a deep trance. There had been no induction and it was only the belief and expectation of the subject that produced the trance. In religion the ting of a bell may cue the Real Presence in a well trained congregation. Compare this with the referee’s whistle.

Mood and Perception – These two can be considered together. Hypnosis is recognised to alter mood and perception. In religion several moods are established, or sometimes ecstasy and rapture, and these two are tied in with perceptions of beauty in art,sculpture, architecture and music. The Council of Trent specifically established these aspects of religious experience as a priority. Compare these with the mood of delight in children at play and that most common perception in children that things are or are not ‘cool’.

Confabulation – in hypnosis can be compared with speaking in tongues and with that good old Scottish word ‘havering’ in children.

Favourite room or place – the hypnotic technique of establishing a client’s favourite room or place to which they can go in their imagination compares or identifies with the religious concept of Heaven and childhood wishing games.

Age/Time Regression – In this technique the hypnotist takes the subject back in time in his imagination. He may meet with and talk to dead relatives for example, as though they were alive, in an attempt to aid the grieving process. This bears comparison with prayer and the living Jesus. Childs play may have a time past component, for example when playing babies.

Age/Time Progression – Much like the above except that the subject is in the future. Compares with Prophesy in religion and Revelation. Much child’s play has a future component as when playing cars or Mums and Dads.


A The concept of “Stories” as described in the text, include Rebirthing, Repressed Memory Therapy, EMDR, Multiple Personality Disorder and Ego State Therapy. Hypnosis itself, being a member of a theatre audience, and reading a book would also fall into this category.

B Theology can almost certainly be reproduced in a laboratory setting.

C The components of Hypnosis are best understood in conjunction with the components of Play and Religion because they are one and the same.

D The whole Christian story of death and resurrection can be seen as a function of age regression in hypnosis.

E Hypnosis is but one form of Illusion – literally that which is in play

Finally I want to draw your attention to a quote from Huizinga which explicitly links play to religion:

“The ritual act has all the formal and essential characteristics of play … particularly in so far as it transports the participants to another world. This identity of ritual and play was unreservedly recognised by Plato as a given fact. He had no hesitation in comprising the sacra in the category of play. ‘I say that a man must be serious with the serious…. God alone is worthy of supreme seriousness, but man is made God’s plaything, and that is the best part of him. Therefore every man and woman should live accordingly and play the noblest games and be of another mind from what they are at present…. What then is the right way of living? Life must be lived as play, playing certain games, making sacrifices, singing and dancing, and then a man will be able to propitiate the Gods and defend himself against his enemies and win the contest.’ “

I hope that this paper has convinced you, the reader and the audience, that the same link exists between play and hypnosis and that the three – play, hypnosis and religious experience – are one and the same.

Thus we can conclude :

•       Hypnosis is a game, not usually recognised as such, which is culturally determined, wherein one player (the hypnotist) seeks to delude the other player (the patient or subject) using all the phenomena of play at their disposal.

•       The hypnotist too is deluded if he believes that it is real.

•       This could serve also as a definition of religious experience. For hypnosis substitute religious experience. For hypnotist substitute priest, mullah, rabbi or minister. For patient or subject substitute parishoner.

•       From Thierry Melchior

•                   “Hypnosis is a game, not usually recognised as such”. I would state it a bit differently : it is a very peculiar game, because it is a game which actively denies itself as a being a game. In other words, one of the rules of this game is ‘this is not a game’”.