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Charismatic Chaos: Mass Trance

September 23, 2010

Earlier this week I posted a Charismatic Chaos video in which Jake and The Texas Guy both made some interesting comments. I know Jake. He has a psychiatry degree and works in a ward at a hospital with some very mentally ill people. He knows his stuff . I’m going to promote their comments and then you can watch the following video. Let’s see what you all think.

Jake: We can all call this whatever we want, ecstatic expression, anointing with fire, whatever. But the bottom line is that this behaviour is known by one term and one term only: Mass Trance.

The thing about hypnosis, whether you view it as a positive thing or a negative thing, is that it’s end goal, no matter the context, is always the same. Hypnosis is always about exerting control. You can justify putting people in trance (which is exactly what has happened here) for many different reasons such as therapy or comedy but the end game is that one strong person exerts control over another, more suggestible person. I think this is dangerous and I think it’s nigh on impossible to be in such a position of control and not abuse said position.

That poor girl at 4:00 was in such a suggestible and vulnerable state that she LITERALLY thought she was on fire when Goatee’d Douchebag started repeating “Fire” over and over (inductive triggering anyone?). I’m sorry, but I fail to see how putting a group of people in that sort of mental state is beneficial to them at all. I’ve seen the fallout from this “mixed bag” of mass trance before and the long term psychological well being of people involved points me to the conclusion that this mixed bag isn’t mixed at all. It’s just full of crap. A bag full of crap that damages people who are too vulnerable not to reach in and grab a big handful.

The Texas Guy: I’ve studied hypnotherapy for the last two years, and it’s been a real benefit to my counseling practice, and what was interesting to me was the stark contrast between valid, clinical hypnotherapy and stage hypnosis, which is a TOTALLY different thing.

Without going into way too much information, crowd-manipulations like this video follow all the classic principles of stage hypnosis, and the “minister” runs the “show” in essentially the same way. Watch the video – there are some people who are “into it”, some who are neutral and not subject to the hypnotist, er… minister, and some (like the two young guys that the one young man has in a head lock) that are basically, WTF! If you scan this crowd, and then scan the crowd at a stage hypnosis event, you’ll basically see the same three classes of people. That’s the way stage hypnosis and crowd manipulation works.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2010 11:38 am

    Maybe it’s because I was just reading the Rick Pino lyrics, or maybe just because I have a dirty mind, but…did anyone else giggle like a 13 year old at “Glory Zone Encounters”?

  2. John Green permalink
    September 23, 2010 1:35 pm

    I was struck by the similarities between the ‘revival manifestations’ and the behavior reported by the Report of the Royal Commission on Animal Magnetism from the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1874, regarding the effects of mesmerism:

    “Patients then display a variety of reactions depending on the different states they find themselves in. Some are calm, quiet, & feel nothing; others cough, spit, feel slight pain, a warmth either localized or all over, & perspire; others are agitated & tormented by convulsions. These convulsions are extraordinary in their number, duration, & strength. As soon as a convulsion begins, many others follow. The Commissioners have seen some lasting for more than three hours; convulsions are accompanied by murky & viscous expectorations drawn out by the violence of the exertions. Sometimes the expectorations contain streaks of blood; there is a young male patient, in particular, who spit out blood in abundance. These convulsions are characterized by quick, involuntary movements of limbs & the entire body, by a tightening of the throat, by the twitching of the hypochondria & epigastric area, by blurred & unfocused vision, by piercing shrieks, tears, hiccups & excessive laughter. They are preceded or followed by a state of languor & dreaminess, of a kind of prostration & even sleepiness. The slightest unexpected noise causes shivers; & it has been noticed that the change of tone & measure in the pieces played on the pianoforte had an influence on the patients — a faster movement, for example, agitated them more & renewed the intensity of their convulsions.

    There is a padded room, intended primarily for patients racked by convulsions, a room named des Crises; but M. Deslon does not deem its usage necessary, & all patients, regardless of condition, are gathered together in the group treatment rooms. Nothing is more astonishing than the spectacle of these convulsions; without seeing it, it cannot be imagined: & in watching it, one is equally surprised by the profound repose of some of these patients & the agitation that animates others; the various reactions that are repeated, the fellow-feeling that sets in. One sees patients specifically searching for others & while rushing towards each other, smile, speak with affection & mutually soothe their crises. All submit to the magnetizer; even though they may appear to be asleep, his voice, a look, a signal pulls them out of it. Because of these constant effects, one cannot help but acknowledge the presence of a great power which moves & controls patients, & which resides in the magnetizer.”

  3. Jake permalink
    September 23, 2010 3:37 pm

    Hypnotherapy is not mass trance. I think there are (a few) valid cases where this type of therapy can be useful. A colleague of mine utilized it particularly well in the context of pain management on a burn victim who was struggling immensely with having his dressings changed. It certainly doesn’t work with everybody and I think the contexts must be fairly specific.

    The main difference between hypnotherapy and mass trance is that in the therapeutic arena, the person in the suggestible state is (hopefully) in that state to gain control over some behavioral or physiological aspect of their lives while mass trance simply creates a chaotic environment where the suggestible individual has no control and there is no end game.

    Hypnotherapy – Engaging the subconscious in a controlled environment to overcome specific obstacles.

    Mass Trance – Engaging the subconscious just for the hell of it to see what happens.

    That uncontrolled element is why I have no respect for this kind of thing. We repress things for a reason, for better or worse and unleashing all of that stored emotional energy in an aimless fashion can only damage the individual.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
    September 23, 2010 6:34 pm

    Noticed a couple Shaking Stacies in the front row starting at 0:46.

    Just before the Benny Hinn “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor!” at 1:15.

    Blue blankets instead of pink ones at 2:00 — still wonder why.

    Microphone guy’s pointing finger looks like it should be pointing a magic wand from Hogwarts, considering the effect on whoever he points at. Touch Attack or Ranged Touch Attack, with or without Saving Throw?

    • September 24, 2010 9:13 am

      Don’t get me started on how broken the new magic missile is. Grrrrrrrr

      • Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
        September 24, 2010 12:27 pm

        3e/Pathfinder or 4e?

        (Talk about “broken” or rather weakened with later editions, I go back to Old School Days. As in three-little-books-plus-Greyhawk, when Sleep and Phantasmal Forces RULED!)

      • September 24, 2010 2:55 pm

        4E. I never did Pathfinder. I actually like 4E a lot but am not happy with this recent change. It became our first house rule. We use the one in the original book.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
        September 27, 2010 8:40 am

        Pathfinder is basically Paizo’s refinement and re-release of 3.5 under a D20 Open Gaming License after WOTC dropped 3e completely to reverse-engineer World of Warcraft and call it 4e.

      • September 27, 2010 3:00 pm

        I don’t find 4E that bad actually. It plays much better than 3.5 did. Much easier on the DM too. I have friends who tried out Pathfinder but it is really hard to get anyone around here to play anything except official D&D versions. I’ve wanted to run D20 Modern for years now, bought the books and everything, but no takers. But I have to turn players away for any of the D&D games I’ve run.

  5. TheTexasGuy permalink
    September 23, 2010 6:56 pm

    In his exhaustive work on the use of hypnosis in a clinical setting called “Trancework – an introduction to the practice of clinical hypnosis”, Michael D. Yapko Ph. D says, “How stage hypnostist get their subject to perform is not difficult to understand if one has an appreciation both of hypnotic principles and of certain aspects of human behavior perhaps best described in the literature of social psycholgy.” He goes on to explain

    1) Most stage shows begin with a call for volunteers… [so] the hypnotist knows that the people who have volunteered are willing to perform…
    2) A general personality trait common to volunteer performers is a degree of exhibitionism; the greater the degree, the more useful the subject. For the most part people are actively seeking the role that they fulfill “for” the hypnotist.
    3) The hypnotist will always perform some kind of “test” to gauge the suggestibility of the people who have volunteered (because there will be some who are there to prove this is a hoax) and will eliminate those who won’t deliberately follow his suggestions.

    “The audience expects the hypnotic subject to behave in particular ways, just as the subjects themselves know they will be made to act in certain entertaining ways. When a group of people have an expectation of how one is supposed to act, a temporary social norm is established. Deviation from a norm is any situation is generally undesirable, and the strong sense of independence it takes not to conform to the norm (the expected behavior) in the stage show context is virtually absent in the chosen subjects. Research on the need for peer approval and its relationship to the phenomenon of conformity describes this concept clearly. Thus, conforming behavior in order to get hypnotist and audence approval is a major ingredient in the stage show formula.”

    Fast forward to a typical Charismatic setting – the minister calls people forward who want prayer – his “volunteers”. He will go down the line and see who is the most receptive to his suggestions – most specifically those that will fall down (backwards) when he lays his hands on them. This “social norm” is usually set up by having “catchers” behind people, so the expectation that they will fall backward if they’ve received a touch from God is set up publicly and is overwhelming. If they don’t fall, then they, the preacher, and everyone in the building will know that they don’t want to “receive”. Desperate people want a miraculous intervention in their lives so much that they will do whatever the preacher needs them to do (for his own ego) as long as it will “get them something” from God.

    Once the highly suggestible people have been identified (by their falling, and by whatever other “manifestations” that they demonstrate), it is then easy for the minister to focus on them and to continue to feed them suggestions as to what they should feel or do – “Fire, Fire, Fire”…

    Have good people, with good intentions, received good things in situations where they were expected to live up to the temporary social norms set up by “prayer lines” or “words of knowledge” or whatever – whether that be falling down, or being comatose on the floor, or responding in some way to the christian version of a “cold reading”? I have no doubt that that has happened many, many times. How that happens is a whole other discussion.

    But when powerful people, in influential roles, use psychological principles of influence to introduce inappropriate temporary social norms, and then manipulate people to participate in those “norms” or “miss God”, the residue is overwhelmingly negative.

    The preacher shouts, “Don’t resist, don’t resist. Just let it flow. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit. Let go of doubt. It’s time for your miracle. Are you ready to reach out and receive it or are you going to be robbed by doubt and pessimism. Jesus is moving up and down these aisles tonight, and yet some of you will miss your miracle because of doubt and unbelief.” And, in that environment, the desire to “please God” and be the kind of person who “receives” is overwhelming.

    I love God. I believe in miracles. Even though I’m not a “Six day Creation, Moses wrote the Pentateuch, every word of the Bible is inspired by God” kind of guy, there is something wonderfully mysterious to me about Scripture, and I long for a deep and satisfying life in the Spirit. I’ve “been there-done-that”. I hosted Benny Hinn when he was speaking in little school cafeterias on a Saturday night for Full Gospel Businessmen. My brother and his brother were best friends. I’ve been with the Kenneth Copelands and Kenneth Hagins and many of the powerful “stars” of the charismatic world. I was on staff at the church that the word “charismatic” was coined at. So I’m not some kind of “lurker” who just wants to lob criticism at the church. I’ve given my whole life to the church, and I still love the power and potential that a local church has… but at some stage, enough is enough.

  6. Emerson Fast permalink
    September 23, 2010 9:23 pm

    I used to be part of this lunacy as well,

    Attended a Todd Bentley conference, went to a charismatic house church, attended seminars for casting out demons. It’s a wonder my parents didn’t kick me out of the house. Charismania attracts alot of youth because it usually juxtaposes their spirituality from that of their parents. It is a reaction against the church of the previous generation (and you hear it in all the charismatic propaganda….dead church’s, Word rich but Spirit bankrupt, without the anointing, a spirit of bondage or fear, a spirit of pride or religion). Plus, who wouldn’t want to attend a worship seminar where you get loaded with self-gratuitous prophecies that elevate you to the heavenlies and promise you invincible power? It’s a good feeling. You feel important.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
      October 12, 2010 11:09 am

      Even if you end up “being important” by kicking cancer patients in the nuts on orders from your pet angel — “SHEEKA-BOOM-BAH! BAM!”

  7. September 24, 2010 5:44 am

    Yes there’s a lot of foolishness in this world. This blog does a good job of finding it, and sometimes exemplifying it 🙂

    The existence of counterfeits points to the existence of something Real. I’m well aware of the cognitive effects of music, singing, crowd dynamics, and a charismatic person on stage. But the question is, does God do things in this setting? I think if the occasion honours Him, the Gospel is preached competently, and the people are seeking, then yes of course God would delight to minister his Spirit.

    I don’t know how to define the difference between a genuine work of God and hyped-up fakery, but I just “know” inside if something is off. No doubt there will always be some error along with the true work of God, but let’s go to church with an open mind and heart. Keep the analytical left brain running of course but not at the expense of listening, connecting to our Lord.

    • TheTexasGuy permalink
      September 24, 2010 7:16 am

      The problem, ropata, with incidences like the one shown in the two “Charismatic Chaos” posts – and ones of varying degrees of the same manipulative techniques – is that the occasion doesn’t honor God and the gospel is DEFINITELY not preached competently!

      I appreciate that you say that “you just “know” when something is off”. Well, apparently there are massive parts of the Christian empire that don’t.

      Just look around the room as the camera pans either sequence. There are lots of people sitting there who “know” that something is off… who “know” that the Emperor has no clothes, but the power of setting up temporary social norms which validate these kinds of “manifestations” is that people with even a shred of insight are bullied into keeping quiet and going along with the charade because “this just might be God and I don’t want to resist the Holy Spirit”.

      My question when I watched the videos (especially the first one) was, “Where is the Pastor?” When you have a situation where your “Man of God” validates this kind of trickery and refuses to stand up, punch this guy in the face, impound his offering and kick him out of the church, then people don’t know how to respond – “Well, if Pastor thinks this is God, it must be God. It doesn’t feel right to me, but he’s the Man of God, so I better go along with it.” Perhaps, more than anything else, situations like these are a failure of leadership.

      There are a lot of people who get a lot of serious help from local churches. There are a lot of real, healing and helping events that transpire in churches – and sometimes when the crazies are in your face it’s easy to forget that.

      I saw a T-shirt once that I think I’ll have to get (maybe Agathos could start selling them on this site): classic picture of Jesus on the front with the tag line, “Jesus, you sure have a lot of really weird friends!”

      • Jake permalink
        September 24, 2010 3:11 pm

        I must have this shirt! I must have it now! NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!

        • EricW permalink
          September 27, 2010 8:22 pm

          Nah. Get these T-Shirts instead. They’ll let everyone know that you’re H-O-L-Y:

          • TheTexasGuy permalink
            September 28, 2010 10:18 am

            I thought I had seen everything cheesy there was to see, but these guys took cheese to a whole new level… words fail…

    • Chris E permalink
      September 24, 2010 11:04 am

      “The existence of counterfeits points to the existence of something Real.”

      Or the evidence of something could just point to the evidence of .. something. That’s the possibility that those who classify things either as ‘demonic’ or ‘the holy ghost’ fail to account for – that these pheneomane can be explained completely on a natural, pheneomalogical level.

      That doesn’t discount the possibility that God couldn’t use something purely naturalistic in a spiritual way, but that isn’t entirely what you are saying.

  8. Jonathan M permalink
    October 26, 2010 3:39 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with the comments from Jake and TheTexasGuy. Whilst I have no formal qualifications in these areas, I have studied psychology and researched hypnotism. What we see in this video (and the previous one) is mass hypnosis. If you got a stage hypnotist to watch it, they’d tell you it’s what they do every day in theatres and clubs.

    The problem is that Christians generally have little or no knowledge of these areas. Many churches are suspicious of psychology and warn against hypnosis (ironically the most strong opposition comes from pentecostals). So they view it through their own reference framework and see it as supernatural, coming from either the Holy Spirit or demons. I think it’s neither, although I wouldn’t like to rule out some demonic influence in extreme cases.

    It’s also true that most charismatic/pentecostal preachers who do such things don’t realise what they are doing. They are basically self-taught hypnotists, and many of them genuinely believe that they are ministering to a congregation by doing the sort of things we see on video. The deception is very strong.

    I need to finish now, but want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to discuss these important matters.

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