Trance can be anything, it is simply open to suggestion. The numbered light on a pole, lit up near a cashier in the store, is a suggestion to pay for your items at that checkout. A roped off area made into a zigzag is a suggestion to form a line and wait to be served. Or a difference in flooring color or material can suggest to stay in a certain area until called upon or to divide departments.
We have been trained by ourselves and society to follow certain rules such as, stop at a red light or red sign. To stay on the certain side of a solid double yellow line until it is separated into yellow dashes. The habits of driving follow through even when there are no cars or yellow lines. When you’re in a store, people tend to stay to the left or right of an aisle depending on which direction they are going, as if still driving.
Color can induce trance, as can smell, touch, taste or sound. The list can go on and on, all the way back to the Bible, to Egypt, the Hun and beyond, dim lighting, chanting, colors, textures and smells have been used to induce a trance and bring a mystical, spiritual or healing experience to the masses. These same strategies have also been used to prepare for war and armed conflict.
The ancient temples we are still unearthing today, were often dimly lit, filled with smoke from fragrant plants and divided by large sheets of fabric which were moved by the wind or men. Entering a temple made you feel small and looking up at the beautiful building induced an instant trance. The slightest touch from a priest would deepen the trance, often parilizing a person so that they would ingest potions or waters spiked with various herbs. Touching sacred objects and hearing muffled sounds while intoxicating fragrances filled ones senses made for quite the encounter with the god or goddess of the temple. Let me throw in haunted houses as well. They are simply the opposite of a temple experience. Only one enters a haunted house expecting to be scared as well as to see and experience disturbing things. Only instead of healing and relief, this experience brings nightmares and sleepless nights, can cause edginess and PTSD like symptoms for several days afterwards. Some people get a thrill out of this sort of trance.
Even though both are man made experiences, to overwhelm the senses and induce trance, they serve very different purposes. Let's look at the old Catholic tradition. People enter the sanctuary which is dimly lit by candles and stained glass. Very tall ceilings with rapturous scenes, draw the eyes up towards the heavens. Instant trance induction! The people are seated on benches which may not be comfortable to sit on, seeming to remind one that they are unworthy of earthly comfort. The priest or authority figures enter, wearing bright colors and swinging an inscense burner, lead by a gilded cross lifted high above their heads, creating a feast for the eyes and nose. Perhaps an organ or choir is singing or there is chanting in another language taking place as well. Instant trance!
The atmosphere is set, all the senses are engaged. Everyone stands or kneels at the wave of the gilded ringed hands of the priest or authority figure. This is followed by ritual chanting or repetition of creeds and approved wording, reminding one that they are poor and lost, unable to touch the God or saint they are praying to. Creating the sense, that this god or saint may look down upon one or two and grant a plee, if the tradions are followed correctly.
Then comes the sermon. An authority figure stands high above the people in a pulpit, causing them to look up and receive these words, as if from God himself. "You poor unworthy sinner!" Instant trance or a trance deepener!
After a time, people drift off thinking about their sore bottom or what they are going to do after the service, what they are eating for lunch or about their sinful actions and condemn themselves. Then in this self incrimination state of mind, the music changes and the offering is taken.
The slow monotoned music keeps the self incriminated person in trance and from this mindset they decide how much money will ease their troubled mind or ease their mental burden just enough to feel better. As if emptying their pockets is emptying their soul and they are redeemed. Allowing each one to decide how much to pay to have their guilt recompenced. If they are unable to decide, there is a preset suggestion of how much to pay as well.
Towards the end of the hour or two, the people stand and are told, "your sins are forgiven", as the money is placed on the altar of gold, which is looked down upon by a cross or the figure of a man hanging on a cross, representing Christ, as if to judge whether enough was given to release you from your self induced guilt.
The authority figure now has the people stand and they are told in an authoritative tone, "Your sins are forgiven. Go live in peace."Ominous, yet upbeat music plays and candles are extinguished. In a grand procession the authorities march out, followed by the young initiates in their training, often dressed in white robes. Then ushers come and release people from their seat by a nod of the head. The people walk like sheep to the slaughter, up the aisle as the others, waiting to be released, look on, casting judgements upon them as to how their hair is done or what they are wearing, or what so and so said to them and how God should strike them dead where they stand!
After shaking the hand of the authority figure(s) and thanking them for easing your self induced condemnation, you step out into the light of day. In the back of your mind there may still be doubt, a hesitation. Making you feel either greatful for another chance or cautious, expecting that lightning bolt to strike you then and there.
Usually this trance wears off after an hour or so. After you arrive home and eat, then relax or talk with friends and family. But like magic, on Sunday morning, you wake up and for some reason you are compelled to get dressed up and to sit perfectly still on an uncomfortable bench, with people you avoided all week. To repeat approved words and create self condemnation, then once again pay for your forgiveness.
Why do you continue this trance?
On the other side of this. A person who is genuinely down trodden can enter this atmosphere and look into the eyes of a statue or authority figure, leave a token of thanks and leave a different person. As if transformed by the whole experience.
A church service differs from a stage hypnosis show only in that everyone participates in the trance. Where in a stage hypnosis show, only those chosen few on the stage are part of the trance and the rest of the group are mealry onlookers, there for a good laugh or two.
Is any of this wrong?
In my humble opinion, yes and no. Yes it is wrong if people are robbed blind and repeatedly made to believe they are bad just because they are alive, while religious authority figures build their financial wealth on lies and greed.
But I also say no, this is not wrong.
Many a historical figure and the common man has had a divine encounter or inspiration by attending a religious service or during a time of prayer. Many a desperate man and woman has entered a church and found forgiveness and the will to live or to change their ways during this church induced trance. The down trodden sinner stepped outside of their problem long enough to surrender and realize that there may be nothing they can do about the burden, but they can hand it over or lay it down at an altar and leave it there, choosing to do better.
At times magical things happen as we enter prayer and meditiation or embark on pilgrimages. Climbing high mountains to holy sights, touching holy objects, lighting candles in dark places, or entering a small room and telling an obscured person about our deepest darkest inward things.
Yours truly has been on many religious quests. One stands out among them; the time I climbed Bear Butte, a sacred Native American place, on a 100 degree day, searching for an answer. On my way up I realized I had not brought an offering. When I stopped for a brief rest, at my feet was a cigarette. I felt it was to be my offering; similar to when God provided Abraham a ram in a bush to offer in place of his son Issac. This cigarette was my ram in the bushes, provided by God or some great chief; as tobacco is the traditional Native American offering. No doubt He was laughing at my quest and placed it there to help ease my troubled soul!
At the top, I laid for several hours in the burning heat, looking up from time to time as if hoping to see a holy man or receive what I was seeking. Instead a fellow seeker came and went without saying a word. On my way down the butte I found myself picking up after him; bottles of water, sunscreen, granola bars, a pair of sunglasses and a hanker chief. I collected these items and carried them to the bottom, then placed them on a bench, near the beginning of the trail, in hopes that an unprepared seeker may be aided by them on their journey and that they may find what they were seeking. I left the butte learning much about myself that day and that a way would be provided as I stepped out in faith.
Is there really any answer, cure or relief in the religious ritual? Yes, but it is found in the trance of it. In believing that this is the thing that will make me whole again.
For ages people have recited words and preformed ritual sacrifices and offerings to obtain something. In the times before Christ, BC, humans were sacrificed during new moons and eclipses to appease some god or spirit and bring back the sun or moon. At other festivals, virgins were laid on altars and impregnated by priests to bring about the changing of seasons, to ensure a plentiful year. Then if a drought or bad storms occurred, the babies of these women or the women themselves were sacrificed to appease the gods and change the weather. It was either an honor or a disgrace to be sacrificed for such means.
There is nothing wrong with a religious belief or approved wording as long as it is not imposed on the belief of another and causes them harm. By all means pray for one another! All religions teach about prayer or meditation to some degree and about lifting a fellow human in need, up in our thoughts, prayers and intents.
Climbing Bear Butte is not for everyone! There is nothing wrong with wishing a downcast soul to be well or to find peace. But be prepared; by praying for your fellow human, you may find that the best solace comes from you. You may be called upon to offer a smile, kind word, or listening ear.
Is the trance of religion bad? At its core no. There will always be those who use their position and authority to dominate others, this is not the original intent of religion. Take the best parts that your place of worship has to offer. If you don't attend a place of worship, then you can find the best in your fellow man or in nature. Then take this best and internalize it. Go out into your world and take on more good things, then be the best human being you can be, knowing these things, wherever you may find yourself.
Live your life from one trance to the next, knowing you have the power to change it for the better as you go along.
Jessica L Hanson CHt