What is the Swedenborgian view of such therapies as hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming? Is the human subconscious off-limits due to the possibility of possession by evil forces, or can it be used to bring us closer to God through meditative states similar to hypnosis?

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    I asked this question on your Spiritual Insights forum and asked it also on " Off the Left Eye" but never recieved a response back. I do not live close to a Swedenborgian church so my main avenue for information is the internet. Subjectively I feel Swedenborgs doctrine makes the most sense to me, there are a few topics I'm curios about, this being one of them. The Lord gave us a sub-conscience mind for a reason, I was curious as to whether Swedenborg had anything to say about it, even though it may not of been understood in his time. It barely understood now really.
    – user31768
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 18:53
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    It's a tough question. Mesmer didn't start his work on animal magnetism and hypnosis until after Swedenborg's death, and NLP originated in the 1970s. So of course Swedenborg couldn't say anything directly about either hypnosis or NLP in his writings. And opinions among Swedenborgians have varied over the years. At any rate, your question is now clearly on-topic here. I've edited it a bit more, and added a few links for reference. Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


In general, Swedenborgians have been supportive of using the subconscious to get closer to God. There is some indication of Swedenborgians supporting hypnosis to that end.

When Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) developed the concept of "animal magnetism" (generally called "hypnosis" now) there were Swedenborgians involved in the movement, seeing it as evidence of what Swedenborg wrote about.

The movements of "healing with the mind," "positive thinking" and the like also involved many Swedenborgians who saw them as focusing the mind on the higher levels. One Swedenborgian, Horatio Dresser (1866–1954) discounted movements that said everything could be healed in our minds—because Swedenborg was about us taking action into the real world, that exists beyond thoughts.

Today we have many Swedenborgians in mental health fields. Stephen Larsen, a Swedenborgian psychologist, is very much in the school of "transpersonal" psychology or exploration of consciousness. He wants to help us access the higher spiritual mind.

Wilson Van Dusen (1923–2005) was a Swedenborgian psychologist who worked with mental patients who had hallucinations. He felt that some experienced what Swedenborg called spirits—good and bad. He felt we were all vulnerable to spirits, but they reflect our own inner heaven and hell, and we can learn to focus on our own inner heavens to prevent influence from evil forces.

I am both a practicing social worker and a Swedenborgian minister. I am very interested in the intersection of Swedenborg and mental health. I know of no official Swedenborgian view on hypnosis NLP, or the subconscious. However, I know of Swedenborgian therapists who utilize such techniques in therapy. I would say that most do believe that evil spirit can be harassing, but that a way to prevent that is to find ways to connect with the Divine, including through techniques such as those you suggest.

Swedenborg did caution against "Ouija boards" or mediumship to try and contact spirits, as they can attract evil spirits and we need to keep our connection with the Divine. I'd say modern Swedenborgians have a range of views on that, but would agree that our focus should be on connecting with the Divine—and that is the best protection from any harassment of evil spirits.

Heaven and hell are states within ourselves, and many Swedenborgians want to help us connect with our inner heaven. Intention is important. If one uses a Ouija board for the purpose of drawing evil spirits, that could make us vulnerable. But things like meditation, hypnosis, and NLP, if used as a desire to understand ourselves better and to connect with the Divine more deeply are gifts to help connect with God's Divine inflow into all of us.

Rev. Dr. Wilma Wake
Minister of on-lineSwedenborgian Ministry

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