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Letters of Encouragement

by Swami Kriyananda
Spring 2007 No Comment

A hatha yoga teacher used hypnosis and hypnotic relaxation as a therapy for smoking, depression, fear, etc. He asked whether hypnotically induced experiences of seeing the spiritual eye and hearing the inner sounds are helpful spiritually.

Dear__________,

I’m not sure I can answer your questions satisfactorily, though I will try. There is on the spiritual path a whole world to be gone through before reaching superconsciousness. I mean the world of  the subconscious.

It is possible to go straight through it to the superconscious level, but many people see “visions” and experience a great variety of phenomena that are imaginary rather than real, and much spiritual literature is devoted to helping people to learn how to tell the difference.

For example, a person will see Jesus Christ in meditation: How is he to know whether Jesus has actually come to him, or whether he only imagined the visit? The imagination can be very keen.

In my book, The Path, you may recall the story of the man who told Paramhansa Yogananda that he experienced cosmic consciousness, but Yogananda proved to him that it was only his highly developed powers of visualization that led him to think so.

How can one tell the difference? I won’t go into this subject in depth here—it’s involved—but the most important point of all is the effect it has. One who has really seen Jesus Christ in meditation will be changed by the experience, and changed much more dramatically than he would be by the slight changes that can be effected by the imagination alone.

I do not believe that superconscious experiences can be induced by hypnotic suggestion. Superconscious realities exist on a higher level; they act upon the conscious and subconscious; they are not acted upon by these lower states.

This is not to say that imagined experiences are wrong or harmful. Yogananda was not in favor of hypnosis, but I am sure he would not have objected to getting someone to visualize the spiritual eye, etc. Such visualization can help to awaken the soul’s memory of the deeper reality. Nonetheless, the visualization should not be confused with that reality.

Yes, there are similarities between hypnosis and yogic trance, as in fact there are similarities between sleep or drunkenness and samadhi. But the seeker is wise to accept the warnings of the masters that these similarities are superficial, and ought not to be explored by one who truly wants to awaken from the sleep of delusion.

In divine friendship,

Swami Kriyananda

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