This section is from the book "Handbook Of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science", by Henry S. Munro. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science.
From a psychological standpoint all religious services of all denominations are especially interesting. If we attend them to learn, we usually find our lesson between the lines.
The psychic effect of the commingling of several hundred male and female voices, with sentiments of love expressed in song; with the martial spirit of soldiers battling in unison and marching as conquerors from victory to victory; amid music and beautiful flowers, fine clothes and suggestive mottoes, and mystical carvings; all these combine to have a significance but little appreciated by one in a thousand of the people of our times. They subtly and gently stimulate all the involuntary cells of the body, and temporarily lift the individual out of his self-conscious physical and psychical weaknesses, and, in general, when free from emotional excitement, prove to be an experience which, like other stimulations, reacts with benefit upon both mind and body.
Suggestion is' to be seen in all such experiences from start to finish. The methods adopted by the clergyman of getting en rapport with the audience - the unconsciously induced condition of receptivity by quartets composed of male and female voices, the reading responded to by the audience, followed by a female solo - all create a psychic condition which renders the individual forgetful of self and his surroundings.
For the time being he is completely amenable to the suggestion given from the pulpit orator, who for from thirty to sixty minutes has the opportunity to create sense impressions and present ideas or suggestions that are beneficial or harmful, as the case may be. They are wholesome, beneficial, and helpful suggestions just in proportion as they are the reflection of a broad, well-educated, truth-loving mind or personality.
It has been my privilege to hear such men in all denominations, both Protestant and Catholic, Jew and Gentile, Mormon and Free Thinkers, as well as promulgators of Oriental philosophies and religions, containing much that is true, and useful, and good.
Just in proportion as the people are becoming sufficiently well educated to comprehend in some degree the cosmic order of the universe and the laws of its evolution, and to appreciate the part played by heredity, environment, and education in determining the ideas and ideals which go to construct the religious beliefs of individuals, are they becoming more open to accept the contribution made by science to our moral and religious philosophy.
The more enlightened element of all denominations now admits that science has in numerous instances unquestionably demonstrated that religious teachings have at times been wrong as to matters of fact. Be that as it may, man is a religious being, for he is by nature a truth seeker, and every one must either have a philosophy of his own in reference to the questions of life or be creed-fettered by some fixed religious dogma, which seeks to mold him according to prescribed ideals.
At no time in the world's history were the rights of the individual so much appreciated as now. All religions are useful just in proportion as they contribute to the development of the individual in body and mind.
As long as religion appeals to the intellect and renders the individual conscious of his privilege of being a thinking, reasoning, responsible entity, with the power to exercise choice as to what shall and what shall not enter his life; as long as its promulgators inspire men and women with high ideals, and point to sane, rational. sensible rules of conduct, both for self-betterment and for the health of his fellowman; as long as it teaches him self-appreciation and altruism, and its influence is for what is good, and true, and useful for human happiness, and health, and growth, the beneficial influence of religion for the evolution of the individual can not be questioned.
The sublime faith that carries with it a conviction that is unshaken, that brings peace, eliminates fear, and makes life serene. or a reasonable philosophy that is entirely satisfactory to the individual in regard to his past evolution, present conduct, and future development, is as essential to the life, health, and happiness of a rational human being as is food, water, exercise, sleep, air, congenial associates, or other life essentials. It is here that the mind takes refuge in those problems that are forced upon the attention of all civilized races.
Yet, when the emotions have been wrought upon and the individual is led into that extreme state of monoideaism which exists in religious ecstasy with crying, shouting, or other manifestations of joy or grief, pleasure or hope, and he or she is no longer under the guidance and control of reason, it can but be regarded as psychical prostitution pure and simple.
The psychical correlation between religious emotion and the animal passions is now recognized by all our ablest psychologists, neurologists, and psychiatrists. The erotic and religious feelings are so closely associated that the step from the emotional religious enthusiast to the sexual prostitute is but a very short one.
As bearing upon this subject, Howard says: "Religious emotion springs from the animating power of the sexual nature, and through the emotion thus aroused we deify and worship the inspirational source of our spiritual longings."
Kraft-Ebing remarks: "How powerfully sensuality expresses itself in the histories of religious fanatics, and in what revolting scenes, true orgies, the religious festivals of antiquity, no less than the meetings of certain sects in modern times, express themselves. . . . Owing to the correspondence in many points between these two emotional states, it is clear that when they are very intense the one may take the place of the other, since every" manifestation of one element of mental life also intensifies its associations."
The reader is aware that the more enlightened leaders of all religions now openly oppose any form of emotional excitement in religious services, and regard it as a deplorable relic of ancient barbarism. But, be that as it may, it has been my experience to attend such meetings all over our country, and the consciousness of the degrading influence of such meetings on innocent, impressible, and highly suggestible boys and girls, men and women, who are the victims of these induced endemics of temporary emotional insanity, has been particularly painful and revolting to me.