Trance and Delusion Part One: The Child Inside

Woman rave

Several years ago, I had some serious dental work done.  I’ve experienced quite a bit of that in the past, but this time I tried something new.  I went to a dentist who offered “twilight sleep”.   Anything is better than a shot in the mouth with a needle that gets wiggled around while it’s stuck in your gum.  An hour before the procedure I took a tiny pill.  I live an hour away from the dentist so my son, Cole, drove me to the appointment. After twenty minutes, I was feeling very relaxed if a bit odd.  Reality was taking a ten-degree turn away from my head.  I remember getting to the dentist’s office and sitting down in the chair, but after that, I was out. When the procedure was over I don’t remember getting out of the dentist’s chair or going to the car.  Apparently, I needed help getting from the office to the car, but when I was in the car I assured everyone that I was in complete control of all my faculties.  I do not remember saying that, which may indicate a seriously flawed sense of over-confidence buried deep in my psyche.

They told Cole that I needed to eat something right away so we went for an In-N-Out burger.  I’m pretty sure I remember eating one.  Later I found food residue all over myself. Apparently, my drug-controlled mind is a slob. After that came the hour ride home. My son says we listened to a podcast and had some discussion about it.  He reported that I was a bit “loopy”, but I was happy to engage in conversation.  I don’t remember anything about that trip home, not a single word that was heard or said.  Memory doesn’t begin until I was climbing into bed to sleep for a few hours.

So here’s the question, while my conscious or “executive” mind that controls everyday memory and (theoretically) makes rational decisions was asleep who was awake and conversing?

Many years ago, while I was in Vietnam, I had an officer friend who liked to drink.  One night, at our base camp there was a party.  We drove to it in a jeep. My friend took me along because he knew I didn’t drink so I was his designated driver.  When we left the party he was drunk and his whole personality had changed.  When I asked for the keys to the jeep, he refused to give them to me. When I insisted, he got in, started the engine and ordered me to get in.  I refused, so he proceeded to try to run me over. I’m sure it was comical watching a captain in a jeep chasing a lieutenant around in circles, but it didn’t strike me as funny at the time.  Afterward, he didn’t remember doing it.  He was a very nice man…except when his conscious mind wasn’t in control then a different person appeared who was full of real viciousness.

So what was in control?  We just accept that that’s the way some people get when they are drunk.  But why do they get that way?  It’s almost as though two different “people” live inside each of us.  When one goes to sleep someone else appears, and sometimes “he or she” is rather evil and destructive. But taking drugs and getting drunk aren’t the only ways for this other “person” to emerge.  I want us to think about illusion and delusion. The Bible talks about delusion. Let’s read a mysterious passage from the New Testament.  It’s found in Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians chapter two:

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.  Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?  

And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this reason, God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

That’s pretty clear and really disturbing.  So God is going to send a strong delusion on the whole world.  What is a delusion?  A delusion is a belief or viewpoint that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument.  In fact, those who are deluded think that any rational evidence that refutes their belief is itself a delusion. Delusion is considered a symptom of a severe mental disorder. So if God is going to send a delusion that will be accepted by the entire world as real, obviously that means that the entire world is suffering from a severe, collective mental disorder.  Let’s put that another way.  Because the entire world is insane, everyone will believe the same gigantic internally consistent lie.  Insanity is always internally consistent.

Let’s understand something.  God has not inflicted insanity on the world. That’s voluntary.  People don’t need to be insane, they have chosen to be insane.  Acceptance of this coming delusion will be proof of the true mental and spiritual condition of the human race.  I’m an old man now, but one thing I’ve learned by my own bad choices.  Sin makes you stupid. The longer you keep sinning, not only do you get stupider, you lose touch with moral reality.  The longer you are out of touch with moral reality, the more you live in your own fantasies trying to create your own reality, until finally the whole mess comes crashing down.  At that point, many people get angry and bitter at God and what they think “life” has done to them.

There’s another way to put this. There’s a strong relationship between illusion and delusion.  Often one leads to the other.  So let’s define illusion.  An illusion is a specific figment of the imagination or hallucination that is perceived by the senses but is wrongly interpreted. Remember a delusion is a belief or impression that is maintained in spite of reality. Seeing illusions that are wrongly perceived as real often leads to believing a delusion, a larger idea that is firmly maintained in spite of reality or rational argument.

Here’s an illustration that I’ve used before: I’m a mentalist and a past member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.  From the time I was a teenage magician, I have been fascinated at how easily people can be fooled.  As I have written before, for a number of years our family did a program of mental illusions. In the program we made it appear as though I could read minds, predict the future, control choices, etc.  But at the midway point, I would stop and tell the audience that everything they had seen us do was a trick, an illusion, not real at all.

But even after saying that as clearly as possible, there were people who would come up when the program was over and tell me, “I know you said it was a trick, but when you looked at me that way, I could feel you entering my mind.  I know it was real. I know you have power.”

Well, it wasn’t real at all and they wouldn’t believe me.

I had created a series of illusions, specific experiences that were misperceived as real.  Together they produced a delusion, a strong belief based on false information. Once it is firmly implanted, it’s almost impossible to break a person free from a controlling delusion until some disastrous event occurs that brutally tears them loose. Sometimes even then they hang on to it. Why is this so?  Where did our horrible human tendency to be deluded begin?  I think it came when a particular choice was made a very long time ago. Let’s remind ourselves about that choice.

 Genesis 3:1-7 “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

This is a bare-bones account in very simple terms.  You know the way it’s presented in pop culture.  This beautiful, but stupid, naked woman — have you noticed in the pictures she’s always blonde — is wandering around in the forest.  Suddenly, a fat snake dangles down from a tree and says, “You hungry?  These apples look really good.” She, being blonde, gets sucked right into this trap.  Later, her husband, who is a stud, probably a proto-professional jock but also stupid, goes right down the drain with her.

Let’s do some serious speculation.  Underscore that word speculation.  I’m not a theologian or professional Bible scholar, I’m a storyteller.  Good storytellers search for motives. We search for logical causes and logical effects. So let’s speculate about what might have really happened there.  An interdimensional being who appears in the form of a serpent, at that time very likely a beautiful creature, tells Eve that she isn’t all that she could be. She could be like God.  She and Adam have spent quite a bit of time with God.  They’ve walked with Him in the Garden. One thing she knows, there’s a big difference between them and God. He is beautiful, wonderful, powerful and all-knowing.  They are way beneath Him.  Certainly, she’d like to be like that.

Right there is the basis of all self-improvement courses that have ever existed.  Now, she was told a lie that was mixed with truth (the best lies always are) and it offered a huge delusion. She could be illuminated, she could move to a higher plane of existence.  She could be like God, knowing good and evil whatever that meant. Think about that.  She didn’t know what good and evil were.  The words were a fascinating mystery and people love mysteries.  Not only would she be like God, but she would also learn secret powerful things to get there. Wisdom must mean having your eyes opened so you could see things that have been invisible to you.  That is the very definition of the occult.

What happened when she ate that fruit?  It was disobedience, the first sin with all the moral implications packed into it. But could something have happened to her experientially that to a large degree validated what this evil being had promised? Pure speculation, but a reasonable question. Was that just a delicious piece of fruit, or might it have had hallucinogenic properties?  Might Eve have had an experience of overwhelming exaltation and supernatural awareness, of mind expansion, that made her feel like a god?  She took it back to Adam. Now according to the Apostle Paul’s letter of II Timothy 2:14, Adam was not deceived. Which, in some ways, makes his sin worse. He disobeyed God willfully with his eyes open. Then, later he blamed it on his wife.  What a hero. In so many ways, this paradigm is played out in relationships today.

What was the immediate result of eating that “fruit”?  They knew they were naked and clearly felt vulnerable. So they tried to sew together coverings out of fig leaves. They weren’t covering their wrists and ankles, they were covering large parts of their bodies.  They were covering their sexual organs. I wonder why? About hallucinogens used by shamans in South America The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances states, “The hallucinatory experiences…have a marked sexual content. Shamans…described hallucinogens as ‘all semen’ and the visions they induce are states of sexual arousal and orgasm often involving fantasies of incest.”

I think the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil having hallucinogenic properties is a reasonable possibility. If you look back into the history of ancient pagan religions, including, of course, shamanism, leading all the way up to our time, over and over you see at the heart of those religions hallucinogens used to acquire vision, wisdom and supernatural power.  The evil Powers of Darkness work in patterns.  I believe those patterns go back to the very beginning.

There has been a lot of study of hallucinogens, including LSD, etc. and how they appear to expand the mind sometimes giving what has been described as almost godlike awareness and exaltation.  One of the most interesting scientific studies was done by a medical doctor named Rick Strassman. He did research on a drug called dimethyltryptamine, DMT. That is the basic ingredient of a shamanistic brew called Ayahuasca.  Why is the human race so prone to believing lying delusions?  Our ancient ancestors, Adam and Eve, planted that destructive weakness in us.  As a race, we are foolish, arrogant, fearful and prone to self-gratifying fantasies. We love to believe lies if they make us feel good and promise to give us what we want. That’s the basis of consumerism. All of this is quite bad enough.  But we need to add another strange human trait that makes the whole mess even more lethal.

As a race, we are prone to trances.

Because of my interest in illusion and delusion, I’ve spent years studying hypnosis – not in order to do it but to understand the process.  I’ve learned some fascinating things.  To be under hypnosis means that you are experiencing trance. What is trance?  Trance is the setting aside of the conscious or what might be called the “executive” mind that guides all our waking activities, so that the subconscious, or what I call the “childlike mind” can come to the surface and be revealed.  This is a “person” within us who, under normal circumstances, remains hidden while at the same time deeply influencing our conscious minds.  You might think of them as conjoined twins. The conscious and subconscious share the same body and brain, but there are real differences between them.  They work together but for periods of time, they can be separated.

Now I’m not a psychologist and I have to be very careful about terms. The fact that we name something doesn’t mean we understand it or even that we have placed it in the right category.  Conscious and subconscious are Freudian and “psychological” terms. I’m using them only to describe two very different manifestations of human personality that are deeply mysterious. We all know what conscious means in the popular sense.  (In reality, no one knows what “consciousness” actually is or where it comes from.)  The word subconscious is not so well understood.  I use it to describe a deeper awareness within each of us that is both connected to and strangely separate from our conscious minds.  Subconscious does not mean unaware or asleep. Quite the opposite. The subconscious or childlike mind appears to be the storehouse of memory.  It remembers everything, often in great detail, that we’ve heard and seen throughout our lives.

While it’s a great storehouse, the childlike mind does not have the ability to make moral, ethical or complex decisions.  It can’t even distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.  It absorbs all information without making value judgments about any of it.  It can be easily influenced and manipulated. But here is the striking part.  In everyday life, the subconscious or childlike mind is the seat of creativity and imagination.  When a problem is assigned by the conscious mind the subconscious mind searches for ways to solve it.

People talk about “sleeping on a problem”.   During the night or in the morning often an answer appears. The subconscious mind never sleeps.  In one case I read about, after a surgery a patient was hypnotized.  Under hypnosis, this individual recalled everything that had been said in the operating room though she had been totally anesthetized throughout the procedure. All creative problem-solvers, whether in the arts, sciences, business or anywhere, have very active subconscious minds that assist them in finding solutions. All-day long, we feed information into those minds.

Have you ever been in a trance, a state where your subconscious mind was near the surface and the conscious mind had receded and was no longer in total control? I’m sure you have.  There are different levels of trance. Trance isn’t going to sleep.  Quite the opposite, trance is the extreme focus of attention to the point where everything else is excluded.  The deeper the focus and concentration, the deeper the trance and the more the conscious mind is set aside.  When you are engrossed in a movie or a book, even when you are driving down a long, straight road and lose all track of time, you are entering into a mild trance.  You are experiencing a light form of hypnosis.

When you binge-watch a TV series or see a movie in a theater, you enter a light trance where your conscious mind is awake, but the extreme focus of attention brings the subconscious mind to the surface.

This childlike mind can’t distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.  It accepts that TV series or movie the same way it accepts everything else in your life, as a real experience and memory. That means whatever values have been taught in those fabricated illusions called TV episodes or movies subtly influence and define your view of the real world.  As you make decisions about how to live, about what is right and wrong, the values of those Hollywood created illusions are constantly influencing your choices and your morality whether you think so or not.

Now I want to be clear about Hollywood. No one is creating film and TV so they can put you in a trance and make you believe things. They’re just trying to tell successful stories, but they are doing it from their moral values and psychological baggage. And let’s be honest, some of those people are really screwed up. I don’t speak as an outsider about this.  I spent most of my career as a writer and executive producer in Hollywood network television.  For almost four years I was a writer and producer of a series entitled, The Equalizer. It was about a man named Robert McCall (played by the wonderful British actor, the late Edward Woodward), who had spent his life as a top operative in the CIA.  During that time, he had done some terrible things. He carried a lot of guilt about what he had done.  Leaving the agency he decided to spend his life helping people who were in deep trouble.  He ran an ad in the newspaper that read: Got a problem?  Odds against you?  Call the Equalizer.  When people called, he would help them.

We shot our series all over New York City between 1985 and 1989. The show was very popular, especially in that city.  When we were shooting on location crowds would gather.  How much of an influence was our show?  A few years ago, I received an email from a woman in Australia.  She told me that when she was a little girl, only eight years old, she would watch the show every week.  She said that her home life was so bad it was the only thing that gave her hope that somewhere out there could be a father who really cared.  Our series entered her subconscious mind as reality and it was a positive influence.  Others have told me much the same. That means a lot to me.

Collectively, when there are great changes in what our society views as right and wrong or acceptable/unacceptable behavior, often those changes can be traced directly to television, especially hugely popular TV series.  We’re not aware of the influence these Hollywood illusions have on us, but they are powerful in restructuring all of our views.

But there are unpleasant ways for the conscious mind to be set aside and for the child mind to appear.

Extreme shock is one of them.  It could be caused by such events as the sudden loss of a loved one or a traffic accident.  The conscious mind freezes and for a period of time is set aside.  After a terrible crash, people may wander on the road not understanding what has happened and not knowing what to do.  In war, even if you are a trained soldier knowing the possibility of attack by an armed enemy I can tell you from personal experience when those first shots ring out your mind freezes.  This will happen no matter how well-trained you are.  How quickly your executive mind recovers and takes action means everything.

There’s another way that the conscious mind can be set aside and lose control.  That is through various kinds of torture that may include hypnosis and drugs, which can lead to what has been called brainwashing. In that process, over time a person’s entire view of reality can be turned completely around.  Governments of the world, including our own here in the United States, have employed this evil technology.  Which leads us back to hypnosis.

What is hypnosis?

Formal hypnosis is entering a trance state guided by another person who is a hypnotic director or hypnotist.  Here is where we delve into the real mysteries of the human mind.  It’s well known that under hypnosis the subconscious mind can remove pain from specific parts of the body.  The subconscious mind can take control of the autonomic nervous system and stop blood from flowing. The scientists at UCLA have done extensive research into the use of hypnosis instead of drugs during surgery.

There are many myths about hypnosis.  Are there people who simply can’t be hypnotized?  From all of my study, I would say probably not.  There are some who are much more difficult to hypnotize, but all it takes is the right atmosphere, the right attitude, and the right hypnotic “director”. The more intelligent you are, the more creative and imaginative, the more susceptible you will be to trance and hypnotic suggestion.  (Hypnotherapists prefer to use the word suggestion for what they do because they don’t want to imply coercion.  They will use the word “may” in the directions they give, such as “when you awaken you may want to do so and so”, etc. But they are implanting the desire within you to obey their instructions, so a more accurate word is direction.)

Under hypnosis, can you be made to do things that you would not do under normal circumstances?  Hypnotherapists are quick to say, no.  From my study, I say yes, but it would take a very skilled hypnotic director and multiple sessions over a long time to restructure your view of right and wrong and the desirability or importance of a particular action. In a hypnotic trance, the subconscious mind can be induced to create almost overwhelming desires that will deeply influence our conscious minds when those minds awaken.  A skilled hypnotic director will place triggering words into the subconscious before waking the subject.  Later, even as much as a year or more later, when that hypnotist speaks those words, most subjects will quickly enter a trance state.  If the words have been attached to an action the person will perform as instructed without knowing why.  If they have been instructed not to remember something with their conscious minds, they will not remember it.  If they have been instructed not to see something, they won’t see it even if it’s right in front of them.

When we study the power of the subconscious under hypnotic direction, we must look at the work of a man named Milton H. Erickson.  Dr. Erickson was a psychiatrist who was born in 1901 and passed away in 1980.  Arguably, he was the greatest hypnotherapist who has ever lived. Erickson was trained in all the psychiatric schools of his day but he wasn’t happy with any of them.  What he didn’t believe in was spending years in psychotherapy lying on a couch talking about problems.  While he treated some people for long periods of time, his basic approach was to find out where an individual wanted and needed to go in order to have a fulfilling life. And then Erickson would determine exactly what barrier was holding them back.  His therapies were designed to remove the barriers. And Erickson’s therapies are legendary. Whole organizations have been created to study and promote his work.  However, some of the things he did in the 1940s and ’50s would not be considered ethical now.

What Erickson accomplished shows the deep strangeness and power of the subconscious mind.

A young woman came to him for help.  Her problem was that she couldn’t form a relationship of trust with any man.  Consequently, she couldn’t allow herself to fall in love.  What she wanted was to be married and have a family, but it just didn’t seem possible for her. Dr. Erickson discovered that she had never had a loving, trusting relationship with an older man.  From her earliest childhood, there had been no caring father or father-figure in her life.

After determining that this was the reason for her inability to form a trusting male relationship, he elected a most unusual therapy. Using hypnotic regression, over a long series of sessions, Dr. Erickson took this young woman back into her childhood to all the significant days of her life. These she lived again as though she were really there, birthdays, Christmases, etc.  But there was one change in all of them.  Erickson inserted himself into her subconscious memories.  As though it were real, she experienced him coming to visit her at her home and bringing gifts. Over time, Erickson built into her subconscious mind memories of a caring, loving father-figure, who was there for her at all of her significant moments.  As the unusual therapy progressed, she found herself able to establish a trusting relationship with a young man that led to marriage and a family.

There are many such stories in the books written about Dr. Erickson’s therapies.   A few would be considered extremely controversial today.  However, in the 1940s that wouldn’t have been the case. Dr. Erickson was not a moralist, he didn’t make moral judgments in one direction or another. He was a pragmatist dealing with the cultural environment of his time. Here is an example: A young man came to him who was a homosexual.  He wanted to marry a woman and have a family, but he considered that impossible.  He told Erickson that he was hopeless and not worth anything as a man.  Over several years of unusual therapy, using hypnosis and other approaches, Milton Erickson changed his self-image and his sexual orientation.  Eventually, he married a woman and had a family.

It’s clear from Dr. Erickson’s work, and the work of many other skilled hypnotherapists that built into all humans is a powerful ability to see things that don’t exist, but appear to be real, and not see other things that are totally real. When we are fooled by illusions, we can be controlled by delusions that grow out of them. And there’s something else very strange about the subconscious. Under hypnosis, it was discovered that the subconscious mind can weave stories that it thinks are real memories but never happened at all. Which means that we can create our own personal illusions and delusions about people and life that will deeply influence our conscious thoughts and actions.  I think most people live their entire lives unaware that they are often in a mild state of trance with their view of reality entirely shaped by illusion and delusion.

Because of this, we are vulnerable to outside control by any force that knows how to construct and manipulate effective illusions.  This is the heart of modern politics.

In the New Testament book of Ephesians 5:14 it says, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”   In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  It’s hard to stay asleep when there is a bright light shining in your face. The Light of Jesus Christ awakens us from our illusions and delusions. It shows us who we really are. It reveals the real world to us. While we live in a lying trance we are dying in our sins and delusions. This is why it’s so important to ask God to show you who you really are.  We need to understand our true condition and who He has created us to be.  When we see ourselves through the lens of God’s truth our eyes are opened.  We understand how much we need God’s forgiveness for our sins. We repent of our sins and accept the gift of salvation given in Jesus Christ through His death on the cross.

As repentance becomes a lifestyle, as we examine ourselves each day, our eyes are open about many things in this world. The lying promise that Satan made to Eve, God actually gives to His children through His Holy Spirit. We do begin to understand the difference between good and evil and how horrible evil truly is.  Though we will never be gods we gain much wisdom from God.

The longer you live in this world, one fact becomes ever-clearer.  The human race is broken and blind, chained and enslaved, unable to live up to its potential. Spiritual darkness, sin, and evil have destroyed us.  Dangerous doors exist within us that can lead to very disturbing experiences.  I want to tell you about one in Part 2.


  1. dzaharik · December 28, 2019



  2. Wesley Cassidy · December 28, 2019

    Coleman, I appreciate and enjoy the working relationship which you have struck between your child/creative and executive/reality focused natures. I especially am blessed to see that you are anchored to the authority of God’s word as the central tenet of reality. I find your insightful articulations and interesting and unusual life experiences very engaging and I look forward to reading your further contributions.I don’t know if your travels ever bring you back to the Chicagoland area but if they did and it made it possible for me to meet you I would count that a great privilege.


  3. Coleman Luck · December 29, 2019

    Thanks, Wes. The Chicago area is the home of my youth and I still have family there. All of the writing and other materials from my career are in the special collections of the Wheaton College Library. I haven’t been back in six years but hope to get there someday.


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