Entrancement is used during conversion to open the mind to suggestion and limit rational consideration of, and objections to, implanted ideas.
It can be argued that we are always in some kind of trance, and that we dip in and out of deeper states as we daydream and fixate on things in our normal lives. In such altered states we see the world differently and perhaps our logical, rational selves may take a back seat sometimes as what seems like deeper senses take over.
Individual and social
You can go into a trance individually. You can also become entranced as a group. Crowd effects are well known, for example at large sports events whole swathes of the audience will emote and act as one. Likewise in dance clubs and religious rituals. We are a social species and will easily pick up and go along with the emotions and emotional state of others.
During the altered state, the person is likely to be susceptible to suggestion. That is, they may accept something with limited or no cognitive challenge or thoughtful reflection. This change may come from someone outside them, who may say or do something that encourages the person to act or believe in a way they might not do otherwise. It can also come from an internal source, where subconscious ideas are allowed to bubble up to the surface.
These suggestions may be good for the person (such as when a therapist effects a cure), bad for them (such as when they join a destructive gang) or essentially harmless (such as when they join in excited dancing at a club). It may also be that it is not yet clear the gain or loss the person will have from this suggestion. Many people who join religions find it helpful and uplifting. Others lose much volition and become subservient to suspicious leaders. Whether there is gain or loss depends on the intent of both the person or group doing the converting and also the person being converted.
If a person is hypnotized, will they do things they would not normally do? One theory states that we will not do things outside our morals. Yet in the 1950s, the CIA were exploring the use of hypnosis. They hypnotized secretaries and told them to pass secrets to strangers. To their alarm, the secretaries complied. They then decided to see how far they would go. They told one secretary to fall asleep and stay asleep, then told another to try to wake her and become enraged if she could not do so. They left an unloaded gun nearby. The second secretary picked it up and tried to use it…
Methods of entrancement
Repetitive rhythm has an interesting effect on us. Perhaps it is something primitive, but a repeating rhythm tends to send us into a trance state. Think about music, dancing, drumming and chanting. These are used in many religious meetings as well as the clubs and dance-halls where social groups gather. Singing may be about group tenets.
Rhythms that occur along some of our natural clocks have particular effects, for example beats that go at around 60 per minute keep pace with a relaxed heartbeat, whilst faster beats may excite us as the heart speeds up to keep pace. Slower beats that keep time with brain alpha waves, common in altered states, also may have a hypnotic effect.
Repetition not only happens at the speed of clapping – it also happens as we repeat familiar rituals. If I perform various acts that end up with going into a trance, then next time I start the same sequence, I will be most of the way to the trance before I get there.
Rituals for the uninitiated may seem bizarre. For initiates, however, they grow to have deep meaning and are often performed largely in an altered state of mind in which key tenets of the group are repeated.
Prayer and meditation
In prayer and meditation, the person concentrates on a particular theme and seeks to exclude all other thoughts. They may also seek to exclude all conscious thoughts to enable either a state of non-thinking. Such states are often followed by much-sought-after and exhilarating highs. Within the state, the person may receive revelations that, depending on their conceptual framework, may be believed either to come from their subconscious or from an external and mystical source.
Rhythm often comes into mediation and prayer. A meditator will repeat a mantra. A person praying will repeat familiar prayers and may be seen rocking to and fro. They also are often surrounded with rituals that help the person smoothly enter and exit the altered state.
The final method of entrancement discussed here is where the person gives up control of where they are thinking to someone else who tells them what to think and feel. This person may be a therapist, seeking to help them. It may be a preacher who is seeking to convert people to what they believe is good and right thinking. It may also be a callous manipulator, seeking blind followers who will do their every bidding.