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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Trance

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The English word, derived through the French from Lat. transitus, is the translation of the Gr. ἔκστασις, which means ‘standing out’ of oneself, or outside of one’s ordinary consciousness. It is used very loosely to describe the sleep-like state which is obviously different from that of ordinary sleep. Originally the soul was supposed to be temporarily withdrawn from the body; at the present time no such theory is generally held, but F. W. H. Myers would regard it as the abeyance of the supraliminal self, in order that the subliminal may be free to act. It is stated that Peter fell into a trance, by which is meant that whilst his body was probably in a cataleptic condition his spirit was engaged in beholding a vision (ὄραμα, Acts 10:19; Acts 11:5). St. Paul was in a trance whilst praying in the Temple, when he saw the Lord and heard His voice (Acts 22:17). The second stage of trance mentioned by Myers may be said to be reached when visions, or ecstasy proper, are experienced. The third stage which he mentions embraces those instanced in the NT as cases of demoniacal possession. Trance states are said by E. D. Starbuck to be ‘the result of an over emphasis and irradiation of the relaxation and anaesthesia which begin in the higher centres, and work until consciousness is obliterated, and only the muscular centres are active, thus producing a cataleptic condition of the body’ (Psychology of Religion, p. 168 f.). Ecstasy has in all ages been regarded as characteristic of periods of religious excitement, and the spectacle presented of a person in the condition of catalepsy has commonly inspired a sense of awe in the minds of beholders. It has been thought that ‘the thorn in the flesh’ of St. Paul was the physical accompaniment of his ecstasy. In the visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 4:4-8) the bearing of the cords and the days of his boundness are considered by R. Kraetzschmar (Das Buch Ezechiel, 1900, pp. v, vi, 45, 46) to be the functional cataleptic paralysis that followed, first on one side and then on the other. St. Teresa (Life, Eng. translation , D. Lewis, 1904, p. 163) speaks of her body being perfectly powerless during her raptures and her limbs remaining fixed in one position. The ecstatic condition which frequently accompanies unusual religious excitement has often been deliberately cultivated by means of suggestion, fasting, music, and bodily contortions. The inner aspect of the phenomenon is treated more fully in the article Rapture.

Literature.-W. Morgan, article ‘Trance’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ; E. D. Starbuck, The Psychology of Religion2, 1901; F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality, 1903, vol. ii. ch. ix.; F. von Hügel, The Mystical Element of Religion, 2 vols., 1908-09, ii. 45, 46.

J. G. James.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Trance'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/t/trance.html. 1906-1918.

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