There are plenty of ways that ritual, hypnosis and trance can deeply effect/affect our knowledge of ourselves and the world and therefore our beliefs (religious or not) permanently incidentally, accidentally or in a specifically targeted way (which is what hypnotherapy is for). I think there are 2 aspects of religions/cults that are interesting to talk about here 1. the symbols/metaphors used including the stories the flesh them out presenting the values they are supposed to represent. 2. the type of relationships followers have to those symbols and the leaders who embody or at least interpret them.
1. To me the metaphors/symbols and their stories are the most superficial part of religions. I’ve played with the symbols/metaphors, as many of us have, of various religions in fetish but it hasn’t changed a lot. It’s just like any other role play based on such political or personal horrors as the Nazis, secret police, docs, nurses and patient, teachers and student, as well as priests, nuns and parishers, etc. Hypnosis just lets you experience things sensually and emotionally more intensely. The reason these games are such fun and and powerful is because playing them turns the type relationships behind the symbols up side down and inside out. Because instead of it being imposed authority it is invited and used in away that subverts the original relationship structure.
2. You can change the metaphor or symbols used by someone as a focus of their beliefs but that doesn’t necessarily change the type of relationship underlying them. That is, the way people are expected to follow, surrender to and/or love their leaders/Dom/me. Is it based on an authority coming from outside the relationship, such as God/dess, or is it negotiated by participants, AKA the theory behind democracy and play, or some mix of these… A cult is a throw back to the unquestioning obedience to a rep of God/dess. An example of how these change and work in politics is that in the transition from monarchy to democracy almost all nations/cultures have gone through dictatorship, which has the same structure of relationship as monarchy but with the symbols have changed as has the source of authority. The difference between dictatorship and monarchy is that a monarch gains authority from outside the relationship, namely God/dess and/or birth right; a dictator, though it is based on fear and violence (as monarchy is) is still negotiated within the political relationships.
Specific examples are the British and French in the last 350+ years. The British had Cromwell who turned out to be such a dick[tator] they invited the monarch back. This in itself began the change to the way the Brits did authority/leadership/Dominance but it then took another hundred years to develop a different way of relating to authority in order for the Americans to set up a different structure of relating to authority. The French didn’t have one revolution they had six over more than a hundred years to achieve the same result. Each country went about it different ways but the point was to same as were the social forces involved. We see the same in religion. We have the protestants pissed off with the way the structure of religion, the way the relationships with Rome and it’s reps worked. At first, with Luther, they set up a change in the way they related to the symbols (the Bible and its characters and values) and the people they bowed to (who embodied authority) but not how deeply they had to bowed or the sources of authority. Now, over time we see a diversity of new ways of relating to symbols and authority arise. Now with science you don’t bow to human authority you bow to our experience of external reality, which can have it’s own problems because it is again external.
Many times, as we see in regime changes and political activism, the aim is to change the symbols and personalities of power but not its essential structure, the relationships it is based on, the emotions which are the mechanisms of it – fear and rage, desire, fairness and justice. See how the structure of power in South America hasn’t changed much in 200 years of violent regime changes.
So the question is what about your politics/religious/spiritual experience are you looking to change? Is it the metaphors and symbols or a change in the way you relate to authority and therefore dominance? or all of the above? Are you sure you know what is changing – like whether there is the symbols – the God/dess, the story you accept for them, the cosmological structure of the universe, how it’s created – or, as mentioned, the ways you relate to those symbols and their authority?
Hypnotherapy, other types of therapy, political activism, spiritual practice and play can be targeted at changing your beliefs, your relationship with authority and its symbols but you need to know what you are doing because you aren’t just messing with a limited in-the-moment experience for a few hours, you are playing with your whole life, your perception of it and possibly the structure of society. There can be unexpected results, especially if you don’t know the target.