The condition expressed by this word is a mental state in which the person affected is partially or wholly unconscious of objective sensations, but intensely alive to subjective impressions which, however they may be originated, are felt as if they were revelations from without. They may take the form of visual or auditory sensations or else of impressions of taste, smell, heat or cold, and sometimes these conditions precede epileptic seizures constituting what is named the aura epileptica. The word occurs 5 times in the King James Version, twice in the story of Balaam (Numbers 24:4,16), twice in the history of Peter (Acts 10:10; 11:5), and once in that of Paul (Acts 22:17). In the Balaam story the word is of the nature of a gloss rather than a translation, as the Hebrew naphal means simply "to fall down" and is translated accordingly in the Revised Version (British and American). Here Septuagint has en hupno, "in sleep" (see SLEEP, DEEP). In Peter's vision on the housetop at Joppa he saw the sail (othone) descending from heaven, and heard a voice. Paul's trance was also one of both sight and sound. The vision on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-9) and that recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 were also cases of trance, as were the prophetic ecstasies of Saul, Daniel and Elisha, and the condition of John in which he says that he was "in the Spirit" (Revelation 1:10).
The border line between trance and dream is indefinite:
the former occurs while one is, in a sense, awake; the latter takes place in the passage from sleep to wakefulness. The dream as well as the vision were supposed of old to be channels of revelation (Job 33:15). In Shakespearean English, "trance" means a dream (Taming of the Shrew, I, i, 182), or simply a bewilderment (Lucrece, 1595).
In the phenomena of hypnotic suggestion, sometimes affecting a number of persons simultaneously we have conditions closely allied to trance, and doubtless some of the well-authenticated phantom appearances are similar subjective projections from the mind affecting the visual and auditory centers of the brain.
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