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Hypnosis Today: How long has hypnotism been around?

July 1, 1993

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series documenting the history of hypnotism.

Thank you for your questions and comments. In reference to the question “How long has hypnotism been around?”, here is a short history of hypnotism.

2000 B.C.—Ancient Sanskrit writings offer information about the healing trances performed in temples in India. Egyptian papyrus scrolls and glyphs depict the story of “sleep temples,” where priests in mystical robes would perform and chant in such a way as to effect healings on individuals who slept. Repetitive and monotonous chants induced a special “sleep,” which allowed the priests to whisper healing affirmations in the ears of those who slept.

1500 A.D.—Paracelsus began healing by the use of lodestones or magnets. Again, sleep or trance states were induced. The use of magnetic stones and magnets was a new discovery of the time.

1600—Valentine Greatrakes, born in Waterford Ireland, Feb. 14, 1628, was called the “Stroker,” because of his healings by laying on of hands or “stroking” of the client. Healings are recorded and endorsed by Robert Doyle, president of the Royal Society of London.

1725—Father Maximilian Hall, a Jesuit priest, used magnets and “laying on of hands” to perform healings. Franz Mesmer was a student of Fr. Hall.

1734-1815—Franz Anton Mesmer, in a time that medical history will record the use of bleeding as a curative measure, used magnetic passes over a wound to staunch (stop) bleeding. Mesmer joined his historic predecessors in the discovery of “positive suggestion,” though he attributed his cures to magnetic phenomenon. Mesmer used this same autosuggestive procedure in Paris, attributing the power to magnetism and later animal magnetism, to effect cures.

He established a flourishing practice among the French aristocracy for cures of female hysteria. His controversial methods drew the attention of the king, and a board of inquiry was convened, which included noted scientists of the day, such as chemist Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and medical doctor and pain control authority Joseph Ignace Guillotin. The commission concluded that Mesmer’s work was the result of “imagination” on the part of the client. A rule of the mind states that, “Imagination is more powerful than reason.”

1800—Abbé Faria, a Portuguese priest, introduced Oriental hypnosis, emphasizing it operated on the principles of expectancy and cooperation on the part of the client. He coined the term “suggestion” in connection with the technique.

1795-1860—James Braid, popularly titled as the “Father of Modern Hypnotism,” coined the term “neuro-hypnosis” and later, more simply, “hypnosis.” Braid discovered that hypnosis was not sleep or mental fixation, but a “relaxed focused state of concentration.”

1791-1868—Dr. John Elliotson, an English surgeon, reported numerous painless surgical procedures using hypnotic anesthethesia (suggestion/mesmerism).

1805-1859—Dr. James Esdaile reported 345 major operations performed using mesmeric sleep as the “sole” anesthetic in British India.

1860-American Civil War—Hypnosis was used extensively by military doctors in the field. Although hypnosis seemed to be very effective, the introduction of the hypodermic syringe and chemical anesthesia was faster and easier for most procedures. Ether (1846) and chloroform (1847) quickly found favor among the medical community as the anesthetic of choice.

1892—The British Medical Association unanimously endorsed the therapeutic use of hypnosis.

Robert Sieveking is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. He is the owner of Hypnotherapy Resolutions, 4249 E. State St., Rockford. Phone: 815-226-3800. See him on the Web at http://hypnotherapyresolutions.com/.

Please send your questions and comments to the editor of The Rock River Times, 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101.

From the Feb. 15-21, 2006, issue

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