The History Of Modern Hypnosis
history of modern hypnosis

Hypnosis Pendulum

The History Of Modern Hypnosis

By Alan B. Densky, CH

Modern hypnotherapy began with Franz Antoin Mesmer, 1734-1815. Mesmer invented a system called Animal Magnetism or Mesmerism. A system of healing based on a belief that a disturbance of equilibrium of an invisible universal fluid which is spread throughout the body causes disease in humans. His magnetic re-adjustment of this fluid served to cure diseases. 

   Mesmer would pass various magnetized items over the body and face which he believed magnetized these invisible fluids back into position and cured the disease. Hence, Animal Magnetism. Although Mesmer produced the hypnotic state in­numerable times he was quite unaware of the fact. Mesmer's method was to sit facing his subject. He would take the subject's hands into his own and stare deeply into the subject's eyes. 

   Within fifteen minutes he would release his grip and begin to make stroking passes over the patient, keeping his fingers a few inches from the subject's body. He started at the top of the head, stopping at the eyes momentarily where pressure was placed then stopping at the chest, stomach and finally the knees. About fifteen passes were made. If a desirable effect was evidenced, Mesmer would continue with the séance. If not, the patient was asked to return for another session.

  When Mesmer's practice grew to unmanageable proportions, he evolved a theory. Magnetism could be stored in certain objects which would then emanate therapeutic vibrations. He used flowers, trees and tubs of water. As Mesmer's popularity grew, the mission of extending relief to the unfortunate gave way to entertaining the rich. Mesmer built a showplace in which to treat his patients.

"In one room, under the influence of rods issuing from tubs filled with large bottles - the said rods ap­plied upon different parts of the subjects' bodies - the most extraordinary scenes took place daily. Sardonic laughter, piteous moans and torrents of tears burst forth on all sides. The subjects were thrown back in spasmodic jerks, the respirations sounded like death rattles, and terrifying symptoms were exhibited. Sud­denly, the actors of these strange performances fran­tically or rapturously rushed towards each other, either rejoicing and embracing, or thrusting away their neighbors with every appearance of horror."

"Another room was padded, and presented a different spectacle. There, women beat their heads against the padded walls or rolled on the cushion covered floor in fits of suffocation. In the midst of the panting, quivering throng, Mesmer dressed in a lilac coat, moved about halting in front of the most violently excited and gazing steadily into their eyes, while he held both their hands in his, bringing the middle fingers into immediate contact to establish the communication. At another moment he would, by a motion of open hands and extended fingers, operate with great current, crossing and uncrossing his arms with wonderful rapidity to make the final passes."**

You weren't in if you hadn't been mesmerized. His unorthodox practices were his downfall and caused complete rejection of his works. Mesmer begged the Academy of Science in Paris for a proper evaluation to be made of his work. In 1784, they appointed an official commission consisting of three well-known scientists; Lavoisier, Bailly, and the American Ben Franklin. These three scientists dipped their hands in Mesmer's magnetic bath, and as they expected no reaction, they received no reaction. They concluded that Mesmer was a fraud and the hysterical outbursts were caused by the imagination of the patients. They were really unaware that they were "right on the money". Mesmer returned to Vienna and died broke and discredited.

The Marquis de Puysegur was a student of Mesmer's. While the Marquis lived on his estate in wealthy retirement, he kept himself entertained by magnetizing peasants just as his former Master had done.  

During his experiments, the Marquis discovered new phenomenon, unknown to his mentor. The Marquis was working with a young peasant named Victor. Victor had a lung con­dition which caused him extreme amounts of pain. Under magnetization, Victor fell into a state of relaxation which was marked by the absence of his extreme pain. 

While in the hypnotic state Victor spoke. The Marquis realized the importance of this new phenomenon and began to experiment with it. He converted his patient's thoughts to peace and tranquility and suggested the absence of pain. Victor's pain diminished. The Marquis named this state of mind, Artificial Somnambulism; a state of mind similar to sleep produced artificially in an entirely awake person. During this state the thoughts and reactions of the patient are subject to the direct suggestion of the operator.

Dr. James Braid was a well-known surgeon in Manchester. He is known as the Father of the Scientific Evaluation of Hyp­notism. In 1841, Braid observed a public demonstration of magnetism and decided it was all an act. He was very curious and so he watched a second demonstration. This time the magnetizer convinced him beyond a doubt that the subject was under control. 

Braid was a skeptic and a scientist. He dis­counted the magic fluid theories and decided that there was a physical cause. His theory was that a continued tiring of the sense of sight could paralyze optic nerve centers, causing a con­dition similar to sleep. Braid experimented with people, having them fix their gaze upon the neck of a vase. His subjects fell into a deep state of relaxation. Braid called this state of mind, "Hypnosis" and the method used to cause this state of mind, "Hypnotism". He coined these words from the Greek word "Hypnos" which means sleep. Several years later, Braid de­cided that hypnosis was not sleep and tried to change the name to "Monoideaism". However, the term "Hypnosis" has stuck to this day.

Professor Azam, in France, duplicated Braid's experiments stressing the claim it was possible to produce anesthesia under which surgery could be performed with a minimum of pain and shock.

Over the following years there were several theories as to what hypnosis was actually all about. Eventually, it was found that hypnosis was based on indirect suggestion.

 Myers introduced the Theory of The Subliminal Self, suggesting a sort of dual personality dwelling beneath the threshold of consciousness. This hypothesis eventually became known as the Theory of The Subconscious Mind .

© 2007By Alan B. Densky, CH.  This document may NOT be re-printed without permission. All Rights Reserved.  We are happy to syndicate our articles to approved websites.

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