Where did hypnosis come from?
Who invented it?
How was it used?
Frederick (Franz) Anton Mesmer wrote an important thesis titled The Influence of the Stars and Planets as Curative Powers, in 1773. This work claimed that the planets, stars and the moon affected humans through animal magnetism. Animal magnetism refers to an invisible energy fluid that runs through every human being. Mesmer went on to say that the placement of magnets around a person who is diseased will help improve the flow of the healthy fluids, thus restoring the person back to health.
Mesmer practiced using this magnetism all over his native Austria as well as Western Europe. He treated cases of hysteria with magnets. Mesmer theorized the magnet cured with physical properties, interrupting the sick person’s magnetic field. If a person became sick, he felt this simple act of passing a magnet over the person’s body would restore him to perfect health.
This animal magnetism theory was confirmed in Mesmer’s mind from his personal observation of Father Gassner, a Catholic Priest, who would heal people by using laying-on of hands. He would make numerous passes all over the subject’s body. Mesmer studied Father Gassner very carefully and theorized that this magnetic fluid circulating in the body was affecting these changes. Forces from astral bodies affected this animal magnetism fluid.
There were four primary fluids of concern. These four fluids included blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Keeping these fluids in harmony was a major ingredient in good health. The theory of animal magnetism was sound at that time and coincided with Ben Franklin’s discovery of electricity and recent advances in astronomy.
Mesmer moved to Paris in 1778 and invented backquets. These backquets were large iron pots that would hold many of his patients. He would line the backquets with iron filings and magnets. Patients would enter the bath, immerse themselves with water and leave cured of their ailments. Mesmer had a very high percentage of cures.
In 1784, the French Academy of Sciences, set up a commission to study Mesmer and set forth to find internationally famous scientists to investigate animal magnetism. International scientists: Ben Franklin, Lavoisier, and Dr. Guillotin, a chemist and inventor of the guillotine, were asked to study Mesmer and his techniques.
Mesmer took two large iron rods and touched these rods to several trees in the forest to magnetize them. His patients were asked to go into the forest and touch the magnetized trees. It was business as usual for Mesmer because many patients came back cured of their afflictions. However, patients were touching all the trees in the forest, not just the magnetized ones. Ben Franklin and the other scientists arrived at the conclusion that Mesmer was not healing the patients.
The patient was healing by using his own power. The patient’s imagination was stimulated in such a way that would enable him to become completely healed!
Dr. John Elliotson was a professor of surgery at the University College in London,
England. He is best known as the inventor of the stethoscope. John was a big supporter of Mesmer and used Mesmerism on many patients to reduce pain from surgery and for the treatment and cure of mental disorders.
Other surgeons at the college thought he was a quack so they condemned his practices. But they kept his stethoscope.
Dr. James Braid was a Scottish physician who lived from 1795-1860. Braid is sometimes called the father of modern hypnosis. He actually coined the term, hypnosis. He took it from the Greek word, hypnos, meaning sleep. Once the term hypnosis caught on, Dr. Braid thought it over and theorized that the hypnotic subject is never really asleep. So he changed the word to monoideism. Monoideism means one word or one thought. Dr. Braid felt that the hypnotic subject was so focused on one thought or idea to the exclusion of all others that the trance like condition ensued. This is pretty much what all hypnotists believe today. The term monoideism never caught on. Hypnosis is here to stay!
Today, hypnosis has many uses. Medical doctors and dentists, to help patients control pain are using it. Psychologists and Psychiatrists are using hypnosis to diagnose and treat many kinds of mental illnesses. There are hypnotists and hypnotherapists that work with people to help them overcome bad habits and addictions. Helping people understand their past and helping them re-live past lives (past-life regression and past life therapy) are other very popular uses for hypnosis.
In the Beginning
Hypnosis has been around a long time in history. Hieroglyphics from the Tomb of Isis in ancient Egypt shows worshipers experiencing hypnotic sleep. In fact, in ancient Egypt the correct term is “curing sleep.” A priest or ruler placed people in the condition and illnesses were treated by suggestion. In ancient Greece statues depict trance like states. The statues were created over 2,000 years ago.
Primitive societies used hypnotic phenomena throughout the ages for physical and spiritual benefits. Tribal drums and ritualistic dances have been a part of many societies in Africa and South America. Kings of middle age Europe would touch commoners with remarkable results. Priests and ministers would use a laying-on of hands to affect changes in their church members.
The objectives of this chapter are for you to become aware of the long history of hypnosis.
You also should be able to identify some of the key figures in the introduction of hypnosis in medical science.