‘Hypnotism or hypnosis is the deliberate inducement or facilitation by one person in another person or a number of people of a trance state. A trance state is (briefly) one in which a person’s usual means of orienting himself in reality have faded, so that the boundaries between the external world and the inner world of thoughts, feelings, memories and imagination begin to dissolve. The ensuing altered state or states involve passivity and lack of initiative, a decrease in normal critical thinking and hence a tolerance for incongruous situations (‘trance logic’).’ Waterfield (2004).
‘All sciences alike have descended from magic and superstition, but none has been so slow as hypnosis in shaking off evil associations of its origin as hypnosis.’ Waterfield (2004).
‘I believe in the existence within myself of a power. From this belief derives my will to exert it. The entire doctrine of Animal Magnetism is contained in the two words: Believe and Want. I believe that I have the power to set into action the vital principle of my fellow-men; I want to make use of it; this is all my science and all my means. Believe and want, Sirs, and you will do as much as I.’ Ellenberger (1970).
Dr James Braid said ‘The various theories at present entertained regarding the phenomena of mesmerism may be arranged thus:- First, those who believe them to be owing entirely to a system of collusion and delusion; and a great majority of society may be ranked under this head. Second, those who believe them to be real phenomena, but produced solely by imagination, sympathy, and imitation. Third, the animal magnetists, or those who believe in some magnetic medium set in motion as the exciting cause of the mesmeric phenomena. Fourth, those who have adopted my views, that the phenomena are solely attributable to a peculiar physiological state of the brain and the spinal cord.‘ Tinterow (1970).
When I was given this essay I thought to myself how does one describe something that shouldn’t work but does? What is it? Is it a science, magic, mysticism or just something that produces a placebo effect? We know from other cultures that similar complimentary procedures exist, e.g. acupuncture chiropractors, and these work in a way no one can explain properly.
We know through historical records that trance states have been used by ancient civilisation through to present day, in rituals and religious ceremonies.
As we know the Greeks have a word for everything and are often the origin of descriptors, the roots of this term is from Hypnos the Greek God of sleep.
Hypnosis is the artificially induced state of relaxation in which the mind is more than usually receptive to suggestion.
Hypnosis started in the modern understanding from Dr Franz Anton Mesmer born 1734. Mesmer was a fervent believer in the more esoteric aspects of Western medical tradition, including the influence of astronomy, hypnosis and magnets on human health. Mesmer believed that illnesses were caused by an imbalance in magnetic fluids in the body. Hence the term mesmerise? Mesmer was generally seen as a fraud, unscientific in his procedures by the medical fraternity. The scandal that followed Mesmer's attempt to treat the blindness of an 18-year-old musician, Maria Theresia Paradis, led him to leave Vienna in 1777. Miss Paradis had been blind from the age of four. Under Mesmer's care her sight was partially restored. Her parents were at first overwhelmingly grateful; but later, they insisted that Mesmer cease treating her. Bitter disputes followed, and the patient's vision again deteriorated.
Mesmer died in 1815 and the Marquis De Puysegur one of his students carried on working in the style of Mesmer and portraying himself as a faithful disciple. One of Puysegur’s employees Victor Race was important in his work, he noticed a sleeping state similar to somnambulism in Race when he magnetised him, which he then referred to as...