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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
list of the common uses of hypnosis.
Deleuze F., Histoire Critique du Magnetisme Animal,
Hippolite Bailliere, Paris, 1819, Volume II. Page 34.
© 1982 By Alan B. Densky.
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