Zoe Yates - June 2013
The History of Hypnosis
Bringing modern, practical use of hypnosis to life
Hypnosis is not a modern phenomenon. As part of this paper I will discuss how events and work undertaken by numerous individuals contributed to understanding of what Hypnosis is today and its benefits. Looking at the subject of ‘What is Hypnosis’ through its history and development was key to my understanding of how the practise has come to its current form. In doing this, my awareness of its effect on the human body and mind is much clearer. I hope this paper gives a clear view on the history and finally the practical application from a freshman student’s point of view.
From the documentation available, it appears as though there many that believe evidence of hypnosis dates back to biblical times. There are many examples given as ‘evidence’ of hypnosis in earlier forms. That’s not to say that hypnosis did not exist. It may well have simply not been documented effectively. In terms of real evidence, the first sign of Hypnosis in a recognisable form appears during the medieval period. ‘…Georg Pictorius von Villingen (1500-69) in his ‘Physical Questions’ explained that incantations could sometimes more effectively cure diseases if they were accompanied by the use of the imagination of both enchanter and the enchanted. . . The great scientist and occultist Paracelsus (1579-1644) also stressed the power of the imagination to affect the body: ‘The spirit is the master, the imagination the instrument, the body the plastic material’ (R. Waterfield, Hidden Depths-The Story of Hypnosis).
Franz Anton Mesmer is shown to be the grandfather of modern hypnosis. Memer’s name is the root of the term mesmerize in the English language. Born in Germany, he originally studied Theology. Although no record appears of his graduation, he entered the University of Vienna with a PhD. At first he studied Law in Vienna, later transferring to Medicine. As a qualified physician, Mesmer focussed much of his attention on what was known as ‘Animal Magnetism’. Memser’s theory; everything in the universe is connected in a fluid or energy form. The fluid part of living creatures, and when blocked or unbalanced, affects the health or well being of that creature. Mesmer worked on the premise of ‘unblocking’ these energy channels. For a period he performed healing sessions through the use of strong magnets and demonstrated success, although there is a question as to whether the magnets were truly the reason. Mesmer fell from grace on a number of occasions, initially in Vienna and later in Paris, and moved into obscurity for a period.
In 1812, a few years before the death of Mesmer, Karl Wolfart invited the physician to lecture at the Prussian Academy. Franz Mesmer’s age and unwillingness to travel meant that Wolfart visited him at home. Wolfhart stayed a month, learning from Mesmer and took with him his last manuscript. Wolfart became an evangelist of the practise of ‘Mesmerism’ and went on to construct a clinic that would become the Centre of ‘mesmerism’ in Europe. At this time a Berlin commission ordered an investigation regarding the claims of mesmerism, and previously, such reports had shone an unfavourable light on the practise. However, this time the report was more positive and countries were starting to give approval, albeit qualified.
Post French Revolution and we move on to a student of Anton Mesmer; one of the wealthiest landowners in France, Armand-Marc-Jacques Chastanet; the Marquis de Puysegur. He decided to practise his newly learnt skills on one of his estate workers, a young man called Victor Race. The Marquis’ results were different from those Mesmer had told him to expect. ‘Mesmer wanted his patients to go into a violent crisis, but in a few minutes Victor’s head lolled and he appeared to be…