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The History of Hypnosis

Just about everyone has heard of hypnosis and many people have a good idea of the various things hypnosis is used for but few have a good handle on the history of this mind journey. The interesting thing about hypnosis is that it has existed on earth in one form or another since the beginning of time. For example, look at the animal kingdom and those that hibernate in the wintertime, shutting out the activities of the world while they allow their mind and body to rejuvenate. This is one form of self-hypnosis.

Before the 15th century, when a person was afflicted by disease, it was thought to be some type of punishment from the gods. Priests, shamans, and witch doctors, all healers of that era, would conduct their rituals to produce an altered state of consciousness. Depending on the healer, the state would be done to the diseased person or to the healer himself. The rituals varied but commonly involved fire, natural drugs from the rainforest, chanting, and drums.

The one common element in all these cases is the individual would be suggested to drift off into a conscious or subconscious place, which mean they were accepting the power of belief that they were being healed. With this, the mind would take over and begin to heal the body. While no-one can pinpoint when hypnosis began, we do know from documentation and early paintings that ancient Egyptians used some form in their “dream temples”. Many of the paintings discovered showed a person sleeping while others depicted a person sleeping by making hypnotic passes over them.

However, in the 3rd century of CE Demotic Magical Papyrus, a journal discovered in the 19th century, there was description of the papyrus explaining how to prepare a lamp to use in a special ritual. The sayings and this particular ritual were direct in connecting to what we know today as hypnosis.

Probably the most famous person associated with early hypnosis is Franz Anton Mesmer. During the 18th century, this Austrian doctor, discovered he could cure people of varying diseases without the need for surgery or medication. He believed a magnetic force regulated magnetic flows within the body, thus curing people. His method of healing was quite successful, going on to be called Mesmerism.

Mesmer used several different techniques and soon, he was well-known in Paris. In fact, Marie Antoinette advised the French government to give him a life pension and the financial backing to open his own clinic. Interestingly, Mesmer refused and in 1784, the King of France started an investigation on his “practices.”

The result of the study was that everything having to do with magnets and healing people was Mesmer’s own imagination and wishful thinking. Even though many people had been healed, the government dismissed it.

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