History of Hypnosis


Amazing as it may seem, the powers of hypnosis have been well-known and used for thousands of years, yet at this day in the twenty-first century hypnosis is still an art so clouded with mystery that the majority of the population have little, to no understanding of it at all, so little in fact that many people even doubt that there is such a thing as hypnosis, which is why I have put together this article on the history of hypnosis.

We do have at this time, much evidence supporting the use of hypnosis from as far back a time as 2000 years B.C. Humanity could never have advanced in any form to what it is today without the ability to….. simply go inside, and focus your attention upon one thought….that’s right…and allow that thought to grow…as you notice…. the intricacies of what may pass inside….

Man is the only form of life on earth with such ability, which is the very reason why we have climbed to the top of the food chain. Our ability to think, dream, and construct those dreams into the reality of what others at one time would have considered the power of God.

Below you will find a brief history of humanities use of trance, prayer, meditation, or as we call it here the history of hypnosis, because to us it’s all about going inside…and dreaming that dream…eventually…learning how…to do…and become…all that we desire.


2000 B.C.      Ancient Sanskrit’s contain writings of the use of healing trances, performed    within the walls of healing temples in India.

Egyptian papyrus scrolls depict the story of sleep temples, in which priests dressed in mystical robes would speak to those that came, in such a way that illnesses healed.

1500 A.D.      Paracelsus, the discoverer of the cure for syphilis, began healing illness, and   disease with magnets.

1600 A.D.      Valentine Greatrakes healed via the laying of hands combined with the passing of magnets over the body.

1725 A.D.      Father Maximilian Hell, a Jesuit priest used magnets to heal people.

1734 – 1817  Franz Anton Mesmer, a student of Maximilian Hell brought the use of healing magnets to Vienna. At the time blood-letting was the primary method of healing. Mesmer would bleed a patient and then pass a magnet over the cut, causing the bleeding to stop. One day by coincidence Mesmer couldn’t find his magnet and used a stick instead, still causing the bleeding to stop. It was this that led Mesmer to believe that the magnetic energy came from within the patient, of which in turn he eventually labelled the term Animal Magnetism, because it also appeared that he had this magnetic attraction.
In due time, the king of France put together a board of inquiry consisting of Lavoisier (a chemist), Benjamin Franklin, and Dr. Guillotin. What finally gave Mesmer‘s claims away was that he had apparently magnetized a tree on his property, in order to accommodate a number of people. Eventually as Benjamin watched a young boy needing healing went out to the tree, and went into the fad of convulsions (as people did in those times once mesmerized), unfortunately the tree wasn’t the one magnetized by Mesmer. Soon after this incident Mesmer was dubbed a fraud.

1800   The Marquis de Pusseguyr from France took up mesmerism, and eventually coined the term “somnambulism” meaning “sleepwalker”, which is used today to describe the deepest state of hypnosis.

1838   Dr. Elliottson began using mesmerism in his practice and was expelled from the medical community.

1840   James Braid witnessed a mesmerism demonstration put on by La Fontaine. Braid came to the realization that it was the power of hypnotic suggestion which entranced the subject, and came up with the name neuro-hypnosis.

1843   James Braid wrote the book “Neurypnology”, and published his observation that it was a subject’s fixation on a single point that caused the state of trance. He tried to coin the term monoideaism, but it didn’t stick and the term hypnosis, survived to this day.

1850   James Esdaile discovered how to use mesmerism to control pain and performed over five hundred operations successfully along with speedy recovery times. This was all done before the invention of chloroform, but when he brought his report back to Britain, the medical community didn’t believe him, and shut him out of the British Medical Corps.

1864   Liebault of France began using a system he developed for therapy using hypnosis. Soon after Bernheim joined with Liebault in his research after a patient had been cured of a sciatica almost overnight after being worked on by Liebault. The two eventually formed the Nancy School of Hypnosis. Freud appeared as one of Bernheim and Liebault’s students, but due to his inability to gain rapport with clients because of his rotten teeth and over use of cocaine, he proved to be a miserable hypnotist and abandoned the use of hypnosis.

1904   Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist publishes his paper on “conditioned reflex”. Today we know this as “Anchoring”

The first healing through hypnosis in south Africa happened in 1908 in the Waterberg area of Limpopo when Eugene Marais healed Hessie van Deventer, who could not walk, by hypnosis. See Die Groot Verlange of Leon Rrousseau, Donker Stroom of Carel van der Merwe and Natuurkundige en Wetenskaplike Studies of E N Marais. Courtesy H L van Niekerk. Cell 082 300 5974.

1943   Clark Hull, one of Milton Erickson‘s professors wrote “Hypnosis and Suggestibility” – One of the first books covering the psychological studies on hypnosis. One of his primary observations was that “anything that assumes trance, causes trance”. Although his primary professor, Milton Erickson and Hull strongly disagreed on their thoughts of hypnosis. Erickson‘s beliefs stemmed from observation, and naturalistic processes, while Hull researched for a method that could be phonographed and used on everyone in the population. His reports concluded that a portion of the population could never be hypnotized, due to his stringent trance inducing methods.
From the stated beginnings of psychoanalysis in the late 1800′s by Breuer and Freud, the use of hypnotic techniques to break through traumatic amnesias and the repressions of their patients proved unsuccessful.

Jung also relinquished the practice of hypnosis. What these early analysts had in common was their traditional, authoritarian approach to hypnosis which was characteristic of the time. Although patients had remembered traumatic experiences, the pressures applied with the authoritarian approach proved fruitless in accessing any usable information. Jung himself stated, “I gave up hypnotic treatment for this very reason, because I did not want to impose my will on others.”

With time, as always everything changes, and so have methods of therapy. The revolutionary shift to the permissive, naturalistic, and ideodynamic approach to therapeutic hypnosis was pioneered by Milton Erickson.


1920 – 1980 Milton Erickson helped about 14 people per day for the sixty years he maintained his hypnotherapy practice. He first began with direct suggestion but quickly realized that a different approach, a more permissive approach worked better, and that he could hypnotize a far greater percentage of the population with what might be referred to as a permissive approach, eventually being called the utilization approach to hypnotherapy. Eventually Milton Erickson developed many extraordinary means of bringing on trance developments, making him the most pronounced and influential figure of modern-day hypnosis.


The rise of popularity of hypnosis in the Western world seems to follow the same lines of many other alternative therapies. They are often put to test when everything else fails, and/or when other means of help are not available. The effectiveness of hypnosis at such times eventually elicits curiosity in scientific circles.


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