History of


here's a little history...

Early indications of hypnosis dates back to ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphics depict pictures of sleep temples. These sleep temples also appeared in Greece between 200-500BC. Avicenna was a Persian polymath who made the earliest distinction between sleep and hypnosis. Paracelsus was a Swiss physician, alchemist & astrologer 1493-1541. He wrote of the need to treat the mind and the body, he was the first physician to use magnets in his work.

Around 1771 Father Maximilian Hell was using magnets to heal patients, one of Father Hell’s students was a young Doctor by the name of Franz Anton Mesmer, it was Mesmers continued work that coined the term Mesmerism after an effect he called ‘animal magnetism’. This was followed up by an Indo Portuguese Priest –Abbe Faria who claimed that hypnosis was generated from within the mind, by the power of expectancy and co-operation of the patient.


Meanwhile, another student of Mesmer –Marquis de Puysegur- 1751-1825 was the first to describe and use the term ‘somnambulism’ -the similarity between sleeping trance and natural sleep walking-, he referred to it as ‘Artificial Somnambulism’. This state then became known as Hypnosis, the term made popular by James Braid in 1842. (The term derives from ‘Etienne Felix d’Henin de Cuvillers’ in 1820)   However prior to this in 1821 -Recamier- was the first physician to have used something resembling ‘Hypnoanaesthesia’, operating on patients under a mesmeric coma. James Esdaile 1805-1859 was reported to have conducted 345 major operations using mesmeric sleep in British India.  Braid is however credited with writing the first ever book on Hypnosis, ‘Neurypnology’ in 1843. After his death in 1860 interest waned until app. 1880’s with the work of Hippolyte Bernheim 1840-1919 and Jean-Martin Charcot 1825-1893


Hypnosis was widely used in the American civil war and was effective in the field, however with the invention of Ether -1846- & Chloroform in 1847 these were adopted as an easier method, Queen Victoria also chose the use of Ether on the birth of her eighth child -1850-as a less complicated method than hypnosis. Jean-Martin Charcot still favoured and endorsed hypnosis for hysteria, so from the 1880’s hypnosis passed from surgical doctors to mental health. Charcot's work was continued by his pupil Pierre Janet, who described the theory of dissociation, the splitting of mental aspects under hypnosis.


Another student of Charcot was Sigmund Freud, hypnosis was crucial to his development of ‘psychoanalysis’. He created ‘abreaction therapy’ but subsequently discontinued his use of hypnosis. Carl Jung 1875-1961 came to the attention of Freud who saw him as a successor to his work, however, after a difference of theories their friendship & collaboration came to an end. At this point, hypnosis was used more by stage hypnotists than doctors.


Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault 1864-1904 first wrote of the necessity for co-operation between hypnotist & subject for ‘rapport’. Along with Bernheim –co-founder of the Nancy School-, which became the dominant force in hypnotherapeutic theory & practice in the late 19th century.


Emilie Coue -1857-1926, who studied with Liebault in 1885-1886 discarded this method in favour of James Braids & developed what became known as the ‘Coue Method’, based on the promotion of conscious autosuggestion, his formula of “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better & better”


In the 1920’s Platanov, a Russian obstetrician widely used hypnosuggestion for women in childbirth, this was then passed over for Ivan Pavlov’s psychological conditioning therapy.              Since the 1920’s, there have been major studies into modern day hypnosis, Clark Leonard Hull 1884-1952 demonstrated through his work ‘Hypnosis & Suggestibility’ that categorically ‘hypnosis is not sleep’. Milton Erikson 1901-1980 was of the first to introduce a permissive approach with the aid of puns, anecdotes & metaphors known today as Eriksonian hypnosis.


In 1955 The British Medical Association (BMA) granted the use of hypnosis in the treatment of psychoneuroses & hypnoanaesthesia. In 1956 Pope Pius XII also gave his approval for the use of hypnosis in childbirth.  In 1961 Ernest Hilgard and Andre Weitzenhoffer created the Stanford scales, (SHSS) Stanford hypnotic susceptibility scale.  Although it is a standard, due to the complexity of hypnotic cooperation no scale can deem to be accurate.  Dave Elman 1900-1967 was credited with introducing rapid inductions, ‘the Elman induction’ which is still a favoured induction, he stressed on what he referred to as the ‘Esdaile state’ or ‘hypnotic coma’ based on James Esdaile 1805-1859, however, he was historically wrong as Esdaile never termed hypnosis only mesmerism.  In 1960 John Hartland brought us ‘Ego strengthening’ a theory of instilling confidence as opposed to symptom removal. The 1970’s brought us Richard Bandler & John Grinder, the founders of NLP, ‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ although their work is still used widely it has been discredited as a pseudoscience. Theodore Barber 1927-2005 & David Calverley 1937-2008 created the ‘Barber suggestibility scale’ a product of their research measures hypnotic susceptibility, with or without a hypnotic induction. William Kroger, Ernest Rossi & Michael Yapko’s textbooks are considered to be THE instructional aids in the use of hypnosis in the medical field from the surgical to the neurological aspects.


We are now in an era where it is becoming more likely a collaboration between hypnotists, neuroscientists & technology may soon give us the answers to the questions started in ancient Egypt.