Give a brief history of hypnosis. (300 words min)
While there is no definitive starting point for when hypnosis became a tool used by humans, it seems that it reaches back as far as ancient Vedic and Egyptian cultures where they used it to perform miracles as well as mind control. Even from those time periods, it was seen as a form of occult power. Some believe that hypnosis goes back to the dawn of human kind, as if it is as natural as breathing. It can be seen in primitive cultures in shamanic dances meant to invoke the ability of shape shifting through the use of tools such as masks made of “… wood, animal skins, bones, feathers, beads, shells, paint…” (Robear). Another prime example of very ancient trance state is in the practice of Dream Time by the Australian Aboriginals. This form of trance is believed to date back about 40,000 years “when the Aboriginals migrated from India to Australia” (Zaiter). This form of trance was induced through the use of a Didgeridoo, a musical instrument that uses “… vibrational sound which helped them to access higher dimensions of reality…” (Zaiter). The Vedic tradition it is believed that the Vedas, their holy scripture, was “… heard in trance by the great sages called rsis. Ris means a seer, or one who sees the Vedic tests. He hears it in trance and realizes its meaning.” (Mares). For the ancient Egyptians trance states were a part of the initiation into the priesthood “As a temple ritualist, the Egyptian initiate, in order to be transformed and ‘see’ the deity directly, never left his physical body behind in a passive, trance-like state” (Dungen). This is very similar to what is seen in the Hellenic culture with the Pythia, the prophet priestess of the Delphi temple, as well as the priests of Apollo Clarus and the Prophetess of Branchidae. Like the Ris, theses sees entered a state of trance that allowed them to connect with “… various gods from whom we receive inspiration produce different kinds of inspiration. For another, the particular kind of divine possession, as it changes, also modifies the nature of the divine inspiration” (Luck 362).
During the 18th century the Western world underwent a critical revolution where hypnosis was concerned. Thanks to Franz Mesmer, a physician, the first to propose a rational basis for the effects of hypnosis, which he termed mesmerism. This was the “… forerunner of the modern practice of hypnotism…” (Encyclopaeida Britannica) and was sent to transform this occult tool to the beginnings of a scientific device to help treat a variety of ailments. Mesmer believed that “… the planets affected human health by affecting an invisible fluid found in the human body and throughout nature” (Encyclopaeida Britannica). He explained that this fluid could be effected by magnetism and that it disease was the result of blockages within the body that prevented this fluid from flowing properly. It was through the use of “mesmerism” that Mesmer believed these blockages could be broken and restoring “…. Harmony of the personal fluid flow.” Additionally, Mesmer became the first person recorded to have a consistent measureable method of hypnosis. “He became a celebrity, going on tour and giving dramatic demonstrations of his techniques and powers at the courts of the European nobility” (History of Hypnosis). However, this fame did not last. In 1778 he was accused of fraud by Viennese physicians, forcing him to flee to France. Despite the seemingly magical cures that Mesmer was reported to have perform, King Louis XVI “… appointed a commission of scientists and physicians to investigate Mesmer’s method… They report that Mesmer was unable to support his scientific claims, and the mesmerist movement thereafter declined” (Encyclopaeida Britannica).
During the 19th century, many individuals such as John Elliotson, James Esdaille, and James Baid began to seek deeper understanding and application of hypnosis to the medical field. James Baid in the early 1840’s began the process of pealing back the layers surrounding the mysteries of hypnosis to reveal the physical and biological truths that were the basis of phenomenon, thus giving the technique validity with applications in universities and hospitals of their day. (History of Hypnosis)
In the 20th century, hypnosis is still debated heavily. Scientists struggle with if there is or is not a physical for hypnosis. Even in the modern world, hypnosis had been mostly confined to either occult practitioners or scientists. This soon changed; hypnosis became a tool available to the common user. But with this more open use, the application of hypnosis began to change as well. It went from a clinically controlled tool to a more passive way of entering into trance states. Now the use of hypnosis has not only become wide spread, but it has also become more practical for a variety of uses in our world. (Carole Wade)