History of Hypnosis

Hypnosis’ Fathers

Franz Anton Mesmer

The man, who introduced the world to what is now known as hypnosis, was Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) who at times was mistakenly referred to Friedrich Anton Mesmer.

Mesmer was born on May 23, 1734 to his parents Anton and Maria, (known as Ursula) Mesmer. In Mesmer’s early adulthood he spent his time studying theology and law at the universities of Dillingen and Ingolstadt, both in Bavaria Germany. At the age of 25 he took up the study of medicine at the University of Vienna.

Mesmer became a German physician whose interest was in astronomy, and theorized that there was a “natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects” (Wikipedia, 2013). He also theorized ideas about the tidal “influences of the planets mentioning that they also operate on the human body through a universal force” (History of Hypnosis, 2012), he termed these two theories combined Animal Magnetism. These studies he completed while a student at the University of Vienna in 1776. This new theory of “Animal Magnetism” made him famous and very popular at the time.

At the age of 33, Mesmer started a perfectly conventional medical practice in Vienna. Aging closer to his forties Mesmer became dissatisfied with the practice of conventional medicine due to “a combination of bleeding, purgatives and opiates that was often more painful and terrifying than the conditions it sought to treat” (History of Hypnosis, 2012).

Mesmer’s breakthrough case was that of Franzl Oesterline. A woman at the age of 27, suffering from “convulsive malady” (History of Hypnosis, 2012), “the most troublesome symptoms of which was that the blood rushed to her head and there set up the most cruel toothaches and earaches, followed by delirium, rage, vomiting and swooning” (History of Hypnosis, 2012). These symptoms were so severe that Oesterline moved into Mesmer’s house so she could receive twenty-four hour care.

Returning to the theories of his student days, Mesmer created a cure, by using a magnet to disrupt the gravitational tides adversely affecting Oesterline. He succeeded in inducing in Oesterline a sensation, which was like that of a fluid draining from her body taking with it her sickness. Oesterline recovered from her illness completely and practically instantaneously.

From a modern day point of view, Mesmer’s ability to induce in Oesterline the sensation of “a fluid draining from her body” would not be obscure in modern day hypnotherapy.

This success was the carp launch Mesmer needed to drastically change his practice from the typical blood and guts medical practice, to a more psychological aspect in the practice of medicine.
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James Braid

James Braid (June 19, 1795 – March 25, 1860) was truly the man behind the name “Hypnosis.” Braid, a Scottish surgeon and financially independent scientist was a significant and influential pioneer in the fields of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Braid first saw the procedure of Animal Magnetism performed while at a public performance of the Swiss magnetic demonstrator Charles Lafontaine at the Manchester Athenaeum, Saturday, November 13, 1841.

Lafontaine was a dramatic artiste. To demonstrate that Animal Magnetism (aka mesmerism) was truly a success, Lafontaine would prove the viewers that his patients or subjects were “impervious to pain” (History of Hypnosis, 2012). To prove this point, Lafontaine would shock his patients with a live battery, or burn them with candles.

Braid was amongst the medical physicians that Lafontaine invited to the stage to get a close-up view of the performance. At the end of the performance, before the patients were released from their hypnotic state, Braid had the opportunity to examine Lafontaine’s mesmerized patients. Braid found Lafontaine’s patients or subjects to be in a sleep-like state concluding that the patients were in definitely “in quite a different physical state” (Wikipedia, 2013).

Braid started to regularly attend Lafontaine’s meetings, and by his third attendance he was convinced that some of the techniques used by Lafontaine were actually valid, and the effects that were derived from the valid techniques were phenomena.

However he believed the magnets were actually of no use and had no actual relevance of the effect that Lafontaine’s procedure (mesmerism) had on his patients.

Braid started his own experiments trying to find a reason for the trance that “mesmerism” caused on people. His experiments were first conducted on his wife, a friend and a servant. Braid’s subjects were instructed to gaze steadily at an object; he then found that he was also able to bring his subjects into a state of trance as well.

Often times his subject’s eyes would become strained to the point that their eyelids would close spontaneously, believing that sleep was the result of the fatigued eyes.

After continued experiments Braid found that the trance could be induced, not only by a fixed stare upon an object of his choice, but through his mere suggestion.

Having concluded that the state of trance was indeed a form of sleep, Braid then named his new and improved method of mesmerism, Hypnos, from the “Greek god of sleep and master of dreams” (The James Braid Society, 2011).

Although in 1847 Braid did discover that this state of trance was not actually a form of sleep, the name “Hypnos” was already so ingrained in society that his attempts to rename Hypnos to “Monoideism” (The James Braid Society, 2011)were to no avail.

Braid suddenly passed away of a heart attack on March 25, 1860 at the age of 65, leaving his mark on the medical field forever.


The title Hypnosis has not been around that long, but the practice of hypnosis has been around for thousands of years. From the ancient Babylonians to the ancient Egyptians, even to the Greeks, the practice of inducing a state of trance upon an individual, consenting or non-consenting can be seen throughout history.
The same state of trance seen through hypnosis, meditation and etc. is the same trance-state used in Shamanism, where the shaman is said to be connecting to other spirits. Also the hypnotic trance is used in Sufism, Umbanda and many more mystical and magical conductions.
Hypnotism is no more than inducing a state of trance by which the inducer, through whatever means he or she chooses can access the mind through mere suggestion and verbal correspondence directed from the inducer. So in layman’s terms, a shaman, psychic or a mind reader enters through the same door to the mind of the subject as a hypnotist. “Let the buyer beware.”


From the beginning there has been a lot of controversy in the findings of hypnosis.  History shows hypnosis is not universal, in other words, we are not born hypnotizing others, and this is a skill that is acquired. Breathing unlike hypnosis, which is an inherent and universal trait also shared and experienced by the human and animal kingdom since the time of creation.
Hypnosis it is not shared and experienced from birth, however it is induced on to people with their permission. Although the effects of hypnosis have been in existence longer than when Franz Anton Mesmer and James Braid were around, the title “Hypnosis” has only attributed to the effects of hypnosis since the mid 1840’s by James Braid.

Positive Effects

  1. The positive effects or results are too numerous to be able to mention all. For starters though, here are a few.
  2. Lower Stress Levels
  3. Heal just about any part of the body
  4. Heal mental issues
  5. Help overcome addictions
  6. These are just to name a few. However, there are just as many negative side effects or results of hypnotism that hypnotists and hypnotherapists alike seem not to make publicly aware.

Negative Effects

To start with, here are just a few negative side effects of hypnosis according to Vaughter Wellness of Zürich, Switzerland.
  1. Tiredness
  2. Identity crisis
  3. Insomnia
  4. Irritability
  5. Fears
  6. Panic attacks
  7. Deficit of attention
  8. Distorted sense of self
  9. Confusion
  10. Sexually aberrant behaviors
  11. Unexpected trance-like state
  12. Delusional thinking
  13. Depression
  14. Dizziness
  15. Syncope
  16. Fearfulness
  17. Feelings of guilt
  18. Histrionic reactions
  19. Impaired memory
  20. Nausea
  21. Obsessions
  22. Changes in personality
Most generally the negative side effects of Hypnosis can split up into the following categories:
Problems resulting from unintended suggestions
Obscuring actual physical health problems
Suicidal depression
Panic attacks or psychotic episodes
Symptom substitution
Although these are some pretty harsh side effects, more often than not the side effects of Hypnosis are mild and transient. Just to be safe about what one may get himself/herself into, to borrow the colloquialism, “Let the buyer beware.”


According to History of Hypnosis (http://www.historyofhypnosis.org) there has been a lot of controversy whether hypnosis was originated in the occult, one thing is for sure, the trance like state which is induced on the subject has been used and performed in magical, spiritualistic, occultism, and satanic services or procedures since the time of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, and even further back, shortly after the beginning of recorded history.
The James Braid Society even goes on record as having Mr. Braid naming his so-called “new and improved” method of mesmerism, Hypnos after the “Greek god of sleep and master of dreams” (The James Braid Society, 2011).
Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Ezêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, <Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun>, and Sarîel the course of the moon (Charles, 2003).
We see today that this same state of trance is used in modern day Hindu spiritualism, Buddhist spiritualism, and most types of Oriental religious and Eastern Mystic activities, like Yoga and even meditation.
My analogy; when one retrieves a venom vial from a snake farm; the venom is still as poisonous as the venom that the snake has produced. It still has the potential to kill a human or an animal. There is no difference between the venoms. One is in a vial, the other in the snake. Coming to the unanimous conclusion that the venom in the vial still has same destructive power as if it was in the snake, it really would not make any difference if that venom would be administered to a human being or animal. The effects will still be the same.
Again, Hypnosis can have many positive results on a person. To name a few hypnosis can help a person to stop smoking, get rid of fear, it can help a person control their eating habits, etc. Although hypnosis can have positive effects, chances are that the effect of hypnosis can be triggered to do just the opposite.
Regardless of how many ways one uses the methods of hypnosis; the history, the practices and the origins of hypnosis are all the same as the present methods used in modern days. The same method, used by Egyptians and Babylonians are used today but packaged with a different name. Hypnosis continues to maintain to its integrity of having the same results as it did thousands of years ago, which is nothing less than a form of mind control.

Works Cited

Charles, R. H. (2003). The Book of Enoch the Prophet. San Francisco, CA, USA: Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
History of Hypnosis. (2012, 1 1). Franz Anton Mesmer. Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from History of Hypnosis: http://www.historyofhypnosis.org/franz-anton-mesmer/
History of Hypnosis. (2012, 1 1). History of Hypnosis. Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from History of Hypnosis: http://www.historyofhypnosis.org
History of Hypnosis. (2012, 1 1). James Braid. Retrieved 10 13, 2013, from History of Hypnosis: http://www.historyofhypnosis.org/james-braid/
The James Braid Society. (2011, 6 19). James Braid Biography. Retrieved 10 13, 2013, from The James Braid Society: http://www.jamesbraidsociety.com/jamesbraid.htm
Wikipedia. (2013, 7 29). Franz Mesmer – Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from Franz Mesmer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Mesmer
Wikipedia. (2013, 10 1). History of Hypnosis. Retrieved 10 14, 2013, from Wikipedia The Free Encylcopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hypnosis
Wikipedia. (2013, 9 9). James Braid (surgeon). Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from Wikipedia The Free Encylopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Braid_(surgeon)

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