History Of Hypnotism: how hypnotism was discovered

There is no doubt that hypnotism is a very old subject, though the name was not invented till 1850. In it was wrapped up the "mysteries of Isis" in Egypt thousands of years ago, and probably it was one of the weapons, if not the chief instrument of operation, of the magi mentioned in the Bible and of the "wise men" of Babylon and Egypt. "Laying on of hands" must have been a form of mesmerism, and Greek oracles of Delphi and other places seem to have been delivered by priests or priestesses who went into trances of self-induced hypnotism. The people of the East are much more subject to influences of this kind than Western peoples are, and there can be no question that the religious orgies of heathendom were merely a form of that hysteria which is so closely related to the modern phenomenon of hypnotism. Though various scientific men spoke of magnetism, and understood that there was a power of a peculiar kind which one man could exercise over another, it was not until Frederick Anton Mesmer (a doctor of Vienna) appeared in 1775 that the general public gave any special attention to the subject.

In 1779 Mesmer published a pamphlet entitled "Memoire sur la decouverte du magnetisme animal", his chief claim was that he had discovered a principle which would cure every disease.It is to an English physician, however, that we owe the scientific character of modern hypnotism. Indeed he invented the name of hypnotism, formed from the Greek word meaning 'sleep', and designating 'artificially produced sleep'. His name is James Braid. Braid had discovered a new science--as far as the theoretical view of it was concerned--for he showed that hypnotism is largely, if not purely, mechanical and physical. He noted that during one phase of hypnotism, known as catalepsy, the arms, limbs, etc., might be placed in any position and would remain there; he also noted that a puff of breath would usually awaken a subject, and that by talking to a subject and telling him to do this or do that, even after he awakes from the sleep, he can be made to do those things. Braid thought he might affect a certain part of the brain during hypnotic sleep, and if he could find the seat of the thieving disposition, or the like, he could cure the patient of desire to commit crime, simply by suggestion, or command.

In 1850 Braid's ideas were introduced into France, and Dr. Azam, of Bordeaux, published an account of them in the "Archives de Medicine." From this time on the subject was widely studied by scientific men in France and Germany, and it was more slowly taken up in England. It may be stated here that the French and other Latin races are much more easily hypnotized than the northern races, Americans perhaps being least subject to the hypnotic influence, and next to them the English.


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