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On the one hand, a history of hypnosis is a bit like a history of breathing.Like breathing, hypnosis is an inherent and universal trait, shared and experienced by all human beings since the dawn of time.Mesmer was the first to propose a rational basis for the effects of hypnosis.
It’s important to remember, however, that what we see as occultism was the scientific establishment of its day, with exactly the same purpose as modern science – curing human ills and increasing knowledge.The popular image of the hypnotist as a charismatic and mystical figure can be firmly dated to this time.Inevitably, these magical trappings led to Mesmer’s downfall, and for a long time, hypnotism was a dangerous interest to have for anybody looking for a mainstream career.On the other hand, it’s only in the last few decades that we’ve come to realise that!
Hypnosis itself hasn’t changed for millennia, but our understanding of it and our ability to control it has changed quite profoundly.Mesmer was also the first to develop a consistent method for hypnosis, which was passed on to and developed by his followers. Mesmer himself, for instance, liked to perform mass inductions by having his patients linked together by a rope, along which his “animal magnetism” could pass.