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Like the unconscious act of breathing, the hypnotic state has always been part of the human experience. The thing is, we haven’t always known how to induce it, maintain it, or use it to heal, help and enhance our lives. In fact, it’s really only since the 19th Century that hypnosis has been pursued as a science and a therapeutic tool for the treatment of mental health challenges, as well as physical ailments. Forms of hypnotism can be seen dotting the pages of recorded history, but their presence is generally in the form of divine intervention, practiced with the aid of an intermediary. Shamans and priestesses, ritual and magic, checker the past of hypnosis, from the pages of the ancient Vedic texts to the papyri of pharaonic Egypt. Even today, the modern attitude toward hypnosis tends to be that of “hocus pocus”; a contemporary reflection of long ago practices which were not scientifically or empirically-based, but firmly rooted in the world of mysticism. In ancient India, the first recorded instance of hypnosis dates back 3,000 years. Sleep temples were dedicated to the extraction of dreams, said to be sent to believers by the gods. Temple clergy were engaged in ritual practices which were believed to induce a state in which believers could receive divine messages and directives. But these rituals didn’t make any distinction between the trance state and actual sleep. That didn’t happen until 1017 CE, with the publication of
The Book of Healing, by Persian physician Avicenna Ibn Sina. Ibn Sina referred to the induced trance state (hypnosis) as “al wahm al-amil”, meaning the ability of a subject of hypnosis being able to willingly accept induction (“going under”). Over the ages, hypnosis has appeared in a variety of incarnations, as people sought to understand the apparent connection between hypnosis and the healing process. From Paracelsus (who believed that magnets or “lodestones” passed over the body were the key), to Father Maximilian Hell (who added steel plates to Paracelsus’s equation), a wide array of practitioners sought in vain. That’s until a student of Father Hell’s, a certain Franz Anton Mesmer, began asking the right questions.

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