hypnotism(redirected from hypnotist)
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See E. Hilgard and J. Hilgard, Hypnosis in the Relief of Pain (1984); D. Waxman et al., ed., Modern Trends in Hypnosis (1984).
Hypnotism(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Hypnotism, or hypnosis—from the Greek hypnos, meaning “sleep”—may occur spontaneously or may be induced by a trained hypnotist. A very large percentage of people are capable of being hypnotized. Shepard defines hypnotism as, “A peculiar state of cerebral dissociation distinguished by certain marked symptoms, the most prominent and invariable of which is a highly increased suggestibility in the subject.” The Encyclopedia Britannica says it is “applied to a unique, complex form of unusual but normal behavior which can probably be induced in all normal persons under suitable conditions … functioning at this special level of awareness is characterized by a state of receptiveness and responsiveness in which inner experiential learnings and understandings can be accorded values comparable with or even the same as those ordinarily given only by external reality stimuli.”
Edmunds (Hypnotism and Psychic Phenomena, 1961) makes the point that, “Despite the vast amount of enquiry and research that has been made and the numerous works on the subject that have been published, the true nature of hypnosis is still very much a mystery.” Yet hypnosis is almost as old as civilization itself. It was known to the shamans of primitive tribes, to priests and magicians of ancient civilizations such as Chaldea, Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, and Rome. It was used for both religious and therapeutic purposes. The Egyptian Ebers papyrus, dating from ca. 1500 BCE, describes the “laying-on of hands” treatment for disease and a bas relief from an ancient tomb at Thebes shows a priest seemingly in the act of hypnotizing a subject.
Modern hypnotism is a development of the early Mesmerism, introduced in 1772 by Count Friedrich (Franz) Anton Mesmer (1734–1815), a Viennese physician. Mesmer expounded the principles of “Animal Magnetism,” which then became known as Mesmerism. It was a system of healing based on the belief that a disturbance of equilibrium of a “universal fluid” causes disease in human beings. A magnetic readjustment of this invisible fluid would cure disease. In carrying out his therapies, Mesmer induced a hypnotic state without even being aware that he had done so. It was his pupil the Marquis Armand de Puysegur, who actually discovered the hypnotic trance. He termed it “artificial somnambulism.” It was not until 1841 that a Manchester, England, physician named Dr. James Braid became interested in the subject and in 1843, coined the terms “hypnotism” and “hypnosis.” In 1892, a British Medical Association committee unanimously accepted hypnotism as a genuine, valuable, therapeutic tool. After that not much progress was made until World War I when there was recognition of the re-educative possibilities of hypnotism, especially with the treating of shell shock. Further advances came with World War II, helping free the subject from many of the misconceptions, fears, and superstitions that had hampered its scientific investigation and acceptance.
In 1882, the Society for Psychical Research was established with the purpose of scientifically investigating “that large group of debatable phenomena designated by such terms as mesmeric, psychical, and spiritualistic.” Among the founding members were such people as Sir William Barrett, Edmund Gurney, William James, Professor Henry Sidwick, Frederick W. H. Myers, and Frank Podmore. Several of these, along with many of the early Spiritualists, had a great interest in Mesmerism. Another scientist with such an interest was Sigmund Freud, though he later abandoned hypnosis and concentrated on his own method of psychoanalysis.
Hypnotism has come to be used as a tool toward the development of clairvoyance and other mediumship phenomena. By using self-hypnosis, it is possible to bring about a suitable trance condition that will aid in bringing out latent mediumistic abilities. From working with self-hypnosis, a fledgling medium can then move on to spontaneous trance induction.