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At the same time, the nature of “ordinary” consciousness is better understood as a series of trance states that we go into and out of all the time.The history of hypnosis, then, is like the search for something that was in plain view all along, and we can now see it for what it is – a universal phenomenon that’s an inextricable part of being human.The history of hypnosis, then, is really the history of this change in perception.

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From a Western point of view, the decisive moment in the history of hypnosis occurred in the 18th Century (coinciding with the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason).

The work of Franz Mesmer, amongst others, can be seen as both the last flourish of “occult” hypnosis and the first flourish of the “scientific” viewpoint.

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 the first to propose a rational basis for the effects of hypnosis.

Although we now know that his notion of “animal magnetism”, transferred from healer to patient through a mysterious etheric fluid, is hopelessly wrong, it was firmly based on scientific ideas current at the time, in particular Isaac Newton’s theories of gravitation.

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.

Thanks to their persistence and efforts, by the end of the century hypnosis was accepted as a valid clinical technique, studied and applied in the great universities and hospitals of the day.

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