Historical Overview of Hypnosis
The early history of hypnosis actually begins before any recorded history
exists. In the religious and healing ceremonies of all primitive peoples on the
face of the earth there exist the elements essential to place the subjects into
a hypnotic trance. It is assumed, therefore, by the study of ceremonies of
primitive peoples who still exist in Africa, Australia, and elsewhere that even
before history was recorded, induction's were accomplished by rhythmic chanting,
monotonous drum beats, together with strained fixations of the eyes accompanied
by catalepsy of the rest of the body.
Such primitive ceremonies had the essential of a central focus of attention,
with surrounding neurology areas of inhibition, which two factors are
responsible for 95% of the induction of the hypnotic trance. Whether these were
called religious ceremonies, healing ceremonies or a combination of
religious and healing ceremonies is actually
immaterial. The fact is that trances did exist and were hypnotic in character,
although the word "hypnosis" was never applied to them since it was not in use
until Braid coined the term in 1842.
All world travelers are familiar with the Hindus, Fakirs, Yogis,
snake charmers, and Eastern magicians who induced themselves and others in
cataleptic states by eye fixation and other mesmeric techniques, and were able
to perform unusual physical feats and eliminate pain.
An interesting incident was reported by James Esdalie, MD, author of Hypnosis in
Medicine and Surgery, in which he describes a method for production of
anesthesia by a famous Eastern magician of the era: "June 9th, 1845 - I had
today the honor of being introduced to one of the most famous magicians in
Bengal, who enjoys a high reputation for his successful treatment of hysteria,
and had been sent for to prescribe for my patient (whose case will be afterwards
given), but came too late; the success of my charm, Mesmerism, having left him
nothing to do. Baboo Essanchunder Ghosaul, deputy magistrate of Hooghly, at my
request introduced me to him as a brother magician, who had studied the art of
magic in different parts of the world, but particularly in Egypt, where I had
learned the secrets of the great Soolevmann, from the moolahs and fuqueers, and
that I had a great desire to ascertain whether our charms were the same, as the
hakeems of Europe held the wise men of the East in high estimation, knowing that
all knowledge had come from that quarter. I proposed that we should show each
other our respective charms, and after much persuasion, he agreed to show me his
process for assuaging pain. He sent for a brass pot containing water and a twig
with two or three leaves upon it, and commenced muttering his charms, at arm's
length from the patient. In a short time he dipped his forefinger into the
water, and with the help of his thumb, flirted it into the patient's face; he
then took the leaves, and commenced stroking the person from the crown of the
head to the toes, with a slow drawing motion. The knuckles almost touched the
body, and he said that he would continue the process for an hour or longer if
necessary; and it convinced me that if these charmers ever do well by such
means, it is by the mesmeric influence, probably unknown to themselves. I said
that I was convinced of the great efficacy of his charm, and would now show him
mine; but that he would understand it better if performed on his own person.
After some difficulty, we got him to lie down, and to give due solemnity to my
proceedings. I chanted, as an invocation, the chorus of the "Kings of the
Cannibal Islands!" I desired him to shut his eyes, and he clenched his eyelids
firmly, that I might find no entrance to the brain by that inlet. In a quarter
of an hour he jumped up, and said he felt something disagreeable coming over
him, and wished to make his escape. He was over-persuaded to lie down again,
however, and I soon saw the muscles around his eyes begin to relax, and his face
became perfectly smooth and calm. I was sure that I had caught my brother
magician napping, but, in a few minutes, he bolted up suddenly, clapped his
hands to his head, cried he felt drunk, and nothing could induce him to lie down
again; "abiit, excessit, evasit, erupit!" Next day I saw him, and said, "Well,
you were too strong for my charm last night, I could not put you to sleep." "Oh!
Yes Sahib," he answered, "You did; I allow it; it is allowed that you put me to
As Moll has pointed out, these hypnotic phenomena are also found to have existed
several thousand years ago among the Persian Magi
as well as up to the present day among Indian Yogis and Fakirs.
The oldest written record of cures by hypnosis was obtained from the
Ebers Papyrus which gives us an idea about some
of the theory and practice of Egyptian medicine before 1552 BC. In the Ebers
Papyrus, a treatment was described in which the physician placed his hands on
the head of the patient and, claiming superhuman therapeutic powers gave forth
with strange remedial utterances which were suggested to the patients, and which
resulted in cures. King Pyrrhus of Egypt,
The Emperor Vespasian, Francis I of France and other French kings up to Charles
X practiced healing in this manner.
The Egyptians are thought to have
originated the "Sleep Temples", in which
the priests gave similar treatment to their patients through the use of
suggestion. These temples became very popular in Egypt, and spread throughout
Greece and Asia Minor.
Hippocrates, the Greek physician referred to most frequently as "the father of
medicine" and whose oath all graduating physicians take, is known to have
discussed the phenomenon saying, "the affliction suffered by the body, the soul
sees quite well with the eyes shut."
The Romans borrowed trance healing from
the Greeks, as they did much else of the Greek culture during the period of the
rise of the great Roman Empire. Many men of great learning and wisdom were
imported from Greece as Roman slaves to teach the young in Roman households.
Among the Romans, Aesculapius often threw
his patients 'into a "deep sleep" and allayed pain by stroking, with his hand.
The advent of Christianity had a great deal to do with the decline of the use of
hypnosis and trance healing because hypnosis was then considered to be
witchcraft, and trance healing if practiced at all was done secretly.
Nevertheless, in spite of this Jesus employed hypnosis to perform many of His
In the tenth century, Avicenna, a great
physician, stated, "The Imagination can fascinate and modify man's body either
making him ill or restoring him to health."
About the middle of the sixteenth century, a man named Theophrastus
Paracelsus brought forth a new theory regarding
the production of diseases. This theory stated in effect that certain heavenly
bodies, especially the stars, influenced the behavior of men. He also postulated
that men influenced each other, which is still a basic concept in the study of
Van Helmont, Maxwell from Scotland, and
Santanelli from Italy, said virtually the
same thing about 1600, and laid the foundation for the concept of animal
magnetism, which was later to have been made so famous by Mesmer. It can be
proved that almost every ancient civilization has been familiar with hypnosis in
one form or another. LeCron points out that it is described in some of the
Mantras of India written in ancient transcript; that the Mongols, Tibetans, and
the Chinese all had knowledge of hypnosis; and that even a detailed description
of it is given in the Kalevala, the great epic poem of the Finns.
It is ironic that the modern history of hypnosis begins not with a physician but
with a clergyman, a catholic priest who lived at Klosters. Father Gassner
theorized, according to the beliefs of that day, patients who were ill were
possessed by devils, which must be cast out, before the patient could again
attain the state of good health. The good priest obtained church approval for
his actions by stating that God was working through him to cast out devils that
possessed his unfortunate patients.
Unlike some other men of his time, Father Gassner was not secretive with his
methods, and frequently allowed physicians to observe him administer treatment.
The physicians who were to observe were ushered into a room and seated much as
in a theater and then the patient would be marched onto a stage in the center of
the room to await the appearance of Father Gassner. Timing his entrance to make
the most of the spectacle, Father Gassner would stride out onto the platform in
a long solid black flowing cape, holding a "gold" crucifix high in the air
before him. The patient had been told in advance that when Father Gassner
touched him with the crucifix, he would promptly fall to the floor and remain
there for further instructions. Gassner's patients were told to actually "die"
while lying prostrate on the floor, and that during this period of "death", he
would cast out the devils from their body and then restore them to normal life
again. (This idea of rebirth permeates both hypnosis and religion even as far
back as the earliest primitive forms). Again this has been discussed further in
my book entitled, Religious Aspects of Hypnosis.
After the observer physician examined the patient, felt no pulse, heard no heart
sounds, and pronounced him dead, then Father Gassner would order the demon to
depart, and shortly thereafter the patient would revive and arise completely
cured. Mesmer was said to have watched a number of performances by Father
Gassner in the early 1770's and is responsible for introducing the phenomena to
the medical profession.
Franz Anton Mesmer
Franz Anton Mesmer was born the son of a game warden on May 23, 1734, at Iznang
on Lake Constance. He studied at Dillingen and Ingolstadt and received his Ph.D.
following which he studied law. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree in
1766 after presenting a paper entitled, De Planetarum Influx (On the influence
of the Planets). Two years following his graduation, Mesmer married the wealthy
widow of an army Lieutenant Colonel, Marie Anna Von Posch, on January 10, 1768.
Mesmer, unable to swallow Father Gassner's hypothesis that patients were
possessed by demons, believed that in some way the metal crucifix held by the
Father was perhaps responsible for magnetizing the patient and hence developed
his ideas and explanation of the results into a theory of animal magnetism,
which he first tested in 1773 by treating a 28 year old female, Franziska
Osterlin, who eventually married Fredrich Von Posch, Mesmer's stepson. Mesmer
published his first account of the magnetic cure in 1775, under the title of,
Schreiben Uber die Magnetiker. Although his fame continued to spread, he was
forced to leave Vienna following the famous Paradis case, in which Dr. Von
Stoerck and Dr. Barth opposed him. In 1777 Maria Theresa Paradis, a blind child
pianist, and favorite of the Empress, recovered her sight after treatment by
Mesmer despite the fact that she had been under the care of Europe's leading eye
specialist, Dr. Von Stoerck for ten years without improvement. Influenced by
jealous doctors, the child's mother took her away from Mesmer's care before the
cure was complete. In an emotional scene, the mother struck the child across the
face because she did not wish to leave Dr. Mesmer's clinic and the hysterical
blindness reasserted itself.
Nevertheless, Mesmer's influence was still great enough to secure a
recommendation from the Austrian Foreign Minister to the Imperial Embassy in
Paris, to which he moved early in February 1778. He founded a clinic with
D'Eslon on the Place Vendome, and published his famous book, Memoirre Sur La
Decouverte Du Magnetisme Animal in 1779.
In 1784 the French Government investigated Mesmer, and pronounced him a fraud.
However, Benjamin Franklin, who was a member of the investigating committee,
wrote the minority report, which stated the phenomenon was worthy of further
consideration. Other members of the commission were Jussieu, famous for his
connection with the Twilleries; Guillotin, the inventor of the Guillotine which
bears his name; and Lavoisier, the well-known French chemist whose name is still
familiar to Americans as the brand name of a mouth wash! Esdaile's fascinating
description of the investigation states he believed the verdict was fair enough
considering the nature of the evidence placed before them. He goes on to say:
...but yet, (such is human fallibility), in this case summum jus was also summa
injuria; truth was sacrificed to falsehood, as I think will clearly appear from
a short analysis of their proceedings. This will probably not be time wasted, as
I have heard intelligent gentlemen say that the report of the French
philosophers still decided their opinions. They had a series of axioms in
Mesmerism presented to them, whose truth they were to examine and the efficacy
of certain processes was to be proved to their satisfaction by experiment.
The Mesmerist's object seems to have been to try to convince the commission that
he had a secret worth knowing, and yet to continue to keep it to himself by
hiding its extreme simplicity under a load of complicated machinery and various
kinds of mummery. D'Eslon, the pupil of Mesmer, propounded his laws of animal
magnetism after this fashion:
I. Animal magnetism is a universal fluid, constituting an absolute polonium in
nature, and the medium of all mutual influence between the celestial bodies, and
betwixt the earth and animal bodies. This only a gigantic assertion.
II. It is the subtlest fluid in nature, capable of flux and of reflux, and of
receiving, propagating, and continuing all kinds of motion.
III. The animal body is subjected to the influences of this fluid by means of
the nerves, which are immediately affected by it. We see no other way at
IV. The human body has poles, and other properties, analogous to the magnet. The
first proposition has never been proved, and takes everything for granted; there
is only likelihood in the second.
V. The action and virtue of animal magnetism may be communicated from one body
to another, whether animate or inanimate. True, as regards to the relations
between animate bodies; and these can also impregnate inanimate substances.
VI. It operates at a great distance, without the intervention of anybody. True
VII. It is increased and reflected by mirrors, communicated, propagated and
increased by sound, and may be accumulated, concentrated, and transported
VIII. Notwithstanding the universality of this fluid, all animal bodies are not
affected by it; on the other hand there are some though but few in number, the
presence of which, destroys all the effects of animal magnetism. The first part
correct, the last not improbable.
IX. By means of this fluid, nervous diseases are cured immediately, and others
medially; and its virtues, in fact, extend to the universal cure and
preservation of mankind True, to so great a degree, that we do not yet know how
far it may go.
Is it surprising that the commission dismissed contemptuously such a mass of
sheer assertion and unsupported theory, seasoned with truth to be sure, but so
diluted and obscured as not to be recognizable? Like a Bengal witness, D'Eslon
was not content to tell the truth simply, but added so many corroborating
inventions of his own that no one knew what to believe, and the case was
dismissed as unworthy of further investigation. He ruined himself, and his
cause, also, (perhaps in ignorance, however,) by loading the truth with a parcel
of trumpery machinery through which he hoped the power of nature would
nevertheless penetrate; but Nature, like an overloaded camel, turned upon her
driver and threw him and his paraphernalia of magnetic platforms,
conducting-rods and ropes, pianos, magnetized trees and buckets, into the dirt;
and truth retired in disgust to the bottom of her well, there to dwell till more
honest men should draw her forth again to surprise and benefit the world.
As far as my observation goes, all that is necessary for success, if the parties
are in the relation of agent and subject, is passive obedience in the patient
and a sustained attention and patience on the part of the operator. The process
being a natural one, the more the parties are in a state of nature the better:
the bodies of my patients being naked, and their heads generally shaved, is
probably of no small consequence in the proceedings...
There are a number of very important assertions in this excerpt from Esdaile's
book. First, he certainly points out clearly the reason why the commission
turned down the phenomenon as unworthy of further investigation. Second, he also
illustrates the point doubly by even adding a number of misconceptions of his
own, misconceptions which were nevertheless accepted as true in his day
regarding medical practice. Thirdly, he sums up a really ingenious and brilliant
theory in one sentence: As far as my observation goes, all that is necessary for
success, if the parties are in relation of agent and subject, is PASSIVE
OBEDIENCE in the patient, and a sustained patience on the part of the operator.
Fourthly, he makes a statement which might serve further experimentation: The
process being a natural one, the more the parties are in a state of nature the
better. This might be better accomplished by means other than mere nudity
although perhaps the possibility that by being nude the subject psychologically
is "defenseless," or more "submissive" should not be overlooked. My favorite
induction method is to take the patient with all his or her senses on a journey
into a primitive wooded area, peaceful and quiet, serene and still where
concentration and relaxation are greatest. Both the spirits of passive obedience
as well as the journey into the wilderness of nature to seek communion with God
are a part of every major religion in the world.
So much for the report of the commission which had as its ultimate effect the
denunciation of Mesmer, his methods and theories, although his theories were
actually far more on trial than his methods.
After being denounced in Paris, Mesmer's popularity quickly faded, and he
traveled to England, Italy and Germany, returning for a brief visit to Paris
before the outbreak of the revolution. He then settled in Frauenfeld in
Switzerland, until the summer of 1814 whence he moved to Morsburg, where he died
on March 5, 1815.
It is not generally known but nevertheless true that Mesmer and his son
published works on animal magnetism, and even today copies of these completed
works can be obtained.
As Mesmer's patients were placed in a tub filled with water and iron filings
protruding from which were larger iron rods, Mesmer would suggest to them that
as he touched them with his magnetic rod, they would become magnetized and
eventually would go into a state of "crisis" from which they would emerge cured.
His patients invariably did this and Mesmer considered the crisis an absolute
necessity for the cure. Mesmer made a very imposing picture in his long flowing
robes, holding his magnetic rod and passing from room to room in his clinic. His
methods of magnetism, therefore, were unquestioned and his follower and pupil of
good faith, the Marquis de Puysegur placed patients in a trance which he called
artificial somnambulism, in which the patients did not enter the crisis or fit,
but rather into a state of quiet relaxation. (The Marquis had forgotten to
suggest to them in advance that they would experience a seizure!)
Marquis de Puysegur
The Marquis de Puysegur was responsible for describing the three cardinal
features of Hypnosis; 1) concentration of the senses on the operator, 2)
acceptance of suggestion without question, and 3) amnesia for events in a
trance. In 1814 the Abbe Faria suggested that the phenomena described by Mesmer
were not due to animal magnetism, but actually due to suggestion. However the
popularity of Mesmer was so well established that Faria's hypothesis was soon
forgotten. Dr. Wolfart journeyed from Berlin to Frauenfeld in 1812 at the
request of the Prussian government, to investigate Mesmer, and to learn all he
could about animal magnetism, and bring it back to the University of Berlin. At
the same time Koreff was already in Paris on a similar mission. Mesmerism spread
rapidly throughout Europe, including Switzerland, Italy and even as far north as
the Scandinavian countries. This produced many experts including Eschenmayer,
Kerner, Lallemant, Schelling, Passavant. Kluge, Pace, Ostermeyer, Pfaff, Pezold,
Selle, Bartels and many others.
On November 13, 1841 a French magnetizer named La Fontaine, who demonstrated
Mesmerism, first introduced James Braid to Mesmerism [theory based on animal
magnetism] and Mesmeric experiments at a meeting on that day. A complete
description of this seance is found along with a detailed history of Braid's
activity in writing in Bramwell's book, Hypnotism, Its History, Practice and
Theory. James Braid was most well known for the fact that he renamed Mesmerism,
"Hypnotism" in 1842, after the Greek word "Hypnos" meaning, "sleep" and offered
to read a paper on it at a meeting of the British Medical Association in
Manchester, but was rejected. Nevertheless, unlike Mesmer he maintained a good
professional standing in his community during his entire lifetime, and was not
only noted as an excellent hypnotist, but also was widely acclaimed for his
operating cases of clubbed foot and other deformities. Later in life, Braid
realized hypnotism was not a true sleep, but a concentration of the mind, and
tried to change the name to monoideism. But by that time, "Hypnosis" and
"Hypnotism" were words already well rooted in every language of Europe, and he
finally abandoned this effort to change the name. He was born at Rylaw House in
Fifeshire in 1795, studied at Edinburgh and qualified there as a surgeon. After
practicing in Scotland for a short time he moved to Manchester, where he lived
until he died suddenly on March 25, 1860 of a heart attack. He maintained his
practice and interest in hypnotism during his entire lifetime, and wrote many
papers and monographs on the subject. Although Braid is best known for his
renaming Mesmer's art hypnotism, he also was responsible for a number of ideas
that still persist until the present day. They are as follows:
1: That hypnosis is a powerful tool which should be limited entirely to medical
and dental professions.
2: That although hypnotism was capable of curing many diseases for which there
had formally been no remedy, it nevertheless was no panacea and was only a
medical tool which should be used in combination with other medical information,
drugs, remedies, etc. in order to properly treat the patient.
3: That in skilled hands there is no great danger associated with hypnotic
treatment and neither was there pain or discomfort.
4: That a good deal more study and research would be necessary to thoroughly
understand a number of theoretical concepts regarding hypnosis.
These points of philosophy were extremely sound, especially for a physician in
the middle 1800's who had limited knowledge available to him at that particular
period. The fact that these concepts remain virtually unchanged today speaks
highly for the brilliance of this great physician and hypnotist from Manchester.
Like Braid, Elliotson received his M.D. from Edinburgh, but went on to study on
the continent as well as in Cambridge and at Sir Guy's Hospital where I had the
pleasure of speaking in 1958. He was born in 1791 and died on July 29, 1868
after a long illness, at the house of his friend, Dr. Symes, a formal pupil.
Like Braid, Elliotson was a brilliant physician, lecturer, and Professor of
Medicine. Elliotson's fame however, even exceeded that of his predecessor, Dr.
Braid, for Elliotson ascended to the academic heights of a full Professorship of
Medicine at the London University. He was also named President of the Royal
Medical and Surgical Society and was one of the founders of the University
College Hospital in London.
He introduced the stethoscope into England together with the methods of
examining the heart and lungs and they are used to this day. A complete history
of his life also appears in Bramwell's book.
Elliotson is best known for the fact that in 1846, he established the first
journal dealing with hypnotism. It was called Zoist, and complete copies of the
journal are still obtainable from some sources. He was discharged from the
University College Hospital for choosing hypnosis as the subject for the
Harveian Oration of 1846. In this Harveian Oration, Elliotson quoted this
memorable passage from Harvey's works, "True Philosophers, compelled by the love
of truth and wisdom, never fancy themselves so wise and full of sense as not to
yield to truth from any source and at all times; nor are they so narrow minded
as to believe any art or science has been handed down in such a state of
perfection to us by our predecessors that nothing remains for future industry.
Elliotson then applied Harvey's words to the science of Hypnotism and stated in
no uncertain terms that it was the duty of physicians of that age to carefully
and dispassionately review his research on the subject. Many interesting
articles appeared in his journal, Zoist that was published quarterly from April
1843 until December 31, 1855. For thirteen years, article after article, was
published by Elliotson, Esdalie, and many other brilliant physicians of that
time, testifying to the excellent results of hypnotic treatment in insanity,
epilepsy, hysteria, stammering, neuralgia, asthma, torticollis, headaches,
functional difficulties of the heart, rheumatism, tic-douloureux, spasmodic
colic, sciatica, lumbago, palsy, convulsions, acute inflammations of the eyes
and testicles, and reports of hundreds of painless operations, everything from
removal of a cataract to the amputation of the penis of which James Esdalie
reported two cases. Parker (from whom the expression "Painless Parker"
originated) reported over 200 painless operations in Exeter, an institution
Elliotson helped him to form. Elliotson was excellent in the field of child
hypnosis, and worked with many children and childhood diseases, such as St.
Vitus Dance, Chorea, tics, and other maladies. Unlike Braid, however, Elliotson
continued to believe in clairvoyance and other mystical phenomena until his
Dr. James Esdaile probably performed more surgical operations under
hypnoanesthesia than any physician up until the present time. He was a man of
extreme ingenuity and intelligence who practiced most of his life in India, and
is probably better known for his work in hypnosis than any other man with the
possible exception of Mesmer himself. He was born February 6, 1808, the son a
minister, and like Elliotson and Braid studied at Edinburgh where he graduated
in 1830, obtaining a position with the East India Company.
Esdaile did his first operation under hypnosis on April 4, 1845, on a Hindu
convict with double hydrocele, at the native hospital at Hooghly. After
accomplishing 75 operations under hypnoanesthesia he wrote to the medical board;
but his letter was not even acknowledged. Later, at the end of the year, having
over a hundred operations to his credit, he then contacted Sir Herbert Maddock,
then the deputy governor of Bengal, who appointed a committee of investigation
composed primarily of physicians.
On receiving their favorable report, the Governor then placed Esdaile in charge
of a small experimental hospital near Calcutta, in order that he might continue
his research into hypnosis for whatever values it might have. Esdaile began his
research in November of 1846, with the following physicians appointed to help
him: R. Thompson, M.D., D. Stuart, M.D., J. Jackson, F.R.C.S., F Mouatt, M.D.,
R. O'Shaughnessy, F.R.C.S.; and at the end of the trial year of Esdaile's
experimental works, he had 133 more operations to his credit, and a goodly
number of medical cases as well. The reports by visitors to the institution
continued to be favorable, and therefore, with the deputy governor's continued
support, Esdaile was then appointed to Sarkea's Lane Hospital and Dispensary to
continue his work and expand it to other fields of medicine.
Esdaile's fame spread far and wide, and he once stated truthfully that he did
more operations on scrotal tumors in one month than took place in all the
hospitals in Calcutta in a year. Some local physicians who felt that his
patients were hysterical criticized him in the medical journals. Esdaile's
comment on this was that his own report of the cases was still worthy of mention
if only as an example of an epidemic of insanity. His sense of humor stayed with
him until he left India in 1851. When he left, he had thousands of painless
operations to his credit, and over 300 major operations all done under
Mesmerism. While he was in India, chloroform was first introduced as an
anesthesia and later after he left India, a prize of $10,000 was offered in 1853
to the discoverer of the anesthetic properties of ether, which was described as
the earliest anesthetic. Esdaile sent an indignant letter of protest about this,
drawing attention to the fact that he had performed painless surgery under
Mesmerism for years before anyone had ever heard of ether. (For that matter,
chloroform preceded ether in any case.)
Disgusted with India and "caring not a straw" about a big practice in Calcutta,
Esdaile returned to Perth, the home of his father, where he settled and remained
until he developed an illness of the lungs (tuberculosis?), and moved from
Scotland to Sydenham, where he died at the age of 50 on January 10, 1859. His
works were many, but perhaps his most famous work was a book originally titled,
Mesmerism in India, and later released under the title of Hypnosis in Medicine
and Surgery. In this particular book, he not only reported 73 painless
operations, but also reported 18 medical cases of palsy, lumbago, sciatica,
convulsions, and tic-douloureux, in addition to informing the public on
hypnosis. He lashed out at the stupidity of some medical men who were blind to
any new ideas; quoting in Latin, "Stare super vias Antiquas" to describe such
medical men. He further went on to say that as a lover of truth for its own
sake, he was very little gratified by being told by his friends, "I believe
because you say so." He felt this was a barren belief, and constantly searched
out physicians to prove his newfound medical tool to them. Jacob Conn, M.D. of
the John Hopkins Medical School faculty has stated that no one has worked more
diligently to bring the value of hypnotic analgesia and anesthesia to the
attention of the medical profession than James Esdaile. Esdaile's work evidently
paid off, as the British Medical Association reported favorably in 1891 that "As
a therapeutic agent, hypnotism is frequently effective in relieving pain,
procuring sleep and alleviating many functional ailments."
Dr. Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault
Liebeault is widely known as "The Father of Modern Hypnotism." The reason for
this is primarily because Liebeault was the man who concluded and published the
observation that all the phenomena of hypnotism are subjective in origin.
Liebeault was a humble French physician, who though generally speaking was
uninterested in research, nevertheless was a genius at therapeutics. He
maintained an overflowing country practice that kept him busy night and day
since the time he received his M.D. in 1850. His practice in hypnotism was
almost entirely gratuitous, and because of this, it gained him the quiet respect
of all that knew him. He was born in 1823, began his study of medicine in 1844,
and started his experiments in hypnotism in 1848, even before he left medical
school. After having completed a number of therapeutic sessions of hypnosis, he
authored a book, which was two years in the writing. Skepticism, however, was so
great that he only sold one copy, which went to Bernheim. In 1882 Liebeault
cured an obstinate case of sciatica, which Bernheim had treated without results
for over six months. Partly because of his curiosity, and partly because he
wished to expose Liebeault as a quack, Bernheim bought the book and then
journeyed to see Liebeault convinced that he was in fact a charlatan. Bernheim
was, however, so impressed by Liebeault's work that he decided to remain with
him and became a devoted pupil and lifelong friend. Bernheim and Liebeault then
published another book together, which was widely acclaimed. This was especially
true because of Liebeault's vast number of fascinating case histories.
Whereas Parker and his contemporaries were interested primarily in painless
surgery, Liebeault invaded all fields of medicine and was in fact the most
important single physician in broadening the scope of therapeutics through the
use of hypnosis. An excellent description of Liebeault's clinic appears in
Liebeault became quite adept at rapid hypnosis and in fact was one of the first
doctors who realized that for most hypnotherapy, a deep trance was unnecessary,
a fact frequently pointed out by Dr. S. J. Van Pelt. Quite the contrary,
Liebeault would induce his patients with no more than a wave of the hand, and a
quick phrase, such as "Sleep, my little kitten"; suggest away the morbid
symptoms and allow the patients to wake up when they desired. He saw hundreds of
patients rarely spending more than a quarter of an hour with any of them.
Bramwell states that all of Liebeault's patients were either improved or cured
following his rapid suggestive treatments. Liebeault assisted by Bernheim
established what has been known as the "School of Nancy." This was a period of
development in hypnosis during which a great deal of experimental work was done
with many types of induction.
At the same time that Liebeault was merely using the word "sleep" with a hand
pass, Charcot on the other hand was violently ringing gongs and flashing
drummond lights. The Germans, Weinhold and Heidenhain, preferred the ticking of
a watch, and Berger was using warm plates of metal. The idea of magnetism and
magnetic processes had not yet completely worn off yet. Despite Liebeault's
explanation of the phenomena as subjective, Piteres maintained that certain
portions of the body were particularly sensitive to stimulation of the skin, and
these so- called hypnotic zones which were described by him existed sometimes on
one side of the body and other times on both.
Moll has stated that he himself had seen many persons who were hypnotized only
when their foreheads were touched. Purkinje and Spitt stated that touches on the
forehead induced a sleepy state in many persons. Cradle rocking used to induce
children was well known, and Eisenhart has mentioned stroking of the forehead as
an excellent induction technique for children. Hirt often used electricity to
induce hypnosis, and Sperling, a contemporary of Bramwell's and Moll's,
described the hypnotic trances of Dervishes which he had seen in Constantinople
(now Istanbul). Drzewiecki felt there was a difference in susceptibility to
hypnosis because of nationality, and stated that Russians were more easily
hypnotized than other people. It was felt later however, that neither
nationality nor sex entered into the ability of a person to be hypnotized. It
was only after Liebeault achieved a ripe old age and retired from medical
practice that he reaped a measure of the acclaim which was certainly due him. He
neither sought nor made a fortune. He remained to his death, happy and secure in
the knowledge of a life well spent in treating the poor.
Dr. Bernheim of the Nancy School is perhaps the best known for publicizing the
use of hypnosis. Although Liebeault was responsible for broadening therapeutics,
his book was never widely read. However, when Bernheim published his book on
hypnosis (with Liebeault's case histories), it was immediately accepted
everywhere. As a matter of fact, in spite of Charcot's tremendous reputation and
early start with the Salpetriere School, nevertheless, more and more persons
swung to the Nancy way of thinking. Medical dispute continued throughout the
entire 19th century on into the early 20th century, each side claiming victories
in the explanation of hypnosis. Bernheim would merely ask the patient to look at
him, think of nothing but sleep, and then would tell the patient, "Your eyelids
begin to feel heavy, your eyes are tired and they begin to blink, they are
getting moist, your eyes cannot see distinctly, and they are closed." If the
patient did not close his eyes and fall asleep almost immediately as many did,
then he would repeat the process until success was assured. If the patients
never showed any signs of sleep or drowsiness, he would then assure them that
sleep was not essential and that hypnotic influence could be exerted without it.
Bernheim inspired hundreds of famous physician hypnotists such as Von Schrenk,
Noltzing, Babinski, and a great many others. Charles Richet was credited with
introducing the induction method of squeezing of the thumbs and the hands
Jean Martin Charcot
Jean Martin Charcot the famous French neurologist was born in 1825 and died in
1893. He was so well known in the Medical profession for so many varied
accomplishments, and his biography is so easily obtainable, that no detailed
study will be given of him here. He is probably the most famous physician to
embrace hypnotism at that time and, in addition to his work with Hypnotism was
known for Charcot's bath, disease, joint, syndrome, etc., as well as the
Charcot-Marie-Tooth type, and his work with progressive neuropathic muscular
atrophy well known to all medical students.
The Charcot-Weiss-Barber Syndrome (syndrome of the carotid sinus) and the
Charcot-Vigouroux sign are also both well known. Charcot had a number of
crystals named for him including the Charcot-Leyden crystals, the Charcot-Neuman
crystals and the Charcot-Robin crystals. Despite his great fame in the medical
field, he plunged into hypnotism without the usual careful research that had
attended his other works. Consequently, his reputation weakened when his
theories that hypnosis was a pathological state that weakened the mind were
later disapproved by the Nancy School of Medicine. As a matter of fact, when
Charcot died, Babinski denounced many of Charcot's cures, stating that some were
actually faked and some were figments of Charcot's imagination. This bitter
attack on Charcot from Babinski, more than any other thing, was responsible for
the decline of the use of hypnosis in France. This decline continued until
modern times with only a few experts such as Pierre Janet and Dr. Joseph Morlaas
using hypnosis until it was officially introduced to the French medical schools
in the fall of 1958.
Until Breuer's time, hypnosis had primarily been used for the alleviation of
pain in surgery, and according to Liebeault's method, the simple suggesting away
of symptoms. However, circa 1880, Breuer made an accidental discovery that
changed the methods of hypnotherapy. As a matter of fact, it not only changed
the methods of hypnotherapy, but actually introduced an entirely new art in
itself as it was Breuer's work which attracted Freud and led him into methods of
psychoanalysis which are so common to psychiatrists today.
In any case, Breuer had been treating a patient whom he called Anna O. The case
is a long and involved one, and is well known to all students of psychiatry.
During one portion of therapy, they found however, much to her distress, (and
Anna O. was a hysterical patient with many, many different problems) that she
could drink no water. In fact, no matter how intense her thirst became, she felt
it was a physical impossibility for her to swallow water. Thereupon, she
subsisted for a number of months on watery fruits and melons until, during a
hypnotic session, she revealed in a fit of anger, how to her great disgust, a
former governess had permitted a dog to drink water out of a glass in her
presence. As soon as she awoke from the trance she immediately asked Breuer for
a drink of water, emptying the glass with ease. This led Breuer to the
realization that the simple recalling of the traumatic experiences from the past
of the dog drinking the glass of water was responsible for removing the
symptoms. After coming to this conclusion, Breuer then attempted to associate
all of the patient's symptoms with traumatic experiences in the past. After
working with Anna O. for over a year, Breuer was able to remove her symptoms of
blindness, paralysis, deafness, the contracture of her right arm, her
anesthesia's, cough, trembling, and all of her other symptoms, merely by
repeated trances which revealed more and more of her previous experiences, which
contained damaging traumatic incidents.
As Wolberg states in his book, Medical Hypnosis, "The importance of Breuer's
work lies in the change of emphasis in hypnotic therapy, from the direct removal
of symptoms to the dealing with the apparent cause of these symptoms." Although
Janet simultaneously arrived at this conclusion, Breuer has been given credit
for the discovery.
Dr. Eugene Azam
Azam, a professor on the faculty of Medicine at Bordeaux, and a correspondent at
the Academy of Medicine in Paris, wrote a book on a case of splitting
consciousness in 1887. He described in detail the case of a young girl, named
Felita X., who first came to him during the month of June 1858. He perceived
many hypnotic phenomena in this patient, and made some psychological deductions
that bore out a good deal of Braid's conclusions. Professor Jean Martin Charcot
wrote the preface of the book, (supra) who highly praised Dr. Azam's work.
Translated from the French it said in effect:
Today, now that Hypnotism has arrived and is now the regular application of this
method of describing illness, which has finally taken place among the facts of
positive science, it would be unjust to forget the names of those who had the
courage to study this question a moment when it was under universal disapproval.
Dr. Azam has been one of the initiators; the first in France, he has searched to
control by his personal experience the results announced by Braid. The good
fortune of an unforeseen discovery, it is true, was favorable to him by placing
in his hand the subject's experience, which had spontaneously presented several
phenomena which were described by Braid. But, how many physicians who were
placed in Dr. Azam's position would have passed by these interesting facts
without stopping either by fear to be mistaken by a jugular hysteria, or by fear
that they would compromise their reputations by undertaking studies which have
been discredited, or simply by following the scientific laziness which deprives
us of the benefit of new things in modern development. The results of Dr. Azam
are not solely of historical interest; this analysis rediscovered the most
important part of somatic phenomena and psychiatric anesthesia, hyper-anesthesia
and contracture and catalepsy which we have learned since this year has produced
a great deal according to the rigorous determination by drawing our attention to
a special category of subjects. It is of interest to remark as a matter of fact,
that by the choice of subjects and by the nature of the phenomena produced, the
case histories of Dr. Azam belong to hysterical hypnosis. It is said that this
form of hypnosis first took place in science and only today has arrived. It
manifests symptoms so characteristic that the most skeptical person cannot now
doubt its existence. Therefore, we must invite our eminent colleagues to take
part in the success of the work to which he has contributed after we have listed
the research of Dr. Azam with those of the school of Salpetriere.
Azam went to great difficulty to remove the aura of mystery from hypnosis, and
was praised by Charcot because of this. Dr. Heinz Hammerschlag states in his
book, Hypnose und Verbrechen that the Azam studies in Bordeaux, while important,
were important primarily because these studies attracted the attention of
Liebeault who first succeeded in giving these researchers a new slant. He
endeavored to attribute the phenomena of hypnosis to the psychiatric influence
of suggestion rather than to the influence of magnetism, which had previously
been so popular in the days of Mesmer. How Charcot could continue to maintain
the ridiculous assertion that all hypnotic subjects were "hysterical" straight
to the face of Braid's research and then through the opposite side of his mouth
praise Dr. Azam for clarifying and reiterating Braid's conclusions is completely
To even begin to try to summarize the life and work of a genius is of course
impossible. Also, to pick out specific incidents in his life and in describing
these, expect one to understand the intricate working of the mind of Freud would
be as ridiculous as describing George Washington as "a boy who chopped down a
cherry tree." There have been hundreds of volumes written on Sigmund Freud,
possibly the most complete of which is The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud by
Ernest Jones (1879 - 1958) in three volumes. For a complete understanding of
Freud, this three-volume work surpasses all others, but such an undertaking
being beyond the scope of this work, we must be satisfied with a short summary
of Freud's connection with the development of hypnosis.
It was Breuer's work that attracted Freud and caused him to publish his famous
book co-authored with Breuer, Studien uber Hysterie, which was published in
1895. Breuer and Freud correctly concluded that hysterical symptoms developed as
a result of repressing damaging experiences and that if these damaging
experiences were once again released from the subconscious mind by a mental
catharsis, the hysterical symptoms would be eliminated. Breuer accomplished this
through the use of hypnosis, but Freud, a poor hypnotist, found that free
association coupled with psychoanalysis were vehicles by which he could better
accomplish his work. Parlour has pointed out that although Freud spurned formal
"hypnosis" he nevertheless used many hypnotic techniques constantly such as
"touching the patient's forehead," "the concentration of the patient's mind,"
"the relaxation of the body on a couch," and "the abundant use of the
imagination." This was largely overlooked during Freud's lifetime and attention
was given to Freud's words that did not always explain Freud's actions.
It was during this period that the greatest misconception regarding hypnosis
first gained a foothold, and which even now is still regretfully difficult to
dislodge in the minds of a number of learned medical men and hundreds of lay
persons. Because of Freud's denunciation of hypnosis in favor of psychoanalysis,
people began to associate hypnosis with "direct suggestions" (only one aspect of
hypnotism). Hence, the general public and lay people as well began to think in
terms of psychoanalysis versus direct suggestion. What was not sufficiently
explained was that the science and art of hypnotism contains both analysis and
suggestion and when correctly applied not only breaks the problem into its
component for analysis but puts the individual back together again with a
Synthesis. Conventional psychoanalysis, however, with its lack of directive
guidance, eliminates the latter entirely and renders the former slow, cumbersome
and often times ineffective. Nevertheless, because of Freud's great brilliance
and popularity, the words "free associations and "psychoanalysis" became the
passwords of the day, and hypnosis again took a nosedive into obscurity.
A few experts such as Pierre Janet of France, Bramwell and Moll of Great
Britain, Morton Prince and McDougall of the United States, and Pavlov in Russia
continued to use hypnotism. Most other neurologists (most mental disease was
approached from the standpoint of "neurology" in those days) immediately were
influenced by Freudian theory and methods.
Freud, himself was a fascinating man. He was born on the 6th of May in 1856, in
the Moravian town of Freiberg, a tiny, ancient industrial town that then
belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His mother, Amalia, to whom he had a
strong oedipal attachment, was 20 years younger than his father, Jacob. The
family moved to Vienna, where he spent his life. When Freud was four years old,
his father died in October 1896, and it profoundly affected Freud, which he
expressed in a letter to his close friend, Dr. Fliess.
The Freud family was Jewish, but Freud himself ignored Jewish feasts, and
instead celebrated Christmas and New Year because "it was easier." This would
seem a highly unusual behavior pattern from such a nonconformist, but as stated
above, Freud was actually a paradox who said some things and practiced others.
For one thing, he constantly maintained that he was a scientist of the first
quarter, seeking only truth first, last, and always. He continued to believe
until his death, Lamarch's theory that acquired traits could be inherited, which
no true scientist of that age believed any more than they still believed the
world was flat. Freud also dabbled in occultism and telepathy, and openly stated
his belief in it, although he never published such works. Freud was a great
believer in the magic of numbers, and his close friend, William Fliess, who was
mentioned previously, has stated that Freud believed that important things
happen to men in cycles of 23 to 28 days. He predicted his own death at age 61
or 62, and seemed quite dismayed after passing this age, and thereupon raised
his prediction to 85 1/2, the age at which his father and half-brother both
died. Freud's eldest son, Jean Martin Freud, who was named after Charcot, whom
Sigmund admired so much, published a relatively new book of Freud's home life as
a father and a man. Freud first met his wife in April of 1882, and fell in love
at first sight, although they were not married until after his one month of
service on maneuvers with the Austrian Army in 1886, when he was promoted from
First Lieutenant to Captain.
Freud practiced as a specialist in nervous diseases, and was a junior lecturer
at the University of Vienna when Jean Martin was born. He lived at Suenhaus,
facing Ringstrasze, but wrote many of his best books in naturalistic settings.
Interpretation of Dreams, probably one of Freud's most famous books, was written
at a Villa in Berchtesgaden, a beautiful resort high in the Bavarian mountains,
later to become infamous as the well-guarded retreat of Adolph Hitler.
Freud was always immaculately and carefully dressed, even during the last 17
years of his life in which he painfully suffered one operation after another for
the incurable cancers that beset him. Even after much of his mouth and palate
and jaw structure had been dissected away, and he was forced to wear a monstrous
prosthesis in order to close the opening between the nasal cavity and the throat
so that he could talk, he maintained his sense of humor. Weak and unable to
speak except in his native German (although previously he spoke both French and
English well), he once said to French singer Yvette Guilbert, "Meine Prosthese
Spricht Keine Franzosisch" (my prosthesis does not speak French).
Freud had a total of 33 operations in all, including a sterilization operation
which he hoped would in some way change the hormonal setup of his body and
prevent the cancer from spreading. He flew to England to escape Hitler in 1938,
and at 82 years old, while in London, he recovered sufficiently to do four
analysis treatments daily. Freud hated drugs and only took aspirin occasionally.
In February of 1939 his cancer finally caught up with him, being determined
inoperable and completely incurable at that time, and on September 21 of that
year, he asked his personal physician, Max Schur, for a sedative.
"It is only torture now, and it has no longer any sense," Freud said, and days
later, at the age of 83, he was dead. His daughter Anna, remained at his side
during his long protracted illness, and kept him comfortable. "Most important,"
says biographer Jones (who himself was perhaps the number one English speaking
psychoanalyst of his time), "is the increasing sense people have of being moved
by obscure forces within themselves, which they are unable to define. Few
thinking people nowadays would claim a complete knowledge of themselves or what
they are consciously aware of comprises the whole of their mentality, and this
recognition with all its formidable consequences for the future of social
organizations we owe above all to Freud. Man's chief enemy and danger is his own
unruly nature, and the dark forces pent up within him. If our race is lucky
enough to survive for another thousand years, the name of Sigmund Freud will be
remembered as that of the man who first ascertained the origin and nature of
those forces and pointed the way to achieving some measure of control over
Bramwell is best remembered for his classic text, Hypnotism, It's History,
Practice and Theory, which even to the present day remains one of the finest
books ever written on hypnotism. In his book, he states that his own first
introduction to the subject was indirectly due to Dr. James Esdaile, for Esdaile
left India and lived for sometime in Bramwell's native town of Perth. Many of
Esdaile's experiments were seen afterwards reproduced by Bramwell's father who
was also a physician. Bramwell witnessed many of these experiments as a boy, and
they deeply impressed him. He was an avid reader and student at Edinburgh when
Professor John Hughes Bennett again drew his attention to hypnotism.
After leaving Edinburgh, Bramwell became engaged in general practice, and
hypnosis was almost forgotten until he learned that it had been revived in the
wards of the Salpetriere. On March 28, 1890, he gave a demonstration of hypnotic
anesthesia to a larger gathering at Leeds. This was reported in the British
Medical Journal and the Lancet, and referrals of patients became so great that
he abandoned general practice and limited himself to the practice of hypnotism.
Bramwell was somehow able to avoid most of the great opposition and
misrepresentation that had been heaped on earlier physicians connected with the
science. Bramwell was probably most famous for his work in clinical hypnosis in
medicine and surgery. However, he also wrote on hypnotic theories, hypnosis in
animals, the management of hypnotic experiments, experimental phenomena of
hypnosis, and even on such occult subjects as spiritualism, clairvoyance, and
Moll, an English contemporary, is equally famous for his book on hypnosis.
Moll's book, copyrighted a few years before Bramwell's, was arranged a bit
differently and is noteworthy for its dissertation on the legal aspects of
hypnosis which Bramwell did not cover, but which is liberally quoted in an
earlier book of mine, Legal Aspects of Hypnosis, the first complete volume on
the subject ever written. Moll demonstrated how everyday suggestions differ from
hypnosis, and also gave the first reference to waking hypnosis. He anticipated
Erickson's studies of the post-hypnotic state, and also investigated the
relationship between hypnotist and the subject. His book has long been
considered one of the best possible introductions to the study of hypnosis and
was one of the first pieces of literature to objectively separate hypnosis from
the mystical elements which surround it.
Other Physicians of the Era
The first reported use of hypnosis utilized as an anesthetic occurred on April
12, 1829, when Jules Cleznet, a French surgeon, performed a breast
operation. The first reported uses of hypnosis in America were in 1843, one year
after Braid coined the term, in New York, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri by
Doane, Dugas and others. Crile's contribution to hypnotic literature
was that he recognized that even though a patient was "unconscious" during
inhalation anesthesia, that the greater part of his brain was still awake, and
nerve impulses could still reach the brain producing cerebral depression and
other undesirable manifestations. Dupuytren, the famous French surgeon
who is best known for his work on contractures, made the statement that "pain
kills like hemorrhage," and indeed many patients of that era of medicine
preferred death to extreme pain. William Kroger, a well-known
obstetrician hypnotist, reported the decline of the use of hypnoanesthesia
following the development of chemoanesthesia.
Contemporary scientists in the field
A new era of hypnosis began with World War I. The revival was primarily due to a
multiplicity of paralytic and amnesia cases with psychogenic origin, and the
fact that few psychiatrists were then available. From Great Britain came
Hadfield, who originated the term Hypnoanalysis, meaning the use of age
regression to uncover the damaging experiences and then reliving the experience
under hypnosis to produce mental catharsis. The advent of hypnosis in our time
brought forth many new experts including many stage hypnotists. Lewis R. Wolberg
M.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College,
wrote perhaps the most extensive treatise on medical hypnosis in two volumes,
which had been published in the U.S.A. In 1955 the British Medical Association
officially endorsed the teaching of hypnosis in all medical schools and the
organization of teaching groups and societies began. WILLIAM J. BRYAN JR. M.D.,
who became its first president, founded the American Institute of Hypnosis on
May 4, 1955. It was founded for the reason that until that time there had been
no educational body devoted exclusively to promoting all the phases of hypnosis
in medicine and dentistry, and the Institute was founded to fill that gap. It
has grown since that time to become the world's most respected educational
institution devoted solely to teaching hypnosis in medicine and dentistry to
physicians and dentists all over the world. Past Presidents of the organization
include the experts of that time, including Butters, Moss, Sloan, Bryan, Hedge,
Boswell, and McCall.
Easily the most famous contemporary dental hypnotist is Dr. H. Joshua Sloan D.
D. S., a past president and fellow of the American Institute of Hypnosis. He was
instrumental in establishing the first university course in hypnosis and taught
it for many years. Author of Introductory Information for Dentists in Hypnosis,
and Goals in Dentistry, he held many offices, including President of the Academy
of Applied Psychology in Dentistry and President of the American Institute of
Hypnosis. Best known for his research in polishing of various induction and
deepening techniques, and for his extensive work in the field of General
Semantics, he practices on Madison Avenue in New York City.
Aaron A. Moss, the third president of the American Institute of Hypnosis, is
most famous for his classical work Hypnosis in Dentistry, the most complete book
on the subject published to date [January 1963]. He was instrumental in filming
the first movie on the use of Hypnosis in Dentistry.
Dr. Garland Fross of South Bend, Indiana, Dr. Tom Wall of Seattle, Washington,
Dr. Jack Bart of Riverside and Beverly Hills, California, and Dr. Martin Cousins
of Los Angeles, California have all distinguished themselves in the field of
Hypnodontics. All of these men have participated in various courses given by the
Institute in the capacity of Faculty members and all are Fellows of the Society.
Dr. Fross, a legend in his own community and a full Commander in the Navy Dental
Corps has done much toward educating Naval Dental Officers and thousands of
civilian dentists regarding the ethical and proper place of Hypnosis in
Dentistry. He has written numerous articles and scientific papers on the subject
and has, with the approval of his county dental society, taken to the airways on
occasion to inform the public on the subject on the dental society's public
service radio program. Dr. Wall has repeatedly lectured on Hypnodontics at
various Universities and medical and dental gatherings as well as having written
a pamphlet explaining Dental Hypnosis to patients.
Dr. Jack Bart has lectured at as far distant points as Paris, France and
Honolulu, Hawaii on the subject of Dental Hypnosis and has been practicing it
during his entire dental career. Dr. Cousins is not only a member of the Faculty
of the American Institute of Hypnosis, but regularly conducts classes in
Hypnodontics for the Beverly Hills Hypnodontic Society and has taught both
physicians and dentists the proper techniques with regard to hypnoanesthesia. He
is a world-renowned authority on this subject especially as it applies to
Dr. Sydney Van Pelt
A history of hypnosis would not be complete without mentioning the foremost
expert in the field of medical hypnosis of our time. Dr. S. J. Van Pelt, an
Australian physician who established practice in London, England over 15 years
ago, was the world's first modern full-time medical hypnotist. Limiting his
practice to the use of hypnosis in medicine, Dr. Van Pelt built up an enviable
reputation at a time when the rest of the world was very suspicious of the new
modality. He became the first and lifetime president of the British Society of
Medical Hypnotism, and the Editor of the British Journal of Medical Hypnotism,
the oldest and most respected journal in the field still in publication. The
British Journal of Medical Hypnotism under his guidance from its inception has
lived even longer that Elliotson's Zoist and is now the world's undisputed
leader in its field. By means of the British Journal and the Journal of the
A.I.H., for which he has written a number of articles, the best of the
scientific literature on the subject of hypnotism is disseminated throughout the
English-speaking medical profession of the world. Dr. Van Pelt participated as
lecturer in the first international course in medical hypnotism ever given in
November 1959 aboard the M.S. Kungshohm on a Caribbean Cruise, and except for
myself, is still today the only other living full-time medical specialist in
hypnosis. He has written more books on hypnosis than any other four authors
combined if I am not utilized in the combination, and has so many articles on
the subject published that they are too numerous to count. If there is any one
man of our time who will ascend to greatness via medical hypnosis, it is
certainly Dr. S. J. Van Pelt, the foremost authority on the subject in the
Dave Elman was born May 6, 1900 in Park River, North Dakota and died on December
5, 1967. His interest in hypnosis was stimulated at an early age by his father
who was an accomplished hypnotist. When Dave was 8 years old he began to realize
the vast possibilities of hypnosis in the relief of pain. This occurred when his
father was dying of cancer and a family friend relieved the intractable pain
quite rapidly with hypnosis. This friend was a well-known hypnotist with an
enviable fame for performing outstanding feats. Young Dave never forgot how his
Dad was afforded relief not available from traditional medical procedures.
During the years 1923-1928, Dave worked for free on various radio networks in
the evenings and on holidays and weekends. In 1928, he got his first paying job
with radio station WHN. Soon after, he was hired by Columbia Broadcasting System
and worked on every major radio station in the metropolitan New York area, where
he became known as an idea man. He wrote, produced, directed and performed in
his own shows as well as others.
Many show people do charitable work and Dave was no exception. He would often
get a group of his friends together to put on a show for some worthy cause. In
1948, he arranged such a benefit and a few days before the show date was
informed that the group would not be back in town in time for the performance.
Elman was on the spot; it would be impossible to get another group together on
such short notice. What could he do? How could he entertain an audience for a
couple of hours? He hit on the idea of a hypnosis show, something he hadn't done
in years. The performance was a success and afterward he was approached by a
group of doctors who asked him to teach them what he knew about hypnosis.
Apparently, though they had taken courses, they had all tried it but failed.
Dave agreed to teach them and gave a course to a group of twenty physicians.
When that course was over, the doctors had another group of twenty waiting for
another course, and so it grew.
Dave was then faced with a difficult derision; he loved his work in radio, but
he wanted to teach hypnosis. It had to be one or the other. The rest is history.
He gave up radio for hypnosis and decided to teach only physicians and dentists
in the New York-New Jersey area. Before long, however, he was getting calls from
doctors all over the country asking him to come to their town and in many
instances they agreed to get groups together. That opened the door to his career
in teaching hypnosis all across the country.
At the students' request, Dave put his course on tapes and records and followed
up with his now famous book "Findings in Hypnosis." (Upon his death, Pauline
continued to handle the book for a while, then turned it over to Nash Publishers
who changed the name to "Explorations in Hypnosis." It is now titled
"Hypnotherapy" and is published by Westwood Publishers, Los Angeles.) The
doctors continued to refer to this material long after finishing the course and
they still do. Telephone calls from doctors everywhere seeking advice on
hypnosis soon became an everyday occurrence. Many of his students had taken
courses from their colleagues but they had not learned enough. As with today,
there were doctors in those days who felt that hypnosis should be their own
exclusive domain insisting that no "layman" could, or should teach doctors
anything- Dave Elman felt the sting of those ill-advised people. Nevertheless,
Dave continued to teach and continued to gain respect and admiration.
Excerpts from article titled "Dave Elman- The Man Behind the Legend" by Martin
Find Dave Elman's books and recordings HERE
Milton Erickson, M.D., is generally acknowledged to be the world's leading
practitioner of medical hypnosis. His writings on hypnosis are the authoritative
word on techniques of inducing trance, experimental work exploring the
possibilities and limits of the hypnotic experience, and investigations of the
nature of the relationship between hypnotist and subject.
Perhaps less well known is the fact that Dr. Erickson has a unique approach to
psychotherapy which represents a major innovation in therapeutic technique, For
many years he has been developing effective and practical methods of treatment
which may or may not involve the formal induction of trance. Those who think of
him largely as a hypnotherapist might be surprised that he lists himself in the
telephone directory as psychiatrist and family counselor.
For indepth covarage of Milton Erickson visit: