Like breathing, hypnosis is an inherent and universal trait, shared and experienced by all human beings since the dawn of time.On the other hand, it’s only in the last few decades that we’ve come to realise that!

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In the 21st century, there are still those who see hypnosis as some form of occult power.

Those who believe that hypnosis can be used to perform miracles or control minds are, of course, simply sharing the consensus view that prevailed for centuries.

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On the one hand, a history of hypnosis is a bit like a history of breathing.

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.

Nevertheless, the stubborn fact remained that hypnosis worked, and the 19th Century is characterised by individuals seeking to understand and apply its effects.

Hypnosis itself hasn’t changed for millennia, but our understanding of it and our ability to control it has changed quite profoundly.

The history of hypnosis, then, is really the history of this change in perception.

This trend continued into the 20th Century, although in some ways, hypnosis became imprisoned by its own respectability, as it became mired in endless academic debate about “state” or “non-state”.

This conundrum – does hypnosis have a real, physical basis, or not? Important shifts were happening elsewhere, however. First of all, the centre of hypnotic gravity moved from Europe to America, where all the most significant breakthroughs of the 20th century took place.

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.