Hypnosis has existed in the plant and animal kingdom in one form or another since time began. In hibernating animals 'turn inwards' and are able to exist for long periods of time without sustenance...
To learn more about Mesmer and the history of hypnosis, we recommend you click on From Mesmer to Freud, (the title is self explanatory) - for a very informative read!
No-one knows for certain when the practice of hypnosis originated but it is
known that ancient Egyptians used a form of it in their dream temples.
In the eighteen century an Austrian doctor named Franz Anton Mesmer found he could cure people of different diseases without medicine or surgery, and he believed he had a magnetic force which could regulate the flow of magnetic fluids in people to produce cure. In many cases his cures were successful and this method of healing came to be known as Mesmerism.
Mesmer treated very rich and very poor people. For the less well-off he 'magnetised' a tree from which hung ribbons or cords for his followers to hold and receive his magnetic therapy.
Another method he used was to fill a large tub with water, containing bottles of iron filings. Protruding out of the tub were iron rods which the common-folk held onto. Many of the patients had violent seizures or fell into deep sleeps which could cure many different kinds of ailments.
Mesmer became very famous in Paris at that time and the French government, at the suggestion of Marie Antoinette, offered him a life pension and enough money to set up a clinic. Because Mesmer refused to allow the government representatives to supervise the clinic a huge controversy raged and in 1784 the King of France appointed a Commission to investigate mesmerism.
The report concluded that animal magnetism and the magnetic field were figments of the imagination and Mesmer's practices and theories were regarded as worthless. The fact that many people had been cured of their ailments seemed of no consequence.
In the middle of the 19th century a Scottish doctor named James Braid published a book called Neurhypnology or the Study of Nervous Sleep. He invented the word neurhypnosis from which the word hypnosis originated.