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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.Mesmer was also the first to develop a consistent method for hypnosis, which was passed on to and developed by his followers. Mesmer himself, for instance, liked to perform mass inductions by having his patients linked together by a rope, along which his “animal magnetism” could pass.
Before heading into the jungle for I'm A Celebrity... , the 29-year-old actor told Woman's Day that he felt pressured when he originally made his promise of abstaining from sex, after being thrust into the spotlight when he came third on Australian Idol in 2006.The work of Franz Mesmer, amongst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.Mesmer was the first to propose a rational basis for the effects of hypnosis.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.It’s important to remember, however, that what we see as occultism was the scientific establishment of its day, with exactly the same purpose as modern science – curing human ills and increasing knowledge.
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).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!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.Recorded history is full of tantalising glimpses of rituals and practices that look very much like hypnosis from a modern perspective, from the “healing passes” of the Hindu Vedas to magical texts from ancient Egypt.