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The history of hypnosis, then, is really the history of this change in perception.In the 21st century, there are still those who see hypnosis as some form of occult power. On the one hand, a history of hypnosis is a bit like a history of breathing.

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.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”.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.These practices tend to be for magical or religious purposes, such as divination or communicating with gods and spirits.

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.

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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.

He was also fond of dressing up in a cloak and playing ethereal music on the glass harmonica whilst this was happening.

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.