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Nevertheless, the stubborn fact remained that hypnosis worked, and the 19th Century is characterised by individuals seeking to understand and apply its effects.
Surgeons and physicians like John Elliotson and James Esdaille pioneered its use in the medical field, risking their reputation to do so, whilst researchers like James Braid began to peel away the obscuring layers of mesmerism, revealing the physical and biological truths at the heart of the phenomenon.
On the one hand, a history of hypnosis is a bit like a history of breathing.
Like breathing, hypnosis is an inherent and universal trait, shared and experienced by all human beings since the dawn of time.
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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”.Mesmer was the first to propose a rational basis for the effects of hypnosis.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.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).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.