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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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Secondly, hypnosis became a popular phenomenon, something that was increasingly available to the layman, outside of the laboratory or clinic.

At the same time, the style of hypnosis changed, from a direct instruction issued by an authoritarian figure (a legacy of the charismatic mesmerist) to a more indirect and permissive style of trance induction, based on subtly persuasive language patterns.

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.

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”.

Last modified 03-Oct-2015 04:53