Monday, March 2, 2009

The Illustrated History of Hypnotism: From Franz Anton Mesmer to Milton H. Erickson

John C. Hughes
National Guild of Hypnotists, Inc. (2008)
ISBN 9781885846143
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (1/09)

Authority on the history of hypnotism, John C. Hughes captures the complete timeline from ancient times to the modern era in "The Illustrated History of Hypnotism."  Although Hughes' in-depth research takes the reader (and student) back when German doctor Franz Anton Mesmer, considered to be the first practitioner of hypnotism, discovered "animal magnetism" he does explain that trance states go back to the beginning of the human race. Since Mesmer's work was more accepted because of the scientific connotations the term "mesmerism" was used until James Braid, a Scottish surgeon, coined the term "hypnosis" over a hundred and fifty years ago. Also, concentrating on the father of hypnotism, Hughes details Mesmer's life and achievements.

Hypnotism, prevalent in Europe, was attempted to be introduced to America by Marquis de Lafayette just after the Revolutionary War. Immediately before sailing to America he wrote a letter to George Washington introducing Mesmer's discovery of animal magnetism and the promise to reveal the secret. However, after Lafayette arrived and was wined and dined by the Thirteen States, he didn't even mention it. At that time the notion of hypnotism dropped until the 1840s when Charles Poyen, a French missionary, brought it up again.  However, erroneous notions surrounded the art and didn't excel in America as proponents has expected.  It wasn't until after the Civil War that Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, a follower of Poyen, became a skillful hypnotist and during the six years (1860-1866) of his practice treated over twelve thousand persons.

From that time on, but not without struggle of acceptance, hypnotism for healing purposes excelled.  In 1976 Milton H. Erickson, well known as the American forerunner of hypnotism, received the newly created Benjamin Franklin Gold Metal Award for the highest level of achievement in the theory and practice of hypnotism. Hypnotism is widely used and accepted today for healing purposes by medical professionals as well as certified hypnotherapists. 

When the opportunity came up for me to review this book, I was elated.  Being a former certified practitioner of hypnotherapy I still have my interests in the modality and was pleased to re-visit the history. John C. Hughes is a master writer of history.  "The Illustrated History of Hypnotism" brings out his skills, not only as a writer of history but also as an authority in the field of hypnotism. Hughes' work is well researched, concise, and educational.   Every student and practitioner of hypnotism must consider adding this book to their library of resources, as well as every school that teaches this modality must add it to their curriculum.  I highly recommend this classic!