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The history hypnosis and the medicinal practice


In the middle of the 1800's, three doctors, Elliston, Esdaile and Braid used hypnosis in their medical practice. Both Elliston and Esdaile performed many surgeries with only hypnosis anesthesia.



John Elliotson

John Elliotson (1791-1868) invented the stethoscope and developed methods of examining the heart and lungs that are still in use today. He developed the first journal of hypnotism "Zoist" in 1846. He had his problems the medical establishment of his day because he was discharged from the University College Hospital for choosing hypnosis as the subject for the Harveian Oration of 1846. Over the years, he wrote of his success using hypnosis with such problems as insanity, epilepsy, stammering, asthma, headaches, rheumatism, tics, lumbago, palsy, inflammations of the eyes and testicles, painless operations and other human problems. [William J. Bryan, Jr, A History of Hypnosis, from the internet]


Mesmerism in India by James Esdaile, M.D.

Dr. James Esdaile (1808-1859) probably performed more surgical operations under hypnoanesthesia than any physician even to this day. Esdaile performed many surgeries in India using mesmeric passes. He returned to Europe and moved to Scotland. His most famous work was Mesmerism in India. Those who opposed him said that those who had operations were just pretending not to hurt. He took out grapefruit size tumors, did amputations, and many other surgically procedures using hypnosis. It has been reported that the mortality rate of major surgery was about 50%. "In 161 cases operated on by Esdaile (using hypnotic techniques), mortality dropped to 5% and in none of the fatal cases was death an immediate outcome of surgery." [Pattie p31] They died later as a result of infections.

Esdaile wrote that (1) Hypnosis is a natural God-given method of healing. (2) The power produced by the unconscious mind of one under hypnosis is similar both in quality, character and degree with the power of the Creator. (3) All men have within them special power given by God - the power of hypnosis - to direct their movement and provide for themselves. [Morton, p78] Both Dr. Elliston and Dr. Esdaile were condemned by their fellow doctors for their use of hypnosis. At Dr. Esdaile's trial, a doctor claimed that Esdaile's use of hypnosis as an anesthesia was sacrilegious because God meant for people to feel pain. [Leslie LeCron, Complete Guide to Hypnosis, New York, Harper and Row, 1971, p13]


Dr. James Braid

A less controversial person, Dr. James Braid (1795-1860) decided that the induction methods of the Mesmerist produced hypnosis only because the subject expected it to happen. Dr. Braid proposed that it was suggestion which caused the trance and not the manner or the power of the hypnotist. Braid practiced inductions through verbal suggestions and eye fixation. He found this very successful and coined the words "hypnosis" and "hypnotism" from the Greek word meaning "sleep". When he later discovered that hypnosis was not sleep, he tried to change the word to "monoideism". He explained that hypnosis was like sleep but only in appearance. The word "hypnosis" stuck and is used to this day. James braid wrote the following books on hypnosis: The Rationale of Nervous Sleep Considered in Relation to Animal Magnetism, 1843 and The Power of the Mind over Body, 1846.

James Braid pointed out that (1) hypnosis is a powerful tool. (2) Although hypnotism was capable of curing many diseases for which there had formally been no remedy, it nevertheless was no panacea and was only a medical tool which should be with other medical information, drugs, remedies etc. in order to properly treat the patient. (3) In skilled hands there is no danger associated with hypnotic treatment and neither was there pain or discomfort. (4) A good deal more study and research would be necessary to thoroughly understand a number of theoretical concepts regarding hypnosis. These points were very appropriate in the middle 1800s for there was limited knowledge concerning hypnosis at the time. [William J. Bryan, Jr, A History of Hypnosis, from the Internet]


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Compiled by the writtings of Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D.