History of hypnosis

History of hypnosis

This article is about the development of concepts, beliefs and practices related to hypnosis from prehistoric to modern times.

Early history

Although often viewed as one continuous history, it is important to note that hypnosis per se did not exist as a term prior to the 19th century (see Braid below). Hence it is never clear what is referred to when we speak of "hypnosis" prior to that time. So-called historical instances may not be the same as what we mean when we refer to the word hypnosis today.

leep temples

Hypnotism as a tool for health seems to have originated with the Hindus of ancient India who often took their sick to sleep temples to be cured by hypnotic suggestion as also found to be the case in ancient Egypt and Greece. Hypnotic-like inductions were used to place the individual in a sleep-like state, although it is now accepted that hypnosis is different from sleep.


Avicenna (980-1037), a Persian psychologist and physician, was the earliest to make a distinction between sleep and hypnosis. In "The Book of Healing", which he published in 1027, he referred to hypnosis in Arabic as "al-Wahm al-Amil", stating that one could create conditions in another person so that he/she accepts the reality of hypnosis. [Citation |first=Amber |last=Haque |year=2004 |title=Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists |journal=Journal of Religion and Health |volume=43 |issue=4 |pages=357-377 [365] ]



Paracelsus (1493-1541), a Swiss, was the first physician to use magnets in his work. Many people claimed to have been healed after he had passed magnets (lodestones) over their bodies.

Valentine Greatrakes

An Irishman by the name of Valentine Greatrakes (1628-1666) was known as "the Great Irish Stroker" for his ability to heal people by laying his hands on them and passing magnets over their bodies.

Johann Joseph Gassner

Johann Joseph Gassner (1727-1779), a Catholic priest of the time, believed that disease was caused by evil spirits and could be exorcised by incantations and prayer.

Father Maximilian Hell

Around 1771, a Viennese Jesuit named Maximilian Hell (1720-1792) was using magnets to heal by applying steel plates to the naked body. One of Father Hell's students was a young medical doctor from Vienna named Franz Anton Mesmer.

Franz Anton Mesmer

Western scientists first became involved in hypnosis around 1770, when Dr. Franz Mesmer (1734-1815), a physician from Austria, started investigating an effect he called "animal magnetism" or "mesmerism" (the latter name still remaining popular today).

The use of the (conventional) English term "animal magnetism" to translate Mesmer's magnétisme animal is extremely misleading for three reasons:
* Mesmer chose his term to clearly distinguish his variant of "magnetic" force from those which were referred to, at that time, as "mineral magnetism", "cosmic magnetism" and "planetary magnetism".
* Mesmer felt that this particular force/power only resided in the bodies of humans and animals.
* Mesmer chose the word "animal", for its root meaning (from latin "animus" = "breath") specifically to identify his force/power as a quality that belonged to all creatures with breath; viz., the animate beings: humans and animals.

Mesmer developed his own theory and inspired himself also to the writings of the English physician Richard Mead. Mesmer found that, after opening a patient's vein and letting the patient bleed for a while, by passing magnets over the wound would make the bleeding stop. Mesmer also discovered that using a stick instead would also make the bleeding stop.

After moving to Paris and becoming popular with the French aristocracy for his magnetic cures, the medical community challenged him. The French king put together a Board of Inquiry that included chemist Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and a medical doctor who was an expert in pain control named Joseph Ignace Guillotin. Mesmer refused to cooperate with the investigation and this fell to his disciple Dr d'Eslon. Franklin constructed an experiment in which a blindfolded patient was shown to respond as much to a non-prepared tree as to one that had been "magnetised" by d'Eslon. This is considered to be perhaps the first placebo-controlled trial of a therapy ever conducted. The commission later declared that Mesmerism worked by the action of the imagination. [H.F. Ellenberger, "The Discovery of the Unconscious", Basic Books, 1980.]

Although Mesmerism remained popular and "magnetic therapies" are still advertised as a form of "alternative medicine" even today, Mesmer himself retired to Switzerland in obscurity, where he died in 1815.

Abbé Faria

Many of the original mesmerists were signatories to the first declarations proclaiming the French revolution in 1789. Far from being surprising, this was almost to be expected, in that mesmerism had opened up the prospect that the social order was in some sense suggested and could be overturned. Magnetism was neglected or forgotten during the Revolution and the Empire.

An Indo-Portuguese priest, Abbé Faria, revived public attention to animal magnetism. In the early 19th century, Abbé Faria introduced oriental hypnosis to Paris. Faria came from India and gave exhibitions in 1814 and 1815 without manipulations or the use of Mesmer's baquet.

Unlike Mesmer, Faria claimed that it 'generated from within the mind’ by the power of expectancy and cooperation of the patient. Faria's approach was significantly extended by the clinical and theoretical work of Hippolyte Bernheim and Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault of the Nancy School. Faria's theoretical position, and the subsequent experiences of those in the Nancy School made significant contributions to the later autosuggestion techniques of Émile Coué and the autogenic training techniques of Johannes Heinrich Schultz.

Marquis de Puységur

A student of Mesmer, Marquis de Puységur, first described and coined the term for "somnambulism."

Followers of Puységur called themselves "Experimentalists" and believed in the Paracelsus-Mesmer fluidism theory.

Récamier and Reichenbach

Récamier, in 1821, was the first physician known to have used hypnoanesthesia and operated on patients under mesmeric coma.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Carl Reichenbach began experiments to find any scientific validity to "mesmeric" energy, which he termed Odic force. Although his conclusions were quickly rejected in the scientific community, they did undermine Mesmer's claims of mind control.

Mesmerism in its later guise of hypnotism contained a clear implication that many saints might be hysterics, leading the Roman Catholic Church to ban hypnotism until the mid-20th century.

Medical research

James Braid

The evolution of Mesmer's ideas and practices led the Scottish neurosurgeon James Braid in 1842 to coin the term, and develop the procedure known as, "hypnosis."

Popularly called the "Father of Modern Hypnotism," Braid rejected Mesmer's idea that hypnosis was induced by magnetism, and ascribed the "mesmeric trance" to a physiological process resulting from prolonged attention to a bright moving object or similar object of fixation. He postulated that "protracted ocular fixation" fatigued certain parts of the brain and caused a trance—a "nervous sleep" or, from the Greek, "neuro-hypnosis."

Later Braid simplified the name to "hypnosis" (from the Greek "hypnos", "sleep"). Finally, realizing that "hypnosis" was "not" a kind of sleep, he sought to change the name to "monoideism" ("single-idea-ism"), but the term "hypnosis" had stuck.

Braid tried hypnotism to treat various psychological and physical disorders. He had little success, especially with "organic" (that is, "physical," or non-psychological) conditions. Other physicians claimed better results, particularly in using hypnosis for pain control. An 1842 report described a painless amputation performed on a hypnotized patient. This was widely dismissed, and there was strong resistance in the medical profession to the idea of hypnosis; but there followed other reports of success.

Braid is credited with writing the first book on hypnosis, "Neurypnology" (1843).

John Elliotson

Dr. John Elliotson (1791-1868), an English surgeon, in 1834 reported numerous painless surgical operations that had been performed using mesmerism.

James Esdaile

Dr. James Esdaile (1805-1859) reported on 345 major operations performed using mesmeric sleep as the sole anesthetic in British India. The development of chemical anesthetics soon saw the replacement of hypnotism in this role.

The deaths of Braid and Esdaile curbed the interest in hypnotism. Experimentation was revived into the 1880s, mainly in continental Europe, where new translations of Braid's work were circulated.

Psychological studies

Jean-Martin Charcot

The neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) endorsed hypnotism for the treatment of hysteria. "La méthode numérique"("The numerical method") led to a number of systematic experimental examinations of hypnosis in France, Germany, and Switzerland. The process of post-hypnotic suggestion was first described in this period. Extraordinary improvements in sensory acuity and memory were reported under hypnosis.

From the 1880s the examination of hypnosis passed from surgical doctors to mental health professionals. Charcot had led the way and his study was continued by his pupil, Pierre Janet. Janet described the theory of "dissociation", the splitting of mental aspects under hypnosis (or hysteria) so skills and memory could be made inaccessible or recovered. Janet provoked interest in the subconscious and laid the framework for reintegration therapy for dissociated personalities.

Holy See

Objections had been raised by some theologians stating that, if not applied properly, hypnosis could deprive a person of their faculty of reason. Saint Thomas Aquinas specifically rebutted this, stating that "The loss of reason is not a sin in itself but only by reason of the act by which one is deprived of the use of reason. If the act that deprives one of his use of reason is licit in itself and is done for a just cause, there is no sin; if no just cause is present, it must be considered a venial sin."

On July 28, 1847, a decree from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy office (Roman Curia) declared that "Having removed all misconception, foretelling of the future, explicit or implicit invocation of the devil, the use of animal magnetism (Hypnosis) is indeed merely an act of making use of physical media that are otherwise licit and hence it is not morally forbidden, provided it does not tend toward an illicit end or toward anything depraved."

American Civil War

Hypnosis was used by field doctors in the American Civil War and was the first extensive medical application of hypnosis. Although hypnosis seemed to be very effective in the fieldFact|date=February 2007, with the introduction of the hypodermic needle and the general chemical anesthetics of ether in 1846 and chloroform in 1847 to America, it was much easier for the war's medical community to use chemical anesthesia than hypnosis.

Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault

Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault (1864-1904), the founder of the Nancy School, first wrote of the necessity for cooperation between the hypnotizer and the participant, for "rapport". Along with Bernheim, he emphasized the importance of suggestibility.

First International Congress, 1889

The First International Congress for Experimental and Therapeutic Hypnotism was held in Paris, France, on August 8-12, 1889. Attendees included Jean-Martin Charcot, Hippolyte Bernheim, Sigmund Freud and Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault. The second congress was held on August 12-16, 1900.

British Medical Association, 1892

The Annual Meeting of the BMA, in 1892, unanimously endorsed the therapeutic use of hypnosis and rejects the theory of Mesmerism (animal magnetism). Even though the BMA recognized the validity of hypnosis, Medical Schools and Universities largely ignored the subject.

Boris Sidis

Boris Sidis (1867-1923), a Ukraine-born American psychologist and psychiatrist who studied under William James at Harvard University, formulated this law of suggestion:

:Suggestibility varies as the amount of disaggregation, and inversely as the unification of consciousness. Disaggregation refers to the split between the normal waking consciousness and the subconscious.

Emile Coué

Emile Coué (1857-1926), a French pharmacist, popularized the following laws of suggestion:

:;The Law of Concentrated Attention : Whenever attention is concentrated on an idea over and over again, it spontaneously tends to realize itself.:; The Law of Reversed Effect : The harder one tries to do something, the less chance one has of success.:; The Law of Dominant Effect : A strong emotion/suggestion tends to replace a weaker one.

Johannes Schultz

The German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz adapted the theories of Abbe Faria and Emile Coué and identifying certain parallels to techniques in yoga and meditation. He called his system of self-hypnosis Autogenic training.

Modern applications

Crowd psychology

Gustave Le Bon's study of crowd psychology compared the effects of a leader of a group to hypnosis. Le Bon made use of the suggestibility concept.


Hypnosis, which at the end of the 19th century had became a popular phenomenon, in particular due to Charcot's public hypnotism sessions, was crucial in the invention of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, a student of Charcot. Freud later witnessed a small number of the experiments of Liébeault and Hippolyte Bernheim in Nancy. Back in Vienna he developed abreaction therapy using hypnosis with Josef Breuer. When Sigmund Freud discounted its use in psychiatry, in the first half of the last century, stage hypnotists kept it alive more than physicians.

Platanov and Pavlov

Russian medicine has had extensive experience with obstetric hypnosis. Platanov, in the 1920s, became well known for his hypno-obstetric successes. Impressed by this approach, Stalin later set up a nationwide program headed by Velvoski, who originally combined hypnosis with Pavlov techniques but eventually used the latter almost exclusively. Ferdinand Lamaze, having visited Russia, brought back to France "childbirth without pain through the psychological method," which in turn showed more reflexologic than hypnotic inspiration.

20th-century wars

The use of hypnosis in the treatment of neuroses flourished in World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Hypnosis techniques were merged with psychiatry and was especially useful in the treatment of what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

William McDougall (1871-1944), an English psychologist, treated soldiers with "shell shock".

Clark Hull

The modern study of hypnotism is usually considered to have begun in the 1930s with Clark Leonard Hull (1884-1952) at Yale University. An experimental psychologist, his work "Hypnosis and Suggestibility" (1933) was a rigorous study of the phenomenon, using statistical and experimental analysis. Hull's studies emphatically demonstrated once and for all that hypnosis had no connection with sleep ("hypnosis is not sleep, … it has no special relationship to sleep, and the whole concept of sleep when applied to hypnosis obscures the situation").

The main result of Hull's study was to rein in the extravagant claims of hypnotists, especially regarding extraordinary improvements in cognition or the senses under hypnosis. Hull's experiments did show the reality of some classical phenomena such as hypnotic anaesthesia and post-hypnotic amnesia. Hypnosis could also induce moderate increases in certain physical capacities and change the threshold of sensory stimulation; attenuation effects could be especially dramatic.

Andrew Salter

In the 1940s, Andrew Salter (1914-1996) introduced to American therapy the Pavlovian method of contradicting, opposing, and attacking beliefs. In the conditioned reflex, he has found what he saw as the essence of hypnosis. He thus gave a rebirth to hypnotism by combining it with classical conditioning. Ivan Pavlov had himself induced an altered state in pigeons, that he referred to as "Cortical Inhibition", which some later theorists believe to be some form of hypnotic state.

British Hypnotism Act

In Britain, in 1952, a Hypnotism Act was instituted to regulate stage hypnotists' public entertainments.

British Medical Association, 1955

On April 23, 1955, the British Medical Association (BMA) approved the use of hypnosis in the areas of psychoneuroses and hypnoanesthesia in pain management in childbirth and surgery. At this time, the BMA also advised all physicians and medical students to receive fundamental training in hypnosis.

1956, Pope's approval of hypnosis

Later, in 1956, Pope Pius XII gave his approval of hypnosis. He stated that the use of hypnosis by health care professionals for diagnosis and treatment is permitted. In an address from the Vatican on hypnosis in childbirth, the Pope gave these guidelines:
# Hypnotism is a serious matter, and not something to be dabbled in.
# In its scientific use, the precautions dictated by both science and morality are to be followed.
# Under the aspect of anaesthesia, it is governed by the same principles as other forms of anaesthesia.

American Medical Association, 1958

In 1958, the American Medical Association approved a report on the medical uses of hypnosis. It encouraged research on hypnosis although pointing out that some aspects of hypnosis are unknown and controversial.

American Psychological Association

Two years after AMA approval, the American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis as a branch of psychology.

U.S.A.Definition for Hypnotherapist

The U.S. (Department of Labor) Directory of Occupational Titles (D.O.T. 079.157.010) supplies the following definition:

"Hypnotherapist -- Induces hypnotic state in client to increase motivation or alter behavior pattern through hypnosis. Consults with client to determine the nature of problem. Prepares client to enter hypnotic states by explaining how hypnosis works and what client will experience. Tests subject to determine degrees of physical and emotional suggestibility. Induces hypnotic state in client using individualized methods and techniques of hypnosis based on interpretation of test results and analysis of client's problem. May train client in self-hypnosis conditioning

UK National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Hypnotherapy 2002

National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Hypnotherapy was published in 2002 by Skills for Health, the Government's Sector Skills Council for the UK health industry.The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority started conferring optional certificates and diplomas in international level through National Awarding Bodies by assessing learning outcomes of training /accrediting prior experiential learning

Indian Restriction

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, vide its letter no.R.14015/25/96-U&H(R) (Pt.) dated 25th November, 2003, has very categorically stated that hypnotherapy is a recognized mode of therapy in India to be practiced by only appropriately trained Personnel.

Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.University- 4 star) at Vadodara is conducting one year Post Graduate Diploma Course in Clinical Applied Hypnosis (P.G.D.C.A.H.) from 2000. (http://www.msubaroda.ac.in/departmentinfo.php?ffac_code=3&fdept_code=4) Various Indian universities have included clinical hypnosis as a syllabus subject in their graduate, post-graduate, pre-doctoral courses of psychology, journalism, nursing and yoga.

Code for commercial advertising on Doordarshan and All India Radio states that“No advertisement should contain any offer to diagnose or treat complaints or conditions by hypnosis"

Recent innovators

Ernest Hilgard and others

Studies continued after the Second World War. Barber, Hilgard, Orne and Sarbin also produced substantial studies.

In 1961, Ernest Hilgard and André Weitzenhoffer created the Stanford scales, a standardized scale for susceptibility to hypnosis, and properly examined susceptibility across age-groups and sex.

Hilgard went on to study sensory deception (1965) and induced anesthesia and analgesia (1975).

Milton Erickson

Milton Erickson (1901-1980) developed many ideas and techniques in hypnosis that were very different from what was commonly practiced. His style, commonly referred to as Ericksonian Hypnosis, has greatly influenced many modern schools of hypnosis.

Harry Arons

In 1967, Harry Arons, a self-taught professional hypnotist, wrote a textbook, "Hypnosis in Criminal Investigation", dedicated to the application of hypnosis in the judicial system. Chapters include such applications such as memory, age regression, induction techniques and confabulation. Arons also traveled the country training law enforcement agencies. His teaching created national acceptance in the legal community and increased positive awareness to the practice of hypnosis for trial applications.

Arons is best known today for introducing a scale that is used for measuring the 'depth' of trance in hypnosis, called the Arons scale, which recognizes six levels of trance depth::1.Hypnoidal:2.Light trance:3.Medium trance:4.Profound trance:5.Somnambulism:6.Profound Somnambulism

Dave Elman

Dave Elman (1900-1967) was one of the pioneers of the medical use of hypnosis. Elman's definition of hypnosis is still widely used today among many professional hypnotherapists. Although Elman had no medical training, he is known for having trained the most physicians and psychotherapists in America, in the use of hypnotism.

He is also known for introducing rapid inductions to the field of hypnotism. One method of induction which he introduced more than fifty years ago, is still one of the favored inductions used by many of today's masters.

He placed great stress on what he termed "the Esdaile state" or the "hypnotic coma", which, according to Elman, had not been deliberately induced since Scottish surgeon James Esdaile last attained it. This was an unfortunate and historically inaccurate choice of terminology on Elman's part. Esdaile never used what we now call "hypnosis" even on a single occasion; he always used "mesmerism" (also known as "animal magnetism").

According to his book "Hypnotherapy" (Westwood, 1964), Elman was able to guide a subject into the state within minutes, and taught his students to do the same. According to Elman's supporters, such a deep state of hypnosis had not been seen for a century.Fact|date=February 2007

Ormond McGill

Ormond McGill (1913-2005), stage hypnotist and hypnotherapist, was the "Dean of American Hypnotists"Fact|date=February 2007 and writer of the seminal "Encyclopedia of Genuine Stage Hypnotism" (1947). McGill died on October 19, 2005.

John Cerbone

John Cerbone was a close associate of Ormond McGill, and is best known for his work in the area of instant inductions, referred to as speedtrance. His work draws on the six methods of inducing trance (boredom, confusion, loss of equilibrium, eye fixation, misdirection, shock and overload) in a unique technique that produces instant induction in 3-7 seconds. These techniques not only have been adapted to stage hypnosis, but trauma resolution, crisis counseling and managing anxious clients in clinical settings. Richard Nongard has been a collaborator in developing these methods with Cerbone.

John Kappas

John Kappas (1925-2004), author of the "Professional Hypnotism Manual" (1975) and founder of the first nationally accredited school of hypnotherapy in the U.S,Fact|date=February 2007 literallyFact|date=February 2007 defined the profession of hypnotherapyFact|date=February 2007 when he founded the Hypnotherapists Union.Fact|date=February 2007 AFL/CIO and authored the definition of Hypnotherapist in the Federal Dictionary of Occupational Titles #079.157.010.Fact|date=February 2007

Peter Reveen

Peter Reveen, Peter J. Reveen is a stage hypnotist and illusionist who performs mainly in Canada Originally from Australia, he came to Canada early in the 1960s where he enjoyed greater success. He does not use his first name professionally; he promotes himself as simply Reveen, "the Impossiblist". He is one of the founding members of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, CA and in 1987 wrote the book The Superconscious World. In 2000 he won the DRAGON Award, an annual award given to magicians who excel in Drama, Romance, Artistry, Glamour, Originality and Necromancy.

ee also

* Hypnosis
* Hypnosis in popular culture


External links

* [http://www.imdha.com The International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association]
* [http://www.iact.org The International Association of Counselors and Therapists]
* [http://www.hypnobusters.com/articles/historyofhypnosis.html History of Hypnosis]
* [http://www.hypnosis-research.org/hypnosis/index.html/American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, Resources for Research and Teaching: Hypnosis and Related States Research Database]
* [http://www.foia.cia.gov/browse_docs_full.asp?doc_no=0001108329&title=MEMO+TO+CHIEF%2C+CONTACT+DIVISION+FROM+%28DELETED%29++RE+USING+HYPNOTISM+BEING+USED+T&abstract=&no_pages=0002&pub_date=3%2F4%2F1952&release_date=7%2F29%2F2004&keywords=MKULTRA&case_no=undefined&copyright=undefined&release_dec=undefined&classification=undefined&showPage=0001] Freedom of Information Act memo to CIA on Projects Bluebird and MKULTRA describing the CIA's use of hypnotism to alter human personalities and beliefs and covertly control human subjects
* [http://www.systemsthinker.com/writingscreative/essays/rosenberghypnosispaper.shtml History of Hypnosis in Medicine and Psychiatry]
* [http://www.trancestates.com/stop.php Stop Smoking with Hypnosis]
* [http://russianhypnosis.com/hypnosis.php History of Hypnosis (in Russian)]

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