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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.

On the other hand, it’s only in the last few decades that we’ve come to realise that!He was also fond of dressing up in a cloak and playing ethereal music on the glass harmonica whilst this was happening.The popular image of the hypnotist as a charismatic and mystical figure can be firmly dated to this time.Hypnosis itself hasn’t changed for millennia, but our understanding of it and our ability to control it has changed quite profoundly.The history of hypnosis, then, is really the history of this change in perception.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”.

This conundrum – does hypnosis have a real, physical basis, or not? Important shifts were happening elsewhere, however. First of all, the centre of hypnotic gravity moved from Europe to America, where all the most significant breakthroughs of the 20th century took place.

This was largely due to the work of therapists such as Milton H. More importantly, perhaps, hypnosis became increasingly practical, and regarded as a useful tool for easing psychological distress and bringing about profound change in a variety of situations. Advances in neurological science and brain imaging, together with the work of British psychologists Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell who linked hypnosis to the Rapid Eye Movement (REM), have also helped to resolve the “state/non-state” debate, bringing hypnosis and hypnotic trance firmly into the realm of everyday experience.

At the same time, the nature of “ordinary” consciousness is better understood as a series of trance states that we go into and out of all the time.

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.

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.