Website all my own work. It has some 500,000 words and many links to check. If you find mistakes I would be pleased to know.
Biographies of some Hypnotherapists
This is just a small collection of pieces I have written on people who have contributed in one way or another to the science of hypnotism. They are as follows:
Franz (Friedrich) Anton Mesmer (1734-1815)
Mesmer is often seen as the earliest hypnotist. But although his work led to hypnosis I see it as different because his practice and the theory of "animal magnetism" he used, makes his work more in line with those therapies which use a lot of physical contact to release or transfer some form of hypothetical vital force.
James Braid (1795-1860)
To my mind Braid truly deserves the title of Father of Hypnosis. He not only gave us the name but also the first scientific ideas on what it involves.
Ambrose August Liébeault (1823-1904)
Practising as a country doctor in France, near Nancy, Liébeault is in some ways the French equivalent of Braid in that he worked extensively by himself and published a thick book on his ideas. For him the key ideas are "attention" and "sleep".
Milton H. Erickson (1902 -1980)
Arguably the greatest hypnotherapist of the twentieth century. He has been a great influence on me and most others in this latter half of the century. He did not promote any theory of the work, but he has stimulated many others to think about how he achieved what he did.
Peter Casson (1921-1995)
This biography is included because I knew Peter slightly. He is an example of one of the men who, in the years after the war, bridged the gap between stage hypnotism and hypnotherapy. I suspect that without such men the field would not have gained the popularity it now has.
Dylan Morgan (1946- )
A brief outline of my working life if you want to know a bit about me.
JAMES BRAID is one of the giants in the history of Hypnosis. He was born in 1795 in Fife, studied medicine at Edinburgh, and settled as a surgeon in Manchester, where he died on 25th March 1860.
He became interested in Mesmerism as a result of watching a demonstration by Lafontaine (1803-1892), whose personality and exhibitions were very similar to those of a Stage Hypnotist of the present day. Lafontaine came from a theatrical family, was very self-confident and would demonstrate the more dramatic Hypnotic phenomena on a particularly susceptible member of the audience or a "good" Subject he had brought with him. Braid's personality was quite opposite. He was calm, rational and well-balanced. After watching the demonstration in November 1841 he began to experiment for himself, and was soon demonstrating and lecturing and encouraging open discussion and criticism. He was attacked on both flanks. On the one hand the Mesmerists were naturally incensed at his undermining of the belief in some magnetic power they possessed. On the other there were the average men and women who were incredulous of the effects of Hypnosis and believed that some trickery was involved. Braid must have worked very hard, as must his publisher and printers, because his extensive book Neurypnology was published little more than two years after he first watched the demonstration.
His primary technique was to get the Subject to focus on a small bright object held very close (20cm - 40cm away from the eyes) in a position which strained the eyes and eyelids. This would generally lead to a spontaneous closing of the eyes, with a vibration of the eyelids. This response could be encouraged by moving two fingers of the right hand towards the eyes. The details appear in Braid's Induction.
He did not develop a detailed theory of Hypnotism other than to regard it as involving processes which could either depress or "prodigiously enhance" the activity of the nerves. He gave us the words "hypnotism", "hypnotise", "hypnotist", etc. He also used the concept of a hypnotic state, which is being avoided in this book.
Since Braid did not found a school, his influence waned after his death and the centre of Hypnosis moved to France in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, his book continued to be influential.
Peter Casson - Master Hypnotist
(Although Peter does not perhaps rank with highest of the great names whose biographies are given on this site, these details of his life may well be of interest. They are copies of two articles written about him, the first in 1995 while he was still alive, and the second after he died. - Dylan Morgan)
PETER CASSON, now 73 years old, is a long standing member of the National Council of Psychotherapists, with well over half a century of experience of hypnosis. He has seen, and contributed substantially to, the change that has taken place in our field since the second world war, and this article describes something of his life and work.
Peter was born in 1921, and grew up in that period between the wars where international interest in hypnotic phenomena was at a low ebb after the great wave of interest in scientific circles which peaked at around the turn of the century.
He first became interested in the subject on hearing about it at a Psychology class run by Mr. Baggott, a lecturer in Psychology at Hull University College, and was soon reading widely and experimenting on his friends.
But it was when he joined the Royal Marines as a Telecommunications Specialist and Radar Engineer that his ability won real recognition. Tales of his skill at hypnotising fellow recruits soon spread and his first stage show was at the Sergeants Mess at his Portsmouth Barracks at the special request of the Colour Sergeant.
It was during the war, also, that Peter's life-long interest in the therapeutic uses of hypnosis began, working with severely shell-shocked casualties in Egypt at the request of local doctors.
Since that time these two sides of Peter's life have continued hand in hand. On the one side he went on after the war to become at first the only, and later simply the best, stage demonstrator of hypnotic phenomena in the country, and by so doing planting in the mind of the nation the reality of hypnosis. There are those who decry stage performances, but it is well to remember that hypnosis is only accepted as a fact and not a fantasy by millions of people as a result of shows by Peter and people like him.
On the therapeutic side, Peter was soon making contact with medical men who had an interest in hypnosis - very few in those days - such as Dr. Sir Alexander Cannon K.G.C.B., M.D., D.P.M., M.A., F.R.G.S., F.R.S.A., author of The Science of Hypnotism.
In 1950 he was invited to give the Annual Lecture at the Hunterian Society, the oldest and most prestigious medical society in the world. He is the only lay man ever to have been so invited.
He has found that the academic establishment in the USA is more enthusiastic about hypnosis that it is in this country, and he has spent time teaching and working on a research project at the Wake Forest University Medical School, North Carolina, at the invitation of James Toole, the professor of Neurology.
The research work provided direct confirmation of the extent to which the hypnotist can selectively activate given areas of the brain. At the Medical School at Wake Forest University they have a machine - a Regional Cerebral Blood Flow Measurement machine - which makes it possible to detect the exact regions of the brain which are, at any one time, being most infused by blood.
Peter was able to demonstrate that hypnosis was able first to eliminate a great deal of the spurious activity which is generally taking place in the brain, and then, with this calm condition as a base line, he was able to activate, by suggestion, a particular region of the brain at will. For example at the suggestion of flashing lights, that system of the brain which deals with "looking" would become active, demonstrating the totally real neurological correlate of the subjective experience.
Peter has also used his skills in a therapeutic context in his own clinics in London and Yorkshire throughout the greater part of his professional life, working three weeks in them for every one on the stage.
It is unfortunate that he has not had the time to write down more about his skills and experiences, as I am sure that there is a great deal that he could teach us. But I will pass on the fruit of one idea of his. We are all aware of clients who report past lives. but how many of you are aware that it is possible to get people to report with equal conviction about the future? I have only had occasion to do this once, but Peter has done it many times, and found that no consistent picture of the future emerges from such accounts.
Over his lifetime Peter has seen hypnosis burgeon from a condition in which there were no more than a handful of people in the country who were using it in any way. (The only member I know with comparable experience is Mizra Hamid who has been in uninterrupted practice in Leeds since 1947, but I am sure that we will be told of any more.) Today there are thousands of lay hypnotherapists and perhaps hundreds of stage and pub performers who are following along the trail blazed by Peter Casson.
A Haiku by Peter Casson.
(The Haiku is a Japanese form of poem written in seventeen syllables - usually arranged in a 5-7-5 pattern. Contemplating a haiku reveals a deeper truth within its simple statements. - DM)
If your eyebrows meet
They say it will mean deceit.
And so I shaved mine.
Reprinted from The Journal of the National Council for Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapy Register, Summer 94.
Obituary: Peter Casson
THE RECENT DEATH on 24 October of Peter Casson, one of our members, will bring sadness to many. He was a man who lived life to the full and brought out the same in others around him.
Many details of his life and work will be found in the article above. Here we will simply remember the service that he did our profession in the postwar years when it was in its infancy. On the one hand his Hypnosis shows did much to persuade the public of the reality of Hypnosis, and on the other hand his clinical work, undertaken when his income from entertainment was astronomic by the standards of the average Hypnotherapist, helped to underline the serious and helpful aspects of Hypnosis. In addition he did much to persuade a sceptical medical profession of the value of Hypnosis in therapy. These seeds that he planted, starting from the early postwar years, are bearing fruit today and will continue to do so into the next century.
Peter was born in Bridlington, a seaside resort in Yorkshire, on 13 December 1921. In the war he served in the Royal Marines, where he began to develop his skills in Hypnosis. (There were no courses in those days!) He did so well that he was performing at the London Palladium in 1946, before many of us were born! This was also the venue of his acclaimed final performance in 1991, at the age of 70.
The last years of his life were limited by illness, but even then he was as active as possible, and worked to establish the Federation of Ethical Stage Hypnotists in an attempt to ensure that the career to which he devoted his life will continue to maintain the high moral standards that he always adhered to in his stage shows.
I only met Peter once, for an afternoon, about a year ago at the house of a common friend - Peter Davies. We talked of many things but the picture I am left with is a simple one, but may capture some of the essence of the inner man, and balance that of the world-famous performer. He is sitting in an easy chair in a relaxed way. On his lap is a cat which is purring up into his face in ecstasy. Peter is looking down and his hand is stroking the cat with a touch full of awareness, and there is a sense of an unspoken communion and empathy. There was a deep peace in the scene, and the mutual love of man and cat was radiant.
Though this has nothing of the glamour of the public man, it may yet tell us more about what we also need to do our job well: an innocent humility, a lively awareness of what we are doing, a deep ability to relate to other beings and, above all, a love for them.
Reprinted from The Journal of the National Council for Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapy Register, Winter 95.
Milton H. EricksonMILTON H. ERICKSON (1902 -1980) has done more than any other individual this century to change the way in which Hypnotherapy is practised.
As a boy he suffered from polio so severely that a doctor once predicted imminent death. He overheard this and his annoyance with the doctor seems to have helped him to survive the episode, though he remained physically weakened for much of his life, and had to spend periods of time in a wheelchair. The determination which was thus revealed in childhood drove him to gain degrees in medicine and psychology; he then became a psychiatrist, working first in a number of institutions and later as a professor of psychiatry. He was a fellow of many international professional bodies and was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis.
From 1948 he settled in a modest house in Phoenix, Arizona, where he practised privately. In later years, as his fame spread, more and more of his time was taken up with lectures and seminars on his approaches to Hypnotherapy and psychotherapy.
He had a strong, flexible and clever mind, grounded in a deep and unshakable common sense. His personality was healthy: there were none of the obsessional or neurotic qualities that many of the founders of schools of psychotherapy seem to have displayed.
Key words which describe the qualities he brought to Hypnotherapy are informality, flexibility, holistic and non-dogmatic.
He was informal. He did not clothe himself with an aura of authority or of mystery as some Hypnotists had tended to; neither did he use fixed induction routines. Sessions could often seem superficially to consist of little stories and jokes and down-to-earth advice blended into a life-changing whole.
He was flexible. There is little sign of his using the same detailed approach twice. He would always adapt his approach to the particular Client and his or her personality, experience, age, capacities and social and physical environment, and use whatever means lay to hand to facilitate any changes.
He was holistic. He did not focus attention purely on what was going on in the Client's mind and memory, but was very much aware of whatever existed in the Client's life outside the consulting-room and made active use of it as part of the process of change.
He was non-dogmatic. Consistent with his general flexibility, he never seems to have propounded any dogmatic basis for his approaches. He taught by example, by analogies and metaphors and by condensed accounts of various cases. He never propounded any overall theory.
Some good books which will introduce the newcomer to Erickson's work are Rosen (1982)Bib, which is a lovely collection of teaching stories, and Haley (1973) Bib which, by detailing extensive cases, balances the picture. The more experienced reader may wish to begin with a recent summary of all his cases written by O'Hanlon & Hexum (1990) Bib (which has a bibliography of all the important sources), or Erickson's complete papers (Rossi (1980)Bib).
Ambrose August Liébeault (1823-1904)
Liébeault became interested in mesmerism when he was a medical student in Strasbourg. After qualifying as a doctor in 1850 he went to live near Nancy in France and experimented extensively with various techniques, publishing his large book Du sommeil et des états analogue in 1864, twenty-one years after Braid's book on hypnosis.
As the title of the book suggests Liébeault was one of those who saw analogies betwen sleep and hypnosis, and his approach would normally include frim suggestions of sleep. The main elements that he seems to have included in his inductions were:
Once the patient was in what he regarded as a suitable state he would proceed with affirmations of improvement of the condition of his patient. This was sometimes accompanied by stroking or rubbing the affected area.
Liébeault developed quite an extensive theory of what he was doing, based on the principle concept of attention which he seems to identify with a "nervous force". Thus when we pay attention to some part of the body he would think of a nervous force flowing towards it and increasing its activity. Conversely if there was a comparative lack of attention to a part of the body the flow of this force would be reduced and the activity of the part depressed. This approach seems to show the influence of mesmeric ideas which involve the idea of a sort of fluid of animal magnetism.
The apparent contradiction between the key idea of attention and his central use of ideas of sleep seems to be reconciled by supposing that in sleep the attention is removed from its normal channels and is therfore the more available for direction by the hypnotist.
If we strip away the metaphor or idea of a "force" acting rather like a fluid then we are left with something which is in effect the statement that by focussing the attention of a person we can affect the level of activity of a corresponding part. Or, more precisely, by narrowing mental activity (attention) we produce corresponding changes in an associated physical system.
There is a pleasing word picture of Liébeault which we have:
- Delboeuf (1889). Le magnetisme animal: à propos d'une visite à l'école de Nancy. Paris, F. Alcon.
For the greater part of his life he remained a unknown country doctor, but was then taken up by Bernheim and in the last twelve years of his life became quite famous and something of a Grand Old Man of hypnosis revered in the Nancy school.
FRANZ (formerly FRIEDRICH) ANTON MESMER was born on 23rd May 1734, near Lake Constance, on what is now the German side. He received a good and varied education, which ended with a medical qualification at the age of 32. His dissertation was on the influence of heavenly bodies on people's health, which he supposed to be by means of "animal gravity".
At the age of 40 he became interested in the effects of magnets on the body and believed that he had discovered an entirely new principle of healing involving "animal magnetism". This "animal magnetism" that he used was different from physical magnetism in that he believed that he could "magnetise" paper, glass, dogs and all manner of other substances.
His cure of Maria Theresa Paradis, mentioned in Chapter 11 of The Principles , occurred when he was 43, but the repercussions of this affair made it necessary to move from Vienna to Paris, which was to be the scene of his greatest fame. There he met ready acceptance from the populace but an equally strong scepticism from the medical profession, who attributed the effects he produced to the imagination of the patients rather than to his supposed new force.
There were so many poor people coming for treatment that he had to resort to methods which could help many at once. He first designed a magnetic baquet, a wooden tub nearly five feet across, and one foot deep, filled with water, patterns of bottles and iron filings. Out of this tub projected iron rods which were held by the patients. Later he "magnetised" a tree, so that patients could be healed by holding ropes hanging from its branches. The most noticeable effect of these devices was to induce a "crisis": convulsions.
His prime supporter in Paris was a doctor, D'Eslon, who was to be struck off the register for his pains. In time, however, their ways were to part when Mesmer became annoyed by D'Eslon practising independently. After the attack by the Royal Commission into Mesmerism, and the continuing opposition of the medical profession, Mesmer chose another means to promote his ideas and support himself. This was by setting up an organisation - the Society of Honour - which consisted of a clinic, a teaching establishment and a register of qualified members who had received his training, and who paid for the privilege. In time, as is the nature of these things, there arose a division in this organisation also, when other members disagreed with Mesmer.
He finally left Paris at the age of 54, and after some years settled back near Lake Constance where he had been born. Here he seems to have led a quiet and contented life, doing a little medicine, playing his glass armonica, (invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, and not harmonica, I am corrected and informed by Megan Tay) and remaining detached from the outside world until his death on 15th March 1815, at the age of 85. He never changed his views on animal magnetism but did return to the Catholic Church from which he had lapsed for most of his life.
For more about what Mesmer believed go to What Mesmer BelievedAddendum: I had the following query regarding the baquet and append a fuller description:
Dear Dylan Morgan, I would like to ask a question of you. Can you please explain what 'baquet' refers to in your article about Mesmer? My psychology professor, in his lecture regarding a very brief history of hypnotism, alluded to this word but admitted that he did not know what it meant. So out of curiosity on my part, I decided to do a net search and came up with your site. I hope you don't mind the intrusion. - Betty Galloway. Austin Texas USA The baquet was "an oaken tub specially designed to store and transmit magnetic fluid. The tub, some four or five feet in diameter and one foot in depth, had a lid constructed in two pieces. At the bottom of the tub, arranged in concentric circles, were bottles, some empty and pointing towards the center, some containing magnetized water and pointing out towards the circumference. There were several layers of such rows. The tub was filled with water to which iron filings and powdered glass were added. Iron rods emerging through holes in the tub's lid were bent at right angles so that the ends of the rods could be placed against the afflicted areas of the patient's body. A number of patients could use the baquet at one time. They were encouraged to augment the magnetic fluid by holding hands, thus creating a circuit." - "From Mesmer to Freud" by Adam Crabtree, Yale University, (1993) pp. 13-14.
I am aware that to place my biography here is to keep exalted company. But I am at the bottom!
I was born in 1946 in Burnley, Lancs., educated at a Welsh-speaking primary school in Cwmdare, and Aberdare Boys Grammar school, in South Wales. From there I went to Jesus College Oxford on a scholarship to read Mathematics. After getting a first class honours degree I went on to do a doctorate in Elementary Particle Theory in the Oxford University Mathematics Department.This remains a hobby of mine. Here is a paper I have written.
I married Trudi Yates in 1969, became a father to Gwendoline in 1981 and a grandfather to William Taylor in 2006.
From 1970 I was doing research in the Mathematics Department of Dundee University. My first project was on the noise generated by high speed jet engines, and the next was on the noise generated by high speed helicopter rotors. For period in between I was a Senior Scientific Officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment.
I got my first taste of helping people with the Samaritans in Dundee Then, in 1983, following in my father-in-law's footsteps, I thought I would give hypnotherapy a go as a means of helping people full-time, a plan that also fitted in with my domestic situation at the time.
There was little training available in those days and I am self-taught in practice, though I am good at getting information from the written word. One advantage of the self-taught path is that I had to work out for myself a theory of what I was doing, and this has borne fruit in my book The Principles of Hypnotherapy which you can read on this site. It is arguable the only complete theory of hypnosis and hypnotherapy available. A good practical introduction is Hypnosis for Beginners.
I do NOT run a teaching organisation, though for a few years I helped Dr. Peter Davies, Head of Leeds University Psychology Department to run courses on Hypnosis for qualified Doctors, Dentists etc.
For four years 1983-1987 I was editor of the Journal of the National Council of Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapy Register.
By nature I am fairly easy-going; like and am fascinated by people in all their variety; love solving problems of all kinds - especially of course those brought to me by clients. I have no great taste for the things that money can buy, and enjoy such things as gentle country walks, cycling, playing chess and making chess boards and writing down the thoughts that come to me as I work for others to read and use.
Pronunciation: for foreign and English readers.
My name is of Welsh origin and is pronounced differently in Welsh and in English. In English it sounds like Dill-un Maw-gun but in Welsh it sounds like Dull-an Morr-gan.
Peter Casson - Master Hypnotist
Milton H. Erickson
Ambrose August Liébeault