Artificial somnambulism

A peaceful, sleep-like trance induced by a hypnotist.
In 1784, the Society of Harmony, commissioned by the king of France to study animal magnetism, concluded that it isn't real and called Franz Mesmer (1734-1815), its chief advocate, a mystic and a fanatic. Mesmer, who truly believed in his magnetic therapy, was devastated, and he spent his remaining years living quietly. However, disciples of Mesmer, such as Marquis de Puységur (1751-1825), were unperturbed. Puységur continued to use and refine Mesmer's techniques. Mesmer had conducted therapy sessions in groups in a ritualistic manner. Persons sat in a tub, supposedly filled with magnetic water, and held onto iron rods. The ritual was designed to produce a "crisis" in persons, whereby they might scream, break into a cold sweat, and convulse. Many people reported being cured by Mesmer's therapy. Puységur found that magnetic therapy need not invoke such a crisis to be effective; he could produce equally good results by placing persons in a peaceful, sleep-like trance, which he called artificial somnambulism and which later came to be known as an hypnotic trance. Puységur ultimately discovered much of what is known today about hypnosis: persons are highly suggestible while in a trance; they remember very little afterwards (posthypnotic amnesia); and, upon wakening, they will perform acts suggested to them while they were in the trance (posthypnotic suggestion).
Further Reading:

Ellenberger, H. F. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious: The history and evolution of dynamic psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

Kirch, I., & Lynn, S. J. (1995). The altered state of hypnosis: changes in the theoretical landscape. American Psychologist. 50, 846-858.

Perry, C. (????). Key concepts in hypnosis [On-line] Available:

Wozniak, R. H. (2001). Trance and trauma: Functional nervous disorders and the subconscious mind [On-line] Available:

Related Terms:
Animal magnetism

Mesmer, Franz Anton (1734 - 1815)

Posthypnotic amnesia

Posthypnotic suggestion

Puységur, Marquis de (1751 - 1825)

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