Persian magi and Greek oracles used trances and rituals similar to hypnosis that they called "temple sleep." As far back as 500 B.C., there were hundreds of temples throughout Greece and the Roman Empire with special rooms for "dream healing." Egyptian soothsayers and priests used imagery often centered on visions of improved health, and there are numerous references in the Bible that allude to hypnotic phenomenon. The ancient Hebrews used meditation accompanied by chanting, breathing exercises and fixation on letters of the Jewish alphabet.
Throughout the centuries, interest in hypnosis had its peaks and valleys. Franz Mesmer (1734-1815), an Austrian physician, is credited as being the inventor of modern hypnosis. His first work, "The Influence of the Planets on the Human Body," published in 1766, contained his theory of "animal magnetism" a powerful tool that could be used by one person on another. He held sessions, or séances, during which he supposedly magnetized patients and cured them. He was eventually denounced as a quack. However, his methods became known as "mesmerism," a term still in our vocabulary today.
In 1840, in England, James Braid studied animal magnetism and coined the term hypnosis. When he realized hypnosis was not a sleep state, he changed the name to monoideism, but his original term stuck. In the later part of the 1800s, Sigmund Freud investigated the use of hypnosis as a treatment modality in psychoanalysis, but later abandoned it.
Hypnosis dropped into obscurity until World War II, when dentists began using it with soldiers in combat situations. Interest accelerated and in 1955, the British Medical Association endorsed it as an acceptable modality of treatment. In 1957, the American Medical Association followed suit; in 1961, the AMA recommended that medical schools include hypnosis in their curricula. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis was founded in 1957 with 20 members; today it consists of over 4,000 physicians, psychologists and dentists who use hypnosis in their practices.