Story of Hypnotism

Robin Waterfield. Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis. Macmillan, 2002.

Robin Waterfield traces the history of hypnosis from Mesmer onwards, and presents his own views on this often controversial subject. Much of his attention is spent on the Victorian period, when hypnosis emerged from its background in theories about magnetism, to its modern interpretations in terms of suggestion. He also traces the contrasts with reality the presentation of hypnosis in fiction.

Various topics likely to be of interest to Magonia readers are touched upon, such as the so called 'higher phenomena' (the alleged parapsychological powers of hypnotised subjects which were all the rage in the earlier periods}, hypnotic age regression and past-lives memories, hidden memories, alien abduction stories, and tales of 'Manchurian candidates' etc. Waterfield is generally sceptical of such claims, though willing to suspend disbelief in the first if fresh evidence comes along.

In the debate over the nature of hypnosis, Waterfield generally comes down on the side of those who argue that it is a special state of consciousness, as against though who interpret in terms of absorption and role playing.

Though this book is perhaps not entirely critical enough in places, and occasionally can read like a catalogue, it makes a useful introduction to the subject for those who don't want to wade through academic tomes.   -- Peter Rogerson 

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