Mesmer believed in the healing power of magnetism. This was by no means a  new concept. The idea that the magnet possesses magical properties has been around since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, probably before, and there are those who still believe in it’s healing power today.
Mesmer was no ordinary physician. He was undoubtedly a showman. Not for him the one to one counsel of the consulting room, he conducted his healing practice en mass - seance style. A contemporary account tells us that the afflicted would be shown into  a dimly lit room. Suitably quiet, atmospheric music would be playing on a clavichord or other such keyboard instrument while his patients would be seated around what Mesmer called his ‘Baquet’, awaiting the arrival of the ‘master’. The "Baquet" was a large wooden tub filled with iron filings, powdered glass and ‘magnetic water’ and with magnetic rods protruding through holes in it’s top. All in all it would surely  have presented an impressive picture but no more so than that presented by Mesmer himself who made his entrance dressed in a flowing, silk robe and carrying a long iron wand. His patients were asked to grasp the magnetic rods in the Baquet whilst Mesmer touched them with his wand. Reactions varied considerably. Some remained unaffected, whilst others began coughing and spitting. Some fainted onto the floor and others experienced a feeling of insects crawling over their bodies. These reactions, Mesmer said, indicated that the patients had entered what he referred to as their ‘crisis’ which in so doing signified that a cure was imminent.
Rather surprisingly perhaps, Mesmer achieved good results and his notoriety spread, bringing his  methods to the attention of members of the more orthodox medical profession who travelled from across Europe to witness his ‘miracles’ and to learn more. Mesmer was not always successful. Some of his patients were unaffected whilst others received only temporary relief from their ailments. Eventually he dispensed with the Baquet in favour of his own ‘animal magnetism’ which he would disperse through touch. So was born ‘Mesmerism’. In reality what he was practising was nothing more than the placebo effect. Presumably because he often cured where more orthodox methods, such as the application of leeches, had failed, he aroused much antagonism within his profession and in1784 a Commission of Enquiry was set up to investigate his alleged powers. The commission concluded that neither Mesmer, his personal magnetism, his iron filings, his powdered glass or his magnetic water had any healing properties whatsoever, the only power at work during his treatment, it concluded, was the power of his patients’ imagination - the aforementioned placebo effect. Mesmer was branded a charlatan, faded into obscurity, and Mesmerism found it’s way into the carnival where it was adapted as a form of entertainment..
It was in this setting, in 1841, that Dr James Braid, a Scottish surgeon working in Manchester, witnessed a performance given by La Fontaine, a Swiss mesmerist, and thought that the process might have a medical application. It was he who coined the words ‘Hypnotism’ and ‘Hypnosis’ which he derived from the name of the ancient Greek God of sleep - Hypnos. In retrospect this was a very bad word. Even Braid tried unsuccessfully to change this name when he eventually discovered that sleep and hypnotic sleep, hypnotic sleep being purely an imagined sleep, were two entirely different things but unfortunately the name stuck, carrying with it entirely wrong connotations which still survive to this day. Braid continued to experiment with hypnotism and in 1842 submitted a paper on the subject to the British Association for the Advancement of Science. His paper was rejected as being quite ridiculous but in spite of this initial failure he is today regarded as the father of hypnotherapy.
Today, anyone, with or without training or knowledge may set up in business as a hypnotherapist. Similarly, anyone, with or without training or knowledge may set up in business as a teacher of hypnotism. Contrary to public opinion there is no such thing as a person medically qualified in the practice of hypnosis. Letters appearing after therapists’ names DO NOT, as is implied, signify that the person possesses a recognised certificate of competence or qualifications in the practise of hypnosis as a medical procedure. They indicate only that he/she is either a member of an association of similarly unqualified practitioners or is operating a franchise.
In view of this one might conclude there may exist a vested interest in discrediting Hypnotism used as an entertainment.
Even in this day and age there are still those who view hypnotism as evil - something akin to black magic and devil worship in the middle ages. Whilst others see it as something so psychologically complex it’s practice might best be confined to Harley Street professors with goatee beards and east European accents, still more believe it to be just so much hocus pocus.  So what is the truth? What is it all about?
Although there is some evidence to suggest that what we now call hypnotism dates back to the ancient Egyptians the accepted founding father of the craft in more recent times is Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 -1815) a rather controversial physician who practised in Vienna and Paris.