Hypnosis in ancient civilizations

Hypnosis has been around for thousands of years, just not in the form we know it today. In ancient times, it played a key role in religious ceremonies and healing processes where shaman or a priest would use many different techniques to put a person in a trance like state, so it would seem that the priest has some supernatural powers. The techniques used to induce this specific state included rhythmic chanting, monotonous drum beats, together with strained fixations of the eyes.

The first known person to use this kind of therapy was Imhotep, an Egyptian priest who lived 4000 years ago. Imhotep built a pyramid, or a sleep temple, which he used as a psychotherapeutic tool for people who were looking for psychological help. According to Reeves, a Hypnoanalyst and Stress Management consultant “Under the influence of incantation and the performance of religious rituals, sick people were prepared psychologically for suggestion therapy; they were put in to a “hypnotic state”. Before falling asleep they were influenced by suggestions, in the hope of provoking dreams sent by the gods… Sleep Temples were and are used for the mentally ill, as a place where priests interpret the sick person’s dreams. Thus, by the use of suggestion, (and the help of the god) the priests appear to cast out bad spirits from the mind and body of the sick“.

The same thing was present in ancient Greece, where sleep temples were regarded as places of great mental and physical healing, places of spirits and mysterious powers. Temples were dedicated to the healing god Æsclepius who could perform miraculous cures in the dreams. In Greece, the trance like state was called the incubation and the person could be in that state for three days. During that time, the priests would use suggestion to help the person to make contact with the god in their dreams and in that way enable them to obtain the cure for their illness.

People who were searching for this kind of help were called the Seekers. “The Seeker did not just go in to the temple; they had to wait for the right time to come” (Reeves D., 2017). In order to gain permission to enter the temple, the Seeker had to learn and perform rituals of purification. His body, mind and soul had to be clean. “They would meditate, fast, take hot baths, and make a sacrifice to the god. They looked for signs in their dreams. When the signs and omens looked right and they had cleansed the body, mind and soul, only then were they allowed to enter the main part of the temple“ (Reeves D., 2017). In the main part of the temple was a large open floor area where the seekers could unroll their sacred skin, sleep and dream of god Æsclepius healing them. It was a good dream if the seeker dreamt of the god touching his wound and healing it. After that, person would wake up and the attendant would discuss and explore the dream with the seeker to secure the insights appropriate to that seeker at their stage of development. “The dreams of the seeker contained the seeds of their own healing. Through incubation, the seeker was to awaken to his real self and in so doing regenerate himself physically, mentally and spiritually“ (Reeves D., 2017).

The power of one’s mind and the ability of other to manipulate it is both dangerous and exciting to think about. Because of the mystery that surrounds it, this phenomenon will never stop to amaze us.




Accessed on April 23, 2017


Melvin S. Marsh is a practicing hypnotherapist in Augusta, Georgia.  He performs hypnotherapy appointments both in person and worldwide via Skype.  He can be reached at http://www.afterhourshypnotherapy.com or afterhourshypnotherapy @ gmail.com or call our receptionist at (678) 658-8483 to make an appointment.  Melvin loves history so please send him any fun history trivia about hypnosis!