Egyptian Sleep Temples And Dream Temple Therapy

The Beginnings Of Hypnosis In Ancient Times

 Author - Chris Anderon April 27 2023

A Brief History

Did you know that over 4000 years ago, Imhotep, yes, the very one who gained Hollywood stardom as the evil baddy in the movie 'The Mummy'

was one of the good guys who influenced what some consider to be an early form of hypnosis when during the Greco-Roman times, people would flock to his temples in Memphis and on the island of Philae on the Nile River known as Sleep or Dream Temples. After arriving at these healing sanctuaries, people who were sick, called seekers experiencing physical or psychological symptoms, would seek remedies for their ailments through their dreams. The person seeking help would undergo rituals and incantations to prepare them for a hypnotic state, given suggestions to induce dreams believed to be sent by the gods. After entering a trance-like sleep, the person's dreams interpreted by the priest or priestesses to determine a cure. Meditation, prayer and bathing were also part of the process, involving relaxation techniques which provided the recipient with an opportunity for introspection and to restore energy to mind and body.

Imhotep (/ɪmˈhoʊtɛp/; Ancient Egyptian: ỉỉ-m-ḥtp "(the one who) comes in peace"; was highly revered, serving as Chancellor to the Pharaoh Djoser and possible architect of Djoser's step pyramid and High Priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis. Interestingly, he is the only Egyptian mortal. Besides Amenhotep, to attain the honour of total deification. Imhotep is held in high esteem among physicians of today and the ancient Greeks during his lifetime.

The Greeks – Healing Dreams 

In Ancient Greece, sleep temples were renowned centres for healing called Asclepieions and structures built in honour of the Greek god of medicine, Asclepios. The idea of healing a person through their dreams and that a dreamer could unconsciously detect signs of illness that the conscious mind was unaware of comes from the Ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle. The Greeks believed that a person's dreams were powerful and considered a message from the unconscious, a warning of impending sickness within the body, so they followed a special sleep ritual to induce good dreams. The process used in ancient Greece sleep temples for healing was called incubation. The patient would first undergo a purification ceremony, then be led to a chamber to spend the night filled with snakes, a symbol dedicated to the healing god, Asclepius. If fortunate, the patient would receive a dream from Hypnos, the god of sleep, which would then be interpreted by a therapute, an early version of a therapist, who would make a diagnosis.

The Romans borrowed the idea of sleep healing from the Greeks and Hypnos, the god and personification of sleep in Greek mythology.

Above: Hypnos, God of Sleep.

Hypnos lived in a cave in the Underworld with no light cast by the Sun or the Moon. The earth in front of the cave was said to be full of poppies and other sleep-inducing plants. The river of forgetfulness flowed through the cave.


During the 18th century, Dr Franz Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician, discovered that he could treat people without medical intervention by inducing a hypnotic state through eye fixation. He attributed the success of these "cures" to a magnetic force that regulated the flow of fluids through channels in the body, which became known as Mesmerism.

Mesmer's followers believed in his magnetic therapy, but in 1784, King Louis XVI of France appointed a commission of medical doctors to investigate Mesmer's claims. The commission concluded that animal magnetism and the magnetic field had no value.

James Braid

The term "Hypnosis" was coined by a Scottish doctor named James Braid in the mid-19th century. Known as the "father of modern hypnosis," Braid conducted experiments with hypnotic techniques and concluded that the state induced by them resembled sleep. As a result, he named it after Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep and dreams. Braid also invented the word "neurhypnosis," the term from which the name hypnosis derived.

Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault

Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault (1823-1904) was a little-known French physician who worked with Hippolyte Bernheim, a professor of medicine in Strasbourg, who concluded, that hypnosis does not involve any physical forces or physiological processes. Instead, it is a combination of psychologically mediated responses to suggestions.

Ambroise established a practice at the age of 26 in the village of Pont Saint Vincent, near the town of Nancy, and made many advances in the field of hypnosis and hypnotherapy to go on and co-found the Nancy School of Hypnosis.

Sigmund Freud

During his visit to France, Austrian physician Sigmund Freud was highly impressed by the therapeutic uses of hypnosis for treating neurotic disorders. On return to Vienna, he used hypnosis to help neurotics recall disturbing events that they had forgotten.

Freud had a lisp. And because of his false teeth, which did not fit very well, a result of his gums rotting out with cocaine usage, meant he could not speak very well and could not induce trance effectively. Freud was also in competition with another hypnotherapist locally named Brewer, who was excellent. Because of Freud's speech challenges, he discarded the use of hypnosis. Freud publicly shared that hypnosis volatile when one of his patients in a trance jumped up and kissed him. So instead, he put his focus on his now-famous talking therapy cure to become the founder of Psychoanalysis.

The 1900s had notable Hypnotists such as Milton Erickson, George Esterbrook, and Dave Elhman.

Milton Erickson (1901-1980) was a renowned American psychiatrist and psychologist. His speciality was medical hypnosis and family therapy. He saw around 10-20 patients daily for over 60 years. Richard Bandler and John Grinder closely observed Erickson and the founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). They studied his techniques and incorporated many of the principles of Ericksonian hypnosis into NLP.

Erickson's unique hypnotic approach became known as "Ericksonian Hypnosis," which involved inducing a trance during a conversation. Milton utilized the patient's environment and bodily responses to facilitate therapy. For instance, he employed the sound of a distant bell chiming clock to induce a trance-like state in his patients. Erickson would instruct them to focus on every chime and let it enhance and deepen their trance. In addition, he would advise them to relax by blinking their eyes while focusing on the natural sensation of closing their eyelids. He was a master of indirect suggestions, often using them in his lectures and books. An Ericksonian hypnotist would be more likely to say, "You can comfortably learn how to go into a trance..." providing an opportunity for the subject to accept the suggestions they are most comfortable with, at their own pace, and with an awareness of the benefits.

According to an American study in Functional Changes in Brain Activity Review by the Psychological Association (APA) Division 30, hypnosis is a state of consciousness where one is focused and less aware of their surroundings. It can enhance a person's response to suggestions and provide a new perspective on reality. Hypnosis was seen as effective in various fields and can affect a person biologically, cognitively, and socially. During hypnosis, a person's consciousness is in the background, while their unconsciousness is more accessible. Neutral hypnosis involves relaxation and reduced perception of peripheral stimuli. Additionally, hypnosis can increase activation in the visual centre. Functional Changes in Brain Activity Using Hypnosis: A Systemic Review, accessed 27 April 2023,

Hypnosis has been used for centuries as a therapy and continues to be effective in promoting mental health and physical well-being. It can be learned as a standalone practice or integrated with NLP training. And continues to be used in the effective treatment of:

◦  Relaxation
◦ The easing of pain in childbirth
◦ Removing phobias
◦ Quitting smoking
◦ The treatment of headaches
◦ Better concentration and study techniques

Hypnosis has also been used successfully as an anaesthesia during dental and medical procedures.

Through hypnosis and hypnotherapy, you can unlock your inner potential and improve your ability to concentrate and focus. By achieving a state of deep relaxation and heightened awareness, you can experience a sense of profound tranquillity and calmness. A hypnotherapist guides you through this process using verbal repetition and mental imagery, allowing you to tap into the power of your mind and achieve your goals with greater ease.