For a long time I've been talking and writing about the healing temples of Ancient Greece and Rome, about how they are early examples of profound hypnotic healing. The last time I talked about them in one of our classes, one woman grew very excited and said, "I've been there! They still exist in Epidaurus, Greece. They're in ruins now, but they do hypnosis in remaining parts of the temples, and the stories about them are truly amazing!" Her enthusiasm was infectious, and she brought a book the next day with photographs and stories about the early temples. Something about them transfixes me and a number of other people, and I'd like to share some of this knowledge with you. If you've heard or read what I've said before about the temples, stay tuned. There's more. The ancient paragons of healing have been our inspiring ancestors in the great work.
A little background: There was an extraordinary order of priest-physicians around 1200 to 1000 BC in Greece and Rome. Their great leader was Aesclepius, and their accomplishments were miraculous. When Aesclepius was finally killed by the "establishment" because he began to raise people from the dead, he was elevated to the status of a demigod, and many healing shrines were dedicated to him. These shrines were often built near healing waters, like the spas of today. The temples were places of beauty and sacred dignity.
In these healing temples, patients were diagnosed and treated according to dream experiences that they had there. They would come to the temples and be prepared for the healing process. They'd be clothed in white garments, and they were brought onto couches in the presence of a statue of Aesclepius where they were left for the night. In their sleep, they saw Aesclepius come to life; he spoke to them and prescribed the necessary remedies. In the morning, the patients told their healing dream to the priest-physicians, who then prepared the formulas for them. Amazingly, the patients recovered. Blind people recovered their eyesight. Scars were removed. A boy recovered his speech. People were cured of all kinds of ailments.
Aesclepius had also been a prophet and a seer, and he created around him magnificent healing environments. He also gathered around him the priest-physicians who knew how to create states of great receptivity in the supplicants. It is said that the priests who directed the believers must have created states of intense autosuggestion and exaltation in them so that the god would appear in their sleep and they would receive his miracle. The priests would set up the sacred environments, and they left as the supplicants slept. In a dream the god appeared and performed the miracles where the sick people awakened the next morning healed or with the knowledge of what to do next to effect the healing. The people would write about their miracles on the stones of the sanctuaries. Many times, they related their healing dreams to the priests in the morning, and the priest would be the intermediaries for interpreting the therapeutic method that the individuals would find out about in their dreams. By 426 AD, the sanctuaries were destroyed by invaders and then by earthquakes, but the sprit of healing has never been destroyed.
From the rocks found at Epidaurus, there is evidence of the diseases healed: problems with the joints, wounds, baldness, gout and many more. There are indications that operations were performed and abscesses opened. The priests employed natural means of healing as well. The healings were done in a state of sleep. The priests had the supplicants fast for a day and abstain from drink so that they'd be lucid enough to receive the great communication from within. They considered it fundamental to teach people to think only enlightened thoughts, because they believed that when our thoughts are maintained in a pure and harmonious state, then even our bodies become healthy and harmonious. So the healings were also due to the individuals' identification with their true nature, the connection with their spirit.
The Spiritual Solution to Illness
And here's the fundamental truth: This disease which tries to disturb our natural harmony is not real, it has no real substance; it is an illusion, a dream-no reality at all. So the supplicants were returned to the truth of their essential nature. The priests considered that the cause of disease was mainly mental, and the method to cure it would be also mental or spiritual. The high spirituality of the priests at Epidaurus and the sacred atmosphere of the place will helped to cast out all illusions and recovered the natural and harmonious condition.
The great healing happened when a change of mind happened, when a connection with spirit was forged. This connection made the body's cures more permanent.
Predecessors of Hypnosis
There are many similarities in the work we're doing with hypnotherapy. Like the ancient ones, we too acknowledge that there is an inner "medicine" that our clients can find within themselves if they have the right environment, the right frame of mind, and enough encouragement. We acknowledge that there are elements beyond conventional medicine that help people to heal: elements of faith, suggestion, intuition, inner seeing and deeper knowledge.
Like the priest-physicians of old, we prepare our clients for the healing work that we do. We "initiate" them into our ways of working, invite them into our healing environments, and provide an influence for them to get in touch with their rich inner resources for healing. We, too, instruct them to "dream a healing dream" - only for us it is the state of hypnosis. In this state, they can find answers in the deep resources of their inner minds. We recognize the wealth of information that lies in the subconscious and the superconscious minds of our clients, and we encourage them to honor what comes forth as the rich material of their healing process. We can connect our clients with the Wise Mind, the infinite part of each individual that mirrors the great wisdom of the universe. In this sense, everyone is his or her own priest-physician.
Healing Without Medicine,
Jeremy Kingston, The Danbury Press, UK, 1975
Epidaurus: The Sanctuary of Asclepios,
Angeliki Charitonidou, Athens, Clio Editions, 1978
Healing, The Divine Art,
Manly Palmer Hall, Philosophical Research Society, LA, 1943