Propositions Concerning Animal Magnetism
(Mémoire sur la découverte du magnétisme animal)
Franz Anton Mesmer
1779 AD
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In 1779 AD, Franz Anton Mesmer, founded "Mesmerism" where a man could transmit animal magnetism to another and bring about an instant cure for "diseases of the nerves". The idea that a person has been "mesmerized" or that something is "mesmerizing" are verbs that owe their origin to this charlatan quack. Mesmer believed he and his disciples, had the ability to transmit a magic power to cure insanity from their body to another. For 70 years, Mesmerism became a prosperous and lucrative trade as forerunners of today's junk science, pop-psychologists who jump on any new thing that the public will pay money for. James Braid put the Mesmerizers out of business in 1843 when he discovered it was mere hypnotism. There are many modern images of mesmerism in today's culture, like the way the Emperor from Star Wars, zapped Luke with electricity coming from his hands. Even today's hypnotists mislead audiences that they possess some inherent power they are able to transmit from their hands to the person being hypnotized. Since hysteria is all in the mind, Mesmer found a deceptive, but effective cure in Mesmerism. The placebo and nocebo effects are well documented forms of simple hypnotism, which is nothing more than the power of suggestion. In Acts 8, Simon the sorcerer was called "the great power of god". However when he saw the apostle Peter lay his hands on a man and impart one of the 9 supernatural powers listed in 1 Cor 12, Simon converted to Christianity and gave up his "Mesmerism". (Propositions Concerning Animal Magnetism, Franz Anton Mesmer, Mesmerism, 1779 AD)

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Psychiatrists and Psychologists are like hypnotists:

1.      Modern psychiatrists seem unaware of what psychoanalysts know well, namely how powerful are the words that a patient hears from an authority figure like a psychiatrist. The opportunity here for suggestion, coercion and manipulation are quite real. Patients are often looking to psychiatrists for answers and definitions as they struggle with questions such as who am I or what is happening to me. Of course we all struggle with these questions, and the human condition is such that there are no definitive answers, and anyone who comes along claiming they have answers is essentially a fraud. Biologic psychiatry promises easy answers to a public hungry for them. To give a patient nothing but a diagnosis and a pill demonstrates arrogance, laziness and bad faith on the part of the psychiatrist. Any psychiatrist needs to be continually aware of the very real possibility that they are or can easily become agents of social control and coercion. (Against Biologic Psychiatry, Dr. David Kaiser, Psychologist, Psychiatric Times, December, Dec. 1996, Vol. XIII, Issue 12)

  1. Two additional means of suggestive influence exist for those already in psychological treatment: one subtle and almost imperceptible, and the other, directive and hypnotic-like. Psychologically-prone clients, believing that the therapist has specialized knowledge, often search their psychologists' behavior, moods and remarks for hidden cues, which will influence their thinking and actions. Even the slightest reaction or response can have a great influence. As Frank notes: "The very subtlety and unobtrusiveness of the therapist's influencing maneuvers, coupled with his explicit disclaimer that [the psychologist] is exerting any influence, may increase his influencing power." (Manufacturing Victims, Dr. Tana Dineen, 2001, p 201)
  2. The study of hypnosis has much to contribute to the understanding of the psychologically-prone personality, which is susceptible not only to the indirect cues inherent in psychological treatment, but also to the hypnotic-like suggestions of psychologists. (Manufacturing Victims, Dr. Tana Dineen, 2001, p 202)
  3. For the "good therapist" designation, it would seem that two characteristics are important. The first is that the psychologist must exude an aura of warmth, attentiveness, kindness, caring and trust; be "a genuinely nice person". The other quality of this goodness is "power." Kottler, in describing what he called The Compleat Therapist, writes: "it hardly matters which theory is applied or which techniques are selected in making a therapy hour helpful . . . What does matter is who the therapist is as a human being - for what every successful healer has had since the beginning of time is charisma and power." He continues: "Perhaps more than any other single ingredient, it is power that gives force to the therapist's personality and gives weight to the words and gestures that emanate from it. It was the incredible power that radiated from the luminaries in our field that permitted them all to have such an impact on their clients... nobody would have listened to them if not for their energy, excitement and interesting characteristics that gave life to their ideas." (Manufacturing Victims, Dr. Tana Dineen, 2001, p 126)
  4. Individuals with a psychologically-prone personality are more apt to be open to such suggestions, whether or not abuse ever occurred, since fantasy-prone individuals are particularly susceptible to distortions in their memory. Bryant reports a study intended to investigate the relationship between fantasy-proneness and the age at which reported childhood sexual abuse occurred. The subjects, women who had reported sexual abuse in childhood, were assessed for their tendency to become imaginatively involved in internal events, and the extent to which fantasy played a role in their adult functioning. Bryant not only confirmed a correlational relationship between fantasy-proneness and reports of childhood abuse, he also found that "reports of abuse at a younger age are associated with higher levels of fantasy proneness." (Manufacturing Victims, Dr. Tana Dineen, 2001, p 203)
  5. Rather, they see it as leading to "the necessity of mourning... in the resolution of traumatic life events." According to Herman, "failure to complete the normal process of grieving perpetuates the traumatic reaction" for which some time imagining that you were sexually abused, without worry about accuracy or having your ideas make sense." Others give clients the instruction to "ground the experience or event in as much knowledge as you have and then let yourself imagine what actually might have happened." Corydon Hammond, past president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, presupposing abuse, will typically say to a person: "You know, I know a secret about you." (Manufacturing Victims, Dr. Tana Dineen, 2001, p 223)



(Propositions concerning animal magnetism)

Franz Mesmer believed he had power to cure insanity

(It was simple hypnosis)


Mémoire sur la découverte du magnétisme animal, (Propositions Concerning Animal Magnetism), Franz Anton Mesmer, Mesmerism, 1779 AD

Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815)

MD Vienna, physician of Vienna and Paris ; founder of mesmerism

Report of Dr. Benjamin Franklin and other Commissioners, charged by the King of France with the examination of the animal magnetism, as now practised at Paris. Translated from the French, 1785 London, Johnson pp. 19-28, 97-8, 105-6

The General And Particular Principles of Animal Electricity And Magnetism, &C. In Which Are Found Dr. Bell's Secrets And Practice, As Delivered To His Pupils, 1785 AD


M. Mesmer [Memoire sur la decouverte du magndtisme animal, Geneva & Paris 1779] has described the agent he professes to have discovered, and to which he has given the appellation of animal magnetism, in the follow-ing manner. 'It is a fluid universally diffused; the vehicle of a mutual influence between the celestial bodies, the earth and the bodies of animated beings; it is so continued as to admit of no vacuum; its subtlety does not admit of illustration; it is capable of receiving, propagating and com-municating all the impressions that are incident to motion ; it is susceptible of flux and reflux. The animal body is subject to the effects of this agent; and these effects are immediately produced by the agent insinuating itself into the substance of the nerves. We particularly discover in the human body qualities analogous to those of the loadstone; we distinguish in it poles different and opposite. The action and the virtue of the animal magnetism are capable of being communicated from one body to another, animated or inanimate; they exert themselves to considerable distances, and without the least assistance from any intermediate bodies : this action is increased and reflected by mirrors; it is communicated, propagated and augmented by sound; and the virtue itself is capable of being accumulated, concentrated and transferred. Though the fluid be universal, all animal bodies are not equally susceptible of it; there even are some, though very few, of so opposite a nature, as by their mere presence to supersede its effects upon any other contiguous bodies.

`The animal magnetism is capable of curing immediately diseases of the nerves, and mediately other distempers; it improves the action of medicines; it forwards and directs the salutary crises so as to subject them totally to the government of the judgment; by means of it the physician becomes acquainted with the state of health of each individual, and decides with certainty upon the causes, the nature and the progress of the most complicated distempers; it prevents their increase, and effects their extirpation, without at any time exposing the patient, whatever be his age, sex or constitution, to alarming incidents, or unpleasing consequences .. . In the influence of the magnetism, nature holds out to us a sovereign instrument for securing the health and lengthening the existence of mankind'.

Such is the agent, with the examination of which the commissioners have been charged . . . and whose properties are avowed by M. Deslon, who admits all the principles of Al. Mesmer .. .

M. Deslon undertook to the commissioners, in the first place, to evince the existence of the animal magnetism; secondly, to communicate to them his knowledge respecting this discovery; and thirdly, to prove the utility of this discovery and of the animal magnetism in the cure of diseases.

After having thus made themselves acquainted with the theory and practice of the animal magnetism, it was necessary to observe its effects. For this purpose the commissioners adjourned themselves, and each of them repeatedly witnessed the public method of M. Deslon. They saw in the centre of a large apartment a circular box, made of oak, and about a foot or a foot and an half deep, which is called the bucket (Baguet. The diameter of this box is usually large enough to admit of fifty persons standing round its circumference.); the lid of this box is pierced with a number of holes, in which are inserted branches of iron, elbowed and moveable. The patients are arranged in ranks about this bucket, and each has his branch of iron, which by means of the elbow may be applied to the part affected; a cord passed round their bodies connects them one with the other : sometimes a second means of communication is intro-duced, by the insertion of the thumb of each patient between the forefinger and thumb of the patient next him; the thumb thus inserted is pressed by the person holding it; the impression received by the left hand of the patient, communicates through his right, and thus passes through the whole circle.

A piano forte is placed in one corner of the apartment, and different airs are played with various degrees of rapidity; vocal music is sometimes added to the instrumental.

The persons who superintend the process, have each of them an iron rod in his hand, from ten to twelve inches in length.

Mr. Deslon made to the commissioners the following declarations. 1st. That this rod is a conductor of the magnetism, has the power of con- centring it at its point, and of rendering its emanations more considerable. ally. That sound, conformably to the theory of M. Mesmer, is also a conductor of the magnetism, and that to communicate the fluid to the piano forte, nothing more is necessary than to approach to it the iron rod; that the person who plays upon the instrument furnishes also a portion of the fluid, and that the magnetism is transmitted by the sounds to the surrounding patients. idly. That the cord which is passed round the bodies of the patients is destined, as well as the union of their fingers, to augment the effects by communication. 4thly. That the interior part of the bucket is so constructed as to concentre the magnetism, and is a grand reservoir, from which the fluid is diffused through the branches of iron that are inserted in its lid.

The commissioners in the progress of their examination discovered, by means of an electrometer and a needle of iron not touched with the loadstone, that the bucket contained no substance either electric or magnetical .. .

The patients then, arranged in considerable number and in successive ranks round the bucket, derive the magnetic virtue at once from all these conveyances . . . But especially they are magnetised by the application of the hands, and by the pressure of the fingers upon the hypochonders and the regions of the lower belly; an application frequently continued for a long time, sometimes for several hours.

In this situation the patients offer a spectacle extremely varied in por-portion to their different habits of body. Some of them are calm, tranquil and unconscious to any sensation; others cough, spit, are affected with a slight degree of pain, a partial or an universal burning, and perspirations; a third class are agitated and tormented with convulsions. These convul-sions are rendered extraordinary by their frequency, their violence and their duration. As soon as one person is convulsed, others presently are affected by that symptom .. .

They are entirely under the government of the person who distributes the magnetic virtue: in vain they may appear in a state of the extremest drowsiness, his voice, a look, a sign from him rouses them. It is impossible not to recognise in these regular effects an extraordinary influence, acting upon the patients, making itself master of them, and of which he who superintends the process, appears to be the depository.

These convulsive affections are improperly stiled crises in the theory of the animal magnetism: according to this doctrine indeed they are regarded as a salutary crisis, of the same kind as those which nature produces, or which a skilful physician has the art to excite to facilitate the cure of diseases .. .

Compression, imagination, imitation are therefore the true causes of the effects attributed to this new agent, known by the appellation of animal magnetism, this fluid, which is said to circulate through the human body, and to be communicated from individual to individual . . . Chimerical however as it is, the idea is by no means novel. Some authors, particularly physicians of the last age, have expressly treated of it in various perform-ances. The curious and interesting enquiries of M. Thouret have convinced the public, that the theory, the operations and the effects of the animal magnetism, proposed in the last age, were nearly the same with those revived in the present. The magnetism is no more than an old falshood. The theory indeed is now presented, as was necessary in a more enlightened age, with a greater degree of pomp; but it is not less erroneous .. .

The commissioners having convinced themselves, that the animal mag-netic fluid is capable of being perceived by none of our senses, and had no action either upon themselves or upon the subjects of their several experiments; being assured, that the touches and compressions employed in its application rarely occasioned favourable changes in the animal ceconomy, and that the impressions thus made are always hurtful to the imagination; in fine having demonstrated by decisive experiments, that the imagination without the magnetism produces convulsions, and that the magnetism without the imagination produces nothing; they have con-cluded with an unanimous voice respecting the existence and the utility of the magnetism, that the existence of the fluid is absolutely destitute of proof, that the fluid having no existence can consequently have no use, that the violent symptoms observed in the public process are to be ascribed to the compression, to the imagination called into action, and to that propensity to mechanical imitation, which leads us in spite of our-selves to the repetition of what strikes our senses. And at the same time they think themselves obliged to add as an important observation, that the compressions and the repeated action of the imagination employed in producing the crises may be hurtful, that the sight of these crises is not less dangerous on account of that imitation which nature seems to have imposed upon us as a law, and that of consequence every public process, in which the means of the animal magnetism shall be employed, cannot fail in the end of producing the most pernicious effects.



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