The LLIFS At a glance series consists of short easy to read articles about all sorts of weird and wonderful topics that fall under the paranormal umbrella. Today's at a glance is all about mesmerism!
Image Source: Public Domain
Friedrich Anton Mesmer was known for coining a somewhat controversial theory called Animal Magnetism. It was thought to be an unknown force that influences human beings. Mesmer claimed that the life energy of a human itself was a type of magnetic fluid. This fluid is then influenced by the gravity of celestial objects, much in the same way the gravitational pull of the moon influences high and low tide with the ocean. He felt that other invisible forces such as magnetism could have a similar effect on humans.
He claimed that if a person’s life energy was not properly balanced, it could cause them to become ill. As a physician, he began using magnets to restore balance to the life field of his patients. After some time, he stopped using magnets and thought he could instead use the magnetic force from his own body by either waving his hands over his patient or by placing them onto the patient’s body. He soon advanced to circle work where a group of patients would sit in a circle with Mesmer leading, who was dressed in a purple robe using a metal rod to help heal his patients.
Image Source: JOSSE/SCALA, FLORENCE
While Mesmer claimed to be able to see what some described as remarkable results, in 1784, French King Louis XVI formed an official committee to assess the scientific claims of Mesmer. The committee who included notable names such as Benjamin Franklin decided that there was no evidence to suggest that Mesmer’s theory on magnetism was behind the results and was more due to the imagination of the patients involved.
While the animal magnetism theory is questionable today, it was Mesmer’s methods laid the foundations for future work on hypnotism, suggestion and placebos, so maybe it is not as crazy as it was made out to be? In some ways, a belief in mesmerism influenced the emergence of telepathy. While there are differences, there are similarities such as being able to ‘will’ a person into doing something or by transferring a thought.
You can read more about thought transference in my article Thought Transference
Psychical Research by W.F. Barrett, F.R.S. Professor of experimental physics in the Royal College of Science For Ireland, 1873-1910
Hypnosis, telepathy, personal magnetism, personal influence by Elmer E Knowles 1026
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