Charles d’Eslon’s Response to
The King’s Commission of 1784
The Two Reports of the Commissioners MM
appointed by His Majesty
for the review of animal magnetism
by M. D'ESLON - 1784
I had submitted the new Agent that I use in the treatment of diseases to the examination of Commissioners chosen by His Majesty so to proceed there. They have all pronounced, except one (1 - M. de Jussieu. This Commissioner has thought, alone, the duty to follow my treatments with constancy), that animal Magnetism does not exist, the means employed to put it into action can have neither long nor dire effects. (2 - As there are two Reports, I will designate by the first word to the that the Commissioners of the Academy of Sciences & of the Faculty of Medicine have drafted together; by the second word, the one of the Royal Society of Medicine)
Is this decision just? is it reasonable? The question is permitted to me without doubt. The Government desired to be enlightened. If I could make known the truth, it would not be turned back; & if I put my principal evidence of the Reports the same as the Commissioners, I will arrive even more surely to the demonstration that I propose, and that all those seeking the interests or prejudices are not taken as slaves.
Such is the purpose of this writing.
I will quickly run through the facts experienced by MM. Commissioners, the consequences that they drew, their own expressions; & if by this simple means, I do not demonstrate the reality of the Agent that they contest, I will prove in the least that they have demonstrated neither its nullity nor its danger.
The place is painful for me, tiring for my readers; but I have the good of the humanity for purpose. So great an interest merits sacrifices.
The existence of a fluid universal is not a new discovery. The ancients and the moderns, they found a very great number of superior minds who did not doubt that celestial bodies and the earth were not immersed in a common element, which insinuating itself in all parts of these bodies, modified them in all manners, by communicating the different impressions of movement. Today Chemists express nothing under the name of Phlogiston.
Electric & Magnetic Fluids, those of water; air, fire, are merely modifications of the universal fluid; it is always the same element: it becomes sensible in those various phenomena as by effects such as flame & heat in the fire, the action on the iron in the magnet, and the rest. We could deny the existence of the causes, in telling of them what Messrs. the Commissioners said of the animal Magnetism. “They escape all of the senses: they are tasteless & odorless; they march without sound, and surround you, or penetrate you without touch of view warning of their presence.” (1 - First Report)
Such were my principles (2) when I announced animal Magnetism to Messrs. the Commissioners. This agent, I said, is neither visible nor palpable; but I will show its existence by its continued action, and by its curative effects in the treatment of diseases. (2 - I say my principles, & I will say my processes, my theory, because I have declared to Messieurs Commissioners, in the presence of M. the Lieutenant General of Police, that only intended to submit to their examination my theory & my particular practice, & that I protested, in advance, in case that the pronouncement which would result was not favorable to me, against all the inductions that one would hold against the doctrine & the processes of M. Mesmer)
They agreed (p. 3, first Report) as I took with them the commitment, 1. To consider the existence of the animal Magnetism. 2. To communicate to them my knowledge on this discovery. 3. To prove its utility, not, as they said in the cure of diseases, but by continued action in the treatment of diseases.
Have I fulfilled, or wanted to fulfill my commitments? Messieurs Commissioners admit that I have exposed my principles to them; that I have provided in writing; that I have instructed them to put for themselves animal Magnetism in practice; that I made known to them the inner composition of the bacquets. (3 - First Report, p. 5) It is not my fault, if desiring them to see combined theory to practice, they have consistently neglected the first in not bothering with whence the fluid comes? (4 - Id., p. 9)
The existence of Magnetism can only be proven in the treatment of diseases, I invited Messieurs Commissioners to enter my treatment rooms, there to visit my patients, to follow their progress. It is necessary for them to attend themselves to make the description of this treatment.
“Nothing is more surprising than this spectacle. (1 - Id., p. 7) When we have not seen it, we can not make an idea, and in seeing it, we are equally surprised & with the deep repose on the part of the patients, and of the agitation that animates the others, of the varied incidents that repeat themselves, of the sympathies that develop. We see the patients looking exclusively and rushing towards each other, smiling, talking with affections, and mutually softening their crises. All are subject to the one who magnetizes. They are happy to be in an apparent stupor: his voice, a look, a sign stops them. One can not help recognizing, in these constant effects, A GRAND POWER which acts on the sick, mastering them, & of which the one who magnetizes appears to be the depository.
In this first moment of their surprise, Messieurs Commissioners gave themselves of good grace to the examination of patients. Here are some facts they failed to render account.
I have since 17 April last in my treatment, a patient infirm for three years. She was considered to be huge: she was water-logged with dropsical ascites. MM. Maugras & Ferrand had followed the patient. She declared to Messrs. the Commissioners that she found her swelling greatly diminished, as of the first day, she had been at a loss, though for eighteen months, as any evacuation of this kind had been suppressed. She added that her urine until then had been clearly strong, was becoming active and more abundant. (1 - Record of her state & of her declaration signed, Poissonier, de Jussieu, Mauduit, Caille, Lavoisier, & Andry, Commissioners, which is in my hands) Here is the examination to which she submitted after twenty-four days.
“We have examined the dropsical woman, no. 2, her belly seemed to us considerably decreased, although according to her observation, its size varies several times a day. She was measured, at various times of her illness, and always the morning on rising. Her measurement of 4 June last that she showed us, was three feet three inches and a half, today June 14, she is three feet half an inch, according to our observation.”
Signed A. L. de Jussieu, Caille.
On May 18, MM. Commissioners had given me another patient named Francoise Lamotte. She had come by herself as a result of an effort, a growth on the hand, and a considerable pain in the joint of the arm & shoulder blade. This pain having increased, she was taken to the Hospice of Saint-Sulpice, where they applied blisters to her. After these nine months at this Hospice, she had other remedies that had not relieved her. She was coming to the point of being no longer able to move her arm, forearm & barely the fingers, all she could do was to raise the hand & the close it, but with some difficulty & pain. (2 - Record in my hands signed as above) Here is the examination that she submitted the following 14 June.
“Today June 14, we have examined the named Francoise Lamotte She executes with more facility the movement of the hand, she can carry it to the head: she extends the arm & forearm, but the movement of flexion can only be done with the help of the other hand, pain is only felt in the shoulder when one touches it at this place; but there is a continuous pain in the elbow joint, and in that of the hand, there is a little less swelling in the shoulder. It seems that pain varies greatly according to the weather changes.” Signed Caille, Andry, Jussieu.
On May 21, these MM. presented me a third patient named Louis-Etienne P ***, age of almost ten years. Their Record stated “that this child had all the glands of the neck, and the axillary glands of the left side engorged, of which one was very large, and the others of the size of a small egg pigeon, and that this disease could be regarded as scrofulous.”
Here is the examination of 14 June following.
“Today, 14 June, we examined Louis-Etienne P ***, we found the glands of the neck diminished, axillary glands are also thus. There is one of a very large that has about ten lines of diameter. The glands of the neck & chin are nine in number, highly-sensitive, not counting the small ones, the number of which we can not assure.”
Signed Andry, A. L. de Jussieu.
I do not need to remark how these first tests were precise & even decisive. These happy preludes would give me the hope of succeeding by new results to be passed through the minds of Messrs. Commissioners, the conviction of which I was myself penetrated. But these hopes were soon taken from me. Messieurs Commissioners would not delay to renounce the steps agreed & already executed in part of the examination of patients. Why would they abandon it? I beg to weigh the reasons that they give.
“The Commissioners soon judged that the public treatment could not become the place of their experiments. The multiplicity of effects is a major obstacle; too many things are seen at a time to see well one in particular. Moreover, the distinguished patients who come to treatment, could be bothered by the questions. So they decided that their regular attendance [assiduity]not being necessary to the treatment, it sufficed that some should come from time to time.”
MM. of the Royal Society, went much further. “We thought it duty to néglect, said they, the facts that are rare, unusual, wonderful, such as the renewal of the convulsive movements by the direction of the finger, or by a conductor across the back of a heavily padded seat, through a door, a wall, the sensations proven at the approach to a tree, a pond, a body, or of a terrain which had been previously magnetized.”
How then to prove the existence challenged of an unknown Agent if the ones refuse an examination of its curative effects in treating diseases, and the others to examination of its purely physical effects?
As for me, I insisted on our conventions, say Messrs. Commissioners (1 - First Report, pag. 11) “persisting to request that employ principally & almost exclusively the method of examining the curative effects.” (2 - The word almost is too much. It has not entered our conventions, but what I must add, is that seeing as one discarded it, I had the honor to return a Memoir to M. le Noir, in begging him to pass to the Minister, I demanded there that we wanted three Councillors of State as MM. Commissioners)
Here is why MM. Commissioners did not think it should. (2 - Idem, pag. 11, 12, 13)
“Nature heals diseases, said the father of Medicine. The constant observation of all ages, proves that Nature alone, and without treatment, cures a large number of patients: it is powerful enough to support life despite the bad regimen, and sometimes to triumph over evil & the remedy .... Or how to be assured by treatment of patients of the action of an agent whose existence is disputed, when one can doubt the fact that medicaments whose existence is not a problem?”
I leave you to think what to believe of Medicine & of the medications which it dispenses with so much profusion, if Messieurs Commissioners speak thus. For me, who, in no time, has known concealed from me, that we do not know the properties of Cinchona, of Opium, of the emetic, of any remedy, than by their constantly observed effects, I had thought that the surest means to judge animal Magnetism, was also to observe, weigh, examine its curative effects; & when MM. Commissioners rejected this kind of proofs after having committed, I can not accept what they have substituted.
They preferred “to observe the action of animal Magnetism by its momentary effects on the animal economy, and by observable changes it produces there, so they had to limit themselves to purely physical evidence, that is to say, the momentary effects of the fluid on the animal body.”
If Messrs. Commissioners had warned me beforehand that they would confine themselves so to their examination. I would not have failed to prevent that insufficiency, I would have perhaps convinced them, in causing them to observe that smallest number of patients that Magnetism produced momentary & sensitive effects; that many patients recover without having expérienced only the slightest sensation, and that finally among those most sensitive & more susceptible to momentary action, of the purely physical effect, impressions vary continuously & infinitely. I still would have remarked to them that sometimes the subject patients have great shakes, without being touched, without sitting down at the bacquet, without receiving direction, falling in crisis; while other times, treatments, touches, sitting at the bacquet, they spend hours, sometimes days, without experiencing anything.
These observations, that the slightest assiduity to my treatments gives rise to cause, without doubt would have brought back MM. Commissioners to the plan that I had proposed. In any case, if they refused thus, convinced in advance of the inadequacy of the examination that they projected, I would have regarded as useless & even dangerous, to submit them to one of my processes, and my theory.
The result of the new plan of these Gentlemen has led them to conduct errors: I will prove by the rapid discussion of their subsequent experiments.
To account from this moment, more contradictory Reports with me, and even more often, there have made experiments unbeknownst to me; but the good-faith, not doubtful of the Messrs. Commissioners, I will take it as certain, that which they advance on the subject.
“They stopped, said they, to do on themselves the first experiments, but their first concern was & had to be not to render themselves too attentive to what was going on in them; they were magnetized by M. d'Eslon, or by his disciples, they are themselves at bacquet seats for this effect once every week, and they have remained there for two hours and a half. None of them felt anything, or at least none has felt anything that was of a nature to be attributed to Magnetism.” (1 - First Report, pag. 16, 17)
I will not stop to observe that it had to be difficult for these Gentlemen, to experience great sensations in sessions that they renewed only once a week, with the caution not to render themselves too attentive to that which was happening in them.
I will not dwell on the insufficiency of the negative evidence that they oppose me, in affirming, that none of them felt anything, I have already said, one does not feel in health the action of Magnetism, in a state of disease there is very frequently insensible.
It would be better to respond to MM. Commissioners by their own testimony. “None of them felt anything, said they, or at least did not feel anything that was of a nature to be attributed to Magnetism;” here however what we read in their Report.
"One of them felt a slight pain in the stomach crux, as a result of pressure that had been there exercised. This pain persisted all day and the next day, it was accompanied by a feeling of fatigue and of malaise.
“A second felt the afternoon one of the days where he was touched, a slight irritation in the nerves, to which he is a strong subject.
"A third, gifted with greater sensitivity, and above all of an extreme mobility in the nerves, felt more pain, and annoyances more marked.”
MM. of the Academy of Sciences, having wanted to have nothing in common with Messieurs of the Royal Society, it was not mentioned in their report of a fourth fact the reached by M. Caille. He was at the Bacquet not being touched nor magnetized by anyone. He felt a strong heat, first in the pit of the stomach, and then throughout the body, which was followed by urge to vomit & disposed to be taken ill, he then evaded only abandoning the iron [wand]. He told this immediately to over twenty of my patients, and then to M. Lieutenant-General of Police, with whom we dined together on the same day. Is it by this narrative made of my treatment, or in the one that is found in the report, that we must seek the scrupulous fidelity of these MM?
Voila donc quatre Commissaires qui ont éprouvé les effets du Magnétisme. Aussi, je dois avertir, pour me montrer comme eux fidèle jusqu'au scrupule, qu'en cet endroit du rapport, on se borne à conclure que le Magnétisme n'a que peu ou point d'effet dans l'état de santé, & que ce n'est qu'a la fin du rapport que l'on nie absolument l'existence de cet Agent.
There are four Commissioners who have experienced the effects of Magnetism. Also, I must warn, in order to show myself like them scrupulously faithful, that at this point of the report, it was limited to concluded that Magnetism has only little or no effect in the state of health, & it is only at the end of the report that there is denied absolutely the existence of this Agent.
From these tests on themselves, MM. Commissioners pass to other experiments on patients. They gather seven at the house of M. Franklin in Passy.
Four did not feel anything.
Negative argument, which, stripped of any other consideration, proves nothing, simply because it is negative, and that it was in principle between us that very often one feels nothing.
Three others have felt. “Francois Grenet felt pain & a watering in the globe of the eye. The woman Charpentier complained of pains to the head when one directed the finger in descent. With the finger placed up to her face, she said she lost her breath. With the movement reiterated, the finger up and down, she had movements precipitated of the head & shoulders: it seemed that she felt the movements, having eyes closed; one placed fingers under his nose, making her close his eyes, and she said that she would find herself sick if it was continued. Joseph Ennuye experienced the effects of the same kind, but much less marked.”
One could have been designated these effects, less marked, by saying that as the patient felt such in all directions, he could not hold to his chair.
The report continues.
“These effects merited to fix the attention of the Commissioners & required a scrupulous examination.” (3 - Idem, pag. 21)
But what happened? There was neither given order nor attention to these first results. It has not been more a question of any manner, and the same report proves it. For this is what is added to it. “To secure their ideas in this regard, they took the part to test the patients placed in other circumstances.”
“They admit at the particular bacquet with them Ladies of B ***, & V*** & Messrs. M. & R. They pray these four people to watch what they will feel, but without paying too close attention.”
“Mr. M ***, at the moment that one was pointed the finger before his sick knee, he thought to feel a slight heat at the place where he usually has pain.”
“Madame de V ***, attacked by sore nerves, had been several times on the point of falling asleep while she was magnetized .... she also experienced agitation and malaise.”
These effects are of little important in comparison to those that Messrs. Commissioners have seen at my home. But these are effects. They assume a cause, it is curious to see how they are explained in the report.
“One can suspect that M. M ***, put too much attention has to observe; that Madame de V ***, could be bored: that without doubt the finger was placed too close to the tearing eye of Grenet; & finally that the Charpentier woman thought to satisfy more the Commissioners saying she felt the effects.” (3 - Ibid. pag. 24 & 25)
What observations! that such an analysis is extraordinary! So what will be thus, to permit myself to ask, that a Judgment apply on the suspicions, on the probably, on the conjectures.
However here starts the anticipated persuasion that these apparent effects could be the effect of imagination. In order to be convinced, MM. Commissioners have done experiments by M. Jumelin. This Physician assuredly deserves all esteem and M. Sigaud who is also cited, I do not know why; but I can not occupy myself with what concerns me personally. I pass over what is the knowledge of the two Physician in Magnetism. They agree to have learned nothing from me: that is all I can say.
MM. Commissioners passed on three others experiments. They took place with three of my patients. It was agreed that all three had crises; but it was wanted to prove that they are the effect of the imagination.
A young man is led to the place where I had magnetized a tree. He is conducted successively to four other trees remote from the first 24, 27, 36, and 38 feet. At each tree, the young man feels some effect, and in the fourth he falls in crisis
I do not see that this fact proves against Magnetism and for the imagination. From what the young man fell in crisis before reaching magnetized tree, it does not follow that the magnetized tree had not produced its effect. It remains to explain how & why the young man fell in crisis before reaching magnetized tree. Among many reasons that I could give, I will choose only one, which should have presented itself to Messrs. the Commissioners, if they had wanted to recall my theory & the effects of which they had been witnesses several times. I have already said; the work which excites the Agent excites, once commenced on any subject, is achieved when it pleases Nature, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. For entire days often elapse in expectation of this work; & if the young man in question fell in crisis before arriving at the tree that I magnetized, it could have bee as the result of a work begun perhaps in the carriage in which he came with me, or perhaps in the treatment of preceding days.
These many observations may seem singular, the more they would fix the attention of Messieurs Commissioners, & I dare blame them a bit too much for precipitation when I see them carry an absolute judgment on a single fact, which deserved at least to be repeated by them on the same subject, or on others, before saying that it was the effect of the imagination.
The woman P *** also had a crisis well-characterized without being magnetized?
What I just said about the first fact, responds to this. These two facts are absolutely indifferent in themselves. If they may have been caused by imagination, they may also have been delayed by the action of Magnetism.
The story of Miss B *** is most curious. “Magnetized, without her suspecting, through a door, closed only by a paper frame, she felt nothing, was cheerfully making conversation; & interviewed about her health she replied freely that she was well. The Physician, after half an hour of futile treatment, returned to the chamber where this girl was, and having, of her satisfaction, magnetized, she felt after three minutes, a malaise, with collapse, and ended by a well-characterized convulsive crisis.” (First Report, pag. 46, 47, 48)
If I told that this girl who came assiduously to my treatment, I declare in the presence of many of my patients, as in the time when she was magnetized through the paper, she would go into a laugh, as she has almost always done when her seizures begin, and this laughter would be followed by a crisis of sweating so strong, that she could not keep the cloth that was given her to dry, and she continually wiped her hands; it would not be advantageous to explain the fact & turn in evidence for Magnetism. But because it will be assumed that there are patients who, even when they do not feel anything, believe to satisfy their Physicians, saying they are feeling effects, one is not to believe the testimony of any of them.
However her statement in this respect, has something very truthful. She was in a strange house, in the presence of a Lady she had ever seen, of a Lady from which she had been introduced to get the work, and the report said that she made a gay conversation. This gaiety has the air of the one which ordinarily begins her crises.
The biggest argument that these MM. seem to want to take from this experience is that in magnetizing to direct poles, they upset the theory of Magnetism & its practice, and that having yet achieved apparent effects, there results that these effects are not due to Magnetism, but imagination.
My answer is simple. No doubt we magnetize & we teach to magnetize the opposed poles. This is the manner most ordinary & most efficacious perhaps; but I never said that it could not take effect in magnetizing by direct poles. I have positively told the contrary to the MM. Commissioners.
There most undoubtedly the experiments are as badly conceived as executed. These MM. have always wanted to act, never to hear.
MM. Commissioners do not talk about some other experiments, which perhaps should not have been omitted, as for example, that one made by M. de la Voisier, on a Soldier, Knight of St. Louis, who was unknown to me. I caused passing down the belly & one of the sides that I touched, a pain that he has on one side of the head. Approaching my foot to his, I caused there a feeling of warmth that I transported to the other foot, directing also by my will, the cold & heat in general to the body.
At the house of M. Franklin, I magnetized by reflection in a mirror, a woman from the village of Passy, whose turned the back to the glass, and who did not perceive me; she rendered to Messrs. Commissioners a detailed account & summary of what she had experienced.
Madame the Countess of L. B *** was in crisis and without any awareness. Her arms in the air, she was in a state of tension, in a situation entirely against nature. Addressing myself to the Commissioners present, among others to Messrs. Le Roi & de Jussieu, I asked them if they wanted me to change the situation, then with the palm of the hand which, relative to the body, was externally focused, changed position, and came to look at the body. They consented. I did nothing but present the index finger & the thing was executed immediately to the great astonishment of those Gentlemen.
Here is an experiment that did not cause less surprise
and which they have also forgotten in their report.
The four Commissioners of the Royal Society of Medicine, called on one of the Patients of M. le Dru, bandaging his eyes, and without touching him, they directed the iron wand successively on different parts of his body; the greatest number of directions were influenced, and were exactly felt by the patient. He experienced a crisis, and we saw the tears flow or stop at the will of the Physician who magnetized him. The scene passed at the house of M. Mauduit, between him and Messrs. Andry, Caille & de Jussieu. M Andry, who related the fact to me & to several patients, was then all in wonder. He had reason, it must be more than fact, for convincing of the existence of animal Magnetism. A hundred negative facts prove nothing. One, however positive, is conclusive proof.
As results of recognizing the effects so marked & not wanting to attribute them to Magnetism, MM. Commissioners have assigned to them three causes safe for their readers to choose one of the three they like most. These three causes are Touch, Imitation and Imagination.
These MM. have made a great show of Anatomy on the hypochondria, colon, diaphragm, ovaries, &c. I will not care to imitate them. To what good indeed? All their system of touch is foreign to animal Magnetism. Experience proves it. If these MM. had wanted to follow my operations from time to time, they would be convinced themselves, that often in touching a patient, it was less as I treated one, than the other that I do not touch.
Both reports paint the touches as rude gestures. Nothing is more distant from the truth. These movements are varied, but always soft & light, with few particular exceptions which come in the class of frictions recommended in Medicine, & mostly used in England, Germany, China, and throughout India. Finally MM. Commissioners have forgotten that in the speech that M. de la Fisse, delivered before them, he said positively that the touch should be soft & light.
If by imitation, MM. Commissioners intend an inevitable disposition to man, a constitutive principle of his existence, the imitation in a word, which according to their own words, Nature seems to make us a law, then, they talk about one of the greatest phenomena that can & should occupy minds. But it will suffice to me only to respond to them that this law of Nature exists everywhere, and that far from being dangerous in the treatments of Magnetism, as it can be sometimes otherwise, it only causes to second the action of the fluid. And if they ask where there is proof, I will say to them that it was only up to them to know by following the curative treatments, because there they would have observed an always constant march which tends to the cure, or at least leads to the greatest relief. Imitation, they say, communicates and spreads the impressions. But as soon as the impressions are beneficial, the communication can not be dangerous.
Did they want to say, that this law of nature, that this imitation, communicates & spreads the contagion of a hiccup, of a violent cough or of deep rest experienced by other patients. But the cough of a patient would make all others to cough? In imitation of one who sleeps, all the others would fall asleep? & the deep rest of one alone, would hold all my patients in lethargy! It can not be what these MM. wished to say, since in making the picture of my treatments, they say that some cough, others spit, others sleep, and others are troubled & tormented. Such a large discrepancy cannot be reconciled with the alleged product of imitation.
The conclusion of MM. Commissioners, that imitation is a real cause of the effects attributed to Magnetism, is thus a ventured assertion, devoid of proof & even likelihood.
What is the imagination? MM. Commissioners have acted much without defining it. Without doubt this one was the most comfortable for them. Let us listen to them.
“It acts at first, they say, by its own power; it is that which produces the enthusiasm or panic terrors in the armies in a day of battle; it is no less active in theatrical performances in all the many assemblies. It is that which gives birth to the revolts, and when fanaticism animates it, it is what produces the Shakers of Cevennes, &c. (1 - First Report, pages 53-54)
“It also acts by circumstances. A tight place, a hot area, the air of mystery that is given by closing the doors and the windows of the place where we magnetize, the darkness & silence, the spectacle of people who suffer, and whose exterior is sad, a calm that is only interrupted by yawns, sighs, sobs, complaints, sometimes shouting, and by the different expressions of boredom & of pain, finally the harmonious sounds of a piano forte: here are the secondary causes convulsions & what is improperly called the crises.” (1 - First & Second Report, pages 53, 12)
Certainly there is in these scenes much more imagination than in all my treatments rooms.
To make this attribute of our soul, a principle acting in real illnesses that I treat, and in equally real healings that I produce, MM. Commissioners perhaps should have communicated to us their ideas & their principles. In metaphysics, the imagination is only a grand activity of conception. In physics, if we want to define it, we will say that this is the fluid that flows in us and which flows back to us more or less vitally, following the meeting of internal or external resistances more or less strong. Under which of these two meanings did Messieurs Commissioners consider the power that they give to the imagination in my treatments?
They talked to me when they attributed to me to have said that imagination had the largest share in the effects of animal Magnetism, page 60. All they cite of me is the same place to this subject, was only from my part a hypothesis; & of this hypothesis they made an assertion. They probably forgot when they drafted this report, the principles that I had explained. They did not recall much of the speech of M. la Fisse, which contained these principles in the clearest and the most precise manner. They did not pay attention finally that it was impossible that I should have said at the same time, that Magnetism was the action of a fluid on the body, and it was the simple act of imagination.
While I thought to myself to reveal my knowledge on Magnetism, I did not burden myself to communicate the processes; I have also sought to develop the theory, and I hope soon to be in a state to render public this theory. This will be in explaining what I will try to supply that which Messrs. the Commissioners left to be desired in their long chapter of the imagination. I only want to occupy myself here with their report.
And first of all, do I not have some right to complain of the lack of accuracy that Messrs. Commissioners have in the descriptions they made of my treatments? It is well known that instead of being in a tight place, patients are in vast rooms, that the windows are not closed, unless the severity of the weather requires it, and if some of MM. Commissioners are bored, it is not for lack of good company. I will permit myself to say of my patients that I have never been among better: the decency, honesty, amiability rule around me.
MM. Commissioners speak only of convulsions; but in fact I never had a the same time over six to seven of these maladies, in treatments that are quite generally composed of 50 or 60 people; & gathering all together, more than 500 patients that I have treated in a manner followed for three years, I have not had more than twenty, who were subjects of these convulsions as are cited with so much emphasis!
Most of the sick were even affected before coming to my treatments. It was easy for MM. Commissioners to be assured, if they had judged rightly fit.
Madame de la S *** who had the strongest, was subject for five years before indulging in my care. Her crises have lasted for days; & now for a few months, they lasted barely half an hour & are rarely accompanied by violent symptoms.
Those of Dlle B ***, cited by MM. Commissioners, are considerably reduced.
The patient P. also cited in the report, had been deeply affected for a long time: today she no longer has crises. I do not say they will not resume in course of treatment. My opinion is even that this will happen.
[Those of] Messieur B. that I treated for two years which were most violent, have ceased at the moment of his cure & have produced it.
It suffices to observe with some attention the progress of these seizures to be convinced that these are real crises, although Messrs. Commissioners claim that one improperly calls them by this name. They hold necessarily to one morbid internal cause; they are the effect of this cause, and this effect is nothing else than the effort of Nature to get rid itself of the evil that besieges it, that which in Medicine is called & we must call crisis.
If it were otherwise, the convulsions of patients treated by the animal Magnetism would have the character of all the others. They would only follow anxiety & they would produce no beneficial evacuation; they would not have rest & relief for results.
I had my treatments of two epileptics; they never had attacks here, though frequently had in their homes.
Similarly, many people who have strong convulsions at home, never have at them at my house.
If animal Magnetism is the baleful art of exciting convulsions, how are its effects so varied, how is it that the epileptic accidents do not always renew themselves at my house? How can it be that animal Magnetism suspends the effects & finishes by healing them? Is it not more reasonable to think that these effects sometimes soft, sometimes violent, are equally, then as the theory says and as experience proves, a true work of nature, determined, sustained and strengthened by some sort of Agent, and that it is in this work, then managed & prepared, that the morbific humor is split off, displaced, evacuated, in what in Medicine on calls, &c we should call crisis.
Is it imagination that brings forth the evacuations by stools, by vomitings, by the sweats, by urination, by expectoration? &c. Is it imagination that restores sleep & digestion? which dissipates obstructions & squires? Is it imagination that evacuates the abscess, repairs hemorrhoidal flow & the evacuations periodically suppressed for several years? Is it imagination which transforms a humor of taste, which brings back to life an apoplectic, which brings to the skin a stinging humor long since passed by? Is it imagination that acts on the sleeping patient? Is it that which acts on children at the breast & on animals which prove sensibly the effects of Magnetism? Is it finally the imagination, for I would never finish, which now soothes the pains of a cruel burn & heals it in a very short time? And all these effects are not yet crises?
Touching, Imitation, Imagination, are not then, whatever is said, “The great power that one can not be stopped to recognize by its continuing effects, which acts on the patients, the skill, of which the one who magnetizes appears to be the depository.” (1 - First report, page 7)
No, they are not more than cream of tartar, that one of the reports call a real purgative, the other a gentle purgative substance, and of which I will say nothing, because this is not here a treatise of Medicine.
I think to have responded to the alleged evidence against the existence of the animal Magnetism, and to those of the alleged danger of its practice. But in combating what has been said about its non-existence, did I not myself demonstrate the existence? Was there not confessed the effects MM. Commissioners themselves experienced, these effects sufficient to prove the existence of the Agent they challenge. Four of them felt the cold, heat, pain; without doubt they only want to assume the one only has been conducted by their imagination or by only instinct of imitation. So there are effects without cause, if these effects are not the product of Magnetism.
To deny the existence of this Agent, which recourse will therefore still be to unbelief? From famous names in the Sciences, names accustomed to inspire confidence in Medicine? Here is what remains, and it is most unfortunate. This is for all people who only dare to think like the others, and the number of these last is very great!
MM. Commissioners unanimously concluded to the prohibition of animal Magnetism. One of the reports seems to only want to prohibit public treatments. The second goes further, it wants us to prohibit them all “because the apparatus & effects being every where the same, the drawbacks & dangers merit every where the same attention.” (Second Report, page 39) These conclusions, let me to say, lack moderation.
If knowledge of the animal Magnetism was withdrawn as before the person of M. Mesmer, or even mine, the prohibition would be possible. But today, M. Mesmer has 300 Students, as I have taught 160 Physician, and as an infinity of others that have come by their own studies, or by lights communicated, to know and practice this method, the general prohibition becomes impossible, the prohibition of imprudent public treatments.
If abuse is attached to the practice of animal Magnetism, it will be those public treatments which indicate & facilitate the means to monitor them, to stop them, and to take away all measures that allow human wisdom.
And as for special treatments, I doubt that the Government, which has sought to enlighten itself, has had the design to oppose. It is probably not prohibit the father to relieve his son, the son to aid his father, a friend, to the master his servants, &c; and yet if we do not safeguard all this, we have done nothing; or say better, it would be very badly done to prohibit public treatments, real refuge of public trust, real safeguard of public honesty.
Among 160 Physician I have taught, there were 21 members of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris. On the appearance of the first Report, this Company assembled itself extraordinarily. It wanted to require Doctors magnetizers to abandon by writing, not only the practice of Magnetism, but their belief.
The love of peace has carried 17 of these Gentlemen to promised to quit any magnetic practice.
Those who have promised not to practice, nevertheless have confidence in this practice, since they would not recognize the contrary before the Faculty, and that they have signed the affirmative in my hands; because I never wanted to admit anyone to instruction, that beforehand, his conviction of the existence of the Agent, had not been established by examination following my treatments. How will it be to when near a patient that they believe to be able to relieve by the animal Magnetism, and whom they believe has been hurt by the administration of usual remedies? Have they not marked their word? Do they betray their conscience? ...
When in the assembly of 20 August 1782, I informed the Faculty that I treated with the animal Magnetism, I gave the list, the names & the homes of 30 patients I had already healed by this method. Today, I declare that 500 people I have treated since, a part of those who were assiduous in my treatments have been cured; that others were relieved strongly, and that for three years only five patients have died in my hands. I doubt among my Confreres, so little occupied, there be anyone who can say that. (1 - Everyone knows that the five patients that I just mentioned, were in a desperate state. If I am responsible, it is that I think a Doctor is always owing his zeal and care on those who claim them.)
As for the Royal Society of Medicine, of which I am not a member, I have reason to be astonished at its conduct in this circumstance.
A Canon of Vernon, without pretension in Medicine, presented himself, four years or so, to this assembled Society, with many experiences on the use of the magnet in nervous diseases, and above all in epilepsy; the Royal Society named for them to verify & measure the news MM. Thouret & Andry, famous names in the annals of animal Magnetism! Their Report was presented April 1, 1783, and adopted by the Company so that it would deliberate that this report would be printed, and would address a copy to each of Physician & Physicists who correspond with it.
What does this report say? “That it is proposed to assure that the magnet, as magnetic substance, on the human body has a real action, that is believed to have established this truth in simple & accurate results, that it is not doubted today of the existence of a universal fluid spread into the atmosphere, and that it is regarded as the principle of Magnetism; that it can not be doubted that there is something in the effects of the atmosphere on the animal economy, that many physicists assure that the action of this fluid is not uniform, but varies according to circumstances; that assembled facts announce there exists in the human body a kind of Magnetism; if these conjectures are verified, there will be discovered in the animal economy a new order of rapport that would link our existence to the state of the atmosphere; then the human body would thus have its own & particular Magnetism; that one might call the animal Magnetism, &c.”
And it is the same Society that came to adopt the Report of four of its Commissioners on Animal Magnetism which says to them that animal Magnetism does not exist, and which deliberated in its last public assembly, that this new report would be printed, and that a copy would address to each of Physicians & Physicists who correspond with it!
For me, I will not vary in an opinion as my reflections, six years of experiences have made only more strengthened: & as unbelief continues, I will say with the Editor of the first Report, in another more Work more worthy of his genius, that wealth of truths is slower, but it is also stronger than that of errors.
If not Magnetism was nothing one would not combat it so relentlessly. The history of every People offers us the trace. It is found among the Egyptians, among the Chinese, as among the Savages. Nature itself marked it, when the Art of Medicine was still unknown. Some Great Men have divined it; the Physicists of all ages have assumed it. This is assuring as some idea which germinates for so many centuries & in as many scholarly heads.
But is it said that to outlaw it as a mistake, was it with so little reflection that it could be examined? Could they flatter themselves to judge it in such a short time, and after the tests so slight?
Without doubt a step so extraordinary holds a secret cause. The Savants, the Physicians consulted on an Agent that seems to change the current system of Physics & of Medicine, and annihilates almost all remedies, have had to prejudice against this new doctrine. All the prejudices had to arm themselves against it. One is not accustomed to give up easily to common ideas, the principles of his education, the work of his youth, the reputation that is made in old age. These are the real enemies that Magnetism has to fight. It will triumph, but its triumph can only be the work of time. Only time will clarify its beneficial effects.
So I have demonstrated that to judge the existence and the utility of Magnetism, MM. Commissioners have withdrawn from the steps I had traced for them, and of which we were agreed.
That the experiments they made, there only results negative evidence.
That these same experiments, so that something could be concluded, should have been repeated, because the action of this fluid, as well as that of the magnet is not uniform.
The effects confessed by Messrs. Commissioners, and those above all experienced by themselves, assume a cause.
That finally this cause can neither be Touching nor Imitation, nor Imagination; all the effects, produced under the eyes of Messrs. Commissioners, belong to Magnetism.
Dare I before concluding, speak a moment from myself? I have little trouble with the public on personal affairs, and I have only opposed the silence to the libels, which appear every day against me.
But the stage has changed. In the crowd of writings, I have been obliged to distinguish a complaint from M. Mesmer; expelled by my Company for him, he has rendered me to Justice, as culpable with regard to him.
I then read in one of his letters, addressed to M. Franklin, that he had renounced this action, and in the Request that came to Parliament, he still accuses me of having prostituted his doctrine, and to have violated word of honor that I had given him to keep absolute silence on the few truths that I could educate myself near him.
M. Mesmer is a man quite inexplicable. He makes me assign … waives his assignment ... & then accuses me in Parlement. It is well recognized there the same man who said & repeated that he taught me nothing, and who nevertheless accuses me of misusing what he taught me; who says & repeats that I know nothing of his method, and who nevertheless accuses me of having stolen his method.
He tires my patience ... but it must be the cause of Magnetism to finish before mine begins. If M. Mesmer had been more prudent, the success of Magnetism might be more advanced.
I shall be no less just in respect of him. He reminded us of great truths fallen, not in scorn, but forgotten. He had the great talent to bring forth a single principle, and to add there an infinity of precious consequences to mankind. Nothing can diminish our gratitude.
However great may have been my sacrifices for him, I do not regret them, I do not give myself even a merit. He never confides in me his principles, I accept it. I have been obliged to seek them with difficulty, to trace the sources of any study, of any comparison, of any summary. This is how I managed to make a doctrine of my own. It is, perhaps, not the best: but it satisfied my mind & guides me usefully in my processes.
Maybe the day will come, when M. Mesmer will imagine his publicity as duty to himself & duty to others. So, far from disputing his superiority, I will see with satisfaction a new manner to instruct myself.
May the spirit of the Public be as disposed as I am in his favor!
Paris, 6 September 1784, D'ESLON.