Royal Society of Medicine
Commission - 1784

on Animal Magnetism


Printed by order of the King.

We have been named by Lord the Baron of Breteuil, conforming to the orders of the King, to follow the procedures of M. Deslon, in the application of animal Magnetism in the treatment of diseases & to render to the Minister an account which he must put before the eyes of His Majesty.

To fulfill with the exactitude & the attention with which we could be capable, the commission with which we were charged, we have proceeded with the following manner.

1º M. Deslon, in a speech delivered in his presence by M. Lafisse, showed us the principles of the method which he follows.
2º M. Lafisse, authorized by M. Deslon, has given us by writing the statement of the principles contained in the speech that we heard.
3º MM. Deslon & Lafisse have executed before use the different manipulations used in the work that one calls animal Magnetism, & we were instructed to put them ourselves into practice.
4º We have observed at the house of M. Deslon, the effects of the claimed animal Magnetism on the patients that he submitted there.
5º We have gathered together many times at his house one of us to magnetize the patients, & to observe in private, in taking all the precautions that we judged necessary, the effects that could produce this method.

The account that we render her is divided into two parts. We treat in the first, with the theory of the alleged animal Magnetism; & in the second, of the its application in the treatment of illness.


Theory of the method to which one gives the name animal Magnetism,
& reflections on this theory.

§. I.

M. Deslon defined that which one calls animal Magnetism, “the action that a man exercises on another man, either by direct contact, or at a certain distance, by the simple direction of the finger or with any conductor; & he thinks that this action is the effect of a universally spread fluid.”

We will observe, by relation to this first article, that the expression of animal Magnetism has been employed in the seventeenth century as Magnetism has had then numerous partisans; that they attached to the same words ideas that one has renewed in our days; that they attributed equally this Magnetism to a universally spread fluid; that they reported, then that it made its new partisans, as a powerful remedy in the treatment of the most and even all the maladies. This manner of combatting them, that one tried to revive under the same denomination, is only an ancient system, renewed in these later times, reported in the preceding centuries, defended above all, & vaunted during part of this later century, & fallen in oblivion since it does not admit in the sciences, as facts, clear & evident results of the experience, in place of systems & hypotheses.

Evidence of previous observations on the antiquity of that which one calls
animal Magnetism.

One finds this evidence collected in the Works cited below.

PARACELSUS. Chemical Works Paragranum, Treatment 2.
VAN HELMONT, On Magnetic Wound care.
GOCLENIUS, On Magnetic Wound care, &c.
    Magnetic care of synarthosis, &c.
    Mosaic PHILOSOPHY, &c.

MAXWELL, On Magnetic Medicine, &c.
SEBASTIAN WIRDIG, New Spiritual Medicine.
FERDINAND SANTANELLI, Concealed Philosophy, &c.
BURGRAVIUS, On Magnetic Cure of Disease.
KlRCHER, Animal Magnetism, &c.

And the researches and doubts on animal Magnetism, by M. Thouret, who has proven the antiquity of the hypothesis in which one has admitted animal Magnetism, as an agent in Physics & in Medicine, and who has shown in the same time the insufficiency of the evidence on which this supposition was supported. This Treatise has appeared with the approbation & the favor of the Royal society of Medicine, which had charged the Author to make these researches.

§ II.

M. Deslon did not know physical proofs which demonstrate the existence of the agent or fluid to which he attributes animal Magnetism as a principle which it emanates.
We hear by physical proofs, of facts, of experiments, of results of which one can judge by the report of the exterior senses. This kind of proof is the only one admissible in Physics; all that which is not susceptible remains without demonstration, & can only be regarded as a system.
The existence of the fluid or agent, of which one supposes that emanates animal Magnetism, is then, only a hypothesis.

§ III.

In default of physical proofs, M. Deslon to observe the existence of this agent or fluid, cites the effects that one produces or that one appears to produce by that which one calls animal Magnetism.

These effects are:
1. The internal sensations;
2. The convulsive movements to which one gives the name of crises, as felt by a certain number of subjects submitted to the alleged animal Magnetism.

Examination of the evidence used by M. Deslon.

The internal sensations are equivocal evidence, often illusory, on which by consequence on cannot establish his judgement, & whence one cannot draw definite consequences.

Demonstration of the previous assertion.

1º That one to which one acts the part of the internal sensations that one feels, can only be judged in a relation in which one can deceive, without which it is neither possible for himself to discern them, nor to convince the others.
2º Those who are rapport with their sensations, however of very good faith, can be in error & there cause to fall the one to which they describe them, because their imagination imposed it on them, or because they relate to a cause which depends on another: the instructed Physicians know how much persons attacked with nervous maladies exaggerate their sufferings, & how much in these different cases, the sensitivity of the patients leads themselves astray; this truth known in Medicine.
3º The Physicist will prove the test the sensations, will not draw consequence from it, because he will lack the proper means to convince him that they will not be either the product of his imagination, or of his attention to observe that which will pass itself for it, & as he cannot relate them to a determined cause. He will then conclude nothing in favor of the agent that one supposes to be the principle of animal Magnetism.

Facts which add to the force of the previous demonstration.

1º There are few persons who, in contemplation, & by a fixed attention on their actual state, perceive only sensations noticed without this return to reflect on themselves.
2º There are only, following M. Deslon, subjects more sensitive than the common men, those who are in a state of illness or who in carrying, in them the germ, which feels the internal sensations.
But such subjects are very susceptible to multiple impressions; they are more submissive to the power of the imagination, & by consequence more exposed to be deceived on the nature & the causes of that which they feel.

Results of the experiments that we have made
to consider the effects of that one calls
animal Magnetism.

The purpose of our experiments has been above all to determine what will be the effect of the procedures of the supposed animal Magnetism on persons placed in such circumstance, as they were submitted, by any means, to the influence of the imagination.

1º Two men, of whom the one then young, was born very sensitive, very irritable, of whom the other older, was in a state of illness, declared to feel the sensations in the parts on which one directed the finger or a conductor; their sensations appeared to correspond to the diverse movements that one executed on them. We had bandaged their eyes, & during all the times that we have deprived them of the light, the sensations that these two men declared to feel, no longer corresponded regularly to the various movements that we executed. They have often named a part as the seat of a sensation, while one act on a region very distant, in which they have said to feel nothing.

2º To these first experiments we have added the following, which have appeared to us to have merited a great attention. We have ceased all the said operations with regard to these two subjects, but without them perceiving so; & thinking that we continued the procedure of Magnetism, they have during this interruption, which had been of long duration, declared that they felt the sensations in different parts. Finally the result had been that these two men, submitted to the experiments that we have made, which, benefiting from the faculty of sight, have not ordinarily felt the sensations that in the parts on which we acted, during which they have had their eyes bandaged, have more often reported the sensations which did not correspond to the movements that we performed; that they have not encountered accurately in this regard.

3º We have repeated many times & varied on diverse subjects & patients the experiments of which we have come to render account, & the results have always been the same.

4º The two following facts have appeared to use to require being expressed separately.

A woman to whom we presented the finger or a conductor, complained of anguish & of malaise, immediately after she saw them directed towards her in front, or as she perceived that we presented them to her from behind: she begged that we cease acts in this regard, assuring that she was ready to become sick.

One of us have arresting the looks with this woman on an object, & fixed her attention by this means, another presented to her from behind the finger during ten minutes, without her perceiving, & without her having said to have felt any sensation.

A young Lady of sixteen years, deprived of the free exercise of the intellectual faculties, subject to attacks of epilepsy, who renewed herself for three or four days, has been submitted to different processes of animal Magnetism during sixty-five minutes; she has not felt any effect: at least she has not made it known to her Governess, who is accustomed to judge her sensations; & there did not occur to her an episode of epilepsy, as the partisans of animal Magnetism call that which it must occur the more often to those who are subject to it. In effect, the return of epilepsy can have place for persons who enjoy their intellectual faculties, who reflect on their state, on which one practice the gaze, while it will not be operated in those who are deprived of reflection & of intelligence; that which is a proof more of the influence of the imagination & of the moral causes in the circumstances of this nature.

§. IV.

Examination of the evidence of the excellence
of the agent or fluid to which one attributes animal Magnetism,
drawn from the convulsive movements that one names Crises.

Among the persons that one magnetizes, some, after a more or less long time, fall into convulsive movements, that one has called the Crises. One regards these supposed Crises, as evidence of a special agent, to which one attributes them. Before examining this kind of demonstration, we will express the observations that we have made.

1º on the persons who fall into the convulsive movements:
2º on the place where one magnetizes these people.
3º on the manner in which one magnetizes them.

On the people who fall into convulsive movements, that one calls the Crises.

1º These are only subjects more sensitive, either by the effect of their constitution, or by the that of their illnesses which collapse into convulsive movements.
2º They occur only after having submitted during a time more or less long, to the processes of animal Magnetism, by direct contact. It is very rare to encounter subjects to which this accident supervenes by the simple direction of the finger or of a conductor, that one cites hardly any examples.
3º The persons even very sensitive, that one magnetizes separately, experience hardly & rarely the convulsions; that which reaches to a great number, & to the same subjects, earlier and more frequently, when one magnetizes them in a place where there are many patients together.
4º There are less men than women who are susceptible; & more rich women than poor women.
5º It is only after a session more or less long, in the place where one magnetizes, that the people who fall in convulsions, experience this accident.

On the place where one magnetizes.

1º A vessel of wood closed on top, very large, oval in form, of around twenty four inches high, to which one has given the name of baquet, occupies the middle of the room where one magnetizes.

The cover which closes the baquet is pierced on its sides & in the all its circumference, with trunks, where are raised rods of polished iron, of the thickness of the finger, terminated in pointed head & round, curved, & alternately ones shorter, others longer. One immerses voluntarily the end of the rod into the baquet, & one withdraws them; one removes them in the same way when it is wished.

At the base of the rods, are attached long cords, almost the same thickness as the rods.

2º The patients place themselves around the baquet: they are seats on chairs, each separately, & forming, following their number, one, two or three ranks. They direct each toward the part which is regarded as the seat of their ill, the end of one of the rods of iron, & they apply it there. There are at the same time many convolutions of the cord attached to the rod, around the parts in which they have habit to feel the pains, or which they believe affected with the maladies.

The baquet is regarded, by persons who use animal Magnetism, as proper to collect, to concentrate the fluid or agent, of which they suppose the existence, &, following these same people, it is the reservoir. The rods & the cords are considered as the conductors. It is important to say that we have not recognized, & that there has not been furnished to use any proof of these assertions; also the baquet is not reputed necessary, & is only regarded as an accessory of which one can dispense with.

3º One keeps closed the doors or the windows of the place where they magnetize; the curtains are only left to penetrate a soft & weak light; one observes the silence in the room, or one only speaks in a half-voice; it is recommended to avoid noise & tumult.

There results from the precautions that one observes, 1º that the atmosphere is heated, that one breathes there a heavy & altered air, such as the one of all closed places, where one gathers a large number of people; 2º that the aspect the room disposes to reflection & to meditation; the spectacle that one has under the eyes, is in general the one of persons who suffer, & of which the exterior is sad; one is only distracted from this tableau by the manipulations as executed by those who magnetize, or by the agitation & the movements of those magnetized who fall into convulsions: the calm which reigns is only interrupted by the yawns, sighs, sobs, wailings, sometimes cries, finally by the different expressions of boredom or of pain.

There are in some rooms a piano forte, on which one executes a small number of airs, especially toward the end of the sessions.

4º The domestics bring drinks to the patients, following as they request it, with water in which one makes to dissolve cream of tartar. (a - It is given that this substance is lightly purgative, especially when one makes habitual use of it.)

On the parts that one magnetizes.

There are, as we have enunciated, two manners to magnetize; the direct contact, & the direction with the finger or with a conductor at some distance.

1º The most ordinary process, when one magnetizes by contact, consists to apply the hands on the hypochondria, in directing the end of the thumbs toward the umbilicus.
One applies often the thumbs or the end of one and the other index finger on the epigastrium; it is also in usage to put the hands on the region of kidneys, especially when one magnetized women.
The other parts that one touches are determined by the seat of the illness; but, on some part that one acts, in addition to the contact, one executes then the frictions more or less lengthy, in which one presses more or less, & they have place particularly on the umbilical and epigastric regions.

2º One magnetizes at a certain distance, in presenting the finger or a conductor under the nares, at the mouth, at the eyes, on the base of the neck, & in the rear between the shoulders: one presents also the finger or the conductor on the sinciput, on the forehead or behind the head; one carries then the finger or the conductor, following the direction of the arms; the length of the sides of the body, & on the thighs & the legs; sometimes one uses the fingers outspread without joining them, & one shakes the hand, as if one made aspersions precipitating the fluid, that one supposed to emanate from the finger that one waves.

When the patients are fallen into convulsions, one continues ordinarily to magnetize them by contact with a hand & at a certain distance, by the means of the other hand. During the duration of this last operation, the patients have, by intervals, remissions & episodes of convulsions.

Consequences of previous facts.

The convulsions in which fall many of the subjects that one has submitted to Magnetism, the renewal of the convulsive movements after a remission, as the result of the direction of the finger or of a conductor at a certain distance, tends to cause the supposing of an agent particular, unknown, which would produce these movements, if it was not easy to assign evident, sensible & known causes, without which one has need of recourse to a supposed agent. 

Evidence of the previous assertion.
Causes of the convulsive movements & of their renewal, after a remission,
in the persons that one submits to what one calls animal Magnetism.

There are two kinds of causes of convulsive movements, & of their renewal after a remission. From these causes, some are essential, immediate & determinant; the others, which are multiple, are accessory & predisposing.

Essential & determinant causes.

The immediate & determinant causes of the convulsive movements in the magnetized persons, are a long application of the hands, the heat produced by this application, the irritation excited by the friction.

The parts on which one applies the hands, on which one makes the frictions, are the most sensitive, the most irritable, the ones where the nervous plexi are the most multiplied, where a great number of nerves unite, where, by the means of pairs called great & small sympathetic, their branches communicate the ones with the others, &, by their connection, establish between their different regions of the body, a correspondence, a reaction more intimate & more extensive.

It is from reasoning & from fact, that the heat communicated, the irritation produced on these parts by a long imposition of the hands, & especially the sensation excited by the friction, suffice to increase the sensibility & irritability, to carry them to their completion, in order to excite in the regions on which one acts in magnetizing, the convulsive movements which are extended step by step, by the connection of the nervous branches, & are spread in all the habit of the body. It is by the friction on the region of the belly, that persons who have no notion of Magnetism, are provoked to dressing room; kind of touching, of which the effects are very anciently known, & result from the mechanical pressure on the liver, the gallbladder, & the intestines; & it is by an analogous cause, by the irritation of sensitive part, communicated to the stomach, that the finger, a feather presented at the entrance to the esophagus, produce the vomiting. It is thus the determinant, evident, sensible & known causes of convulsions in which fall the persons that one magnetizes by the direct contact.

On the accessory & predisposing causes.

The accessory & predisposing causes of these convulsions, depend on the facts & the circumstances of which we have spoken, in treating persons that one submits to Magnetism, & the place where one magnetizes. Among these causes, then the enumeration will become very long, we will chose the principal, those of which many can product alone & by themselves the convulsive movements.

These causes are, on the part of the patients, their sensitive & irritable constitution, the activity of their imagination, its power on the nerves, the habit of body that these persons have of occupying their state, the melancholy & the shock which results, & of which the effects are propagated in the organic & muscular fibers.

The accessory & predisposing causes, dependent on the place where one magnetizes, are the heat that one feels there, the quality of the charged & heavy air that one respires there, the serious setting; even enforcing what is there under the eyes, the contemplation & the sadness that this apparatus inspire, the trouble, which is necessary result of session a little long in the place where one magnetizes often some of these causes, as the heat, a heavy air, the constraint that one feels; suffices in order that the persons very sensitive, very irritable, are attacked with convulsive movements: it is that which is not rare to observe in the different places where the Public gathers.

But to these first causes, on must add one of which the effect is much more powerful & must more ordinary; it is the view of other persons already fallen in convulsions. This view is so powerful, & produces so much effect on the very sensitive subjects, principally on those who have already experienced the convulsive movements, that it is very frequent to see them enter into spasm, or be retaken with the access of illness which they have already felt, at the sole view of other persons which are so attacked.

There exists then the accessory & predisposing causes, which aid the essential & determinant causes of the convulsions, in the persons that one magnetizes, which increase the action of this cause, & which render its effect more facile, more prompt, more considerable; & many of these causes suffice alone to excite the strongest convulsions in certain circumstances, as many of the facts demonstrate.

On the convulsive movements which renew themselves after a remission,
by the direction of the finger or of a conductor, at some distance.

One must carry to these secondary movements, the same judgment as on the primary convulsive movements, produced by the contact, that is to say, that they do not prove the existence of a special & unknown agent, because there exists for these secondary movements, as for the first, a sufficient cause, known & evident, & causes as probable as known.

One continues often to apply holding a hand in contact on the persons fallen into convulsions; or, after having ceased, for some moments, to touch them, one returns by intervals, to this method. It is a means sufficing to renew the convulsive movements, & to the subject of which we have nothing to add to what have observed on the effects of direct contact.

Another cause which can renew & increase the convulsive state, when one only acts by the simple direction of the finger or with a conductor at a certain distance, is the impression of the air agitated by the movements that one executes: two other causes not less likely concur with this one, & suffice, when it does not take place, to supplement it: these causes are the heat communicated by the proximity of the hand & the emission of the insensible perspiration.

The causes that we have assigned will appear to be weak at first glance; but when one will make reflection on the state of sensitivity, on the irritability of the persons fallen into convulsions; when it will be recalled that one has many examples of similar results in like circumstances, then one will not doubt that these cause are sufficient only to produce the effect that we attribute to them.

The slightest breath, the weakest shock of the air suffices to renew the convulsive movements in the unfortunate ones who have already experienced, by the effect of the hydrophobic virus, & in which the sensitivity & the irritability are carried to the highest degree. The view of the fluids, the one of a mirror or of some polished & brilliant body, the sole sparkle of the eyes, renew equally these convulsive movements in the unfortunates, by the simple reflection of the matter of the light. Then, the weakest shock of the air, the lightest contact of the most tenuous substance have been excited previously by a most powerful cause. The causes that we have assigned suffice then to renew the movements of which it has been question.

Conclusions from the first Part of our Report.

1º There does not exist, with the same confession of M. Deslon, physical evidence of the existence of the agent or fluid that one has supposed to be the principle of animal Magnetism.
2º The evidence cited to demonstrate the existence of this principle, drawn from the internal sensations, are equivocal, often illusory, & consequently always insufficient.
3º The effect attributed to this unknown principle; & which are regarded as evidence of its existence, depend on evident & known causes; whence it follows that the existence of the unknown agent or fluid, that one regards as the principle of animal Magnetism, is only a hypothesis lacking proofs.
4º That which one calls animal Magnetism, reduced to its value by examination & analysis of the facts & of the circumstances, is then only the art to dispose the sensitive subjects, by the accessory & concomitant causes appreciated in this Report, to the convulsive movements, & to excite these movement in these subjects, by a determinant & direct cause, without it stopping to resort to the new agent of which one has gratuitously supposed the existence.

But this Art is it useful, & must one make use of it in Medicine?

Before responding to this question, which is the subject of second Part of our Report, we will observe that in the examination of the facts, we have only attached ourselves to those which are general, ordinary, consistent, because it has appeared to us that there are only facts of this nature of which one can draw consequences. We have neglected those which are rare, isolated, marvelous, such as the renewal of the convulsive movements, by the direction of the finger or of a conductor across the back of a seat strongly settled, across a door, a wall; the sensations felt at the approach of a tree, of a basin, of a body or of a terrain that one had previously magnetized.

We have observed in relation to may of these facts, of which we have been witness, that they depending on a concourse between the movements of the one who magnetizes & those of the patient, since sometimes these movements correspond, sometimes do not correspond to those of the person who operates. The inclination who leads men toward the marvelous, causes one to insist very very much on the coincidence that one finds, under some aspects, between the facts that one wishes to link & as one neglect the distance & the disparity which is encountered under other relations between them. We have thought finally not to have fixed our attention the rare, isolated, extraordinary cases which appeared to contradict the laws of Physics, because these cases are always the result of complicated, variable, hidden, inextricable causes, dependent on the circumstance of the moment, of the place, & of the moral [aspect], often more than the physical & that by consequence there is nothing to conclude of these facts, on the reality & the causes of which it is impossible to propose a determined judgment.


The processes to which one has given the name of animal Magnetism, reduced to their value, & that we have demonstrated are only the art of provoked the convulsions, by the means detailed & developed in the first Part of this Report, are they useful & should they be admitted into Medicine?

Before responding to this important question, which is the principal object & aim of the examination of which we have been charged, we will have a preliminary reflection.

If what one calls animal Magnetism, known in the preceding century, boasted by numerous partisans, of which many enjoy then a great celebrity, report as a powerful remedy, effective in many maladies, had been really useful, the usage would have been established, it would have been confirmed, transmitted & perpetuated. When one announces a discovery which appears to be of the nature to interest men in general, those who are believed in the state to judge it, share. The ones adopting & boasting, the others rejecting & dampening: the great number, who do not dispute, is seduced at first by the novelty; but it only adopts what can be advantageous; enlightened by the times & by the experience, it judges the inventions & the novelties without appeal, & settles the fate of all the discoveries.

The reflection will present itself to all those who will occupy themselves with the question that we have to examine. The consequence is easy to deduce, & will suffice to determine those who are versed in the history of the Sciences who know the march of the human mind; but, charged specially with making a Report on the nature & the effects of what one calls animal Magnetism, we must consider it under all the aspects of which it appears susceptible to us.

§. I.

There are two means to judge the utility & the flaws of an ordinary object. These means are the evidence drawn from reasoning, & those which provide the facts.

1º The relation of the supposed animal Magnetism, proposed as a remedy, the knowledge of the cause of the maladies, the one of the manner to act with proposed means, the results that one can draw from these researches compared between them, provide the proofs of reasoning. Those of fact are drawn with changes in good or bad, which take place in those who one submits to the actions of this process, or from the default of change in the state of those same persons.

§. II.

Cause of diseases; action of animal Magnetism on this cause, following the principles of M. Deslon.

M. de Lafisse, in the Speech pronounced in the presence of M. Deslon, & which he has remitted to us a brief, establishes the following principles on the cause of maladies in general, & on the manner to act with animal Magnetism in particular.

“From the opinion of all the Physicians of all times, there is only one cause of all the maladies, a heterogeneous matter; Nature has only one way to heal all the maladies, which is to operate the coction [processing] & the evacuation of this matter by the crises, that which produces the Magnetism, in restoring the tone of the solids & in reawakening their oscillations, in calming the irritability, & in recalling the movement, that is to say, in aiding & accelerating the work of Nature.”

§. III.

Reflections on the preceding propositions.

Pour apprécier ces propositions, il est nécessaire de les rappeler séparément, & de les soumettre à un court examen.


“From the a avowal of all the Physicians of all times, there is only one cause of all the maladies, a heterogeneous matter.”

Physicians have, from all times, attributed a great number of diseases to the heterogeneous matter; but they have not assigned this cause as lone & unique. One can only deny that the plethora or the exhaustion, the thickening or the defect of the consistency of the humors, & especially the vices of the solids too relaxed or too tight, too dense or too stormy, could not have place without a foreign matter to produce them. The first proposition is then very much extended, & must be restrained: See Boerhaave, Sauvages, Astruc, Gaubius, & all those who have written elementary books on these different subjects; one will find there this question resolved in the manner that we contend to present here. We do not imagine to see entering into greater details on a discussion purely theoretical, & very indifferent to the object of this Report & to the aim of our examination.

“Nature has only one way to heal all the maladies, which is to operate the coction & the evacuation of the heterogeneous humor by the crises.”

It is necessary, to appreciate this proposition, to settle our ideas on what the Physician understand by the terms of coction & of crises.

1º Coction consists, relative to the morbific humor, in an alteration or change that it submits to by the efforts & the action of Nature. The consistency of the humors, their color, the odor that they spread, announce these changes of which the Physicians judge by the sensible qualities. It has been determined by a long series of observations, what are the proper characters to make for distinguishing matters which have experienced coction, from the ones which are in a state of crudity. The evacuation of these latter announce irritation or impotence, excess or weakness of the efforts of Nature on these matters, & the superiority of the patient on the vital forces: this evacuation is by consequence a preview more or less disagreeable.

2º Relative to Nature, coction is the work that it undertakes, in order to act on the foreign humor, to divide it, to separate if from the mass of fluids, to dispose it to be carried outside, & find to expel it.

The word crisis has two meanings; sometimes one understands by crisis the efforts which tend to attenuate, to displace this humor; sometimes, & the most often, the result of these same efforts, or the change which they produce in the state of the patient. Then, in place of the word crisis, one serves sometimes & often commonly, with the word judgment, because, in this case, the crisis terminates or judges the malady. In the first meaning of the word, which is the literal sense, crisis is the synonym of combat; this term expresses the action of Nature against the cause of the malady, & the reaction of this cause against Nature.

In order to form a just idea of crises, one must then consider then under these two relations.

1º The crisis relative to the patient, is a change in his state more or less prompt, of good or of ill, happy or sinister.

This change, which begins always by being hard, disquieting, is followed if the crises is happy, with the diminution of symptoms, with a relief more or less prompt, with the restoration of functions, & with convalescence. If the crisis to the contrary is disagreeable, & if Nature is vanquished in the combat that it delivers, the results are the increase of the symptoms, the lesion & the trouble greatest with the functions, the general defeat, & death; but, whatever be the issue of the crises, it is a little late, & the change in the state of the patients, runs rapidly through its symptoms.

Finally the happy crises end, as we have already indicated, by the evacuations that the coction has preceded; & those to which this condition lacks, report either that the illness is not reckoned, or that it is of an incomplete manner.

2º The crises, considered relative to Nature, are then the result of its efforts; an increase of tone in the solids, which is the product of irritation, their oscillations are stronger & more frequent, the increase of heat & of the speed of the pulse, general or partial, which are the result, announce & accompany them. These symptoms acquire intensity, diminishing & finishing with them; if they are moderate, the reckoning of the malady is happy; if to the contrary the abundance of the quality of the humor excites the violent movements, the Physician is anxious; he augurs ill if the agitation is excessive & he despairs of it, if the cause produces a general irritation, of tumultuous and disordered contradictions, finally the convulsions, of which the degree of violence announces more or less danger.

The crisis ended then without there having evacuated the matters, or they are only partly expressed, & the state of the patient is aggravated more and more.

After having exposed the manner of which the vital forces produce the crises of different nature for the healing of illnesses, without stopping ourselves to research if it is of this manner that they all end, that which has been contested by some celebrated Physicians, we will continue to report & to examine the principles adopted by the partisans of the new doctrine.


“Animal Magnetism, in restoring the tone of the solids, in reawakening their oscillations, in calming the irritation, & in recalling the movement, that is to say, in aiding & in accelerating the work of Nature, operates, the the crises, the coction, & the evacuation of the morbific humor.”

Preliminary observation on this third proposition.

We have proved, in the first part of this Report, that animal Magnetism, that is to say, the art of exciting the convulsion by the indicated causes in our first Part, is a means essentially irritating, & that it has no other property. We cannot then believe, with the Author of this third proposition, that it has the calming virtue: how could it restore the tone of the solids, augmenting their oscillations, & calming irritation?

One alleges, it is true, power, by certain processes, to diminish the excited irritation first, but, when even so Magnetism will possess this double contradictory property in the same means, will it not be imprudent & dangerous to make usage in all cases where the irritating cause is naturally very strong, where the solids are much toned? One will then increase the irritability of the oscillations of the fibers already very taut; & who will dare to flatter themselves to remedy the ill, when it will have acquired such an intensity? In imagining then that the alleged animal Magnetism gathers the contradictory properties that one attributes to it, it will neither be agreed in the treatment of inflammatory maladies, nor in general in that of greatest number of acute maladies.

Comparison of the effects of the claimed animal Magnetism, to which one has given the names of Coction & of Crises, with these two means to heal, employed by Nature.

1º Nature declares, continues, & operates coction & crisis, by the movements which, however prompt, have a certain duration, which are succeeded without interruption, & which terminate the malady at seasons, & in following a known operation of good Observers.

What one calls animal Magnetism acts unexpectedly, in a brusque & sudden fashion; one interrupts it, one returns to it, one suspends its effects & never does one produce but irritation & shock.

2º Nature employs for coction & salutary crises, moderate efforts: coction does not take place, & the issue of the crisis is baleful when the movements are with much of violence & intensity.

However the processes of animal Magnetism, are limited to produce the effects of this latter kind; one strives to augment them; one is applauded when they have reached the highest degree, & it is to this hard & dangerous result for the patient, that one gives the name of crises, however all the conditions be diametrically opposed between the natural crises & its effects. We do not yield it; it is this nomenclature which has deceived, which has imposed on the virtues attributed to animal Magnetism.

3º The evacuations which have place in the series of these processes, are all floods; one recognizes there no sign of coction, but all the characters of the crudity & of its expression; they do not relieve the patient. (a) There is then the same difference between the evacuations that animal Magnetism produces, & those that Nature prepares, that enter the alleged crises operated by Magnetism, & those which are the result of natural efforts.

(a) It is quite necessary to keep guard from being deceived in this regard. The patients fallen into convulsion by the effect of animal Magnetism, in the instances of remission, which are those where they have sometimes the evacuations, are found relieved; but they are from the oppression & the trouble that produces the spasm & the convulsive contraction; they are compared to the harsh state in which one has thrown them, but not compared to the their habitual state. They arrive as much to all those who have the attacks of spasm: when the episode is finished, they feel a relief which is only relative to the fatigue of the convulsive state itself, which has preceded immediately the repose of which they enjoy. [end of note]

There remains to us to make known the dangers to which expose the method proposed by MM. Mesmer & Deslon.

1º The application of the hands & the friction, are the two most active procedures that one employs in the operations of animal Magnetism. One executes these procedures on the regions of the surface of the body which correspond to the most sensitive, the most irritable viscera, which are at the same time designed for functions the most essential of the economy; whence there results many inconveniences, the one of exciting a violent irritation in these organs, & the one of attracting to them, to fix in their tissue the humors vague & heterogeneously spread in all the habit of the body: in effect, it is from experience that they are carried, or rather as the laws of the animal economy direct them towards the points that one stimulates. It is based on these views that one applies, fire, cantharides & other epispastics that one opens with cautery to call the humor to the outside. But in exciting the irritation on these internal parts, one exposes himself to produce a directly opposing effect.

2º One carries the irritation in the organs which communicate & sympathize by means of a great number of nerves, with the other parts of the body. When the shock is communicated to all the economy, one maintains it, one fortifies it, in acting on the liver whence it emanates, & on the most sensitive points of the regions toward which it is propagated, when there results a general trouble, a universal tumult & disorder in all the organic functions.

3º The operations of the alleged animal Magnetism are long & very multiplied, one repeats them often two times each day. The convulsions, which follow, last always a long time, sometimes for several hours. This frequent renewal of the spasmodic movements exposes the patients to the danger in contracting the habit & because, whatever is the cause of the convulsions, the experience has constantly proven that, if one does at come to heal them, do destroy the cause in a little time, they increase in duration & in sequence, & become, sooner or later, the habit of the patient.

4º The effects that produce the produce the processes of the claimed animal Magnetism are the convulsion & the evacuations.

Firstly. The convulsions, in addition to the inconveniences of which we have already spoken, suspend the secretions; the diminish, by the effect of the irritation, the capacity of the vessels; they expose then the patient to the stasis of the liquids, congestions & engorgements of every kind.

Secondly: They exercise principally their action on the brain, by the reaction as communicates to it by the stimulated nerves. Then, among the persons put into convulsions by the processes of animal Magnetism, some are numbed & deprived of their intellectual faculties; others fall into a deep sleep; many to the contrary are agitated & experience delirium, have a kind of madness; of which the duration equals the one of the supposed crises or of the convulsions that one occasions, that is to say, during many hours. It is necessary to be a Physician, to perceive all the inconveniences of these maneuvers, & to sense how much it is dangerous to expose, twice a day, very sensitive persons, to the so violent commotions.

One knows by experience how many convulsions are harmful to the patients who have scirrhous or carcinomatous tumors, for those of whom the chest is delicate, & who are disposed to phthisis (consumption), & in particular for the women who suffer from the womb: one has observed that the convulsions dispose the scirrhosities to change into cancers, that they hasten the opening of occult cancers, & that they accelerate the degeneration of overt cancers. Experience has equally proven that convulsions determine or renew the spitting of blood, that they increase the progress of ulcers, that they aggravate the suppuration of tubercles, that they develop, in women, all the accidents & ills of which the womb, in a state of orgasm & habitual irritation, can become the focus; consideration which is extended very far, as much to the physical as to the moral, & especially as their results are baleful to those in which this organ is affected in a real manner, either from a bloody engorgement, or from obstructions, or from scirrhosities.

But, how often it is difficult to decide whether the patients are in the different cases than we have cited, or menaced to fall there, & that these dispositions are very frequent, it is reckless & very dangerous to expose to these accidents the great number in general, & in particular the weak and sensitive persons, in which it is very rare that do not have some organ more or less affected.

5. The evacuations which succeed the convulsions excited by the alleged animal Magnetism, are the production of a universal contraction, or of the convulsion of some organs & there is then only the loss of a substance often precious, & not a purification of the fluids, & the expulsion of an acrid & heterogeneous humor. Many of these evacuations are abundant, very far from being salutary, as one makes pretense, they diminish the resources of Nature in exposing to a subsidence, to a depression, to a weakening without remedies.


Or evidence of fact.

We will communicate here that the evidence of fact will be those that provide the changes occurring in the state of the patients submitted to the processes of animal Magnetism, or the default of change in the state of these same patients. But in that we could draw these proofs with founded, incontestable consequences, such as nature requires & the importance of our commission, it was necessary that we had a physical certitude that the persons treated under our eyes by animal Magnetism, have only made use of this sole remedy. (a)

(a) It is for this reason, & by the impossibility of being assured of the regimen & the conduct of some patients, addressed by us to M. Deslon, that we have ceased to follow these same patients, & of presenting him with new ones. [end of note]

We are drawn to believe, after the report of M. Deslon; but this moral certitude cannot suffice to us, in our consideration as Commissioners named by the King. We can then rule nothing positive on the state of patients that we have submitted to the processes of animal Magnetism at the house of M. Deslon.

But in permitting us to suppose that these patients have only been really treated by the procedures of the lone animal Magnetism, & after having made an indispensable restriction, we believe to be able to add here the following results, drawn from our observations.

We will the divide the patients, of whom we have followed the treatment, into three sections.

1º The patients of whom the illnesses were evident, & have a known cause:
2º Those of whom the slight ills consist in vague affections, without determined cause:
3º The melancholics [depressed].

We have seen no patients of the first class healed or notably relieved, although we have followed them for four months, & as, after what we have said, some were treated for more than a year. But, even if they would have been, as one assures, some patients of the first class healed before the establishment of the Commission which was confided to us, one must not draw any induction, because the examples that one could cite will be few in number; & as, in a multitude of patients collected by chance, Nature heals some, & in a space time often less considerable that this that one employs for the treatment by animal Magnetism.

As to the patients of the second class, we have seen many who have assured us that they find themselves better, that they have more appetite, that they have better digestion, etc. One must observe that these patients are not of the number of those who experience convulsions, be it as one does not seek to cause them such, or as by their constitution or the state of their health that they are not so disposed. What one permits us to repeat hear is that the persons with whom it acts only experience the light affections & without determined cause.

Many circumstances concur to well-being that these persons have had to experience:

1º Having neither convulsions nor extraordinary evacuations, the processes of animal Magnetism have not exposed them ot the danger of what one calls the crises.

2. The hope that they have conceived, the exercise to which they are delivered everyday, the cessation of the remedies of which they may have used beforehand, & of which the quantity is so often harmful in similar cases, are of the multiple & sufficient causes of the results that one says ot have observed in similar circumstances.

It is probable that the effects of the irritation produced by the processes of animal Magnetism, that is to say, by the pressure or the friction of the sensitive regions, are reduced soon to little on the persons who are only lightly affected & the organs must be accustomed, & ceasing at length to be susceptible of a reaction so often repeated, & so weak to be durable.

For that which concerns the melancholics, who compose the third class, one knows how much it is easy to afflict them, to console them, to suspend for some time their pains, to occupy them, to distract them, & finally how little one should count on their testimonies, on their healing, & on the success that one obtains in the treatment of their maladies.


It follows from the first part of our Report:

1º That the supposed animal Magnetism, such as one announces it in our days, is an ancient system, vaunted in the preceding century & fallen into oblivion.

2º That the partisans of animal Magnetism, either those who have proposed this system, or those who have renewed it among us, have not been able other times & cannot then today, provide any proof of the existence of the unknown agent, of of the fluid to which they have attributed the properties & the effects, & that by consequence the existence of this agent is gratuitously supposed.

3º That what one has named animal Magnetism, reduced to its value after the examination & the analysis of the facts, is the art of making to fall into convulsions, by the touching of regions of the body the most irritable, & by the frictions that one executes on these parts, of the very sensitive persons, after having disposed them to this effect by the multiple & concomitant causes (a), that one can vary a will, & then many are capable alone to provoke the strongest convulsions in certain cases & in certain subjects.

(a) See the exposition of these cause in the first part of our Report.

4º We began the second part of our Report in remarking that, if the alleged animal Magnetism, celebrated in the last century, had been really useful, the usage would have been established & perpetuated.

5º We have seen that it is by error, in the use of terms, that one has named coction & crises the effects that are produced by the procedures of animal Magnetism; that between coction & the crises, which are the means that Nature employs to heal, & the effects of the alleged Magnetism, there only relation in the consonance of the words, which all the essential & constituent conditions are diametrically opposed.

6º We have detailed the multiple & grave dangers to which the usage of the alleged animal Magnetism expose; we have insisted on the ills that one must fear the convulsions as its excites & the evacuations that it occasions.

We think in consequence:

1º That the theory of animal Magnetism is a system devoid of proofs.

2º The this pretended means of healing, reduced to the irritation of the sensitive regions, to imitation & to the effects of the imagination, is at the least useless for those in which it is followed neither by evacuations nor convulsions, & that it can often become dangerous in provoking & in carrying to very high degree the tension of the fibers in those of whom the nerves are very sensitive.

3º That it is very harmful to those in which it produces the effects that one has improperly called the crises; it is so much more as the alleged crises are stronger, or the convulsions more violent & the evacuations more abundant; & that there are a great number of disposition in which its results can be baleful.

4º That the treatments made in public by the processes of animal Magnetism, join to all the inconvenience indicated above, the one of exposing a great number of persons well constituted otherwise, to contract a spasmodic & convulsive habit, which can become the source of the greatest ills.

5º That these conclusions should extend to all which one presented in this moment to the public under the denomination of animal Magnetism since, the apparatus the effects in being everywhere the same, the flaws and the dangers to which it exposes merit the same attention throughout.

At Paris, this 16 August 1784.

Signed – Poissonnier, Caille, Mauduyt, Andry.


(1) Then a conclusion which would be able to dispense with all the others.

(2) These explanations have already been given: they have no more force here; all remains to prove the irritation of the sensible parts, the tension fo the fibers, etc, etc.

(3) There was no need of reasoning followed with conclusions to prove that the real or supposed convulsive movements can not cause any good to those who are delivered to these same movements. As for the evacuations, we have not had enough details to explain to us this subject.

(4) It seems that the question of morality has been left entirely to the commissioners of the academy of sciences; as much as the authors of this report are preoccupied with the physical ills which, following them, must necessarily result from the magnetic scenes.

(5) This last conclusion is just; we have found in the note which ends the report of Bailly the similar conclusion; it seems that all the commissioners have intended an objection that never fails to undo the magnetizers after any test which is unfavorable to them, to know that one has had to judge the particular cases and not magnetism in general; it is an objection which has been made to one of use for a recent report: this objection is of no value. For the ancient magnetism, the commissioners were combined to say, the apparatus and the effects being everywhere the same, their conclusion was applicable to animal magnetism, considered as general doctrine.

The same for the renewed magnetism, we would be able to respond that, the procedures put in use and the phenomena being the same also, our conclusion was equally applicable to all kinds of animal magnetism; but we would have later occasion to return to this question.



People Medicine