Researches and Doubts on
Researches and Doubts on Animal Magnetism
by M. Thouret - Paris - 1784
It is not on what one can think of animal magnetism according to the effects that one attributes to it, that carries the reflections that I present in this work. A great number of persons, of whom one can not dismiss in doubt wisdom & good faith, being charged with care to observe under this relation the method of M. Mesmer, & one must wait to see appear soon the result of their examination. It is with another point of view that I consider here this object. One has written much on all that concerns it. Animal magnetism, according to its authors, is a science which has its method, its rules, its principles, & the fundaments even of this system has been unveiled by M. Mesmer. It is in public that the treatments have taken place, & the procedures that one employs there are thus known by a great number of persons. It is by the examination of these means in general, & by this system in particular, that I propose to occupy myself. I do not speak here of what one observes with animal magnetism in its employ; but of what one has said of its nature. I do not examine it in the effects that one sees operating it, but in the properties that one attributes to it. I consider the authors of this discovery, not as employing magnetism, but as having written on what concerns it, or if I speak of its usage, it is less on the effects that it occasions that have regard, than on the means that one puts in work to produce them. One agrees generally enough that one judges well of a thing, it is necessary at least to consider it under different faces. According to this principle, I have thought that my work should be of some utility.
One has said in speaking of magnetism, that it is with the objects that it is not necessary to refute seriously; I leave others to judge on the part that one can draw from this counsel. But I will not adopt voluntarily this manner to act with M. Mesmer, at least in relation to a certain order of his partisans. A considerable number of people believe, one says, in his doctrine: many even praise his method, & in this number there are the qualities, the spirit & the rank meriting the greatest regards. Good faith above all must be always spared. Some persons finally have always in their belief most respectable motives; the love of the public good, of which they think that the interests are linked to those of this discovery. Is it by jokes that one must enter into discussion with such people?
But should one not rather say that there are objects that it is not necessary to see too closely, in order to judge well; & on which it is at least necessary to reflect some moments before approaching them? Observation is not always a thing so easy, as sure as one could believe it. It does not require, in all cases, the same position on the part of the observer. There are facts of a certain order which, by the number & the great variety, the great mobility of the effects which they present, by the character of singularity that they offer, which finally causing spectacle, can easily induce into error, & which strike especially so vividly the senses, that they do not allow the soul the necessary tranquility to reflection. Is one better placed, in the circumstances of the kind in order to judge well, in being placed in the midst of illusion? Is it not prudent at least, before being delivered to the observation of such facts, to reflect well on the ease that one can have to abuse it; & if one experience suffices to make known enough that opinion one must take from it, has one need of new proofs, & does it not suffice with a simple examination to appreciate them?
These reflections can find their application here. It is large, it is in the public that these treatments have taken place, & it is on known means proper to make illusion, & which have been especially in many of the cases employed in order to spread it, that these procedures are founded in the greatest part. I wish to speak here on the accidents or nervous & convulsive crises. One ignores what abuse one has made of them to establish errors, & these examples must place in guard against their employment, when one sees them reappearing in the base of new pretensions.
It is under this veil that was hidden the whole secret of the prodigies of Saint-Medard, of the possessions of Loudun. It is in discussing, in deepening these means, in making seen how very easy it is to be abused, that Hecquet & another author have unveiled these illusions. What these authors have executed I have thought that one could do in the actual circumstance. I am well distant without doubt of pronouncing here on the degree of resemblance or of relation which can exist between these diverse events & of thinking that there not be utility to follow the treatments of M. Mesmer, or that one not be able to discover anything there.
But if the processes that it employs offer a strong appearance of conformity with those which have occasioned illusion in circumstances in which I am going to speak, can one not fear to be induced also by them into error, & that they do not spread an illusion by which one would be himself seduced? The reflections already made to be drawn on guard against such means, should they not at least be consulted, & could one not draw, by a cold, tranquil, impartial examination, with other great lights [brilliant persons], & with more surety be able to make observation of the same facts, & with presence follow the treatments?
There is besides another point on which the announced discovery by M. Mesmer, can and must be examined independently of the facts. It is not a new thing this magnetism, or this imagined existence of an agent prime motivator of nature, & universal means of healing. Under the first of these relations, this idea has been a subject of meditation for all antiquity, for the philosophers of all the centuries.
Under the second, it has given birth to some extraordinary opinions in Medicine. One has held in different times in explaining nature, in developing the properties, the manner of acting, & these efforts have given place to many systems which, destitute of reason & of reality, have fallen successively into oblivion. But is it not useful in general, when one wishes to appreciate an opinion, to reconsider all that which has been said relative to that which concerns it, & is it not a means the more for the ordinary to multiply the lights?
If otherwise, in developing the nature of his agent, one finds that M. Mesmer returned to the same principles, & reported the same assertion which would have been already discussed, explored & rejected as destitute of foundation; if under this result, one could say of his doctrine or of his principles what we have already said of his method or of his processes, that is to say, that it appears to have the similarity with means which have already been employed; if it was possible finally to draw on some lights to examine his system, as some of the facts, should one neglect them?
Because, it is that which seems to me one can assure, & this which I proposed to put here to the public & M. Mesmer himself to bear for judging. The work that I have published on the magnet (1) of which I had been charged to occupy myself with M. Andry, has furnished me the occasion to make on this subject particular researches, that I believe useful to communicate.
(1) See Observations & researches on the use of the magnet in medicine, etc. Extract of Memoirs from the Royal Society of Medicine, 1779, 168 pages, published 1782.
These are then simple reflections on what M. Mesmer has published with his system, on what one knows of the kind, of the nature, & of the character of the means that he employs, and that I present in this writing. Joined with the lights that one would have gathered from the examination of the facts, they would only concur to fix more precisely the ideas. In proposing them, I will explain them with the whole development & the whole extension of which they seem susceptible to me, in order that being deepened, one rejects them if they have no foundation, or as if they merit some attention, they would be collected, evaluated & placed in their rank. My intention for the rest is to only give them in order that they may have value, & only propose them for as much doubt as one can raise against M. Mesmer.
I do not ignore for the rest how very easy it would be to multiply the researches on this subject; & M. Mesmer, in making known more amply his doctrine, in furnishing the occasion without doubt. But in addition in the actual moment I have had to limit myself to what was known, those things that I have given have appeared to me sufficient to indicate the sources where must draw the ones who will desire to follow this kind of work. As for the reflections, I have designed them to make known only how easy it can be, without changing anything in our actual knowledge, to render reason of the effects attributed to animal magnetism, & from there on what kind must be the proofs which M. Mesmer ought to bear in order to demonstrate the existence.
EXTRACT of the Records of the Royal Society of Medicine.
We have been charged by the Royal Society of Medicine to examine a work of M. Thouret, our confrere, entitled Researches & Doubts on Animal Magnetism.
In reading attentively this work, one sees that it is composed of two very distinct parts; the one which is of some strong history explains the relations of animal magnetism, such as it was known with the ancients, with the one which is admitted by the moderns; the other contains critical reflections, doubts on the proofs which serve the base to this doctrine of which M. Thouret shows the uncertainty. We will try to give the company an idea of these researches.
Animal magnetism has held one of the first places among the systems, in those times where one contented himself with suppositions in the place of facts, & this hypothesis has disappeared with so many others, when experimental physics has dissipated the illusions of the imagination & reduced the knowledge of their just value.
It acted with very subtle fluid to which one had given imposing names, such as those of the soul of the world, the spirit of the universe, universal magnetic fluid, & which extended, one said, with the stars unto us, animated all nature, penetrated all substances, & gave to all animated bodies in general & to their diverse regions in particular forces of attraction & of repulsion by the means of which one explained everything.
One has not contented himself to admit or rather to imagine a fluid of this kind; one has been flattered with power by certain processes, to be rendered master & to dispose of it at will. One pushed farther then these chimerical pretensions; one assured that this fluid in which one admitted a kind of flux & of reflux, had a great action on the nerves, a great analogy with the vital principle; that its effects directed by an able hand, extended to great distances without intermediary of any foreign body; that it was possible to impregnate it either in powders, in the manner of Digby who said to have fixed in his bosom, or in fluids, or diverse parts of the body of animals; that this agent was, like light, reflected by mirrors, & that sound & music augmented the intensity of it.
The partisans of animal magnetism who have written in the 17th century, did not limit their hopes. The art of directing a fluid which they had caused to descend from heaven, & which according to them acted in a manner also marked on the human body, must have a great liaison with medicine or rather could substitute for it; also did one not forget to say that in causing it to circulate rightly, one was sure to heal sick organs & to conserve health of those in which it would have suffered no attack.
Such was the origin of an external & universal medicine, of a new kind, & which boasted of having the advantage of healing without one having been obliged to swallow drugs. Soon one recognized the poles in the human body, that is to say the points on which, to what appears, the action of the fluid supposed to be directed; one operated, without aid of pharmacy, treatments, purgations; one caused the patients to experience sensations of diverse kinds, & in spite of the great effects attributed to this agent, one assured that the weakest & most delicate persons could be submitted thus without any danger. These astonishing processes had then another usage; the one of making known the seat of the ill so often ignored & toward which the fluid was directed without doubt with a kind of intelligence. It perfected the coction of the humors; the ills of nerves especially resisted rarely to its activity; it favored transpiration. Finally, & this last remark is important, it acted powerfully on the moral (nature). A nearly irresistible penchant, was the base of the attachment & of the recognition, vowed by the patients to those which had treated them following this process. Many, in the number of which was Maxwel, even gave to intend that it was possible in some circumstance of life, to abuse this means.
This tableau of animal magnetism such that it has been imagined & celebrated by the ancients, is faithfully extracted in the researches of M. Thouret. The principal authors in the works of which he has drawn, are Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Goclenius, Burgravius, Libavius, Wirdig, Maxwel, Santanelli, Tentzelius, Kircher & Borel. The passages are extracted & cited in whole, & M. Thouret in this production, as in many others, has shown the most varied erudition, the most exact & the most extended.
It is easy to see how much the system that we have exposed is analogous to the one of M. Mesmer. In order to give demonstration of it, M. Thouret has considered separately each of the proposition published & avowed by this latter. They are in the number of twenty-seven; & there results from this examination, that they are all positively enunciated in some of the Authors of which we have reported the names.
It is not until the experiments of the Ring & the Sword (see pag. 120 & 121 of the Work), that M. Thouret has found described in Kircher. It is then certain that the assertions of M. Mesmer, that he regards as his principles, do not belong to him; & that this theory, in the place of being a keen novelty, is an old system abandoned for nearly a century.
In going back to what the original Authors have advanced, one finds the effect of suppositions barren of fundaments, & which, by fault of proofs, have fallen into oblivion. All the parts of this hypothesis were only linked between themselves by the imagination. The march that one had followed in order to establish it had been the same as the one of the art of healing, either by enchantments, or by exorcisms. This always has been by the sensations that one has claimed to prove the existence of these diverse agents; & if this kind of proof sufficed, there would be none which could be demonstrated. Sound Physics has then refused to believe it, as well as in magnetism, such as Maxwel, Goclenius & Santanelli have presented it, & such as we have exposed it ourselves in the beginning of this report.
Does the animal magnetism of M. Mesmer merit more confidence? M. Thouret, without responding to this question in a positive manner, permitted himself in this subject in the second part of his work with reflections that he has only proposed as doubts, & which are only relative to what M. Mesmer has published or advanced authentically. One could object to him, says M. Thouret:
1║ That the touch often employed in his method, & in a sustained manner, on the very sensitive regions, such as the ones of the stomach, etc, can produce effects, in communicating a vital impulse to the nerves of the plexus which are situated there, & which are linked with all those of the human body; that the Authors offer a great number of facts of this kind, & that by consequence the sensations to which the touches give place, do not prove the existence of a particular agent or fluid.
2║ That the heat produced by the hand, the movement communicated to the air can occasion very strong impressions in a very sensitive person, & whose fibers are in convulsion, without any of these effects proving a new agent.
3║ That by seizing the imagination by an imposing apparatus, by extraordinary processes, by the confidence that give great promises, & the enthusiasm, it is possible to augment the tone of the sensitive & nervous fibers, to direct following by the touches their impulse toward certain organs, & to excite there then the evacuations, or excretions, without there resulting neither for Physics nor for Medicine any new knowledge.
4║ That the partisans of animal magnetism only produce what they call crises, that is to say a convulsive state, in very irritable, very nervous subjects, & especially in women whose sensibility has been previously excited by the above-mentioned means.
5║ That among these disposing causes, one must above all count the presence of a person already in convulsion, or ready to enter there; that since an organ attacked with spasm propagates it easily even from one man to another; that it is not necessary then to be surprised if in the salons where are made the alleged magnetic treatments, spasm & even convulsions are also spread promptly, the means to produce them being also easy; & that history furnishes a great number of facts in which convulsions are propagated in a Village, in an entire City, in a manner more surprising still than the one of which animal magnetism offers the example.
6║ That history has transmitted to us also a great number of healings operated by fear or joy, by commotion of some violent passion; which proves without reply the power of nervous influence on illnesses.
7║ That in different epochs, two famous Empirics, the Irish Greatrakes & Gassner of Ratisbonne have produced on different persons effects which have appeared surprising, & which have had admirers; that they only employed the touches, either on the neck, or on the suffering members, & that there has been unanimous recognition that they only acted on the imagination.
8║ That in a great number of cases, the Partisans of animal magnetism seem to be more occupied with the care of surprising the Spectators than of healing the sick; the spasm, the convulsions, which they gave as products in certain ills, were only by habit of this state which they caused to contract, while the advantages of this practice are not equally demonstrated.
9║ That certain local maladies not being in the number of the ones on which animal magnetism acts, & with certain persons, on even the advice of M. Mesmer, not being susceptible of his effect, one could suspect that the Partisans of this method would be handled with this resort in order to render reason to their lack of success.
10║ That to claim the discovery of a means which could suffice in all the cases of illness, that is to say, as the universal Medicine, is an illusion which is not excusable in an enlightened century.
11║ That one can explain by the known effects of sensibility, & without any new agent, the phenomena that M. Mesmer produces by a method of which he has not made part to the Public.
12║ That M. Mesmer, in supposing that he has a special agent, has followed a route contrary to the interests of this discovery, and conducing as those which have made vain efforts to accredit a system worthy of all regards with the neglect in which it has fallen.
The Company can judge the Work according to this extract: it is important to recall here that the Royal Society acknowledges the zeal of M. Thouret, & the numerous works that he has made on all that which concerns magnetism, has charged him, in his Seance held 12 March 1784, to collect from the Authors, as much ancients as moderns, all that which has been written on animal magnetism. These researches as complete as one could desire it, & of which M. Thouret had communicated the plan to the Society, compose the first part of his Work, & can be considered as his report on this subject. We believe that the Company must thank him in this regard. The second Part contains judicious reflections & wise doubts. We think that it merits, as the first, to be printed with the Approbation & the Privilege of the Society.
The Company charged by the King with the examination of all the curative means, new & secret, has not seen without anxiety the kind vogue acquired by animal magnetism, of which the processes, whatever they are, have been & are administered to patients, & paid by the public without having been previously, as well as the laws of the Kingdom ordaining it, submitted to the examination of the Men of the Art; abuse against which the Society has risen as it should from the beginning. It should be flattered that one of its Members publishes scholarly researches on a matter which has only been treated until now in anonymous writings, of which the greater part are rather designed for amusement than for instruction of the Readers. The Work of M. Thouret, meditated with care, will clarify those who will seek there good faith of the lights, & will serve much to resolve a question on which the public interest demands one pronounce for all.
At the Louvre, 9 July 1784:
Geoffrey, Desperrieres, Jeanroi,
de Fourcroy, Chambon and Vicq d’Azyr.
APPROVAL of the Royal Society of Medicine.
I certify that the present Report, of which I have been charged jointly with MM. Geoffrey, Desperrieres, Jeanroi, de Fourcroy, & Chambon, & which has ben read in the session held at the Louvre on the 9th of this month, has conformed to the original contained in the Records of the Royal Society of Medicine which has adopted its conclusions.
At Paris, 10 July 1784:
Signed, Vicq d’Azyr, Perpetual Secretary.
RESEARCHES AND DOUBTS
On the Existence of Animal Magnetism.
It is only necessary to be moderately versed in the reading of the Authors, in order to not ignore that the doctrine announced by M. Mesmer, has formed during a century a dominant opinion which, in the history of such sects unhappy for Medicine, offers a very remarkable epoch: that it has united in its favor a great number of partisans; that it has given place to a host of dissertations & writings, that one has collected in very numerous works. It is under the same name that this doctrine was then announced. Who does not know the different authors who have treated magnetism in respect to the animal economy, & of its usage in the cure of illnesses? Van Helmont (1) has published a treatise On the magnetic cure of wounds. One owes to Goclenius, Professor in Medicine, a work carrying the same title (2), to which he gave a series (3), under the title of Magnetic Synarthrosis. The Jesuit father Roberti published, to refute these two works, two treatises entitled, the first, Examination, etc. (4). The second, Refutation of the magnetic cure of Goclenius. (5)
(1) De magnetica vulnerum curatione.
(2) Rod. Goclenii Tractatus de magnetica vulnerum curatione. Theatrum Sympatheticum, Norimberg, 1662.
(3) Rodolph Goclenii Synarthrosis magnetica pro defensione tractatus de magnetica vulnerum curatione.
(4) Anatome curationis magneticae Goclenii.
(5) Goclenius Heautontimorumenos, id est, curationis magneticae ruina.
It is not only to the healing of wounds & of injuries, or of surgical & external maladies, that these authors employed magnetism that they recognized in the animal economy. They equally made use of it for the general treatment of illnesses. Burgravius has published a little treatise on this subject. (1). One owes to Santanelli (2) the details on magnetic medications & Medicine.
(1) Joann. Ernest. Burggravii Neost. Palatini Byolychnium seu lucerna … cui accessit cura morborum magnetica, 1629.
(2) Ferdinand Santanelli. Philosophia recondita, sive magicae magneticae mumialis scientiae explanatio. 1723. See chapter 14.
Nicolas de Locques has published, in 1664, (Paris) a treatise on the magnetic virtues of blood. One reads in some chapters of Libavius (1) the details which are reported on the same subject. He speaks there of the magnetism of the little world, or proper to living beings. Tentzelius has published a treatise of Medicine called magnetic. (2) Wirdig, in his New Medicine of the Spirits (3), insists among the subjects of which he treats on magnetism of the bodies, & the cures by magnetism.
(1) Alchemiae, book 1, tract 1. See the chapter entitled De magisterio qualitatis occulta, ubi de magnetismo. See also Syntagma arcanorum chymicorum, de magisteriis formalibus, book 1. chapter XIX. The author speaks there de magnete hippocratico, seu minoris mundi, vel omnino viventium; & of the stone of the eagle, lapis aetites, called, he says, by many magnes uteri.
(2) Andreas Tentzelius, De medicina diastatica, term employed by the authors as synonymous with magnetic medicine.
(3) Sebastiani Wirdig, New medicine of the spirit, in which rerum magnetismi … curationes per magnetisum, … Hamburg, 1688. See especially chapter 27, de magnetismo & sympathetismo.
Maxwel (1) speaks of a magnetic water & powder which he had invented. One owes especially to this author a complete treatise on the Medicine called Magnetic. Finally, in addition to medicinal magnetism, & animal magnetism, or proper to animal beings, of which speaks the savant Father Kircher, in his famous work on the magnet (2), he treats in a little supplement to this work, the animated magnets, or particulars to the beings touched with the faculty of sensing. One finds there otherwise many examples reported to prove the existence of this magnetism, in many kinds especially of particular animals.
(1) De medicina magnetica, three books authored by William Maxwel, MD, Scotland, 1679. See chapter 7, concl. 6, & 10 of book 1.
(2) Athanasius Kircher, magnes, sive de arte magnetica. Rome, 1654. See book 3. The supplement to the preceding work of Father Kircher is entitled Magneticum naturae regnum, sive de triplici in natura rerum magnete –– inanimato, animato, sensitiveo. 1667.
One understands in this view by the word magnetism, absolutely the same thing that M. Mesmer announces by his modern magnetism; to know the art of healing by pure external remedies, by absolutely particular means, but simpler, more direct, in banishing all the remedies taken in the interior, & the different processes of ordinary Medicine; in a word, in employing a means to act on the human body, which, as one observes with the magnet in relation to iron, being a means of action purely external, & which is employed without any immediate contact, finally, which operates by an action which takes place in the distance, (what the authors called adio in distans), was named then by them magnetism or magnetic process.
This art was, founded on a very extensive theory, & in which there are none of the propositions enunciated by M. Mesmer, that one can not find. They admitted the existence of a premiere agent to which they gave the name of universal fluid, a denomination more physical that they substituted in times more enlightened, to those that one had given until then of this same principle, such as the ones of soul of the world, spirit of the universe, influence of heaven and the stars, force of sympathy, or occult quality. This principle, according to them, was spread generally into space. It animated all the bodies of nature of which it formed the vital spirit, & there was in its presence, & as much as it rendered in them, that was due to their preservation. It appeared to them to emanate from the celestial regions, & to draw its source from the sun & from the stars. According to them, it established between us & the superior regions a veritable communication, in playing in space a movement of continual flux & of reflux. It was finally in the light of the stars & the principle of heat that they made it reside.
Some free moreover that it was in the atmosphere, they boasted themselves of possessing the means to seize this universal agent, & by its influence on the portion of itself which animates the different beings, the power to modify their existence & their properties. They believed in the power to act in this manner without any immediate contact, but at some distances; & by this means, they claimed power to excite, to put in play the vital principle of animated beings, augmenting its action, exciting crises, & calming the troubles that it can occasion in the organs. In fortifying thus the vital spirit in each individual, they flattered themselves with the power to conserve health, prolong life, & even to preserve from illnesses; finally, & by a natural consequence of this doctrine, they thought to be reaching to the point of simplifying the art of healing, in reducing all illnesses, & all the remedies to a single principle, that is to say, the means to put in play nature, which, alone, & without aid, dissipates so often a great number of maladies.
The partisans of this doctrine gave to this principle the name of magnetic, by reason of the resemblance that they perceived between it & the magnet. It appeared to them to emanate from the stars like the one of the magnet, that they believed dependent on the influence of the bear or of the polar star. It was as if universally spread; it acted in the distance, at more or less of a distance, without the aid of any immediate contact, & its action propagated itself then by a veritable irradiation in all senses & all sorts of directions. It was above all by its faculty to act at distance that they believed it the same as the principle of the magnet; the contemplation of nature, as we will speak elsewhere, & many particular striking phenomena, especially in Medicine, having apprised them that there existed such a force in the universe, & the magnet being, if not the only body which they recognized, at the least the most apparent & the most marvelous which appeared to them submitted to its action.
They believed to even recognize more particularly in the animal economy the phenomena dependent on the action of this universal principle, & evidently analogous to magnetism. Paracelsus (1) had admitted & discovered in man a polar axis. The Alchemists of his sect & of his time, considering man the microcosm, that is to say, as an abstract of the universe, designated two poles in the human body, the mouth serving as the arctic pole, & the belly as the antarctic. (2) Kircher (3) reports finally that some authors had thought that man was gifted with a veritable magnetic force; & that in placing him in a perfect equilibrium on a light boat in the midst of the waters, he would tend naturally to be directed the face to the pole or toward the north.
(1) Theophr. Paracels. opera medico chimica. Paragrani. Tract.
(2) See Le Diademe des Sages, 1781, page 37.
(3) Non dÚfunt denique qui vel ade˛ hominem ipsum magneticÔ qualitate vigere putant, ut si homo naviculae impositus in aquis arte hydrostaticÔ exactŔ libretur, futurum existimant ut facie ad polum Boreum semper tergore ver˛ ad oppositum polum se disponat naturaliter. Sed has tanquam aniles fabulas relinquamus. de Magnete, page 12.
In order to judge the conformity of modern magnetism with old magnetism, it suffices already with this first exposÚ that I have thought necessary to precede, to give at least a general idea of what was this doctrine of the 17th century, & to make better understood what must follow. One sees easily that there are in the one & the other system the same views, the same general principles, the same pretensions to Medicine purely external & universal. In following more particularly M. Mesmer in the explanation of his doctrine, one will see as far as which point this first appearance of conformity is confirmed in the details. We are going now to be occupied with it.
“There exists,” says M. Mesmer (1), “a mutual influence between celestial bodies, the Earth & animated bodies.” First proposition
Maxwel (2) admitted equally of it; he said that the stars, by the means of heat & of light, communicated the vital principle, to bodies disposed to receive it. He compared the sun to the heart which, in the animal economy, distributes the life to all the other organs. It was this star, according to him, which, by the light, communicated to the stars as to the Earth all their virtues. We will soon see that they recognized in this influence a character of reciprocity between the Earth & the other celestial bodies.
(1) See the propositions enunciated by M. Mesmer in his Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism, Geneva 1779.
(2) Stellae vitalem spiritum corpori disposito ligant per lucem & calorem; eidemque iisdem mediis tnfundunt. Aphorism. 17. – Cor cœli sol est qui tÓm stellis, quÓm terrae cuncta per lucem distribuit. Aphorism 32. .. See also Santanelli, Aphorism 17. 39.
The principle, or as M. Mesmer says, “the means of this influence is a fluid universally spread & continued in a manner to not suffer any void; of which the subtlety does not permit any comparison, & which of its nature is susceptible to receive, propagate & communicate all the impressions of movement.” Proposition 2
Such were also the characters of the agent admitted in the old system. Spread in space, one called it the universal spirit, spirit of universal world. (1) This agent was of a tenuity, of a subtlety, of an agility which made it placed by its partisans in the class of the spirits, as participating with the ethereal nature. Similar to the light, Maxwel (2) regarded it as perfectly homogeneous in all its substance.
“With this reciprocal action submitted,” adds M. Mesmer, “to the mechanical laws unknown until the present, resulting from the alternating effects which can be considered as a flux & a reflux, more or less general, more or less composed, according to the nature of the causes which determine it; & it is by this operation (the most universal of the ones that nature offers us) that the relations of activity are exercised between the celestial bodies, the Earth & its constituent parts.” Propositions 3-6
(1) Anima mundi magneticae illius facultatis vector, &c … Spiritus mundi umversalis omnia perlustrans … omnium corporum claustra reserrans … Daniel Beckerus, Armar. Theatr. Sympath. pag. 522, 525.
(2) Tam tenuis, tam agilis, spiritualis, lucida, aetherea res ... cap. 10, conclus. 9. — Spiritus vitalis in se consideratus partes heterogeneas non habet, sed totus ubique lucis instar sibi simillimus. c. 11, concl. 10. Maxw. Adest in mundo quid commune omnibus mixtis, in quo ipsa permanent. — Quod cum communi vocabulo animam mundi dicimus; estque quid subtilissimum fluidum, vulg˘ spiritorum dirigens operationes omnes qux fluunt in hoc murido. — Particulae hujus communis omnibus sunt corporeae materiales, licet exilissimae, & tantum in intellectu sensibles, undŔ est quod meruerunt communiter spiritus nuncupari — Particule hujus spiritosi prae earum exilitate & minimitate quolibet alio corpore mixto, proximiores sunt animae intellectuali quae est verus spiritus immaterialis, &c... Santanelli Philosph. recond. cap.7, pag. 30,31.
The partisans of the old magnetism recognized also in their agent a movement of flux & of reflux between us the Earth & the celestial regions. This spirit, says Maxwel (1), in speaking of the universal spirit, descends from heaven & flows again toward it perpetually. It was from the ethereal regions that it emanated, according to Santanelli (2), & he recognized in it also an alternating movement of flux & of reflux between them & us. We will see more below that the same idea has been adopted by modern authors.
(1) A coelo spiritus hic perpetuo fluit & ad idem refluit; inque fluxu illiabatus invenientur. Aphorism 38.
(2) Ab aethere spiritus his perpetuo fluit & ad idem refluit, &c. Santanelli. Aphorism 38.
“The properties of matter & of organized bodies,” adds M. Mesmer, “depend on this operation.” Proposition 7
Let us compare Maxwel & see. It is the universal spirit, he says, which maintains & preserves all things in the state where they are. (1) –– All that is body or matter possesses no activity, if it is not animated by this spirit, & it does not serve in some kind of form & of instrument. (2) –– For, the bodies serve, thus to say, as base of the vital spirit, they receive it, & by it they act & they operate. (3) –– Finally, he says that The universal spirit which descends from heaven, inalterable & pure as the light, is the source of the vital particular spirit which exists in all things; that it is that which forms it, maintains it, regenerates it, & which gives them the faculty & the power to propagate themselves. (4)
(1) Spiritus universi res in tali dispositione continente. Aphorism 5.
(2) Nihil corporeum quidquam energiae in se habet, nisi quatenus instrumentum dicti spiritus, sive quatenus ab eo informatur: quod mere corporeum, mere passivum. Aphorism 6.
(3) Spiritus vitalis subjectum est corpus; in eo recipitur, & per illud operatur, &c. Aphorism 13.
(4) Spiritus vitalis universalis, de coelo descendens, purus, clarus & illiabatus est spiritus vitalis particularis in rebus singulis existentis pater; illum nempe procreat & mulitplicat, a quo potestatem se propagandi muruantur. Aphorism 27.
“The animal body,” according to M. Mesmer, “experiences alternating effects of this agent, & it is in insinuating itself into the nerves that it affects them immediately.” Proposition 8.
It is not then only a movement of flux & of reflux in space that M. Mesmer attributes to his fluid. He thinks that this movement is communicated even to the interior of the bodies. “According to the principles known of the universal attraction,” he says in another part (1), “noted by the observations which teach us that the planets are affected mutually in their orbits, & that the moon & the sun cause & direct on our globe the flux & reflux in the sea thus as in the atmosphere; I advance,” says M. Mesmer, “that these spheres exercise also a direction action on all the constituent parts of animated bodies, particularly on the nervous system, by means of a fluid which penetrates everything…. I sustain in the same way that the alternating effects in regard to gravity produce in the sea the sensible phenomena that we call flux & reflux, the intention & remission (of animal magnetism) occasion in animated bodies alternating effects similar to those which the sea experiences. By these considerations I established that the animal body being submitted to the same action, experienced also a force of flux & of reflux.” M. Mesmer believed the power to imitate or modify by these processes this interior movement, & it was in order to arrive there that he proposed to excite or to produce in the animal economy, what he called a kind of artificial tide. (2)
(1) Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism, page 6. See also the dissertation of M. Mesmer on The influence of the stars on the human body, published at Vienna in 1766.
(2) In speaking of the first patient on which he made trial of his method, M. Mesmer says: “I projected in the end to establish in her body a kind of artificial tide …”
See the letter of M. Mesmer to M. Unzer, on the medicinal use of the magnet, translated from the scholarly Mercury of Altona.
The partisans of the old system also recognized this movement of flux & of reflux alternating in the bodies. Santanelli who has given a greater extension to the aphorisms of Maxwel, says in speaking of universal fluid that this so subtle matter escapes successively & continually from bodies, & is found there regenerated by a force of flux & of reflux. (1) One finds the same opinion adopted among may authors, & applied to the animal economy. Mead (2) established a flux & a reflux in the air as in the waters of the sea & this movement that he believed occasioned by the action of the sun & of the moon on the subtle element which surrounds us, appeared to him to have so great an influence, that he deduced in it all the ills that the diminution of the weight of the air can occasion to men. Whytt (3), in speaking of the maladies of the nerves, says that they have been related to an unknown faculty, to movements of flux & of reflux that one supposed without demonstrating them. Stahl (4) finally, has treated in one of his dissertations, on the tonic & convulsive movement of the phenomena which he called the tide in the animal economy.
(1) Ab omni mixto successive & continu˛ haec spiritosa subsiantia sub forma effluvii, sivŔ radiorum difflantium fluit, & alia nova ad eadem mixta percussione affluit, undŔ novae deindŔ generationes & destructiones & fieri & hoc affluxu & refluxu necessie est.
(2) De imperio solis & lunas in corpor humana, & morbis inde oriendis. London.
(3) Maladies of the Nerves. page 418.
(4) Georg. Ernst Stahl. Medical Theory, 1708.
“There are manifested particularly in the human body,” adds M. Mesmer, “properties analogous to those of the magnet. One distinguishes there the poles also diverse & opposed, which can be communicated, changed, destroyed & reinforced. The very phenomenon of inclination is observed there.” Proposition 9.
We have seen above that Paracelsus, the father of the old magnetism, & his votaries, had reported the same thing. They also admitted the poles in the human body. They did more, they designated them: they admitted there a polar axis: they recognized there finally a directive force, or, if one can express it thus, the same phenomenon of direction.
“This property of the animal body which renders it susceptible of the influence of the celestial bodies, & of reciprocal action with those which surround it, manifested by its analogy with the magnet, has caused me,” adds M. Mesmer, “to name it animal magnetism.” Proposition 10.
It is the same reason of analogy, as we have said above, that had engaged the ancients to give to their agent the name of Magnetism. Its action appeared to them analogous & similar to the one of the magnet. The principle of these action, according to them, emanated from the stars as the one of the magnet, that they believed depended on the Bear or on the Polar star. In the second place, they claimed in favor of this principle of action, to operate on the human body remotely at more or less distance, & without any need in the least of immediate contact. It was then a veritable magnetism as this action, & following as they considered it as inherent in the human body, or as they employed it in the treatment of maladies, they gave it the name of animal or medicinal magnetism, but more often the name only & generic of magnetism.
One must remark besides that under this denomination they comprehended not only the reciprocal influence that they admitted between the celestial bodies & the animated bodies, but yet another influence also mutual that they recognized between these latter. Santanelli explicates formally on this point. All the beings, he says, that the world contains, participate with the universal spirit, they are capable by it of maintaining between them a certain relation or correspondence, & of being aided then in many operations. (1)
(1) Quia omnia quae in mundo sunt, participant de spiritu universali, saltem per hoc apta sunt aliquam correspondentiam inter se haber adeoque in aliquibus operationibus convenire. Cap. 6, axiom 1.
“The action & the virtue of animal magnetism then characterized, can be,” adds M. Mesmer, “communicated to other animate & inanimate bodies; the ones & the others are however more or less susceptible –– This action & this virtue can be reinforced & propagated by these same bodies.” Propositions 11 & 12.
The ancients also announced that they had means to seize & to communicate their universal agent, to reinforce it or to fortify it in individuals by employing the appropriate means. If you know to employ, said Maxwel, the bodies impregnated with the universal spirit, you will draw on a great aid. It is in this that consisted the whole secret of magic. This spirit, he added, is found in nature, it exists the same everywhere, free of all interference, & the one who causes it to unite with a body which agrees with it, possesses a treasure preferable to all riches. One can, he added then, by marvelous processes communicate it to all bodies following their disposition, & augment then the virtue of all things. (1)
(1) Spiritum universalem, si instrumentis hoc spiritu impregnatis usus fueris, in auxilium vocabis; magnum magorum secretum. Maxwel, Aph. 68.
Spiritus hic alicubi vel potius ubique quasi liber a corpore invenitur, & qui illum cum corpore congruenti jungere novit thesaurum omnibus divitiis anteponendum possidet. Aph. 9.
Cuicumque fecundum subjecti dispositionem a perito artifice miris modis conjungi potest (rerum que virtutes augere). Aph. 38.
“One observes by experience,” says M. Mesmer, “the flow of a matter of which the subtlety penetrates all bodies, without notably losing its activity. –– Its action takes place at a remote distance without the aid of any intermediary body.” Proposition 13 & 14.
We have seen above that the ancients also recognized in the universal agent an infinite subtlety. As for the faculty of penetrating across all bodies, without notably experiencing diminution or weakening of its activity, we will make seen soon that the ancients have recognized it in their principle. They admitted that its action or its influence extended to cross the entrails of the earth, & as far as the depths of the seas. Its property acting at a remote distance, without the aid of any intermediate body, is expressly indicated by Maxwel. The one, he says, who causes action on the vital spirit particular to each individual, can heal at some distance whatever it is, in calling to its aid the universal spirit. (1)
(1) Qui spiritum vitalem particularem affisere novit, corpus cujus spiritus est curare potest ad quamcumque distantiam implorata spiritus universalis ope. Aph. 69.
This action of magnetism, according to M. Mesmer “is augmented & reflected by mirrors, by the light.” Proposition 15.
We have already seen that the ancients made the agent or the principle of light reside in the light. The one, said Maxwel, who regards the light as being the universal spirit, does not distance himself much from the truth; it is in effect either the light itself, or it is in it at least that it resides. (1)
(1) Qui lucem universi spiritum dixerit Ó veritate forsan non mult¨m aberrabit. Vel enim lux est, vel in luce domicilium possidet. Ex primo enim lucido, distillatione saepi¨s repetita, circulatione variÔ a perito mago miris modis extrahitur. Santanelli, Aph. 78.
But the principle of magnetism exists as, according to the old view, in the light, one sees that it must follow the same laws to which it is submitted, & play then in the faculty of being reflected. If one adds that in the use of magnetism, it is the principle which emanates from the very body of the person who magnetizes, his gaze reflected & directed by a mirror on the patients that this property must be intended, one will see better yet that the ancients had the same view. Pierre Borel in his dissertation on sympathetic cures in order to make understood how these cures could be operated at great distances, expressed himself thus: The emanations of the bodies, he said, are extended to very great distances in all senses by the reflection of the rays of the light & the action of the wind… This principle, he added, like ray of the sun which passes through a window, is spread into the air by a particular route, by which the virtue of the sympathetic medicaments are communicated. (1)
(1) Quo pacto autem haec fieri possint breviter dicam. Transpirationes corporum omnium ad sphaeram maximam devehuntur per luminis radiorum reflexionem & per ventum ….. Per aera fit via quaedam (tanquÓm radius solis per fenestram) per quam communicantur sympathetice remedia morbis admota, &c. Peter Borellus, de curationibus sympatheticis.
Libavius, in speaking of the different magnetisms applied in Medicine, & of the manner of directing the action of it on the animal economy, expresses himself yet more positively. The Magicians, says he, employed for this different means which had been indicated to them by nature. In reflecting the principal spirit of magnetism, as one reflects the light by a mirror, one can direct the action of it on an individual; one reports, he added, that it is then that the basilisk kills himself, & the women impregnated with poison, by gazing at themselves too often in the mirror, throw it back on themselves, & reflect it on their eyes & their visage. (1) Santanelli, in speaking of magic & the different means that it employed to act on bodies, put in this number the specula mirrors. (2) The ancients recognized then a transmission of magnetism by the reflection proper in the rays of light. It seems that in the time of Father Cabee this opinion was then admitted. Its action, said he, penetrates the hardest bodies, & is not reflected. (3) Finally it was on this principle that was founded the very old art of fascinations.
(1) Magi exemplis naturae ducti mediis quoque usi sunt. Sicut enim per speculum lumine spirituque refracto potest dlrectio fiari in certum subjectum; & quidem memorant, Basiliscum seipsum sic interimere, & venenosas mulieres, soepi¨s se contemplando virus vertere in vultus oculosque suos. Syntagma Arcanor. Chymic. lib. i, cap. 19.
(2) Philosoph. recondit. cap. i, pag. 4.
(3) Penetrat ejus virtus etiam durissima corpora, nec reflectitur. Philosophia magnetica, 1629.
What we say here of the light in order to propagate the action of magnetism, must be understood also of sound. “It is,” M. Mesmer continues, “communicated, propagated, & augmented by sound.” Proposition 16.
The partisans of the old view regarded music also as a means to propagate magnetism: they recognized in music a great magnetic force. One finds above all this opinion well explained by Father Kircher. (1) According to this celebrated man, it was not on the soul that music acted immediately, because being immortal & immaterial, it could not have any rapport with the voice or sound; but it was by the mediation of this agent, to which one gave the name of spirit, vital spirit, that its power was exercised on souls. (2) One can see elsewhere what he says of magnetism with music, for the healing of Tarantula. Finally, Jean Baptiste Porta cites a great number of examples of sympathy or of antipathy exercised by the power of music. One must observe here as these two faculties confounded with magnetism; their action, according to authors, taking place by the mediation of the general agent of magnetism or of the universal spirit.
(1) Magnetica vis musicae omnia movens, Lib. 3. Mundi magnetici. part. 8. Magnetismus musicae.
(2) Spiritus enim hujusmodi cum subtilissimus quidam sanguinis vapor fit admodum mobilis ac tenuis facile ab aere harmonice concitato incitatur. Ibid. pag. 575.
“This magnetic virtue,” if one believes M. Mesmer on it, “can be accumulated, concentrated, & transported.” Proposition 17.
We have seen above that the old authors spoke of means or of instruments that they could employ, & which were, they said, impregnated with the spirit or of the universal principle of magnetism Spiritum universalem. See note on page 28. They announced also that one could communicate it, fix it in certain bodies. Spiritus his alicubi. See the same note. The universal spirit of the old magnetism resembled then yet under these new reports of the universal fluid of modern magnetism. They could even accumulate it, concentrate it, transport it.
“I have said,” M. Mesmer continues, “that animated bodies were not equally susceptible to it. There are even, although very rare, those which have a property so opposed that their presence alone destroys all the effects of this magnetism in other bodies …. This opposing virtue also penetrates other bodies; it can be equally communicated, propagated, accumulated, concentrated, & transported, reflected by mirrors, & propagated by sound; that which constitutes not only a privation, but a positive opposing virtue.” Proposition 18, 19.
What M. Mesmer says here of the properties of this opposing virtue, that one could call a negative magnetism, appeared to have been perceived equally in the old system. It is what the authors of this time understood by antipathy, which destroyed effectively all effects of sympathy, & which, constituted as it a veritable opposing & positive virtue, far from being a simple negation. One can only doubt otherwise that the ancients had admitted & recognized a true kind of magnet which had the property to destroy the virtue of the ordinary magnet, & that they called for this reason lethal magnet. They thought also that the two opposing properties in the appearance of attracting & of repulsing, that one remarks in magnetic bodies, far from the power of belonging to substance, constituted to the contrary two kinds of very distinct magnets, of which one was believed touched with the faculty of repulsing, was called the Theamedes. (1) It was in the example of this substance, & on the observation of the phenomenon that it presented, as they thought that one had to report in magnetism the example of the force of antipathy. (2)
(1) Lapis Theamedes ferrum omne abigens & respuens. Encelius, de re Metallica. book 3. 1557.
(2) Natura consistit in sympathismo seu magnetismo, & antipathismo sue theamedismo. Th. Sympath. pag. 601. Wechtlerus, de un. armarii difficultabus.
“The magnet, either natural, or artificial,” says M. Mesmer, “is as well as the other bodies, susceptible of animal magnetism, & even of the opposing virtue, without that, neither in the one case, nor in the other, its action on iron & the needle suffering any alteration, which proves that the principle of animal magnetism differs essentially from the mineral.” Proposition 20.
For the partisans of the old system the principle of animal magnetism was equally distinct from the one of the magnet. I do not know if they adduced the same proof that M. Mesmer gives here, but at least they recognized this truth. It was only by analogy of the effects that they gave the name of magnetism to their principle. The magnet to them was otherwise too well known that they did not seize all the specific difference which belonged to it. One would have been able to think, & one appeared in effect to have thought, that they had called the unguent for the sympathetic cures of wounds, with the name of magnetic, because one made the magnet to enter there. But there was nothing to it. (1) A clearer proof still, it is that they certainly would not have neglected to make enter there this substance, of which one made then a great use, if they had thought that it had been by the virtue of its principle that it had acted. It suffices otherwise to read Father Kircher in order to be assured that it was only by the similitude of the properties & of the effects that they gave to their method the name of magnetism; & we have given above the reasons for it.
(1) See Johan. Roberti Goclenius Heautontimorumenos. sect. 18. Magnes, magnetica acto & curatio … Sunt qui … Ide˛ magneticam curationem putent dici quod magnetis aliquid unguento misceatur. Error ex voce nascitur. Sciant igitur isti ide˛ curationem dici magneticam, quod quemadmod¨m magnes in distans agere, &c. Itaque tota ratio nuncupationis in similitudine est. Th. Symp. p. 416.
The two propositions which follow, prop. 21, 22, announce the influence that the theory of M. Mesmer must have on a great number of the more important phenomena of physics, “on the nature of fire & and of light, as well as the theory of attraction, of flux & of reflux, of the magnet & of electricity &c.” We see again in the following this Memoir, where this article will require some extended details, the examination of these propositions foreign to the medical subject which occupy us here more particularly.
M. Mesmer then continues, “One will recognize by the facts, according to the practical rules that I will establish that this principle can heal immediately diseases of the nerves, & others mediately.” Proposition 23.
Such were the pretensions of the partisans of the old magnetism. They recognized for the first cause of maladies, the affections, & the diverse alterations of the principle of life, or of the vital spirit, by which one can only doubt that they did not understand the system of the nerves, & all which concerns its phenomena or its derangements. All the maladies depended according to them on this first cause, & since then in fortifying & restoring the vital spirit, or the true principle which animates the nerves, they did not doubt that one could achieve the healing of all the kinds of illnesses. Let us consult Maxwel, The maladies, says he, do not belong essentially to the body; but there is none which are not dependent on the weakness or of the expulsion of the vital spirit. There is also no indisposition which can subsist for long times when this spirit is in all its vigor. It is this alone which constitutes the nature of which physicians are or should only be the aides…. (1) He adds then, one then must propose in all ills, to fortify, multiply, & regenerate this vital spirit. It is then that one will arrive easily to heal the maladies. (2)
(1) Quia morbus terminative non est corporis. Nullus enim morbus in corpore quocumque introducitur, qui hujus debilitate vel expulsione non perficitur, nec ulla intemperies corporis di¨ manere potest spiritu hoc vigente, per quem solum omnia corporis mala corriguntur. Hic est natura cujus auxiliatores sunt medici aut saltem esse debent. His consideratis medicinam universalem dari posse corollarium fit. Maxwel, chapter 9.
(2) In omnibus ide˛que malis rectifýcandus, consortandus, multiplicandus est dictus spiritus; sic omnes morbi facilŔ curabuntur qu˛d maximŔ medicis proponimus... Maxwel. c. 7.
M. Mesmer adds, proposition 24, to the properties of his principle, “that with its aid, medicine is illuminated for use with medicaments; that it perfects their action, & that it provokes & directs salutary crises in the manner to render it master.”
Partisans of old magnetism also reported the same power in their doctrine. They thought, as we have said above, that by this means they could excite, put in play the vital principle of animated beings, augmenting its action, exciting crises & calming the troubles which it can occasion in individuals. It is one of the great secrets of the philosophers, says Maxwel, to know how to employ the universal spirit to direct in a natural fermentation the particular vital spirit in each thing, & with power also by repeated operations to calm the troubles & the tumult which can result from it…. (1) If you wish, he then says, to operate great effects, add to the body a greater quantity of this spirit, or if it is asleep, know to recall it…. (2) The one, he says finally, who could employ the spirit impregnated with the virtue of a body & to communicate it to another body disposed to experience the change, would have the power to operate astonishing & marvelous things. (3)
(1) Qui adhibito spiritu universali spiriturn particularem cujuscumque rei ad fermentationem naturalem excitare potest, & dem¨m tumultus naturales sedare repetitÓ operatione, res in virtute ad miraculum augere potest, summum philosophorum secretum. Maxwel, Aph. 52.
(2) Si volueris magna operari, corpori de spiritu adde, vel spýritum sopitum excita. Aph. 7.
(3) Qui poterit spiritum impregnatum virtute unius corporis cum altero ad mutationem disposito jungere, poterit multa mirabilia & monstra producere.
As for the medicaments on the usage of which M. Mesmer reports that his doctrine must illuminate the physicians, the partisans of the old system had similar views; for as well as M. Mesmer, they admitted, as we will see it, that the aids of ordinary physicians could & should even, at least in certain cases, be employed with their universal agent; but they believed duty to make a particular choice. We will have place to return to this article later.
“In communicating my method,” adds M. Mesmer, “I will demonstrate by a new theory of diseases, the universal utility of the principle I oppose to them.” Proposition 25 –– We have said already, that such were the pretensions of the partisans of the old magnetism. The passages of Maxwel that we have reported relate to the Proposition 23 (above) of M. Mesmer prove that in adopting for a new theory, the production of maladies by the weakening or expulsion of the vital spirit, that is to say of this portion of the universal spirit inherent & fixed in different individuals, they recognized then in their processes a means of a general utility for healing, in a word, a veritable universal medicine. That there can be, says Maxwel, a universal remedy, it is that of which one can not doubt, for in fortifying it, the particular vital spirit becomes capable of healing all kinds of maladies. It is in effect that this spirit alone has sometimes dissipated them without the aid of physicians…. (1) The universal medicine is no other thing than the vital spirit augmented, multiplied in an agreeable subject. (2)
(1) His consideratis, say Maxwel, medicinam universalem dari posse corollarium fit…. Medicamentum universale dari posse jam conclamatum est, quia si spiritus particularis vires sumpserit morbos omnes per se curare potis est, ut experientiÔ communi notum est. Nullus enim morbus qui aliquand˛ sine medicorum ope Ó spiritu vitali non sitcuratus. Aph. 93.
(2) Medicamentum universale nihil aliud est quÓm spiritus vitalis in subjectum debitum multiplicatus. Aph. 94.
“With this knowledge,” according to M. Mesmer, “the physician will judge surely the origin, the nature & the progress of illnesses, even the most complicated; he will prevent the increase of them, & arrive at their healing without ever exposing the patient to dangerous effects or unhappy results, whatever the age, the temperament & the sex. Women in the state of pregnancy, & when in labor, will enjoy the same advantage.” Proposition 26.
The ancients permitted themselves the same surety of employment with their procedures. It is, says Maxwel, that one can sense all the excellence of magnetic medicine of which the aid can be accumulated, multiplied, without one having to fear causing unhappy results, or of disturbing nature, that which is not equally possible in ordinary medicine…. (1) In this latter, he says in another part, one employs internal remedies, & which are not always exempt from bad qualities. In magnetic medicine, to the contrary, one only makes use of external aids, & which are always taken in the class of those which fortify. (2)
(1) Hic magneticarum curarum praestantiam videre poteris, quarum cumulum sine molestiÔ, vel naturae turbatione simul adhibere licet, im˛ convenit, quod in altera medicinÔ minime fas est. Maxw. pag. 195.
(i) Hic enim externis, atque semper confortantibus, illýc ver˛, (in medicinae vulgari) internis & aliquand˛ veneno non vacuis utuntur artifices. Maxw. pag. 58.
“This doctrine,” adds M. Mesmer, “will put medicine in the state of judging well the degree of health of each individual, & of preserving him from the maladies to which he would be exposed. The art of healing will soon reach to its last perfection.” Proposition 27 & last.
The first authors flattered themselves also with the power, in fortifying the vital spirit, preserving thus health, prolonging life, & even preserving from maladies. The one, says Maxwel, who could fortify the particular universal spirit, could also prolong life as far as a very advanced age, if the influence of the stars did not oppose it…. (1) The one who knows, he adds, the universal spirit & who knows to make use of it, can drive away all corruption, & preserve in the vital spirit its empire on the body. (2) By these advantage the ancients believe to carry the art of healing to higher degree of perfection. It is to the physicians to see, says Maxwel, how much this method can contribute to perfecting the treatment of illnesses, because there is none who, with its aid, can not be easily healed. (3)
(1) Qui poterit spiritum particularem spiritu universali fortificare, vitam in aevum producere potis esset nisi stellae reluctarentur, Aph. 70.
(2) Qui spiritum universi ejusque usum ne vit, omnem corruptionem itnpedire potest, & spiritui particulari dominium super corpus largiri. Aph. 92.
(3) Videant MedicÝ quantum hoc ad morbos curandos fecerit. Aph. 92 …. Sic omnes morbi facilŔ curabuntur, quod maxime Medicis proponimus, &c. cap. 7, concl. 6.
One sees by this first examination, what conformity the doctrine of M. Mesmer presents with the old magnetism, & for better making the truth of it felt better, we have believed duty to commence by the twenty-seven propositions on which it is supported, & that one can call fundamentals. In continuing the examination, & descending into some details given by M. Mesmer or his partisans in order to explain his system, we will see that the same conformity is made remarkable in a manner no less sensible.
It is true however that the manner of acting or of employing the alleged magnetism, is different in each of these doctrines. The ancients, as well as we come to see it, recognized, like M. Mesmer; that the body of man was animated by this agent, that they called the fluid or the universal spirit, & that one could act on individuals by the means of this principle. But in order to place them in use, they did not employ, as M. Mesmer does it, the touch, as the sole approach. Their method consisted in another order of processes. In order to give the universal spirit the agreeable direction, they were obliged to employ the same parts, either separated, or extracted or evacuated from the body of the individuals on which they proposed to direct magnetism. The different humors of the human body, be it blood, urine, excrements, & in general the products of different excretions, or against nature as pus abundant by wounds; finally the different solid parts, such as the flesh, the nails, the hair separated from the living body, were in the old doctrine as much convenient & necessary means to exercise magnetism. According to them these different parts, as much as they were preserved in their state of integrity, remained united by the link of a common way with the same individual who had furnished them. It was by the mediator of the universal spirit that this substantive union had to be operated, & in acting thus on them, one believed assured to act also on the individual to which they had belonged, by an action exercising in the distance, & without any immediate contact, was thence regarded as being veritably magnetic.
But if one excepts this sole difference one will see how much the one & the other method have a set of conformity. There is in both the same theory & the same mechanism of action which has place. The ancients believed that there exhaled from bodies, & parts which were separated, a certain quantity of spirits, or rather a similar portion of the vital spirit with which the ones & the others were provided, & which linked them together by a mutual correspondence. There is, said Maxwel (1), a reciprocal & perpetual irradiation of spirits which unite them & link them, although a great distance separates them. There is a perpetual & reciprocal emission of rays, which forms this chain or this means of union. Finally, in order to say it in few words, it is to the enchainment, according to the same author, that depended all magnetic medicine. (2)
The partisans of the doctrine of M. Mesmer equally admit these ideas or this communication. (3)
(1) Conclus, 6, cap. 7 , lib. 1.
(2) Concatenatio quaedam est spirituum feu radiorum licet longe separentur. Qualis fit haec concatenatio? Est fluxus perpetuus radiorum Ó corpore prodeuntium & vicissim. Hoc unum hic breviter dicendum putavi, nempŔ ex hac concatenations totam magneticam medicinam pendere.
(3) See The Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism. Journal de Paris, no. 47. 16 February 1784, article Communication. “When M. Mesmer touches a patient for the first time, he touches the greater point of meeting of vital influences. Then takes place the electric communication. This done, it is withdrawn, & extending the finger, there is formed between the subject treated & him a trail of fluid by which is preserved the established communication.”
In order to exercise the communication on an individual, M. Mesmer, according to them, begins touch. This condition appears at least necessary in order that he can act later in the distance. He has then need of being linked thus so to say with the individual, in order to give the fluid with which he is impregnated the direction which must make him experience the effects. He establishes then between the patient & him a veritable communication, concatenatio. It is the same with the patient that M. Mesmer places in the circle surrounding his apparatus; not only each person communicates in particular with this apparatus, but all communicate together & are touching among themselves. It is what one calls forming the chain, & M. Mesmer regards this disposition as a powerful means of reinforcement for magnetism. But is it not then a kind of concatenatio? Can one not presume according to this hypothesis that in the one & the other case there is established a perpetual & reciprocal irradiation, fluxus perpetuus radiorum … vicissim, in the first case, between M. Mesmer & his patient, in the second, between the different persons places around the apparatus. Can one not say especially of these latter that they are linked, enchained by this irradiation, radiis reciprocis concatenari, & that the medicine of M. Mesmer or of the moderns, & that of the ancients or of Maxwel, depend entirely upon this invisible & secret enchainment or communication, totam ex ha concatentatione pendere?
One can carry further the proof of this conformity. This art alleged to act on individuals by the communication of spirit was not limited to the ancients in believing that they could change the state of bodies. They regarded it then as a powerful means to act on the moral (nature), & to modify it in many ways. They believed it especially very proper to provide an absolute empire on the spirit or the heart of women, & they did not hesitate to warn about the abuses that one could do with it. It is not prudent, said Maxwel, to treat these objects, because of the dangers which can result by it; if even one explained openly on this point, fathers would no longer be safe with their daughters, husbands with their spouses, nor women answering for themselves. (1) Can one not believe it duty to reproach animal magnetism for the same ease of abusing it? Have not the same partisans of this method sought to enlighten the public on the abuses which they believed that could result from confiding it to young hands. The author of the letters inserted into the Journal of Paris, no. 44 & 67, 1784, has principally insisted on this article, & M. Mesmer in his replies, does not appear to have wanted to deny this truth. He encloses in it the indication of precautions, that one can take, & which are above all inseparable from a public treatment, or done in large to hold off reproaches.
(1) Non satis tutum de his agere propter pericula. Ansam praebere potest luxuriosae libidinis explendae vel maximam. Im˛ si haec conclusio clarŔ explÝcaretur, (quod avertat Deus) patres de filiabus, mariti de uxoribus, im˛ fœminae de semetipsis certae effe nequirent, &c, cap. 13, conclus, 11.
It is then not only in the one & the other doctrines for healing of maladies that one believed the power to employ magnetism. One believes in both having power equally to disturb health, occasion accidents & cause unfavorable & untoward sensations to be experienced. I do not wish, says Maxwel, to bring condemnable actions to you. If in the reading of my writing you draw similar means, you would have the attention to not divulge them. –– I have observed, he adds, very great advantages & marvelous effects from the good usage of this method. I have also seen the abuse that one made of it, occasioning infinite ills. (1) One knows enough what means one employed under this rapport in old magnetism. The art of harming by excrements was founded on these means. The emanations, said Maxwel, extend very far, & it is by them that, without knowing it, we are often submitted to illnesses of which we are ignorant of the causes. (2) One reports in animal magnetism the same power. (3) M. Mesmer, one says, can purge, afflict with diarrhea, torment with a keen & painful colic, individuals submitted to his action. One knows enough the stories of persons of which one recounts that incredulity has been then experienced & dissipated by M. Mesmer.
(1) Tibi animum ad nefanda non addam; a quidquam ex meis scriptis damnandÔ conseqnentiÔ erueris, non propalabis. cap. 11, concl. 10 …. C¨m enim hujus artis mirabilia viderim maximasquŔ militÔtes, t¨m etiam innumera mala ex debito usu vel incauto ab use, &c. Praefat.
(2) LongissimŔ erg˛ se extendunt, & variŔ nobis ignorantibus operantur, variŔque nos ab illorum laesione affecti sumus, causas morborum ignorantes. Maxwel, cap 7.
(3) “The influence of M. Mesmer lasts many days; & during this time, if the person is susceptible, he can operate on her sensible effects without touching her again; from distance, without another intermediary than the same fluid acting by substantive communication, sometimes even across a wall.” Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism. Journal of Paris, No. 47. Supplement.
The ancients drew yet from their art the greatest prodigies. For by this method, said Maxwel, one heals not only illnesses, but one can operate still more astonishing things. (1) One knows enough what marvelous effects they attributed to the lampas vitae (lamp of life), to sal sanguinis (blood salt), by which they believed that one could be instructed with what a person experienced who was living a distant journey or making a voyage. One knows this means that they believed to make converse between them persons most distant, by means of an alphabet imprinted on the arm. (2) M. Mesmer in truth does not operate yet for the extension of the action, of so great prodigies, but would his partisans not be able to say that it is on the way, that he imitates them a little?
(1)Atqui non solum morbi hßc methodo curantur. Ver¨m alia longe mirabiliora fiunt. Maxwel, cap. ix.
See Joan. Ernest. Burggravii Biolychnium seu lucerna cum vitÔ ejus cui ac censa est mysticŔ vivens jugiter cumque morte ejusdem expirans, omnesque affectus graviores prodens, &c.
(2) This process consisted in raising from one of the arms of each of these a little shred of flesh of equal form, of applying the piece from one arm to the other, & then reciprocally. On these shreds, which were soon made body with the individual, one engraved around the letters of the alphabet; & when one of these persons, thus prepared, touched with a stylus the different letter, the other was instructed with it by a sentiment of pain & of bite at the site where was found the designated letter. This means of communication took place at very great distances. See Boetius de Boodt. Gemm. & lapid. hist. c. 254.
That one recounts (1) from the books from which one magnetizes – a line, a word, a page, a passage & that women cannot read then without being found ill at the place designated: what has passed near the basin of Meudon, or M. Mesmer placed on the one hand in plunging his cane into the water, makes, what one assures, to fall into crises persons placed opposite & which communicate in the same manner with the water of the basin; these stories of magnetic trees that one can not touch without experiencing a revolution, the one especially of the tree in the garden of Soubise, which magnetized then by M. Mesmer, could not, as what one says, be approached without violent incidents by many persons who accompanied him; this final story, so recent of the young cataleptic, who placed in an apartment near but separated, without any communication with M. Mesmer, repeats, says one, his movements; all these marvels can they not enter into comparison with the preceding, & could one not say that M. Mesmer approaches singularly with the ability of the old magnetists?
(1) See Journal of Paris, No. 44, 1784. Letter to the authors of the Journal … The author of this letter, in speaking of animal magnetism, says: “I had advanced that it was not of nature to be handled by too young hands. This question is so interesting for the public, that it can only be judged between M. Mesmer & myself. Let us cite some facts at random.
“M. Mesmer finding himself one day with MM. Camp*** & d’E*** near the great basin of Meudon, proposed to them to pass alternately to the other side of the basin, while he remained in his place. He made them plunge a cane into the water, & there plunged his. At this distance, M. Camp*** felt an attack of asthma, & M. d’E*** a pain in the liver to which he was subject. One has seen persons not able to sustain this experience without falling into a faint.
“Another day, M. Mesmer was walking in the woods in a land beyond Orleans. Two young ladies enjoying the freedom of the countryside, outdistancing the company in order to hurry gaily near it. He put himself to flight: but soon returning on his steps, he presented his cane to them, in prohibiting them from going farther. Immediately their knees bent on them. It was impossible for them to advance.
“One night, M. Mesmer descended with six persons into the garden of Lord Prince of Soubise. He prepared a tree, & a little time later, Madame la M*** de *** & Melles de Pr*** & P*** fell without knowing. Madame la D*** de C*** held herself at the tree without power to leave. M. C*** de Mons*** was obliged to seat himself on a bench, lacking the power to hold himself on his legs. I do not recall what effect was experienced by M. Ang***, a very vigorous man; but it was terrible. Then M. Mesmer called his servant to raise the bodies; but, I do not know by what dispositions, of this one, although much accustomed to these kinds of scenes, found himself beyond the state of acting. It was necessary to wait some long time so that each could return to himself.”
See further the Dictionary of marvels of nature by M.A.J.S.D., Paris, 1781. volume 1, page 8. Animal Magnetism. The author reports there the story of a test held in his presence by M. Mesmer on the governor of the children of a house where he found himself. This story must not appear less extraordinary. [end of note]
It is then as much on the moral nature as on the physical, that by magnetism, M. Mesmer, in imitation of the ancients, seems to have acquired an absolute empire. As one reads the letters of Father Hervier (1), the ones of M. Court de Gebelin (2), one will see that this alleged agent inspires affectionate sentiments, that it attaches by a vital & tender recognition in the patients to those who treat them; that its action finally is proper to fortify the links of the blood & what must become a source of delicacy & of happiness to the bosom of families. The ancients attributed the same benefits to magnetism. They believed it fit to produce the same effects, although they recognized there, at least under certain rapports, a sufficiently great difficulty. Once can dispose of the spirits, says Maxwel (3), but because of the empire of the will, it is necessary for a great force & the concourse of a great number of causes. One knows otherwise what they have written on the love of which they explained the action by a kind of magnetism, (magnetismus amoris). (4) It was the same principles that they rendered account of the presentiments especially by persons directed linked by blood. One finds again in the doctrine of modern magnetism, this same idea reported. (5)
(1) Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism, Paris 1784.
(2) Letter from the author of The Primitive World.
(3) Ad animos enim inclinandos, propter dominantem voluntatem magna vis requiritur, plurimanunque causarura conspiratio; quam quia vulgas ignorans nescit, horum certitudinem calumniatur vel diabolica vel falsa dictitans. cap.20.
(4) Kircher, book 3, Mundi Magnetici. Parti 5. de Magnetismo Amorýs.
(5) “The phenomenon of communication renders reason of the force of the maternal affections, of their preference for their first or their last children, & finally of their presentiment; presentiments that one denies because they are rare; but of which the possibility exists, &c.” Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism. Journal of Paris, 1784. Supplement.
Another analogy enters into both systems, & as for the same manner of employing magnetism consists in this that the ancients did not exclude from their method certain processes by which they acted in a manner, in truth, purely exterior, but with immediate contact, & that they did not call less magnetic; for it is necessary to observe here that it was not only in what they called action at distance that magnetism consisted. Remedies, substances that one applied by habit on bodies, had then, according to them, a similar manner of acting, & taking the good, it was always an action at distance that they had, in attracting, for example, from inside to outside, or rather in healing from outside to inside. One finds in the ancients similar processes that they called magnetic; then the powder of amber spread on the head, heals, according to Maxwel, by a veritable magnetism. (1) Thus the application of little dogs to the feet, or that of pigeons to other parts of the body, were for them as much magnetic processes. (2) M. Mesmer also in his essentially magnetic doctrine, adopts means to act, of which the use requires however immediate contact or application. The touch enters into much of his method; but as well as his old predecessors or masters, it is at least to a purely exterior action which it appears principally to be limited.
(1) Miro magnetismo humores nocentes Ó capite ibi attrahit. Maxwel, book 3, chapter 1 & page 194.
(2) Quae omnia alio modo quÓm per magnetismum fieri nequeunt. chap. 9, book 2.
It is not however that in the old magnetic medicine, one did not even admit internal remedies. But one made a particular choice in it & some only of a certain order had to be employed. Such were specially the comforting medications, that is to say that one recognized as proper to fortify the vital spirit, & thence to second by their action that of the universal or exterior spirit that one believed to employ. Maxwel repeats in many places this assertion. It is fine, he added, to cause concur to the success of this method, all the forces of nature. (1) He treats in his work of the use that one could make of the ordinary evacuating remedies; but he insists specially on the comforting medicaments; which, he says, because they fortify the vital spirit respond more particularly to our views; for, he adds, it is impossible to heal a malady, if one does not fortify the vital spirit agreeably, as much the interior as the exterior. (2) –– M. Mesmer recognizes equally the utility of some internal remedies in his method; but in his choice he differs from the ancients. Creme of tartar is now the remedy that he preferably employs. There was a time when soluble martial tartar was the one that he appeared to prefer. One knows then that in certain circumstances, when without doubt that the cases require it, he augments the number of medications that he admits to make part of his treatment. He even employs those which are of a more ordinary usage & of a more marked action, such as baths, bleedings, purgatives.
(1) Pulchrum equidem est totÔ conspirante natura ad opus procedere, quod, ut in medicinÔ hÔc nostrÔ fieri possit, de evacuationibus famosis breviter pro ratione diximus. Jam autem de confortativis intr˛ sumendis agere decrevimus, quae quidem, quia spiritum vitalem confortant, nostro proposito maximŔ congruere certum est. Nec possibile est quin morbus curetur nisi debitŔ, tÓm intrÓ quam extrÓ spiritus vitalis fortificetur. chap. 5, book 2.
(2) Omnes admonitos velim ut interim confortantia morbo appropriata interi¨s propinent, qu˛ citi¨s, tuti¨s & jucundi¨s cura perficiatur. Pag, 58. Maxwel. — Prim¨m autem hic generaliter monendum omnem medicinam in alterÔ medicinÔ licitßm, hýc etiam adhiberi posse. chap. 3. book 2. –– Atque praetereÓ d¨m haec fiunt, altera illa communis medicina suo munere fungi potest, modo comfortativis tantum & specificis utatur. Pag. 199.
However in spite of this conformity with common medicine, the partisans of old magnetism glorified themselves much in their doctrine, of having nothing in common with it. I am far away, said Maxwel (1), from the principles of ordinary philosophy. There does not exist in it, or very little in the schools. –– What idea must one have of a science which is in contradiction with daily experience? –– If you have not learned, he added, the philosophy of the schools, & if you have drawn in Galen all your knowledge in medicine, you can abstain from reading this treatise, for you will be able neither to understand nor bear a healthy judgment of what it contains; it is too distant from your way of perceiving. The partisans of modern magnetism praise themselves equally to follow a particular route. They regard ordinary medicine as a science that it is absolutely necessary to abandon. “My reflections,” says M. Mesmer (2), "have insensibly discarded from me the paved way.”
(1) A communý philosophantium turbÔ secessi, fateor, said Maxwel: nullam vel raram in scholis philosophiam agnosco. — Qualis quaeso erit illa philosophia quae cum experimentis quotidianis minime quadrat? — chap. 1, book. 1. Si Philosophiam tant¨m vulgarem in scholis edoctam cognoveris, & si medicus Galenum tant¨m sciveris, Ó lectione, quaeso, hujus tractatűs abstine, quia nec illum intelligere, nec de eo judicium ferre aptus es. — LongÚ Ó moribus tuis alienus, &c. Pref.
(2) Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism. pag. 11.
Does one still want other reports, & in the same manner of employing magnetism? It is easy to present them. The ancients only having to act magnetically, as well as they told it, on individuals or patients, by the aid of the different humors or parts of them which were extracted, sought at the least & preferred those who they believed the more abundantly provided with the vital spirit particular to the individual, & who appeared to them to offer thus a means more powerful of communication to the favor of the universal spirit. It is for this, says Maxwel, that we seek the vital spirit in the parts where it is more bare, in order that in applying to it the most agreeable aid, there can be withdrawn rather harmful & foreign matters, & that in being renewed in all its substance, it arrives more promptly to restore the body in its natural state. (1) Among the different humors which seemed to present to them this advantage, they placed the blood & the matter of transpiration or the sweat. It appears also that, for their magnetic applications they made choices of certain parts of the body which cause function of the emunctories, gave place to a greater emanation of vital spirit or spirits. (2) One assures the same that in the modern method, the partisans of magnetism designate particular centers on the human body for practicing their touch. It is at least thus that they prefer the epigastrium that they regard as the greatest point of meeting of vital influences. (3)
(1) Hinc spiritum in suÔ nuditate quaerimus, ut debita applicatione citi¨s Ó nocivis & extraneis liberetur, & veloci¨s totum se immutet, corpusque rectificet Ó temperie lapsum. Maxwel, chap. 11, concl. 10.
(2) Licet ex toto corpore radii semper fluant sunt tamen quaedam corporis partes ex quibus copiofiores fluunt, qualia sunt emunctoria per quae corpus humanum mundatur, spiritusqne superfluitates comitans liberiori egressu vagatur. Magnetem igitur partis dolentis emunctoriis applica. &c. Maxwel, chap. 12.
(3) Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism. Journal of Paris, No. 47, 1784.
One speaks in this method of means to purge magnetically, & we have already made mention of the power of this kind that one attributes to M. Mesmer in order to convince certain unbelievers. The partisans of old magnetism boasted of the power to produce similar purgations, to which at least they gave the same name. Maxwel reproached the authors of his time, for not yet having magnetic purgatives exempt of any inconvenience, & seemed to be happy in having found such a one. (1)
(1) Nond¨m inventum esse medicamentum aliqu˛d magneticŔ purgans (unguenta quaedam communiter nota excipio) quod prorsus venenosÓ qualitate caret.
M. Mesmer reports that by his method, one can easily discover the seat of the principle of the most hidden maladies; that one can recognize, for example, if a patient is attacked with obstructions, & what are the viscera where they are placed. In old magnetism one reported the same advantage. When, says Borel, an ailment is internal & as one is unaware of what is the part which is affecting it, it is easy to be assured by the method that one indicates. (1)
In the operations of the modern system, magnetism employed, directed by M. Mesmer seems to manifest its action on individuals by particular sensations. In the old view one said the same that it was by sensation that magnetism was operated. (2) One knows otherwise what part one alleged to draw from the art of harming by excrements, in order to cause experiencing of pain to persons of which one sought to be avenged.
(1) C¨m etiam ignoratur malum internum cujusdam, quaeque pars in eo laboret, c¨mque fenestrÔ careamus, ut olim Momus optaret, quÔ possimus partem affectam detegere, illud — percipere valemus. –– Tuncque pars eadem quae in aegro affecta, reperietur; & sic cognito morbo remedia legitima admoveri poterunt. Borellus, obs. 28, cent. 3.
(2) Magnetismus fit per sensationem. Th. Sympath.
It is the most often by an impression of heat that one assures that magnetism is made felt under the hands of M. Mesmer; & Santanelli has said, as much as one communicates the spirit to a body, so much one gives him heat, & he loses with this latter in the same proportion as that of the first. (1)
The principle of animal magnetism according to its partisans, resides in the atmosphere. M. de Harsu assures that it makes part of it. (2) Maxwel placed with the same his agent or universal spirit in the highest regions of the air. He is wasting his time, he said, than to seek this salutary spirit in another part than on the summit of the highest mountains. (3) We have seen otherwise above that he thought that it resides everywhere, free & liberated from all interference. (4)
(1) Omnis calor Ó spiritu vitali procedit, sicuti de motu dictum est, nec ille sine calore subsistere, vel corporibus misceri potest. Aph. 74. –– Quant¨m de spiritu tant¨m de calore ponitur; amittiur ver˛ de uno quantum de altero. Aph, 75.
(2) See Record of salutary effect from the magnet in patients.
Geneva, 1782, Disc, prelimin, pag. 31.
(3) Qui hoc medicamentum alibi quaerit quÓm in vertice montium altissimorum praemium laboris dolorem damnumque inveniet. Aph. 95.
(4) Spiritus hic alicubi vel potiűs ubique quasi liber Ó corpore invenitur. Aph. 9. Maxwel.
One knows that the partisans of animal magnetism use iron rods, that they hold elevated to extract, what they allege, the universal fluid in the atmosphere, & that they believe also, when it is superabundant, can reject it into the common reservoir. The partisans of old magnetism also claimed power to seize the universal fluid that they believed spread into space, & to fix it in certain bodies by particular processes; they were the processes of Alchemy. They prepared thus their magisters, that they impregnated, they said, with the universal spread in the air. (1) The famous powder of sympathy was thus prepared. It was, said Chevalier Digby, the universal spirit itself fixed & as incorporated. (2) By putrefaction, to the contrary, they thought that the portion of the fluid that contained the mixtures was rendered to the general focus. See the aphorisms of Santanelli.
(1) Universali spiritu per aerem vagante. Santanelli. pag. 50.
(2) Nihil aliud esse quam, ut itÓ dýcam, corporificationem spiritűs universalis — qui omnibus rebus sublunaribus animam dat. See Kenelmi Eq. Digbœi oratio. de vuln. perpulv. sympath. sanat. Theatr. Sympath.
The partisans of M. Mesmer report that (1) the principle of animal magnetism is the universal fluid; that this fluid is susceptible to take different determinations into its movement, & that it is in impressing it that one can employ it in a manner useful in the treatment of maladies. One finds again the same ideas in the first system. One knows that its partisans believed that the principle of magnetism resided in the same matter of light, & Santanelli has said that the matter of light not having by itself any particular determination, it was necessary, in order to employ magnetism, to imprint one in it. (2) –– But in order to induce no one into error, he added, it is necessary to say that this light susceptible of taking different determinations, although by itself it has none, & which encloses the principle of life of all things, can be called the vehicle of the universal soul of the world, is not known in its nature. (3)
(1) See Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism. Journal of Paris, &c. article All is direction.
(2) Ex luce indeterminatÔ determinatam facere. Aph. 8o, 81 , 82, 83, 97.
(3) Sed ne quis fallatur, lux quam indeterminatam dicimus, quaeque in se vitam rerum possider, animae mundi universalis vehiculum, in tenebris latet, nec nisi Ó philosopho qui centrum rerum planŔ perspectum habet cernitur. Aph. 84.
One assures that in magnetizing trees, one can communicate to them a disposition which puts them in state to act by the principle of magnetism on the sick, in a salutary manner. In the old system one made use of it also to operate the healing of patients by the intermediary of the universal spirit. It was on this point that was founded the art of healing by transplantation.
In the old magnetism one regarded transpiration as a means of universal action. One can regard it, said Maxwel, thus as sweat, like the effect of a kind of liquefaction of all the substance of the body. It is for this that they are of so great a use in magnetic medicine. (1) The partisans of animal magnetism have also great care to counsel all that which can favor transpiration. They recommend as a particular attention to watch for the greatest property of the body. (2) We will say nothing here of the advice which they give equally to quit tobacco, of treating his mouth, his nails & of preserving his hair, in order to practice magnetism. (3) It would be easy to make seen that in old magnetic medicine the same objects had merited a great attention. (4)
(1) Totius corporis liquamen sunt hinc ini medicina magnetisa se¨ diasiaticÔ maximi usus. book. 2, chap. 16. De sudore & insensibili transpiratione.
(2) Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism. Journal of Paris.
(4) See Maxwel, book 2, chap.17. De crinibus. His igitur non immerit˛ utimur, sunt pars corporis viventis. Antiquos magos mediantibus pilis multa perpetrasse notum est. — Chap. 18. de unguium praesegmýnýbus &dentibus. — Chap. 19, desputo & narium mucore. — Haec omnia tamen, quia in corpore moram fecerunt aliquid de spiritu vitali secum ducunt.
Finally, does one desire in the same form of works, examples of conformity, M. Mesmer reports himself as the inventor of his system, as the first who has put it in order. He presents his discovery as a science which has its principles, its consequences, & its doctrine. (1) Maxwel in the same way alleged to establish his doctrine by consequences & principles. As I am, said he (2), the first who has tried to treat methodically with this part of medicine I already merit by this alone some indulgence. –– What should I not expect, added he (3), from the censure of the ignorants, I who give not only one remedy, but many; which do not limit me to indicate the particular processes, or which already are a common usage, but which apprehend a general method & certain rules, to the aid of which each could easily invent new things & more marvels …. I who have not only given such rules, but who has cast the fundaments on which repose all this science?
(1) See The reply of M. Mesmer to those who have consulted on the magnetic cure. Encyclopedic Journal, first June 1776. M. Deharsu, Record of salutary effect of the magnet in patients. Disc. prel. p. 27.
(2) C¨m primus sim qui methodicŔ de hic medecinae parte scribere tentaverim. — book1, chap. 1. — Vel hoc saltem nomine qu˛d primus sim veniam mereor.— Preface.
(3) Quid igitur Ó rigidis ignorantibusque censoribus expectare debeam qui non unicum medicamentum sed multa; non particularÝa & hacten¨s quidem communia, sed & modum universalem, regulasque certas posui, quibus solers ingenium plura majoraque suo marte facilŔ invenire poterit. — Nec tant¨m regulas pos¨i ver¨m fundamenta substravi, super quas totam artem fundatam cognosces. Preface.
M. Mesmer gives his method as founded on observation, experience & facts. Maxwel supports himself with the same evidence. In speaking of the philosophy of his times. What case, says he (1), do you wish that one make a science which is daily in contradiction with the facts? –– Our view, he adds (2), is then founded on a constant experience.
(1) Qualis quaeso erit illa philosophia quae cum experimentis quotidianis minimŔ quadrat. book 1, chap. 1.
(2) Vera igitur & indubitÔ experientiÔ confirmata est nostra assertio, ex quÔ tanquÓm ex uberrimo fonte rivuli pulcherrimi fluunt. chap. 7, concl. 6.
M. Mesmer reports particular methods for the cure of some of the most rebellious maladies. Maxwel of the same said (1), animated with the love of the public good, we will give in addition a sure way to treat many of the illnesses which one regards as incurable, such as mania, epilepsy, impotence, dropsy, paralysis, intermittent & continued fevers. M. Mesmer reported the same in his letter to M. Unzer (2) that he tried his method “against epilepsy, mania, melancholy & intermittent fevers. He also placed, in the number of these affections, paralysis, for which he reported elsewhere that he had a particular method.”
(1) Dabimus praeterer Ó reipublicae studio ducti, certam fex maximorum morborum curam qui Ô vulgo medicorum incurabiles habentur, maniae nempŔ, epilepsiae, impotentiae, hydropis, paralysis & febrium tam intermittentium quÓm continuarum, &c. Preface.
(2) See Record of salutary effects of the magnet, by M. de Harsu. pag. 15; & the Reply of M. Mesmer to those who have consulted on the magnetic cure, &c.
M. Mesmer complains of seeing all the public rising against his discovery. Maxwel was indignant with a similar welcome. Have I not seen, says he (1), the universe nearly entire, being raised against this art, attacking it by sarcasms, & seeking to cover it with ridicule? Is there not, he added, soon two years that one prevented me from printing my work in this city & in the present moment I have not yet obtained permission for it?
(1) An non jam penŔ per biennium editio impedita hÔc in civÝtate fuit, nec hacten¨s hic imprimere licitum fuit? An non mundum quasi totum in unicum hujus artis remedium maxima oppositione maximisque conviciis insurgentem hoc elapso soeculo vidi? — Nonne rÚclamante experientiÔ quae semper sacra & indubýtata esse debat, hoc magicum, diabolicum, nefarium ineptissimŔ judicabatur? — O non ferendam iniquitatem! &c. Preface.
M. Mesmer has enclosed in some of the fundamental propositions the first principles of his doctrine. Maxwel had also enclosed his own in the particular propositions in the form of aphorisms. One finds them again in Santanelli, explained & commented. It was only for the rest a first sketch of his system that he presented. In order to execute it with little extent as he had given in his treatise, he complained of what other concerns had not allowed him the liberty. But, he added, we will give in another time things even more marvelous, & which will interest the public good. M. Mesmer reports also that he will publish more amply his doctrine; “in communicating,” says he, “my method, I will demonstrate by a new theory of illnesses, the universal utility of the principle that I oppose to them here.” Proposition 25.
Finally M. Mesmer draws from the same magnet comparisons to make his principles understood. “A non-magnetized needle,” says he, “will only return by chance to a determined direction.” (See Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism, p. 10) In the old system, the magnet also furnished comparisons for making the doctrine better understood. One could cite a thousand examples of it. Maxwel at least employed it. As far as the stone magnet is fortified & nourished in some manner in adhering to iron, the same also are the substances which preserve the vital spirit that one has come to be provided, &c. (1)
(1) Nam sicut magnes lapis ferro fortificatur & quodam, modo nutritur, itß sunt qui spiritum vitalem apprehensum custodiunt, donec alteri curam ipsius commutant, &c. cap. 13. concl. 11.
Until now we are attached to what M. Mesmer has thought duty to reveal of his doctrine to the public. But he reports that it can have a much greater extension. It is not only in medicine that it is applicable. Its partisans assure that it can give the key to the high physics, that its agent is the universal spring of the mechanism of the world (1), & M. Mesmer himself reports in propositions 21 & 22, of which we have reserved previously from occupying us in the series of this memoir, M. Mesmer, I say, assures that “this system will provide new illumination on the nature of fire & of light, as well as the theory of attraction, of flux & of reflux, of the magnet & of electricity.”
(1) Essay on the discovery of animal magnetism.
One remarks under this report a feature of conformity so striking between the old magnetism & the modern, so that one can pass it over in silence. It will furnish us elsewhere the occasion to impart the history & the first times of this doctrine renewed in our days, some details which can be necessary here.
The ancients had not regarded magnetism as a property particular & proper to the stone magnet. Many phenomena appeared to them analogous to those that this marvelous substance presented, & they attributed them to magnetism as to a common cause. They admitted thus, not as now made to us, a lone kind of magnet, but many kinds or genres of this substance, of which the number appeared to them more or less multiplied. One finds in the most remote times traces of this view. (1)
(1) See Kircher, de magnete, book 1, part. 1, chap. 4. Utr¨m magnetes diversa assignentur & specie differentes. — See also Albert Magnus, opera physica. tom. 2, book 5, de mineralibus. Tract, 1, cap, XI, He cites Aristotle.
They admitted a kind of magnet which attracted gold, & which they called Pantarbe, another kind which attracted silver, others which attracted different bodies of nature, like the precious stone called sagda according to them, attracted wood. Amber, especially, attracting straws & threads, appeared to them most particularly a magnetic substance. One knows that in those times where electricity was otherwise known, it was this property of amber or of the yellow amber, electrum, which Gilbert d’Anglois directed, after having examined the magnet, to be occupied with electricity, regarding amber as a kind of magnet. But until then at least one had given too much extension to magnetism, one only had considered it as a particular property. From posterior times they acquired more credit for it.
The first observers were students, by the force of their meditations, as far as this truth that the whole of nature was ruled by a secret power which, carrying things which are agreeable to unite & those which do not agree to flee & to recede, maintained thus the universe in a state of interior & perpetual movement. (1) The nature of this principle was for long times hidden from them & in the impotence of discovering it, they sought at least to designate it, following the principles received in their times, by an occult force or quality which they called force of sympathy or of antipathy.
(1) Lis & amicitia in naturÔ stimuli sunt motuum, & claves operum; hinc corporuna unie & fuga.— Geber.
Qui formas rerum novit is unitatem in materiis dissimillimis complectitur. See Kircher, de magnete, book 1, part 2, pag. 23.
One was content for long times with this first knowledge, but when in the renewal of the sciences, physics was more particularly cultivated, one believed to make a great step in the discovery of nature & of the phenomena of the first principle. The magnet then attracted the attention of a particular manner. The first regards being turned toward this substance so well made to strike & to astonish; it is at least what seems to us to indicate this host of features on the magnet, that one finds published at this era, & as such writings on the precious & common stones, lapidus & gemmis, to which one would be drawn to believe that the prodigies of the magnet gave birth particularly. For the rest the properties of this substance were then better understood; its marvelous singularity struck minds more vividly, & what under the relations of times ought not to amaze without doubt, one believed to have discovered in it the word of the great enigma, of one of the mechanisms of the world. The magnet appeared to join all the characters of the universal principle, first motor of the universe; there was in it as one believed that nature seemed to be better unveiling the greatest of its secrets. In effect this principle by its immensity embraced the universe, it had to establish a marked correspondence between the celestial bodies & our globe. (1)
(1) Qui sciverit catenam connectentem superiora inferioribus, hic mysteriorum maximum penetrabit. — Algaziel Arabs. Kircher, p. 13. See also Petr. Servius, Theatr. Sympath. pag. 553. Necessari˛ , inquit Cicero, omnia uno divino ac continuato spiritu continentur.
One knows at what point the ancients had believed in the reality of this superior correspondence, & the magnet of which one recognized the directive virtue, appeared to announce a principle imprinted with this great character. One believes in effect that the magnet which was directed toward the pole of the world held this action with that of the principle of its activity, it was transmitted from the stars or more particularly from the Polar region of heaven. (1) It united otherwise in its manner to act the two principal characters of the universal action of nature, those to attract & to repulse, or the one of general & common tendency of bodies to flee & to reciprocally unite. Its actions propagated by a veritable irradiation in all sense, & in all directions, as one observed in the forces of nature. It took place also between remote bodies at more or less distance; what rendered reason of a great number of phenomena of which the existence & the importance was one of the strongest reasons which had reached to recognize the necessity of a universal principle. It exercised finally across the most solid & hardest bodies, as one was persuaded that the celestial influences act on the metals in the entrails of the earth, or on bodies immersed under the mass of waters in the deepest abysses of the sea.
(1) Quare unumquodque cum altero sympathiÔ consociatum, ut magnes cum astris, &c. Petr. Servius. Ibid.
One believed then the universe animated by the same principle as the magnet. This word, so to say in passing, can be taken in a pinch. Some ancients had given to the universal principle the name of soul of the world. (1) One had also attributed a soul to the magnet. But in later times, & especially in the epoch of which I come to speak, one placed this principle, no longer in the class of subordinate & secondary intelligences, imagined in the preceding centuries, but in the rank of the principles that one called spirits, universal agents or fluids, ethereal matter. This idea produced in physics a kind of general revolution. The whole of nature appeared submitted to magnetism & one sees by these numerous traits of the system of the world where one recalls everything back to the magnetic forces, that one has published in the last century, how much this opinion had acquired empire in physics. (2)
(1) See Ocellus Lucanus, On the nature of the universe; TimÚe de Locres, On the soul of the world; Plato, in his Timaeus; & Aristotle, in his Letter to Alexander on the system of the world.
(2) Wirdig, Medecina spirituum. Universa natura magnetica est... Totus mundus constat & positus est in magnetismo. Omnes sublunarium vicissitudines fiunt per magnetismum. Vita conservatur magnetismo. Interitus omnium rerum fiunt per magnetismum. (book. 1, chap. 27. De magnetismo & sympatheismo, no. 3, pag. 148.)
Everything in nature appeared then animated by magnetism. The stars or the celestial bodies were so many great magnets which mutually balanced, attracted & entrained each other in space. This view that one owes to Gilbert, is analogous to the system of attraction of the great Newton. The elements seemed to be attracted by a veritable magnetism, & by such an action to operate in the production of meteors.
This powerful magnetism extended from the heaven to the earth, & all bodies of our globe were, one said, impregnated with it. It was the magnetic action of the sun & of the moon which produced the phenomena of rocking of the waters, that of the flux & of the reflux of the seas. The minerals & the fossils; the vegetables & the plants, all living beings, & understand most particularly the animal kingdom, did only exist, increase, act by magnetism. Man finally in his physical & moral constitution, was submitted to the empire of this power of which he experienced the action.
A great number of particular phenomena analogous to these different classes of beings or of substance, were related to the same cause. The effects of yellow amber, or the electrical attractions; the action of mercury on metals; the phosphorescent or luminous stone: the vegetation of the plants, the art of grafts for the trees; the plants called most particularly magnetic, & which seem to follow the sun & the moon in their course: different kinds of animals designated also particularly by the same denomination, such as the torpedo, the remora of the ancients, a serpent of America called by Father Kircher, anguis stupidus Americanus, rana piscatrix (shrinking frog), the flying fish or piscis globusus; the syrene; the impression that seems to be produced by the toad on the weasel: in man finally the power so astonishing of the imagination, the effects of that of the moth on the infant that she carries in her bosom; the empire no less astonishing of music on the minds, its effects in the production of the passions, in the cure of the tarantula; the power still more potent of love, the art of fascinations; all these phenomena were only explained in the favor of magnetism proper to each of the three kingdoms of nature to which were related the different substances, either of animal nature, or of vegetable nature, or finally of the order of animated beings which presented them. It is then to this principle that is related palingenesis or the art of causing revival by ashes, the substance which had furnished them; the different kinds of magnetic timepieces, by which one presented that two persons & at distance, could communicate between them; (two phenomena that M. Comus seems to have realized under our eyes); finally the famous marvels of the divinatory rods which hold in this system a great place, & that one has held to renew in our days. In a word, as the title of the work of Father Kircher expresses so well, all the phenomena of nature were linked among themselves by a cause or a veritable magnetic entrainment, mundi catena magnetica.
Medicine did not delay to submit to the yoke of this dominant opinion. Not only had one admitted to magnetism – animal or correctly to that of animated beings, as one had admitted a plant & mineral magnetism; not only did one explain by this magnetism the functions of the human body, for example, in nutrition principally how the different parts of the body attracted the nutritive molecules which were analogous to their substance, such as grease the oily parts, the bones the terrestrial parts, & thus for the nervous & mucoid parts; one believed power to seize this principle, serving instrument to nature in the preservation & maintenance of the animal economy, & in using or employing it to restore its functions when they were deranged.
Some facts, of a very singular order, appeared to indicate in the human body a particular kind of magnetism, in the favor of which one believed power to establish a new manner of treating & of healing maladies. The parts separated or drawn of the living body, as we have told it, such as the excrements in general, certain humors like the blood or the pus furnished by wounds, even the solid parts of the human body, such as shreds of flesh appeared continuing to live with a life common with the individual who had furnished them, & one believed to discover that all the impressions or changes that one caused to experience them, transmitted them at the same instant to the individual who felt them. A very extraordinary fact especially gave birth to this view. (1)
(1) See Santanelli, page 12 & Van Helmont, &c.
A man of Brussels having had an artificial nose made by operation of Taliacot, was returned, thus repaired into his features, in the place of his ordinary dwelling, where he continued to live healthily, the operation having succeeded well. But all of a sudden, one says, the artificial part which was provided him, became cold, pale, livid, rotted & fell off. One did not know to what cause to attribute this unexpected change of which one saw no sensible reason. But one soon apprised him that the same day of the loss of his nose at Brussels, a picklock of Bologna, who for silver, had furnished him a portion of skin taken from his arm, had died in that city where the operation had been practiced. A second similar fact was soon collected. Maxwel (1) speaks of it in his work, & it was not necessary further to lead minds then delivered into the infancy of physics to all the superstitions of magic and of the old times. One generalized soon (2) this fact of observation. The kind of sympathy of which he offered the example was regarded as a general property of the animal economy. A thousand other facts reputed incontestable were cited in support. The Alchemists especially seized on this idea. They prepared this salt of blood of which they claimed that the color changed & was tarnished at the death of the individual, who had provided the material for it. The lamp of life, Lampas vitae, offered, according to them, the same marvel. The light of the lamp weakened, or was extinguished absolutely in the case of death or of malady. It is from there finally that came the art other times so famous of harming by excrements.
(1) Maxwel, De medicin. magnetic.
(2) Petr. Servius, De ung. armar. Th. Sympath. page 551.
One soon thought it possible to employ this alleged discovery to helpful uses. Blood drawn from wounds, pus extracted from sores, appeared to offer a new means of healing. One did not regard in this method the presence of the patient necessary. In applying on soaked cloths with one or the other of these humors, a particular powder called powder of sympathy; or in coating with a particular unguent the weapon or sword which had made the wound, & which remained tainted with the blood of the wound, one assured that one could heal at very great distances, & in a manner much more sure & more salutary than by ordinary means. One gave to this unguent the name of unguentum armarium (unguent of arms), to this method, the one of curatio vulnerum magnetica, sympathetica (magnetic, sympathetic cure of wounds); & to those who exercised it, the one of Telungiarii. One can not believe how much favor this singular medicine acquired, what illustrious & distinguished partisans it had, what infinite number of treatises it gave occasion to publish. The famous Knight of the King of England, Chevalier Digby gave his name to the powder of of sympathy. Finally since Paracelsus & Van Helmont, that one can regard, especially the first, as the author of this sect, a great number of physicians took up the pen & published different writings in favor of the new method of healing.
Moreover this revolution, such power as it was by the credit & ardor of its partisans, did not lead general opinion. The true observers remained attached to the ordinary doctrine. They opposed to the new votaries the singularity of their opinion, its lack of proofs & conformity with good physics. But its oppositions did not stop them. To the contrary they inflamed them anew; & in the view of sustaining their opinion, they sought to render reason of the facts that they advanced as incontestable. They made all efforts of genius of which they were capable under this rapport, Maxwel especially; & it is thence that came this particular theory of the universal spirit drawn by the most old philosophers of antiquity, of which one thought able to support the shaky doctrine, & in which one finds again, as we come to see it, if not the whole method, at least the whole doctrine of M. Mesmer.
It is in effect under medical rapport the same basis of doctrine; they are the same principles, the same views, the same pretensions. It is the influence of the stars of planetary magnetism, harmonic magnetism, or the one of music, animal magnetism finally, or proper magnetism of living & sensible beings recalled onto the scene. These are the same ideas on the existence of a universal principle, which animates man & all living beings; that one can grasp & by which one can act exteriorly on the human body. Under physical rapport one sees traces of the same conformity; the stars compared by M. Mesmer (1) to great magnets which mutually attract & govern their own movements; the sun & the moon occasion on our globe the flux & reflux of the sea (2), & produce a similar movement in the whole atmosphere (3); the harmonica of which one finds in Father Kircher, in the same article on animal magnetism, a kind of description or of imitation (4); finally, & in order to limit ourselves to what M. Mesmer says on this article that he only indicates, his doctrine must give, according to him, new illuminations on many other points of physics absolutely the same on the nature of fire & of light, as well as in the theory of attraction, of flux & of reflux, of the magnet, & of electricity. (5) Proposition 11, 22.
(1) Letter of M. Mesmer to M. Unzer, &c. “From the year 1766, I published a pamphlet on the influence of the planets & particularly the sun, the moon & the earth, have on the human body; I tried to prove that these great celestial bodies act on our globe in general, & on the parts which compose it in particular, in the same manner that, conformed to the system of Newton, they gravitate to each other, & above all to the sun, mutually attracting as much as great magnets, in ratio of their masses, of their distances, & of their dispositions, retarding or accelerating their orbits, & deranging the order of their movements, &c.” We have said above that this view had been adopted in the old magnetism. It is especially to Gilbert that owes its birth. See Guillelmi Gilberti tractatus de magnete, sive physiologia nova de magnete magneticisque corporibus, Sedini, 1628. Kepler & Stevinus later also adopted it. Consult Kircher, book 3. Mundi magnetici, sive catenae … part. 1. Ouranos magnetismos. Chap. 1. De consensu coeli & terrae. Kircher treats in this chapter a magnetism or magnetic movements of the earth, the planets & the stars. De terrae, planetarum, astrorumque magnetismo, seu motibus magneticis …. He examines whether the celestial bodies, either fixed, or wandering, have veritably a magnetic force which moves them, & by which they attract magnetically each other. Utrum magnetiquement, soli, coeterisque astris, tam erraticis, quam fixis, vere magnetica vis insit, & utrium unum alterum vere & propie magnetice trahat. question 1. He refutes the reasons that Gilbert apports to prove that the movement of the earth is magnetic; & ends by saying that it is not, as this author alleges it, a great magnet. Argumenta & rationes quibus Gilbertus terrae motum magneticum afferit, eorumque refutation. Sect. 1. Tellus non est magnus magnes. ž. 1.
(2) Letter of M. Mesmer to M. Unzer, &c. “I showed the same as the sun & the moon in consequence of their respective positions & of the one of the earth, & of their distances, operating the tides, as much as the different seas, as all the atmosphere; they produce an analogous effect on the human body.” This view also made part of the old magnetism. See Kircher book 3. mundi magnet. part 4. G’ dromagnetismos, that is to say, “the magnetism of the sun & of the moon” on the humid element or the waters. De magnetismo solis & lunae in maria sive elementum aqueum. He speaks “of the influence of the stars on the inferior beings, of flux & of reflux of the ocean & other seas.” De mirabili facultate luminarium in inferiora, sive de aeflu oceani, caeterorumque marium flux & refluxu. chap. 1. He examines finally, “if the moon attracts the waters of the sea, if it by true magnetism.” Utrum luna & an magnetica vi trahat aquas maris? quest. view& he refutes this.
(3) See the passage above from the Letter from M. Mesmer to M. Unzer, Kircher, de magnetismo elementorum, magnetism meteororum.
4) Kircher, book 3, mundi magnetici, part. 8. De potenti musicae magnetismo.
(5) See Proposition 21 of M. Mesmer; & Kircher, on the magnetism of meteors & the elements, De magnetismo elementorum, magnetismo meteororum … On the magnetism of amber & of bodies or the electric attractions. De magnetism electricorum, magnetismo electrici, seu electricis attractionibus, earumque causis. book 3. chap. 3.
On the subject one can only pass under silence an experiment that the partisans of animal magnetism cite & repeat to the eyes of much of the world, as proper to convince them, & that one also finds again in Father Kircher: it is that of the sword that one causes to support by the guard on two fingers & that one sees put into a movement of rotation so rapid, when a person who magnetizes, turns circularly his finger around it. (1) Such is yet the experiment of the ring which suspended at the end of a thread & inserted into the interior of a glass, strikes the hour, one says, between the hands of magnetic persons. One finds in Kircher this experiment reported among many other descriptions which he gives of magnetic clocks. (2) M. Mesmer not being more extended on the uses that his theory of physics must have, according to him, can add nothing more. But it is especially in the aim that he proposes, that he gets infinitely closer with the old magnetists. Such is the pretension of treating by means purely external & of possessing the true universal medicine.
(1) Book 1, part. 1, De magnete in genere. chap. 4. One finds in this place, in Father Kircher, a figure which represents this experience.
(2) Kircher, book 3, mundi magnetici. part 5, see in the table horologium magneticum, &c. Kircher says that one employs in this experiment a stone of jasper; he adds that as well as the experiment with the sword, he is assured that it does not depend on this cause but with only the movement of the air or of the hand.
It would be useless on this subject, if there were truths that one can not repeat enough, to observe here that this pretension has served to veil in all times the imposters that one has seen appear in the empire of the sciences, & especially in medicine. It is in supporting an imposing theory that they are flattered to make it serve their views, & nothing could be imagined better. It is more still by the interest than by their penchant for the marvelous, that one seduces men, & thence the universal medicine joining these two mobiles, must be regarded as one of the most powerful means that one can put into work in order to deceive them. History teaches us also that there has been nought more commonly employed. It is that which served as the principle foundation of magic. No one doubts, said Pliny, that it not be borne with medicine, & that in joining what religion has of splendor & of authority in order to captivate humankind, & the judicial astrology of marvels, it be not insinuated into minds, under the pretext of giving more efficacious remedies than the ordinary remedies. Such was also the principle fundament of the art of enchantments & of judicial astrology. In general, & it is here that it is necessary to note well, this pretension has had to exist in all centuries. So many facts prove that the human body lives in an absolute dependence of the things which surround it, that one is easily persuaded that it was animated by a principle of existence which was exterior to it. From the idea, in the desire to seize this agent, in the hope of power to employ it & to be served in the manner of acting on the animal economy in order to modify it according to the needs of humanity, the rapport is too intimate & the liaison too natural, so that the first men who have reflected did not perceive & seize them. Also does one find this idea admitted from the remotest times, & it is the one which, as we come to speak of it, gave birth to magic, to the art so deceitful of charms, of enchantments, & of fascinations, finally to the illusions of judicial astrology.
One had believed successively man animated by different exterior principles, & according to the dominant errors in the infancy of the human spirit, the nature of this principle had been indicated diversely. In the centuries dominated by ignorance, where superstition had peopled the air with a host of intelligences or secondary spirits which presided in the preservation of beings, one had admitted a great number which shared the different parts of the body of man of which they took care, & one believed that invoking them each according to the parts which were affected, the maladies had to be healed.
This prejudice gave birth to the confidence of the Egyptians in charms & those kinds of enchantments which consisted in certain words or prayers that one recited to the ears of the sick. In the peoples who, by nature of their climate, & of their customs, were more particularly drawn to the observation of the heavens, one remained persuaded that the influence of the stars was the power which animated all beings here below. (1) One soon thought to possess effective means to divert bad effects that this influence could have, to render it propitious, & this belief gave birth to those hieroglyphic or sacred characters & those kinds of amulets that in judicial astrology, one named talismans.
(1) Non est hic herba inferi¨s cui stella sua non fit quae dicat ei, cresce.
The same pretension existed in following centuries. In the times when the occult qualities reigned, it was linked to the great theory of sympathy & antipathy; & it is not necessary to believe that the most modern times have been exempt from it. One has seen it reappear during distant epochs & among us, under the first two forms which had at first concealed it. Such are the illusion of possession, or the maladies caused by devils, which have succeeded the existence of spirits or intelligences admitted into the art of enchantments, & magnetism finally which derives manifestly from the system so ancient of influence of the stars of of judicial astrology.
All these diverse attempts, so many times renewed to arrive at the universal medicine, have only been vain & ridiculous impostures. One knows at what point the different opinions that one has produced for supporting it have successively fallen in scorn & in oblivion; & however each and everyone in their epoch, they had had brilliant destinies. Their partisans or their authors had called to observation, to experiment, to testimony of the senses & one can only doubt effectively with the numerous facts, or the appearances at least did not appear disposed into their favor. But if one regards closely, if one reports with some attention on the history of these opinions, one will see in what the illusion & error consisted.
There are many orders of facts of which the partisans of these opinions know adroitly to profit, & which serve them marvelously in their pretensions. One must place in the first rank in this kind, the circumstance happy without doubt, but finally useful & real, to be seconded by nature, in circumstances or one has misunderstood the extent of its action. Thus in the treatment of wounds by the magnetic or sympathetic cure, one believed to operate healings which caused themselves, because one had not then seen well enough that nature suffices alone to heal the greatest number of wounds. In the persuasion where there were wounds which had need of aid by the art in order to heal, one attributed thus to the powder of sympathy, the cures that one did not believe which had been able to take place otherwise, since one had applied no remedy to the wound. One cannot doubt that there was the same in it as the alleged healings operated by magic, the art of enchantments & judicial astrology. Knowledge then being limited, & thence the action of nature in the cure of the maladies, little known, it is not necessary to be astonished if success responded some times, perhaps even often, to the endeavors that one made; but one was then induced into error. We add otherwise, that in a great number of maladies, it is not possible that are happy effects by chance, & the charlatans, if they do not base on these facts their hopes, know well at least to profit in it. It is especially for the methods which having no very vital action, appear then incapable of operating bad effects; that this advantage takes place. All the successes are attributed to them & one can impute no accidents to them.
One sees in the second place that in some can be even in the greatest number of these opinions, one employed as secondary & indifferent means to the truth, ordinary & common, & that under this double rapport one suspected no action, but which at base had one, & which often operated the major part of the effects that one obtained. Thus in the sympathetic cure, one required (1) that the wound was kept covered & in the greatest state of cleanliness. It is not more necessary in the greatest number of cases to heal the wounds, than by the use still generally admitted of the plasters (2), not done so often as to aggravate. One can still remark that in magnetic medicine one did not exclude the use of some ordinary remedies. One sees in Maxwel that one employed bleeding, enemas, fortifying remedies above all, in a word all the known medicine. But then in healing by the joining of these means, did one not fall into error often, at least sometimes, in attributing to the extraordinary & singular aids, that is to say, to the magnetic processes, the cures which were operated uniquely by the aids or ordinary means?
(1) See Joh. Nardius Florentinus, de prodigiosis vulnerum curationibus. Th. Sympath. pag. 606, 607.
(2) There is in this kind an example which merits being reported, it is that of a recipe to cause sweating, that an empiric proposed in the year 1745. It was a sympathetic powder; & the process consisted of mixing it with the urine of a person, & placing it in a vase on the fire in order to make it boil. During this operation, the patient had to remain in bed, one covered him well, & one made him take some cups of tea. The sweat supervened invariably. See Sympathetic powder to cause sweating. Letter on this subject by M. Dionis, D.M.P. Paris, 1746.
There is still in this genre another order of means equally employed & acting powerfully for their part, without one well bearing their his attention, & which can still operates an illusion more complete; it is the dissipation, the exercise, the displacements which voyages exact, finally different moral aids drawn in order of those which act agreeably on the senses & on the mind. One knows how much these different means have of power & of action on health. They often make all the merit of certain remedies that one recommends as well as the sight of good effect on this kind which they can procure. Voyages, the waters taken at remote sources, the advantages of an active and exercised life, the pleasures of good society, are they deprived of salutary effects? Are they means unknown to medicine, & do they not form between able hands & by the counsel of adroit physicians, the whole medicine of the men of the world, & the base of the one which suits affections so sad, so essentially moral of hypochondriacs & of vaporous people?
No one is unaware of how much one can take advantage of these means adroitly disguised, & offered then under a useful & singular appearance to minds that sadness of their soul & a profound melancholy render difficult to reconcile with gaiety, joy & the sweets of life. That one comes in the end to persuade men of this kind, that going to write his name each morning, in a bizarre manner at the grille of Chaillot, or of making every day so many turns in a certain manner, around a tree, is an infallible means for rendering health, & one will see whether one does not draw any advantage from it. Who can otherwise misunderstand the empire of music, & its salutary effects? (1)
(1) See Pechlini observationis medicophysicae. 1691. Hamburg. obs. 29, book 3. Cantus vis in animum & corpus.
Let us cite Gassner (1): patients flowed from all sides; but most often they came from afar. The exercise, the agitation, the distraction of the voyage, & of a new journey, those of the return, had they not a useful action on men whose spirit otherwise was continually distraught & agreeably affected by the very vital hope of a forthcoming healing?
(1) Gassner, more known under the name of Canon of Ratisbon, was this being who, for ten to twelve years, healed in Germany by exorcising patients: afflicted in his youth with bad health, he indulged in the reading of medical works; by not having drawn any fruit from this reading, nor even from the counsel of Physicians whom he had consulted he suspected that his illness could have a supernatural cause, & arise from the power of the Devil. His conjecture was verified, he said, by the success that he obtained in chasing the Devil from his body in the name of J.C. He enjoyed since that moment the best health for sixteen years. Encouraged by that first trial, he procured for himself all the authors who have written on Exorcism. He confirmed by the reading of these works that many illnesses are produced by the Devil. At first he made cures on his parishioners; & his reputation accrued so much in Switzerland, in the Tyrol, &c. that each of the last two years, more than four to five hundred patients hastened to him. He left his parish, & after having traveled through different cantons he came to Ratisbon, where he operated his healings. He distinguished patients into two classes, in naturals & in demoniacs. These latter according to him were much more numerous. He claimed to heal all of them. He placed in this class convulsions, epilepsy, catalepsy, asthma, gout & all its types, paralysis, &c. It was in the name of Jesus Christ that he operated his cures, & by faith of the patients in his holy name. If faith lacks, the cure could not take place. He sent all the healed or miraculous patients to a pharmacy in order to buy there, at an agreed price of balm or of oil, of spiritual medicament, different kinds of waters or of powders, or of little rings on which was written the name of Jesus Christ. The aim of his sales was to provide his patients with proper means to chase the ill away if it returned. See De Haen, de miraculis. chap. 5, page 143.
Let us add here the medicine by touching which so well has its particular effects, which must not be neglected, & which have not been able to escape the attention of exact & judicious observers. One finds in Pechlin (1) the effects of this medicinal means well appreciated. One knows the effects of frictions on the skin, those with brushes or English flannel. One can by particular movements on the so sensitive organ of the surface of the body, shake the nervous system, & throw it into salutary or harmful oscillations. Does not tickling occasion convulsive shocks? (2) Does one not know by this art new for us, but invented as much for well-being as for sensuality, to massage the joints, to knead the whole body as do the women of India after getting out of the bath? But the sole application of the hand can also have its particular effects. Prosper Alpin speaks in his treatise de medicina Aegyptiorum, of women who heal dysentery in holding the hand applied on the navel.
(1) Obs. Medico-psychic. book 3, obs. 30. Tactus manuum salutaris, obs. 31. Mirabilis historia de medicato maus tactu. See also obs. 32.
(2) Are not certain animals above all very sensitive to this kind of action. One sees in it the proof in the effect that rubbing produces on cats. I have experience on a Spaniel dog, otherwise strong & well constituted, in striking it with little blows on the region of the kidneys, that one makes it contract spasmodically the rear extremities, & that one communicates even general convulsions to it. They are marked by the shocks which are propagated to all parts, to the head, to the eyes, and all the body. While these strikes are reiterated, the animal takes an attitude, & a kind of stare which appears very spasmodic.
One does not ignore that many Charlatans calm & suspend toothaches or earaches, by applying agreeably their finger on the jaw; it appears that it is in compressing certain branches of nerves that they act. Pechlin regards the application of the hand, then especially as it is accompanied with light compression, as advantageous in bloating with tension, caused by winds, in certain pains of the side which depend on the distraction of the fibers, & against these pains of the left hypochondrium, that one calls the Spleen. He cites a person who made use of it, & counseled it in others with success, against stomach aches. There supervened in every part where the hand had been applied, a slight shock which dissipated the ill. In considering this subject on its point of physical view, one can only doubt the hand applied, either by its degree of heat or of cold, or by the action alone of transpiration which is exhaled, some principle of activity of which the effect must not be neglected. It can hold one [principle] otherwise very real with certain preparations with which one can be rubbed, & which can communicate different properties.
One reads in the record of authors which form the Theatrum Sympatheticum, that an Apothecary of Paris had arrived in the last century to prepare a water with which it sufficed to be rubbed with the hands to purge a person, in applying them on the belly. Boyle cites another example of such a liqueur. (1) It seems for the rest that this means has made part of many practices adopted by imposters. Gassner used it (2); he applied his hands & rubbed briskly the head & the neck of the patient; one assures that even before he rubbed them on his stole or his handkerchief; was this not in order to be impregnated with some matter susceptible of being made to evaporate? Greatrakes of which Pechlin (3) speaks, applied also the hand, but he directed it on all the affected parts, & the ill, one said, decreased by measure as the hand advanced. When a pain was fixed at the shoulder, he boasted of power then to precipitate it the length of the arm, & to bring it as far as the end of the fingers, where he could, he said, make it leave the body entirely.
(1) Experiments and considerations about the porosity of bodies. See also News of the republic of Letters, March 1585.
(2) The patient bent the knee before him. –– He touched the sick part, & ordered that the malady reappear there. One has seen him strongly rubbing his belt & his handkerchief, touching & rubbing briskly the head & the neck of the patient. He then placed the end of his stole on the affected parts. De Haen, de miraculis.
(3) See in Pechlin, obs. 31, the work entitled: Valentine Greatrakes, esq. of Afane in the County of Waterford in the Kingdom of Ireland, famous for curing several diseases and distempers by stroke of his hand only. 1666. This Valentine Greatraks was famous in Ireland & in England. He claimed to heal all illnesses by touching. The manner in which he believed to perceive himself as being touched with this marvelous virtue, merits to be reported. One recounts that he felt one day a kind of revolution, & that he heard a voice similar to the one of a genie, which for long times did not cease to cry to him: I give you the faculty to heal. Importuned by this sound of which nothing could distract him he resolved to try what he had to believe from it. The voice had announced to him at first the gift of healing the scrofules. He tried on this illness, & the scrofules, one said, were healed. He later made the trial on patients attacked with fevers of which there reigned in his neighborhood a very extended epidemic; success responded then to his efforts; the voice had also indicated to him this gift. It announced to him finally the one of healing all maladies; & there were none which did not cede to his power, of whatever nature that they were. This man was of a simple exterior. He thought that the virtue of which he was touched came to him from God. Some persons attributed it to a particular & individual disposition, as if he had participated in the nature of this tincture that one believed to be the universal medicine. His healings were not accompanied with any imposing apparatus; so it is only that he reported to God each of his successes, & that he blessed him in exhorting the patient to be joined to him. But he made particular & very extended use of the touch. The illness fled before his hand, & he could, one said, displace it in carrying it toward the least useful parts. If the evil, as he sometimes assured, appeared in this displacement to be suddenly arrested in some parts, he multiplied & redoubled there his frictions, so as to cause the forcing of the obstacle which opposed his march. In this operation, nature excited by the touches appeared often to operate crises & to produce evacuations by stools, sweats & vomitings. He did not heal however all illnesses; some resisted his power, that he attributed that the ill was too rooted, or even to a particular disposition of the subject which did not lend itself to his operations. Sive quod ingeneratus sit morbus, sive quod singularis complexis abhorreat.
Finally among all the dispositions against nature which constitute illnesses, there is in them one which belongs specially to the nervous kind, renders the human body susceptible of a host of impressions of all kinds of which the imposters know to profit. If one reflects well on what characterizes in the moral as in the physical, the state of nervous, hypochondriacal & vaporous affection, one will see easily what readiness this state presents to adroit charlatans to profit. Is there nothing as easy to exalt as the imagination of such patients? Whole complete in their ills, when any hope does not smile on them, they only exist then by pain; & their ill augments & increases in the physical by the reaction of the profoundly affected moral. Then their existence is in all points painful, disagreeable, intolerable. But with this same mobility, which makes them unfortunate, are also borne advantages. One announces a new means of healing; one makes gleam in their spirit some unexpected hope, they are delivered there with all the vivacity of an extremely mobile temperament, augmented otherwise by the desire & and the need more sharply felt, of changing their situation. Much as the diverse objects, the needs of life were for these patients, in their state of subsidence, subjects of aches, of pains & of complaints, much in the crisis of enthusiasm which holds them exalted, & as long as their illusion lasts, do they carry in front of all that can perpetuate & augment it. But in this travail of imagination, sharply struck, must one counter for nothing the reaction of the moral on the physical? Who does not know its inconceivable power on the senses, & all the advantages that one can withdraw from it? What more must it take to revive a host of individuals, to recall them to life, from the state of subsidence & of melancholy where they were? Will they not be revived, so thus to say, as long as their illusion lasts? And all the ills that sadness, the weariness of the body & of the mind, the boredom, the idleness, had caused them, will they not be diminished or even abolished?
In general, do you want to make of men what you will want? Come at the end to persuade them. In order to arrive there, do you serve their penchant for marvels: add there the seduction of interest; & the minds that you would have struck by great views, & won by great promises, will be entirely at your disposition. See the different stories of the imposters, & you will have the proof. It is always by great objects that they strike minds, by great promises that they attract them. It is, either the power of God, or a great physical cause, & holding the celestial character that they have put in play. The stars, the power of superior intelligences, that of God or of malign spirits, there are the different springs which they have made to play, in announcing universal medicine. One can say in effect all these sects, either the art of enchantments, or judicial astrology, or the possessions, or finally magnetism, what Pliny said of magic. If one is astonished that this science has acquired so much credit, there is rendered this reason. It is, said he, that it has known to avail itself of the three most estimated sciences among men, in taking from them what they have of the great & of the marvelous. No one doubts that it was not borne from medicine, & that it is not insinuated in minds under pretext of giving more effective remedies than the ordinary remedies. To these sweet promises, it adds what religion has of splendor & of authority to blind & to captivate humankind. It mixes then judicial astrology, making believe to men curious of the future, that it saw in the heavens what had to come to them.
In general, it is a disposition of constant & universal minds, in which so many adroit & bold deceivers have known to profit & will profit still for long times. It consists in the desire that we come to indicate here, to see borne a singularly proper method to heal the most difficult ills by extraordinary means. It is in ardent heads, in heated imaginations, in nervous constitutions, & in hypochondriacal patients, that it resides. Not only such persons keenly desire to see themselves delivered from their ills; if they experience them; but they are also passionate to excess, even for the common good, & for the relief of the ills of which they can fear to see themselves attacked. It is in flattering this very decided taste, in profiting from this very ardent disposition of minds that are operated the successes of imposters. An imposing theory forces prayers, captivates minds; & if the effects whatever they be, are joined to this first apparatus, the chance is decided; for one exaggerates these effects, & from simple natural impressions which they are, one transforms them into prodigies. For nothing, as we are going to tell it, is so easy thereby to obtain some effects at least passing & apparent & even producing very extraordinary ones.
Because it is not only to the moral (nature) that this mobility is caused to remark in persons thus constituted, it exists also in the physical, & it is especially on this latter disposition that it is easy to hide a source of inexhaustible illusions. Constitutions being successively weakened with the progress of the age, there is established finally among the sex, especially in the great cities, such a state of mobility in the nerves, that nervous persons are susceptible of entering into spasm by the slightest causes. How many does one not know of melancholic, vaporous, hysterical women, that everything troubles, as a light a little bright, as the odors disturb, finally as the great day blesses? How many persons of the sex, especially among those who are keenly affected with nerves, or epileptics, that an unexpected noise causes to fall into a violent episode? Has one not examples of young girls the odor of the churches in the morning, the air not being renewed, causes to fall into faint?
It is especially in women, & more still when they are raised in softness, that this very susceptible disposition is encountered, the texture of the nerves, the disposition of the plexus in the organs which are particular to them, the kind of life which is proper to them, rendering them thus more subject. In persons of this kind, of weak exterior or interior causes, operate what can only produce with very extraordinary causes on persons well constituted. But one knows that there is none so perfect, as violent shocks can not cast them into convulsive episodes. A great fright, an enormous flash of thunder, do they not cause even vigorous men to fall into epilepsy? It is the same as the strong affections of the soul. Let one recall this story so known of a paralytic that unexpected news of fire which came to take his house, made him leave his bed & be launched into fleeing far away; that of this son who seeing an enemy ready to pierce his father, & crying to save him, will recover the voice of which he was deprived? On persons less well constituted, there suffice causes less active to produce as great effects; for in this genre all is proportioned to the degree of mobility of the nerves. But in taking still a more mobile disposition of the nervous kind, such as one encounters especially in many women of our days, it would be easy to make seen that it suffices often for certain persons of a weak & slight cause to cast them into attacks of spasm, or to make them experience at the least different impressions.
It is with this great disposition to irritability, that so many charlatans profit to cast on their operations a kind of marvel. All the means of putting it in play are known & familiar to them; & in the choice of these means, they only consult the circumstance & their utility.
Let us pass on in review these means such that they have been employed in different epochs. One of the surest & that one has put more commonly in use, is to move the nervous kind in acting on the senses & on the heart. In the different convulsive scenes, there are women who have always played the principal role, & one sees that in these ridiculous productions, there have always been a mixture of both sexes. It is that which Hecquet (1) reproached in the partisans of the convulsions of St. Medard. The Convulsionaires only wished to be approached, touched, & aided by men; they refused other witnesses. In the history of Loudun (2) there were still more persons susceptible to this kind of impression who occupied the scene. It was the religious, the reclusive girls who not only by their gestures, but still by their words, gave place to suspecting that the trouble of the senses entered for much in the agitations of which one saw them travail: & if one reflects well there, after what we have said of the excessive mobility of the nerves in the nervous constitutions, what empire must not the vision, the presence, the approach, the touch & the words of men have on such persons?
(1) See The Naturalism of Convulsions, Soleure, 1733.
(2) See the History of the Devils of Loudun, or of the possession of Religious Ursulines, & of the condemnation & of the torture of Urbain Grandier, curÚ of the same city. Amsterdam, 1740.
Another purpose less suspect & more hidden stills sneaks out often: it is a kind of ambition or of desire to occupy the public with faith, to fix attention, to attract regards. Hecquet counted still this cause in the number of those which he designated, in regarding the convulsions of St. Medard as natural. And is it the more necessary in order to mount the head & heat the imagination of certain persons? A vital desire of this kind is quite capable of producing a similar effect, & of bearing the trouble, in the nerves than the weakest agitation & the slightest cause suffice to cause upset.
Let us add here as one of the most punishable & moreover the most employed means, the concerted projects, the connivance, finally the artificial & simulated convulsions. For it is necessary to remark here, the persons subject to the great mobility of nerves, have a singular disposition to contract the habit, to imitate the play of these movements & of these crises. It is here that there should make history of so many scenes of the convulsive kind that one has seen repeated in different epochs. Has one not tried a thousand times to establish by similar means the reality of maladies of possession? But one has responded sufficiently to these pretensions. See The Naturalism of Convulsions by Hecquet, & the manner so victorious of which he has covered with ridicule the display of force at the cemetery at St. Medard. See also in this genre The History of the Devils of Loudon. The physicians of Montpellier charged with the examination of this affair, did they not discover in the art of artificial & simulated convulsions, the whole secret of these alleged pretensions? It was in this last event a weaving contrived to satisfy the projects of vengeance & to gratify an excessive cupidity. The loss of the unfortunate Urbain Grandier was the principle motive of it. Happily there no longer exists similar abuse of power, & more enlightened times have rendered the return of so great horrors impossible. But finally with less villainy, the same means can still be employed, & serve, if not to make victims, at least to make dupes.
Let us add yet relative to nervous affections, that there is no malady more contagious, whatever it be by a kind of communication which is particular to them, by imitation. One knows in the human body this singular disposition which carries imitative movements to us. Consult on this point the authors (1); pay attention also to what passes in yawning; is one not excited by the view alone of a person who experiences it? Does one not feel carried to laugh, by the sole aspect of persons delivered to joy? Is vomiting not also provoked often in this manner? But the same disposition of convulsive episodes or crises: one knows all that has been written on imitative convulsions. They are communicated by sight alone & by the action of the stricken imagination.
(1) See M. de la Roche, Analysis of the Functions of the Nervous System.
Abrah, Kaau Boerhaave, Impetuum faciens. chap. 9 Consensus inter homines. page 343.
The Chevalier Digby, Oratio de pulvere sympathetico. Theatr. Sympath. p. 107.
M. de Horne, Journal of Military Medicine.
One has a thousand proofs of these kinds of extraordinary contagions. The example of the Milesian girls (1), that of the hospital at Harlem (2) reported by Boerhaave, so many other convulsions regarded as contagious & epidemic, as one has seen spread on a great number of persons in hospitals, in garrisons, among men & women, & that one has always caused to cease so completely by vivid menaces or exemplary punishments. All these facts which it would take too long here to report, do they not prove how much in nervous women, especially in those gathered together, there is little astonishing to see supervene convulsions in the greatest number among them, if as single one begins to experience them? These same facts prove then how easy it is to abuse or rather to impose them on the convulsive affections, & in general on the nervous maladies & all the episodes of this kind. For is it not sufficient for one person drawn into convulsions, to cause there at the same time the falling of many others who are disposed to experience them, & what resource offers thus to deceptions?
(1) See Plutarch. There was, says Hecquet page 174, &c. an epidemic of vaporous hysterics, in which these girls pushed by the violence of their troubled imagination, were carried by convulsion to hang themselves. “The contagion,” he adds in another part, “of these deranged imaginations, gaining as an epidemic, the Milesians did not find a better remedy than to strike the imaginations of their citizen girls, by another passion or affection of the soul. This on which the fear, natural to the girls, that they believed the most proper to cool their heated imaginations. For this, these wise Magistrates made an Ordinance which was published by the whole country, that all the girls that one found hanging, would be after their death exposed totally nude, the rope at the neck, to the eyes of the whole world. This was for these girls an imagination for the future, that is to say, after their death, so powerful, that from then none hung themselves.” See Response to the Letter Touching the Duty of Physicians, &c. on the Subject of Miracles & of Convulsions. page 30.
(2) Kaau Boerhaave reports thus the fact. A young girl had contracted, as the result of vivid fear, a convulsive attack which returned by episode. Among her companions who were presented to her convulsions, or who aided her then, soon one, later another, & thus successively all found themselves attacked. One employed uselessly all the remedies indicated in such a case; & one had recourse to Boerhaave, who found no other means to cause this accident to cease than to vividly frighten the patients. He caused several stoves filled with burning coals to be brought, & many instruments of iron fashioned in order to be applied in the form of cauteries. He announced then that he knew no other remedy against the convulsions which he came to observe, than to apply on the moment, to those who would be attacked, a red hot iron on the arm in a place which he had to designate. The menace pronounced with imposing air which was ordinary to him, produced all its effect. See Impetum faciens. page 255.
But it is especially in speaking to the imagination that it is easy to put the nerves in play in persons thus constituted; & if one thinks well on what we have said which characterizes in the moral as in the physical the state of nervous, hypochondriacal, & vaporous affection, is it astonishing that a person given this constitution, if persuasion wins her, if one raises her imagination, experiences sensible impression with a least gesture, with a look, with a touch to which her prepossessed mind attributes to a secret power? It is thus that in the old magic one claimed to heal by words, by the breath, by a mysterious touch & bizarre gestures. (1) This effect will be much surer still if one employs imposing & truly extraordinary processes.
(1) Notandum autem obiter est quod turpis lucri avidum & imperitum vulgus, affectans deindŔ veram philosophiam technis, strophis, pessirmis fraudibus, qui non erant, magos sese jactaverunt; d¨mque gesticulationibus stultissimis morbos curare posse sesc perhibent, magiam falsam pseudo-medicinae suae adjunxerunt; undŔ utraque ex eventu ut plarim¨m infelici fuerit explosa. Lubens fateor, non semper quaerenda est medicina ex medicÔ materie, per pharmaca; quand˛quidem & animi excitando intentionem, menti infigendo imaginationem, atque ejusdem motus irritando, sedandoque, illa paratur, &c. Impetum faciens, page 368.
Does one not know that in diverse ancient & modern religions, there have been marvelous healings, operated on persons struck by the pomp of ceremonies? History furnishes us thousands of examples of it. Who does not know the impression that this august spectacle produces, & who has not experienced a kind of shock accompanied with a feeling of interior constriction at the sight of these solemnities? But for sensitive & nervous persons, it is not necessary to resort always to so great means to trouble them & throw them into spasm & crises. These kinds of persons go, so to say, ahead of the effects that they wait to experience. It is then a state of resonance of the nerves carried to the highest degree, & thence the internal principle, or the imagination has on them the same empire as objects or exterior causes. Does one not know persons, women so irritable, that in being delivered only to lustful thoughts, to sensual reflections, they experience in themselves extraordinary impressions? Present to these weak souls objects of this kind, entertain them with the right books, & you will operate on them very real effects. But what would one say of a person who profiting from these faculties & covering his play under outside skills, would report that it disposes of a particular principle employed by nature to illuminate the fire of love between the two sexes, & which would announce itself as reaching to the point of drawing advantages that one could expect to serve our tastes & our needs? It is in a kind a little different in the same manner of acting absolutely as presenting all the scenes of imposters. It is in speaking to the imagination by singular processes, in striking it by extraordinary objects, that they render themselves masters, & it is above all in the nervous affections that they succeed there.
It was thus with epileptics & other patients of this kind that Gassner, one said, healed. But does one not know how much the moral nature influences the affections of this kind? In striking minds vividly, in surrounding them with ceremonies, & with religious apparatus (1), was it astonishing that he hastened or suspended sometimes the return of the episodes? For one must remark that there was only this reported effect. These maladies being subject to long intervals of calm, one has not been able to assure one self if it was any other thing than a simple suspension of crises; or rather one has had the proof to the contrary for the greatest number of cases. (2)
(1) One represented him acting thus in his operations. having a Crucifix at the right, the left side toward a window, & the face turned toward the assistants. He carried at his collar a stole of red color, & a Cross suspended by a silver chain. It contained, according to him, a piece of the true cross. A black belt surrounded his kidneys. He did not always wear this apparel, but often he passed whole days in his chamber, thus adorned. If physicians presented themselves with persons of distinction, he invited them to assist at his operations. The patient bent his knee before him; he asked him the name of his country & of his malady; he excited him to have confidence in the name of God, &c. De Haen. Ibid.
(2) De Haen reports that the attested cures could teach nothing, if not that sometimes the episodes of the malady then had ceased during the exorcism, but not that they did not return later; so much further, he adds, that these maladies are from those of which patients only experience once or twice per year, & even a single time in three years; such as gout, asthma, colic, epilepsy, catalepsy, migraine, &c. It must have been otherwise that the success resulted yet to the treatments. Cardinal de Roth reports in one of his letters that his bishop had written him that the cures of which Gassner boasted near to him, were thus on these lines. The Episcopal Protocols give faith also that a great number of cures had been imperfect or could not have taken place. Finally, one had assurance that, if in some patients the episodes were not repeated, a great number of others had experienced a contrary effect. De Haen. Ibid.
But it is above all in the same crisis of spasm that is established this excessive mobility of the nerves which render them susceptible to the most vivid impressions by the weakest causes. We have already given some examples of it. Is it rare to see then the resonance of the nervous kind carried so far, as even of walking on the carpet in bare feet, affecting greatly the hearing of these persons? A too bright light, a sharp noise, a cross sound, affect them disagreeably & suffice often to redouble their convulsions, the sight of day even disturbs them, certain odors offend them. There is thus of the moral nature a time when it is put into play. Who does not know the singular effects of fear? A woman, a child seized with fright, in the darkness especially of night, are they not caused by the weakest impressions? The trembling of a leaf, the noise of a door, some other sound, do they not throw them into horrible trances? Like palpitations, emotion, trembling, the cold sweat rapidly supervening? One notices the same then on certain timid animals. As an unexpected noise disturbs & agitates them? By a cause sufficiently strong, one produces a similar effect even on men gathered together. That one judges by what happens with bodies of troops which horror put to flight. In frightful panics, is there any other thing often than a stricken imagination which thus puts armies into rout?
It is only the nervous affections which are submitted to this order of effects, which are loaned to the action of similar causes. Also does one remark that there are those which have made the basis of all the impostures. The convulsions of St. Medard, the possessions of Loudon, were they not of this kind? Does one see in any of the scenes played thus with apparatus, the effects of another order produced? (1) Why was it not so also with the acute & febrile illnesses, with ulcers or with wounds spread over the whole body, suddenly healed, being reproduced successively later, to offer the supernatural character & to be soon scarified? These affections can not be likewise simulated, & in their production the imagination can not have any part? The power of the blissful Saint, that of the demons, could it not also have well been announced by the same signs, & was it not thus that on Job, that the divine anger was manifested? But for a little if one wished to reflect there, one will see that the nervous affections, above all the others, offer the surest & most varied means of seduction; & if they have been preferred by the imposters, it is easy to sense that it is because they present the most powerful means of imposing on the ignorants & of striking their minds.
(1) It was also principally the affections of this order that Gassner placed in the number of maladies which he could heal; such are epilepsy, catalepsy, convulsions, paralysis, &c.
They have been in effect in all times an object of surprise, of astonishment & of fright even for little educated people, & the spectacle that they offer for the ordinary was well done in order to inspire the same impressions. What prodigious energy, what amazing variety of movements, what inconceivable troubles do they not offer? Is it surprising that in the first times where these phenomena have been observed, one believed them of an order above nature, & that one regarded them as produced by supernatural causes? It was thus among the ancients, as proves the name of the sacred malady given then to epilepsy, & in general one gave the same name to all the affections of similar kind, that is to say eminently convulsive. Hippocrates says it formally: he speaks of this opinion as of common prejudice, spread in his times, & one has placed to believe that it was in ancient magic, or the art of enchantments, that it had taken birth. It was at least by similar agitations that in paganism the false priests announced to the people the presence of the God who inspired them.
Since the remotest times the same view has always been perpetuated more or less sensibly until ours; & in this there is nothing astonishing, when one considers that in these convulsive crises or agitations the movements being much superior to those that in the most vigorous man could exercise the will; that being often intense above the natural force known to the subject, finally that being borne often with sensible cause or only having one with which they appeared to have no proportion, one has had to be carried naturally, by the especially frightening spectacle, & the character of extraordinary phenomenon that these crises present, to regard them as produced by a cause either divine, or at least of a superior order.
But it is above all by relation to the sex that this opinion must appear still more founded, the characters which offer movements of spasm being then more marked in the access of convulsion that women experience; that is to say these movements by their violence before appearing in them even more disproportionate to the force of the individual, & to whatever cause which appear to produce them. Is it surprising that for the people who are not educated, one causes episodes of similar convulsive affection to pass for the marks of possession, or of divine anger, when above all the cause which produces them being hidden, the persons who are agitated being in certain number, & these convulsions finally having a great violence, they form thus under these relations a true spectacle to the eyes of the multitude? But can one not draw from them in equal part to announce in another order of things a great physical cause, & relative to modern magnetism could this suspicion not appear founded?
If one judges according to these reflections the system of M. Mesmer, it is evident that one would form an unfavorable idea, & moreover it seems that one could make with him a kind of application. In paying attention to the choice of his means, one believes to perceive there a singular conformity with those of which we come to speak in the moment, & this appearance of resemblance & of analogy is well made to inspire some defiance. But is this conformity only appearance? Or at least is it so slight that one much neglect it? It is what I have thought that could be useful to examine here. These are simple reflections that I am going to permit myself, & in explaining them as I have said, I will only present them as many doubts as one could propose as against the assertions of M. Mesmer.
First, one can remark that it is the same claim that he placed in advance, the one of healing by the means as extraordinary as simple & easy, the gravest maladies as well as the most rebellious; in a word, of possessing the secret of universal medicine. It is the same also by a specious & extraordinary theory that he appears to seek to establish, & this theory although different in some points from all those which have preceded, is however drawn from one of the two principal sources where all the others have been extracted; such is judicial astrology. Universal magnetism in effect derives so essentially from this ancient source, that it appears only to be this same opinion renewed.
But under this theory more physical in appearance, one could say that it would have no less hidden very imposing principles, very singular pretensions & made in order to astonish. In effect the man, as a new Prometheus, holds in his power & manages at his will the creative principle of all things, the moderating principle of the universe. M. Mesmer above all, absolute master of this fluid, free to govern it at his will, acts on his fellows with an all powerful hand. His presence similar to that of the divinity, operates on the individuals who surround him. Good & evil are in his hands. Health & diseases are distributed at his will. Each man finally is impregnated with a portion of this power or of this celestial agent, by which he acts inevitably on his fellows. This principle is a focus of reciprocal action acting among the persons assembled. It is reflected by mirrors, it is propagated by sound; gazes send it, touches transmit it, mere proximity propagates it. It is finally a new chain which unites animated beings among them, & which links the celestial sphere to our globe, thus embraces nature which it sustains, animates & preserves, in its vast extent. Let one reflect well on these pretensions, & one will see if under the outside of a theory so physical in appearance, these are not more powerful means to seduce & to strike minds that one could imagine & employ in this century, which are indicated.
But finally, will one say, there are effects which dispose in favor of this doctrine. But could one also respond, are these facts not of the kind of those which have occasioned illusion in all the continuous impostures? In vividly striking minds by the singularity of his opinions, in inspiring a proportionate confidence, does M. Mesmer not act on the physical as the result of this action on the moral? Does he not cause the mind to gleam well in patients of a hope of unexpected healing, that a depraved constitution, so to say, in its principle, condemns them to experience? Is this cause without salutary effects?
Let us add that not employing any active remedy in his method, it can be made by this alone that certain patients as medications fatigue or that they have exhausted, experience some good during his treatments. Does it not often happen that one employs remedies wrongly, that one disturbs nature which, more powerful than they in certain illnesses, would heal them, if one abandoned them to its care? But in ceasing contrary aids, in quitting the art which harms in order to adopt a purely expectant method, has not M. Mesmer, without employing there any means, any particular process, a new order of effect which serves him well?
But M. Mesmer does not rigorously follow this purely expectant medicine. He admits some of the ordinary remedies, of which he makes use as a secondary means in his method. But presenting them thus, does he not cast into illusion? Have they truly so little part in any of the successes of his treatments than M. Mesmer reports, & than the greater part of the patients seem to think? Cream of tartar so privileged among other remedies & of which M. Mesmer makes such a constant use, is it not one of the medications which are suitable under a greater number of reports? As laxative, it provides refreshment & the sentiment of gaiety, of clearance that produces the good state of the entrails; as acid, it is anti-putrid, it gives to the blood & to the humors more consistency, it is diuretic, it sharpens the appetite & tempers the ardors of the entrails of hypochondriacs. Observation has taught that it sometimes suffices alone to dissipate dropsies. The soluble tincture of Mars that M. Mesmer had also employed, does it not pass for a remedy which is suitable in a great number of cases? Let us add that M. Mesmer orders frequently enough the baths & that their utility in a great number of circumstance is sufficiently known. One can even remark on this subject that it seems that M. Mesmer has sought to flatter the taste of his patients in this choice. Cream of tartar & the baths are agreeable remedies, M. Mesmer admits them, & he blames to the contrary the cauteries which are disgusting & burdensome. Finally in particular cases M. Mesmer joins to these means the most efficacious & the most usual aids in medicine, the bleedings, the purgations. Would one still apply on the account of his particular method, the sensible & very real effects that these ordinary means can & must produce? But rather why does M. Mesmer not banish them, & what need can he have with the universal agent?
But it is above all in the moral aids, in the means of an agreeable kind, that one could say that M. Mesmer seeks to assure himself of his sensible successes. At his house the patients are treated in common, & the persons are matched to treatments according to their taste & their rank. In these gatherings & these meetings, the enthusiasm is increased & fortified, & it is under this rapport perhaps that it is true to say with M. Mesmer that magnetism is reinforced by communication. It is finally a manner to be, which allying to the privileged life a part of the apparatus which accompanies the public assemblies, piques as much by novelty of this spectacle, that it fits well by the agreement that it procures. It is a kind of diversion or of distraction in the least of which so many persons have need, & the effects which result from it resemble close to those that one observes in the circumstances where some new parties of pleasure are tasted & followed.
In these times of festivals that repeat constantly each year, how much does one not see diminished among them, people of the world in the number of persons sick with boredom or with aimlessness? It is a remark made by observing physicians. M. Lorry cited in this genre an example as singular as striking. In circumstance of misfortunes or of contrary disagreeable events, one sees increasing the number of persons who are affected with vapors & with melancholy. In general public health follows in some relations to the vicissitudes of common well-being. The empire of the moral nature on our bodies is the means of this real influence, & which merits above all to be observed.
But let us return to our discussion. In the agreeable practices of treatment in itself, M. Mesmer joins yet other aids no less efficacious in the same kind. One has seen him transporting his patients outside of the city & making play in chosen houses with all the benefits of the countryside. Could one not suspect that his stay at Creteil, had not another aim than to profit from the advantages than procuring him the good that is always made in the pure air of the country for exhausted patients by their journey from cities? Besides the exercise, the movements with which he makes to his patients a kind of necessity to be transported to his house once or twice a day, have they not some effect? How many melancholic women, uniquely sick by their obstinance to remain to themselves, & who feel better with this alone as they take the air?
For it is necessary here above all to remark it well; it is at the house of M. Mesmer that the treatments take place. It is necessary then to go out, being put into movement, being occupied with the details of a toilette, being animated finally by this object; & how many patients are found perhaps better with the course that they do at the house of their physicians than by the advice that they receive there. Beside the courses of the patients at the house of M. Mesmer, are they not for the greater part among themselves occasions of visits, of longer courses & of dissipation?
But there is still such a powerful means assumed in the class of agreeable aids & which M. Mesmer employs; it is music. One knows the power that it has on souls. Its action at first considered in the physical shakes the nerves as it leads into tender & agreeable oscillations. The affected soul reacts on the body, & the organs are animated by it in a manner more or less sensible. M. Mesmer has not misunderstood this powerful means of actions. He touches in a superior manner with the harmonica; he draws from it sounds which go to the soul. Could one not say that with this instrument he tries in some way his patients, that he probes their temperament; that by the great sensitivity to the sounds of the harmonica he detects very mobile nerves, a very sensitive moral nature, a very irritable & very exalted constitution, & that without doubt he does not then ignore the art of profiting from them. Besides the seances do not take place without music; an orchestra placed conveniently near the salons executes agreeable symphonies during treatment. Is it there what M. Mesmer calls animal magnetism? Are its effects those which are produced in this manner? But there is no need of a universal fluid to operate or to explain the production of them.
What we come to say until now, & the causes that we come to indicate can very well explain a first order of effects that one cites in the treatment of M. Mesmer. They are these reliefs either real & very weak, or apparent & of imagination, that many persons congratulate themselves for having experienced. One reports that there are above all persons suffering from a languishing stomach, which are surely found with the operations of magnetism. But who does not know that the imagination has especially the greatest empire on the functions of this viscus; that a more active life, a more agreeable existence, exercise, pleasure, dissipation suffice to suspend the ills of this kind, as in general all the nervous episodes dependent on an inactive & monotonous life? How many women perhaps owe to the same cause the kind of well-being & of vigor that they attribute to magnetism, & that procuring them the greatest exercise that they do, the pleasures that they take, the hope especially of which they nourish themselves to be seen rendered to health?
The use of cream of tartar, the baths, &c. can they not also contribute there, at least for the hypochondriacal, melancholic, & bilious temperaments? It would be easy to explain thus perhaps a great number of these reputedly real healings, although only being apparent & that one regards as veritably magnetic. But these are not the most sensible effects that one produces in support of magnetism. It is in them the most striking & of moment, that one sees supervene in the patients during the seances in the treatments; there is in them others yet more particular & that seem to produce the processes employed to magnetize successively the different persons. Such are these impressions of cold & of heat, the passing & sudden sweats, finally these crises or convulsions which are as violent as unexpected.
But perhaps is it not also as difficult as one thinks to make seen that these effects do not have all the force to establish the existence of animal magnetism & the value that one supposes for them & to have the proof of them, one must especially remark on what persons & in what illnesses M. Mesmer thus produces these so striking effects with magnetism. At first one will remark that these effects evidently carry all the characters of convulsive, vaporous, & hysterical episodes; that it is especially the women, in general the persons of the sex, & those most particularly still who have a very sensitive, very irritable temperament; in a word the nervous, hypochondriacal & vaporous persons, who are sensitive to the action of this alleged agent. But are not these the persons on whose imagination it is most east to gain empire, & of which prejudice is so singularly capable of changing the state of the nerves?
Let us then make a remark: it is that M. Mesmer has distinguished an order of subjects which he calls anti-magnetic. But could one not say that this would be to excuse the lack of success on persons who, having neither ardent imagination nor mobile nerves, then experience no effect of an agent, of which one alleges however that in nature the action is universal? What suspicion would this remark not give on the account of Magnetism? But after having thus discarded patients, whose constitution did not loan themselves to the play of the imagination, & the choice made of persons who once agreed, does there remain then so many difficulties to produce these reputed extraordinary effects that one attributes to animal magnetism?
Let us add that it is especially to the treatments that these effects take place, & consequently on persons whose moral aspect is brought up; for it is in a well decided confidence which brings them. But on the constitutions thus exalted in the moral as in the physical, is it then so difficult to excite & to cause birth of these impressions? Have we not indicated different means; & could one not suspect that M. Mesmer puts them into practice? This is what is here to examine.
We have said above that one has often employed in a secret manner means, ordinary & little known to deceive & to spread illusion. One knows all turns of the players of cards & of cups; one knows also in physics so many processes that one employs to produce, by hidden agents, effects which appear to hold prodigy. The marvelous effects that one reports with animal magnetism, have they not had to give place to form at first the same suspicion on M. Mesmer?
One has been able to believe for some time that he employed the magnet. It is known that he used it very publicly in Vienna, around 1774, in following then the processes indicated by observers & notably Father Hell. These trials were followed with some healings that one cannot contest. M. Mesmer, as well as the physicians of his times who had employed the magnet, obtained sensible successes from it. But having produced then all the same effects that he alleges to operate now, could one not believe that in appearing to renounce the use of magnet, he did not cease to employ it? There is no substance more susceptible of being hidden, & of acting without being visible. One can carry magnets on oneself, apply them at the cuffs, on the blouse, & keep them thus within reach to act in touching patients. One can place otherwise under carpets, behind walls, in hollow furniture, in cupboards the strong artificial magnets, whose action is directed across the most solid bodies, & extending to distances of twelve to fourteen feet, can fill an apartment with magnetic fluid, & act from one side to the other of a vast room. (1)
(1) See the report on artificial magnets of M. AbbÚ Noble, that I have drafted conjointly with M. Andry. – Extract of records of the Royal Society of Medicine, &c.
So many advantages come together in the pieces of magnet which could without doubt cause suspicion that they were entering into the processes of animal magnetism. One could say the same thing of electricity. One has believed even to discover, as well, as we will soon say it, in a mixture that one regards as proper to unite the action of these two agents, the processes & the secret of M. Mesmer. But, having expressly declared, that he neither employed the magnet, nor electricity in his method, one can not dispense with believing on his word, because, if he had not held it, there would result an unworthy & veritably unpardonable deception from an honest man.
There is still another means of action for aid of which it is easy to spread illusion, that one appears to have suspected in the precesses of M. Mesmer; it is the existence & the action that one recognizes in different emanations. One does not ignore that one can impregnate the human body with different matters or substances which become for it so many foci of artificial emanations; one knows even many by which it seems that one could produce in this manner different effects analogous to those which one attributes to M. Mesmer. Such is this liqueur of which Boyle speaks & of which we have spoken above that it sufficed for the hands being rubbed to purge a person to whom one has given in touching. Since a more modern epoch, one has known & employed similar substances. (1)
(1) M. Duke de la Rochefoucaud has returned recently to the Society, a sample of powders which had been sent to him from Brittany. One of these powders is white, & the other gray. One attributes to the first the virtue of purging; to the second the one of calming all pains, except those of gout. The manner of using them consists in rubbing the hands with a pinch of snuff. One attributes otherwise to a known Surgeon three kinds of water with which it suffices to rub the legs, the thighs or the arms to be purged. The dose is a spoon. One assures that many persons are served with benefit. One of these liqueurs has been analyzed. One cannot discover what in it was the principle. One adds that it has neither color, nor odor, nor taste, &c. One knows otherwise in this kind of unguents with which one rubs the belly of infants to purge them, & to kill worms; such is the unguent of Arthanita.
One has even indicated to produce another effect than of purging, to dull any kind of pains, except those of gout: one must remark however that it appears that these latter are only fit to operate effects on the same persons which are impregnated by rubbing different parts of the body. But one has more particularly believed to discover the secret of M. Mesmer in the composition of certain powders or mixtures by which one thinks that a person can act on individuals who surround them. Such are the sticks of sulfur, these mixtures of sulfur & of iron filings of which one has spoken so much, & this most ancient composition in which the magnet in power being submitted to the action of electricity, one believed the power to gather the virtue of these two principles. It was in the hands being rubbed with these mixtures, by being impregnated with their emanations that one thought able to acquire the faculty of acting by simple touch, & if one recalls that Gassner, before his operations, rubbed the hands vigorously on his kerchief & his belt, one could believe that these presumptions had some foundation. Would there be a means of this kind that M. Mesmer would employ? But there are reasons for not presuming such. Many persons of whom one can not revoke in doubt the good faith, produce every day the same effects that one attributes to animal magnetism, & do not employ similar means.
But would it not rather be the matter of transpiration which would act in this method? One can not deny the existence of this insensible humor which is being continually exhaled from our pores surrounding us with a particular atmosphere. Why would not this substance have its action proper & so much more real on the nerves as it is in a state truly vaporous? Why would it not have more particularly, especially in certain individuals, in which its presence, its existence, its greatest activity is detected by a particular odor? Does it not also vary in different parts of the body of man?
In general, the emanations of bodies have a very real existence, & form in nature one of the most powerful causes of action that it employs. It is necessary to consult on this point so important in physics the treatise of Boyle de mira effluviorum subtilitate. These emanations, for the rest have a sensible action on different animals & even as that which appears on certain individuals. Is it not by their means that the dog recognizes the traces of the animal which it chases or of its master which it follows? We do not speak hear of those stories that one recounts of persons who having antipathy for certain things, for certain animals, are found ill, one says, on entering into apartment where are found those objects of their aversion, that they only feel by an emanation otherwise insensible by any other person.
One cites above all in this genre the example of women who fall into a faint especially where a cat is found, or a mouse, even without having seen them. These facts cited still in our days, & which in the last century above all were believed & adopted, seem to hold to prejudice & to bias. But one cannot disregard at least in the insensible emanations a principle of particular activity, & why should not transpiration also have one which would be proper to it, & which although not at all sensible for well constituted persons, could however become so for women with an extreme sensibility of nerves & fall into spasm?
One would have then to suspect thus a new cause to which one could attribute a part of the effects produced by M. Mesmer. But even when it would take place, would it have common cause with a universal principle, penetrating all bodies & healing all maladies? Let us add that there are strong reasons also to regard this means of action as nil or at least very weak. For, what is another thing than transpiration, than an aqueous humor, weakly urinary & saline? Let us remark yet that its action extending to a very little distance, in forming atmosphere around us, that not having otherwise a very great degree of attenuation, it can not be regarded as the cause of the effects attributed to the alleged magnetism, since according to M. Mesmer it can be exercised from afar & manifest its action across walls & clothing. Let us observe finally that on its existence & its action in the processes of this method, there would always remain a great uncertainty & great doubts, since it would be difficult, not to say even impossible, to decide if the effects that one would believe duty to attribute to this exhaling humor, could not equally be produced by the heat of the hand, by the movements of the air displaced in the operations, as we soon would have occasion to say it?
But M. Mesmer employs at least the medicine of touching & we have indicated above of how many effects it can be the source. M. Mesmer employs it in a manner no less efficacious than appear to have done all those who have adopted it from him. In touching patients Gassner imposed on them hands on the head & rubbed the neck vigorously. Greatrakes promenaded them on the affected parts, in a single direction, that is to say in seeking to chase the ill which fled before them toward the ends of the body.
M. Mesmer employs a manner of touching more lasting in its action. It consists in different appositions of the hands or the fingers, in gentle frictions on certain parts. These frictions are continued for a more or less long space of time. Finally it seems that there is a particular choice of certain regions of the body on which one exercises them. M. Mesmer chooses & knows different centers of movement, & the one which he prefers the most ordinarily responds also to the most sensitive part of the human body, the most provided with nerves, the one in a word which seems to be the principal organ of sympathies or of nervous communications in the animal economy: such is the epigastrium or the region of the stomach.
We have already said above that the touching on the human body can have its proper effects: but these are above all the frictions which must have in particular, & if one reflects on it well one will feel that these effects are not limited to the simple passing or at the least local impressions. Is it not a property of the living fiber in animated bodies, which it is put in vibration, to lead the nearby fibers with which it communicates, into the oscillations absolutely similar? It is a necessary result of the intimate enchainment & of the state of communications in which the system of the nervous plexi hold all the organs of the machine. It is not then astonishing that on extremely mobile constitutions, already prepared especially by the state of spasm, one can excite thus centers of oscillations capable of being propagated into a more or less great extent & of thus producing effects. But it these effects have some reality, will they not contribute on their part to render reason, without any need of a particular agent, impressions produced on patients as one attributes to animal magnetism? And must one not especially remark here that there would be nothing less necessary than to recur to magnetism to operate or to explain their production, since it is acting from afar, actio in distans, which makes the true magnetic character, & which here has immediate contact?
But it is more particularly in speaking to the imagination that one can be carried to think that M. Mesmer operates his prodigies. We have already said: there are for the greatest number at least, persons very nervous in the physical, very ardent in the moral, & already disposed by a great trust, who present themselves to treatment. But what impression must not be excited in them by these apparatus, these processes, these baquets of a form so broad & so mysteriously covered; all these apparatus designed for the circulation of a fluid, these rods of iron to carry it & to direct it onto the patients, these ropes for its propagation between the different persons which make the circle; these great reservoirs to serve it with foci? How are all these objects so striking, so extraordinary not fit to speak to the imagination of prepared patients & to entertain & perpetuate the illusion?
But the imagination being thus occupied, exalted in very active constitutions, does there not result a mobility of the nerves with which it is easy to obtain effects? This state of exaltation continued, augmented, will it not lead naturally to some nervous crisis by the contention & the travail alone of the imagination? And this effect must it not above all happen when in each treatment one proceeds to particular operations of magnetism? Is it astonishing then that M. Mesmer appears to act at a distance?
These appositions of the hands, these fingers, that one presents & that one moves in different directions, these rods of iron that one employs in the same uses, all these bizarre gesticulations, to serve myself with the expression of Kaan Boerhaave, by which, he says (1), “one boasted from other other times of being able to heal; all these gesticulations,” I say, “being employed, repeated with a serious & imposing air, does the imagination remain idle & the soul mute?” Is there not some way to give the last blow to the exalted & disposed to the imagination? Let one read this that the ancients have written of this faculty of the soul, to which they gave the name of fantasia, & of its empire on the bodies, & one will see how many very extraordinary & singular effects it can cause, under how many relations it can change, finally our manner of being physical, & the ordinary exercise of our functions. Whether it be this cause which acts alone, or which contributes so much to produce the effects so vaunted by animal magnetism, it is what one can not revoke in doubt after so many particular repeated trials by different persons, who reporting credulous patients for the the adepts of M. Mesmer, taking a grave air, making some gestures on the body, & touching them with certain manners, have seen thus their crises being dissipated by an action of which the whole effect depends on the excited imagination. These examples are without number, & there are some very striking.
(1) See note on page 163, Med. mag. p. 368.
There is not however among these latter means some at least having a physical or mechanical action, by which they can operate. Thus the simple direction of fingers, if transpiration which is exhaled is here for something, would already have such a principle of action. It would then be the same with sprays as one makes with different bodies, be it the iron rod, the finger, a bouquet, a flour, & even the breath. Is one well sure that one does not act then by the movement of displaced air, by veritable aerial sprays, & does one not know that it is very necessary that this cause be without effect on patients in spasm, as is demonstrated in the state of aerophobia which is sometimes noticed in persons attacked with rabies?
We have had an example at Senlis in the person of the little Briquet (1) to whom one occasioned convulsions & a veritable suffocation whenever by lowering or raising his covers, in opening the door of the apartment, one pushed a column of air, or as one blew even at a certain distance on him? Does not this fact demonstrate as far as some point in persons convulsed, or who are in spasm, there exists an excessive mobility of nerves of which one can obtains singular effects, as well as we have said above that it is very necessary to notice it? For one must observe on this subject that rabies is regarded as an eminently spasmodic & nervous malady; that in the number of means to magnetize one employs the breath, finally that among patients who fall into crises in the treatments, one assures that there are those who give signs of aerophobia & even hydrophobia, refusing with a great horror the drink that one presents to them.
(1) See Researches on rabies read at the Royal Society of Medicine, by M. Andry, new Edition 1780. –– Story of treatment made at Senlis to fifteen persons bitten by a rabid dog, by MM. Poissonnier Desperieres, Andry, Vicq-d’Azyr, De Lalouette, & Thouret, in 1780. See the third volume of the Memoirs of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1779, page 167.
But without recurring to these different kinds of purely physical action that must not be neglected, it suffices in the empire of the imagination to explain how, with these processes that we have indicated, one can thus produce effects at a distance. It is above all for M. Mesmer & his adepts that one could say that these effects must be easier to produce, because they inspire a greater degree of enthusiasm & of confidence. It is also very significant that these effects succeed: they are seconded then marvelously. A single woman who falls into convulsion puts others into trance; their mind travails & passes even before the effect that they believe ready to supervene. They experience by this alone that they expect to experience: one could say that they are rendered in some manner before the attack.
It is here above all that that it is necessary to pay attention to what we have said of imitative convulsions. If the sight of a person who falls into nervous crisis & of which the chance or the cohabitation alone render witness, suffices to communicate a similar attack to other persons disposed to contract them, like a thousand examples in offering proof, how much of this effect will not be more prompt to supervene, if particular & very proper circumstances favor its concurrent production? And it is this that one can object to M. Mesmer. In reporting these crises as extremely advantageous, as a unique means & sure of healing, do women who follow the treatments not experience them? In presenting them as they are, so to say, violent, unexpected, accompanied by violent accidents that they must have are necessary to bring to pass; is it not to cause birth in the mind of the patients a desire mixed with fear, & to inspire in them thus a sentiment which troubles them so much more that it results thus to say with two impression which fight each other? But thus agitated by two opposing sentiments, struck continually with spectacle of the object which occupies them, is it astonishing to see them experience strong crises?
These effects otherwise still can be favored, aided by other impressions which second them. The treatments being made in public, animal magnetism becoming a fashion, an affair of good tone, finally a dear & precious interest to people of the world, is one not right to suspect that a secret ambition, a hidden desire to fix the regards of the public, to occupy them for some moments, finally to be distinguished themselves, inspires some persons of an inferior rank who are rendered to treatments? Who does not know the intrigues of the big city, & in Paris is there any means that one regards as useless to talk about oneself? It is there one of the causes that Sauvages assigned to feigned maladies (1), in a time where the vapors becoming the fashion, & passing to be the privilege of the fair sex & of women of a distinguished order, a great number of persons appeared to feign them, because one believed that they characterized a trend of spirit & a more delicate constitution.
(1) See Nosologia methodica, morbi morales, morbi simulati.
But there is still an accessory cause of the convulsive crises, reputedly magnetic, to which one would have attempted to assign a whole other character. Who are the actors of animal magnetism? Young physicians, or men at least in the force of age for the ordinary. Who are the sick persons? Women in the greatest part, persons of the sex. But if one reflects that in the manner of which the operation of magnetism must be conducted, the Physicians who magnetize have the hands applied on the epigastrium of the patients; that this situation exerts a very intimate approach, in which, thus to say, the bodies touch each other, & the breaths are confounded thus as the looks, especially if one desires that the operation be more prompt & more sure, & one will see whether one can not give place to suspect that one of the causes that Hecquet assigned to the convulsions of Saint-Medard, which he believed hysterical, concurs also in the crises of Mesmerism. One knows many witnesses of these treatments, to which this conjecture appears only too founded for the same interest of magnetism, however they adopt & defend.
I can not, nor should, nor wish to suspect the production of these crises by any other cause still more hidden, but which would be more severely punishable; such as a connivance, or at least the employment of persons who would be put up to convulsion, & that one would employ either for being the subject of particular trials, & thus for fixing looks, or for disposing patients to crises by the spectacle of the convulsion. This would be in truth, as a distinguished man has said, a necessity for recognizing a degree of extreme sleight of hand at least in the manner of which this maneuver would be executed. One can not disagree that it has been very often put in use. How many times has one not seen examples of this deception employed with a surprising skill, in convulsions of fanatics of all religions? But it is by boldness even of such a maneuver that one must deny it. For, what would this animal magnetism then be? The most brazen imposture, the boldest maneuver that one had ever employed. So many of the scenes of this kind have only occupied men of the people, or a class of ordinary individuals, one has been able to find them culpable; but finally they have been tolerated.
Here is a distinguished order of patients, & of citizens who compose & follow the treatments. This would be then men of mark, who sacrifice a part of their fortune for a discovery presented as useful to humanity, that one would have played; this would be the women of first rank who would be dupes of their trust, one could even say sacrificed in their health? For these repeated crises that one sees supervene in treatments, are not without danger. And as being so violent as they are, lasting often for two or three hours, being terminated by alarming episodes, such as the spitting of blood, could they be exempt from unfortunate results?
It is assured that according to them having experienced, the women find themselves better. But it is for the moment, & this momentary well-being is it advantageous & lasting? The crisis reanimates well for the instant the languishing machine; it is the blow of the whip given which raises the forces & produces some efforts; & in the languor of the nervous state, these shocks have for effect such an instant of well-being. But are there not annoying results to fear, & must they not aggravate the ill, if they are not dissipated entirely? For the rest, these bad effects must only be manifested in the long run; the state of enthusiasm, in sustaining the machine, can hide their production. From there without doubt the return of magnetized persons to treatments, where they are felt led, & by the memory of momentary well-being procured by the crises, & by the ever-reviving need to experience them, that causes feeling the disappearance of this well-being, & the return of the ordinary state of languor. Such are the objections that it seems to be that one could make, & that one will find perhaps founded. Many Physicians, educated observers, who follow these treatment, regard these convulsions as capable of being very harmful.
These details will appear perhaps very rigorous; but they have seemed to me necessary. They give birth at least of a reflection which is in general useful to present. In order to determine confidence in a doctrine, it suffices not to repeat that there are facts in its favor. Has one not cited them in support of all the impostures? Were the sympathetic cures not their own, which appear to us today as false as ridiculous? Had the convulsions of Saint-Medard & of the Nuns of Loudun, the healings of Gassner & of Greatrakes not also many facts, visible & dressed in the appearance of the greatest authenticity? Who would dare today to adopt them or defend them? One speaks always of facts, one speaks without ceasing of observing. But there are perhaps as many false observations, that one has made from false reasoning. All depends on one thing in these two objections, of the manner to proceed there. It is as common, as possible to observe badly, as to reason badly. It is then neither in appearance, nor in the multitude of facts that one must stop himself; but in their quality, in their particular nature. It is here the discussion which must determine, & not the first appearance. One has been so many times seduced by tests of this kind, that one has right to require severity in the examination, & to hold in reserve his belief.
There are still other subjects of doubt that one can yet propose against M. Mesmer. One knows how important in general it is to follow, so to say, the inventors in the march that they have held in order to reach the truth. It is especially in its first elements that it is surer & easier to judge a system; & in its first steps, the intention of an author does more in discovery. The story of M. Mesmer under these reports appear to some people not to be neglected. We have said, in speaking of universal Medicine, that it is the same pretension which he appears to put forward, & that it is by one of two principal systems that one has employed in order to sustain it, that he seems also to have sought to establish. Now if one pays attention to such circumstances, it would seem that one could render reason on the choice which he has made, & perhaps is it not useless to expose them.
It is not in the view of the supernatural power operating on illnesses or directing the world, that M. Mesmer appears to have taken his principles. Gassner a little time before him had employed & spoiled this means. (1) He seems to have embraced the other view which has served as foundation to the same pretension, the one of the influence of the stars. It agrees better to the spirit of his nation. Magnetism which derives so evidently from this ancient source, that it appears only to be the same idea renewed, was borne in Germany. Without doubt minds remained still imprinted with the residue of belief of his principles. One must remark it here; Gassner had been served with the kind by a superstition spread among the people in the base of Germany; the one of demons & bad spirits. (2) One more of the same kind appeared to be offered in magnetism, & one could say that M. Mesmer would have been driven thus to adopt it. Some reflections can still support these presumptions.
(1) It was in 1774 that Gassner operated in Ratisbon all his prodigies; & de Haen reports that it was only after having made cures on his parishioners, & traveled through different cantons, that he came into this city.
(2) There had been, twenty years before, a great number of demoniacs in Germany; & one believed then such generally. This rumor acquired enough credit to engage the Empress to cause its examination & treatment in one of her hospitals, by M. de Haen. Deception was discovered, & the popular bruits dissipated. M. de Haen adds that Gassner had awakened them, & was served by them to nourish the superstition of the people. He reports the observation of three possessed women or demoniacs, of whom he gives a detailed history. These three cases were simulated. Ibid.
At first one sees imbued in very good time the belief of the old centuries in the influence of the stars. He had composed a thesis on this object. This was in 1766, that he sustained it. Toward 1774, Father Hell having put in use magnets into favor in Vienna, M. Mesmer soon adopted this means of healing: but the trials in this kind being spread very generally, one saw him being distanced from the common route, to present magnetism under a new face, admitting at first that the magnetic fluid was the unique means that served him, & announcing then that it entered into nothing in his procedures, but that everything depended on a particular principle that he had come to discover, & that he named animal magnetism. For I ask him; would he in all likelihood presume that, carried in the views of the ancients, & seeing magnetism substituted by his own nation in the influence of the stars, he had preferred this means?
One could add that M. Mesmer seems to have wanted to keep part of the processes & of the principles of Gassner in giving them a more agreeable form to the character of the century & of his nation. One notices first that he recognized a true action in it, a faculty acting particularly, dependent not on the supreme power, as he reproached him for having believed, but on an unknown principle of which he made use without doubting himself, & which was animal magnetism. (1) Let us add the processes of M. Mesmer are the same, & that his claims & his views seem calculated in some kind, on the ones of Gassner. This latter healed in touching patients: M. Mesmer employs the same means. Gassner did not regard all patients as proper to cede to his action. He distinguished patients in two classes, in maladies ordinary & produced by the Devil. These latter according to him were much more numerous, & the only ones which he said able to heal. M. Mesmer admits also among patients subjects who do not experience any action with his principle, & that one calls by this reason antimagnetic. Gassner did exorcisms which he called probative, by which he claimed power to recognize what was the character of the malady, if the the ill had for principle nature or the devil, & these exorcisms were not always infallible. M. Mesmer has the same processes which he employs to assure himself not only the nature, but even the seat of the malady, & if the malady is of a constitution which renders it fit to experience the action of his agent. Gassner agreed that he did not heal in the same moment his patients, but that he treated them at many returns & during several days.
(1) “It was,” said M. Mesmer, “in the year 1774, that a Priest, a man of good faith, but with an excessive zeal, operated in the diocese of Ratisbon, on different patients of the nervous kind, with effects which appeared supernatural to the eyes of men the least prejudiced & the most enlightened of the country. His reputation extended as far as Vienna, where Society was divided into two parts: one treated these effects as impostures & deceptions; while the other regarded them as marvels operated by divine power. The one & the other however were in error; & my experience had taught me then, that this man was only an instrument of nature. It was only because of his profession, seconded by chance, determined in him by certain natural combinations, which he renewed periodic symptoms of illnesses, without knowing the cause. The end of these paroxysms were regarded as real healings. Time alone could disabuse the Public.” Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism.
One knows that M. Mesmer follows the same method. Finally Gassner operated all healings which he sought to produce, & he had two means to excuse his lack of success; the uncertainty of his probative exorcisms & the lack of faith on the part of his patients. One can add that Greatrakes alleged also pretexts in similar cases. He agreed that he did not always heal, either that the illness was too inveterate, or that the patient was of a particular constitution which refused the effect of the remedy. M. Mesmer retrenched himself also in saying that certain subjects far from being able to obey the action of animal magnetism, are to the contrary of an antimagnetic constitution. But in seeing similar reports, will one not be tempted to think that the animal magnetism of M. Mesmer resembles strongly the means employed by Gassner, as his theory & his system resemble the magnetism of the other century?
(1) See Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism, by M. Mesmer.
But let’s pass on to other objections. What has one published on the fate that the discovery of M. Mesmer has experienced since he has claimed to announce one, can furnish the news of it which merits to be presented. It is in having for contradictors the most scholarly men, as he begins his enterprise. One knows his quarrel with Father Hell & the celebrated M. Ingenhousze. (1) His propositions having been sent to the academy of Berlin, they were rejected there as destitute of foundation & not meriting any attention. At Vienna M. Storch & all the physicians believed it duty to oppose his undertakings. (2) Are there not at least the testimonies to oppose to those that M. Mesmer produces in his favor? Public opinion declared against him forced him to leave his country. One can see how he himself recounts this general uprising. (3) He traveled to different cities in Germany where he operated some public healings at first with flare, that the public papers have announced later as disavowed. He returned to Vienna where minds did not appear returned to his account, & as if he had been very sure thus to never have power there to make proselytes, he traveled into France. (5) Would one not doubt in some respect this preference is natural to give honor to the nation?
(1) See Health Gazette, 1776. No. 18.
(2) See Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism, by M. Mesmer. pages 18, 28, 30, 56.
(3) See Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism, by M. Mesmer. pages 35, 36, 66, 68.
(4) See Health Gazette, 1776, 1777, 1779, 1780.
(5) See Memoir on the discovery of animal magnetism, by M. Mesmer. pages 39, 66, 69.
I will not enter into any detail on the observations that one cites in favor of magnetism & of which some persons could think the examination & a deep discussion would be useful. I proposed myself to speak not of facts, but of writings, of especially the doctrine; & I restrain myself to my plan. But one can still hold with the system of M. Mesmer to propose some difficulties. The agent that he employs, he says, “is of a subtlety which does not permit comparison – & which penetrates all bodies without notably losing its activity.” (1) However a matter so held according to him, “is reflected by mirrors, like the light” (2) & employed on patients for melting obstructions, it can not penetrate them without manifesting there its action. But why, subtle as it is, does this fluid matter not penetrate the glass & the metal of the mirrors? It is then under this relation less penetrating than the fluid of the magnet? Why does it not pass across congested matter, & not penetrate the hardest stones of obstructions without experiencing obstacle & thence without causing feeling of its action? These difficulties, for the rest, are perhaps only apparent.
(1) Proposition 2 & 13, Ibid. pages 74, 78.
(2) Proposition 15, page 78.
But there is a more marked suspicion that seems to authorize the conduct of M. Mesmer; or rather a more direct way, more convenient to be assured on the field of truth. It is the discovery of a new agent, of a most active principle of nature that one announces; & this agent or this principle must have properties, an action & particular effects. It acts therefore asking to know them, to engage the authors to indicate them, to specify them & the necessary proofs in order to observe the reality, once repeated, so there could remain no more doubt. Can one doubt the existence of electric fluid, of magnetic fluid? It is a fluid of the same kind that M. Mesmer announces: it must then be susceptible also of a striking kind of demonstration, & that one can even say still more likely. For it is the primitive fluid, it is the universal principle; & its properties, its effects must be necessary in proportion with the importance & the extension of its action in the system of nature, it must be, thus to say, sensible in all manners. There then is the whole question of animal magnetism, reduced to the point of the greatest simplicity. Will one say that for long times M. Mesmer has produced proofs of this kind of existence of his agent? But one could respond here, that he has only given on his patients & in general on the living body. Would it be then that the principle of magnetism would not likely be demonstrated on the animal economy? It would be there a great similarity?
Has M. Mesmer not announced that this agent played a great role in the whole of nature, & that it was proper to give new knowledge in physics? Are there not besides properties of this latter kind that act in all bodies in nature? Is there not at least thus that other electric & magnetic fluids are recognized, & thence must this new fluid not have also its action on other physical & even inanimate bodies? One must pay there serious attention: there would be in the body of nature the most fecund in properties, the most powerful in action which would also be the least likely to be demonstrated by different kinds of effects? This assertion would be a strange paradox.
Finally this fluid forming a universal remedy in the theory of magnetism, could not be demonstrated, or would only be susceptible of a kind of demonstration the most difficult, the least clear, the most subject to illusions & to error? Would this assertion not appear the most adroit & the most evident turn? For finally it is to take the way which lends itself least to demonstration, & it suffices to be convinced to pay the slightest attention there. One does not know the universal fluid, principle of magnetism.
One declares; it is necessary to prove it. It is then an unknown object which acts to be demonstrated & to arrive there it is necessary then to compare it, to put it into action with the other bodies of which one well knows the actual & physical state. But is it the human body which is proper to this application? Are there persons, above all patients, in whom the state of the nerves, the interior dispositions, the empire of the imagination varying in a thousand manners that one can neither perceive nor appreciate, who can agree on this subject? In demonstrations when one wishes them rigorous, it is by employing the clearest processes, by applying the agent reduced or considered in its greatest simplicity, to other bodies equally the simplest, that one must proceed. It is necessary, so to say, to decompose actions, causing bodies to act & to make them show each of their properties by a kind of abstraction. But is it the body living in this kind of demonstration? Its manner of being in the moral as in the physical, is it not the most complicated machine & is it not an obscure abyss of difficulties, that one can neither deepen nor penetrate? Is it not however that one can do demonstrations of a particular kind. But it is necessary to avow it; they are the least conclusive; it is what renders medicine often conjectural. It is also indeed necessary to remark here, the reason for which there are so many Empirics in medicines & rarely in physics.
The reason also could be that there could not be imposture which succeeds, without a great aim of utility, & as medicine in offering the first kind, touching the greatest interests of humanity. But it is more particularly still because it presents the most proper means to hide a secret action in spreading illusion. Finally one can not deny that it is necessary at least by great precautions to avoid in this manner illusion & error. It is in things especially, where the empire of the imagination can have a great influence, that it is necessary to redouble precautions & cares, & in this case it is what one can take, & that prudence requires. It is for individuals to act with what one has the least to fear of this source of errors, on sensible persons, cold heads, similar complexions, on little educated men, such as peasants, on infants finally & on animals But is it as well that peasants comport themselves with animal magnetism? The agent that they admit is not sensible for persons who carry themselves well. It is specially or uniquely manifested on patients. These are not children that one cites as subject to their most ordinary & most vaunted proofs. These are most particularly women on which they take place. Finally animals are not submitted or sensible to this action.
It was not so in the old magnetism. Its partisans had thought that they had to have more reason or less reserve. But also the part which they took, was it fate? In announcing their agent as susceptible of influencing equally on animate or inanimate bodies, on healthy persons or the sick, on men or on animals, it was in easier reach to be assured of the truth of these effects; & soon the experience had unsealed the eyes. Thus, according to them, there was an action of the human body on certain physical bodies, as there was one of those on the human body. Thus the salt of blood & the light of life, lampas vitae, changed in their exterior appearance, when the individual who had furnished the substance of which they were formed, experienced some great revolution, as he tested a patient, or as he died.
One knows likewise what they have written on the art of harming by the excrements, & on the transplantation. By this they claimed power to make different maladies pass from the bodies of patients, into those of animals. By the processes of the first kind, there were no persons on which they believed no power to act from a distance. (1) In seeking to repeat these trials one soon perceived from them little foundation; & the doctrine fell into oblivion. It was especially in the time of Father Kircher, that physics, beginning then to spread its light, dissipated these errors. Rhedi turned his views principally to this side. In seeking to be assured by the experience of so many facts adopted in his time, he discovered from them the falsity, & the whole system of magnetism, in support of which one had advanced them, was entirely abandoned. Would it not seem that the partisans of modern magnetism would have feared or presented a similar fate? They attributed to their agent no action purely physical, no property susceptible of being thus submitted to a simple & easy experiment. After having taken all from the old system, they only distanced themselves into the points which, admitting examination had easily hastened the ruin. But have they not feared that one not interpret this circumstance to their disadvantage, & that one regard it as the effect of precaution?
(1) Authors employed many manners to cure by transplantation. It took place on animals or on trees. In them communicating a portion of the vital spirit of the patient, one believe that they purified it or fortified it, & the effect of this operation was transmitted to the same patient, the turn by means of the universal spirit. For in speaking of the particular vital spirit, they said that it was necessary to make it concur with the universal spirit in their operations: Qui quidem spiritus cum illo superiori semper ad effectus producendos conspirare debet. Maxwel, book 2, chap. 20. These processes had their action to heal animals like men, & one could equally employ them to harm, in occasioning different indispositions in even the healthiest persons.
Perhaps one will say that it is to judge unfavorably the proofs cited in favor of M. Mesmer, since many persons appear to declare themselves partisans. But has one not equally seen testimonies in support of great number of errors? The sympathetic cure of the old magnetism, has it not also had its Enthusiasts? Had Chevalier Digby not written in favor of the powder of sympathy? Did the King of England not believe on his word? A considerable number of Lords attested having been healed of grave wounds by its means.
Finally one saw a great number of physicians, among whom one finds known names, adding faith there & publishing writings in its favor. It is a sad truth, but it is only too real. The knowledge, the lights, the consciousness of the world are not always sure preservatives to guarantee the illusions or the gaps of the imagination, nor of the attacks of the empirics & of the charlatans. People of this kind respect nothing. Furthermore let us add that in all impostures, there have never been things so desirable by their utility for humankind, & so marvelous as in the domain of the mind than their authors have announced. Is one not naturally carried to embrace brilliant promises of this kind? If men of good faith have been seduced in such cases, is their credulity not executable by motive, & is it not the occasion to say that not being able to do any wrong to their spirit, it proves in them the love of science & the desire to contribute to its progress? For is it only to the same authors of these artifices that this credulity impresses dishonor. It is frightful to employ by itself & in others love & power of good to intrigues of interests, & to prostitute the truth by the hands of those same who are most completely devoted to it.
This belief otherwise limited to some individuals, is nothing less than convincing, & one could even say that it is possible not only to combat it victoriously, but still render reason to it. It is that one does not pay enough attention to all the singular & extraordinary phenomena that nervous ataxia can produce. In these convulsive crises one thinks that it is by employing a great reason that one produces them. But it is not the action of a cause which is great, it is the disposition to the effect. It the great apparatus of movements, the bizarre singularity of the means, the astonishing variety or mobility of crises which have always been striking in the spectacle of the convulsions. One has believed duty to conclude thence that there exists an exterior cause, a distinct & physical agent of a superior order. There it is what has been in all these cases, the cause of illusion & of error? But all consists then in the great mobility & sensibility of the nerves, in the encounter or the choice of agreeable subjects, & it is then that arrive all the marvels of effects that one perceives. It is without doubt a very striking spectacle when one sees thus in large & when one is witness of it for the first time, he is perhaps permitted to be enraptured. But finally the examples are facts to instruct in such cases, & it is the lone reading which, to warn against such illusions, can take place in an experience which one does not have. How many events of this kind have taken place & of which humankind have been the dupe? It is as the generations pass & as the witnesses of each of these impostures, the only ones which it is no longer possible perhaps to deceive, disappear & vanish. In their time, it would not be possible to renew them. But when they are no more, when the scene of the world only presents men new & deprived of experience of this kind, credulity retakes all its rights. Such is the reason without doubt that render these scenes still less common than they could be. Because this does not lack adroit men, disposed to make dupes. But it lacks for them often the occasion.
Under this relation, perhaps it would be interesting to give the history of endeavors of this nature. Without doubt this travail would not be useful for the people, which people always, that is to say, ignorant & credulous, love & ask to be deceived. But there would result at least a great advantage for governments, that it would no longer be so easy to abuse. There is in this genre already materials collected. There are no impostures, for magic & judicial astrology, as far as possessions, which have not had its historians. The convulsions of Saint Medard, the possessions of Loudun, have had theirs. One owes to Malebranche the history of Jacques Aymar, or of the divinatory rod. De Haen has done the one of Gassner. Magnetism of another century does not appear to have had a particular one, & it is this reason which has engaged me to publish it in this work.
It is said in page 13 & 14, that the partisans of the old magnetism admitted, as M. Mesmer does, a reciprocal or mutual influence, not only between the earth & the celestial bodies, but still between those & animated bodies. Wirdig furnished the proof of it. C¨m enim astra moveantur, & corpora nostra moveri necesse est; quýppŔ c¨m spiritus habeant ex astris haustos australes, qui c¨m cornmunes sint nobiscum astris, inter eos commuais consensus est, & mutuus magnetismus, sympatheismus & obedientia. Medic. spirit. book 1, chap. 16.