Past and Present

Franz Anton Mesmer
“Columbus of modern psychology”

Dr. Mesmer

(1734 - 1815)

Franz Anton Mesmer was an Austrian-trained physician who borrowed freely from doctors and thinkers before him, like Paracelsus and Descartes. Still, he developed the concept and practice of animal magnetism on his own. Mesmer used it to treat a wide variety of patients between Vienna and Paris. He endeavored to apply cosmological (planetary) forces to human physiology. It might be said that Mesmer was one of the earliest researchers in the field of vital (chi, prana, ether) energies.

Dr. Mesmer was known for his airs of mystery and wizardry and convincing powers of healing as well as large doses of pride, grandiosity, and despotic benevolence. Mesmer’s whole life became fixed on the idea of a universal fluid which carries the powers of animal magnetism and of which he touted himself as the original and chief hierophant. Jupiter as the Sole Dispositor of his natal (astrological) horoscope helps to explain his intensity, grand passions, exaggerations, and arrogance.

Mesmer met with opposition in Vienna and moved on to France where he worked to loud acclaim for a time. Eventually, his “animal magnetism” was reviewed with jaundiced eye by a government commission in 1784. Mesmer did not participate, but his disciple Dr. Deslon presented patients and the case for Mesmerism.

Experiments were conducted not to determine whether Mesmer’s method was valid but rather to find if he had discovered a new force or “fluid” in nature. The commission concluded that no evidence existed to support the latter finding. Whatever benefit arose from mesmeric treatments was said to be due to “imagination.”

Mesmer persisted gathering students, patients and followers to him. For years, the cause of animal magnetism and mesmeric healing spread because of and despite Dr. Mesmer’s excesses. Mesmer brought forward, successfully utilized and publicized his expansive theories and practices. His work had far-reaching and long-lasting effects through a line of well-known descendants like Charcot, Bernheim, Janet, Freud, and Erickson who worked within the approved medical system of their times.

Others of lesser renown seemed to have more accurately followed his lead. Students of the deeper nature of man like Puysegur, Deleuze, Dupotet, Elliotson, Esdaile, and JR Newton followed Mesmer’s example and brought healing vibrations to thousands of ill and injured in the last century.

Mesmer’s theories and demonstrations were shunned by most of the medical profession and only poorly understood by his followers. Maybe two hundred years after the death of the First Mesmerist, we can begin to properly recognize, realize and restore his work.

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