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Franz Anton Mesmer

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Born in Well, Austria in 1733, Franz Anton Mesmer was a psychiatrist who evolved the theory of ‘animal magnetism’ and developed cures to psychological problems. It was from Mesmer that we got one of the new lines of thought in psychology, later known as mesmerism. The word mesmerize evolved from it. Mesmerism, considered as the hypnotic trance state, was the output of a lot research and studies.

Mesmer studied philosophy and theology, before doing a course on medicine in the Wicker University. Later he acquired a fairly good knowledge about life beyond the obvious. The glass music - glass harmonica - was the key ingredient in his magnetic séances. He was closely related with famous musician Mozart. He was one of Mozart's earliest patrons. Mesmer, Franklin and Mozart were all Freemasons. They believed that glass music could be used for the promotion of human harmony. In ‘Cosi Fan Tutti’, one of Mozart’s operas it can be seen that, Mozart using Mesmer’s magnets to cure one of his characters.

Mesmer believed that the universe was made up of a series of increasingly rarefied fluids. Everything is made up of it. The shape of the grains necessarily forms interstices and that these are occupied by water; those of the water are by air; those of the air are by what is called ether; and those of the ether are filled up by a substance, which is even more fluid. And according to him there was no name for it.

He believed that these first three fluids are capable of being the conductor of a particular movement proportionate to its degree of fluidity. Thus, Mesmer argued that water is receptive to modifications in heat; air receives all vibratory movements, which produce sound; ether acts similarly for the movement of light. The fourth fluid also communicates movements, it "corresponds essentially and is in continuity with that which animates the nerves in the animal body, and which exists mingled and blended with the different kinds of fluids which I have mentioned". At another point he says that the most immediate action of this fluid "is to reanimate and reinforce the action of muscle fiber". He sees it in this sense as being rather like fire, or what we might call a force, and is what he seems to mean by animal magnetism.

To be clear, Mesmer was of the view that heavenly bodies have an influence on people’s health, which he called animal gravity. This lead to the theory of animal magnetism. It was a way of treatment, which includes a new principle of healing. This principle came from the study of the effects of magnets on the body. According to him animal magnetism was different from physical magnetism, where he claimed that he could magnetize paper, glass, dogs and all manner of other substances.

The Royal Commission and the medical profession itself opposed Mesmerism. Later Mesmer chose another means to promote his ideas and support by setting up an organization - the Society of Honor. It was also fragmented later. But Mesmer was never ready to quit his line of thought. He never changed his views on animal magnetism till his death.


Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer started mesmerism as a thealing technique during the early 1800's.

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