Animal magnetism also known as mesmerism, was the name given by the German doctor Franz Mesmer in the 18th century to what he believed to be an invisible natural force exerted by animals. He believed that the force could have physical effects, including healing. He tried persistently but without success to achieve scientific recognition of his theories. The theory attracted numerous followers in Europe and the United States of America and was popular into the nineteenth century. For about seventy-five years from its beginnings in 1779, it was an important speciality in medicine, and continued to have some influence for about another fifty years. Hundreds of books were written on the subject between 1766 and 1925. Today it is almost entirely forgotten. Animal magnetism is still practiced as a form of alternative medicine in some countries. Magnetic practices are not recognised as part of medical science.
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- Theophrastus Paracelsus rediscovered the occult properties of the magnet—“the bone of Horus” which, twelve centuries before his time, had played such an important part in the theurgic mysteries—and he very naturally became the founder of the school of magnetism and of mediaeval magico-theurgy. But Mesmer, who lived nearly three hundred years after him, and as a disciple of his school brought the magnetic wonders before the public, reaped the glory that was due to the fire-philosopher, while the great master died in a hospital! So goes the world: new discoveries, evolving from old sciences ; new men—the same old nature! p. 71/2
- The church of Rome has never been either credulous or cowardly, as is abundantly proved by the Machiavellism which marks her policy. Moreover, she has never troubled herself much about the clever prestidigitateurs whom she knew to be simply adepts in juggling. Robert Houdin, Comte, Hamilton and Bosco, slept secure in their beds, while she persecuted such men as Paracelsus, Cagliostro, and Mesmer, the Hermetic philosophers and mystics—and effectually stopped every genuine manifestation of an occult nature by killing the mediums. p. 100
Quotes from popular culture
- [to Howard T. Duck] I just can't resist your intense animal magnetism.
- [referring to Franz Mesmer's animal magnetism practice] Sir, this is just trash and tricks for the weak mind.