MORE ON MESMER AND THE BEGINNINGS OF MODERN MAGNETISM
Discovery of Animal Magnetism
The practice of magnetism is not a new technique invented by Spiritists, but rather it has its roots in the study and practices of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a scientist of the 18th century who coined the term ďanimal magnetism". †Influenced by the writings of the English physician, Richard Mead (1720-1792), and of the 16th century mystic and physician, Paracelsus (Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim) (1493-1541), Mesmer believed in the theory of a subtle, invisible fluid that penetrated the whole cosmos, including living organisms, flowing in gravitational tides, thereby acting as an agent through which the planets exerted an influence on the human body.
At this time, magnets, due to their properties of polar attraction and repulsion, by which they could then, theoretically, act in the same way as gravitation, were being used, though controversially, by some doctors to affect the influence of the gravitational tides in human beings, which were believed to run through the bloodstream and nerves. Maximilian Hell, S.J. (1720-1792), an astronomer, Jesuit priest, and friend of Mesmer, influenced Mesmerís experiments with the healing powers of the magnet, and had some magnets of different shapes and sizes made up for him.
Mesmer did find the practice to be effective, but soon realized that the actual magnets were unnecessary, for other objects made of cloth or wood worked just as well. He concluded that that their only role was to channel the flow of the cosmic fluid. Mesmer realized that those objects were effective only because he himself was touching them, whereby he was acting as an animal magnet, acting on objects and people in a way similar to that of a mineral magnet acting on metal. This phenomenon, in which the body was analogous to a magnet in the channeling of the cosmic fluid, and the fluid, having the capability to be stored, concentrated, and projected, as well as the fact that it ebbed and flowed according the laws of magnetic attraction, was termed by Mesmer as animal magnetism.