On a recent WP comment, I described a video as “mesmerizing”, one of my all time favorite words.
He rejected the 18th century practice of leeches and bloodletting and developed a theory he called animal magnetism.
He believed that diseases of the body and mind came from an imbalance in body fluids that could be healed by exposing one to magnetic fields found in the earth.
He invented a battery-like system of steel rods immersed in water, then grasped by his patient. This resulted in seizures, fainting spells, etc. but led to a sort of self-suggested healing.
An early patient was the acclaimed blind pianist and Mozart muse, Maria Teresa von Paradis. Blind since the age of 3, she experienced temporary vision while under Mesmer’s care; he was quick to take credit for this unexplained phenomenon, and became a local legend.
Rumors of a physical relationship with Maria, and the ensuing scandal, caused his wealthy wife to conspire to ban him from practice, and from his home in Vienna.
His popularity emerged later among the wealthy courtesans of Paris. One of his fans was Marie Antoinette. This quickly met with the disapproval of King Louis XVI. He appointed a team of doctors and scientists to conduct a hearing which might discredit Mesmer. One of these men was Benjamin Franklin, a diplomatic envoy in France.
His story has been told often over the years. One of the more interesting portrayals was done by Alan Rickman in the 1994 film” Mesmer”.
The full movie is available to watch online. It is entertaining and quite informative. I just had some trouble watching him and not hearing the voice of Scar from The Lion King.
Physician, charlatan, showman, or a true believer in his own practices, Mesmer is credited as being one of the fathers of modern day hypnosis and psychotherapy.
And he gave us such a great word !