On a recent WP comment, I described a video as “mesmerizing”, one of my all time favorite words.

It comes from an early form of hypnosis used by an Austrian physician named Franz Anton Mesmer. 1734-1815 Franz-Anton-Mesmer

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.

Among others, Maria von Paradis was called upon to testify that he had not healed her blindness. He was deemed a charlatan, and faded into obscurity.mesmer94

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 trailer:

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 !

This entry was posted in Entertainment, History, Mental Health, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Mesmerized

  1. Nurse Kelly says:

    Fascinating, Van! I want to see this movie now!

  2. I like that word too and had no idea of its origin. So interesting how these “characters” from the past can leave their marks on the future and yet fade away in their own lifetimes. As a side note, words like these raise interesting questions for writers…can we use a word in a story that takes place before the word was coined? Happens all the time, but… Great post, Van 🙂

    • ninamishkin says:

      About your question, DWP: It depends who “we” is. If the author is an omniscient contemporary narrator telling us about the past, why not? If the word is coming from the mouth of a narrator or character living in that pre-Mesmer past, evidently not. As for “happens all the time,” it depends on who and what you’re reading. No offense, but there’s a lot of self-published junk about there.

      • I write fantasy so there’s always a balance between having to use “earth” language, while avoiding “earth” lingo, if you know what I mean. Some of my books take place in “medieval-ish” times, and I don’t use medieval language or they’d be unreadable to most audiences. For me, it would be impossible to look up every word to check it’s date of origin and only use those that originated before the 10th century. 🙂 I suspect that for many authors who write outside of contemporary genres, there are a range of words that aren’t authentic to the time. No offense taken 🙂 Interesting discussion.

      • ninamishkin says:

        Could you really write in Anglo Saxon if there were any readers out there who might understand it? 🙂

      • Write in Anglo Saxon? Me? Not a chance. Ha ha. And the audience would be quite limited.

      • It does seem like a writing challenge for you, Diana, never thought about it.

    • Thanks, Diana. I happened to hear about the word origin long ago, but there is so much more info now on the web about him. And for sure, I’d not heard of the movie. Thanks. ☺

  3. LaVagabonde says:

    Looks like an interesting film. I’ll check it out while hiding inside the house from the heat this weekend.

  4. Amy says:

    Wow, that is so cool. I can’t wait to check out the movie. I’m glad you brought it to my attention. Good job!

  5. Erika Kind says:

    Sounds intriguing. Also I love to see Alan Rickman!

  6. ninamishkin says:

    I’m looking up the movie ASAP! I love Alan Rickman. Forget Scar. Try to find “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” in which (a younger) he plays the heroine’s ghost lover, returned from the dead to comfort her! As for Mesmer and hypnosis itself, I don’t know if it can “cure” anything, but it was certainly a help to my first (Hungarian) therapist in bringing up at least one significant event from my childhood that I had completely forgotten.

    • I do remember Truly, Madly, Deeply, Nina. He seems to be good in just about everything. I never actually tried hypnosis myself, but my husband used it successfully to stop smoking years ago. It’s not surprising to me that it can elicit older or blocked memories. Writing has done a great deal of that for me. Thanks. ☺

  7. Fascinating story Van 🙂

  8. Quirky T says:

    Great post! I love learning about word origins so thanks for the interesting info.

  9. lbeth1950 says:

    Thanks for writing this. I’m going to look this movie up this weekend.

  10. megdekorne says:

    Van , wow ….so very interesting ( i see I’ve missed your last postings ) … I need to catch up and rest here again on your beautiful rug of stunning color and design ( the ” magic carpet ” of my dreams ) …. I love you , megxxx

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