Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815) was a Freemason and physician. His studies led him to conclude that there was a “magnetic fluid” that permeated the universe, including humans. If the fluid were unbalanced in humans, disease, sickness, and ill health would result. A Jesuit Priest named Maximilian Hehl (or Hell) had similar ideas and used magnets to heal people. He gave Mesmer some magnets and the doctor produced amazing cures with them.
Mesmer supposedly forgot the magnets one time and still was able to achieve cures. This changed his opinion of the magnetic fluid. He came to believe that the fluid was a personal energy. He called this energy “animal magnetism.”
In 1778 he moved to Paris and created a furor with his cures. The medical establishment of the time rose against him and to placate them the King Louis XVI of France set up a committee to investigate Mesmer. The committee included Lavoisier, Guillotin, and Benjamin Franklin. They never actually tested Mesmer, but concluded him a fraud and his fortunes fell. He returned to his home in Austria and remained successful, albeit not to the level he had previously attained.
People following his techniques are said to practice mesmerism. It was noted that similar results could be obtained through trance and suggestion, so many consider mesmerism to have been the source or precursor to hypnosis. However his system was far closer to energy medicine than to hypnotherapy.
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