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Mesmer's Hypnotism

Updated on January 10, 2016
Franz Anton Mesmer
Franz Anton Mesmer | Source
An anti-mesmer cartoon of which there were many shows Mesmer's salon as a scene of lascivious activities.
An anti-mesmer cartoon of which there were many shows Mesmer's salon as a scene of lascivious activities.
The Magnetized Tree
The Magnetized Tree
Animal Magnetism
Animal Magnetism

The first thing that comes to our mind when we hear the word Hypnosis is a mysterious figure like person waving a pocket watch back and forth drawing his subject into a semi-sleep or zombie like state. But people discussed and argued about hypnosis for more than 200 years. They are not able to perceive exactly how the human mind works?


The term Hypnosis is derived from the Ancient Greek word Hypnos meaning sleep. It is an artificially induced trance like state characterized by extreme suggestibility, focused attention, concentration and heightened imagination which is usually performed with the help of a therapist through a procedure known as hypnotic induction. During this process, a person can concentrate intensely on a specific thought or memory obstructing all sources of distraction.

Franz Anton Mesmer:

A German physician named Franz Anton Mesmer was the forerunner of the modern practice of hypnotism. During the 18th century, he theorized animal magnetism also known as mesmerism which is presumed to be an intangible or mysterious force that is said to influence human beings. His theory was that Universe was filled with a magnetic fluid. Absence of this fluid was the cause of illness and it could be restored through magnetic contact. One such event took place in Mesmer's salon. Parisians of all classes flocked to his salon. The room was richly furnished and hung with mirrors, thick carpets covered the floor, drawn curtains shut out the world. Everyone sat close together around a piece of apparatus known as baguet, an oak tub containing water and iron fillings, and many flasks filled with magnetized water. A number of iron rods and cords jut out from the baguet which the patients held against the affected parts of their bodies. A soft background music was played on wind instruments or on Mesmer's glass harmonica. When the music accelerated the patients cried out hysterically and fainted with excitement. Mesmer appeared at the height of the session dressed in a robe of purple silk trimmed with lace. Using his elegant iron wand he fixed each and every patient by touching them with his penetrating gaze. Some women patients collapsed while others went into trance. When they recovered their senses, many of them were cured.

In his early days in Vienna, Mesmer developed the concept of invisible fluid in the body that affected health. He stroked his sick patients with magnets, but gradually he realized that manipulating fluid using magnets is unnecessary. He believed that establish a rapport with his patients was essential to cure illness. He concluded that certain people like himself were able to concentrate the universal magnetic fluid and cause it to flow to others. Other objects such as clothes, trees or even his glass harmonica too could be magnetized. He termed this power as animal magnetism.

Mesmer's methods were criticized by his contemporaries and were frowned upon by medical establishment in Vienna. So in 1778, he fled to Paris hoping for a better reception,. He achieved overwhelming popularity, except among physicians. Messer's methods were taken out of context by the French Government in an effort to discredit him. Under continued pressure, he retired to Switzerland where he spent the remaining years of his life.

The Magnetized Tree:

During the 18th century, the implications of his work were carried out by two French aristocrats Marquis De Puysegur and his brother Count Maxime in Paris. Many French aristocrats cared little about the peasants living in Grand Chateaux. Following Mesmer's instructions, they discovered a new method of healing to all the local inhabitants. The two brothers magnetized a large elm tree in the center of the village and hung down cords that dangled from the branches. Sufferers sat under the tree on a circular stone and a cord is tied around their parts of the body in which they felt pain. Then they touched each other's thumbs which allows the magnetic fluid to flow from one to the other and circulate freely among them. They got well soon.

Teeth Extraction using Hypnosis:

In the United States, a number of dentists make use of hypnosis for teeth extraction. Demonstrations have shown that teeth can be extracted without pain or even bleeding when a patient is in a deep trance.

In 1951, in The East Grinstead Hospital in England, a sensation was created among dermatologists. A boy of 16 complained of Congenital Ichthyosis which was formerly considered incurable. A genetic skin disorder characterized by a black horny layer that spreads thickly over the skin. Warty excrescences covered his entire body except the chest, neck and face. The thick crust was perpetually cracking which caused infection. The boy was hypnotized. Five days later, the horny layer softened and fell off. After ten days, the skin underneath became pink and soft and his arm was completely clear from shoulder to wrist. Both his arms were treated successfully.

How to prepare yourself for a Hypnosis session ?

  • Take a good look at your beliefs and expectations about hypnosis.
  • Avoid straining by taking a deep satisfying breath by raising your eyes up as high as possible.
  • Gently allow your eyelids to flutter down as you exhale and finally
  • Imagine yourself travelling in outer space or riding on a magic carpet.

Benefits of Hypnosis:

  • Hypnotherapy can be an effective method to cope with stress and anxiety.
  • It is beneficial for pain associated with cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, temporomandibular joint problems, dental procedures and headaches.
  • Hypnosis alleviate symptoms of hot flashes with menopause.
  • Behavioral changes such as insomnia, bed-wetting, smoking, obesity and phobias can be treated effectively using hypnosis.
  • Hypnosis helps women recover more quickly from debilitating breast cancer surgery.
  • An individual will be able to visualize vivid, powerful feelings or strong and clear images in their mind in accomplishing their goals.

Risks and Complications of Hypnosis:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Masking actual physical health problems
  • Suicidal depression
  • Hypnosis may result in detrimental effect on an individual creating false memories.


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    • hari87 profile image

      K HARISH RAMACHANDRAN 2 years ago from INDIA

      Thanks for your info.

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      It seems that Mesmer wasn't the only one to believe in or discover a universal "vital fluid", Isaac Newton, Max Planck, William Crookes, Wilhelm Reich and Nikola Tesla all believed in some kind of universal "ether". Compare that with ancient Eastern mysticism and it seems that there must be something to it, regardless of whether it's a mental phenomenon or not (in my opinion, the entire universe is a mental phenomenon as being indicated by quantum mechanics).

    • hari87 profile image

      K HARISH RAMACHANDRAN 2 years ago from INDIA

      Thanks a lot for your comments.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This was extremely interesting. I knew nothing about Franz Mesmer before. Thanks for sharing.