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Animal magnetism is the 18th century term for the ethereal medium postulated by Franz Mesmer as a therapeutic agent, although he used the term magnétism animal.

Mesmer believed he had discovered a substance resembling magnetism, which at the time was also believed to be a substance, which could be stored in a persons body and then chanelled and transmitted to others in the practice of mesmerism

The use of the (conventional) English term animal magnetism to translate Mesmer's magnétism animal is extremely misleading for three reasons:

  • Mesmer chose his term to clearly distinguish his variant of magnetic force from those which were referred to, at that time, as mineral magnetism, cosmic magnetism and planetary magnetism.
  • Mesmer felt that this particular force/power only resided in the bodies of humans and animals.
  • Mesmer chose the word "animal", for its root meaning (from latin animus = "breath") specifically to identify his force/power as a quality that belonged to all creatures with breath; viz., the animate beings: humans and animals.

The existence of animal magnetism was examined by two French Royal Commission in 1784, and the commission concluded there was no evidence of its existence or efficacy of the animal magnetic fluid, and that its effects derived from either the imaginations of its subjects or charlatanry.

"Healing" techniques used in the West, as well as Reki, Chi-Gung/Qi-Gong etc in the East are so similar to Mesmer's "Magnetic" therapy in terms of the physical sensations experienced by subjects that there are good grounds for concluding that all these phenomena are in fact the same, only differentiated by the 'name' given to them in their specific context.

Mesmerism is the direct ancestor of hypnosis in the west, and the common 'ideo-sensory' phenomenon of tingling, lightness, heat and cold, reported by subjects undergoing 'healing' experiences, are the same as those routinely reported in hypnotic subjects. Similarly, the 'levitation' of limbs or spontaneous movements in parts of the body also common in healing-systems are also routinely understood in hypnotherapy as ideo-motor phenomenon. Hypnotherapy has known mind-body effects, and can affect not only relatively superficial sensations or movements in the body, but can also lead to therapeutic changes via mind-body pathways, such as the psychoneuroendocrine (PNE), the psychoneuroimmune (PNI), the Neuro-peptide (NP) and the pH (C02) regulation of the body. All of these are mind-body 'state-encoding' systems, known as State Dependent Memory Learning and Behaviour (SDMLB) systems. It would be unsurprising if 'healing' methods, including Mesmerism did not also have at least some effects via these mind-body pathways.

Other uses

The term is also occasionally employed in the context of Christian Science to describe unheeded mental influences, malicious or ignorant, resting on its subjects' belief in them.

The term's most common usage today is to refer (sometimes facetiously) to a person's sexual attractiveness or raw charisma.

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts



  • Franklin, B and Lavoisier,A. "Report of the Commissioners Charged by the King to Examine Animal Magnetism" English translation. Skeptic, Vol. 4, No. 3).

Additional material



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