Mesmer Eyes: Let There Be Light
Doctor Anton Mesmer is alive and well, even though he passed from his body two hundred years ago.
His place in history is secure while his teachings continue to have lasting effects. While the whole truth will never be known, there is no dispute that Mesmer influences us in many ways into the 21st century. If only we could count the ways. Here are a few:
• Mesmer is one of a very few humans whose name has become part of the standard dictionary – as in the verb mesmerize and in the noun mesmerism. This, albeit the true meanings of the words have been bowlderized. [Look that one up.] Mesmerize is a word much in public parlance in the present time. We might wonder why.
• While finding his way into dictionaries, Anton Mesmer also helped shape the works of generations of writers [and other artists] across Europe and America. From Balzac and Hugo to Dickens and Thackeray and to Poe and Hawthorne – to name just a few of the many. And, those great authors have surely passed on their mesmeric sense to writers of the present century. They have spawned characters in the likes of Captain Ahab, Dr. Balsamo and Svengali whose names have also become part of modern tongue. Balzac, Tennyson and Dickens were glad to call themselves mesmerists and share their magnetic force with friends in need.
“Much will rise again that has long been buried,
and much will become submerged
that is held in honor today.”
• Mesmer had such a close bond with Wolfgang Mozart that the latter made the Doctor a character in his opera Cosi fan Tutte. Bastien und Bastienne, one of his very first, was commissioned and performed in Mesmer’s garden theater at 261 Landstrasse in Vienna when Mozart was just twelve. The musical interests of the two men were also reflected in Mozart’s timeless opera, Die Zauberflote [The Magic Flute] and in his pieces written for the glass harmonica.
• When discussing theories comparable to those of Mesmer, critics as well as partisans have used his name in the same breath with renowned physicians and scientists of previous times. Those include Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Robert Fludd, Cornelius Agrippa, Athanasius Kircher, Isaac Newton, and René Descartes. He remains in good company.
• The essentials of Mesmer’s teachings were accepted and studied by many of the greatest thinkers of his own day and since. His influence flows down the generations through the philosophers Novalis, Hoffmann, Goethe, Fichte, and others. Arnold Schopenhauer wrote, “From the philosophical standpoint [mesmerism was] the most pregnant of all discoveries.”
• Practically all of Mesmer’s biographers – whether believers or disbelievers – credit the Austrian Doctor for having spurred the development of diverse modern disciplines. Mesmer is widely considered the Godfather of hypnosis and suggestive therapy, psychology and psychoanalysis, New Thought and Christian Science. Modern authors Stefan Zweig and Frank Podmore made large statements when they placed his name in their book titles along with Mary Baker Eddy and Sigmund Freud.
• Even as mesmerism-magnetism was denigrated and shunned for personal, political, medical and monetary interests in his day, it raised its head time and again over the decades. Notables of the 19th century considered Mesmer’s discovery to stand along with those of Galileo, Columbus, and Harvey. The English surgeon, James Esdaile, believed it to be, “Of infinitely greater direct practical importance than the admission of the truth of the circulation of the blood.” Others proclaimed it, “one of nature’s secrets,” “nature’s mysterious motive energies,” as well as “a key to the mystery of man’s inner nature” and “a touchstone of TRUTH.”
“An extraordinary fact is a fact
that doesn’t link up with those that we know
or with laws that we have fabricated.
But should we believe that we know all of them?”
Mesmeromania reigned in Paris during the near ten years the Doctor worked in Paris before the French Revolution took over the stage. Mesmer was a far greater attraction than the Montgolfier balloons or the American statesmen Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Dr. Mesmer had thousands of patients, followers and students. Among them were grandees of all kind, magistrates and potentates, priests and physicians, scholars and savants.
Thanks to a number of committed and energetic enthusiasts, Mesmer’s teaching expanded through Societies of Harmony which flourished in Paris, the Provinces and the American colonies. Eventually, his Discovery spread into Germany, Spain, and Russia, even with the onset of Revolution and Wars.
Literally thousands of books, articles, and pamphlets were written during his decade in Paris. Even in the present day, the French National Library alone holds fourteen volumes of 1000 pages each in its mesmerist collection completed before the Revolution. Just as a wide swath of Parisians wanted to experience Mesmer and his work, all manner of people took to pamphleteering to say their piece in regard to his magnétisme animal.
Jacques de Horne, a physician detractor, wrote an anonymous pamphlet to discredit him. Even so, he interestingly called him “Thaumaturge, Magician, Operator.” A number of other physician and similar “discreditors” wrote diatribes to stigmatize his theories and downplay his successes. The modern reader of such polemics might think that many of these efforts actually backfired and raised Mesmer and magnetism into brighter relief.
• At the same time Mesmer was promoting his discovery and healing the sick and injured, his doctrine inevitably had a much wider effect on the French public. Numbers of adherents became key figures in the political movements of the day seeking more than “Liberté et Santé.” Eventually, their desire was forged into another which founded the Republic based on “Liberté Egalité Fraternité.” Again, the influences which moved forth from Mesmer, the Great Magnetizer, are quite beyond enumerating.
For those who dare to look more deeply at the facts – those stubborn things – which surround his life and teachings, it might yet be possible for them to experience the whole world in a new light. Numbers of respected thinkers, scholars and writers over the intervening years have concluded Mesmer to be a forerunner of truths only now slowly being revealed.
We invite you to read Mesmer Eyes: Let There Be Light. Make your own observations and conclusions based on the facts of the case as far as our researches have managed to go. The whole truth is still beyond us. But, a significant portion of it can be found in the book.
If the healing art is most divine,
it must occupy itself with the soul as well as the body.
Through a Glass Darkly: Chapter 1
Through a Glass Darkly
Let There Be Sight
Light Music on Landstrasse
Brother of Light
The Inner Eye
Harmonie ou Revolution
The Sun Takes a Rest
A Light in the Darkness
The Light of Nature
Face to Face