An alternative term for Mesmerism which appears to be first used by Michael A. Thouret in his work Reseaches et dorites sur le Magnetisme animal (1782). In this work it was Thouret’s intention to disassociate the phenomena from the man who popularized it Anton Mesmer. (1733-1815).
Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) was a German doctor interested in astronomy and who postulated that there were invisible energies that moved between living beings, the so-called animal magnetism or mesmerism. Mesmer presented his ideas to the French Academy of Sciences and said that by controlling this universal life force, any disease could be cured.
In Paris he became a star in the salons of the nobility, where he put his patients in a trance and operated “miracles” while distributing leaves with testimonies of people who declared with firm conviction his health. He also did group sessions in his luxurious clinic where he performed under a soft light and soft music, there were mirrors that reflected the scene, patients held their thumbs and Mesmer walked around him dressed in a silk tunic and -according to he- channeling magnetic fluids to them with the movements of his hands. When some patients fell into a trance and began to babble, scream and faint, others lived as a true prodigy. To serve the poor, he used intermediaries, the trees. Mesmer said he had magnetized some trees and the poor could benefit from miraculous treatment by hugging their trunks.
Most doctors mocked animal magnetism and Mesmer asked that his theory be evaluated with the highest scientific rigor and that is what happened. King Louis XVI created in 1784 the so-called Royal French Commission, a group of doctors and scientists of the first level among which were Benjamin Franklin, Antoine Lavoisier or Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. The commission did blind studies-without the Mesmerists knowing what was being presented to them-seeing that they were unable to recognize which objects had been magnetized by themselves. Therefore, they could not detect and align the magnetic fields. The conclusion was «Imagination, without magnetism, can produce convulsions, but magnetism without imagination, does not do anything». It was an example of suggestion and even today we try to sell magnetic bracelets and gadgets telling us that they are good for our health.
Thouret had reviewed the phenomena throughout the ages, finding the name “animal magnetism” was otherwise used intending to disassociate it from ferro-magnetism indicating that the mesmeric or mesmeric fluid was associated with an unusual phenomena in living organisms.
Animal Magnetism became the preferred term used by experimenters and writers such as J. P. F. Deleuze (1753-1835) and William Gregory (1803-1858), translator of Baron von Reikenbach’s “Odic Force” (associated with animal magnetism). Through study Animal Magnetism has embraced such paranormal phenomena as Clairvoyance, Transportation of Senses, and Sympathy (rapport between operator and subject).
Animal Magnetism has been labeled other terms in order to give it some scientific dignity. Over the years it has been called Psycodunamy (Theodore Leger), “Electro-Psychology,” “Electro-Biology,” but eventually Animal Magnetism was supplanted by “Hypnotism.” Although, Hypnotism has become the preferred term for it, there is still much to be known concerning the phenomena.