Animal magnetism (French: magnétisme animal; Latin: magnetismus animalis) is a term proposed by Franz Mesmer in the 18th century, the term ‘magnetism’ was adopted by analogy, referring to some interpersonal and general effects of reciprocal influence and/or entanglement he observed.
Mesmer attributed such effects to a supposed ‘life energy’ or ‘fluid’ or ethereal medium believed to reside in the bodies of animate beings (i.e., those who breathe). The term is translated from Mesmer’s magnétisme animal. Mesmer chose the word animal to distinguish his supposed vital magnetic force from those referred to at that time as “mineral magnetism”, “cosmic magnetism” and “planetary magnetism”.
The theory became the basis of treatment in Europe and the United States that was based on non verbal elements such as gaze, passes (movements of the hands near the body accompanied by intention of the operator), and mental elements as will and intention, and that sometimes depended also on “laying on of hands.” It was very popular into the nineteenth century, with a strong cultural impact.
From some of the practices of animal magnetism branched out Hypnotism, Spiritualism, New Thought, so called “magnetic healing”, and Parapsychological research. Some forms of magnetism continue to be practiced, especially in continental Europe, even today.
In modern usage, the phrase “animal magnetism” may refer to a person’s sexual attractiveness or raw charisma.
Last updated: November 13, 2012 at 10:27 am
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