✍ Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France [1968]

por Teoría de la historia

9780674569515_p0_v1_s260x420Mesmerism had its origins in the ideas of Paracelsus, Robert Fludd, and Van Helmont and particularly in the theory that health depended on the harmony between the individual microcosm and the celestial macrocosm. These were elaborated and made more plausible by borrowings from the eighteenth-century writings on electricity, the mysterious ‘fluid’ which seemed to be present throughout the universe and the effects of which upon the human body were already being tried out by others as a possible cure for a variety of diseases. Franz Anton Mesmer was a Doctor of Medicine of the University of Vienna and the claims made for his system of cure did not seem at all bizarre to his contemporaries. On the contrary, they seemed to accord well with what were popularly understood to be the most advanced scientific ideas, and when they were dressed up in the elegant and dramatic form offered by Mesmer they had an irresistible appeal for fashionable society of the time. In his well-documented book, Robert Darnton traces the influence of mesmerism on contemporary social ideas, demonstrating its attraction for political radicals, occultists and romantics from the eve of the French Revolution up to Victor Hugo. With this emphasis on the historical significance of mesmerism it may be seen as a model of many other ‘off-beat’ medical and scientific theories which continue to attract the support of groups very similar to those who hailed Mesmer as a scientific and medical genius.

[F. N. L. POYNTER. “Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France, by Robert Darnton, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press; London, Oxford University Press, 1968, pp. xiii, 218, illus.” (reseña), in Medical History (Cambridge), vol. XIV, nº 4, octubre de 1970, p. 421]