Mesmer minus magic:
hypnosis and modern medicine

Spiegel D.
Stanford University School of Medicine,
California 94305-5718, USA.
Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2002 Oct;50(4):397-406


The implications and effects of the French commission that passed judgment on Mesmer's work is examined in light of the pioneering role of hypnosis as the first Western conception of a psychotherapy, the ancient philosophical debate between idealism and empiricism, and the conflict in modern medicine between biotechnological emphasis on cure and the need for care as many previously terminal illnesses are converted to chronic diseases. The panel's report is interpreted as negative about the literal theory of animal magnetism but actually supportive of the potential therapeutic power of suggestion and "positive thinking." This aspect of hypnosis is described as a forerunner of modern cognitive therapies of depression and other illnesses. The panel exerted a constructive effect in applying scientific method and rigorous evaluation to hypnotic treatment, an application of Enlightenment philosophy that presaged the Flexner era in modern medicine. Both hypnosis and medicine ultimately benefited.
Mesmer and Mesmerism
Mesmerism and Bedford Square
Anaesthesia: rivalries and discoveries
Volatile anaesthetics immobilise sensitive plant
Franklin Commission Report on Animal Magnetism

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