Animal Magnetism
Alternative term for mesmerism. It appears to have been
first used by Michel A. Thouret in his Recherches et doutes sur le
magnétisme animal (1784) with the intention of disassociating
the phenomena from the name of its popularizer Franz Anton
Mesmer (1733–1815). Thouret reviewed similar phenomena
throughout the ages, and the name ‘‘animal magnetism’’ was
intended to disassociate it from ferro-magnetism, indicating
that the mesmeric or magnetic fluid was associated with unusual
phenomena in living organisms.
Animal magnetism became a preferred term for experimenters
and writers like J. P. F. Deleuze (1753–1835), and William
Gregory (1803–1858), translator of Baron von Reichenbach’s
works on the ‘‘od,’’ or ‘‘odic force’’(associated with
animal magnetism). Animal magnetism embraced such paranormal
phenomena as clairvoyance, transposition of the
senses, and sympathy (rapport between operator and subject).
A number of reputable scientists took a serious interest in animal
magnetism and conducted numerous experiments, and for
many years during the nineteenth century the subject formed
a bridge between mesmerism, Spiritualism, and hypnotism.
From time to time various alternative terms were proposed,
largely in order to give the subject some scientific dignity.
These included ‘‘psycodunamy’’ (Theodore Leger), ‘‘electropsychology,’’
and ‘‘electro-biology.’’ Animal magnetism was
eventually supplanted by hypnotism, which discarded many of
the claimed paranormal aspects of the subject.
Sources
Binet, Alfred, and Charles Fere. Animal Magnetism. London,
1887.
Deleuze, J. P. F. Practical Instruction in Animal Magnetism.
Providence, RI B. Cranston, 1837. Reprint, New York Samuel
R. Wells, 1879.
DuPoteat, Jules. Magnetism and Magic. New York F. Stokes,
n.d.
Gregory, William. Animal Magnetism or Mesmerism and Its
Phenomena. London, 1909.
Townshend, Chauncy Hare. Facts in Mesmerism, with Reasons
for a Dispassionate Inquiry into It. London, 1844.

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