In 1775, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) Austrian physician developed a theory involving a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called ‘animal magnetism’, which would later be known as mesmerism. This theory gave birth to the modern era of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Mesmer was the first to lead hypnotism out of the realms of the occult and into scientific study, although the real reason for his success was not understood by him or his critics. Mesmer held that an invisible fluid in the body a kind of psychic ether pervading all space, acted according to the laws of magnetism and that disease was caused by obstacles to the free circulation of this fluid. Mesmer also believed that astral bodies were causing tides in this fluid.
Mesmer believed that good physical and psychological health came from properly aligned magnetic forces, and conversely that bad health was the result of these forces essentially being out of whack. He created a treatment that seemed to work by correcting all the forces that were misaligned. Mesmer studied the work of Isaac Newton and his theory of gravity and this influenced his theory about the tidal effects of the planets also being able to operate on the human body through a universal force. Mesmer used a magnet to disrupt the gravitational tides that were adversely affecting his patients. Mesmer devised a simple apparatus to distribute the magnetic forces to his willing patients. Looking at his results from a modern perspective, it is clear that they were produced by a trance-inducing hypnotic suggestion that allowed an infected patient to believe that a fluid could be drained out of their body. Mesmer was not able to provide any proof on how his method worked, so the scientific community ostracized him as being a charlatan and even Mesmer realized that the magnet had nothing to do with the cure. The word ‘mesmerize’ is derived from Mesmer’s treatment and it involves being so captured by something that you went into a trance.