This is a pretty busy date if you look in the history books.
There was the sad Boston Massacre, which took place in 1770.
The whacky Hoola Hoop was invented. In 1963. (By Wham-O and Arthur “Spud” Melin).
Winston Churchill delivered the “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946. Right here on American soil. In Fulton. Missouri.
And dictating Stalin died in Moscow, in 1953.
Stir the pot. It’s soup.
There’s a whole lot more, to be sure. But the headline that mesmerized me was this.
Innovator of hypnotism dies, 1815
I’ve never been hypnotized. At least, not that I know of. But I’ve seen the movies and the magic acts. People running around, clucking like chickens. Standing on one foot. Picking imaginary flowers. And the like.
I am sure this is not how Franz Anton Mesmer intended us to see hypnotism. He was the German physician who pioneered the medical field of hypnotic therapy.
He was born a long time ago. Back in 1734. I wonder, if as a kid, he ever tried this on anyone. Of course, he wouldn’t develop the techniques until much later in life. But when we were kids, we were always taking a yo-yo, or some round item tied to the end of the string, and swinging it back and forth. And in a deep voice, we’d say, “Watch the yo-yo. You’re getting very sleepy. Veeerrrry sleeeeepy.” Then, we’d give it up after a minute or two, and go roll around in some dirt somewhere.
But. That Mesmer. He studied religion, philosophy, law, and medicine in Vienna, Austria. The thing of it was, though — he wasn’t very good at his studies. He initially failed to excel at any of these fields.
Then, he stumbled on a guy. In the 1770s. He became fascinated with one Father Glassner. Glassner was a Swiss Roman Catholic priest who was well known as a documented faith healer.
Mesmer observed him, and his miraculous healings. And after some time, Mesmer decided that the nifty priest and his cures were achieved by what he called “animal magnetism.” Mesmer thought we all had magnetic fields in us. When those fields were “upset” we would get sick. Ailments, and such. He decided that Glassner was fixing these magnetic drips, by creating a “harmony” or “connection,” with his patients.
In 1772, Mesmer began to work on his own therapeutic treatments for people. He came up with hypnotism. While his scientific theories had some holes, his technique started getting results. They called this process of mesmerism. People would go into hypnotic states and they’d come out on the other side with some extraordinary results.
His popularity grew. But those higher-ups on the Medical Council in Vienna declared him a fraud. He packed his bag of tricks and went to Paris.
From that point on, Mesmer treated all sorts of folks. From peasants right up to the very wealthy aristocrats. He had a following. He had success.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. In 1784, King Louis XVI appointed a committee of physicians and scientists to investigate Mesmer. They decided he could offer no support his scientific claims, and his practice subsequently declined.
In 1778, he left Paris and retired to obscurity in his native Swabia. (Now Germany). And that is where he died. In obscurity.
But hypnotism remains. Many people swear by it. They’ve used it to quit smoking, or to lose weight, or a hundred other things. But. It isn’t for me. I just can’t get past the clucking chicken thing. And I surely don’t want to start laying my own eggs. And not know it.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami
“The question is not how to get cured, but how to live.”
― Joseph Conrad