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Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer passed away in 1815.

Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer was a German physician.

Mesmer was born on May 23rd, 1734 in Swabia, Germany. He studied at he Jesuit universities of Dilligen in Southern Germany and Ingolstadt founded by the Duke of Bavaria in 1472. He later took up the study of medicine at the University of Vienna in 1759. In 1766 he wrote a doctoral dissertation titled On the Influence of the Planets on the Human Body. The the dissertation he discussed the influence of tidal forces from the moon and the planets on the human body and on disease. His theories should not be confused with medical astrology which at it's core has to do with the position of the sun and moon in the heavens has a direct correlation with a persons health. Instead Mesmer was using Newton's relatively new concepts of gravity to explain illness.

In 1774, Mesmer attempted to create an "artificial tide" in one of his subjects. A woman who suffered from hysteria was given a solution containing iron. Mesmer then attached magnets on the womans body. The woman claimed that she felt a fluid flowing through her body and for some hours during the treatment she claimed that her hysteria was gone. Mesmer came up with the theory at the time, which led to him no longer using magnets in future treatments, that it was not the magnets that helped heal the woman's mental state, it was what he was calling animal magnetism. This is the theory that all animals give off a magnetic field and my interacting with another persons field in the proper way, physical and mental illness can be cured.

Mesmer began to be consulted by physicians in Germany, Austria and France. In Germany he was brought in to give his opinion on exorcisms and faith healing performed by Johann Joseph Gassner. Mesmer stated that the Gassner's claims were false that it was not the exorcisms and faith healing that cured Gassner's patients it was that Gassner possessed a powerful field of animal magnetism.

In 1777, Mesmer was compelled to leave Austria in 1777 when he failed in his attempt to cure an 18 year old blind musician with his theories. He fled to Paris where he established a practice. Before the end of the people of Paris were divided into two camps, those that believed that Mesmer was a charlatan and those that believed he was the salvation for all kinds of illnesses. Before long Mesmer's practice was so large that he could not keep up with the number of patients. He created a group treatment where he would be able to treat 20 people at a time. From this it was claimed that Mesmer discovered a new kind of fluid.

In 1784, King Louis XVI created, with Mesmer's asking for it, a commission to look into Mesmer's claims. It consisted of three French scientists and the American Ambassador, Benjamin Franklin. The commission conducted experiments, not to determine if Mesmer's treatments worked, instead they sought to find out if there really was a new fluid created. They discovered no evidence of the new fluid and declared that any benefits that were gained from the treatments came from the imagination of those being treated. One of the members of the commission, a French botanist wrote a dissenting opinion, stating that Mesmer's theories were worth looking into further.

It was also in 1784, that Mesmer visited a Mesmeric Society in Lyon that had been created in support of his work. After the results of the investigation of the commission became public knowledge, Mesmer was forced into exile. He continued his practice in Switzerland before returning to German to pass away on March 5th, 1815.

"Mesmerism" is named for Mesmer.

Mesmer is believed to have been a member of Philadelphia Lodge in Narbonne, France. Mesmer also created a society called Order of Universal Harmony which some writers have called "Mesmeric Freemasonry."