A somewhat speculative biography of the 18th century proponent of ""animal magnetism"" since Wyckoff is forced to admit that...

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FRANZ ANTON MESMER: Between God and Devil

A somewhat speculative biography of the 18th century proponent of ""animal magnetism"" since Wyckoff is forced to admit that ""we know nothing about his inner life, and not a great deal more about his external."" Undaunted, the author places Mesmer in the great fraternity of medical heretics--Fluidium, Mesmer's secret Life Force, galvanized by magnetism, is just an 18th century version of Wilhelm Reich's ""orgone energy"" and von Reichenbach's ""Odic force."" Ostracized by the medical establishment of Vienna and later Paris, Mesmer nevertheless had many rich and illustrious patients ready to swear to his remarkable powers and the unique treatments he dispensed wearing a coat of lilac silk and touching a long iron rod to the bodies of his patients. Wyckoff calls him a forerunner of Freud and modern psychiatry, one of those rare souls who understood--even in the unreasonable Age of Reason--that ""'reality' is not really real."" Wyckoff subscribes to the dogma, beloved among occultists, that since The Beginning ""two cultures, two realities, two 'histories'"" have existed side by side. Mesmer belonged to the fertile underground stream of anti-empiricists. Oddly, Wyckoff doesn't dwell on animal magnetism as hypnotism, preferring to place Mesmer in the tradition of kings and faith healers who cured by ""touch"" or the laying on of hands. With an injunction to ""escape the coffin of our logical thinking"" Wyckoff tells it as the story of a great man hounded, unappreciated, persecuted.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 1975

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Prentice-Hall

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1975