Happy Friday! Today’s Dictionary.com Word of the Day (and prompt for my obligatory Haiku) is Mesmerism. What I find so mesmerizing about this word is its origin. Mesmerism is an eponym (an eponym is a word based on or derived from a person’s name) formed from the name of Austrian physician Friedrich Anton Mesmer*, who theorized the concept of animal magnetism and the practice of inducing a hypnotic state, and even healing.
Sounds really interesting doesn’t it? We’ve all heard of animal magnetism. Of course it makes perfect sense that we would coin a new word based on Dr. Mesmer’s amazing work…except. Yep! Here it comes…except for the fact that despite Mesmer’s repeated attempts to receive scientific or medical recognition, he was never able to provide the evidence that proved his theories.
Despite all this, old Dr. Mesmer did develop a following of “Magnetists” (practicians of Mesmer’s theory). Hundreds of books have been written about this topic between the mid 1700’s an 1925, but despite the enthusiastic support of Mesmer’s “believers” most in the scientific and medical community still consider forms of magnetism, laying on of hands, hypnosis, etc., to be quackery that preys on the vulnerable.
The modern equivalent today resides in various forms of alternative healing therapies and while the idea itself didn’t originate with Mesmer, (so-called witch doctors had been practicing long before him), he may have been on to something. There is certainly something to be said for the power of suggestion and our desire and willingness to believe in something…even something unbelievable!
As a side-note, adding insult to injury, a quick survey of Wikipedia referencing the word “Quackery” will produce the name of our friend Dr. Mesmer listed among some of the more notorious Quacks in history.
So when I think of mesmerism or the idea of being mesmerized, I am also reminded of the word’s back story. We humans are quite gullible. I worry about us and how we are so easily swayed and led astray by bright shiny objects, appealing ideologies, peer pressure, group-think. Though he was never vindicated I might consider myself open to the idea of Mesmer’s theory. Am I gullible? Perhaps, or am I just open to the possibility of an infinite universe of possibilities?! 😊 …look! there goes a butterfly! 😊
that tick tock pendulous flash
that obscures reason
kat ~ 19 August 2016
* Read more about Animal Magnetism, Mesmerism, Magnetists and the history of Dr. Mesmer’s debunked theory HERE.