Background and Beginnings

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Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Fri Sep 12, 2008 8:03 am

Hi All,

Over the next few weeks I will be extending this into a brief intro covering both the years before Spiritualism and the starting years. I am researching this to make it as correct as possible but if anyone spots errors let us know.

Firtsly I am not at all sure how many people know the actual area involved where Hydesville, Arcadia and Rochester are so attached is a map. As I had to add Arcadia, Rochester and Lily Dale on here they may be a few Kilometers (or being the USA miles) out.

Thanks Google Earth

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:19 am

Hi All,

For interest after the wars in Canada which resulted in the capture of Quebec and removal of the French presence there was a peace treaty drawn up in 1763 in Paris. At this not only were the new British Territories in Canada and on the Eastern Seaboard of America defined but the Indian Nations were protected by reserving the entire area West of the Appalachian Mountains. At that time the whole area where the Fox Cottage came to stand was in the lands of the Iroquois Nations a confederacy which from 1702 comprised 6 Nations.

This land was very fertile and attractive to settlers. Strangely enough the British attempted to resist any breach of this 1763 Proclomation. However the support of the confederacy to the British cause in the War of Independence changed the situation. In the end between the attritional wars of independence, Indian wars, the religous events that occured and the prominence the region gained as part of the "underground railway" the route whereby Southern Slaves escaped to freedom that led to descriptions of the area as the "burnt over ground".

The following maps may help to understand the implications of the changes that occured over the 50 years before the events at Hydesville.

The Slave "Railway"

Indeed you can see one cause of the underlying tensions because the 1763 Proclamation failed to deliver what some settlers believed were promises to the Ohio Company.

There is a phenomenal amount of information available about this time which does not reflect well on the main players but certainly adds an immense amount of depth to the rather unique Social and Economic envirnment that surrounded the area where Spiritualism started.

Last edited by Admin on Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:27 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:12 am

Hi All,

I will give a brief history here but anyone wanting to look in more detail will find a fascinating book on the Burned Over Ground here

Also other Historical Material about the 1763 proclamation

and about the Iroquois Confederacy

Last edited by Admin on Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:54 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:43 am

Now having built up a picture of a remote newly settled area one by the War Of Independence and the subsequent annexation of the Indian Lands there are many other events which affected this area.

The first and most obvious was the major issue that it became the Burned Over District as much for the constant development of new religous thought. To quote a few writers on this.

By way of introduction
2006 Thesis to Richmond University Patricia Lewis Noel
"Between 1790 and 1860, religious zeal and revivalism swept through the young United States on a previously unparalleled scale. The religious excitement was particularly strong in western upstate New York, which as a result became known as the "Burned Over District." Revivalism and evangelical enthusiasm was intense in rural, poverty-stricken areas. The combination of theories espoused by the American Revolution and the Enlightenment eroded religious influence in American life by the 1780s. An increase in poverty and crime following the Revolution led western New Yorkers to turn to "revivalism," the revitalization of religious beliefs through prayer meetings, protracted meetings or sermons. Revivals were most common in evangelical sects. Revival religion provided rural western New Yorkers with comfort, stability and a sense of belonging in a volatile society. Revivals could be planned or spontaneous. They were held in homes, churches, barns and fields. They could be led by itinerant ministers. Burned Over District revivalism also included and gave leadership roles to women in ways never before seen in American religious movements. Although the sudden surge of revivalism and development of new religions in the Burned Over District has been explained by most scholars as an urban reaction to changing market economies, I argue that the upsurge in religiosity among rural and lower-class whites between 1790 and 1860 was spurred by emotions caused by unstable society and family life in the rural frontier. The function of revivalism as an emotional Evangelicalism is defined as sects that required its followers to experience personal salvation in which they publicly accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, as well as interpreted the Bible literally, and sought to actively convert others into their churches. Evangelicals believed mass conversion would signal the "Rapture," or return of Jesus Christ. In times of trouble it gave emotinal release."

Spreading Evangelism "The Saving Remnant" Cedric B Cowlum
"Frontier condition and uncertainties of the Revolutionary War con­tributed to the growing religious volatility and radicalism, Revivalism and sectarianism were continual and would increase with the Second Great Awakening. Northern New England, in parallel with its parent, the British Northwest, was ready for the religious and romantic resur­gence that occurred in Anglo-America in the 1790s. This region had yet to reach its apogee in mysticism and romanticism, Still to come were the prophets-Joseph Smith, Ellen White, Mary Baker Eddy---and the poets-John Greenleaf Whinier, Edward Arlington Robinson, and Robert Frost. "

and the most dramatic of all the incidents
The Great Awakening
By Thomas S, Kidd
OF 1776-1783
"On May 19. 1780, much of New England fell under a thick, smoky veil of of darkness . In a time of war and rnillennial expectations, many evangelists read this "Dark Day" as an ominous portent. A broadside rhymed .
Nineteenth of May, a gloomy day,
When darkness veil'd the sky;
The sun's decline may be a sign,
Some great event is nigh.
The poem's author declared that the phenomenon signaled America's need for repentance and awakening:
Awake, awake, your sins forsake,
And that immediatelyI;
If we don't turn his wrath will burn,
To all eternity;
Polite observers considered the event an unusual meteorological phenome­non. Yale College president Ezra Stiles averred thai it could be explained "with­out having recourse to anything miraculous or ominous" and identified forest fires as the darkness's primary cause. Isaac Backus ,however, noted that "many in town and countery thought the day of judgment was come," Hannah Heaton considered the phenomenon "no eclips but a forerunner of some great thing coming on the world" and cited prophecies of Acts 2;20 and Joel 3:15. "the sun shall be darkened and the moon turned into blood," Samuel Gatchel of Marble­head, Massachusctts, made explicit Heaton's implication that the Dark Day had fulfilled the prophecy of Joel 3:15, Gatchel believed that the American church was the woman in the wilderness of Revelation l2:6, so that when Joel prophesied in 3:16 that "The LORD ahall roar out of Zion. and utter his voice from Jerusalem," "Zion" and "Jerusalem" referred specifically ,to New England,. The Lord's voice spoke in the Dark Day. which covered New England alone, mark­ing its special identity. The apocalyptically minded would remember the Dark Day for decades , as the Millerite Josiah Litch asked in 1842: "Has the sun been darkened in these days , as predicted by Joel and the Saviour? It has; and that within the memory of many now living. I refer to dark day of A. D, 1780, May 19th.
The Dark Day marked the moment of greatest eschatological anticipation in the midst of another series of North American revivals, the" New Light Stir," which ran from about 1776 to 1783. Although this period was; marked by vigorous Baptist growth in the South, Baptists and other evangelicals also saw great successes in New England and Nova Scotia. The revival. of 1776-83 show that though American church growth had generally slowed during the third quarter of the e'ighteenth century, the inheritors of the radical evangelical movemerit still thrived, setting the stage for the fractious triumphs of evangelical churches in the early nineteenth century. AsI. ' the first generation of American evangelical Christianity drew I to a close, the movement continued to expand and develop. despite the challenges associated with the revolutionary crisis. Some former radi­cals , like the Separate Baptists, consolidated into more rationalized denomina­tions during this period, whereas new, even more radical groups like the Shakers continued to appear on the border of. evangelicalisrn. These sects' intensely emotional spirituality contributed to their bending of social convention related to race, class, and gender. The tension between radical and moderate 'evangeli­calism persisted."

It was after the Day Of Darkness that the Shakers, a quaker sect that had trouble becoming established began to grow. In some ways the Shakers are worthy of seperate mention. In his excellent Spirit History web site Jud Buschler links them as influential on elements of early Spiritualism.

So we had an area which was constantly affected by religous fervor, had newly expanded, was very remote with isolated settlements and would be affected by other influences before March 31st 1848.


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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:39 am

Still to come were the prophets-Joseph Smith, Ellen White, Mary Baker Eddy---and the poets-John Greenleaf Whittier, Edward Arlington Robinson, and Robert Frost.

Touched on in the preceding section were the people who created whole new churches as distant from conventional Christianity as Spiritualism.

Joseph Smith was the founder of the Mormon Church, who claiming that he was led by the angel Moroni to decipher the Book of Mormon, which told of the migration of ancient Hebrews to America and the founding of the true church. Indeed Smith was a dowser who said he was led to the golden plates by the use of his divining rod. Smith and his followers faced persecution wherever they went because of their radical teachings, particularly their endorsement of polygamy. The Mormons settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1839, but Smith and his brother were killed by an angry mob in 1844. Leadership of the church passed to Brigham Young.

In 1847, Young led about fifteen thousand Mormons to the valley of Great Salt Lake and began to develop what he called the state of Deseret, which was organized as the Utah Territory by Congress in 1850. Young became the territorial governor, and although he was removed from the position during his second term because of an ongoing dispute between the Mormons and the federal government over polygamy, he remained the political as well as religious leader of the Mormons until his death. There is an interesting synergy with Spiritualism, it was the eldest brother of Elisha Kent Kane, the explorer who married Maggie Fox, who championed the Mormon's move to Utah using his legal training and political connections to assist them.

Before mentioning Ellen White we must mention William Miller the person who is credited to have helped found the Seventh Day Adventists. Unfortunately his preachings prophecised that Jesus Christ would return to earth in 1844. In 1840 and 1842 Ellen, with other members of the family, attended Adventist meetings in Portland, Maine accepting William Miller's views confident in Christ's imminent return. The keenness of what became known as "the Great Disappointment", that Jesus did not return to earth on October 22, 1844 was not lessened by Ellen's youth, and she, with others, studied the Bible and prayed earnestly for light and guidance in the succeeding days of perplexity. One morning late in December, Ellen joined four other women in family worship at the home of a fellow believer, as the power of God rested on Ellen she witnessed in vision the travels of the Advent people to the city of God. As the 17-year-old girl reluctantly and tremblingly related this vision to the Adventist group in Portland, they accepted it as light from God. Seventh-day Adventists came to believe that Mrs. White was more than a gifted writer; they believe she was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world's attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ's second advent.

Then in 1866, Mary Baker Eddy was healed of a life-threatening accident through spiritual insights gained from the Bible. Over the next few years she studied the Scriptures deeply, looking for a spiritual system behind the healing works of Christ Jesus. She tested what she was learning by healing other people, including some considered medically incurable. She also taught others to heal, using this system she later called: "Christian Science." In 1875, Mary Baker Eddy published the first edition of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," her major work on the theology and healing system of Christian Science. In 1879, she founded a church in Boston, Massachusetts, and served as its pastor for about ten years. In 1881, she established The Massachusetts Metaphysical College to teach others her system of healing --including doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and homemakers. She started a monthly magazine called "The Christian Science Journal," in 1883, and was its first editor. In 1892 she reorganized the church. Several years later she ordained the Bible and "Science and Health" as its pastor. This opened the way for both women and men to conduct church services, where they read from these books. Today local branch churches, known as Churches of Christ, Scientist, have been opened in over seventy countries around the world.

Additionally the area had the Shaker Movement, the abolitionists, the womens rights movement and a utopian settlement founded upon the teachings of Fourier.

Clearly fertile ground for the expression and establishment of new ideas.

Last edited by Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:03 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:40 am

Of course apart from the historical background of recent settlement and frequent religious outbursts there were major economic changes driving events in the area.
Hydesville, where the Fox family lived at on the 31st March 1848, when the first communication with spirit occurred, is a small Hamlet in a sub area of Wayne County, New York State. This area then known as the town of Arcadia, formed in February 15, 1825. The development of the area was driven by the building of the Erie Canal, which brought people and prosperity to the area.
Confusingly the area contains other centers such as the village that has become the modern the city of Newark, first called Miller's Basin in honor of Capt. Joseph Miller who contracted to build a section of the Erie Canal through this region. Indeed to add extra confusion, about three quarters of a mile east of Newark a settlement later known as Lockville began around 1805. It became known as Lockville because of the three locks built near the settlement on the original Erie Canal. In 1839, the settlement of Lockville became incorporated as the village of Arcadia.
Newark and Lockville both prospered as a result of the Erie Canal, and in 1853, the village of Newark was incorporated. The former village of Arcadia (Lockville) was included in the corporation.
It seems clear that the major reason that the Fox’s were living in the area was the expansion caused by the canal creating new opportunities especially in farming. Additionally, although the telegraph spread rapidly to this area, especially as there was a transport corridor available for materials, it did not exist in 1848, so the existence of the canal helped in the rapid dissemination of the news to other areas (By way of a note subsequently Rochester became the headquarters of the Western Union Telegraph company).

To give some background on the development, using a brief history produced by the New York State Canal Corporation
The Erie Canal: A Brief History
Opened in 1825, the Erie Canal was the engineering marvel of the 19th Century. When the planning for what many derided as “Clinton's Folly” began, there was not a single school of engineering in the United States. With the exception of a few places where black powder was used to blast through rock formations, all 363 miles were built by the muscle power of men and horses.
The Erie Canal proved to be the key that unlocked an enormous series of social and economic changes in the young nation. The Canal spurred the first great westward movement of American settlers, gave access to the rich land and resources west of the Appalachians and made New York the preeminent commercial city in the United States. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Allegheny Mountains were the Western Frontier. The Northwest Territories that would later become Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio were rich in timber, minerals, and fertile land for farming. It took weeks to reach these precious resources. Travellers were faced with rutted turnpike roads that baked to hardness in the summer sun. In the winter, the roads dissolved in a sea of mud.
Then - New York Governor DeWitt Clinton envisioned a better way: a Canal from Buffalo on the eastern shore of Lake Erie to Albany on the upper Hudson River, a distance of almost 400 miles.

“The city will, in the course of time, become the granary of the world, the emporium of commerce, the seat of manufactures, the focus of great moneyed operations,” said Clinton. “And before the revolution of a century, the whole island of Manhattan, covered with inhabitants and replenished with a dense population, will constitute one vast city.”
In 1817, Clinton convinced the State legislature to authorize $7 million for construction of a Canal 363 miles long, 40 feet wide and four feet deep.
In 1825, Governor Dewitt Clinton officially opened the Erie Canal as he sailed the packet boat Seneca Chief along the Canal from Buffalo to Albany. After traveling from the mouth of the Erie to New York City, he emptied two casks of water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean, celebrating the first connection of waters from East to West in the ceremonial "Marriage of the Waters".
The effect of the Canal was immediate and dramatic and settlers poured west. The explosion of trade prophesied by Governor Clinton began, spurred by freight rates from Buffalo to New York of $10 per ton by Canal, compared with $100 per ton by road. In 1829, there were 3,640 bushels of wheat transported down the Canal from Buffalo. By 1837 this figure had increased to 500,000 bushels; four years later it reached one million. In nine years, Canal tolls more than recouped the entire cost of construction.
Within 15 years of the Canal's opening, New York was the busiest port in America, moving tonnages greater than Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined.
The impact on the rest of the State can be seen by looking at a modern map. With the exception of Binghamton and Elmira, every major city in New York falls along the trade route established by the Erie Canal, from New York City to Albany, through Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse, to Rochester and Buffalo. Nearly 80% of upstate New York's population lives within a 25 miles of the Erie Canal.
The Erie Canal's success was part of a Canal-building boom in New York in the 1820s. Between 1823 and 1828, several lateral Canals opened including the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca.
Between 1835 and the turn of the century, this network of Canals was enlarged twice to accommodate heavier traffic. Between 1905 and 1918, the Canals were enlarged again. This time, in order to accommodate much larger barges, the engineers decided to abandon much of the original man-made channel and use new techniques to “Canalize” the rivers that the canal had been constructed to avoid the Mohawk, Oswego, Seneca, Clyde and Oneida Lake. A uniform channel was dredged; dams were built to create long, navigable pools, and locks were built adjacent to the dams to allow the barges to pass from one pool to the next. When it opened in 1918, the whole system was renamed the New York State Barge Canal.
With growing competition from railroads and highways, and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, commercial traffic on the Canal System declined dramatically in the latter part of the 20th century.
Today, the waterway network has been renamed again. As the New York State Canal System, it is enjoying a rebirth as a recreational and historic resource. The Erie Canal played an integral role in the transformation of New York City into the nation's leading port, a national identity that continues to be reflected in many songs, legends and artwork today.
In 2001, designated as the nation's 23rd National Heritage Corridor, the New York State Canal System joined the ranks of America's most treasured historical resources. Comprised of four Canals, the Canal System is historically significant for the many contributions it has made to establish New York State as an international center of commerce and finance.
For more information about the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, please visit their website,

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:23 pm

Then there were other events and people (both within the USA and overseas) that were influencing matters and I will progressively get write about them.

For a start the influence of mesmerism cannot be forgotten. Most obviously this reflects in the towering influence of Andrew Jackson Davis, well before the events of 1848. However Davis's presence was a spin off of the work of Mesmer. Davis had become known as a trance medium and by 1848 had written through trance major spiritual treatises'. However his first involvement came as a result of being mesmerised (Hypnotised) by atravelling mesmerist. Mediums of this type were known as magnetic mediums because the inference was that the effecy of mesmerism was from animal magnetism. (Clearly I need also to refer to Andrew Jackson Davis regarded by many US Spiritualists as The Father of Modern Spiritualism)

Hospitals were already established in various placesaround the world to bring healing through the use of mesmerism. Studying its impact also led to the conclusion of an unseen force which connected the universe with Reichenbach propoding the name OD or Odilic forces. The concept of the human atmosphere and the universal force proposed later, by scientists of a spiritualist sympathy the "Etheric" force was already alive and subject to discussion.

I will continue on with this as I complete my researches.

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The 27 Expositions of Antoine Mesmer

Post by Admin on Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:54 am

Let us start with Mesmer, in reality I knew of his influence originally in relation to Magnetic Mediumship or mediumship through hypnotically induced trance as Andrew Jackson Davis started with. However as you dig into history you h=find a richer pattern strongly involved with healing but also where people draw analogies to teh doctrines of Swedenborg and the appicability of Mesmers principles. Rather than reword something I will start with an extract of his main thoughts and criticisms of those both for and against his work (posted in two parts). Strangely this extract leaves one believing that the writer was no great lover of Mesmer yet it is in its entirety a Practical manual to guide physicians in teh use of Animal Magnetism




Translated from the Second Edition,


219 REGENT STREET. 1843.


F. Antoine Mesmer was born at Weiler, near Stein, on the Rhine, in 1734; died at Mersburg, near the Lake of Constance, on the 5th of March, 1815. He studied medicine under Van Swieten and de Haen, and was admitted a doctor at the Faculty of Vienna in 1766. His inaugural dissertation was well calculated to indicate the bias of his mind; it was entitled, Of the Influence of the Planets on the Human Body,


§ I. Mesmer and his Theory.

It is now well-nigh sixty-five years since animal magnetism made its entree into the world. Its discovery is generally attributed to Mesmer, a physician of Vienna. The nature and limits of this work will not allow us to give in this place a detailed history of this discovery, with all the changes it underwent in Germany from the first practical attempts of Mesmer in 1773 to 1778, in which year he came to France. It may be well to mention, however, that it was in almost total despair of the cause that Mesmer left his
country, where the artful misrepresentations of Father Hell* and of Ingenhousz had brought discredit on it. However, he was indebted for several cases of success to the employment of his new method; and in the year 1775 he, published, in his Letter to a Foreign Physician, the complete exposition of his theory. We shall present to our readers the twenty-seven propositions which comprise it, under the form of aphorisms : from Memoir on the Discovery of Animal Magnetism. Paris, 1799.
* Of the Society of Jesus, and Professor of Astronomy in Vienna.

1. There exists a mutual influence between the heavenly bodies, the earth, and living bodies.

2. A fluid universally diffused and continued, so as to admit no vacuum, whose subtilty is beyond all comparison, and which, from its nature, is capable of receiving, propagating, and communicating all the impressions of motion, is the medium of this influence.

3. This reciprocal action is subject to mechanical laws unknown up to the present time.

4. From this action result - alternate effects which may be considered a flux and reflux.

5. This flux and reflux is more or less general, more or less particular, more or less compound, according to the nature of the causes which occasion it.

6. It is by this operation (the most universal of those presented to us by nature) that the relations of activity occur between the heavenly bodies, the earth, and its constituent parts.

7. The properties of matter and of organised body depend on this operation.

8. The animal body experiences the alternate effects of this agent; and it is by insinuating itself into the substance of the nerves that it immediately affects them.

9. There are manifested, more especially in the human body, properties analogous to those of the magnet; there are distinguished in it poles equally different and opposite, which may be communicated, changed, destroyed, and restored ; even the phenomenon of inclination is observed therein.

10. The property of the animal body which renders it susceptible of the influence of the heavenly bodies, and of the reciprocal action of those which surround it, manifested by its analogy to the magnet, has made me to call it animal magnetism.

11. The action and virtue of animal magnetism, thus characterised, may be communicated to other bodies, animate and inanimate: both, however, are more or less susceptible of it.

12. This action and this virtue may be reinforced and propagated by the same bodies.

13. There is observed by experiment the discharge of a matter whose subtilty penetrates all bodies, without perceptibly losing its activity.

14. Its action takes place at a remote distance, without the aid of any intermediate body.

15. It is increased and reflected by ice, like light.

16. It is communicated, propagated, and increased by sound.

17. This magnetic influence may be accumulated, concentrated, and transferred.

18. I have said that animate bodies were not equally' susceptible of it; there are some even, though very few, which possess a property so opposite, that their mere presence destroys all the effects of this magnetism in bodies.

19. This opposite virtue also penetrates all bodies; it may also be communicated, propagated, accumulated, concentrated, and transferred, reflected by ices, and propagated by sound; a circumstance which constitutes not only a privation, but a positive opposite virtue.

20. The magnet, whether natural or artificial, as well as other bodies, is susceptible of animal magnetism, and even of the opposite virtue, without, either in the one case or in the other, its action on iron or on the needle undergoing any change; which proves that the principle of animal magnetism differs essentially from that of the mineral.

21. This system will furnish new illustrations with respect to the nature of fire and light, as well as in the theory of attraction, of flux and reflux, of the magnet and electricity.

22. It will shew that with respect to diseases the magnet and artificial electricity have merely common properties with several other agents presented to us by nature; and that if any useful effects have resulted from these, they are owing to animal magnetism.

23. It will be seen by facts, from the practical rules which I shall establish, that this principle is capable of curing diseases of nerves immediately, and other diseases immediately.

24. That with its aid the physician is instructed with respect to the use of medicines; that he perfects their action, and excites and directs their salutary crisis so as to make himself complete master of them.

25. By communicating my method, I shall prove by a new theory of diseases the universal utility of the principle which I oppose to them.

26. With this knowledge the physician shall judge with certainty of the origin, nature, and progress of diseases, even the most complicated; he will arrest their increase, and attain their cure, without ever exposing the patient to dangerous effects or fatal consequences, whatever be the age, temperament, and sex. Women, even in the state of pregnancy, and at the time of their accouchement, will enjoy the same advantage.

27. This doctrine, finally, will enable the physician to judge accurately of the degree of health of each individual, and to preserve him from the diseases to which he might be exposed. The art of healing will attain its ultimate perfection.

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:54 am

Part 2

"Heaven grant that this hope may one day be realised; but we much fear, for the sake of humanity, that Mesmer's prophecy is still far removed from the period of its accomplishment. Be this as it may, the propositions which have been just read, a true imbroglio where we meet a little of everything, of the absurd and the true, of facts and of metaphysics,—these propositions, I say, met but little sympathy in the learned world of the time; and their author, from being too refined in his theory, passed as an eccentric in his practice. Besides Mesmer had no right to claim to himself the honour of his doctrine, since we find all the elements of it scattered through works more than a century anterior to his birth; an assertion whose truth may be readily appreciated by turning over the writings of Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Santanelli, and especially of Maxwell; we may say further, that the philosopher of Weiler shews himself, in more places than one, a rather servile copyist; for, as we might prove by comparing with the enunciation of his principles certain texts quoted from the work of Bertrand,* he does not scruple to transcribe his models almost literally.

However, if we think we can dispute with Mesmer the glory of having discovered animal magnetism, we cannot refuse him the merit of having made a dexterous and able display of it. It is still a disputed point whether this man possessed genius; but certain it is that his philanthropy was never denied. Some arch persons assure us even, that he sold it very dearly; witness the two hundred and fifty thousand crowns which he received, it is said, from his pupils in Paris. But this is not all: to the honour of teaching his method to the physician d'Eslon, and several other persons, Mesmer joined the still more profitable honour of treating, whether sick or not, all the great noblemen at the court of Louis XVI. It is plain, that in order to excite the enthusiastic population of our new Athens, there would have been no necessity for such strange and such extraordinary innovations as the therapeutic processes which he employed. We may form an opinion of them by the description which the reporters of 1784 have left us of them:—

" They (the commissioners) saw in the midst of a large room a round oak chest, raised about a foot or a foot and half, called the barjuet (tub) ; the upper part of this chest was perforated with a great number of holes, through which came branches bent at an angle and movable. The patients were placed in rows around this bayuet, and each with his
iron branch, which by means of the bend might be applied directly to the affected part; a cord, passed around their body, united them one to another. Sometimes a second chain was formed by their joining hands,—that is, by each applying the thumb between the thumb and index finger of his neighbour; then the thumb thus held is pressed; the impression thus made on the left is transmitted by the right hand, and it is thus circulated. A pianoforte was placed in a corner of the room, and according to the different movements different airs were played on it. The sound of the voice and singing were sometimes joined to it."
* Du Magnetismc Animal en France. 8vo. Paris, 1826.
To complete the picture, it may be added, that all those who magnetised were armed with an iron rod from ten to twelve inches long; and that the patients, besides the fluid which they received from the common reservoir, were again magnetised directly, either by means of the look of the magnetiser, or with the finger or the rod held out before their face or over their head, or by the application of the hands and the pressure of the fingers over the hypochondria and abdomen.

From the combined and sufficiently prolonged action of these different agents there occurred in some of the individuals who submitted to them (especially in the case of delicate women) phenomena of a variable kind, but always more or less unusual, such as fits of coughing, spasm, vomiting, sweating, pains, local or general, convulsions, &c. These were the famed artificial crises from which Mesmer and his followers augured the certain and immediate cure of all diseases without the exception of a single one. God only knows whether Mesmer himself believed in the promises which he made to his patients; but if Germany carried her ingratitude so far as to recognise in him nothing but a barefaced, avaricious charlatan, we are almost tempted at the present day, magnetisers as we are, to join our judgment to that of his countrymen.

However, setting aside the so-called miracles of Mesmer, it was scarcely possible to refuse admitting, that there really existed something beneath the prestige with which the true manifestation of facts was so adroitly veiled ; and one might even suspect that in Mesmer's tub, and in the Mesmerism of that day, there lay a mighty science in its cradle.

Widely different, however, was the judgment formed of it by the commission of 1784; we must make bold to say, that, notwithstanding the great merit and imposing names of the men who composed it, there cannot be a doubt but that the obvious incorrectness in the conclusions of their report must be attributed solely and exclusively to their injudicious manner of observing delicate facts against which also they were already prejudiced.

Borie, Sallin, d'Arcet, and the celebrated Guillotin, were the medical men appointed members of the first commission. At their request it was that the five members of the Academy of Sciences were added, Franklin, Leroi, Bailly, de Bory, and Lavoisier.*

* Borie having died at the very commencement, Majanit was elected in his stead.

Mesmer had then quitted France (March 12, 1784) ; he went to take the Spa waters for his health (what contradictions in the life of a man!) and he had given up his practice in Paris to his pupil d'Eslon, one of the most distinguished members of the Faculty, but in disrepute with his confreres since his conversion to magnetism.

There are few physicians, and no magnetisers, who have not read Bailly's report. It is the regular trial of the Mesmerian doctrine; and, most certainly, the conclusions which terminate it were well calculated to settle definitively the question of magnetism, if the judgments of men could subvert truth. But truth is eternal as God himself; we may malign or honour it, proclaim or proscribe it; this, however, produces no change in its existence.

The report of Bailly, spread with profusion, and probably with ostentation, throughout all the schools and all ranks of society, produced scarcely any other effect than that of souring minds already convinced, and of exciting among the partisans of the condemned doctrine recriminations more or less bitter against their judges. It is in the nature of the human mind to cherish independence and to feel exasperated by opposition; let power adopt and prescribe a creed, it will create a schism; let it proscribe this creed, it will create apostles for it; let it persecute it, it will gain martyrs to it. It would have gone as far as this in the case of magnetism, if power had wished it; power, however, would have had too much to do. Magnetism, in fact, now reckoned too many partisans on its side, and among them men of too much weight; it had found a defender even in the very bosom of the Royal Academy, into which it had made its entree under the auspices of one of the greatest geniuses of the day. The report of Ant. L. de Jussieu, drawn up with the minute exactness of an honest and strict observer, was the counterpart of Bailly's report. It is only weak minds that dread contradiction in a cause of which they are sure, and which are afraid to put themselves in collision with the strong and the majority. Jussieu closed his report thus :—" The theory of magnetism cannot be admitted so long as it will not be developed and supported by solid facts. The experiments instituted to ascertain the existence of the magnetic fluid prove only that man produces on his like a sensible action by friction, by contact, and more rarely by simple approximation at some distance. This action, attributed to a universal fluid not demonstrated, certainly appertains to animal heat existing in bodies, which constantly emanates from them, is carried to a considerable distance, and is capable of passing from one body into another. Animal heat is developed, increased, or diminished in a body by moral as well as by physical causes. Judged by its effects, it participates in the property of tonic remedies, and like them produces salutary or injurious effects according to the quantity communicated, and according to the circumstances in which it is employed. A longer use of this agent will make its real action and degree of usefulness to be better understood. Every physician may follow the methods which he thinks advantageous in the treatment of diseases, but only on condition that he publishes his mode of cure when they happen to be new or opposed to the ordinary practice. Those who have established, propagated, or followed the treatment called magnetic, and who propose to themselves to continue it, are accordingly bound to publish their discoveries and observations; and all treatment of this kind should be proscribed the processes of which shall not be made known by immediate publication."

Even though Jussieu had not pointed out to magnetisers their obligation to publish an account of their works, such a duty would have been imperative on their part. Ardent and disinterested innovators, they desired nothing so much as the propagation of their creed. Accordingly we see memoirs, polemical works, and dogmatic books, developing new facts, rapidly succeeding each other.

Thouret's works entitled, Recherches et Doutes sur le Magnetisme Animal, published in 1784 for the sole object of stripping Mesmer of a celebrity which was beginning to give annoyance, produced a diametrically opposite effect. The vast erudition displayed by the author excited emulation, and opened a new road. History was consulted, old chronicles were searched, and all the facts which, in the annals of antiquity or of the middle ages, presented any analogy with the magnetic facts, were explained by a reference to the new doctrine. Hence the origin of those numberless erudite bibliographical researches which, thanks to the efforts of MM. Deleuze, Abrial, &c., united to the writings of the Germans, enable us at the present day to trace magnetism among nations now extinct or altogether changed, as also among all modern nations

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:35 am

As a brief diversion to my research on Mesmerism there was another branch of "Medical Science" which was gaining interest telling a persons intellectual and personality characteristics bi interpreting fcial stucture and features using Phrenology.

One of the leading Americans in this was Buchanan the creator of Psychometry. He was also heavily involved in Mesmerism and became committed to Spiritualism. The following Phrenology diagram is from his Journal of Man a wonderful detilaed monthly compilation or about 5 years covering many of these issues.


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Mesmerism Vs Hypnotism

Post by Admin on Sat Sep 26, 2009 1:52 am

Interesting piece the UK Hypnotism Society had about the new terminology

James Braid & The Discovery of Hypnotism

This story, from the memoirs of Dr. Williamson, Professor of Natural History at Owns College, Manchester, is
quoted by the hypnotist Milne Bramwell. Dr. Williamson was there to observe the historic incident that
inspired James Braid to develop his theory of hypnotism in opposition to the “animal magnetism” of Mesmer.
During the fourth decade of this century the subject of clairvoyance had been much discussed in social
circles, and in the early days of my professional life two men who lectured on the subjected visited
Manchester. The first of these was a Frenchman, who illustrated his lecture by experiments on a young
woman. [The Mesmerist, Charles Lafontaine, was actually Swiss.] At one of his lectures the girl was
declared to be in a state of sound [Mesmeric] sleep. A considerable number of medical men were present,
including our leading opthalmist, Mr. Wilson, and one Mr. Braid. The latter gentleman was loud in his
denunciation of the whole affair. The audience then called upon Mr. Wilson for his opinion of the exhibition.
Of course the question was, ‘Is this exhibition an honest one or is it a sham?’ ‘Is the girl really asleep, or is
she only pretending to be so?’ In reply to the call of the audience, Mr. Wilson stood up and said: ‘The whole
affair is as complete a piece of humbug as I have ever witnessed.’ The indignant lecturer, not familiar with
English slang phrases, excitedly replied: ‘The gentleman says it is all Bog; I say it is not Bog; there is no Bog
in it at all.’ By this time several of us, including Mr. Wilson, had gone upon the platform to examine the girl. I
at once raised her eyelids, and found the pupils contracted to two small points. [In fact, the pupils normally
dilate during hypnosis, but the opposite can happen.] I called Wilson’s attention to this evidence of sound
sleep, and he at once gave me a look and a low whistle, conscious that he was in a mess. Braid then tested
the girl by forcing a pin between one of her nails and the end of her finger. She did not exhibit the slightest
indication of feeling pain, and Braid soon arrived at the conclusion that it was not all ‘Bog.’
He subsequently commenced a long series of elaborate experiments, which ended in his placing the
subject on a more philosophical basis than had been done by any of his predecessors. For the term ‘Animal
Magnetism’ and other popular phrases, Braid substituted ‘Hypnotism’ and ‘Monoideism.’

The hypothesis which he adopted was that the subjects of these experiments required to have their
mental faculties concentrated upon one idea; this accomplished, two effects will be produced in a few
moments. The first is a state of sound sleep, which he succeeded in obtaining through either of the several
senses, sight, hearing, or touch; but his favourite plan was to seat the individual operated upon in an armchair,
whilst he held a bright silver object, usually his lancet case, a few inches above the person’s
eyebrows, and required him to raise his eyes upwards until he saw the shining metal, soon after doing which,
the patient went off into a sound sleep. But a still more remarkable result followed, indicating a condition of
mind not so easily explained as illustrated.

On one occasion I called Braid in to see a young lad who had been suffering fearfully from a
succession of epileptic attacks, which had failed to yield to medical treatment. So far as the epilepsy was
concerned the hypnotic treatment was a perfect success; the boy, after having long endured numerous daily
attacks, was perfectly relieved after the third day’s hypnotic operation. For five subsequent years, during
which the youth remained under my observation, the epilepsy did not return.
Braid always awoke his subjects from their hypnotic condition by sharply clapping his hands close
the sleepers’ ears, which at once aroused them. One day, before doing this, Braid said to me, ‘I will now
show you another effect of hypnotism. Lend me your pocket-book and pencil.’ I did so. He then paced the
book in the boy’s left hand, which he raised into a convenient position in front of the lad’s breast. My pencil
was placed in his right hand, which was lifted into such a position that the point of the pencil rested upon one
off the pages of the book. This attitude was rigidly maintained until Braid whispered in his ear: ‘Write your
name and address/’ The lad did so: ‘John Ellis, Lloyd Street, Manchester.’ This done, the book and pencil
were restored to my pocket. Braid then awoke the boy and asked, ‘John, what were you doing just now?’
He looked about rather wildly for a moment, and persistently answered, ‘Nothing.’ Braid then sent him off to
sleep again. The question was again asked: ‘John, what were you doing just now?’ The lad answered
promptly, but in a low voice: ‘Writing my name and address.’ A succession of similar experiments clearly
indicated two things: first, that a mesmerised individual would do what he was told to do; second, that things
done when in that state were remembered only when the same condition was resumed; otherwise they were
forgotten, indicating a dual state of mind, which, so far as I know, has not yet been satisfactorily explained.
[However, Liébault, another great Victorian hypnotist, only reported complete spontaneous amnesia in 13%
of cases, and modern researchers find it even less common.] I cannot learn that Braid’s method of
experimental inquiry and of philosophical induction has been continued by any person since he died.
Williamson, William Crawford. (1896). Reminiscences of s Yorkshire Naturalist.

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by zerdini on Sat Sep 26, 2009 7:15 am

very interesting Jim.

Phrenology and Mesmerism were very popular in the early days of Spiritualism.

Andrew Jackson Davis was put into a trance state by a mesmerist, a local tailor (William Livingston).


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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Admin on Sat Nov 26, 2011 10:47 pm

I think I must start this one up again there is so much to still do in helping place things into context

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Re: Background and Beginnings

Post by Azur on Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:14 pm

Admin wrote:I think I must start this one up again there is so much to still do in helping place things into context

Fantastic Jim, really enjoyed that.


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