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Mesmerism And The Enlightenmen Essay

1444 words - 6 pages

In his book, "Mesmerism and the Enlightenment in France", Robert Dranton attempts to explain the mentality of the pre-Revolution Frenchman. He uses th etheory and expansions of Franz Anton Mesmer. In his noble effort, Dranton explains the frantic nature of the educated Frenchman at this time and since he has chosena specific "eye" to see through, his intention is satisfied. He also shows how the radical branches of mesmerism carried on long after the revolution and affected the thinking of many great men and women, such as Victor Hugo and Henri de Balzac. Dranton uses excerpts from the changes in the theory itself and the changes of the format in which it was used.One of the characteristics of the primcipals of Mesmer was the complete transformation of the movement itself. It went from the medical uses that MEsmer propsed and, throughout time, was used in politics, religion and even to just fiy vertical movement of non-Aristocratic, intellectual citizens. When Anton Mesmer came to Paris, he brought ideas of "invisible fluid" that flowed throughout our bodies. When the harmony of these fluids was disturbed, that is when people became ill. He believed that through electricity, baths and a trained "mesmeris," diseases, and all other troubles, could be cured. He likened his "animal electricity" or "animal magnatism" to that of gravity, fire, light and electricity, The system of complex theories put forth by Mesmer could be discussed at great lengths and, in time, they were. His and many other "scientific discoveries" were all the rage in the salons of pre-Revolution Parisian society. The Enlightenment brought about a surge in scientific interest and since the fluids than man intellectuals believed in were invisible it left "every philosopher at the liberty to make it whatever he please[d] (16)".At the beginning of Mesmer's career there was an explosion of scientific interest. Experiments in hot air balloons, flying and even walking on water were no longer considered ridiculous. Not only that, anyone who decided to attemt these feats could, if they went about it the right way, easily stir up support and money from wealthy members of society. It has been said that one can conclude from "the pulp literature of the 1780's: the reading public of that era was intoxicated with the power of science. . .it seized on any invisible fluid, any scientific sounding hypothesis, that promised to explain the wonders of nature(23)". Darnton's opinion of this blind faith seeps through and makes things interesting, "Parisians cared only about mesmerism, balloon flights and spectacular feats of heroism or humanitarianism(54)".Dranton devotes the first chunk of his book to explaining Mesmer and his direct influence. In this section, he also discusses the other ideas which were circulating at the time. MAny of these were quite extreme and made mesmerism look tame in comparison. But soon enough mesmerism becomes the catalyst for radical political and social statements. The...

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