"It's a very dangerous thing to believe in nonsense." -- James Randi
|Volume 6 Issue 10||December 1998|
by Randy Alley
Mesmerism was the enlightened fad of the late 18th century. It had a lot in common with phrenology so much so that one group combined the two practices. Like phrenology, mesmerism was a revolutionary "science" with thousands of converts; it promised to take mankind to the next level of human development; its practitioners promised adherents that each person would be able to achieve his or her desire. Mesmerism went even further by promising to cure illness and hunger.
Belief in mesmerism required a lot of faith. Unlike phrenology, mesmerism provided no physical evidence. When practicing phrenology the reader could look at the skull and see the protuberances. Observers could see the measurements between the ridges that indicated the alleged organs. People could see the differences among individuals. For mesmerism, or animal magnetism as it was called, followers had to believe there was nothing to see. The only support for animal magnetisms existence was the word of the mesmerist, or as he was often called, somnambulist.More