Mesmerism

Rice_WhisperofMagic600Pat here:

The easier it is to read a novel, the harder it is to write, I’ve decided. And if I’m to spend twelve-hour days with a book, then the subject and characters need to be fun while I corral them into 90k words. That’s my excuse for writing my magical historical romances, anyway. Even the research tickles my funny bone.

In working on WHISPER OF MAGIC (May 31 release, $2.99 pre-order discount price), I somehow managed to create two people with dangerously compelling voices. In modern day terms, I suppose, you can imagine preachers and politicians who speak with such authority and persuasion that crowds of people will support anything they say. It seems unbelievable, but one need only listen to our current politicians and wonder what’s happening to common sense.

But I’m writing about my educated, scientific Ives who are much too logical to listen to conmen or believe that a voice can cause compulsion, so they must seek other reasons for mob behavior. And in 1830, the most scientific reason available would be Mesmerism. Franz Mesmer believed that people and the universe consist of “fluid matter.” As one publication in 1790 expressed it: “this fluid matter introduces itself through the interstices and returns backwards and forwards, flowing through one body by the currents which issue therefrom to another, as in a magnet, which produces that phenomenon which we call Animal Magnetism.” 

Animal Magnetism! You just have to love it. 547px-A_large_gathering_of_patients_to_Dr._F._Mesmer's_animal_Wellcome_V0016530

At the time, scientists were mostly concerned with using “mesmerism” to cure the ill, but the above explanation could also be applied to mob behavior and “laying on of hands” as well.

The French, in particular, were into studying the relationship between spiritualism and medical science, hence so many of my magical Malcolms have “gifts” named by the French, such as clairvoyance or clairaudience. In 1826, the Royal Academy of Medicine in Paris studied Mesmerism and one of its many deductions was “we may conclude with certainty that this state exists, when it gives rise to the development of new faculties, which have been designated by the names of clairvoyance; intuition; internal prevision; or when it produces great changes in the physical economy, such as insensibility; a sudden and considerable increase of strength; and when these effects cannot be referred to any other cause.”

640px-Magnetismo_AnimalHow can I not write that into my battle of the sexes, between science and the mystical? Even educated scientists debated whether magic exists, and it’s called Animal Magnetism! But readers would laugh my hero off the face of the earth if he talked about animal magnetism in reference to his voice—lust, desire, and sex probably weren’t what Mesmer was after. And my heroine comes from Jamaica and knows nothing of Royal Academy reports.  I couldn’t use that lovely piece of research, but I offer it to you now in hopes you’ll smile along with me. As you read the book, read “animal magnetism” instead of “compulsion” or “mesmerism” and enjoy!

Mesmerism as hypnosis is scientifically accepted today by medical professionals for various purposes. It is a known factor on an individual basis. Mob behavior, however, is a fascinating study of its own. Mesmer might have had a point about “fluid” bouncing back and forth, interacting so that all the individuals in a crowd are attuned to each other. Mass hypnosis would explain a lot! But can one become hypnotized by television? Now there’s a scary thought!

What do you think? How wrong was Mesmer?

65 thoughts on “Mesmerism”

  1. I certainly enjoyed this footnote to science.
    I did know that Mesmer had some serious backing (as well as a certain amount of interest to authors —Svengali?) but I had not known it was quite this prestigious. Mass Hypnosis is another matter (and one I’m skeptical of) but It works in stories, and I’m all for what works in stories!
    (Is sceptic British? Neither my spellchecker nor my 1965 Merriam Webster’s liked that spelling at All!)

    Reply
  2. I certainly enjoyed this footnote to science.
    I did know that Mesmer had some serious backing (as well as a certain amount of interest to authors —Svengali?) but I had not known it was quite this prestigious. Mass Hypnosis is another matter (and one I’m skeptical of) but It works in stories, and I’m all for what works in stories!
    (Is sceptic British? Neither my spellchecker nor my 1965 Merriam Webster’s liked that spelling at All!)

    Reply
  3. I certainly enjoyed this footnote to science.
    I did know that Mesmer had some serious backing (as well as a certain amount of interest to authors —Svengali?) but I had not known it was quite this prestigious. Mass Hypnosis is another matter (and one I’m skeptical of) but It works in stories, and I’m all for what works in stories!
    (Is sceptic British? Neither my spellchecker nor my 1965 Merriam Webster’s liked that spelling at All!)

    Reply
  4. I certainly enjoyed this footnote to science.
    I did know that Mesmer had some serious backing (as well as a certain amount of interest to authors —Svengali?) but I had not known it was quite this prestigious. Mass Hypnosis is another matter (and one I’m skeptical of) but It works in stories, and I’m all for what works in stories!
    (Is sceptic British? Neither my spellchecker nor my 1965 Merriam Webster’s liked that spelling at All!)

    Reply
  5. I certainly enjoyed this footnote to science.
    I did know that Mesmer had some serious backing (as well as a certain amount of interest to authors —Svengali?) but I had not known it was quite this prestigious. Mass Hypnosis is another matter (and one I’m skeptical of) but It works in stories, and I’m all for what works in stories!
    (Is sceptic British? Neither my spellchecker nor my 1965 Merriam Webster’s liked that spelling at All!)

    Reply
  6. Yes, I fear “sceptic” is British. Us Ugly Americans go with “skeptic.”
    Mass hypnosis is entertaining to consider but I sure hate the thought that it’s possible. The power of suggestion, though, has just about been proven by TV commercials.

    Reply
  7. Yes, I fear “sceptic” is British. Us Ugly Americans go with “skeptic.”
    Mass hypnosis is entertaining to consider but I sure hate the thought that it’s possible. The power of suggestion, though, has just about been proven by TV commercials.

    Reply
  8. Yes, I fear “sceptic” is British. Us Ugly Americans go with “skeptic.”
    Mass hypnosis is entertaining to consider but I sure hate the thought that it’s possible. The power of suggestion, though, has just about been proven by TV commercials.

    Reply
  9. Yes, I fear “sceptic” is British. Us Ugly Americans go with “skeptic.”
    Mass hypnosis is entertaining to consider but I sure hate the thought that it’s possible. The power of suggestion, though, has just about been proven by TV commercials.

    Reply
  10. Yes, I fear “sceptic” is British. Us Ugly Americans go with “skeptic.”
    Mass hypnosis is entertaining to consider but I sure hate the thought that it’s possible. The power of suggestion, though, has just about been proven by TV commercials.

    Reply
  11. Very interesting, Pat — I’ve been in crowds that I’ve seen swayed by powerful speakers. I think it’s more catching onto the mood of the hour and setting a spark to it. But I’ve also been hypnotized — I was sceptical, too, beforehand — so I know that’s real.

    Reply
  12. Very interesting, Pat — I’ve been in crowds that I’ve seen swayed by powerful speakers. I think it’s more catching onto the mood of the hour and setting a spark to it. But I’ve also been hypnotized — I was sceptical, too, beforehand — so I know that’s real.

    Reply
  13. Very interesting, Pat — I’ve been in crowds that I’ve seen swayed by powerful speakers. I think it’s more catching onto the mood of the hour and setting a spark to it. But I’ve also been hypnotized — I was sceptical, too, beforehand — so I know that’s real.

    Reply
  14. Very interesting, Pat — I’ve been in crowds that I’ve seen swayed by powerful speakers. I think it’s more catching onto the mood of the hour and setting a spark to it. But I’ve also been hypnotized — I was sceptical, too, beforehand — so I know that’s real.

    Reply
  15. Very interesting, Pat — I’ve been in crowds that I’ve seen swayed by powerful speakers. I think it’s more catching onto the mood of the hour and setting a spark to it. But I’ve also been hypnotized — I was sceptical, too, beforehand — so I know that’s real.

    Reply
  16. I know one-on-one hypnosis is real and a proven psychological technique–which is essentially what Mesmer was doing. But I really need an explanation for mob mentality! People seem to lose their minds.

    Reply
  17. I know one-on-one hypnosis is real and a proven psychological technique–which is essentially what Mesmer was doing. But I really need an explanation for mob mentality! People seem to lose their minds.

    Reply
  18. I know one-on-one hypnosis is real and a proven psychological technique–which is essentially what Mesmer was doing. But I really need an explanation for mob mentality! People seem to lose their minds.

    Reply
  19. I know one-on-one hypnosis is real and a proven psychological technique–which is essentially what Mesmer was doing. But I really need an explanation for mob mentality! People seem to lose their minds.

    Reply
  20. I know one-on-one hypnosis is real and a proven psychological technique–which is essentially what Mesmer was doing. But I really need an explanation for mob mentality! People seem to lose their minds.

    Reply
  21. Mob mentality is a fascinating but fearful phenomenon. I’ve always wondered what happened to reasonable and rational people that allowed people like Hitler to flourish. I should think there are some essays dealing with that. Just watching two of our current presidential contenders here in the U.S. and being a bit more familiar with the economic situation of today, I can see that fear leads to anger. I think people who would otherwise be ashamed of their thoughts and feelings or at least not be willing to act on them for fear of reprisal, gain a sort of courage from knowing they are not alone in having the thoughts they do. In a large group as at a political rally, there is also a sense of anonymity. Social media has certainly contributed to that as has the internet. I’m appalled at the number and vitriol of keyboard warriors.

    Reply
  22. Mob mentality is a fascinating but fearful phenomenon. I’ve always wondered what happened to reasonable and rational people that allowed people like Hitler to flourish. I should think there are some essays dealing with that. Just watching two of our current presidential contenders here in the U.S. and being a bit more familiar with the economic situation of today, I can see that fear leads to anger. I think people who would otherwise be ashamed of their thoughts and feelings or at least not be willing to act on them for fear of reprisal, gain a sort of courage from knowing they are not alone in having the thoughts they do. In a large group as at a political rally, there is also a sense of anonymity. Social media has certainly contributed to that as has the internet. I’m appalled at the number and vitriol of keyboard warriors.

    Reply
  23. Mob mentality is a fascinating but fearful phenomenon. I’ve always wondered what happened to reasonable and rational people that allowed people like Hitler to flourish. I should think there are some essays dealing with that. Just watching two of our current presidential contenders here in the U.S. and being a bit more familiar with the economic situation of today, I can see that fear leads to anger. I think people who would otherwise be ashamed of their thoughts and feelings or at least not be willing to act on them for fear of reprisal, gain a sort of courage from knowing they are not alone in having the thoughts they do. In a large group as at a political rally, there is also a sense of anonymity. Social media has certainly contributed to that as has the internet. I’m appalled at the number and vitriol of keyboard warriors.

    Reply
  24. Mob mentality is a fascinating but fearful phenomenon. I’ve always wondered what happened to reasonable and rational people that allowed people like Hitler to flourish. I should think there are some essays dealing with that. Just watching two of our current presidential contenders here in the U.S. and being a bit more familiar with the economic situation of today, I can see that fear leads to anger. I think people who would otherwise be ashamed of their thoughts and feelings or at least not be willing to act on them for fear of reprisal, gain a sort of courage from knowing they are not alone in having the thoughts they do. In a large group as at a political rally, there is also a sense of anonymity. Social media has certainly contributed to that as has the internet. I’m appalled at the number and vitriol of keyboard warriors.

    Reply
  25. Mob mentality is a fascinating but fearful phenomenon. I’ve always wondered what happened to reasonable and rational people that allowed people like Hitler to flourish. I should think there are some essays dealing with that. Just watching two of our current presidential contenders here in the U.S. and being a bit more familiar with the economic situation of today, I can see that fear leads to anger. I think people who would otherwise be ashamed of their thoughts and feelings or at least not be willing to act on them for fear of reprisal, gain a sort of courage from knowing they are not alone in having the thoughts they do. In a large group as at a political rally, there is also a sense of anonymity. Social media has certainly contributed to that as has the internet. I’m appalled at the number and vitriol of keyboard warriors.

    Reply
  26. I can’t agree with you more. The comparison to Hitler is particularly scary and one of the reasons I’m wondering how this works. Mesmer’s “bouncing fluids” seemed as rational as any discussion out there right now. 😉

    Reply
  27. I can’t agree with you more. The comparison to Hitler is particularly scary and one of the reasons I’m wondering how this works. Mesmer’s “bouncing fluids” seemed as rational as any discussion out there right now. 😉

    Reply
  28. I can’t agree with you more. The comparison to Hitler is particularly scary and one of the reasons I’m wondering how this works. Mesmer’s “bouncing fluids” seemed as rational as any discussion out there right now. 😉

    Reply
  29. I can’t agree with you more. The comparison to Hitler is particularly scary and one of the reasons I’m wondering how this works. Mesmer’s “bouncing fluids” seemed as rational as any discussion out there right now. 😉

    Reply
  30. I can’t agree with you more. The comparison to Hitler is particularly scary and one of the reasons I’m wondering how this works. Mesmer’s “bouncing fluids” seemed as rational as any discussion out there right now. 😉

    Reply
  31. Sorry. Amazon has made pre-orders bad for authors. It will go up the week before release, I promise. All you have to do is remember! I really regret the delay and hope Amazon will soon see the error of their ways.

    Reply
  32. Sorry. Amazon has made pre-orders bad for authors. It will go up the week before release, I promise. All you have to do is remember! I really regret the delay and hope Amazon will soon see the error of their ways.

    Reply
  33. Sorry. Amazon has made pre-orders bad for authors. It will go up the week before release, I promise. All you have to do is remember! I really regret the delay and hope Amazon will soon see the error of their ways.

    Reply
  34. Sorry. Amazon has made pre-orders bad for authors. It will go up the week before release, I promise. All you have to do is remember! I really regret the delay and hope Amazon will soon see the error of their ways.

    Reply
  35. Sorry. Amazon has made pre-orders bad for authors. It will go up the week before release, I promise. All you have to do is remember! I really regret the delay and hope Amazon will soon see the error of their ways.

    Reply
  36. Since reading the article about phony authors ripping off real authors via the paid by page scam, I have avoided buying any Amazon exclusive books. Is there anything else we could do to support those in our favorite recreational profession regarding Amazon. Even sending opinion pieces to them somehow?

    Reply
  37. Since reading the article about phony authors ripping off real authors via the paid by page scam, I have avoided buying any Amazon exclusive books. Is there anything else we could do to support those in our favorite recreational profession regarding Amazon. Even sending opinion pieces to them somehow?

    Reply
  38. Since reading the article about phony authors ripping off real authors via the paid by page scam, I have avoided buying any Amazon exclusive books. Is there anything else we could do to support those in our favorite recreational profession regarding Amazon. Even sending opinion pieces to them somehow?

    Reply
  39. Since reading the article about phony authors ripping off real authors via the paid by page scam, I have avoided buying any Amazon exclusive books. Is there anything else we could do to support those in our favorite recreational profession regarding Amazon. Even sending opinion pieces to them somehow?

    Reply
  40. Since reading the article about phony authors ripping off real authors via the paid by page scam, I have avoided buying any Amazon exclusive books. Is there anything else we could do to support those in our favorite recreational profession regarding Amazon. Even sending opinion pieces to them somehow?

    Reply
  41. The world is full of pirates and con artists. All any of us can do is report a scam or pirate when we see one, and review good, original books whenever we have a chance.
    Authors are limited in being able to review each other’s books because Amazon takes down our reviews if they think we’re “friends.” And because most of us are, our reviews don’t go far. So reader reviews are everything. I think most readers are smart and will find the real books once they understand what’s happening. Thank you!

    Reply
  42. The world is full of pirates and con artists. All any of us can do is report a scam or pirate when we see one, and review good, original books whenever we have a chance.
    Authors are limited in being able to review each other’s books because Amazon takes down our reviews if they think we’re “friends.” And because most of us are, our reviews don’t go far. So reader reviews are everything. I think most readers are smart and will find the real books once they understand what’s happening. Thank you!

    Reply
  43. The world is full of pirates and con artists. All any of us can do is report a scam or pirate when we see one, and review good, original books whenever we have a chance.
    Authors are limited in being able to review each other’s books because Amazon takes down our reviews if they think we’re “friends.” And because most of us are, our reviews don’t go far. So reader reviews are everything. I think most readers are smart and will find the real books once they understand what’s happening. Thank you!

    Reply
  44. The world is full of pirates and con artists. All any of us can do is report a scam or pirate when we see one, and review good, original books whenever we have a chance.
    Authors are limited in being able to review each other’s books because Amazon takes down our reviews if they think we’re “friends.” And because most of us are, our reviews don’t go far. So reader reviews are everything. I think most readers are smart and will find the real books once they understand what’s happening. Thank you!

    Reply
  45. The world is full of pirates and con artists. All any of us can do is report a scam or pirate when we see one, and review good, original books whenever we have a chance.
    Authors are limited in being able to review each other’s books because Amazon takes down our reviews if they think we’re “friends.” And because most of us are, our reviews don’t go far. So reader reviews are everything. I think most readers are smart and will find the real books once they understand what’s happening. Thank you!

    Reply

Leave a Comment