Franz Anton Mesmer
A Forerunner of Parapsychology


Mesmer - a Medical Doctor in Vienna

Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 - 1815) completed his medical studies in Vienna under Gerard van Swieten and established himself as a well-bestowed doctor with a flourishing private clinic.

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The Importance of Mesmer

It was also in Vienna that he made his discoveries that lead him to develop his system of "Animal Magnetism" -- a theory now obsolete whereas his observations later formed the basis for what Braid labeled Hypnotism.  During the mesmeric trance ("Somnambulism") a number of phenomena have regularly been observed such as clairvoyance, telepathy, etc. -- generally spoken ESP.  Thus Mesmer, together with his disciples (in Paris, during a later period of his life) became the first one to study ASC and, moreover, a forerunner of parapsychology.

Mesmer's picture in history shows a great variance, some view him as a prime rated scientist whereas others rather call him a charlatan.  This is not the place to enter such discussion, however, arguable his impact on fields like psychology and particularly psychotherapy was enormous.

View a chart on Mesmer's impact until the present day showing the various influences and mutual interdependencies.  [Link opens a new window.]

Mesmer's Viennese years

Mesmer lived in Vienna from approx. 1760 (his medical diploma is dated 1766) until 1777/78 (when he left for good in order to settle in Paris, wherefrom he later returned to Vienna for two short visits only).  Shortly after obtaining his medical diploma, he married a wealthy widow.  Their house (which was demolished only in the opening years of the 20th century) was a palais rather than a house, there was a huge garden or park, and in this garden Mesmer had his own little theater.  This was the place where Mozart's operetta "Bastien e Bastienne" saw its debut performance in 1768 (note that its composer was 12 years of age at that time! -- See also the Section on "The City of Music".).