Swedenborg, Mesmer, And The Mind/Body Connection: The Roots Of Complementary Medicine

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Complementary and alternative healing concepts encompass a wide range of practices that share a common ground: the belief that our physical well-being is inextricably linked to an unseen world beyond our physical senses. Our view of that world can be traced to two key thinkers: Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Anton Mesmer. Who were these men, and what shaped their thought? How did their ideas capture the public imagination? How did they speak to movements as diverse as utopianism, spiritualism, psychic healing, and homeopathy? Historian John S. Haller traces the threads of Swedenborg’s and Mesmer’s influence through the history of nineteenth-century medicine, illuminating the lasting impact these men have had on concepts of alternative healing.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Subject specialist Haller (emeritus, history & medical humanities, Southern Illinois Univ.-Carbondale) has published prolifically on medical history (e.g., The History of American Homeopathy). Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) both "sought to restore harmony to the body's systems using unseen forces as the causal agent." Swedenborg's scientific and philosophical writings led to the founding of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and Mesmer conceived the idea of animal magnetism, believing that he possessed such powers. Haller presents not a dual biography, despite its title, but a discussion of their places in the thinking of Mary Baker Eddy, Samuel Hahnemann, and other, lesser-known individuals whose influence is still found today, especially in self-help and "mind-cure" movements. The book includes 18 images, extensive chapter references consisting mostly of primary and secondary sources, and a lengthy bibliography. VERDICT A serious and scholarly but accessible work for readers familiar with the field. Large academic libraries and research libraries will probably want to purchase. (Index not seen.)—Martha E. Stone, Massachusetts General Hosp. Lib., Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877853312
  • Publisher: Swedenborg Foundation Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Series: Swedenborg Studies
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

John S. Haller Jr., emeritus professor of history and medical humanities at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has written a dozen books on subjects ranging from race, sexuality, and the history of medicine. He is former editor of Caduceus: A Humanities Journal for Medicine and the Health Sciences and, until his retirement at the end of 2008, served for eighteen years as vice president for academic affairs for the Southern Illinois University system.

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Read an Excerpt

A short step in any direction from Western science’s reductionist approach to knowledge is a meditative world that includes ghosts, demons, angels, saints, divinely inspired dreams, remote viewing, electromagnetic fields, distant healing, and a host of psychic phenomena and occult activities that defy the epistemological tools of “normal” science. Starting with the Kabbalah in Jewish mysticism and continuing through the apocalyptic literature of the pre-Christian era, Gnostic cosmology, and German pietism, to name but a few, there have been centuries of challenges to conventional thinking regarding mind-matter interaction that operates beyond the ordinary senses. As a generally accepted theory of knowing, this meditative world first fell in arrears as Baconian empiricism cast a long shadow over the acceptance of paranormal events. Hastened along by Descartes’s view of life as automata, the emergence of the empirical sciences during the Enlightenment, the mechanical triumphs of the Industrial Revolution, and later by Darwin’s dysteleology, this rationalist worldview found itself challenged by a universe whose existence and complexity demanded neither a designer nor a purpose. The product of chance, Earth plied the ether with blind indifference to the thoughts, hopes, and feelings of its myriad of creatures. Yet “God,” “immortality,” “duty,” and “judgment” were earnestly sought by those who objected to the cold indifference of the night sky. From Emanuel Swedenborg’s visions and Franz Anton Mesmer’s magnetic fluid to Walter J. Kilner’s human auras, Ralph Waldo Trine’s thought forms, Charles W. Leadbeater’s chakras, and Barbara Brennan’s High Sense Perception, a more mystical worldview remains an integral part of mankind’s perceptual set.

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