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Mesmer was the first to propose a rational basis for the effects of hypnosis.

Although we now know that his notion of “animal magnetism”, transferred from healer to patient through a mysterious etheric fluid, is hopelessly wrong, it was firmly based on scientific ideas current at the time, in particular Isaac Newton’s theories of gravitation.

Mesmer was also the first to develop a consistent method for hypnosis, which was passed on to and developed by his followers. Mesmer himself, for instance, liked to perform mass inductions by having his patients linked together by a rope, along which his “animal magnetism” could pass.

He was also fond of dressing up in a cloak and playing ethereal music on the glass harmonica whilst this was happening.

The popular image of the hypnotist as a charismatic and mystical figure can be firmly dated to this time.

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