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Mesmeric therapy of the self : medico-spiritual guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis historique (1781)

Chloé Conickx (UGent)
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Abstract
In relation to religious care, historiography has treated the curious medical therapy of mesmerism as an eighteenth-century ‘naturalization’ or ‘medicalization’ of traditionally ‘spiritual’ concerns, pathologies and healing practices. Mesmer (1734-1815) had introduced the existence of a magnetic fluid that connected all beings, thereby explaining health and disease as caused by natural, ‘magnetic’ influences rather than as the result of supernatural interventions. This paper problematizes the important elements of continuity between religious and medical/mesmeric therapeutics in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis historique (1781). More specifically, I argue that the appeal and specificity of particular vocabularies and imageries in both forms of therapeutics are symptomatic of their shared nature as technologies of the self (cf. Michel Foucault) or ascetic spiritual exercises (cf. Pierre Hadot). By implication, I also suggest that a historiographical focus on secularization of religious discourses and world-views is not only uninteresting but also potentially counterproductive in understanding the specificity of such therapeutics. This paper overcomes presentist interpretations of medicine as progressing from ‘premodern religious practices’ to ‘modern scientific discipline’. In addition, it acknowledges that disciplinary borders were quite vague in this period and that early modern practices and discourses, like medicine and (Christian) religion, shared common concerns and ways of meaning-making.
Keywords
mesmerism, askesis, religion, medicine, healing, (self-)care, therapeutics, Enlightenment medicine

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MLA
Conickx, Chloé. “Mesmeric Therapy of the Self : Medico-Spiritual Guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis Historique (1781).” European Association For The History Of Medicine And Health Biennial Conference, Abstracts, 2021, pp. 91–91.
APA
Conickx, C. (2021). Mesmeric therapy of the self : medico-spiritual guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis historique (1781). In European Association For The History Of Medicine And Health Biennial Conference, Abstracts (pp. 91–91). Leuven.
Chicago author-date
Conickx, Chloé. 2021. “Mesmeric Therapy of the Self : Medico-Spiritual Guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis Historique (1781).” In European Association For The History Of Medicine And Health Biennial Conference, Abstracts, 91–91. Leuven.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Conickx, Chloé. 2021. “Mesmeric Therapy of the Self : Medico-Spiritual Guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis Historique (1781).” In European Association For The History Of Medicine And Health Biennial Conference, Abstracts, 91–91. Leuven.
Vancouver
1.
Conickx C. Mesmeric therapy of the self : medico-spiritual guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis historique (1781). In: European Association For The History Of Medicine And Health Biennial Conference, Abstracts. Leuven; 2021. p. 91–91.
IEEE
[1]
C. Conickx, “Mesmeric therapy of the self : medico-spiritual guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis historique (1781),” in European Association For The History Of Medicine And Health Biennial Conference, Abstracts, Online (Leuven), 2021, pp. 91–91.
@inproceedings{8720087,
  abstract     = {{In relation to religious care, historiography has treated the curious medical therapy of mesmerism as an eighteenth-century ‘naturalization’ or ‘medicalization’ of traditionally ‘spiritual’ concerns, pathologies and healing practices. Mesmer (1734-1815) had introduced the existence of a magnetic fluid that connected all beings, thereby explaining health and disease as caused by natural, ‘magnetic’ influences rather than as the result of supernatural interventions. This paper problematizes the important elements of continuity between religious and medical/mesmeric therapeutics in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis historique (1781). More specifically, I argue that the appeal and specificity of particular vocabularies and imageries in both forms of therapeutics are symptomatic of their shared nature as technologies of the self (cf. Michel Foucault) or ascetic spiritual exercises (cf. Pierre Hadot).

By implication, I also suggest that a historiographical focus on secularization of religious discourses and world-views is not only uninteresting but also potentially counterproductive in understanding the specificity of such therapeutics. This paper overcomes presentist interpretations of medicine as progressing from ‘premodern religious practices’ to ‘modern scientific discipline’. In addition, it acknowledges that disciplinary borders were quite vague in this period and that early modern practices and discourses, like medicine and (Christian) religion, shared common concerns and ways of meaning-making.}},
  author       = {{Conickx, Chloé}},
  booktitle    = {{European Association For The History Of Medicine And Health Biennial Conference, Abstracts}},
  keywords     = {{mesmerism,askesis,religion,medicine,healing,(self-)care,therapeutics,Enlightenment medicine}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  location     = {{Online (Leuven)}},
  pages        = {{91--91}},
  title        = {{Mesmeric therapy of the self : medico-spiritual guidance in Mesmer’s Mémoire (1779) and Précis historique (1781)}},
  url          = {{https://kuleuvencongres.be/eahmh2021}},
  year         = {{2021}},
}