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Mesmer and Freud

Mesmer and Freud

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Published by jasper_gregory
The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry
Henri F. Ellenberger (1970)
Chapter Two: The Emergence of Dynamic Psychiatry
The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry
Henri F. Ellenberger (1970)
Chapter Two: The Emergence of Dynamic Psychiatry

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Published by: jasper_gregory on Aug 15, 2012
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04/30/2013

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The Discovery of the Unconscious:The History and Evolution of DynamicPsychiatry
Henri F. Ellenberger (1970)
Chapter Two: The Emergence of DynamicPsychiatryThe emergence of dynamic psychiatry can betraced to the year 1775, to a clash between the physician Mesmer and the exorcist Gassner.Gassner, an immensely successful and popular healer, personified the forces of tradition. Hehad mastered an age-old technique that heapplied in the name of the established religion, but the spirit of the times was against him.Mesmer, a son of the "Enlightenment," had newideas, new techniques, and great hopes for thefuture. He was instrumental in defeatingGassner and believed that the time was propitious for the onset of the scientificrevolution that he had in mind.However, the overthrow of a declining traditiondoes not in itself inaugurate a new one.Mesmer's theories were rejected, theorganization he had founded was short-lived,and his therapeutic techniques were modified byhis disciples. Nonetheless, he had provided the
 
decisive impulse toward the elaboration of dynamic psychiatry, even though it would be acentury before the findings of his disciples wereto he integrated into the official corpus of neuropsychiatry by Charcot and hiscontemporaries.
Gassner and Mesmer
In the first months of 1775, crowds of people,rich and poor, noblemen and peasants, includingamong them patients of all kinds, swarmed tothe small town of Ellwangen, in Wurttemberg,to see Father Johann Joseph Gassner, one of themost famous healers of all time. He exorcized patients in the presence of Catholic andProtestant church authorities, physicians,noblemen of all ranks, members of the bourgeoisie, and sceptics as well as believers.His every word and gesture and those of his patients were recorded by a notary public, andthe official records were signed by thedistinguished eyewitnesses. Gassner himself was a modest country priest; but once he haddonned his ceremonial garments, had taken hisseat, and had the patient kneeling before him,astonishing things would take place. Numerouscollections of official records have survived, aswell as accounts given by eyewitnesses. Among
 
the latter was an Abbe Bourgeois, from whosenarrative we borrow the following details:
The first patients were two nuns who had beenforced to leave their community on account of convulsive fits. Gassner told the first one to kneel before him, asked her briefly about her name, her illness, and whether she agreed that anything hewould order should happen. She agreed. Gassner then pronounced solemnly in Latin: "If there beanything preternatural about this disease, I order inthe name of Jesus that it manifest itself immediately." The patient started at once to haveconvulsions. According to Gassner, this was proof that the convulsions were caused by an evil spiritand not by a natural illness, and he now proceededto demonstrate that he had power over the demon,whom he ordered in Latin to produce convulsions invarious parts of the patient's body; he called forth inturn the exterior manifestations of grief, silliness,scrupulosity, anger, and so on, and even theappearance of death. All his orders were punctuallyexecuted. It now seemed logical that, once a demonhad been tamed to that point, it should be relativelyeasy to expel him, which Gassner did. He then proceeded in the same manner with the second nun.After the seance had ended, Abbe Bourgeois askedher whether it had been very painful; she answeredthat she had only a vague memory of what hadhappened and that she had not suffered much.Gassner then treated a third patient, a high-born

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