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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

animal magnetism The conviction that the life process itself has a measurable “substance” to it is common to many cultures. This term has come to be used, inaccurately, as a catchall one for the mystics' “life force,” anima mundi or “élan vital.” It loosely resembles the oriental idea of qi as well. The specific term was developed by Anton Mesmer to explain the force he believed was at work to bring about the hypnotic/hysterical effects he induced in his subjects.
      This is a somewhat different though equally imaginary entity from that referred to by Christian Scientists as M.A.M. (for “malicious animal magnetism”) which their founder, Mary Baker Eddy, believed was poisoning her, transmitted into her body by her enemies. It appears that she adopted the idea from Phineas Parker Quimby, a “magnetic healer,” the originator of the wild theories upon which Christian Science is based.

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