Phreno-Mesmerism (or Phreno-Magnetismor Phrenopathy)

views updated

Phreno-Mesmerism (or Phreno-Magnetismor Phrenopathy)

An application of the principles of mesmerism to phrenology, a means of discerning the nature of an individual's personality from examining the skull. Mesmerism (or animal magnetism ) and phrenology, both proposed as sciences in the mid-nineteenth century, had been regarded by English mesmerists as related topics after it was observed that a sleepwalker whose phrenological "bumps" were touched would respond to the stimulus by exhibiting every symptom of the mental trait corresponding to the bump touched. Thus signs of joy, grief, destructiveness, combativeness, and friendship might be exhibited in rapid succession by the entranced patient.

Among those who claimed to have discovered the new science were Dr. R. H. Collyer, a pupil of Dr. John Elliotson, and La Roy Sunderland, although the former afterwards repudiated it. As time went on, enterprising phreno-mesmerists discovered many new cerebral organs, as many as a hundred and fifty more than those already mapped out by J. K. Spurzheim and Franz Joseph Gall.

Phreno-mesmerism numbered among its supporters James Braid (credited with demythologizing mesmerism into hypnotism ), who expressed himself fully satisfied of its reality. He recorded a number of cases in which the patient correctly indicated by his actions the organs touched, although the patient was by all accounts demonstrably ignorant of phrenological principles and inaccessible to outside information.

Concerning this evidence, it would seem advisable to admit the possibility of suggestion, (or even telepathy ), by means of which the expectation of the operator, reproducing itself in the mind of the patient, would give rise to the corresponding reactions.

About this article

Phreno-Mesmerism (or Phreno-Magnetismor Phrenopathy)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article