Theories in Animal Magnetism

Physics and philosophies behind ‘magnetic’ people

Issue #51

By Vivienne Arkell

Most of us have felt that moment when we seem magnetically attracted to someone or something. We can’t always fathom why we are drawn in, yet it’s hard to resist the incredibly strong grip.

Science has been fascinated by this phenomenon for centuries, with Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 – 1815) being one of the first to document his studies. His work, as summarized on in an article by associate editor Margarita Tartakovsky M.S.,“established a theory of illness that involved internal magnetic forces, which he called animal magnetism. (It would later be known as mesmerism.) Mesmer believed that good physical and psychological health came from properly aligned magnetic forces.”

To correct the misaligned forces, the doctor would give “his patients medications with high doses of iron and then move magnets over their bodies (cited in Goodwin 1999).” Tartakovsky continues noting that “During these treatments, Mesmer’s patients would go into a trance like state and emerge feeling better…Later, he tossed the magnets from his treatment repertoire. He started seeing that he could enact improvements in his patients without them, leading him to believe he had magnetic powers.”

The concept isn’t all that far-fetched if we view magnetism and the human body in terms of fluids reaching energetic equilibrium. When one’s bodily fluids flow more rapidly, perhaps the motion and currents communicate with another body through animal electricity, in an attempt to create mutual equilibrium.

During the Romantic period (1800-1850), some spiritually inclined went so far as to suggest that magnetism was the source of Jesus Christ’s miracles. John Campbell Colquhoun in A History of Magic, Witchcraft, and Animal Magnetism Volume 1, 1851 denounced those and attributed the miracles to the power of faith rather than magnetism. In attempts to appeal to the West’s large Christian population, the spiritual healing practice of Reiki, which evolved around 1920, was also said to be partially inspired by Jesus Christ who was known to heal with his hands.

Magnetic energy is a structuring force of the entire universe.

While some benefits of magnetism seem more spiritual than physical, and appear to involve the power of suggestion, the Eastern practices of Reiki and Qigong are based on the concept of life force energy involving Chi or Qi, Yin and Yang. In the article Magnetism – The Body’s Second Nutrient from the site we are reminded that “the use of magnets in Traditional Chinese medicine goes back over 2000 years to the “Chinese Yellow Emperor’s book of internal medicine,” which is believed to be one of the oldest medical texts know. It clearly states how magnetic stones were used to correct Chi imbalances… As one of the fundamental forces of nature, electromagnetism is in concept equivalent in definition to the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of ‘Chi’, or the East Indian Ayurvedic definition of ‘Prana’.”

The article goes on to explain how our body’s life force energy, just as the rest of the universe and planets, are magnetic and function through polarity. It suggests that “the electrically charged air we breathe is our first nutrient. Our second nutrient, which is closely related to electricity, is magnetism. Remember, that we are all bio-electromagnetic entities and that there is also another less familiar name for electrical energy, which is “electromagnetic energy” or “electromagnetic vibrations.”

For this training in Qigong, “consider that every atom generates an electromagnetic field. We humans, along with all of nature, are imbued with the power of electromagnetism. It is also possible for us to channel our innate positive electromagnetic energy for healing both ourselves and others.” 

We’ve all been seduced by the power of magnetism. As a nutrient, it’s our sensual fuel. Without our knowledge these forces stimulate enzyme activity and flow, effecting both our physiological and psychological responses. The magnetic pull of our atoms to theirs is unescapable. Next time, instead of saying “the universe made me do it,” you can blame animal magnetism.


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