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Book and Media Reviews
January 19, 2011

Swedenborg, Mesmer, and the Mind/Body Connection: The Roots of Complementary Medicine

JAMA. 2011;305(3):308-309. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.2005

Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish scholar of science, philosophy, cosmology, mechanics, mathematics, anatomy, physiology, and most foremost, theology. A prominent critic of the 18th-century Enlightenment, he viewed “the forces of the seen and unseen joined in the unfolding of God's plan.” Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a German physician, famously experimented with hypnosis and “animal magnetism,” trying to communicate with the world beyond. Accordingly, in this book John Haller explains that “Mesmerism and Swedenborgianism were attuned to a higher reality, to the inner recesses of the mind, and to the subordination of the material to the spiritual. Both sought to restore harmony to the body's system using unseen forces as the causal agency.” The world of Mesmer and Swedenborg included “ghosts, demons, angels, saints, divinely inspired dreams, remote viewing, electromagnetic fields, distant healing, and a host of psychic phenomena and occult activities that defy the epistemological tools of normal science.”