Tag Archive: Animal magnetism; Alexandre Baréty; Neo-mesmerism

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The French neo-mesmeric movement, which flourished roughly between the late Nineteenth Century and the first two decades of the twentieth, was well represented by individuals who believed that there was a real physical agent called animal magnetism, defined also by some as a nervous force related to the workings of the physical body. This included individuals such as Émile Boirac, Hector Durville, Henri Durville, Paul Joire, Jules Bernard Luys, and Albert de Rochas, among others.

Durville Traite Experimental Magnetisme

De Rochas Exteriorisation Sensibilite

One of the largest and more ambitious works of the period, and the one commented on here, was authored by physician Alexandre Baréty. This was a book over 600 pages entitled Le Magnétisme Animal: Étudié sous le Nom de Force Neurique Rayonnante et Circulante dans ses Propriétés Physiques, Physiologiques, et Thérapeutiques [Animal Magnetism: Studied Under the Name of Radiant and Circulating Neuric Force in Its Physical, Physiological, and Therapeutic Properties] (Paris: Octave Doin, 1887, available online here).

Barety Magnetisme Animal

Alexandre Barety

Alexandre Baréty

Baréty defined “neuric force” as a dynamic agent “probably from the nervous system, which circulates along the nerves or radiates out of them . . . and is susceptible to producing certain sensitive, motor, and psychic modifications on other human bodies” (p. xii).

This author reported tests conducted with a lady he referred to as Mlle C., as well as with other individuals. In Baréty’s view the neuric force was projected from the body through passes, as well as through rays coming from the fingers, from eyesight, and from breath. Inside the body the force had properties such as heat and electricity, and once projected from the body and directed toward another person the force produced effects such as trance, anesthesia, hyperesthesia, and the induction or dissipation of contractions.

Baréty believed the neuric force propagated through space through the ether and that the force could be transmitted through other objects and could be stored in water and in other things. Observations about animal magnetism been stored in objects and substances, such as water, are frequent in the mesmeric literature.

Barety Rays from Hand

Neuric Rays from Hands

Neurisation also took place through induction. As Baréty explained: “The sole presence of a person close to another may affect the specific nervous state of one of them . . .” (p. 234).

Baréty gave many examples of the physiological effects of the force. For example, he treated Mlle C.’s stomach pains by pointing her fingers at her, which he said caused her pain to disappear in seconds. Baréty also claimed to be successful with Mlle C. in other ways. He was able to “anesthetise and hyperesthesise the integuments of different regions . . . abolish or exalt one or another sense” (Baréty, p. 326).

While Mlle C. was in another room separated from him by a brick wall, Baréty said he was able to induce muscular contractions in one of his subject’s wrists and hands by pointing his fingers to the wall.

Barety Passes Anesthesia and Trance

Magnetic Passes Causing Anesthesia and Trance Over Ascending and Descending Nerves

In Baréty’s view the existence and therapeutic value of the neuric force was beyond doubt. Furthermore, he believed that hysteria was related to the force. In his view it was due to a “modification in the direction, the force, and the distribution of nervous or neuric currents” (p. 627).

Furthermore, it was reported that the effects of passes and magnets were similar. In addition, Baréty noticed that those sensitive to the action of neuricity were also sensitive to atmospheric electricity.

Unfortunately this work has not been translated. Consequently many who do not read French are not aware of the magnitude of Baréty’s work. For another discussion of his work in the context of the neo-mesmeric movement see one of my articles.

*Parts of these comments appeared before in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2011, 25,123-124.