From Mesmer to Christian Science: A Short History of Mental Healing
Podmore, Frank. From Mesmer to Christian Science: A Short History of Mental Healing. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, (1909) 1963.
Podmore’s study of mental healing establishes a historical trajectory from Franz A. Mesmer’s “wresting the privilege of healing from the Churches” (xix) through the materialism of the magnetic fluid in animal magnetism, through the psychical side of Spiritualism, toward the clairvoyant diagnoses of Phineas P. Quimby, and finally returning to the church in the arrival of Mary Baker Eddy’s religion. Podmore argues that when Mesmer posited a physical theory for mental cures, fear of mental influences was fueled by unhampered imaginations. After 1860, healers divided into two camps, with attention moving toward the psychical side away from fluidic theory. Podmore’s original book was published in 1909, one year prior to Eddy’s death, and he acknowledges that his source material for Eddy draws heavily from articles by G. Milmine, whose writing has since been recognized as a type of misleading muckraking. Despite the age of the book and its serious distortion of Eddy’s life and thought, the value of this book consists in its historical context of the mind-body experimenting of the period as well as the 19th-century theological perspective on the nature of evil. While Podmore faults Eddy for inspiring her followers with her own dread of animal magnetism, he defends her religious success in bringing genuine healing and comfort to many.