Friday, December 23, 2005

Does okiyome "work"? (Part 2)

The following quote is from a short discussion of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) and his use of "animal magnetism" to cure patients:

Hypothesizing the existence of a physical magnetic fluid interconnecting every element of the universe, including human bodies, Mesmer argued that disease resulted from a disequilibrium of this fluid within the body. Cure required the redirection of the fluid through the intervention of the physician who served as a kind of conduit by which animal magnetism could be channeled out of the universe at large and into the patient's body via "magnetic passes" of the physician's hands [see figure 23].

If we substitute something like "the light of God" instead of animal magnetism, does this sound a little familiar?

The above article is rather brief, but there is quite extensive coverage of Mesmer's methods and effects in The Story of Hypnosis, by Robin Waterfield (2002). Waterfield regards Mesmer's experiences as a forerunner of modern hypnotism, even though Mesmer developed his animal magnetism technique as a physical healing method.

Mesmer regarded himself as being able to direct magnetism into patients' bodies from his hands, thereby causing "crisis" reactions such as some sort of discharge (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) and/or some sort of fit, convulsion, or trance state. After such a "crisis", many of his patients reported that they no longer suffered from whatever problem they originally had. Sounds a bit like "cleansings" and "spirit movement" to me.

It seems Mesmer had such spectacular success with his method that he needed to devise methods of treating more than one person at a time. He devised a contraption called a baquet, which was filled with magnetized water. It had many iron rods inserted into the water, and his patients would sit around the baquet and hold the rods to the unwell part of the body. When even that could not keep up with demand, he began "magnetizing" trees for his patients to sit under. Is it stretching things to suggest a parallel with omitama and goshintai?

Waterfield mentions a number of other people who were inspired by Mesmer and developed variations on his techniques. Some focused on the use of animal magnetism (also known as mesmerism) as an excorcism technique, and some were interested in the spirit medium aspect. Waterfield even mentions one practitioner who claimed to be receiving revelations from God.

The web article quoted at the start of this post goes on to say that, in 1843, James Braid saw a stage demonstration of mesmerism which...convinced him of the reality of the physical phenomena induced by mesmerism. After several days of private experiment, Braid came to the conclusion that these physical effects were produced by "a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention ..." and not through the mediation of any special agency passing from the body of the operator to that of the patient. To distinguish his views sharply from those of mesmerism, he named the state of nervous sleep "hypnotism", and substituted fixation of a luminous object, a variant of Faria's old induction technique, for the mesmerists' "magnetic passes".

Waterfield continues on to trace developments in the theory and practise of hypnosis up to the present day. I won't go into details, but there are some remarkable accounts of quite amazing cures which have resulted simply from suggestions made when in a receptive state.

So, can we draw any conclusions about the nature or worth of okiyome from the above?

On the face of it, Mesmer's successes tend to support the notion (to be discussed in a future post) that there is some sort of universal healing energy that anyone can radiate from the hands, regardless of whether they are a kumite or not. But then, the accounts of cures achieved via modern-day hypnosis tend to imply that there is no such energy, and that suggestion is sufficiently powerful to cause dramatic cures of physical problems.

I originally read Waterfield's book in an attempt to gain insights into my experiences in Mahikari. It did not provide me with any definite answers, but it certainly provided some possibilities to think about!


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