De Puységur, “An Essay on Magnetism”

Preparing series of articles presenting the development of the psycho-dynamic psychiatry I stumbled about an unique personality:  Armand-Marc-Jacques Chastanet, Marquis de Puységur (1751–1825). In the previous text I described the discoveries and the biography of this extraordinary man. Searching for literature written by Puysegur I found in The Library of American Congress the English translation by By J.King, M.D. from 1837: “An Essay of Instruction . Teaching the Method of Magnetizing.”

If we replace the words: “magnetism” by “hypnosis”, “magnetizing” by “hypnotizing” and “hypnotizer” by “hypnotherapist”  the essay turns to be one of the most profound ever written texts about hypnosis. The text below has the deepness of Einstein’s statements about God and the universe… and this written 2 centuries ago.

Dr.G. Kowal

“The observation  that I have made, that  a ball rolls only  when a hand, or agent, determines to it  this  movement,  has brought me to the conclusion, that since the earth and all the planets roll in space, it must be, likewise, that some agent has communicated to them the impulse which determines their revolutions. 


 But, instead of admitting an agent, the author of the motion in matter, is it not matter itself, which is the cause and principle of all its effects? No, that is impossible; my intelligence, my senses tell me, that nothing can move of itself. From the time then, that matter is in motion, it is necessary to submit to the action of a principle, superior to it, and  this principle, superior to matter is God, whom I cannot comprehend, it is true, being only one of the products of his almighty power, but of whose existence, I am certain.

Behold then two realities for me: 1st. God; 2nd his action. God, principle and cause; the existence of the universe, his action”

Link to the book stored at The Library Of The Congress:

MagnetismAn Essay of Instruction .

Teaching the Method of Magnetizing.

Translated from French

Of  M.De Puysegur

By J.King, M.D.

Chapter I

Question: What do you understand by magnetism?

Answer.  The touching  a  patient   at  the diseased, or most sensible parts of his  body, in order to  produce in such  parts,  a  sensation  of heat.

Q: Do you believe that this heat can penetrate into the body of a patient?

A: Yes, and the production of it, ought to be our aim; if this heat were only superficial, it would produce but little effect.

Q: How do you consider this heat?

A: As the  effect  of the  acceleration   of a tonic  movement,  existing  in  the   body  of   a patient.

Q: Animal Magnetism, is, then, the art of accelerating the tonic movement in the bodies of our own species?

A: It is not an art, it is a faculty.

Q: Have all men this faculty?

A: They all possess more or less of it, according to the degree of energy of their strength and health.

Q: All men, then, are able to magnetize?

A: Without doubt, when they have the will.

Q: Why do you add, “When they have the will?”

A: Because, men cannot resolve to do any act whatever, except, when they have the will to do it.

Q: Is magnetizing, then, an action?

A: It is an act as physical, as striking, caressing, pounding any article in a mortar, working at a difficult trade, or composing works, requiring  industry, fortitude, energy, and application; as all acts, whatever may be their motives, inspire in us, the will to produce them.

Q: lf all men have the faculty of magnetizing, how does it happen, that it has not been sooner discovered?

A: Everything certifies that formerly, men were fully in possession of their magnetic power. The fables, mysteries, and ceremonies of the ancients, show traces of it; but probably, the forms, the exterior proceedings for magnetizing, suppressed very soon the spirit  which had instituted them.    The use of this faculty once gone, ignorance and superstition have constantly persecuted those,   who at different period have announced its recovery.

Q: Once persuaded that we have the magnetic power; the question is then, that we must have, and exercise the will, in order to produce any effects?

A: Yes, in order to produce any effects, nothing else is required; but, to produce useful effects, and never injurious, it is necessary to act in a constant and regular manner.

Q: What do you mean, by acting in a constant and regular manner?

A: A comparison will explain it. It is by the action of the air on the wings of a mill, that its mechanism is moved; as this action lessens, or ceases, the stone of the mill slackens its motion, or stops on the instant; as the wind changes, or becomes too violent, the mechanism of  the mill is immediately  disturbed.  Our magnetic action, is the wind which gives, or rather, accelerates the tonic movement   in a patient; our will, is that, which gives to our action, its necessary and proper direction.

Q: Can we produce injury, by magnetizing?

A: Undoubtedly. If we touch a patient, without attention or intention, we produce neither benefit, nor injury; but if after having produced an effect upon him, we follow the first given impression, by another to the contrary, we necessarily, occasion trouble and disorder. If, by indifference, or fear, we do not remedy this disorder, the most grievous results will follow. There is but one method of always magnetizing for useful purposes; it is, to will constantly, and strongly, the good, and the advantage of a patient, and never to change, or varies the direction of the will.

Q: But with a firm and constant will, to procure the most possible good to a patient, will we not sometimes, produce too much action in him?

A: Never.

Q: What, never? Yet the best medicines often injure, when they are administered without circumspection and discernment.

A: We ought never to compare the effect of medicines, to that of the magnetic action, as, the former acts immediately upon the organs, while the latter acts, always, immediately on the vital principle, to which it communicates the impression of a motion which is analogous to it, and which  adds to the efforts that are unceasingly made to preserve the equilibrium, or health.

Q: Although all men have more or less of the magnetic power, do you not believe, however, that physicians may use it, in all cases, with more discernment than others?

A: That would be true, if animal magnetism was a science, or an art; but, as it is only a faculty, all men, without distinction, can equally use it to produce good.

Q: But are there not cases, where it is necessary to increase, or diminish the action of the vital principle in a patient.

A: Yes, certainly.

Q: In such cases, would it not be better to employ a physician, that he might judge of the progress and whether it is necessary to increase or diminish the action of the vital principle in a patient?

A: The science of observing the state of the vital principle in patients, joined to the knowledge of proper medicines, in order to procure the tone of movement necessary, is in reality the art of ordinary physic; for this reason, physicians cure many diseases; but the most learned, and experienced among them, agree, that nature knows more than they. Now, animal magnetism, being the agent of nature, it is very natural that it always acts more knowingly than they.

Q: Then is it not necessary to know the kind, or cause of diseases, in order to cure them by animal magnetism.

A: By no means; the magnetic action directed and sustained by a firm will, or determination to relieve the sufferings of a patient, will always give to his vital principle, that action which will be the most favorable for his disease,

Q: You do not speak about the universal fluid?

A: It is useless.

Q: Do you believe that there is an universal fluid?

A: I have never said that there was, or was not, an universal fluid; I know not, moreover, whether there are magnetic fluids, electric, galvanic. One thing of which I am very certain, is, that in order to magnetize well, it is absolutely useless to know whether or not there does exist a single one of these fluids.

Q: How do you admit the effect of the action of one body on another, without an intertermedial, which communicates and transmits to it, its impulse?

A: Animal Magnetism is not the action of one body on another, but the action of thought on the vital principle of the body.

Q: It is exactly that, which makes it less comprehensive still.

A: I agree to that; besides, we need not seek an explanation; it is, because it is; thought moves the matter. It is this truth, that Virgil has so well expressed, by this fine verse of Eneid :

“Mens agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet.”

Translation: “The eternal mind diffused through all the part of nature, actuates the whole stupendous frame, and mingles with the whole body of the universe. “

The Works of Vergil: Translated Into English Prose, Volume 2, 1926

Q: If thought moves matter, it is then of a superior nature to matter?

A: I will not reply to this question, as it will merely give you my particular opinion; every one ought to be free, to conclude, according to the measure and perception of his intelligence.

To end this first part of instruction for beginners, it will be sufficient to repeat that which concerns the mode of expressing the reason of the principle of all our wills and actions; every man, who, with a wise mind, and compassionate heart, will believe in his magnetic power, and wishes to exercise it, will procure the sweetest enjoyments that he will possibly be able to relish.


M. de Puysegur’s opinion on the cause of the magnetic action of man.

The observation  that I have made, that  a ball rolls only  when a hand, or agent, determines to it  this  movement,  has brought me to the con conclusion, that since the earth and all the planets roll in space, it must be, likewise, that some agent has communicated to them the impulse which determines their revolutions. But a rolling ball stops at the moment, when the action of the impelling   force which it has received, ceases;  then, as the planets do not stop, it is proof to my mind, that the impulse of the principal agent of their movement, does not discontinue. I see, at the most, a tonic or internal movement, as much in the whole mass of the earth, as in the different parts which compose it; winds, storms, tides, in temperatures, subterranean fires, meteors, etc., on one part; crystallization of minerals, vegetation of planets, generation of beings, etc., on the other, are to me sufficient proof; finally, everything  announces to me, a motion impressed upon matter, and the continuance of the principle action of this motion. But, instead of admitting an agent, the author of the motion in matter, is it not matter itself, which is the cause and principle of all its effects? No, that is impossible; my intelligence, my senses tell me, that nothing can move of itself. From the time then, that matter is in motion, it is necessary to submit to the action of a principle, superior to it, and  this principle, superior to matter is God, whom I cannot comprehend, it is true, being only one of the products of his almighty power, but of whose existence, I am certain.

Behold then two realities for me: 1st. God; 2nd his action. God, principle and cause; the existence of the universe, his action.

Let us see, at this place, what passes when I magnetize; the compassion which a patient inspires in me, creates the desire, or the thought of being useful to him, and the moment that I determine to attempt to relieve him, his vital principle receives the impression of the action of my will. Here are two realities: 1st, the principle of my will; 2nd, its action; the principle of my will, otherwise, called my soul, cause of my action; the effect felt by the patient, is the result of this action. The effect of the action of God, is motion in matter, unlimited. The effect of the action of my soul is motion in matter, limited. From the similitude in the effects, I conclude that there is a similarity in the causes. Then, God and my soul are of the same nature. Now, God is superior to matter, in consequence of immateriality; then, my soul is also immaterial. God, first cause, whose immaterial sense, is not enclosed in the limits of form, space, and time, having created, and formed, may also destroy, or preserve all.

My soul, second cause, of which the immaterial nature is enclosed in the limits of form, space, and time, can neither create nor form anything, and can only preserve, and restore. I stop at this last observation of a metaphysical theory, which not only agrees with those I have heretofore given of the action and physical effects of Animal Magnetism, but which is, moreover, truly the proof and complement of it.

I leave it to minds more enlightened than mine, to deduct the certainty of the existence of God, and of our soul, the rules of our moral duties, political and religious; my aim is only to prove the reality of Animal Magnetism, and I will not depart from the bounds which I have prescribed.


Of the proceeding necessary to magnetize.

Question:  What is the method to be pursued, in order to magnetize?

Answer:  I told you, in the first part of this instruction, that, in order to magnetize, it is by no means, necessary to know whether or not there exists a magnetic fluid ; I repeat again, it is perfectly useless;  nevertheless, the better to fix the attention in magnetizing, we may admit the hypothesis.

Q: Why do you say, admit the hypothesis?

A: Because, I am not certain of the existence of a magnetic fluid; it is therefore, for me, only a hypothesis, and not a reality.

Q: The general opinion is, that there exists a magnetic fluid.

A: You may believe it also, if you please, there is no inconvenience from it. This conviction will likewise serve much, to fix your attention the better, when you magnetize.

Q: How so?

A: Consider yourself a loadstone, of which your arms, and hands especially, are the two poles; touch then, a patient, by placing one hand on the back, and the other in opposition on the stomach; figure to yourself, then, that a magnetic fluid tends to circulate from one hand to the other, in crossing the body of the patient.

Q: May we not vary this position?

A: Yes, we may place one hand on the head, without deranging the other hand and continue to pay the same attention and have the same will of doing good. The circulation of one hand to the other will continue; the head and the lower portion of the stomach, being the parts of the body where the most nerve are placed, consequently, these are the two places, where it is necessary to carry the most action.

Q; Is it necessary to rub these parts strongly?

A: That is not necessary; it is sufficient to touch them with attention, endeavoring at the same time, to observe a sensation of heat, in the hollow of the hand, which is always the proof, that an effect is produced.

Q: What is the most desirable effect to obtain, in magnetizing?

A: All the effects are equally salutary, one of the most satisfactory, is somnambulism; but it is not the most frequent, and patients can be equally cured, without entering into this state.

Q: Ought we always to have the will of producing somnambulism?

A: No, for the desire of producing any effect whatever, is almost always a reason for not producing it. A magnetizer ought blindly to place his confidence in nature, that she may rule and direct the effects of his magnetic action.

Q: What are the indications, by which we may discover that a patient is susceptible of entering into the state of somnambulism?

A: When in magnetizing a patient, we perceive that he experiences a numbness, or light spasms, accompanied with nervous fits or starts; if then, we see him shut his eyes; it is necessary to touch him lightly with the thumbs on the eyebrows, to prevent winking. Sometimes, it is not even necessary to touch the eyes, as the action penetrates with as much activity, at a little distance.

Q: What, is there nothing else to do, to put a patient in the state of somnambulism?

A: No. In touching a patient in the manner I have indicated, with much attention, and with a firm will to do good, you will often obtain this satisfactory result.

Q: How may I be able to ascertain that a patient is in the magnetic state?

A: When you see him sensible, at a distance; to your emanations, whether in presenting the thumb before the pit of the stomach, or in carrying it before the nose.

Q: Are there no stronger indications?

A: A patient in the magnetic crisis, ought only to reply to his magnetizer, and ought to suffer no other person to touch him; the approach of dogs, and all animated beings, ought to be to him insupportable; and when by chance he has been touched, the magnetizer alone will be able to calm  the pain which it has occasioned.

Q: Has the magnetizer an absolute empire over his patient, in a magnetic crisis?

A: This empire is absolute in all which concerns the wellbeing and health of the patient; he may also be able to obtain from him, things indifferent in themselves, as to make him walk, drink, eat, write, etc., even all that we could obtain by complaisance from a person in the natural state; but if  we  wish to exact things which will displease him, then we counteract much, and he will not obey.

Q: If we are obstinate in wishing him to do those things which do not agree with him, what is the result?

A: After much suffering, the patient suddenly leaves the magnetic state, and the evil which it will cause to him, will be very troublesome for his magnetizer to repair.

Q: The magnetic state, otherwise called somnambulism, is state, then, which demands the greatest discretion?

A: It is necessary to consider man in the magnetic state, as a being the most interesting, who exists  by affinity to his magnetizer; it is the confidence he places in you, that has allowed you to be the master; it is only for his good that you will be able to enjoy your  power; deceit in this state, to wish to abuse his confidence, is an act of dishonesty; thus, by acting in a sense opposed to his welfare, we produce consequently, a contrary effect to that first given him.

Q: Are there different degrees of somnambulism?

A: Yes; sometimes, we procure from a patient, only a simple sigh; in another, the effect of magnetism is to cause him to shut his eyes, without the power of opening them himself; then he understands everything, but is not completely in the magnetic state. This state of half crisis is very common.

Q: Are these two effects as salutary, as complete somnambulism?

A: They are not a satisfactory, for the magnetizer, as he can learn nothing from his patient; but they are also very salutary.

Q: Are there any precautions to take, towards a patient who enters into the state of magnetic somnambulism?

A: As soon as you perceive that a patient shuts his eyes, and has manifested the sensibility to the magnetic emanations, it is not necessary at first to overwhelm him with questions, still less to wish to make him act, in any manner. The state in which he finds himself is new for him, and it is necessary, so to speak, to let him be aware of it. The question ought to be, How do you find yourself? then, Do you feel that I have done to any good? Then express the pleasure you feel in procuring it for him, and gradually come to the details of his disease, and the object of your first questions ought not to extend beyond his health.

Q: Why so.

A: It is your aim, in magnetizing, to cure; all the faculties of the patient, turn towards the object, which has interested you in magnetizing him. His health alone, then, occupies his faculties; and being possessed of more or less sensibility, he is more or less clear-sighted his present state, as on his future cure.

Q: What conduct is necessary to observe towards a magnetic somnambulist?

A: To do everything with safety, and not to contradict him; also, to consult him on the hours when he wishes to be magnetized, the time he wishes to remain in the crisis, what medicines he will need, and to follow his indications, exactly, without missing even one minute.

Q: May not a person in a magnetic state, prescribe medicines, contrary to his health ?

A: That can never be. AIIthough the prescription of a somnambulist, may be different from the ideas that we may have received in medicine, yet, his sensations are surer than all the given results of observation;  Nature expresses herself, if we may thus speak, by his mouth; it is a clear instinct, which dictates to him, his demands, and not to obey them  to the letter, will be to miss the end proposed, namely, to cure  him.

Q: How do we get a person out of the magnetic state?

A: When you magnetized him, your aim was to put him to sleep, and you have succeeded, solely, by the act of your will; it is also, by another act of the will, that you awaken him.

Q: What, is it only necessary, that he opens his eyes to perform his awakening?

A: It is the principal operation; but, the better to fix your ideas upon the object which occupies your mind, you may  lightly  touch  the eyes,  willing at the same time, that he opens them  and awakes, and this effect never fails to follow.

Q: Are there any other signs to observe in the conduct of magnetism?

A: It may sometimes happen that a patient has tremblings, or light convulsive motions, the first time that he is magnetized; in this case, it is necessary for the magnetizer to cease his first action, and occupy himself in calming the sufferings of the patient.

Q: What means must be employed for that?

A: At first, will that his evils are quieted, and that he suffers no more; then, direct all your attention, your touches to the suffering parts; spread, as it were, the fluid throughout the whole extent of his body, and do not abandon him, until he is in a calm and tranquil state.

Q: Can we always control these convulsions or sufferings of a patient?

A: Yes, when they are caused by our magnetism, for you may recollect we have said, that Animal Magnetism taking always the character of the will of the magnetizer, ought to calm the accidental evils, proceeding from the first impression that we have given.

Q: And the habitual sufferings of a patient are they also capable of being removed by the influence of magnetism?

A: No, because, sometimes the disease has made so great progress, and has taken such deep root, that the influence of magnetism, cannot destroy the symptoms, but by dint of time and care.

Q: If, after having made all efforts to arrest the convulsions which magnetism produces, we do not put an end to them, what must we do?

A: We must not become alarmed, but believe that the nature of the disease demands such a crisis, in order that the patient may be entirely cured; but this tranquility ought to be entire, only when we feel innocent with regard to the conduct we have pursued towards the patient. In general, the case where a patient preserves his grievous impressions, not­ withstanding his magnetizer, is very rare; it has only happened but once to myself; and when several times in succession a magnetizer is not able to arrest the convulsions which have shown themselves, we would always be in doubt with regard to his good disposition.

Q: Have you anything further to teach me concerning the practice of Animal Magnetism?

A: No; it is sufficient for you to remember, the grand base on which is founded the doctrine of animal magnetism, as I have conceived it, and as I have taught you. Remember, that man always acts for his best interest; and rarely for good, if he does not find a great interest in it; and this is only a spiritual principle, emanating immediately from the creator of the universe, that he may feel the necessity of satisfying the continual cravings of his soul, which delights only in good, order, and truth.

(End of Puysegur’s Essay.)