To mark the launch of the research project “Ritual Dynamics and Salutogenesis in the Use and Misuse of Psychoactive Substances”, Henrik Jungaberle and Rolf Verres have written an essay on “Rituals of Intoxication”. In a brief cultural history, the tension between culture and medicine becomes visible. The topic was researched from 2002-20213 in a Collaborative Research Area of the German Research Foundation at Heidelberg University Hospital.
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Whoever deals with the person, work and history of Franz Anton Mesmer is confronted with the difficulty of facing a personality whose many facets make it difficult to force him into a uniform image. Mesmer seems to evade this attempt to grasp him light-footedly, like one of his much-vaunted fluids.
Franz Anton Mesmer gave impulses for the most diverse disciplines and topoi. Examples are the development of anesthesia, psychiatry, psychosomatics, hypnotism and psycho-therapy. – For the sociological formation of the latter, his unintended influence should not be underestimated. Beyond that, however, his teachings had an effect in the fields of parapsy-chology, spiritualism, which returned to Europe via America, spiritual healing, stage hypno-sis, and in an extensive way in the history of literature, especially German Romanticism.
What can medicine learn from its encounter with “animal magnetism”? How would it react to esoteric and metaphysial theories that evolve around an otherwise “rational” and effective therapy TODAY?a