Subject specialist Haller (emeritus, history & medical humanities, Southern Illinois Univ.-Carbondale) has published prolifically on medical history (e.g., The History of American Homeopathy). Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) both “sought to restore harmony to the body’s systems using unseen forces as the causal agent.” Swedenborg’s scientific and philosophical writings led to the founding of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and Mesmer conceived the idea of animal magnetism, believing that he possessed such powers. Haller presents not a dual biography, despite its title, but a discussion of their places in the thinking of Mary Baker Eddy, Samuel Hahnemann, and other, lesser-known individuals whose influence is still found today, especially in self-help and “mind-cure” movements. The book includes 18 images, extensive chapter references consisting mostly of primary and secondary sources, and a lengthy bibliography.
VERDICT: A serious and scholarly but accessible work for readers familiar with the field. Large academic libraries and research libraries will probably want to purchase. (Index not seen.)
Medicine can go further than simply alleviating a problem. Swedenborg, Mesmer, and the Mind/Body Connection: The Roots of Contemporary Medicine delves into the philosophies and practices developed by Swedenborg and Mesmer as they developed their ideas of complementary medicine, and alternative practices such as spiritual healing, psychic ideas, and other ideas that have evolved into today's new age and alternative medicine. Swedenborg, Mesmer, and the Mind/Body Connection is a riveting read of the pioneers of this train of medicine thought.
--Wisconsin Bookwatch: June 2010
Healing practices as diverse as homeopathy, chiropractic, and therapeutic touch draw their inspiration and effectiveness from an unseen world beyond the physical senses. Our view of that world is the legacy of two key thinkers: Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Anton Mesmer.
Haller begins by describing the competing worldviews of Swedenborg, a mystic whose deep faith in God and visions of the afterlife has moved generations, and Mesmer, whose magnetic healing system required nothing but the forces of nature. Both were convinced that good health depended on properly managing one’s internal energies, whether that meant a life of biblical virtue or simply achieving balance with the universe. The book traces the influence of these two men through the nineteenth century as their ideas were embraced by utopians, psychic healers, spiritualists, mind-cure advocates, homeopaths, and ultimately by the inheritors of those traditions—modern practitioners of alternative healing.
Swedenborg, Mesmer, and the Mind/Body Connection illuminates a pivotal time in American history, when pioneers explored not only the boundaries of their growing nation, but the limits—and the intersection—of mind and spirit.