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Amand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puységur – Animal Magnetism & First Principle Philosophy

Title page of Chastenet de Puységur’s ‘Du Magnétisme Animal’ published in 1809.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, are excerpts from Amand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puységur’s ‘Du Magnétisme Animal, considéré dans ses rapports avec diverses branches de la Physique générale.’ Second edition, Imprimerie Cellot, Paris 1809. From Chapter VI and Chapter IX. English translation from the original French by Via-HYGEIA.


Amand Marie Jacques de Chastenet, marquis de Puységur.

A Little Introduction

‘Amand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puységur (1751–1825) was a French magnetizer aristocrat from one of the most illustrious families of the French nobility. He is now remembered as one of the pre-scientific founders of hypnotism (a branch of animal magnetism, or Mesmerism).

With his two young brothers, Jacques Maxime (1755-1848) et Antoine-Hyacinthe (1752-1809), Puységur became in 1782 the student of Franz-Anton Mesmer under whose authority he studied at his Société de l’Harmonie. Puységur rapidly became a highly successful magnetist, to whom people came from all over France. Puységur distinguishes himself from Mesmer by declaring to be only a vector for the sick who would be their own doctors, whereas Mesmer claims to treat by an exclusively physiological action of which the magnetizer would be the source. Puységur’s institute for training in animal magnetism, the Société Harmonique des Amis Réunis, grew rapidly until the Revolution in 1789. During the revolutionary era the institute was disbanded and Puységur spent two years in prison.

Later, after Napoleons’ demise, a new generation of practitioners of mesmerists (and later of hypnotists) looked up to Puységur as their patriarch, and came to accept his method of inducing a sleeping trance in preference to the original methods of Mesmer. Puységur, however, always portrayed himself as a faithful disciple of Mesmer, and never took credit for having invented the procedure that is now known as hypnotic induction. His contributions were gradually forgotten, until Nobel prize-winner Charles Richet rediscovered his writings in 1884, and showed that most of what other people had claimed as their discoveries in the field of magnetism and hypnotherapy were originally due to the Marquis de Puységur.

Henri Ellenberger, the great historian of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, wrote that Puységur was “one of the great forgotten contributors to the history of the psychological sciences.” The details of the life and work of Puységur may be found in Ellenberger’s book, The Discovery of the Unconscious, pp. 70–74. Ellenberger’s view of Puységur was supported and amplified in Peter Sloterdijk’s book Critique of Cynical Reason. In this work, Sloterdijk emphasized Puységur’s contributions in his refutation of the common idea that intellectuals of the Enlightenment were not interested in the subconscious mind. (Source: Wikipedia)


From Chapter VI

‘Twenty years ago I had foreseen and deducted effects of my magnetic practice, of which results I am now harvesting; but too busy working and multiplying field experiences, too little time was left to  meditate and reflect upon them. I recognized, in fact, all my incapacity to give my ideas the length they needed; more knowledgeable and enlightened people should have undertook this task and, when some of them attacked animal magnetism,  it hurt me so much.

Having read, during that difficult time, the works of some Greek Philosophers, I hastily tried to quote in support of my work, their opinions upon ‘the first principles of things’, which Pythagoras calls ‘Anima Mundi’ (Ψυχή του κόσμου, psyche tou Kosmou), manifesting to my intelligence  by my magnetic power, and what he calls ‘Breath’, ‘Spirit’ (ανάσα, πνεύμα, anasa, pneuma) activating this soul,  I recognize it as my though likewise activating my magnetic power.

Pythagoras, Plato, Hermes before them, Aristotle after-and his whole school- probably did not understand more what they were teaching, even though they had their intimate conviction, than what I understand today about my magnetic power and of its effects. But what genius, what wisdom, spirit and thoroughness they needed to have been able to recognize such great truths, without any experiments giving them, like me, any proofs!’

Original French



Chapter IX: ‘Of men who at diverse epochs, had the conviction of the existence of a moving agent in nature & of the principle of our faculties’

‘I wrote in an earlier chapter about Pythagoras; but not having his ideas present enough in my memory like I did twenty years ago, I would fear quoting them would weaken or misrepresent them. I invite my readers to take the time and pleasure to discover his opinions through what his disciples or his commentators had transmitted  to us. Those of Plato are no less recommendable and satisfying.

When we ponder upon the severity of the principles of all the schools the opinions of these great philosophers gave birth, we cannot help but to conclude that the base on which they were developed, itself derived from a really pure source.

In fact, if we can judge the beliefs of men (I mean those arousing from their opinions); if, I say, we can judge  their beliefs from their deeds and their determinations, what great idea should we not have of those of their sages, whose precepts and teachings had for aim solely to bring Man towards a state of perfection they were themselves living ?

There is no doubt some mistakes and exaggerations may have slipped among their disciples, both by the false consequences raised from their principles, and their diverse interpretations they must have necessarily derived from them. The Epicureans and the Stoics were a good example of that. Even though both schools took pride from their filiation from the schools of Pythagoras and Plato, they differ from them by the erroneous application they  did of their doctrines; the Epicureans, going back only to the action-principle of our deeds and determinations, only saw as perfection the balance to maintain in the economy of their organization; sobriety and temperance were not for them virtues, but necessary obligations to the maintenance of their existence. It was similar with their accuracy in fulfilling social duties, such as those of probity, loyalty in commitments, veracity in speeches, etc. As they were convinced the affliction of the soul affected health, they believed abstaining from them through the austere practice of all virtues, and the command ‘to only do to someone else what ourselves would like someone else do to us’, was obviously for them only like a doctor’s prescription: anyway, every time when they surrender to the impulse of their tastes and inclinations, they could obtain pleasures for themselves without harming those of others, provided that this did not disturb the balance of their health, they believed tasting them obeying to the laws of nature: their ideas would not rise further up.

The Stoics on the opposite, exaggerating every principles of their founders, placed virtue only as deprivation and detachment from all things and all interests on Earth. Pythagoras and Plato, in acknowledging the existence of a first principle, or of a creator-god and mover of the universe, had only drawn the consequence of ennobling all our actions with love and gratitude. The Stoics, not confining themselves within these boundaries so wisely delineated, reckoned to get closer to the first principle, in focusing exclusively upon him their fondness. Blood ties, friendship, social duties, the need to look upon one’s own interests, to well manage one’s own fortune, and to take care of one’s own health; all natural feelings were felt as  weaknesses. Exaggerating love, finally, they would neglect gratitude, because, as soon they thought owing from God the composition of their being, it was their duty to not divide what, in His wisdom, He had united. Such is and always will be the working of the human spirit, every time we do not limit our pleasures to the feeling of truth; as it can only be glanced, it is already a departure from it for wanting to submit it to reasoning, and we do not deviate from truth without necessarily take the path of fallacy and exaggeration.

Among the wisest men of Antiquity, after Pythagoras and Plato, we must mention Hippocrates, whose principles obviously shine eminently from the great lights who ought to have dictated them to him. That he may have been a Stoic or an Epicurean, I care less: what I admire in him, is the physician-who confident of this primordial action (Note: of the first principle) ceaselessly acting within us-starts from this truth to lay the foundations of his human health preservation doctrine. When we read his aphorisms with the acquired understanding of the reality of animal magnetism, we would be tempted to believe that he did guess or witness all of its effects. But, what need for him to know them? Because he glanced upon the source that produces them! The proof of the excellence of his knowledge and the depth of his thoughts, is the respect, quasi-religious, his successors, from all the following ages, manifested, beyond systems differences upon the art of healing that have after him appeared: so much the consequences of a truth has power over the spirit of those who, sincerely desiring knowing it, have not seen it yet.

If from Athens I then switch to Rome, I see the greatest Latin poet filled with the existence of this action principle, ceaselessly acting within us, originating itself from a movement communicated from the supreme intelligence, whose first result in us is thought, which makes us recognize it and at the same time it becomes the principle of all of our deeds and all of our determinations. Virgil was he not convinced of this great truth, when in his ‘Aeneid’, he would write verses which would embody it so energetically?

Spiritus intus alit totamque infusa per artus,  Mens agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet‘. (Aeneid. Book 6, verses 724-27: ‘one primal Mind, Immingled with the vast and general frame, Fills every part and stirs the mighty whole.’ J. B. Greenough translation, 1900).

And Cicero writes: ‘Jupiter est quod vides, quocumque moveris.’ (Whatever you see, whatever you do, is Jupiter.‘ (Lucan: ‘Pharsalia’, translation A. S. Kline- book IX, verse 578). (Note: Here the translator bumps into a problem: Either Puységur misquotes Lucan for Cicero (3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC). Lucan (3 November 39 AD – 30 April 65 AD) may have read Cicero’s ‘Correspondence’ while writing the ‘Pharsalia’ after Cicero was long dead, or the quote is somewhere buried within Cicero’s voluminous ‘Correspondence’ and Lucan borrowed it without credits and I cannot find any trace of it. Either ways, Puységur seeks first the meaning of these verses by an ‘ancient authority’, regardless of whom may have written it. But of course, I would rather have a genuine Cicero quote in this context… No offence, Lucan!)

But what is the most striking proof of a truth is, when independently from the positions, interests, diverse opinions, even religious dogmas, we agree to recognize it and to manifest it in almost the same terms. I very well fancy that the early Fathers of the Church may have been a little sozzled with Aristotle’s philosophy, at the center of which the Christian religion took its rise; but even though it would be the case, it would nevertheless result in that we should be convinced they proclaimed only what they were convinced of. If you link Cicero’s quote with what Paul of Tarsus said, judge by yourself. If one says: ”Jupiter est quod vides, quocumque moveris.’ and  Paul of Tarsus says: ‘In ipso vivimus, movemur et sumus.’ (Vulgate, Acts 17:28, ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being.’). They both had the same thought, both were convinced of the action within Man of a movement communicated by the great mover of the Universe.

I would not dare boasting of a learning I don’t have by pushing further with more quotes on this subject. I took these notes a long time ago, and finding them consistent with my present subject, I only offer them here as the most honorable support of the ideas that the conviction deep in me has raised of a magnetic action in Man. It would be most fortunate if those astonishing effects, after so many wandering fallacies and fake philosophies, could lead us towards the very convictions-that without a secondary mean (note: a proof) the wisest and most enlightened men of the ancient times had acquired-both about the existence of a first principle and about the effects of its almighty action!’


Original French


Amand Marie Jacques de Chastenet, marquis de Puységur.


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Amand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puységur – Animal Magnetism & First Principle Philosophy

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