A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

Critical Thinker's Dictionary

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malicious animal magnetism

Malicious animal magnetism is an expression coined by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), the founder of Christian Science. Eddy rejected Anton Mesmer's notion of magn√©tisme animal and agreed with magnetic healer and father of New Thought Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866) that only a god heals.  Eddy believed, however, that one could manipulate the universal fluid that permeates all things to cause illness and harm. By using malicious animal magnetism one can transmit something damaging to another person. Eddy took this idea to be a scientific explanation for things like casting evil spells. Mesmer might be said to represent a lack of understanding of the powerful placebo effect, while  Eddy would be a representative of those who lack an understanding of the powerful nocebo effect.

Eddy believed her enemies were poisoning her with malicious animal magnetism (Randi). Although there is no compelling scientific evidence for the existence of malicious animal magnetism, the belief "remains a part of the doctrine of Christian Science" (Williams 2002: 203).

further reading

Randi, James. An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural (N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1995).

Williams, William. 2000. Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Facts on File.

Last updated 19-Dec-2013

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