Historical Context

It is important to note that psychoanalysis was not a creation of Sigmund Freud. Islamic (Sufi) literature frequently discusses psychological insight and what we would consider psychotherapy. Afghanistan's Jalaludal Rumi and El Ghazali from Persia are two of the known psychotherapists of ancient times. Writings from over three millennia ago mention "healing through words" used in both Ancient Egypt and Greece. But if the era often referred to in the Western World as The Golden Age of Psychotherapy was birthed by Freud, Adler, Jung, Horney, and the other luminaries of psychoanalysis from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, then it follows that a disgraced charlatan was the midwife. Franz Anton Mesmer graduated from the University of Vienna, then one of the foremost schools in Europe, in 1766. In 1773, one of his patients, a Miss Oesterlin came to him complaining of a multiplicity of somatic ailments. Mesmer's doctoral dissertation had been on the influence of the planets on human illness. He quickly began to explore the possibility that the woman's recurring symptoms were based on tidal variations related to such cosmic phenomena. He concocted a tonic containing iron that he had her drink. He attached magnets to her body, and remarkably, her symptoms improved. With repeated treatment, her symptoms totally disappeared. Such a remarkable cure quickly made Franz Anton Mesmer among the most famed men in Vienna medical circles.

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