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“Éloquence magique”, ou descriptions des mondes de l'au-delà explorés par le magnétisme animal: Au carrefour de la Naturphilosophie romantique et de la théosophie chrétienne (première moitié du XIXème siècle) “Magic Eloquence”, or Descriptions of the Worlds of the Beyond Explored by Animal Magnetism: At the Crossroad of Romantic Naturphilosophie and Christian Theosophy (first half of the 19th century)

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The article opens with a distinction between three kinds of “clairvoyance” phenomena. 1) A faculty of seeing/hearing things which are normally outside the reach of the clairvoyant's five senses (like being able to read sentences from a book although it is closed), but which do not extend beyond the domain of our common reality. 2) A “higher” faculty, which consists in seeing/hearing entities like spirits of the dead, angels, demons, etc., and occasionally in having a personal contact with them. 3) A “highest” faculty, of a noetic (“gnostic”) character, which extends beyond the first two and consists in being able to have acess to some sorts of “ultimate realities”: the visions thus imparted to the subject bear on ontological mysteries that concern, for example, the divine world, the cosmos, the hidden sides of Nature, etc. The author bestows the name “magic eloquence” on the narratives of visions pertaining to that third kind of clairvoyance, which are documented in the literature of Christian theosophy (see Jacob Boehme's and Swedenborg' vivions, for instance) and of animal magnetism. After presenting a few examples of magic eloquence chosen in the literature of animal magnetism in the first half of the 19the century, the article discusses the interpretations thereof put forward in the same period by a number of representatives of some German romantic Naturphilosophen who were both interested in animal magnetism and influenced by Christian theosophy. Their interpretations were based, on the one hand, upon the theosophical version of the myth of Fall and Reintegration; on the other hand, upon the “traditional” tripartition spirit/soul/body. On that basis, they constructed a series of heuristic tools successively, around notions like “ethereal light-substance”, “ganglionic system”, and Nervengeist. In the latter, they eventually came to see the cornerstone of the “physicopsycho-spiritual” structure (made of five constitutive elements) of the human being as they imagined it. Moreover, if considered as such, the Nervengeist appears to be the key for understanding the physico-spiritual procedures that undergird the production of magic eloquence. Finally, after presenting a few relevant examples in the literature of fiction inspired by animal magnetism, and some considerations devoted to the continuation of magical eloquence in later spiritual movements, the article draws a parallel between two anthropological “constructs” of the “soul” – namely, by the Naturphilosophie discussed above; and by psychoanalysis.

Affiliations: 1: Professeur émérite; Histoire des courants, ésotériques dans l'Europe moderne et contemporaine, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sciences Religieuses, Paris, France


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