The Menace of Mesmerism in Maine: Impact on Two Emerging Religious Group

Speaker: Categories: Nov 08, 2003


[1hr, 18min, 57sec / 1hr, 8min, 47sec]


Mesmerism! Hypnotism! The supernatural! The unexplainable! Miraculous manifestations! Psychotic phenomena! As readers of this announcement, do you feel curious enough to want to look and listen more to find out how such terms can be associated with the early beginnings of Adventism? And might you also be willing to look at the historical record(s) to learn how such terms might be associated with the emerging leadership of two religious groups which trace their beginnings to the mid to the late 1800s?

Dr. Fred Hoyt has done just that and has offered to share his research and findings with AAFSD on November 8. His research, as has been noted in earlier presentations, draws almost exclusively from the newspaper accounts of the day, materials available through the public press and widely disseminated to the readership in those geographic communities.

To direct our thinking for the November presentation, Dr. Hoyt has noted:"Mesmerism (hypnotism) hit the United States at a time when we were besieged by a host of ideologies or"isms": phrenology, temperance, abolitionism, spiritualism, feminism, vegetarianism, Millerism, Grahamism, hydrotherapy, and pantheism - to name but a few."[Editor's note: Someismsare still with us!]

"For unexplained reasons,"Fred Hoyt has concluded,"we were peculiarly susceptible to such attacks, although some of them were quite transitory. Imported from Europe in 1836, mesmerism quickly spread from Boston into Maine where its life cycle had entertainment, educational, medical, and spiritual aspects."

Our November speaker advises,"Although for most people it rather quickly passed away as just another sensational fad, for two women in Maine its impact was heavy and lasting: Mary Baker Eddy and Ellen Gould Harmon White, both of whom were instrumental in establishing significant new religions. Eddy unsuccessfully fought this dangerous devilish phenomenon for the rest of her life. In marked contrast, White boldly faced this challenge, obtained complete victory over it, and moved on to a series of dramatic transcendental spiritual advances until she attained a remarkable and unparalleledonenesswith divinity. This development is essential in understanding her long and productive life against tremendous odds."

There may be somerevelations(not to be misunderstood akin to the biblical book by the same name) to be shared in the November session, some aspects of Ellen G. White which may not have been made public earlier. True historical research often has such potential - and Dr. Fred Hoyt is an excellent historical researcher as readers of this newsletter can attest who heard his presentations on July, 1999:John Wesley: Father of SDA Health Reform or October, 2000: A Medical Biography of Ellen Gould Harmon White.


Fred Hoyt earned his B.A. at La Sierra College, 1948, in history and religion; his M.A. and Ph.D. in history


at Claremont University, 1955 and 1963. He has served as a teacher at San Pasqual Academy and Pomona Junior Academy. He joined the faculty at La Sierra in 1955 where he has taught history, political science, and sociology. He is currently retired and devoting full time to ongoing research and writing in his areas of specialization: American-Philippine history; U.S. naval history; early SDA history.

His unpublished, completed manuscripts on SDA topics include: Mesmerism; EGW s ethnicity; John Wesley and health reform; Millerism and insanity; EGWs medical biography; and EGW s return home aboard theSS Moana. (It may be that his presentation on November 8 will make some reference to this latter item. If not, be sure to raise the question during the Q/A time!)

Published articles include:Beethoven Hall and Israel Dammon. Works in progress:EGW and PlagiarismandEGW s Education in Portland Schools.

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