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Sources: Primitive Psycho-therapy And Quackery

JOHANN JOSEPH GASSNER, who was regarded as a thaumaturge by his

partisans, and as a charlatan by his opponents, was born at Bratz, a

village of the Austrian Tyrol, August 20, 1727. He was educated at

Innsbruck and Prague, became a priest, and settled at Coire, the capital

of the Swiss canton of Grisons. Here he remained for some fifteen years,

ministering acceptably to his parishioners. It appears that he then

became i
pressed with the scriptural accounts of the healing of

demoniacs, and devoted himself to the study of the works of famous


Gradually he acquired a reputation as a healer by means of the methods

of laying on of hands, conjuration and prayer. Many of the Tyrolese

peasantry flocked to him, as did their Irish brethren to Greatrakes.

Gassner treated them all without recompense. He believed that the

efficiency of his methods was dependent upon the degree of faith of his

patients. Some cases he affected to benefit by drugs, others by touch,

and still others by exorcism. He was a pioneer in the employment of

suggestion, while summoning to his aid the forces of religious faith,

prayer and material remedies.

The Bishop of Constance sent for Gassner, and after a careful

examination of his methods and beliefs, became convinced of the purity

of his character, and of his good faith. The bishop therefore permitted

him to continue his practice at Coire and its neighborhood.

Gassner's reputation as a thaumaturge spread throughout Germany and

adjacent countries, and he numbered among his patrons many persons of

influence. In 1774, upon invitation of the Bishop of Ratisbon, he

removed to Ellwangen, in Wuertemberg, where he is said to have cured many

by the mere word of command, Cesset. He died at Bondorf, in the

Diocese of Ratisbon, in the year 1779.

The celebrated Dutch physician, Antoine de Haen, who was a contemporary

of Gassner, described the latter as a man of jovial temperament, and a

sworn foe to melancholy. He did not take advantage of the popular

credulity for his own pecuniary gain, and was therefore morally far

above the plane of an ordinary charlatan.