|Gustav Mesmer was born in 1903 in Altshausen, a little village in Southern Germany, as one of ten brothers and sisters. His school education was early interrupted by World War 1. During his teenage years he had to serve as temporary worker on several farms. While working on a monastery, he was talked into joining the monastery. He couldn’t endure this kind of life; after six years he left the monastery and went home.|
|He started apprenticeship as a carpenter. In his testimony his boss confirmed him to be a good worker, even if “ a somewhat special and calm character”.|
|Caused by an unlucky incident and a doctor’s (by modern standards) wrong diagnosis “schizophrenia” he was delivered up to a mental home. He worked as a bookbinder and was accepted as a capable worker. Here he must have read articles in magazines about an Austrian and a French experimenter, who had tried to fly with a bicycle. He may also have heard about Otto Lilienthal’s activities. This has influenced him strongly, and from then on the thought and fascination of flight has never left him.|
|He drew and built many flying models in all variations. In his documents one entry says “ continues to draw new flight objects about which even a layman will shake his head”. The doctors didn’t take him really serious and laughed about him and his “inventor’s mania”. Gustav also learned to make baskets, and continued to draw, write poetry, and design and build flying models.|
|In 1949 he was delivered up to another sanatory. Diagnosis as usual: paranoid schizophrenia. By now it was almost clear that he didn’t belong to a psychiatric clinic, however nobody cared. He had much more freedom now and even got some acknowledgement, especially for his remarkable drawing skills. In 1964 Gustav Mesmer could finally leave the sanatory and move to an Old People's Home at Buttenhausen, a small village on the “Swabian Alb“ (a mountain range in Southern Germany). Here he spent the last and happiest days of his life. He had access to a small workshop and unlimited freedom to realize his airplane ideas. He used whatever he had and|
|whatever seemed appropriate: all kinds of trash, rusty nails and bolts, thread, cans, matress springs, old wooden bars, plastic sacs for covering - - - he used everything, never threw away anything ( an early way of environment protection ).|
|His creativity seemed inexhaustible. During those last years of his life he drew and built innumerable objects. One of his flight apparatus’ - a rebuilt lady’s bicycle - was a sensation. On Sundays he was seen making attempts to take to the air, riding his “Flightcycle” down steep country lanes on the Alb slopes. Soon people lovingly called him the “ Ikarus of Lautertal” ( Lautertal= valley of the river Lauter ). For the first time in his life he felt as part of the society, was accepted without reservation, beloved and admired.|
|In the early 80s some of Gustav Mesmer’s friends had the idea to present his inventions and pieces of art to the public. Expositions in several big cities, including Vienna (Austria), Mannheim (Germany), Lausanne (Switzerland), and Ulm (Germany) were a big success. The top event was 1992 when one of his Flightcycles was shown at the World Exposition at Sevilla, Spain, in the German Pavillon. The topic was: “The Dream of Flight”. There’s a little museum now in an old farm barn at Buttenhausen.|
|Sometimes he was asked whether he had really flown with one of his flight apparatus’. Yes, he answered, smiling cunningly, once I glided almost 50 Meter down the valley, but alas there was nobody around to see it.|
a story! What a live!
Live sometimes goes strange, inexplicable, and tortuous paths. Instead of choosing a straight line, life can provide for long roundabout ways. Sometimes, like a flash out of the blue sky, a picture may appear; not necessarily exact and definite, but unclear and foggy. Yet influential enough to accompany a whole life. In very rare instances such a picture may appear to those selected individuals whose modest mind may have never been chosen to ever leave big footprints in the history of man. Beyond all borders of intellect, cultural education, and professional background a constant searching and striving for fulfilment of a dream may occupy such a mind and enrich a whole life. Maybe a little damping of the intellect is required to make room for dreams, and some composure and even temper to follow them easily, cheerfully, but unperturbed. Just maybe it had to be a human being
|with slightly limited possibilities to experience a dream and to follow it beyond all ratio. A dream which many an individual may have, but is kept from dreaming it by a onesided feverish search for quickly reaching a distant goal or instant success. Perhaps this irrational kind of mind is the required level to leave a solid ground, leaving all rational restrictions behind, and "take to the air" of unlimited freedom and creativity (maybe quite generally such moments are the birth of creativity). As I see it, Gustav Mesmer’s dreams never had any chance of successful realization. But I’m also convinced that this has never been his conscious goal, and the term “failure” didn’t exist in his brain. He acted like a happy child: totally caught within and happily fulfilled with his dream. Maybe Gustav Mesmer’s dream was never defined precisely, maybe it was just a way to find “himself”, to find and to live the essence of his life. Maybe we should rather frame his goal in poetic words, just as he once did in his own words:|
|“… people are standing outside in open nature, astonished by watching the birds big and small, how they sail through the airs on wings. Man can get envious because God has given wings to birds but not to man. Did God forget something, or did he have another goal?…a flight apparatus should be built with which one can take to the air, enjoy flying over small landscape areas and from one village to the next one on weekends …”|
is not important whether Gustav Mesmer has ever really flown. It is not
important that he has never reached the success of his admired examples.
It was never important for him nor is it for us. He was never worried nor
mislead. Important is that he has had a dream and followed it throughout
his life in steady perpetuation and composure. Although laughed or scoffed
at for his crazy ideas during most of his life, during his later years he
was a favourite and fully respected person in his community. I believe that
in his own imaginations Mesmer was really "freed" from earth,
sailing happily and independantly in higher (hemi)spheres.
Gustav Mesmer died in 1994. I think we should be very carefully when considering which examples to choose and to follow in our life and which goals we should strive for.
|Pictures were taken from the small exposition in the museum at Buttenhausen.|
|P.S. The (first acknowledged) Greek philosopher Thales of Milet was reported walking around while looking up to the sky, thinking about the system of the universe. In doing so he didn't watch the ground, overlooked a trench, and fell into it. That didn't keep him from watching the stars.|