15 September 2021

[Blog Tour] 'The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris' By Steve M. Gnatz #HistoricalFiction

[Blog Tour] 'The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris' By Steve M. Gnatz #HistoricalFiction
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The Book:

The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris
By Steve M. Gnatz
  • Publication Date: November 2020
  • Publisher: Leather Apron Press
  • Page Length: 541 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

The Book Trailer:

The Blurb:

A WORLD OF ENLIGHTENMENT, REVOLUTION, AND INTRIGUE

1776: Benjamin Franklin sails to Paris, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, freshly signed. His charge: gain the support of France for the unfolding American Revolution. Yet Paris is a city of distractions. Ben’s lover, Marianne Davies, will soon arrive, and he yearns to rekindle his affair with the beautiful musician.

Dr. Franz Mesmer has plans for Marianne too. He has taken Parisian nobility by storm with his discovery of magn├ętisme animale, a mysterious force claimed to heal the sick. Marianne’s ability to channel Mesmer’s phenomena is key to his success.

A skeptical King Louis XVI appoints Ben to head a commission investigating the astonishing magn├ętisme animale. By nature, Ben requires proof. Can he scientifically prove that it does not exist? Mesmer will stop at nothing to protect his profitable claim.

The Wisdom of The Flock explores the conflict between science and mysticism in a time rife with revolution, love, spies, and passion.

  • Trigger Warnings: Mild sexual content
[Blog Tour] 'The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris' By Steve M. Gnatz #HistoricalFiction
The Wisdom of the Flock - Book Cover

'The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris' - Excerpt:

The crew would be starting their breakfast soon, yet food was the last thing Ben wanted. He made his way to the cloth-covered part of the deck. The thick oaken planks were wet with rain and sea spray. The area he sought was sheltered from the howling wind. Ben found the air on deck to be electrically charged and more invigorating than usual, exactly what he needed to settle his stomach and pounding head.

Ben sat down on a deck chair and spread a heavy wool blanket over his legs to shelter himself from the cold ocean spray.

“Do you believe in God, Doctor Franklin?” a deep voice asked.

Ben jumped, flailing his arms out of his lap. He hadn’t realized he was not alone. He squinted through his bifocals to make out a gaunt man, completely dressed in black, occupying a nearby chair. He was as emaciated as a saint but with the haughty countenance of a bishop. It was the Reverend William Smith.

“Reverend, I fervently hope that not only does He exist on such a foul day as this . . . but that He has a benevolent nature,” Ben replied.

The Reverend sat back and pulled a blanket up around his neck. “Well spoken,” he said with a chill in his voice.

Ben had learned long ago that there was no gain to be had in debating religious faith with devotees such as the Reverend. It wasn’t that Ben didn’t believe in God; it was simply that he didn’t have proof. And Ben needed proof of things. He could think of only a few aspects of his life that he was willing to take on faith. The love of his late wife came to mind. But then, that belief hadn’t been based entirely on faith either, for she had had ways of proving her love to him. God was a different matter altogether. A painful memory flashed of Ben praying to God to spare his son Francis from the pox, but the four-year-old succumbed. While this certainly wasn’t proof that God didn’t exist, though, it had shaken his faith. However, Ben knew that, like any true believer worth his salt, the Reverend would have an explanation for God’s lapse. Ben decided to change the subject.

“That bolt of lightning was close just now,” Ben said. He gazed out at the clouds that flashed in the distance.

“Aye, a bit too close for comfort,” the Reverend said. “But we can thank the Almighty for the effectiveness of your lightning rod. Lord knows how many ships were destroyed by fire before you were inspired by Him to invent it.”

Ben had not been certain that the clergyman would even know about his invention. Smith’s reply encouraged him to go on.

“Thank you, Reverend,” he said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways, even through men such as me. Though I am sure He’s familiar with how the rod works, I wonder if you are?”

The Reverend sat up a bit. “I know only that the lightning bolt was somehow prevented from striking the ship,” he replied.

“Oh no, the lightning almost certainly struck our ship just now,” Ben explained. “Our mast is the tallest point for miles at sea. When I began studying the behavior of lightning, I noted that it always seeks the highest point in the landscape. Not only that, but also that lightning always seeks its way to the ground. My lightning rod simply creates a safe channel for the lightning to pass through the ship, so as not to endanger the vessel or its cargo. If the lightning were to strike a mast, there would be damage or fire. And if the damage were severe enough, it might even sink the ship.

“My rod is placed at the highest point on the ship and attracts the lightning. But that alone isn’t enough to prevent catastrophe, for I also found that I needed to channel it through the ship to the water. A thick metal cable runs from the lightning rod to below the water line to accomplish this.”

“A truly marvelous invention,” the Reverend replied. “Thanks be to God. But I thought you said that lightning always seeks the ground. Wouldn’t you have to run your metal cable back to the Colonies for the rod to be effective?”

“Excellent, excellent,” Ben exclaimed, “that is just the sort of question a man of science carries within him like a man of the cloth seeks to understand the mysteries of his faith . . . but I do beg to remind you that our country is now called the United States of America.”

“Oh, yes! Force of habit,” the Reverend exclaimed.

“Perhaps not a bad habit to maintain until your mission is accomplished,” Ben said. “Your Anglican Church does not support independence for the people of the United States.”

“That doth vex me,” the Reverend replied. He sunk back in his chair.

Ben resumed his explanation animatedly. “You will observe Reverend, as I did early on, that lightning is an electrical fluid that has no trouble traveling quickly through the air. Through careful experiments, I also found that this electrical fluid travels through water, albeit more slowly. Hence, there’s no need to run a cable back to shore so long as we are connected to the earth by water. Scientists around the world have taken to calling this electrical fluid ‘electricity’.”

“But what do you believe to be the source of this ‘electricity’, as you call it?” the Reverend asked. “The Bible tells us that lightning is sent down from Heaven by God.”

A slight shiver traveled Ben’s spine. Was it the cold sea spray or a sense that the Reverend was once again testing his religious beliefs?

It had not been so many years since scientists had been treated as heretics and persecuted for their belief that natural forces might be studied for the benefit of mankind. Now, in modern-day 1776, in this age of enlightenment, a fragile truce existed between religion and science. Ben believed the truce had occurred in part because of advances in natural philosophy—the science of the natural world and medicine.

The revelation that tiny creatures seen through the microscope by Van Leeuwenhoek and others in the last century might be the cause of human diseases was gaining wider acceptance. With increasing frequency, descriptions of these microbes and their associated diseases were being published in the proceedings of the Royal Society in London.

Ben had a personal stake in understanding the spread of disease and in making others aware. Smallpox had claimed the life of his beloved son Francis over forty years ago, and still claimed the lives of thousands each year.

It was disheartening that despite the advent of effective inoculation against smallpox, the Church continued to consider the medical technique to be inconsistent with the established canon. Ben had stormed out of more than one sermon when the clergyman had condemned vaccination as unholy.

“Reverend, you may if you wish, believe that lightning represents the wrath of God . . . sent down to avenge the sins of mankind,” Ben said. “But I believe that this electrical fluid is simply another natural force—no more mystical than the powerful flow of water through a stream that the miller uses to turn a wheel and grind the grain from the field. Mankind has learned to harness many natural forces. While it is wild and dangerous today, I believe that electricity may someday yield tangible benefits to mankind . . . if we can learn how to channel it appropriately.”

The Reverend appeared to be deep in thought. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set ignorance in the human heart; so that no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end,” he said.

“Ecclesiastes,” Ben replied. “But what do you mean by it?”

“Ben, don’t you see that there might be mysteries that are not intended to be known to man? That God has intended for some things to be taken on faith? That your natural philosophy both cannot, and I dare say should not, attempt to provide a proof for everything under the Sun? That by attempting to do so, by requiring proof for everything, you denigrate God and His power?”

“No, I don’t see it that way at all, Reverend,” Ben said. “I believe that God would want mankind to discover the intricate workings of the universe that He has created for us to live in. I believe that He has designed us to be probing, intelligent beings; designed us to yearn to discover and elucidate the hidden workings of the universe—not designed us as sheep, blindly following established doctrine.”

The Reverend looked as if he might object but said nothing.

Ben went on. “Take your own situation as an example. You do not believe that the Anglican Church is right in backing the British in this conflict over our freedom, correct?”

The Reverend squirmed in his seat. “Aye.”

“And the Church would say that you should accept their decision blindly, that it is God’s will, correct?”

“Aye.”

“But you do not see it that way. You have seen the injustices inflicted by the British on our people. You have thought independently and asked yourself why God would want things this way. The answer we agree upon is that God would want our people to be free. It is the Church that has a different goal, the Church that has a need to maintain the status quo. Your Anglican Church claims to know the will of God in this matter . . . but do they? Once you start asking questions, as you have, once you start demanding proof of things, as I do—then you will ultimately find the correct answer: that the will of God and the will of the Church may not be one and the same.”

“Yes, I see your point,” the Reverend replied, “but what of God’s true will? Would it not be one of the mysteries that cannot be proven? Isn’t God’s will ultimately something that must be taken on faith?”

Ben didn’t have an answer to his question, but during the time they had talked, the storm had abated enough that his appetite returned.

“Reverend, what say we see what the cook has prepared for breakfast?”

“Nay, I’m not yet ready to eat, sir. I’ll sit out here a bit longer, contemplating what the Lord may have in store for me.”

Ben bid the Reverend good day and headed for the galley.


[Blog Tour] 'The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris' By Steve M. Gnatz #HistoricalFiction
Steve Gnatz

Author Bio:

Steve Gnatz is a writer, physician, bicyclist, photographer, traveler, and aspiring ukulele player. The son of a history professor and a nurse, it seems that both medicine and history are in his blood. Writing historical fiction came naturally. An undergraduate degree in biology was complemented by a minor in classics. After completing medical school, he embarked on an academic medical career specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There was little time for writing during those years, other than research papers and a technical primer on electromyography. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he devotes himself to the craft of fiction. The history of science is of particular interest, but also the dynamics of human relationships. People want to be good scientists, but sometimes human nature gets in the way. That makes for interesting stories. When not writing or traveling, he enjoys restoring Italian racing bicycles at home in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

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