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Supplement 1: Odic Force as Explanatory of Clairvoyance

Carl von Reichenbach's picture
Submitted by Carl von Reichenbach on Sat, 02/22/2014 - 09:50


Odic Force as Explanatory of Clairvoyance

THE present volume is issued as a book of "fundamentals," the contention being that these fundamentals still hold good in the main, notwithstanding the advances made since Reichenbach's death in 1869 in all branches of science, among which the advances made in psychic science itself must not be forgotten. It is not intended to set up any foolish contention that rectifications of Reichenbach's work will not be found necessary in instances : but it is for professional scientists to point these instances out. For this reason no attempt is here made to commentate either the text of the Letters on Odic Magnetism or that of the passages set on record in this Supplement and Supplement II.

But, as Gustav Theodor Fechner, late professor of physics in the University of Leipsic, remarks in his Memories of the Last Days of the Odic Theory [ad fin.'], Reichenbach's work on psychic phenomena has been so exhaustive, so scientifically conducted, and recorded with such patient precision, that all future investigators will be bound to follow its elaborator along the path on which he is a pioneer, until it is definitely shown what sections of his track, if any, must be abandoned by science.

The two main questions on which students of psychic science have to concentrate their attention in this connection are in my opinion :

  1. Is the existence of odic force an objective biological fact?
  2. Does odic force, if shown to be objectively existent, explain the phenomena, or lead us toward an explanation of the phenomena, of what in commonly known as "spirit intercourse?"

The following passages are printed as illuminative texts bearing intimately on the solutions to be given to these two questions :

Prof. Wm. Gregory: Animal Magnetism, 4th ed. 1896, pp. 34-36 :

Clairvoyance defined.—Dr. Gregory defines clairvoyance as:

"The direct and immediate perception of absent or distant objects without the use of the eyes."

"Perception in the shape of vision without the use of the external organs of vision."

Q. By what means is the image of the object conveyed to the internal organ of vision and to the sensorium ?

A. Common vision by ordinary light it cannot be, for the eyes are closed... We must therefore admit the existence of (a) some Other force or influence, exerted by bodies, and capable of reaching the brain without passing through the eye. When the sleeper [The reference is to the hypnotic patient or "mesmeric sleeper" exercising clairvoyance] finds his vision not clear, or misty, as he calls it, he will very often, in order to see an object which is shown to him, apply it to his forehead, to the coronal region, or in some rare cases to the occiput, and forthwith perceive it more distinctly.

"We feel that he who can see an object behind him while his eyes are closed, and who sees it best when applied to his head, has some means of perceiving objects which is either not possessed in the ordinary waking state or, if possessed, is not attended to, but (b) its impressions are overpowered by the stronger impressions of the ordinary senses."

"We easily conceive that... (c) our new force or influence may, like light, traverse the universe without difficulty, while, like heat, it may be able to penetrate through all objects, even through walls of brick or stone. And such precisely is the character of Baron von Reichenbach's odyle [Gr.: h-od-os, way, movement; h-yle, matter], save that it moved with less velocity than light and passed through solid bodies much more easily than heat."

"I may point to the very frequent, in some cases universal, occurrence of luminous emanations from all objects thus seen by the sleeper, nay, often seen by him while awake (as in the case of the light from the tips of the fingers of the operator or of other parties present),

"first, as indicating that an emanation of some kind... really does proceed from bodies in general, and"

"secondly, as confirming the results of the researches of Baron von Reichenbach, who has proved... the existence of a peculiar influence (force, fluid, or imponderable agent) in all forms of matter and pervading the universe, the action of which is perceived in various forms by a large proportion of mankind, and always very distinctly by spontaneous somnambulists. It is in this direction that we shall most probably find the explanation so eagerly sought after."

Gregory wrote the foregoing for the first edition of his book in 1851. But in the British Spiritual Telegraph of 23rd August, 1857, a penny weekly spiritualistic newspaper published in Keighley, Yorkshire, a letter appears from him, written just seven months before his death, in which he states his opinion " that there is a great analogy between certain spiritual communications, or other facts, and the phenomena of clairvoyance... My sole object," he continues, "is to ascertain the truth. My (feelings are entirely in favour of Spiritualism, but I cannot feel thoroughly and logically satisfied until the facts and arguments are produced which render every other theory untenable... . The hypothesis of disembodied spirits as the cause of the phenomena [i.e. the phenomena of spiritual communications, not the phenomena of clairvoyance] is by far the simplest and the best."

A sensitive, we must note, is not always a clairvoyant. Some undoubted sensitives go through a whole lifetime without exercising a single clairvoyant or clairaudient act. Many, again, only exercise such acts fitfully, and often find themselves bereft of the desired power when they most of all wish to exercise it. What the conditions are which determine their power to use their constitutional clairvoyant or clairaudient faculty they themselves do not know. Nor apparently, so far at any rate, does anyone else. To acquire reliable information on the point is the task now before us. Gregory writes (Anim. Mag., p. 5): "The sleeper in the mesmeric state has a consciousness quite separate and distinct from his ordinary consciousness. He is in fact, if not a different individual, yet the same individual in a different and distinct phase of his being, and that phase a higher one... His whole manner seems to undergo a refinement... It would seem as if the brute or animal propensities were laid to rest, while the intellect and higher sentiments shone forth." And it seems reasonable to draw the same distinction between the sensitive in power and the sensitive in act even when he is awake—always of course bearing " relativity " in mind. Sleeping and waking are but relative terms. Some people, we say, seem never properly awake their whole lives through. Otherwise, why should King Gautama of Nepaul have called himself the Buddha, i.e. the Awakened ?

Sir Oliver J. Lodge: Raymond Revised, 1922 (p. 220), writes : " I am as convinced of existence on the other side of death as I am of existence here. It may be said, you cannot be as sure as you are of sensory experience. I say I can. A physicist is never limited to direct sensory impressions: he has to deal with a multitude of conceptions and things for which he has no physical organ. The dynamical theory of heat, for instance, and of gases, the theories of electricity, of magnetism, of chemical affinity, of cohesion, aye, and his apprehension of the Ether itself, lead him into regions where sight and hearing and touch are impotent as direct witnesses, where they are no longer efficient guides."

For Mr. (later Sir) William Crookes's experiments—unaccountable movements of balanced board recorded by weighing machine, and playing of scientifically isolated concertina—with Mr. Daniel Dunglas Home as medium or high-sensitive in the year 1870, in the presence of (i) Dr. Huggins, Vice-President of the Royal Society, (2) Serjeant Cox, (3) Mr. William Crookes's brother, and (4) Mr. William Crookes's chemical assistant, brought forward as proving

Reichenbach's "odic molecular movement" utilized by an unseen, unknown, intelligent operator,

see Quarterly Journal of Science, vol. vii., p. 316, July see also pamphlet of 15 pages entitled Psychic Power—Spirit Power: Experimental Investigations of W. Crookes, Dr. Huggins, Serjeant Cox, and Lord Lindsay, 2nd thousand, reprinted from The Spiritualist newspaper, published by E. W. Allen, Ave Maria Lane, E.C.. 1871. This pamphlet includes a letter from Lord Lindsay (later Earl of Crawford, compiler and editor of the learned Bibliotheca Lindesiana), dated 14th July, 1871, and detailing

D. D. Home's visualization of light from a magnet, as per Reichenbach, and a levitation of Home's own body in and out of windows.

A passage tending to show the necessity of guidance from Reichenbach's investigations occurs from Crookes's pen in the above pamphlet, p. 3, where,» speaking of D. D. Home, he says:

"These experiments appear conclusively to establish the existence of a new force, in some unknown manner connected with the human organization, which for convenience may be called the Psychic Force... It is mainly owing to the many opportunities I have had of carrying on my investigation in his presence that I am enabled to confirm so conclusively the existence of this force. The experiments I have tried have been very numerous, but owing to our

(1) imperfect knowledge of the conditions which favour or oppose manifestations of this force, to the

(2) apparently capricious manner in which it is exerted, and to the fact that Mr. Home himself is subject to

(3) unaccountable ebbs and flows of force,

it has but seldom happened that a result obtained on one occasion should be subsequently confirmed and tested with apparatus specially contrived for the purpose."

The necessity of continued methodic investigation—and that on the solid foundations of nature laid bare by Reichenbach—is in fact obvious. If a natural force exists, it is constant per se and in se: it is only our scientific enthusiasm which is inconstant.