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Supplement 3: Suggestions for Experiments

Carl von Reichenbach's picture
Submitted by Carl von Reichenbach on Sat, 02/22/2014 - 09:52

Suggestions for Experiments to Bring the Effects of Odic Force within the Ken of Non-sensitives

Reichenbach observes (Letter iii. p. 17) that the od reflected from the prism exposed to the sun differs polarically from the od that passes through. The reflected od is negative—cool, agreeable, blue end of solar spectrum; the refracted od is positive—lukewarm, nauseating, orange end of spectrum.

A non-professional medium and sensitive of high power and integrity informs me that on the only occasion during her lifetime when she consulted a professional crystal-gazer, she observed that the egg-shaped crystal, placed longitudinally between herself (B) and crystal-gazer (A) as A and B sat facing each other on opposite sides of the table supporting the crystal, showed pink at her end (B's), and blue at the gazer's end (A's); and that there was a very little streak of pale gold in the centre. B received the inward impression upon her mind that it was she herself and her surroundings that dominated the crystal. She asked the crystal-gazer if she (A) saw anything of this colouration, and A replied in the negative; she added that she had never during her lifetime been aware of. any such colouration being shown by her crystal. B left the sitting when it had terminated with the conviction that A was a perfectly genuine and honest medium.

As our object now is to discover a means by which the effects of odic force may be brought within the ken of the non-sensitive, just as, say, the effects of the invisible X-rays are brought within his ken, I proceed to make a brief quotation from an authoritative scientific work dealing with the phenomena of the vacuum tube:

"When a current of electricity from an induction coil or influence machine is sent between two metal electrodes fused into the ends of a glass tube (say twelve inches long) from which the air is gradually withdrawn by a pump, the tube presents a continuous succession of striking appearances.

"At high pressures air is a very bad conductor of electricity, and a large force is necessary to produce a visible discharge while the pressure remains in the region of atmospheric. But a reduction of pressure facilitates the passage of the spark, which after a time loses its noisy character and is replaced by a collection of sinuous and irregular pink streamers, which later broaden and fill almost the whole of the tube with a pink diffuse glow known as the positive column.

"Meanwhile the cathode—the electrode by which the current leaves the tube [that by which it enters is the anode]—assumes at its tip a luminous tuft—the negative glow—violet in colour, which later grows until it completely envelops the cathode. Between these two luminous glows comes a darker, ill-defined region called the Faraday dark-space." ... G. W. C. Kaye, Director of the National Physical Laboratory, X-rays, 4th ed., 1923, p. i.

Later, "the glass walls of the tube are seen to fluoresce with an olive-green light," and, "as the exhaustion proceeds, this fluorescence disappears, the negative glow detaches itself like a shell from the cathode, while a new violet film forms and spreads over the surface of the cathode. Thus the negative glow now consists of two parts: they are separated from each other by a narrow, dark region called the Crooke's or Cathode dark-space. [Ibid., p. 2.]

This authoritative statement introduces us to the rudiments of the magnetic spectrum, which Kaye tells us [Ibid., p. 15] was first observed by Birkeland in 1896.

It gives me the occasion to argue, for the benefit of the student of Reichenbach's Odic-Magnetic Letters who wishes to ascertain whether or not Reichenbach deals with objective facts, as follows:

As electricity passes with practically instantaneous velocity from point to point, and as the colour-phenomena of the vacuum tube only become apparent slowly and progressively, showing their polarization with greater and greater distinctness to the eye of the ordinary non-sensitive observer as the air within the tube becomes more and more rarefied, it may fairly be argued that it is not the electricity itself, but electrified matter of some sort, which exhibits the polarized colour-phenomenon.

What is this matter? Is it the matter of the mixed nitrogen and oxygen gases of which the air is composed? Or is it the matter of the water vapour (H20) contained in the air? Or—a third alternative—is it the matter of the od permeating the air?

Od must be there: there cannot be a cubic foot of atmosphere on earth without the ever-present transverberant od, which cannot, according to Reichenbach's experiences [see especially Letter xii.], be eliminated or isolated from anything in Nature, but is being constantly radiated into the air from living organisms and, secondarily, from a large number of minerals and metals.

Or—a fourth alternative—is it the matter of the dust suspended in the air within the tube?

To proceed along the path of prima facie probabilities in answering these questions, I conclude, first, I that the matter bearing the colour-illumination is not the dust, as that is withdrawn with the air pumped out, and the more (up to 1 mm. pressure) the air is pumped out the brighter and more definite grows the colour apparition. The same argument applies to the water vapour, a substance almost as gross as the dust. Now we are thrown back on the elements, the nitrogen, the oxygen, and the od.

But nitrogen and oxygen can both be liquefied as separate gases, and they can be liquefied together in their mixture as air: they are just as much grosser than od, then, as the water, which, whether running underground or still in glass tumblers. Reichenbach has shown charged with od and giving off od. At the same time he has shown, with the greatest probability, that od is itself something material [see especially Letter xvi.] It is apparently a highly subtle form of matter, constituting possibly enough the medium through which organized living matter is controlled by mind.

Now we are in search of a material something within the tube for the electrical force—whatever " electrical force" may be—to act upon and evince that action by a display of polarized pyrotechnics. Why should not that material something be the od within the tube?

If so, the colour-phenomenon might perhaps be more precisely and properly called an odic than an electric phenomenon. In lecturing on the aurora borealis at the Imperial College of Science and Technology on 14th January, 1925, under the presidency of Lord Rayleigh, Professor Sydney Chapman stated that "auroras were produced by streams of electric corpuscles shot out from disturbed regions of the sun's" surface—often associated with sunspots, These electric particles," he said, " were deflected by the earth's magnetic field and guided towards the northern or southern polar regions. They rushed into the earth's atmosphere with great momentum and penetrated to a distance of sixty miles above ground. On their way they broke up many molecules, tearing off electrons, and when these molecules and electrons recombined the energy given up by the incoming particles in the effort of separation was reproduced as light." (The Times, 15th Jan., 1925.)

The report made no mention of any proof given by Professor Chapman for his statement, and till such is amply forthcoming a fairly robust faith is required to supplement the science in the theory, especially in view of Reichenbach's less violent, if still hypothetic, explanation of the aurora borealis, in Letter xiv., as being the positive od-light generated spontaneously by the positive northern pole of the earth. It is, at all events, the less alarming theory of the two. If electric corpuscles are shot into us by the sun, a body now stated by our scientific calculators to be 20,000,000 times the size of our earth, we naturally ask our imaginations: What next? We may stand the shock of the corpuscula: but what about the corpora, when they begin to fly?

At any rate, if od is not to be distinguished from electricity, we shall, in view of the evidence so carefully gathered by Reichenbach as to the manifold odic functions of the living human body, have to build up a very large science of "Human Electricity" to replace that of the odic force as the medium between the human principle of vitality and the human nerve, between the human will and the human act, between the human intelligence and the disposition of the pictures of the material imagination which enable the intelligence of one man to communicate his thoughts and convictions to the intelligence of his fellow-man. Is electricity able to do all that? Od may be. It claims to be the finest form of matter yet known to the human mind, and the only form fine enough to be directly tractable by the human will. And, moreover, it reads like a homely. tractable, quiet kind of force, one well adapted to rein in and urge along the human body in obedience to the dictates of the human spirit (by which I mean the compost of intelligence and will of which our own veriest, inmost self is made), and not a wild, fiery Pegasus like electricity, as likely to prostrate us any moment by a kick as to elevate our thoughts into the regions we desire.

Will a science of human electricity be any bit more profitable than a science of animal magnetism ? Probably not one whit.

If the conjecture that the colour-phenomena within the Crookes's vacuum tube are odic (a) rather than electric, or (b) as well as electric, be found to lie in the direction of the truth, then we may perhaps be well on the way to bring the effects of odic force within the domain of the ordinary non-sensitive's sensorium. Might I suggest how, in addition to a reconstitution of the experiments described by Reichenbach, the test of further scientific experimentation might be applied to what we already know, or assume, in furtherance of this desired end?

I suggest as follows :

1. Reichenbach, so far as I know, never experimented systematically with his foci of odic force mi vacua. Perhaps (a) a crystal placed in a Crookes's tube, and workable on a pivot, so as to test polarity by variations of axis, would, without any electric current being passed through the tube, display on the creation of the vacuum a phenomenon of polarized light perceptible by the ordinary non-sensitive person Or (b), if not perceptible by him in the daylight, it might become perceptible to him in the dark. We must not forget the relativity of such terms and conditions as darkness and light.

As a special incitement towards making this experiment, I should like to draw attention to a particular point of resemblance between the glow of a cathode in the X-ray tube and the phenomenon of the human aura. On looking at the cathode, ordinary non-sensitives can distinguish a sort of colourless neutral zone between the cathode and the violet glow known as the Crookes dark-space, and, similarly, sensitives, on looking at the odic emanation from the fingers against a dark background, note a dark space immediately surrounding each fingertip, and, for the matter of that, each finger throughout its entire length. Each finger in this way seems framed with light, a dark margin or mounting existing between the finger and the frame. The same is observable with other parts of the body, and, presumably, all over the human surface.

2. The experiment would have to be carried out also with all the odic foci verified by Reichenbach, including the introduction into the vacuum tube of a healthily aura-diffusing human hand, closed round at the wrist with a soft rubber fitting to exclude the air. Would the vacuum make the aura visible to non-sensitives? If not, then would it make the aura invisible to sensitives? Or how would it affect it in the sensitives' view? Would it decrease visibility, or increase it? Much might be learnt. First left hand, then right, then both together would have to be tried.

3. Again, Kaye points out in his book, X-rays (4th ed., 1923, p. 5), that when a tiny paddle-wheel of mica is placed within the vacuum-tube the rays proceeding from the cathode have been sufficient to make it revolve, but that it has been proved that the rays in question were not electrical rays, but heat rays. Now Reichenbach states (Aphorisms, pp. 64-71) that a card may be turned by the odic current from a high-sensitive's finger-tips, and that the photographic effects of odic rays, contrary to those oi the equally invisible X-rays, are arrested by the thinnest plate of glass, while their vision-exciting effects pass through. It may thus be possible that the chemically working rays of od, plus perhaps other descriptions of odic rays in the bundle, proceeding from a cold crystal or other odic focus in a cold vacuum-tube, would impinge upon the blades of a very delicate paddle-wheel in vacuo, and might possibly be brought to turn it, if so, then od-rays are subject to filtration just as X-rays are, and might perhaps be similarly segregated from the therapeutic point of view into penetrating, beneficent, short-wave, homogeneous od-rays, and non-penetrative, dermatitic, long-wave, heterogeneous od-rays. It would be worth while testing the matter by experiment, especially in view of the undoubtedly proved beneficent effect of certain passes of the gifted and well-informed therapeutic operator's hands, dealt with by Reichenbach in Letter vii. and elsewhere.

4. The photographic experiments in progress at the British School of Psychic Science, 59 Holland Park, W.II, are stated in the Quarterly Transactions (April 1925) of that institute to show that the emanation from a sensitive's fingers had an actinic effect on a sensitized surface. For instance, the operator, Mr. F. W. Warrick, Fellow of the Chemical Society, reports (p. 32):

" I next moistened a piece of white notepaper, 8in. by 5in., with starch-paste which contained 10 per cent. of potassium iodide. I placed this paper upon a piece of cardboard of the same size, and laid the whole on Mrs. Deane's left palm. She held her right hand over it at a distance of half an inch from the surface. I transcribe the following from my notes :

" In the position of the palm of her hand appeared a large S 2 in. long and ⅜-in. thick, pale yellow in colour. There was also a pink streak at the side of it about ¾-in. by ¼-in., with a small yellow-oval at one end of it."

Does this yellow colouration proceed from the aura mounting upwards from the sensitive's positive left hand, and penetrating to the sensitized surface, while a blue colouration would be attributable to the aura from the negative right hand? If so, then Reichenbach's theory receives confirmation, both as to the special polaric colouration and the upward movement of the aura, and the confirmation is of a nature perceptible by the non-sensitive as well as the sensitive.

The editor of the Transactions adds in a note, to explain the S form of the marking referred to in the quoted passage: "A Deane control has stated recently that the S represents the initial of the 'operator,' a deceased scientist." This statement I leave undiscussed.

A note as to the N-rays, stated to have been isolated in 1905 in the vacuum-tube by Professor R. Blondlot, of the University of Nancy, France, seems to be here in place. In his short booklet, N-rays, translated by J. Garcin, the professor writes to the effect that his experimentation "reveals a new species of radiations emitted by the focus-tube, which traverse aluminum, black paper, wood, etc. [as od-rays do]. These are plane-polarized from the moment of their emission, are susceptible of rotatory and elliptic polarization, are refracted, reflected, diffused, but produce neither fluorescence nor photographic action." They can consequently be identical neither with X-rays nor odic rays, both of which have photographic action.

The statement was made recently by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Paris, at the Congress of the International Spiritualists' Federation, that spiritualism is "a philosophy and a religion." If that be all that there is to be said in the matter, the interest of the scientist and the enlightened public will scarcely be aroused. The world is surfeited with philosophies and religions. But if it can be shown that sensitivity in various degrees to an odic force in operation is a biological fact, then the phenomenon of " spirit intercourse," with all that it implies, will at once become a matter of absorbing interest to the entire human race.


London, 13th September, 1925.