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05 Animal Magnetism

Carl von Reichenbach's picture
Submitted by Carl von Reichenbach on Sat, 02/22/2014 - 09:32

V. Animal Magnetism

Just now [1852] we are hearing a good deal more about the wonderful thing that more than 80 years ago Mesmer called Animal Magnetism. Our fathers, our grandfathers, and our great-grandfathers rejected it body and bones, and yet it is always coming up again and. refusing to die. What can such tough vitality be based upon? On “lies and fraud and superstition?” as one of our eminent Berlin physiologists declared—to find a short way of getting rid of it. ... Well, we shall see if those have done well who could think of nothing better than to repeat the same sing-song.

This tune let us take the subject by the horns at once without further preamble. Take a good middling or a good high-sensitive into the dark, and along with him a cat, a bird, a butterfly, if it is to be had, and a pot of flowers in bloom. After a couple of hours have gone by, you will hear strange stories. The flowers, so you will be told, will come forth out of the gloom and grow visible. First of all they will distinguish themselves from the black night of the general darkness in the form of a vaguely defined grey cloud. In this, later on, clearer spots will be formed. These will finally separate from each other definably; the individual blooms will become distinguishable; forms will become recognizable as they gradually grow clearer and clearer; and, on one occasion, when I had left a flowerpot as I have described with the late Professor Endlicher, the celebrated botanist, who was a sensitive of medium power, he cried out with a shock of astonishment : “It is a blue flower—it is a gloxinia!” It was in fact a gloxinia speciosa, var. coerulea, which he had seen in absolute darkness and recognized both as to shape and colour.

Nothing can be seen in darkness without light. Consequently, light must have been there for colour as well as form to have been recognized. And whence came the light? It came from the plant itself: the plant was luminous! Calyx, pistils, stamen, corolla, stem, everything showed out in a fine light; even the leaf could be seen, though more dully. Everything shone out in a delicate glow, the genitals most clearly, the stem brighter than the leaf.

Your butterfly, your bird, your cat—all will appear in the darkness; parts of them will become luminous and move with the moving bodies to and fro. But, shortly, you will receive the declaration from the sensitive that he sees—you yourself! You will first appear to him like an unshapely, white, snow-man, then like a man in armour with a high helmet, finally an object of terror as a luminous giant.

Direct the sensitive’s gaze to his own person; he will be somewhat struck to perceive that he himself is luminous; not only his arms, but his feet, his legs, his chest, his body through his clothes; he will see everything shimmering in a fine glow.

Direct his attention to his hands. They will first appear like a grey smoke, then like a silhouette on a slightly illuminated background; finally the fingers will show out in their own light; they will present the appearance that they get when one holds one’s hand close to the flame of a candle, transparent as it were. The hand will show out longer than it really is; there will be a luminous prolongation to every finger, and from each finger-tip a body of light will stream out that, according to circumstances, will be half, or just, as long as the finger itself. Owing to these tails of fire on every finger the hand will seem to be twice its real length. The finger-tip phalanges will be the brightest, and of these the brightest parts will be at the roots of the nails.

When you have recovered from your first astonishment at this hitherto unrevealed self-luminosity of all mankind, and you think of putting a question about your colour, your astonishment will possibly be renewed when you hear that it is not the same in different parts of the body, that right hands are luminous with a bluish fire, while left hands appear a yellowish red, and that the latter are on that account brighter than the former; that the same difference exists between the two feet; that even the whole right side of your face is darker and more bluish than the left, and that, in fact, the whole right side of your entire body is bluish and somewhat darker than the other, while the whole left’ side comes out reddish-yellow and distinctly brighter.

It cannot fail to occur to you that here you encounter the same contrast of blue and red-yellow that met your attention in the light of the crystal, in sunshine, and in the flames of the magnet.

Will the parallelism found existent in all cases between cool and blue, and lukewarm and red-yellow—odlight—be found and proved existent also in the case of the human light? That you hold for doubtful; and yet, were such a fact not verifiable, the nature of the human light would remain a puzzle.

I experimented as follows, in August 1845, with a cabinet-maker named Bollmann, in Vienna, a medium-sensitive, 50 years of age :

I laid my right hand in his left, so that our fingers crossed, but scarcely touched. After a minute I replaced my right hand by my left fingers. I made these alternations a few times to and fro, and was informed by the sensitive that he felt my blue-lit right hand cooler than my yellow-lit left, which seemed to him much warmer.

What I had been in search of was found. I repeated the experiment exactly with more than a hundred other sensitives, and the same was verified in every instance. Then I extended the experiment to the feet, the sides of the body, the cheeks, the ears, the eyes, the nostrils, even the two sides of the tongue, with innumerable diversifications of the conditions; but I invariably received one and the same result, namely, that to the sensitive’s left hand the whole right side of every human being, whether male or female, was felt to be cooler, and the whole left side, on the contrary, warmer.

You thus see that man is polarized from right to left, in just the same way, and with the same characteristics, as a crystal between the poles of its chief axis, as the magnet between its north and south, and as the sunlight between blue and red-yellow. And, as the effects, with their characteristics, are the same, we have the right to argue back that the causes also will be the same, and it follows that man too emits od, and just in the same two forms as we have hitherto observed in all other odic sources. I have tested cats, chickens, ducks, dogs, horses, and oxen in the same way; they were all found just the same. Plants, which I have investigated, from root to leaves, showed themselves subject to the same laws. Thus everything, the whole nature of organic life, beams and abounds in a streaming wealth of odic force, and if you will only call up for review this great comprehensive fact in its boundless range throughout the created Universe, you will witness the dawn of a new day for that of which man has hitherto named a small portion, with as much impropriety as inadequacy, “animal magnetism.” I shall take you on a cursory trial trip now, my theory in my hand, through this intricate territory : I have just handed you the key to its outer gate.