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09 Sound - Friction - the Sources

Carl von Reichenbach's picture
Submitted by Carl von Reichenbach on Sat, 02/22/2014 - 09:37

IX. Sound—Friction—the Sources

In my last letter we made an attack upon superstition, hunting it down to a hiding-hole it had lurked in for centuries. To-day I wish to deal it another blow of the same kind. Let us pursue the part played by od in the scheme of the universe’ still further.

In October 1851 I had taken a Viennese artisan, Mr. Enter, a sensitive of medium power, into the dark chamber, with the idea of finding out whether Sound stood in any connection with od or not. I took an air-pump bell by the button, and struck it cautiously with a key. As soon as it sounded, it became luminous and visible" The stronger the stroke the clearer the light. A metal rod and a horseshoe magnet increased in luminosity as they resounded to percussion. A bell made of metal, which had a powerful, penetrating tone, became so luminous after being rung continuously for some little time, that a clear light, visible to all sensitives, was diffused throughout the entire room. When a violin was played, not only its strings but the whole sounding-board became luminous.

The bodies thus emitting sound became not only themselves refulgent with odic light, but also created an area of luminous clearness round about them; they were beset by a holy aureola (Heiligenschein). Every drinking-glass that I struck with a knife, as is commonly done by diners to catch the waiter’s attention, acquired its environment of light, brighter in proportion to the height of the tone yielded in the musical scale. The luminosity could be seen to quiver in sympathy with the sound. And in each case it was precisely the spot on which the stroke (ell that was the brightest.

I made the sensitives hold their hands inside these, glass and metal bells, taking care not to establish contact at any point with the body of the instrument. When I now struck the latter on the outside, and the tone rang out, the sensitive’s left hand was excited to a sensation of coolness and his right to one of luke-warmness. Odic effect upon the sense of touch consequently entered in here as a factor, just as it did in the case of the blue sunbeam, the upper peak of the crystal, and the northward pole of the magnet. In a word, 1 had the satisfaction of discovering a new and very strong source of od in Sound.

On another occasion I turned my attention to Friction, and in July, 1844, placed a copper wire, to the other end of which I had fixed a small plate, in the left hand of Miss Maria Maix. When I rubbed the plate with another one similar to it, a current of heat went through the long wire to the hand of the sensitive. When I experimented in the dark, and subjected the wire itself to friction from the wheel of a lathe, the whole wire showed the odic glow: it became enveloped in luminosity throughout its length, and a light shaped like the flame of a candle rose from the extremity farthest from the friction.

With a view to checking this result, I took a glass barometer-tube, and put one end of it in a glass of water. I then submitted the other end to a few minutes’ friction from the rapidly revolving stone of the lathe. The whole tube, together with the glass of water, became luminous. All the sensitives who tasted it found it warm, rather bitter, and mawkish, and one lady among them, whom I persuaded to drink the entire contents of the glass, had violent and repeated fits of vomiting shortly afterwards. A very active development of od from friction as a source was thus set beyond a doubt.

The application of this knowledge led to a result which 1 expect you will lie glad to know about. I wanted to find out whether the friction of liquids also gave evidence of the presence of od, and found that closed glass vessels containing alcohol, ether, acetone, oil of turpentine, and creosote, all became luminous in the dark, together with their contents, when shaken. Even water shaken in stoppered bottles became luminous, and to the left hand unpleasantly tepefied. As soon as the water was once more at rest, it became in a few seconds invisible and on the way to regaining its cooling quality.

Something uncommon now occurred to me. Do not be alarmed, dear reader; but it was nothing more nor less than—the divining-rod, with all its evil repute! The water-dowser,1 the spring-finder, came up to my memory! Ha! said I to myself, if water sets od in motion when shaken, why should not running water perhaps do the same?

To put the matter to the proof, I wrapped a glass tube thickly round with paper and placed it in this condition in the left hand of my sensitives. I then contrived a continuous flow of water.down the tube through a glass funnel leading from glass tanks that stood on a higher level. The sensitives all found that warmth came to them through the paper as long as I kept pouring, and that coolness returned whenever I left off. When I made the experiment in the dark, the water became luminous in the funnel during the act of pouring in, and immediately afterwards the whole length of the tube became luminous also as the water flowed down it. There was no doubt about it; water was developing od by merely running through a tube. My hopes increased.

I now took Miss Zinkel, a medium sensitive, out into the park round my country house. I knew the direction of a watercourse that runs under a great meadow in the forest there without being noticeable on the surface. I got her to walk slowly across the meadow, so that she would have to pass over the watercourse. When she got near it, I saw her stand stock still, then walk backwards and forwards, and finally come to a stop. At this point, she assured me, she had a feeling of disagreeable tepidity as far up as her knees, and particularly in her left foot, a thing that had not been the case in any other part of the entire meadow. She was, in fact, standing exactly over the pipe that brought water to the farm from a source half an hour’s walk distant.

I repeated this experiment with numerous other sensitives, and always with the like result. There you see the dowsing-rod rise superior to the deep contempt into which it had been plunged by ignorance and undeserved ridicule! Not to be sure the rod as such— that, likely enough, is only a cloak with which the truth has been enveloped—but all the more certain is the inner kernel of the truth that lay concealed, unable to obtain recognition. There then! The effect is nothing else than that of od released by aqueous friction, whose movements are felt by sensitives.

Monsieur Sourcier, the celebrated water-dowser in France, whom people send for from long distances in the country, and who has brought water-finding to a wonderful pitch of perfection, is surely nothing else than a good sensitive; as soon as he steps over any subterranean water in motion, he feels its odic effect on his susceptible body. From the greater or lesser excitation he is sensible of he can infer the greater or lesser depth of the water and, through practice, he has brought the thing to a perfection and certainty that has won for him the admiration and gratitude of half the French nation. His secret, which was an unanswerable riddle to himself, has now been divulged, and perhaps we shall soon have in Germany hundreds of men and women dowsers; with a little practice all high-sensitives will become adepts at the art. And the divining-rod is from this time forth revealed as the common possession of the entire world.


1 Wassersucher, lit. “water-seeker.” Our word “dowser” is, I think, Gaelic “damhsoir,” so pronounced, and meaning “dancer,” the traditional dance of the Gaels involving a plucking away of the feet uneasily upwards from the earth. Murray’s great dictionary (see under “Dowser”), which takes but little account of Keltic lore, fails to find a certain derivation for this word, which seems, however, to give an unexpected support to the Keichenbach theory, if my suggestion as to its etymology be well founded.