George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 15) online

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odic force.

The subject was placed in the usual dark
chamber, and a long wire conducted from
the outer air to the hand. When the sun-
light acted upon the wire, or upon a plate
of copper or other metal to which it was
attached in the outer air, a stream of odic
flame issued from the end in the hand of
the subject in the dark chamber. A sen-
sation of cold was also communicated by
the wire in the hand, showing that the sun-
light communicates a negative odic polarity.
When, on the other hand, moonlight, in-
stead of sunlight, fell upon the outer end
of the conductor, a sensation described as
" heat" (the positive odic quality) was com-
municated in the same manner. Iron, laid
in the sunshine, became odic, and acted
upon the subject like odized water or a
crystal, though it showed no sensible mag-
netic property. It was found that the odic
power of the magTiets used in these expe-
riments was quickly and perfectly restored
by laying them in sunshine. In fine, sub-
stances of every kind, including the human
body, were thus affected by the sun's rays,
though in various degrees, and made power-
ful exhibitions of odic light in a dark
chamber, or through a conductor carried
from out of doors. This conduction through
a wire forty feet in lenglh, required some
time to develop itself, the flame requiring
a minute or more to rise from the end of
the wire in the dark chamber.

It is impossible to follow all the experi-
ments of Keichenbach on the conduction
of the odic force ; it was found that all
substances were capable, in different degrees,
of recei^^ng it; that it was generated
more especially by sunlight, by the moon's
rays, by the stars ; the planets giving sensa-
tions of heat, like the moon, and the fixed
stars of cold, like the sun, to the eyes of
odically suscepiible persons.

After several hundreds of experiments, it
was finally established that all the internal
changes of matter, by friction, heat, electri-
city, galvanism, magnetism, crystallogenic
force, and especially chemism, generated an
odic influence which could be felt by con-
duction through wires of any length, through
glass rods, and through the human body ;
in fine, that all bodies were odic conductors.



490



Odic Force.



June,



though in different degrees, and communi-
cated the polar sensations, and gave rise to
the luminous appearances.

The odic influence enabled the susceptible
subject to classify all substances by the
sensation they produced when held in the
hand ; all the electro-positives creating one
sensation^ and the negatives its opposite ;
the right and left hands of the subject being
also affected with opposite polarities. The
classification given by the touch of the sen-
sitive established a correct electro-chemical
arrangement. The odic power and light
generated by the human body is attributed
by the Baron to the chemism of digestion,
assimilation, &c., and that of plants and
trees, also, to the process of internal growth.
By the mere dissolving of common salt in
water, odic sensations w^ere communicated
through a long thread, a glass rod, or a wire.
The same produced odic flames, visible in
darkness to great numbers who investigated
this new power in conjunction with the
Baron.

The famous " tub of Mesmer," a collec-
tion of crudities thrown promiscuously into
a vat of water, from which an influence
(" mesmeric") was communicated through
rods of iron, was found, in the course of
these experiments, to owe its power over the
human nervous system to irregular decom-
positions and solutions, w^hich odized the
water. Small animals laid upon a plate of
copper sent an odic influence through a
long wire, perceptible to the sensitive per-
son by light and the sensation of warmth.

All decompositions gave rise to an odic
light and current. It was therefore natu-
rally inferred that the ghostly appearances
in graveyards were, in part, odic hghts
issuing from corpses in a state of decompo-
sition. Susceptible patients were accord-
ingly taken to the graveyards, and saw
luminosities over graves. One of these sub-
jects, it was found, had customarily seen
them from infancy, but had been instructed
by her parents to conceal the fact, for fear
of exciting superstitious prejudice.

The latter half of Baron Reichenbach's
work is occupied with his researches upon
the odic lights of magnets, which he has
succeeded in identifying, in all particulars,
with the Aurora Borealis. By an artificial
hollow globe of iron, containing a powerful
electro-magnet, he was enabled to produce
all the appearances of the Northern Light,



and to ascertain the law of terrestrial odism
independently of magnetism, but excited or
developed by it. The appearances produced
upon the north and south poles of his iron
terrelle or little earth were described, by
several witnesses, as an iridescence of the
most brilliant colors, arranged in polar se-
ries, the reds appearing at the south, the
yellows at the west, and the blue at the
north ; the east and north-east gave only
cold gray tints. The ball itself, like all
other objects giving out or receiving power-
ful odic lights, became incandescent and
almost transparent, and the auroral flames
sprang from its poles and bent over like a
tree on all sides, every thread or branch
having a different and splendid iridescence.

The above very meagre and imperfect
sketch will give the reader some idea of
the new phenomena observed by Baron
Reichenbach ; but it would be impossible in
the limits of a re^dew to allude even to the
fiftieth part of the conclusions to which this
discovery must lead. The work itself is
one of the most brilliant examples of the
application of the Baconian method of in-
duction to a class of phenomena hitherto
looked upon as inexplicable, and given over
to magicians and charlatans.

The author of these brilliant discoveries
does not open a controversy on the nature
of the source of odism. Sometimes he
insists very strongly upon its substantiality,
but with the advance of his own knowledge
inclines rather to regard it as a force ; that
is to say, a peculiar endowment or property
of motion inherent in the atom, or in sub-
stance. That the reader may be prepared
for a philosophical examination of the ex-
periments of Reichenbach, we propose to
enter upon the general subject, and lay
before him a brief statement of the present
condition of material philosophy.

Sa-vans recognize at present only four
distinct forms of acti\^ty in matter devoid
of life. (The powers of life itself are
recognized only by their concrete results ;
but as yet we have no scientific idea of
them.)

1. Mechanical conditions of matter, static
or dynamic : repulsion, (hardness ;) attrac-
tion of nearness, (cohesion ;) attraction of
distance, (gravitation ;) elasticity, (vibra-
tion ;) internal condition, (crystalline, liquid,
aeriform ;) all the merely external relations
of one particle of matter to another, with-



1852.



Odic Force.



491



out regard to differences of kind, or of polar
or temperatural condition.

The statics and dynamics of the solar
system, under the law of gravitation, occu-
pied the attention of the most powerful
calculators and acute logicians the world
has ever known. Their labors resulted in
the establishment of an almost perfect sys-
tem of dynamical astronomy. It is con-
sidered that we understand very well the
motions of the solar system, both in .itself
and in relation to other systems like itself
More recent investigations have added the
knowledge of aerolites, or " falling meteors,"
and has tenanted the interstellary spaces
with crowds of planetary bodies from the
size of grains of dust to the dimensions of
Jupiter.

Geology has made known to us the struc-
ture of the earth's surface, and offered rea-
sonable conjectures in regard to its interior
condition. It has also originated a history
of the earth, anterior to the creation of man,
and carried that history backward even to
the " vortical epoch " and first crude extrica-
tion of the sun and earth from the original
aeriform chaos.

Mechanical science, in some degree aided
by calculation, has explained the laws of
persistence, hardness, and elasticity, in gases,
liquids, and solids. By the investigations
of Wollaston, and, in our own country,
of Dana, we have achieved a very exact
theory of the interior structure of solids,
and the laws of crystallization. The laws
of motion and elasticity in liquids and gases
have also been painfully investigated, with
complete success, by European experimenters.

In a word, we are quite familiar with all
the permanent and mobile conditions of
matter ; our human intelligence harmonizes
in its thoughts with the hidden mechanism
of the universe.

All our investigations end in the discovery
of forces, or rather, of modes in which forces
act. The universe is no where found to be
at rest; every atom is in motion and in
Adbration ; and the motions of each part af-
fect and are affected by those of the whole.
We banish the idea of chance, or fortune,
as an empty phantasm ; and in every law
and every atom, or concentration of forces,
we discover the immediately active and ex-
pressed Creative Power. Thus much we
have learned, that there is a Creative Power,
an infinite and eternal Will, the original

VOL. IX. NO. VI. NEW SERIES.



substratum and source oJ: what we call ph7/-
sical force, or more largely, of the infinitely
extended physical universe. To this eternal
Will we have not as yet ascribed a moral
nature ; no, not even a highly intellectual
one : our attention has been occupied Avith
the lowest expression of the eternal Will,
with rigid, blind, unthinking force. We
have not " looked through nature up to
nature's God," nor can we ; since it is not
through nature, but through spirit, that we
behold Him.

2. Next in the usual and necessary order
of discovery, we are interested in the phe-
nomena of Temperature.

Because the investigators of the last cen-
tury devoted themselves almost entirely to
the laws oi weight, or of mechanical resist-
ance, they were forced, for want of better
knowledge, to give the name of " impon-
derable,^'' or that which cannot be weighed,
to those phenomena which lay beyond the
circle of their studies ; and made thereby
a very uncouth division of all things into
^'■ponderable and imponderable;''^ meaning
to say that there were other laws besides
gravitation, and that all things could not
be compared by hea\aness and lightness.
When modern savans talk of light and heat
as "imponderables," they merely use an
antiquated phrase, for the convenience of it.
Wherever we discover the efiects of gravi-
tation or of elasticity, we can measure those
efiects by weight, and these are ponderable
phenomena ; whereas the temperature or
the electrical attraction of bodies is not
measurable by weight, and is consequently
not ponderable. All substances are in-
deed elastic or ponderable, but that is not
their entire history : they are also chemi-
cally related, and the forces of chemism
cannot be measured by the ounce or by the
pound.

All bodies, without distinction, tend to-
gether, and move toward a common centre ;
and this we call gravitation. The effect is
general and reciprocal. They are subject
also to another law, equally universal : they
tend to occupy certain spaces, or to have a
certain relative dimension ; and this we call
their temperature, or, in the awkward phrase
of the last century, one of the forms of
their imponderability, of unweighableness.

The laws of thermal expansion and con-
traction have been veiy imperfectly investi-
gated ; and to reduce them to a consistency,
32



492



Odic Force.



June,



it will be necessary at some future time to
clear away a huge mass of cumbersome hy-
potheses, which it is painful even to name,
and ^which at the present day throw the
most patient investigators into a silent de-
spair.

Dynamical and statical science observed
only the permanent conditions of matter,
as liquid, solid, or aeriform : the study of
temperature begins where that of pondera-
bility and elasticity is exhausted. The first
observation is, that the space occupied by
a solid body varies continually ; that is to
say, it expands and contracts : further, that
these changes are strictly reciprocal, with
compensatory changes in other bodies. A
perpetual struggle for a general equilibrium
of size, i. e., of the space that each particle
of matter shall occupy, goes on without
intermission through the entire universe.
The different kinds of substances behave
differently, it was observed, in this general
struggle for space. One body being taken
for a measure of all the rest, (quicksilver,)
scales of relative expansions and contrac-
tions were established for each kind. The
present condition of this part of science is
the disgrace of the scientific world. Even
the thermal equilibriums of solids, liquids,
and gases — the three conditions which every
atom of matter voluntarily assumes to sus-
tain its special relationship to surrounding
atoms — are only grossly investigated, and
lie almost disconnected.

The ponderable relations of matter showed
all the atoms, without distinction, striving
to occupy a certain relative position in space,
approaching and receding according to cer-
tain unchangeable values and relations,
called laws of motion :

Their thermal relations, on the other
hand, show them striving to occupy, not a
certain position, but a certain size or sphere
of space, with a total disregard of their po-
sition in space.

The observation of these " struggles " of
the particles to maintain their proper dimen-
sions, individually, in equilibrium with oth-
ers, (thermism,) gives rise to the science of
temperatures.

If through ^^ ponderability''^ alone we
could discern an infinite Creative Force, are
not our ideas of that Force, merely as such,
wonderfully exalted by the view of an uni-
verse composed of an infinite multitude of
active atoms, all in a state of mutual under-



standing (if we may so speak) with each
other as to what space each and all of them
shall occupy, whether in immediate contact
or removed upon the utmost verge of the
universe, if it have a verge ? And yet to this
idea we are led, by observing the three con-
ditions of solid, liquid, and gaseous, and the
laws of their equilibriums, remote and near.

3. We have studied, and think we un-
derstand, the weights of substances — the
forces that rule their relative motions in
space ; we will suppose that temperatures,
the relations and changes of size, are also
well understood : we now come upon Afl5-
nities, or relations of combination ; we enter
upon the vast domain of Chemism. Here
we are presented with a general fact, that
while two particles of matter, of the same
kind, insist upon occupying different spaces,
and are regulated only by their pondera-
bility and their temperature, two that differ
in kind, or that have different measurable
ponderabilities and temperatures, are " will-
ing " to occupy the same space, under cer-
tain conditions, and to act for the time as
if they were one and identical. In general,
all chemical combinations are the union of
two or more substances in the same space,
so as to perform the part of one.

Immediately on observing the combina-
tions of bodies, which usually take place
when they are in a liquid or gaseous con-
dition, we are struck with the observation
that some prefer others ; that there are affi-
nities, and that those which are strongly
opposed in their specific traits combine
eagerly, to the exclusion of the others, or
drag these with them in a system of subor-
dinate combinations.

By a careful study of affinities in solu-
tions, combustions, triturations, and mix-
tures, chemists have detected the several
kinds of atoms ; catching them alone, and
studying their individual traits, their peculiar
ponderability, temperature, &c., or noting
their secret effects in combination with oth-
ers, or on the way from one to another.

During these researches, the chemists
established the afl&nities, compatibilities, and
complements of the species of atoms ; as, in
the researches of temperature, they had dis-
covered their individual opposition and in-
dependence. By the study of ponderabil-
ity alone, they could arrive only at the idea
of matter in general, of particles and masses.
By thermism and chemism, they were now



1852.



Odic Force.



493



first able to individualize and finally to
classify them in species and genera. From
the relations of masses and particles, they
had advanced to those of single indivisible
atoms. These continued to occupy them
until the opening of the fourth field of ob-
servation, that of electrism and galvanism.

4. Three kinds of forces had become
known ; but a fourth kind remained to be
investigated.

The science of ponderability began with
the common observation of heaviness and
lightness in the human hand : resistance to
the forces of the muscular system, and percep-
tion of motion by the hand and the eye.
Temperature was studied at first by the
sense of heat and cold ; chemism by the
effects of caustics, by taste, and by all the
senses. Strictly speaking, all the senses are
employed in every department of science,
but some much more than others.

Masses of matter, whether liquid, solid,
or gaseous, were found to exercise a pecu-
liar attraction and repulsion, which, after
flashes of light, followed by sharp sounds,
were found to have disappeared.

These phenomena took the general name
of electrical. Soon it was discovered, fur-
ther, that bodies affected by chemical
changes, and those whose temperature was
relatively lowered or raised ; finally, that
everi/ change, of whatsoever nature, affecting
the internal condition of bodies, generated
attractions and repulsions, which disappeared
suddenly and with Aaolence under certain
conditions. It was at length established that
a general equilibrium of attraction and re-
pulsion exists between all particles and
masses of matter^ whether near or remote ;
and that the disturbance of this equilibrium
by changes of combination among the
atoms, or by changes of temperature, or any
description of change, propagated through
all surrounding bodies, according to certain
laws of intensity and distance, a disturb-
ance and a readjustment of the universal
equilibriums.

A vast and admirable system of analogies
was built upon the first original observa-
tions of electricians, ending in the general
fact, that the electrical, as well as the che-
mical, mechanical, and thermal relations of
substances, are inherent in them, and do,
in fact, confer upon them all their charac-
teristics ; that, in a word, substances are
composed of these forces, and have no other



distinguishable existence until they become
a part of a vital organism. As a conse-
quence, every atom stands in absolute equi-
librium with all other atoms in the universe,
near or remote, at all times, and under con-
ditions regulated by all the properties of
the atom.

At this point, the idea of polarity was
developed. Certain substances were found
permanently disturbed by the electrical force
operating on their surfaces. These sub-
stances were called magnetic. They ex-
hibited an attraction towaj-d each other, and
also affected all other bodies (diamagnetism.)
This condition was limited to their surfaces,
like the electrical. The earth itself was
found to be a magnet. The atom itself was
conceived to be capable, like the mass, of a
supei-ficial polarity, with two powers, op-
posed to each other, superficially affecting
it, which powers rushed always into a state
of equilibrium, and so remained until dis-
turbed by change of temperature or some
other physical alteration.

Polarity itself, the idea of two forces
complementary and necessary to each other,
was only a finer application of the idea of
equilibrium.

Resume.

(a) Every atom had a certain ponderabi-
lity, or tendency toward others, which was
relative and reciprocal in all.

(6) Every atom had a certain relative
size, which was its temperature, and also
strictly relative and reciprocal.

(c) Every atom was willing to occupy,
and hastened to fill, the same point of space
with others that were specifically different
from it. This tendency was also purely re-
lative and reciprocal.

[d) Every atom had a certain superficial
attraction or repulsion for every other, until
the conditions of all were balanced, and the
forces opposing and concentrated had dis-
tributed and equalized themselves through
circles and spheres of all the neighboring
particles.

Finally, not one of these conditions but
was found to be intimately related to all
the others. The individual atom was then
conceived to be a point, or perhaps a minute
sphere, or spheroid, made up entirely of
forces, (Herschell,) which extend themselves
through all the spaces of the universe, and
maintain the intimate oneness, wholeness,



4^4



Odic Force.



June,



concentaneity, and perfect meclianical equi-
librium of the so-called " material worid,"
but of which the mechanism appears no
longer dead and sullen, but to be the in-
stant and present fiat and sustaining will of
the Creator, operating in this way to form
a basis for the higher creations of life and
spirit.

After achieving this prodigious conquest
over the original gross materialism of the
atomists, and having disencumbered itself
of the dull and awkward "hypotheses," as
they were called, of later days, modern science
stood and now stands free, and ready to
grapple with the more potent delusions of
ignorance and superstition in the regions of
empirical physiology.

While the chemists, the geologists, and
the astronomers were investigating laws,
the physiologists were limited to the know-
ledge of forms ; in other words, to the study
of comparative natural history and the
characteristics of species. Until chemistry
had exhausted itself upon the laws and pro-
perties of inorganic matter, it was almost
hopeless to attempt any investigation of the
laws of life.

The ideas of Ohen first, and, afterward, of
the vegetable morphologists, raised the study
of anatomy from a mere detail of particu-
lars to a system of analogies and harmonies,
both of internal and external structure.
The same formative power began now to
be recognized in the development of an
insect and a man, of a hand and a foot.
Owen, the English anatomist, in conjunc-
tion with many others on the continent,
following, one after another, in the foot-
steps of Ohen and Cuvier, established the
unity of animal nature, as to the laws of
its growth and propagation, by finding in
all the same organs, developed in regular
Series and corresponding organs in the same
body. The study of the tissues reduced
the entire organism to a few simple ele-
ments, the nervous, the glandular, the mus-
cular, and the varieties of the cellule.

A parallel series of investigations, carried
on by the microscopic botanists, made all
plants to be composed upon a single system
of vegetable growth, from the same elements.

Liebig, meanwhile, had demonstrated the
absolute conformity of the laws of life with
those of chemism, and made it appear that
the elementary substances do not lose their
inferior properties when they are so com-



bined as to compose a basis of vegetable or
animal species. He did not fail to show*
that every law of chemism is fulfilled in the
animal and vegetable body; both in the
assimilation of food, the process of growth,
and the process of decay. By his researches,
our ideas were carried to the verge, and
touched the lower stratum of the really
vital processes. They did not introduce us
into the midst of those processes, but showed
only the last stage of preparation to which
dead matter must be raised before life can
seize upon and transmute it, and the first
descending grade upon which it falls i;i
death. All above that remained unknown,
a region without ideas, almost without facts.
Beyond and above, superstition and char-
latanry have ruled a wilderness of wonders
and delusions ; the realm of magic, of
mesmerism, of phrenology, of clairvoyance,
and the entire accompanpng crowd of vital
phenomena, the scandal and the horror of
savans, and the profitable spoil of travelling
empirics.

It is perhaps impossible for any but the
experienced to appreciate the position of a
savan like the Baron Von Reichenbach,
entering, with the torch of observation,



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 15) → online text (page 94 of 109)