Elymas the Sorcerer (ca. 47 C.E.)
As reported in the Christian New Testament (Acts 13:7–12),
a magician of Paphos, in Cyprus, who openly defied the Apostle
Paul before the Roman governor. ‘‘Oh, full of all subtlety and
mischief,’’ said Paul in righteous anger, ‘‘child of the devil,
enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the
right ways of the Lord? And, now, behold, the hand of the Lord
is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a
How Elymas exercised his talents is not related, nor are the
characteristics of his sorceries, but we are told that the sentence
of Paul immediately took effect, and ‘‘there fell on him a mist
and a darkness; and he went about, seeking some to lead him
by the hand.’’
‘‘Elymus the Sorcerer Struck with Blindness’’ is the title of
a famous cartoon by Raphael Sanzio (1483–1520), from which
tapestries in the Vatican were executed.
Supposedly perceived by psychics and identified by some
parapsychologists, but largely unrecognized by mainstream science,
emanations play a significant part in theories about psychic
phenomena. Throughout history, subtle emanations have
been postulated under a variety of names, such as the prana of
ancient India, the mana of Polynesian primitives, the telesma of
Hermes Trismegistus, the pneuma of Gallien, the astral light of
the Kabbalists, and the spiritus of Robert Fludd. Since the late
eighteenth century and Franz Anton Mesmer’s proposals concerning
magnetic fluid, a variety of terms for emanations have
been proposed, such as ‘‘odic force,’’ ‘‘animal magnetism,’’
‘‘ether,’’ ‘‘radiations,’’ and ‘‘vibrations.’’ At various times emanations
were said to proceed from and surround everything in
nature. When living things were brought into contact through
this medium the result was either interpenetration or repulsion.
Early Theories
Analogies with magnetism were inevitable because the properties
of the magnet were known to ancient peoples, some authorities
claiming that it was used in religious rites in Egypt,
Greece, and Rome. They offered as evidence the iron rings and
wings used in the Samothracian mysteries, the iron wings worn
by priests of Jupiter to increase their magic power, and the various
symbols ascribed to the paganistic gods.
It was said too that meteoric stones, because of a force they
radiate, were used in religious rites, either as objects of worship
or as tools for divination and soothsaying. Small stones were
worn by the priests, and Pliny described the temple of Arsinoe
as being vaulted with magnetic stone in order to receive a hovering
statue of its patron. Cedrenus gave an account of an ancient
image in the Serapium at Alexandria suspended by magnetic
The most ancient writing extant in which a theory of emanations
may be found is ascribed to Timaeus of Locris (ca.
420–380 B.C.E.). He assigns the creation of the universe to divine
emanations of God, an imparting of his being to unformed
matter. By this union a world-soul was created that vitalized
and regulated all things he said. Claudian, in his Idyl of the Magnet,
uses the concept of emanations as a symbol of the informative
spirit of things, the laws of nature, creative and existent.
The mysticism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
mainly depended on ideas of radiation emanating from all
things, but especially from the stars, magnets, and human beings—of
a force that would act on all things and was controlled
by an indwelling spirit. The writings of Paracelsus abound with
instances of the theory. He asserted that every substance in itself
contained something of the nature of the lodestone, that
an ‘‘astral light’’—one of the finer media of nature, finer than
the luminiferous ether—existed throughout planetary space
and especially around the human brain and spinal cord. He
wrote that humans are simply organized magnets, each with
poles that attract and repel, that our thoughts are magnetic emanations
projected from our minds.
According to Paracelsus, the universe emanated from a
great First Being and there was a reciprocity in all things. In
man too there existed an ‘‘astral quality’’ emanating from the
stars, which, when compared with the physical body, might be
considered a spirit. He wrote that this life stood in connection
with the stars from which it sprang and drew to it their power
like a magnet. Paracelsus called this sidereal life the magnes
microcosmi and made use of it to explain the manifestations of
nature—it glowed in the flower, glided in the stream, moved
in the ocean, and shone in the sky.
The alchemist Jean Baptiste Van Helmont wrote of an ethereal
spirit, pure and living, that pervades all things. Robert
Fludd explained sympathy and antipathy by the action of the
emanatory spheres surrounding man: in sympathy the emanations
proceed from the center; in antipathy the opposite movement
takes place. He maintained that these sensitive emanations
could also be found among animals and plants, drawing
an argument from the fact that if inert substances, such as the
earth and magnet seem to be, have their emanations and their
poles, living forms must also have them. William Maxwell, a
seventeenth-century Scottish physician, wrote: ‘‘There is a linking
together of spirits, an incessant outpouring of the rays of
our body into another.’’
The philosopher Descartes asserted that all space is filled
with a fluid matter that he held to be elementary, the foundation
and fountain of all life, enclosing all globes and keeping
them in motion. The idea of emanation and magnetism is also
found in Newton’s doctrine of attraction, which he called the
Elvis Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
‘‘Divine Sensorium.’’ As he suggests in his Principles of Natural
‘‘Here the question is of a very subtle spirit which penetrates
through all, even the hardest bodies and which is concealed in
their substance. Through the strength and activity of this spirit,
bodies attract each other and adhere together when brought
into contact. Through it electrical bodies operate at the remotest
distances as well as near at hand, attracting and repelling;
through this spirit the light also flows and is refracted and reflected
and warms bodies.’’
Mesmer, in detailing his theoretical work for the committee
of the French Academy of Science, broke down his ideas into
a series of propositions. One was the following:
‘‘Between the heavenly bodies, the earth and human beings,
there exists a mutual or interchangeable influence. The medium
of this influence is an universally distributed fluid which
suffers no vacuum, is of a rarity with which nothing can compare
and has the property of receiving and transmitting all impressions
of movement. Animal bodies experience the mutual
effect of this agent, because it penetrates the nerves and affects
them directly. In the human body particularly are observed
properties analogous to those of the magnet. It is shown by experiment
that a matter flows out so fine that it penetrates all bodies
without apparently losing any of its activity. This may be
communicated to other bodies, animate or inanimate, such as
mirrors; it is communicated, propagated, augmented by sound.
Its virtues may be accumulated, concentrated and transported.’’
These propositions were basic to Mesmer’s larger understanding
of animal magnetism and its use in curing disease.
Some experimenters in the field who followed Mesmer began
to place increasing emphasis on the ‘‘mesmeric trance’’ and the
phenomena associated with a mesmerized subject rather than
the claimed physical properties of animal magnetism. In the
trance condition, many sensitive individuals were said to exhibit
clairvoyant and other paranormal faculties, as well as insensitivity
to pain and susceptibility to suggestion. This direction of
research culminated in two contradictory developments: a natural
association between the psychic faculties of mesmerized
subjects and the phenomena of Spiritualism; and the medical
transition from mesmerism to hypnotism, in which psychic faculties
were discredited and emphasis was given to abnormal
physical phenomena.
Reichenbach Phenomena
During the nineteenth century, these different directions of
research and theory coexisted and were often inextricably entangled.
From 1840 on, German chemist Baron Karl von Reichenbach
conducted experiments in electromagnetic phenomena
in relation to a vital force which he called od or ‘‘odyle.’’
Reichenbach maintained that this force was perceptible to sensitives,
or psychic individuals, who could identify the poles of
magnets as well as lines of force from human, animal, mineral,
and vegetable sources in a totally dark room. These emanations
were perceived by the sensitives as differing in color, size, intensity,
and temperature according to the nature of the object
examined. The poles of a magnet emitted flames which were
reddish-yellow from the south pole and bluish-green from the
north; similar polarity was perceived in the luminous emanation
from crystal. He said that human fingers also radiated patterns
of light. His claims have a unique bearing on the phenomena
of psychical research and parapsychology because they
deal with the question of special sensitivity of certain individuals
to subtle force.
Dowsing or water witching, with its associated fields of radionics
and radiesthesia, is specifically concerned with a claimed
sensitivity to subjective and objective aspects of subtle force and
polarity. The visual indications of subtle force allegedly perceived
by Reichenbach’s sensitives also have relevance to aura
research, where lines of force and colors are described by psychics
as surrounding the human body. Theories of emanations
are also invoked for such phenomena as psychometry. Sir Oliver
Lodge, lecturing before the Literary and Philosophical Society
of Liverpool, speculated:
‘‘Here is a room where a tragedy occurred, where the
human spirit was strung to intense anguish. Is there any trace
of that agony still present, and able to be appreciated by an attuned
or receptive mind? I assert nothing, except that it is not
inconceivable. If it happens, it may take many forms—that of
vague disquiet perhaps, or even imaginary sounds or vague visions,
or perhaps a dream or picture of the event as it occurred.
Relics again. Is it credible that a relic, a lock of hair, an old garment
retains any indication of the departed—retains any portion
of his personality? Does an old letter? Does a painting?—
an old master we call it. Aye, much of the personality of an old
master may be thus preserved. Is not the emotion felt looking
at it a kind of thought transference from the departed?’’
Writing on the psychic gifts of the medium Stephan Ossowiecki,
Charles Richet stated:
‘‘There is something profoundly unknown in a line of our
writing, other than the lines traced on the paper. This unknown
something may be called an emanation. I have called it
pragmatic emanation, which would act on our cryptesthesis
and stimulate cognition. It resembles somewhat the emanation
from subterranean water that provokes the movements of the
dowsing rod.’’
The simile is suggestive. Running water, metals, crystals,
and magnets produce strange sensations in some sensitives. In
hypnotic and in hysteric cases the sensitivity to metals is very
pronounced. The magnetism of the earth is felt by some sleepers
according to whether they lie in the north-south or in the
east-west position. Reichenbach discussed all these phenomena.
His famous work Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat,
Light, Crystallisation and Chemical Attraction in their Relations to the
Vital Force was published and translated in 1849 and 1850.
However, his Letters on Od and Magnetism (1852) provides a less
complex introduction.
In the 1880s the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) investigated
and replicated Reichenbach’s claims. In trials with
45 subjects of both sexes, with ages ranging between 16 and 60,
three professed to see something luminous. With one subject
14 consecutive successes were recorded. The SPR’s committee
‘‘In view of these apparent confirmations of previous testimony,
the committee is inclined to the opinion that, among
other unknown phenomena associated with magnetism, there
is a prima facie case for the existence, under conditions not yet
determined, of a peculiar and unexplained luminosity resembling
phosphorescence, in the region immediately around the
magnetic poles, and visible only to certain individuals’’ (Proceedings,
vol. 1, 1883: 230).
However, another, more exhaustive, investigation on behalf
of the American Society for Psychical Research by Prof. Joseph
Jastrow and Dr. George Nutthal was entirely negative.
Other Turn-of-the-Century Experimenters
During the decades before World War I, the first generation
of psychical researchers devoted a signifcant amount of energy
in attempts to verify the existence of various forms of emanations
from the human body. Among the more famous of these
efforts center upon the experiments on the human aura by the
physician Walter J. Kilner.
An interesting analogy can be found in the experiments of
Dr. Joseph Maxwell regarding a ‘‘digital effluvium,’’ the colored
perception of which, according to his conclusions, indicated
a highly psychical temperament. He advised that a dark object
(e.g., an armchair covered with dark velvet) be placed
between the light and the experimenter; the subject’s hands
were joined at the fingertips, palm toward the chest, and then
slowly withdrawn, with the fingers kept stretched out. Seven or
eight out of ten subjects, if their heads were on a level with the
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Emanations
operator’s head, perceived a sort of gray mist uniting the fingertips.
Maxwell found that out of three hundred people of
both sexes 240 to 250 perceived the effluvium; two or three out
of a sample of one hundred saw it blue. Two saw it yellow and
one saw it red. If the hands ceased to move, the effluvium disappeared.
If the movements of withdrawal ceased when the fingertips
were within 10 to 15 centimeters’ proximity, the effluvium
remained visible for a longer time.
Maxwell’s experiments were conducted in daylight. One of
his mediums saw the effluvium escape from the hands of the sitters
and spread itself over the séance table. Putting out all light,
Maxwell traced letters on the table with the tip of his finger.
The medium was able to read five-lettered words thus traced.
This effluvium recalls the magnetic fluid of mesmerizers
about which controversy ran high through much of the nineteenth
century. Charles Richet believed that no satisfactory answer
could be given to the question of whether the old method
of mesmeric passes sets free some special human power that
acts on other human beings. Eugene A. D. Rochas, Hyppolite
Baraduc, and Emile Boirac claimed photographic evidence
for its existence, though this evidence has proved inconclusive.
E. K. Müller, an engineer of Zürich and director of the Salus
Institute for electromagnetic treatment of nervous disorders,
also indicated the existence of an emanation from the human
body that is capable of decreasing the resistance of an electric
circuit. The experiments were further supported by the work
of a Professor Farny of the Zürich Polytechnicum, who gave the
name ‘‘anthropoflux’’ to the emanation. The maximum emission
came from the inner surfaces of the fingers of the left
hand. Its source appeared to be in the blood, but the breath was
also charged with it. It penetrated a large number of substances,
many of which gave off a secondary radiation and it
could be stored in an inverted test tube in the same way as a gas.
Other mysterious emanations were claimed by Prosper
Blondlot of the University of Nancy, France, in 1903. He asserted
that the human brain and nerves give off rays that are capable
of penetrating aluminum, black paper, and other opaque
objects. He named them ‘‘N-rays’’ after the town of Nancy. The
rays were believed to consist of at least four groups of ether vibrations.
They were said to be of long wavelength and near
electromagnetic waves in frequency. They could be obtained
from various sources other than the Roentgen tube, and certain
bodies seemed to have the property of retaining or storing the
rays for a considerable amount of time. The human body was
said to emit them continuously. Although nonluminous in
themselves, the rays would increase the glow of any phosphorescent
body they touched. A small spark or flame was similarly
influenced. The existence of ‘‘N-rays’’ was supposedly demonstrated
in photography; pictures taken without the rays were
very faint, while those obtained while the ‘‘N-rays’’ were in action
were much stronger.
Dr. Jules Regnault held it probable that the ‘‘N-rays’’ only
constituted part of the radiation studied under the name ‘‘odic
force.’’ The reports of ‘‘N-rays’’ were followed by those of ‘‘N1-
rays’’ and by the demonstration of Gustave LeBon that all bodies
emit effluvia, which he called ‘‘dark light.’’ In 1893 a Dr.
Luys published a book on the direct visibility of cerebral effluvia.
Of the several attempts to substantiate the existence of
human emanations, the ‘‘N-rays’’ were most singularly proven
nonexistent. A few months after Blondlot had been honored by
the French Academy of Science, he was visited by an American
physicist, Robert W. Wood. Wood slyly removed a prism from
Blondlot’s apparatus while the latter was describing an ‘‘N-ray’’
spectrum. According to Wood, this had no effect on Blondlot’s
observations, which he concluded could only be imaginary. The
ridicule that followed this ‘‘exposure’’ (see Nature, vol. 70,
1904, p. 530) culminated in Blondlot’s madness and death.
In 1896 Commandant Darget of Tours, France, claimed to
have proven the existence of vital emanations in plants by placing
a freshly cut small fern on a photographic plate in a dark
room. After two days he obtained the exact portrait of the
plant, effluvia thrown from each leaflet and zones of contracting
during its loss of vitality. His experiments led him to propose
that a photographic plate be placed on the head and heart
of a man who was believed to be dead but might be in danger
of being buried alive. Darget believed that traces of life would
show themselves on the plate. But G. de Fontenay advised caution,
saying there might be ‘‘perfidies of the sensitive plate’’
and the interchange of gaseous matter between living bodies
and the atmosphere, the influence of secretions, or the action
of radiant heat that might well be responsible for some of the
Dr. Louis Favre, experimenting with Agnes Schloemer,
claimed to have discovered powerful vital emanations of the
human body. By the imposition of her hands, Schloemer could
allegedly destroy such resistant bacteria as the Bacillus subtilis
and the bacillus anthracis.
Dr. H. Durville published similar results with the typhoid
bacillus in the Bulletin General of the Psychological Institute of
Paris, but the most sensational experiments in this field were
conducted by Drs. L. Clarac and B. Llaguet of Bordeaux with
a Mme. X. The report of their seven-year investigations, published
in 1912, appeared to prove the existence of a fluid emanation
by certain individuals that prevented the decomposition
of plants or animals and preserved them in a desiccated but
much finer state than any mummification process could.
The experiments were conducted in the doctors’ own laboratory;
the various objects were provided by the physicians and
placed immediately under lock and key. The treatment took
place in light, under perfect control, each experiment taking
about twenty minutes and consisting of placing the hands of
Mme. X in contact with the object or sometimes only near it.
Plants dried up with the preservation of perfect color; wine
showed no signs of acid fermentation; in oysters the process of
putrefaction was prevented, or stopped if the treatment began
at a later stage; and fish and birds were preserved in their form,
color, and brightness of the eyes. The blood of a rabbit (without
being drained) was preserved in a liquefied state for 25 days
and remained as a solid red mass afterward.
Similar phenomena were demonstrated by Joanny Gaillard,
a shoe dealer of Lyons. He claimed that from his youth he had
been able to heal burns and bruises of any sort by laying on his
right hand. He observed that when he juggled with oranges
they became hardened. He believed that a fluid that counteracted
putrefaction and had germicidal qualities emanated from
his hands. He made experiments beginning in January 1928,
one being to mummify animal corpses and perishable commodities
in general. He found that even fish, after treatment,
were perfectly preserved. Oranges and lemons became as hard
as wooden balls.
He made a little museum of such objects, which René Sudre
in Psychic Research (March 1929) admits having seen. Lyons
physicians tested Gaillard’s ‘‘fluid’’ on seeds and microbes. It
appeared that he had succeeded in arresting the germination
of lentil seeds. When he tried his fluid on a bacterial culture,
however, it seemed to be reflected in some curious fashion and
he got the sensation of having burned his hands. A committee
of physicians in Paris before whom Gaillard appeared came to
the conclusion that the existence of his fluid had not been demonstrated.
A. Bue, in his Le Magnétisme curatif (1894), narrates interesting
experiments in hastening the growth of plants by ‘‘magnetic
passes.’’ Bulbs of hyacinths were used. According to Bue, ‘‘By
magnetizing every day, for about five or ten minutes, the water
in the vases where the roots of these tubercles are immersed,
one is able to give such vitality to the sap, that stem and flower
will speedily assume extraordinary appearances.’’
Similar experiments were reported by Dr. Louis Favre at a
meeting of the Psychological Institute at Paris in 1905. According
to his findings, the human hand exercised an action over
the germination and growth of plants, the right hand being the
Emanations Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
most active. It strengthened feeble vitality and the influence of
six minutes’ action on the first day extended to the whole period
of germination. The better the health of the plant, the
stronger the action.
Heinrich Nusslein, the German automatic painting medium,
claimed the power to prolong the life of fresh-cut flowers
for several days by making passes over them.
Gambier Bolton, in his book Psychic Force (1906), recommends
the flower-healing test to discover mediumistic powers.
In this test a dying blossom is put into fresh water in a place
where it is sheltered from the full rays of the sun. The experimenter
rubs the palms of his hands together sharply for half
a minute and then, standing in front of the flower, places the
palms of both hands behind the flower and draws the hands in
a semicircle toward his body. This action is repeated slowly and
steadily, with concentration, from 12 to 20 times, remembering
that it is not at all necessary to touch the flower. As a further
test, another dying blossom might be placed in water three feet
away from the first. When the 20 passes have been made over
the first blossom, both should be placed out of reach, in a moderate
temperature, and left there for 24 hours. If at the end of
that period the one treated shows any signs of improvement,
the experimenter has some powers; if both look better, he is
likely to be a good medium.
Hyppolite Baraduc spent many years studying the emission
of human ‘‘fluid’’ and photographed the emanations of human
hands. He also invented a biometer to register vibrations emitted
from the hands. In the hands of psychics he found luminosity
radiating from the base of the palm. The subjects’ mental
state had great influence over the lines of light he obtained.
Mental distress was disclosed by confused lines. Baraduc
also photographed his son and his wife, one four minutes after
death and the other 24 hours after death. In each instance
there was seen stretching from the lifeless body a great stream
of force that extended to the ceiling of the room and then
turned down again. The son’s face allegedly could be recognized
in the stream, seen close to the body, by anyone who had
known him. A profile of his wife was also seen in the room.
Albert Nodon, president of the Bordeaux Astronomical Society,
tested the radioactivity of living substances by a specially
constructed electrometer. He found that the radioactivity of
vegetable matter was of the same order as that of uranium. It
was found to be greater in the reproductive organs than in
other parts of the plants, and was greater in newly cut plants
than in dried ones. Freshly dug earth had similar radioactivity.
The insects showed three to five times greater radioactivity by
unit of weight than uranium. Unfortunately Nodon’s instrument,
because of its construction, could not be applied to humans.
As reported in The Lancet in 1931, British physician Charles
Russ constructed an instrument to demonstrate that an energy
radiates from the human eye. He suspended in a jar a delicate
solenoid of mica covered with strips of aluminium. Electrically
charged metal plates were fixed to the outside of the glass vessel.
When a person’s gaze was focused intently on one end of
the cylinder it moved away from the eye. When the gaze was
fixed on the other end it moved toward the eye. When the gaze
was directed at the center it remained stationary.
The destructive effect of the human gaze on séance room
phenomena was claimed frequently. D. D. Home, before his
levitations, usually asked the sitters not to look at him. The fireresistance
test was sometimes similarly handicapped by the
spectators’ earnest stares. Experiments suggest that when sitters
blindfold their eyes, psychical phenomena gain in
strength, and direct voice may be obtained in fair visibility.
Unfortunately, preventing close observation in séances also facilitates
the production of fraudulent phenomena.
Recent Experiments
In spite of years of research and thousands of experiments
there has been no completely satisfying scientific demonstration
of emanations of psychic force nor any definitive explanation.
Most of the earlier experiments have not proved repeatable
under strict control conditions.
The best of recent work on emanations began with the efforts
of Bernard Grad, a gerontologist at McGill University in
Montreal. In the 1960s he began work with Oscar Estabany, a
Hungarian immigrant who claimed healing powers. Utilizing
his large laboratory and trained staff, Grad was able to put Estabany
through a series of tests involving the stimulation of plant
growth and the healing rate of mice, all with positive results.
His work was followed by that of biochemist M. Justa Smith,
who also worked with Estabany. By using nonhuman targets in
their work, they were able to isolate the healing ‘‘power’’ as the
causative agent and eliminate human suggestibility. Their research
has stood for several decades without refutation and has
been supported by parapsychological research on psychokinesis.
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of Healing: A Symposium. Palo Alto, Calif.: The Author, 1972.
Burr, Harold S. The Fields of Life. New York: Ballantine,
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London: William Heinemann, 1936.
Grad, Bernard. ‘‘Healing by the Laying on of Hands: Review
of Experiments and Implications.’’ Pastoral Psychology 21
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Hasted, John. The Metal-Benders. London: Routledge and
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Kilner, Walter J. The Human Atmosphere. London, 1911. Reprinted
as The Human Aura. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University
Books, 1965.
Krippner, Stanley, and D. Rubin. The Kirlian Aura; Photographing
the Galaxies of Life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor,
Maby, J. Cecil, and T. B. Franklin. The Physics of the Divining
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Price, Harry. Fifty Years of Psychical Research. London: Longmans,
Green, 1939.
Rahn, Otto. Invisible Radiations of Organisms. Berlin, 1936.
Reichenbach, Karl, Baron von. Letters on Od and Magnetism.
London, 1926. Reprinted as The Odic Force: Letters on Od and
Magnetism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1968.
———. Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat, Light, Crystallization
and Chemical Attraction in Their Relations to the Vital
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Books, 1974.
Russ, Charles. ‘‘An Instrument Which is Set in Motion by Vision.’’
The Lancet (July 3, 1931).
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Radiesthesia, and Kindred Divining Phenomena. New York: Elsevier,