Although the human aura has long been considered a psychic
phenomenon visible only to gifted sensitives, some scientists
have maintained that the aura is an objective reality and
that such a radiation around human beings varies in different
states of the individuals health. During the nineteenth century
Karl von Reichenbach spent many years attempting to verify
the existence of the aura, although he was ridiculed by many
of his colleagues. In Britain the physician Walter J. Kilner
(18471920), who knew of Reichenbachs experiments, devised
a method of making the aura visible through spectacle screens
or goggles impregnated with the chemical dicyanin. His work
was developed further by other experimenters, notably Oscar
Then in 1958 Semyon Davidovich and his wife, Valentina
Khrisanova Kirlian, two Soviet scientists, described electrophotography,
a photographic technique of converting the nonelectrical
properties of an object into electrical properties recorded
on photographic film. They spent some 13 years in painstaking
research. Eventually their work was endorsed by Soviet authorities
and a new laboratory was provided for them in Krasnodar
Kinocetus Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
in the Kuban region of Southern Russia. Their technique of
photographing what has become generally known as the Kirlian
aura became well known in the West during the 1970s.
The method was a modern development of a technique
known as early as the 1890s but not formerly applied to the
human aura. In 1898 a Russian engineer and electrical researcher
named Yakov Narkevich-Todko had demonstrated
electrographic photos by using high-voltage spark discharges.
The modern development by the Kirlians was influenced
by study of acupuncture after Viktor Adamenko, a Soviet
physicist, demonstrated the tobiscope, a device to detect the
acupuncture points of the human body. Various Kirlian photography
devices were marketed in the United States and Europe
to record biological fields around human beings, animals,
and even plants. One such device available in Europe was
known as a Verograph.
Intense examination of the paranormal claims for Kirlian
photography has shown that most of the early effects reported
can be attributed to lack of proper controls in the laboratory.
During the 1980s, reports of Kirlian effects all but disappeared.
Bagnall, Oscar. The Origin and Properties of the Human Aura.
London, 1937. Rev. ed. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
Davis, Mikol, and Earle Lune. Rainbows of Life The Promise
of Kirlian Photography. New York Harper & Row, 1978.
Johnson, Kendall. The Living Aura Radiation Field Photography
and the Kirlian Effect. New York Hawthorn Books, 1976.
Kilner, Walter J. The Human Atmosphere. London, 1911. Revised
as The Human Aura. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Krippner, Stanley, and Daniel Rubin. Galaxies of Life The
Human Aura in Acupuncture and Kirlian Photography. Gordon &
Breach, 1973. Reprinted as The Kirlian Aura Photographing the
Galaxies of Life. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday Anchor, 1974.
Reprinted as Energies of Consciousness. New York Interface,
Moss, Thelma. The Body Electric A Personal Journey into the
Mysteries of Parapsychological Research, Bioenergy, and Kirlian Photography.
London Granada, 1981.