Od (Odic Force) (or Odyle)
The term first used by Baron Karl von Reichenbach to denote
the subtle effluence that he claimed emanated from every
substance in the universe, particularly from the stars and planets,
and from crystals, magnets, and the human body. The
term ‘‘od’’ was derived from Odin, the Norse deity, indicating
a power that permeated the whole of nature. The name ‘‘od’’
was retained by Dr. John Ashburner (1816–1878) in his translation
of Reichenbach’s writings, but another translator, William
Gregory (1803–1858), substituted ‘‘odyle,’’ probably hoping it
would sound more scientific than ‘‘od.’’
Od or odyle was perceptible to sensitives, in whom it produced
vague feelings of heat or cold, according to the substance
from which it radiated. A sufficiently sensitive person might
perceive the odic light, a clear flame of definite color, issuing
from the human fingertips, the poles of the magnet, various
metals, crystals and chemicals, and seen over new graves. The
colors varied with each substance; thus silver and gold had a
white flame; cobalt, a blue; copper and iron, a red.
The English mesmerists speedily applied Reichenbach’s
methods to their own sensitives, with results that surpassed
their expectations. These observations were confirmed by experiments
with persons in perfect health. Prof. D. Endlicher of
Vienna saw on the poles of an electromagnet unsteady flames
forty inches high, exhibiting numerous colors, and ending in
a luminous smoke, which rose to the ceiling and illuminated it.
The experiments were controlled by Ashburner and Gregory.
According to the sources from which the energy proceeded,
Reichenbach, a chemist, employed the following nomenclature
crystallod, electrod, photod, thermod, and so on. He
claimed that this peculiar force also existed in the rays of the
sun and the moon, in animal and human bodies. The force
could be conducted to distances yet unascertained by all solid
and liquid bodies, bodies may be charged with od, or od may
be transferred from one body to another. Reichenbach believed
this transference was apparently affected by contact. But
mere proximity, without contact, was sufficient to produce the
charge, although to a lesser degree. The mouth, the hands, the
forehead, and the skull were the main parts of the body in
which the od force manifested.
Reichenbach claimed that the odic tension varied during
the day; it diminished with hunger, increased after a meal, and
also diminished at sunset. He insisted that the odic flame was
a material something, that it could be affected by breath or a
current of air.
The thoroughness of Reichenbach’s many experiments
made an impression on the public mind, though his colleagues
saw significant methodological flaws in his work. The objections
of James Braid, a British surgeon, who at this time advanced
his theory of suggestion, were ignored by the protagonists
of od. Years later when Spiritualism had established itself
in America, there remained a group of ‘‘rational’’ defenders of
the movement, who attributed the phenomena of Spiritualism
as well as those of poltergeist to the action of odylic force.
Others, such as Samuel Guppy, regarded the so-called ‘‘spirit’’
intelligences producing the manifestations as compounded
of odic vapors emanating from the medium, and probably connected
with an all-pervading thought-atmosphere—an idea
sufficiently like the ‘‘cosmic fluid’’ of the early magnetists.
Reichenbach’s odic force clearly had possible relevance to
psychical research, and in 1883 the Society for Psychical Research
in London formed a committee to report on ‘‘Reichenbach
Phenomena.’’ The committee’s first report was published
in the society’s Proceedings and contributions on the subject also
appeared from time to time in the Proceedings and the Journal
of the Society for Psychical Research.
Reichenbach’s experiments with od made an interesting
comparison with the phenomenon of the human aura reported
by Walter J. Kilner, Oscar Bagnall and others, and also with
the research of Wilhelm Reich and his concept of orgone energy.
Bagnall, Oscar. The Origin and Properties of the Human Aura.
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1970.
Kilner, Walter J. The Human Aura. New Hyde Park, N.Y.
University Books, 1965.
Reich, Wilhelm. The Discovery of the Orgone. 2 vols. New York,
Reichenbach, Karl von. Letters on Od and Magnetism. Translated
by F. D. O’Byrne. 1926. Reprinted as The Odic Force LetEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Od (Odic Force)
ters on Od and Magnetism. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1968.
———. Physico-Physiological Researches on the Dynamics of
Magnetism, Heat, Light, Crystallization, and Chemism, in their relations
to Vital Force. Translated by John Ashburner. London,
———. Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat, Light, Crystallization
and Chemical Attraction, in their relations to the Vital
Force. Translated by William Gregory. 1850. Reprint, New
Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1974.