AbstractMichael Nahm’s (2012) recent article about Reichenbach and his concept of Od, in JSE 26:2, Summer 2012, reminds us of important work done in the past that has been forgotten by many current students of psychic phenomena and related topics. I find particularly interesting how the concept of Od influenced a variety of conceptual developments, something I would like to briefly discuss in this Commentary. While Nahm is aware of this, and addresses the issue briefly, he appropriately in my view did not make this the focus of this paper because his purpose was a general overview of Reichenbach for the modern reader.
One of the main influences of Reichenbach was how his work was used by others to develop and support the development of unorthodox concepts of force in relation to psychic phenomena, a model that existed before in the mesmeric movement and in other contexts. A prominent example of this was how Reichenbach’s Od was one of the inspiring factors behind the development of ideas of forces to explain physical manifestations such as those associated with mediums during the beginnings of spiritualism. This is clearly seen in American books published during the 1850s in which various authors speculated on the powers of the living medium to explain various mediumistic manifestations. A prominent one was Edward C. Rogers’ Philosophy of Mysterious Agents, Human and Mundane (1853). Reichenbach’s work was used by Rogers repeatedly throughout the book to justify his acceptance of the existence of a new force associated with the nervous system. This was basically a biophysical force coming from the bodies of mediums and others, an idea that allowed him to apply the concept of a non-spirit–based agency to explain spiritualistic manifestations such as movement of objects, raps, and luminous effects. He wrote in his Introduction:
In our researches with regard to the phenomena treated in the following pages, we have found so many of the characteristics of an agent differing so essentially from those of Electricity and Magnetism proper, and bearing so many of the characteristics of identity with the Odyle of Reichenbach, that we feel forced to admit this identity. (Rogers 1853:20–21)
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