Baron Karl von Reichenbach (1788-1869), a German chemist, metallurgist and meteorites expert used the term od (and the related ideas “odic force” and “odil”) in order to describe a subtle substance which emanates from all things and beings in the universe, including the stars and the planets (more accurately from crystals). Reichenbach said that the odic force could be observed by clairvoyants as luminous radiation similar to the northern lights, perceivable as cold or warm. Based on his paranormal perceptions, he also said that this energy was affected by respiration, that it fluctuated according to the day-night cycles and also that it had variations that could be better controlled before and after meals.
The brilliant poet Goethe studied 25 years and wrote quite an amount about this phenomena regarding the luminosity of plants, anticipating the observations of Baron Reichenbach. However Reichenbach was the first to study in a scientific manner the universal force of life, making hundreds of experiments with sensitive persons (but not spiritualist mediums).
In 1845, Reichenbach published his discoveries, with the first part of his work being called “Research on magnetism, electricity, heat and light in relation with the vital forces”. At that time the popularity of mesmerism – a current that focuses on the so-called animal magnetism of man in healing and suggestion practices – diminished dramatically and his work was an attempt to revitalise those conceptions. Although all Mesmer’s adepts, magnetic healers, and spiritualists sustained him, the entire scientific community repelled his work, once again proving its rigidity and dogmatism.
Reichenbach is an adept of mesmerism, although he considered that the expression “animal magnetism” was unsuitable or inadequate to describe the effects and properties he discovered.
The complete edition of his Research appeared in 1850. The similar term of “odil” was created by a translator who considered that it sounded more scientific than “od”.
One of the first tasks the Society for Psychic Research (SPR) took when it formed in 1882 in London was to study “the Reichenbach phenomena”. The studies of the SPR validated many Reichenbach theories, although these were initially repelled by the entire scientific community. In spite of his consistent scientific work that could have brought veritable revolutions in different fields for the West, Reichenbach spent the last years of his life in isolation and disappointment in his castle in Reisenberg, Germany.