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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-atmospherean 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 "Reichen-bach 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,1948.

Reichenbach, Karl von. Letters on Od and Magnetism. Translated by F. D. O'Byrne. 1926. Reprinted as The Odic Force: Letters 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, 1851.

. 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.

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OD1 • abbr. ordnance datum. OD2 inf. • v. (OD's, OD'd, OD'ing) [intr.] take an overdose of a drug: Spike had OD'd on barbiturates. ∎ humorous have too much of something: I almost OD'd on mushroom salad. • n. an overdose of a narcotic drug.

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odbod, clod, cod, god, hod, mod, nod, od, odd, plod, pod, prod, quad, quod, rod, scrod, shod, sod, squad, tod, Todd, trod, wad •demigod • amphipod • unipod •tripod • isopod • myriapod • decapod •cephalopod • monopod • macropod •gastropod • arthropod • sauropod •ramrod • Nimrod • hotrod • pushrod •goldenrod • Novgorod • slipshod •roughshod • eisteddfod • tightwad

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Od, 'od XVI. Clipped form of GOD used to avoid the overt profanation of the sacred name, as in Ods-me, Ods my life, Odso, Odsbodikins (XVI–XVIII). Cf. DRAT.

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Od / äd/ • n. an archaic euphemism for God, used in exclamations: Od damn it all!

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od / äd/ • n. hist. a hypothetical power once thought to pervade nature and account for various phenomena, such as magnetism.

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od (phys.) hypothetical force held by Baron von Reichenbach (1788–1869) to pervade all nature. XIX. of arbitrary formation.
Hence odic XIX.

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OD Ordnance datum.

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od (It.). Or.